I've been making REAL soap for the past 16 years at least.....maybe longer. When I say REAL soap I mean the way our ancestors have made soap for hundreds of years, combining fats, with an alkaline like Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH = Lye) or Potassium Hydroxide (KOH). Combining those elements creates a chemical reaction called Saponification.
I always turned my nose up at adding a lot of superfluous ingredients to soap, since it is a wash off product. Recently though I decided to try soap using my Son-In-Law's home brewed IPA (India Pale Ale) in place of the water in my recipe......I'm in LOVE
1. ALL soap is made with LYE. Some people “fudge” the facts by
using a SOAP BASE that they purchase (that is made with lye) but they aren’t adding more lye to it, so they claim THEY made it without lye. Lye is also called NaOH or Sodium Hydroxide.
2. Most “SOAP” you buy at the store is actually detergent, made with lots of chemicals. You will see names like Antiseptic BAR, Deodorant BAR, Facial BAR, Cleansing BAR. Take a look at the label.
3. Commercial “soap” has had the natural glycerin removed in order for it to have a longer shelf life. Your skin will feel dry…….then they sell you that glycerin back, in the form of body lotion.
4. REAL handmade soap (not made from a commercial soap base)
(1) Does not use any chemical preservatives
(2) Contains the natural glycerin produced. It may take your skin a few days to acclimate to the lack of chemicals.
(3) There is NO leftover lye in the soap. It has all been used in the chemical reaction combining with oils to make soap……it’s Chemistry!
Step 1: Safety FIRST
As with any chemical you MUST respect the lye at all times. It's not being afraid, it's simply being smart! Working with Lye is no more dangerous than say Chlorine Bleach.
- Rubber or Latex gloves
- Eye cover (glasses or goggles)
- Mask (optional) I don't use one
When working with the lye and "raw" soap batter you must keep your gloves on, and your eyes cover in place.
I use a lye calculator that is found on line, as are many recipes. The site I like best is Majestic Mountain Sage http://www.thesage.com/index.html When a recipe is followed the soap will be the MOST luxurious you've ever used.
Step 2: Equipment
Many of these items can be found in your own home, or at local thrift, or Dollar Stores. Use your imagination.
You may use:
- Plastic: Bowls, Cups, Spoons, Whisks, Scrapers. You might want to take a look in your recycle bin....look at yogurt or butter containers....beware of really lightweight plastic that might not hold up to the heat created.
- Glass: Measuring Cups, Bowls (beware they MAY become etched over time making them more susceptible to breakage). Again look at your recyclables. You may want to use jars once then toss.
- Stainless Steel: Bowls, Spoons, Pitchers, Whisks
- Silicone: Scrapers, Molds
- Cardboard Boxes: When lined with a plastic bag a cardboard box makes a GREAT mold (not shown) To determine ABOUT how many ounces your square or rectangle container will hold Measure the Length and Width. Multiply the length by the width by how thick you want your soap to be (usually about 1.5") then multiply that result by .40 (POINT 40) The result SHOULD be AROUND 36 to work with this recipe.
- plastic bag to line the cardboard box or other container
- Food scale (I prefer digital) in my opinion a scale is the MOST important piece of equipment
DO NOT USE ANY ALUMINUM ITEM/TOOL OR PRODUCT
Additional itemsmay be used
- Microwave or cook top (not shown)
- Freezer Paper, News Paper, old sheet to cover your work area to make clean-up easier
- Stick Blender (not shown)
Step 3: Recipe (Ingredient List)
This is a recipe I created and share with my students. Feel free to use it. OR You may follow any recipe you'd like substituting FLAT BEER for the liquid in the recipe. Before attempting to make soap the first time PLEASE read this all the way through. WEIGHING all of your ingredients carefully and accurately is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP
- 2 oz Avocado Oil
- 2 oz Castor Oil
- 8 oz Coconut Oil
- 8 oz Lard (or Beef Tallow)......not pictured
- 4 oz Olive Oil
- 2 oz Shea Butter
- 6 oz Soybean Oil
- 12 ounces of FLAT BEER (I freeze the beer into cubes)
- 4.43 ounces (125 GRAMS) 100% Lye
- OPTIONAL: Titanium Dioxide to lighten soap batter (I used it to create a HEAD on my beer soap)
Step 4: Preparing the Beer
For this recipe you will need to weigh out about 12 ounces of any good beer. I recommend NOT using a LIGHT beer. For this recipe I used the IPA (India Pale Ale) that my Son-In-Law made from a kit. I have also used dark beers with good success. The beer NEEDS to be flat, flat, flat for safety sake. If not when the lye hits the carbonation it could foam up and overflow.....stinky mess (ask me how I know)
To prepare the beer
- Pour the beer into a pan and heat on the stove stirring until no more foam is created
- Pour the heated beer into ice cube trays, and freeze
Step 5: Mixing the Lye
FOR THIS STEP WEAR GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION
- WEIGH the lye. Make sure you ZERO your scale after placing the container (I use a plastic cup) on it.
