How to Make Soap - Soapmaking Guide for Beginners

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Zany_in_CO

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This thread provides the missing parts others mentioned.

 
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Pyrex should not be used in soap making for two reasons.
1.) the lye and mixing will over time cause the glass to begin to erode. This means that very small bits of glass are going in the soap.
2.) I have had the exciting experience of having the pyrex *click* and break.
Of course you are free to disagree. I only speak of my own experience. Your mileage may vary.

Steve
 
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Raw LYE molecules can become trapped in microscopic cracks of any porous container or tools used during the soap-making process. These may then leech-out, into food during food-preparation. (such as stewing, or stirring) NEVER use once ‘soap-making tools’ or any equipment, which comes into direct contact with LYE, during the saponification process of mixing or blending SOAP.
Keep all soap-making equipment, completely SEPARATE from your food-preparation equipment.
A separate room or studio is preferable, by law, but few have that luxury. Proof of knowledge regarding the cross-contamination of LYE and FOOD is required for your License.
Sorry, I am all about lye safety when working with it, but I must disagree with the above.

First, we aren't talking about lye "molecules" - lye is usually in the form of grains, beads, or flakes.

Lye isn't poisonous. A fair number of foods are prepared in lye solutions: olives, bagels, and pretzels, for instance.

Lye solutions are also used to adjust pH for many body-care products that we apply to our skin and hair.

Most importantly, "raw" lye doesn't remain active after exposure to air. It actually absorbs moisture from the air, and ends up as harmless sodium bicarbonate (like the soda ash you see on soap). So, if a grain of undissolved lye somehow manages to attach itself to your stick-blender (despite having been mixed in water, blended into the soap batter, and then thoroughly washed up after), by the time you use the SB to make mayo or blend your butternut squash soup, that bead of lye is no longer caustic or dangerous in any way.

Same with any lye solution that somehow escapes being incorporated into the soap. If it soaks into crevices on your crockpot, as it dries, it will become harmless soda ash.

ETA: If you were to take the "no sharing utensils" rule to its logical conclusion, you should also not soap in your kitchen or in any area used for anything but soapmaking. After all, lye beads are probably more prone to scatter on countertops than to get stuck in the blade of your stickblender. But again, those lye beads on your floor or counters will become soda ash given enough time and humidity.
 
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LionLady

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Given that Pyrex brand glassware is made to withstand high temperatures, you might need to explain briefly why/when glassware could be dangerous, beyond "DO NOT USE..." ie if it has any damage, or is not specifically made for high temperatures.
 

Zany_in_CO

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Pyrex should not be used in soap making for two reasons.
@Steve85569 Thank you for giving me the opportunity to disagree. I just wish we could agree that plastic should be recommended as the preferred option for soapmaking. There are many of us "Old Timers" (especially outside of SMF) that use Pyrex pitchers and should be allowed to do so without fear of being pilloried for the practice as happened to me when I first joined SMF. :rolleyes:

Although plastic is the preferred option, I use a heavy glass (not Pyrex) 4-cup pitcher for mixing lye. It is heavily etched by lye indeed. It was that way when I bought it at a garage sale in 2004!!! What a find!!! 😁

Etched Glass.JPG


Original Pyrex was made of Borosilicate glass. No problem. My first 8-cup Borosilicate glass Pyrex lasted for 13 years. Sadly, it broke when it slipped out of my hands and fell to the floor as I was carrying a load of fruit salad to place in a serving bowl.

New Pyrex is regular glass and prone to breaking, especially if you put the hot glass on anything cold. TIP: Wood cutting boards work well. I have one by my microwave and one on the counter by my kitchen sink when soaping.

The 8-cup glass Pyrex I replaced it with didn't last 2 months. It broke in a clean circle, mid-point between the top and bottom, when I put it in a sink full of water. ACK!

You can imagine my delight when I recently learned that Amazon is now offering Borosilicate Glass Measuring Cups for "Commercial Use."

Durable borosilicate glass can be heated from 32°f (0 °C) to 450° F (232 °C).
 
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TheGecko

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I have a question, and recommendation, about this particular bulleted warning sentence….

"Nonreactive pitcher or container to mix lye into water (NOT PYREX OR GLASS!!!!)"

