Hello! New here - appreciate advice.

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user 46500

Jun 16, 2020
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I have never made my own soap but have always wanted to. I found a lot of advice on how to buy soap and melt it to pour into molds but that is not what I am looking for!

I appreciate your help on good resources for learning, books, YouTube, supplies, and where to buy them. I am only planning to make this for myself/family, but we like to do things in bulk for the year ahead. Thanks for the tips and advice!
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Hello and Welcome. I recommend watching Soaping101 on youtube. Also, reading the most current 10-20 pages here in the beginners section holds a lot of helpful information. Supplies, if you do a search there are many posts that will give supplies needed as well as good basic recipes. I highly recommend you check out a soapcalculator and get comfortable with using it. All recipes should be run through a calculator by you to make sure there are no errors. Here's a site that has a lot of helpful information as well.

Soapy Stuff: Soapy Stuff
Welcome GrannyTidbits!

You've come to the right place! You can learn a lot by just perusing through the Beginners section and the Lye-based section of our forum.

Here is a list of essential equipment you will need:

-Protective gloves (I myself use 9-mil nitrile gloves)
-Goggles (I actually use 'onion' goggles)
-Digital scale for weighing ingredients (never use volume measurements when measuring oils and lye)
-Soap pot for mixing soap batter (good choices are quality stainless steel, HDPE#5 or PP#2 plastic buckets or bowls
-PP#2 or HDPE#5 plastic pitcher or measuring cup for mixing lye solution
-Stick blender for mixing soap batter (you can get by with a whisk or spoon, but a stickblender will shave off a lot of time and effort)
-Silicone spatula(s)
-Plastic or stainless steel spoons or whisks
- Soap Mold: silicone, wood or heavy duty/heat resistant plastic
-Freezer paper for lining mold if not using a silicone mold

Some cautions:

-Stay away from using anything aluminum, i.e., pots, pitchers, utensils, etc... when soapmaking. Lye and aluminum are mortal enemies.
-Avoid using glass or Pyrex to mix lye solution. Lye etches glass over time and will cause it to break/shatter when you least expect it. Use plastic (either HDPE #5 or PP #2) or quality stainless steel instead to mix up your lye solution.
-Avoid using wooden spoons with lye as they will break down from the lye and get dry/splintery.
-Always add the lye to your water, not the other way around
-Lye is not poisonous, but it is very caustic and needs to be respected. Never soap without eye protection in case of accidental splashing, and when mixing up your lye solution do not breathe in the fumes as they will irritate the lungs. Some folks mix it outside downwind, some mix it inside with fan blowing the fumes away from the face out an open window or with wearing an appropriately rated mask. I myself stack 3 tightly woven, triple-ply cotton diapers and fold them over onto themselves 3 times and hold that over my mouth and nose with one hand while mixing the lye solution with the other hand out in my garage. Once the lye solution has cooled down, there is no longer any danger from fumes and you may breathe normally.
-Soap near a water source (I soap in the kitchen sink), in case you get any lye or raw soap batter on yourself. A quick rinse under water will take care of it in a jiffy and prevent any burns from occurring.

IrishLass :)
Thanks! I didn't know that about the aluminum!

I am thinking that due to fumes I might do this outside on a propane grill. Any thoughts on that? I don't have an outside kitchen vent for my stove.

Also, will the lye eat through your shirt? I thought I would wear long sleeves when mixing.
BrambleBerry.com has a lot of tutorials and videos. YouTube has become my best friend on soaping techniques. This forum has helped a lot and been an inspiration!
I like to watch Katy Carlson (Royalty Soap) on YouTube, and she has just put out a series on beginning cold process soap making. She focuses on inexpensive equipment you could use in the home if you decide soap making isn't for you, and keeping the input costs as low as possible, again, so you don't break the bank if you decide not to continue.

Some people don't care for her style, but she's notoriously upbeat, and I pick up valuable hints she drops unwittingly through her videos. She is excellent at providing her sources and suppliers.

She is also super safety conscious, which is also good.
I started my soap journey with the Brambleberry Beginner's Cold Process Soap Kit. It's a little spendy, but you get a tried and true recipe, good instructions, enough ingredients to make two batches of soap and a 10" Silicone Soap Mold. I bought my Stick Blender and Digital Scale from Amazon (approx $40.00 for both). I bought my bowls, mixing cups for lye, spatulas and whisk from the local Dollar Store (approx $10.00). The Kit comes with a pair of gloves; I later bought a box from Target. Safety goggles I already had...$3.00 from the Home Depot.