- WEIGH the FROZEN beer cubes (after zeroing your scale) in a different container (I use a stainless steel or plastic 4 Cup measuring cup)
I go outside to mix the lye......at VERY least go to a well ventilated area without pets or kids (like an open garage) to do the mixing.
- Now carefully pour about 1/4 of the lye onto the beer cubes, stirring with a plastic or metal spoon WARNING****** DO NOT INHALE ANY FUMES AND DO NOT DRIP ANY OF THE LYE MIXTURE ONTO ANY SURFACE (I take a napkin with me to sit the spoon on after stirring)
- Continue to pour another 1/4 of the lye onto the beer cubes stirring, until all of the lye has been mixed and the beer cubes melted.
- Leave the beer/lye mixture to cool.......it will be HOT from the chemical reaction taking place
Step 6: Mix the Oil/Fats
While the Lye/beer mixture is cooling start preparing the oils/fats you're using. Each time you add a fat or Oil make sure you ZERO your scale. Weigh CAREFULLY and ACCURATELY.....it DOES make a difference.
- Weigh each of the solid fats into the large plastic mixing bowl The weights MUST be exact.
- Microwave for about 30 seconds on high...Stir. If not completely melted repeat heating until the fats are melted
- In a cup weigh each of the liquid oils separately.
- Pour the weighed (liquid) oil into the larger plastic mixing bowl with the melted fats
- Repeat with each oil
- Stir well
Step 7: Checking the Temperature and Preparing to Make Soap
When making soap the best outcome takes place when the alkaline (lye solution) and the oils are at ABOUT the same temperatures. I suggest using a temperature of 80° - 110°.....again both MUST be within 5-10 degrees of each other.
IF it seems like one or both are staying too hot, too long, or are very far away from each other you MAY want to use an ice bath for 1 or both solutions. Be CAREFUL that you do not spill water into either container. Do not use an ice bath if you're a GLASS container.....the difference in temperature could cause the glass to break.
1. At this point you will want to make sure you have a mold prepared. I have a silicone loaf mold that I use, but actually a small cardboard box (around 6x10) the size of a woman's shoe box works great! In the EQUIPMENT step I gave you a formula for figuring how much your rectangle or square mold will need to make a bar of common thickness (about 1.5 inches). It is better to have a final number of 36 or a little more, rather than less. If the box or container is too large the bars will be too thin.
2. Line your box or container (unless it's silicone) with a thin plastic bag that has been cut open to use only 1 layer. Take time to smooth out the plastic bag. Tape in place if you wish. IF you are using a grocery bag with printing on it.....put the printing AWAY from your soap
3. Cover your surface you'll be working on with a couple layers of newspaper, or a large piece of Freezer Paper (wrap).
4. IF you are planning on using Titanium Dioxide (I used it to lighten the soap batter on top to give the illusion of the head on a beer) get a small disposable cup (at least 9 oz) or another plastic cup or bowl. Mix 1 teaspoon of the TD (titanium dioxide) with a small mount of water (just enough to mix the TD....less than a tablespoon). Set aside.
Get your spoon, whisk, or Stick Blender ready. Have a plastic scraper nearby
Step 8: LET'S MAKE SOAP
I'm SO excited! THIS is the FUN part!