The question is Why?
Pyrex is tempered glass, specially designed to withstand the heat of a furnace or flame.
As a Chef, I’ve used pyrex ovenware on the BBQ, under the Broiler, and in the Oven.
It’s specifically created to withstand extreme temperatures without breaking. The large Pyrex mixing-bowls are equipped with handles. Incidentally, Brambleberry’s founder (and President) uses them when doing her “How-To Video” segments for You-Tube, and also recommends their use.
I think, personally, that this quote I’ve taken in-question is misleading and inaccurate. Would you like to respond? If not, I recommend the changes, to reflect this. With the First Warning to be:

* The Equipment MUST be kept specifically FOR SOAP PRODUCTION ONLY! Never use, or allow the interchange, of any hardware used in SOAP preparation, later, for FOOD production.
* Only the use of branded “PYREX” glass, or stainless-steel, or Silicone for the mixing of lye and oils in the soap-production process.

These are my recommendations. Does anyone agree or disagree?

Thank you, ThinLizzie
Disagree.

Because Pyrex was developed FOR cooking and baking, NOT soap making. While it can go from the freezer to the oven to the table, it was NOT meant to have caustic soda mixed in it. Yes Pyrex is durable, but it's not absolute; even less so since the Pyrex sold today is not the same that was sold to my grandmother and mother. I've seen Pyrex bakeware split...sometimes in half, sometimes in several pieces. Same with their glass measuring cups. Bad enough to have to clean up glass...now let's add a 220F+ caustic mixture to it.

Of course she uses a glass mixing bowl...1) she sells them on her website (it's NOT PYREX BTW), 2) it makes for better looking videos. It does NOT mean that she is right. As much as I like BB's products, I completely disagree with her use of glass. And she doesn't scrape out her containers and she wastes a lot of ingredients, but then again, that's to her advantage so you buy more.

As for soap equipment...some things you are going to want to keep separate. Example...the chopsticks I use for my swirls are made out of wood (I save them from take out). But on the other hand, If I feel the need to texture my soap, I just grab a teaspoon out of the drawer (stainless steel). Most of the my 'soaping equipment' is deemed 'sole and separate' as a matter of convenience (daughter is bad about putting stuff back where it belongs) and because soap making can be really hard on stuff. It's FAR cheaper for me to use a mixing bowl from the Dollar Tree than it is my Tupperware 'cuz have you seen what a stick blender does to plastic? A lot of the reasons for having separate equipment is so that you don't get soap in your food because you didn't clean your stick blender well or you're using two-piece spatulas and didn't take them apart. And for the same reason you wouldn't want to have food particles to your lotion.
 

Max89242

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Soapmaking for Beginners

There are several reasons people may want to learn how to make soap. While some may choose to do so simply because it’s a fun and satisfying hobby, many people start making their own soaps so they can avoid undesired ingredients like fragrances and synthetic detergents. Most commercial “soaps” are not 100% soap- they are detergent based and have their natural glycerin removed and may be called beauty bars, cleansing bars, face bar, etc. Glycerin is a skin-loving ingredient, but it is removed from commercial soaps to increase shelf life and to sell separately commercially for lotion and skin care products. If you make your own soap, not only do you get to use the ingredients of your choice, but the glycerin in your soap remains. Some hobby soapmakers may decide to make soap so that they may use homegrown ingredients like lard or tallow, aloe vera gel, herbs, and liquids like goat’s or cow’s milk. Some will make their own soap to use all organic ingredients, or perhaps make vegan soaps. Making your own soap allows YOU to choose the ingredients that suit you and your lifestyle.

While everyone seems to know what soap is, it does have a scientific definition. In short, soap is the salt of a fatty acid. From a chemical standpoint, “salt” is not the substance you sprinkle on your food (although sodium chloride IS a salt). A salt is the substance formed by the interaction of an acid and a base. In soapmaking, the acid is a fatty acid (the oils chosen, like olive oil) combined with lye (usually sodium hydroxide). The reaction between them is called saponification. Saponification can be defined as the process taking place that converts those oils/fats by the lye dissolved in water to soap. While lye can be dangerous to use, and precautions must be taken to make soap safely, lye is needed for this process. If someone tells you that you can make soap without lye, that is not true. What IS true is that if the soap is made properly, there is no lye remaining in the soap at all due to this chemical reaction between the lye and oils. There is an entirely new substance created- soap!

