This post has been a year and a half in the making. I hope you’ll be as excited about it as I am! ;-) Ever since I started blogging and making my own homemade versions of household products I have wanted to try making soap! But I was completely intimidated by the whole process. First of all it involved math, which is not my strong suit. (OK…it’s not much math…but still). Then there were the “special ingredients” and finally, the “special equipment” needed. Well, I finally decided to tackle all my excuses for not making soap and when I did, lo and behold, it was probably one of the easier things I’ve done! That’ll teach me! (Probably not, but I can hope.)
Let me first dispel some of the silly notions I had about the soap-making process:
1.) Math. It turns out there are actually online soap calculators that do all the math for you! How cool is that? I really should have known. You really can find anything on the www nowadays. You will need to know some simple addition, but I believe in you!
2.) “Special ingredients”. Would you believe me if I told you I already had all but one of the ingredients I needed in my kitchen already? Well, you soapmakers will, but I’m talking to the rest of you. There were literally only 4 ingredients in the soap I made, including the water! Olive oil, coconut oil, lye and water. Oh, and essential oil for scent if you like (but that’s optional, so it doesn’t count.)
3.) “Special equipment”. I may have been the only person on the planet who didn’t own a stick blender before last week. Every time I tell someone about my soap-making exploits I ask them if they have a stick blender and everyone has said…”Sure!” So I guess it’s not that special of a special piece of equipment, but it was to me, until now. I bought an inexpensive Oster Immersion Blender at the grocery store for $24.99 and while I was there I picked up the other piece of “special equipment” I needed…a scale. Now, I used to have a scale, but for the life of me I can’t remember what became of it. This one also set me back $24.99, but I probably could have gotten away with a less expensive model. I chose THIS one because….are you ready for this???….they were buy one, get one free! :-) You know what that means!! One lucky reader is going to get a scale and an immersion blender to make their own soap! (More info at the end of the post.)
OK…now that I’ve dispelled some of the “myths” of soap-making….let’s get down to it, shall we?
I have to start by profusely thanking Angela at Living From Scratch for her tutorial. It was after reading through her careful, clear and complete tutorial that I finally felt like I could do this thing! So thank you Angela!
Oh, I forgot to mention, there is one more fairly important piece of equipment that is needed for this particular soap-making endeavor….a crockpot. But I’m guessing the VAST majority of you already have one of those. If you don’t, run down to the local thrift store…I bet you’ll find one there for cheap!
First thing you have to do if you want to make soap is find a recipe. I decided to make Hot Process Soap (vs. Cold Process) because I wanted to get in touch with my roots and that’s how soap has been made for centuries! Not really…I decided on HP soap because it cures much faster than Cold Process and I’m a very impatient person. :-) How’s that for honesty!?
You can approach this a couple of different ways. You can find a recipe online (just Google or Bing it and you’ll find a gazillion!) or you can use an online soap CALCULATOR. Basically you tell the calculator what type of oils you want to use in your soap (it lists pretty much any oil you can THINK of!) and it spits out the oil and lye measurements for you! It’s pretty slick. It took me a little while to figure it out….but once I got it…I was convinced I will be making more soap using this thing. :-)
So following Angela’s lead…I decided on an 80% olive oil and 20% coconut oil mix for my soap. I also wanted to try just a small batch at first…so I put 16 ounces in the calculator for the weight of the oil I would be using…and like MAGIC it came up with my “recipe”.
- 12.8 ounces Olive oil
- 3.2 ounces Coconut oil
- 6.0 ounces Water
- 2.2 ounces Lye
Are you beginning to see why the SCALE is so important? The scale made this a CINCH.
Place your bowl on the scale (and this is where a TINY bit of math comes in…but if *I* can do it…*you* can do it!) and then add the amount of olive oil needed to the weight of the bowl. So my bowl was 35.4 ounces. I needed to add 12.8 ounces of olive oil. Adding the two numbers together I got 48.2. So all I had to do was pour in the olive oil until the scale reached that number.
Then do the same thing with the coconut oil. It was actually kind of FUN channeling my inner mad scientist. ;-)
Pour the oils into your crockpot set on Low.
After you have measured/weighed your oils, it’s time to add the water and lye. Lye was one of those “special ingredients” I talked about before….and I won’t lie….it’s not EASY to find. BUT, all I had to do was ask the nice gentleman at our local hardware store to order me some and I had it in my hot little hands two days later. It’s used as a drain cleaner, so you will want to look for it in the plumbing section. This is what my container looked like. You just need to make sure it’s labeled as 100% lye, NaOH.
Since it IS a drain cleaner…you can imagine how CAUSTIC it can be. It can burn skin on contact and is fatal if ingested, so you must handle with extreme care. I didn’t use any special protective gear, but I was extremely careful not to come in contact with it and made sure the area was well ventilated while pouring and mixing it. Once it’s added to the oil however, you don’t smell it at all.
If you are concerned about working with lye you can avoid it by purchasing melt and pour soap base at a craft store. That way all the lye-handling has been done for you. :-)
So, next step. Measure your water into a heat proof glass container and then add your lye to the water. IN THAT ORDER. Adding water to the lye will result in an unfortunate volcanic reaction. Stir until the lye is completely dissolved. This part gives off some pretty strong fumes, so be careful and make sure you got some ventilation going!
Next step…pour the water and lye mixture into the crockpot with the oils. Time to get out that stick blender I’ve been dying to use! ;-) Mix until smooth and slightly thickened.
Put the cover on your crockpot (still set on Low) and wait 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, it should just be starting to get thick around the edges, but runny in the middle. You can see from the pictures, the progression after that is fairly rapid. By one hour you should be to the point where you can turn off the crockpot, give the mixture a stir and add any fragrance if you so desire. *I* so desired!
So I added the first thing that came to my head…one of my favorite combinations….Lavender and Lemon. I totally GUESSED on this step and added approximately 10 drops of each. I must have had beginner’s luck on my side because the soap turned out to have just the right amount of scent for me! Not too much…just enough.
Now all that’s left to do is pour it into a mold (I used a ratty old plastic container I had lying around) and wait.
Mine had hardened enough overnight to unmold and cut. The soap will actually continue to harden for another week or two, so cutting it right after taking out of the mold is recommended. I easily cut mine into small bars with a large kitchen knife.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this project….from beginning to end! There’s just something about making your own SOAP that is incredibly satisfying. I keep a little bar of it on my kitchen sink at all times…a) because it feels and smells wonderful! and b) because it makes me smile!
I know this was a LENGTHY post…but I hope some of the enthusiasm I had for this came through. If you’re thinking you might want to give this whole soap-making thing a try…make sure and enter to win the digital scale and immersion blender giveaway!
*****CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED*****
Congratulations to Amy Smith!