- Put on your gloves, and eye protection, and LEAVE them on until I tell you to remove them......you might even want to wear and apron or old clothes
- CAREFULLY pour the lye/beer mixture INTO the larger plastic bowl containing the oils/fats. Set your container that held the lye/beer mixture in a sink to wash later
- Working QUICKLY (but don't splash) using your spoon, whisk, or stick blender mix to a LIGHT/THIN trace (this is a cooking term used in making pudding meaning that you can remove your spoon and see where you were just stirring)......IF you are using a spoon or whisk this can take several minutes. IF you are using a stick blender it will probably not take more than a minute or two.....do not let your mixture get to a thick pudding consistency
- at this point (THIN/LIGHT trace) IF you have prepared Titanium Dioxide to lighten a portion of your soap batter like I did. You will pour ABOUT 8 ounces of soap batter into the cup with the TD (titanium dioxide).....mix it well by spoon or small whisk.
- QUICKLY but CAREFULLY pour your soap batter into your prepared mold, using a plastic scraper to scrape out ALL of the soap batter......you may smooth it down with a scraper or by tapping the mold on a hard surface.....don't splash
- IF you divided a portion of soap batter and lightened it with TD, NOW is the time to spread it over the top....work quickly. Scrape out any left in cup. I like to make the top of my soap swirly with the back of a spoon, but you don't have to.
- Cover you soap with another plastic bag or plastic wrap, and sit it out of the way. (I put mine in the garage, and I cover it with an old towel or blanket.....but You don't have to) It needs to sit for about 24 hrs.
Step 9: Clean UP
You still have your gloves and eye protection on right? Good!
You MIGHT be tempted to wash everything right now.....but DON'T.
Wipe any little leftover raw soap batter out of the bowls and off of the spoons etc with old rags (then toss them into the washer to sit at least 24 hrs), paper towels, or the newspaper you used to cover your work area. Throw the paper away. Rinse out the cup that held the lye/beer mixture, then stack it with the bowls and utensils. Put them aside until at least 24 hrs.
Wipe up your work area.
NOW you may remove your eye protection and gloves!
AFTER 24 hours the leftover soap batter has finished it's chemical reaction and it is now SOAP, so the utensils (and old rags if you used them) can be washed......I'd still wear rubber gloves, and I wash everything (except the rags) in the sink with hot water to which I add DAWN dish washing soap.....but that's just me
Step 10: Cutting Your Soap
After 24-48 hours get ready to cut your soap into bars.
- Cover a surface with Freezer Paper, Wax Paper, Parchment Paper, or plastic. Your soap will still be soft so you need to let it sit for a while......DO NOT put the new soap directly on wood or on metal (like cooling racks)
- PUT ON YOUR GLOVES. The Chemical reaction CAN take up to 48 hrs to complete, so the soap may dry your skin at this point.
- Pull your soap out of the mold by the plastic bag.
- Peel the plastic bag away from the edges of the soap.
Decide how you want to cut your soap to get the right sized bars....get out a commercial bar of soap to check if you aren't sure.
EXAMPLE: if your soap block is about 6 inches wide, you would cut it down the middle (lengthwise). Then cut each side into equal pieces that are about 2.5 inches wide. giving you 8 bars of soap. each should weigh about 5+ ounces each.
I use a drywall knife to cut my soap. it is a straight blade unlike the 'V' shape of a kitchen knife
As you cut each bar set it on your prepared surface to finish drying. Leave a space between each soap
Step 11: FINALLY the Cure and FAQ
Your soap will be SAFE to use in about 48 hours from the time you poured it into your mold HOWEVER it will be harder and last longer if you let it "cure" for at least 4 weeks.....(I always cheat and use one bar from each batch right away). The word "cure" in this case simply means to let the excess water evaporate from the soap, making it harder and longer lasting in the shower.
Don't let your soap sit in water
Use a "poof" to wash with. It will make more lather
Q. What should I do IF I get the raw soap batter on my skin, clothes, or kitchen?
A. WATER, WATER, and water. IF you get some soap batter on your skin you will notice a tingling burn in a few minutes. STAY CALM.....your skin is fine. just wash it off under running water. You will NOT have a hole eaten into your skin, and probably won't even end up with a red mark. IF it's on your clothes do the same....rinse in water. You can add vinegar to the rinse water if you care to. IF you spill on the counter top or floor first wipe up the excess with a disposable paper towel, then wash the area with water that has a little vinegar in it
Q. What if I don't have all the same oils/fats that you used, and I just substitute others?
A. NO, NOPE, NO WAY any time you add, subtract or change an oil as an ingredient, you MUST run it through the lye calculator. These fats/oils are NOT interchangeable!