I spent just a bit over a $100 and went with the Kit in case I decided that soap making wasn't for me and therefore wouldn't have a lot of crap to get rid of.

It should be noted that I had done several months of research prior to starting out and I recommend watching Soaping101, Soap Queen, I Dream In Soap; are all excellent resources. Lye safety is a must...lye shouldn't be feared, but it does need to be respected. You can cut down on fumes by freezing or refrigerating your distilled water.

Started with a basic recipe. It will take between 18 - 24 for your soap to saponify (the process of lye + fats = soap) and then another six weeks for your soap to cure and be ready to use.

Soap making can be very addicting. You'll finding yourself wanting to try all sorts of oils and butters and colorants and scents and oh my...all those cute molds! I found that setting a budget helps a LOT!
I had wanted to try soap making but the online info created some concerns about the lye solution. I took a class. He was a wonderful teacher. We made 3 CP soaps that day. His advice to get bowls from Good Will was perfect. A 3 piece set was $3. I ordered onion goggles, a stick blender and scale from Amazon. Brought gloves home from work. An inexpensive start. We won't discuss what I've spent since on oils, butters, molds, micas and EO! I do find the easy pour funnel pitchers invaluable.
It definitely can be an expensive hobby! When you amass all those supplies, you need somewhere to keep it all... and then space for curing. Books are flying off my bookcase shelves so my soaps have a home! Enjoy the journey!
His advice to get bowls from Good Will was perfect.

Absolutely. I got tired of dealing with the microwave for melting oils/butters and beeswax so I went to St Vinnie's and bought a stainless steel dutch oven to melt oils/butters and a 2-quart stainless steel pot with lid for my beeswax. Spent like $15.00 for both. The "oven" is too large to fit on my scale, but it's no big deal to measure the butters and oils in a bowl first and I'm a heck of a lot more accurate in my measurements.

It definitely can be an expensive hobby! When you amass all those supplies, you need somewhere to keep it all... and then space for curing. Books are flying off my bookcase shelves so my soaps have a home! Enjoy the journey!

My two most expensive purchases, neither that I regret and can be repurposed...a rolling kitchen island and heavy duty shelving rack.
I'm in a small condo with very limited space so the bookcase is working well. I got a small, wheeled 5 drawer cabinet which holds the majority of the smaller stuff. Oils, bowls and pitchers are in the closet! So far it's working fine.
I'm in a small condo with very limited space so the bookcase is working well.

Depending on the length of your shelves, you might want to bolster them up every 12 inches. In addition to the weight of the soap, they are releasing water during the curing process that can be absorbed by the wood, and before you know it, your shelves will start to bow/curve down.
These bookcases have been with me for about 20 years - they are from Ikea so they weren't expensive and have more than served me over the years. If I ever get rid of them, I'll just get sturdy stainless steel shelving for soap - forget about the books! LOL
I do appreciate the tip!
Hi. Can you tell me what size and how many soap pots you would recommend?

Thank you.

I have 3, but I could really get by with just one if push ever came to shove- i.e., my 6 qt stainless steel pot, in which I make the majority of my batches, which are 2.8 lbs. The other two are smaller ones, one of which is stainless steel and the other plastic, which are perfect for my smaller 1.3 lb batches.

IrishLass :)

To save time, money, and frustration, this is a good read for a soaper at your stage of experience:
Q: What advice would you give to your beginning soaping self?
I started soaping by hitting Dollar Tree for all my spatulas and bowls and family member's unused small appliances. My first mold was a cardboard box lined with a trash bag. I further bolstered my equipment by hitting up Good Will and bribing the staff to call me when they got in stick blenders and crock pots (I gave them soap and promised more if they called me.)

Soaping doesn't have to be expensive. Just get a plan and give yourself a little time to fill in the list.
You mention about making things in bulk, and soap is certainly something that can be made in large batches. But if I could offer some advice ... big batches aren't a good idea when a person is a beginner. Better to make small batches more often to build skills and learn what you like and don't like.

Most people suggest starting out with batches using about 16 ounces or 500 grams of fats. That will give you about 4 typical-sized bars of soap per batch.

That's not a lot if you like to get 'er done and over with ... but if something doesn't go right, a smaller batch size won't saddle you with a big pile of unusable soap. Or even if the soap turns out fine, you might not like the recipe so you don't want to get stuck with a big pile of soap that you don't like.