Preparation (Collect all of your supplies)
  • Nonreactive vessel to melt your oils on stove or microwave (HDPE #2 or PP #5 plastic or stainless steel).
  • Nonreactive pitcher or container to mix lye into water (NOT PYREX OR GLASS!!!!)
  • Nonreactive utensils like stainless spoons or silicone spoons to stir
  • Protective gear like safety glasses, apron, rubber gloves, long sleeves
  • Mold for your soap, (lined if needed with either freezer paper lining, quilter's mylar, plastic cutting mats or silicone fondant mats) or silicone molds. Silicone and other molds sold for soapmaking generally do not need to be lined. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if using a commercial soap mold.
  • Consider an immersion blender for stirring/mixing the soap batter as a time and labor saving device
  • Soapmaking software. Because of the need for precise measurements for both the oils and lye, always run any recipe you find through a soap calculator. Each oil has a different saponification value and requires a different amount of lye; and especially if you are substituting one oil for another, you will always want to double check the lye amount. We recommend the simple, easy to use calculator at SoapmakingFriend.com.
Safety notes

Soapmaking really is a simple process. The details needs more attention.
  • All ingredients, including liquids are always measured by weight. This ensures precision.
  • Lye is a caustic, and should be handled with care. Safety googles and protective clothing should be used throughout the process. Also, lye mixed in water gets HOT fast. So always mix cold water or whatever liquid your using with the lye-never use hot or warm liquids. In general, you will use about 2 times the amount of water as lye, but can err on the side of caution with a 2.5:1 ratio- that is, use 2.5 times as much water, by weight, as lye.
  • Even though this soapmaking technique is called ‘cold process’, the soap batter is hot. Have hot pads at the ready, and protection for your counters.
  • Mixing the lye into the water is crucial. Always add lye to water, in a taller vessel than you think you need. Never, but ever, add water to lye- it will volcano on your and be dangerous. “Add lye to water, just like you oughter” will help you remember this.
  • Measuring is critical. You need to measure carefully as to ensure you have the proper amount of fats and lye so that you don’t have a lye-heavy soap. The old “grandma’s lye soaps” that you’ve heard will “take the hide off of you” should remind you of this. Your scale should go to the hundredth of an ounce if using imperial measurements, and to the tenth of a gram if using metric. Measuring lye in grams is a great idea, as it is more precise but ounces will work if you have an accurate scale for small amounts.
  • Use only fragrances or colors designed for soapmaking. Anything with alcohol (like perfume) will cause the soap to seize right away. Some fragrances, like those with vanilla scents, will turn the soap brown. Consult the manufacturer’s directions if you are using a fragrance or essential oil new to you.
  • As was mentioned earlier, make sure you run ANY recipe through a soapmaking calculator, even one you may have made before. This avoids any possibility of a lye-heavy soap, or not using enough lye and having a ruined batch. This takes just a few minutes, less than 2 minutes usually, and is important for the safety of your batch.
Basic Steps
  • Step 1: Gather equipment and ingredients
  • Step 2: Measure lye and add to the measured (weighed) water
  • Step 3: Weigh the oils, and melt the hard oils first. Add soft or liquid oils so all of your oils are combined
  • Step 4: Add the lye water to the oils gradually, stirring.
  • Step 5: Stir until you reach trace, when lifting your spoon across the soap batter leaves a line or a ‘trace’ behind.
  • Step 6: Pour into prepared mold(s)
  • Step 7: When cooled and firm, cut into bars and set on a rack to cure for 4-6 weeks.
Get Started!

Now that you have your equipment, a knowledge of the safety rules, and the basics, we need our recipe and ingredients. Our recipe comes from the ‘sample recipes’ on SoapmakingFriend.com.

We’ll be using ingredients that you can find at your local grocery or drug store, except for the lye. Lye is found online, or in hardware stores with the drain cleaners. Just make sure you have 100% sodium hydroxide, lye, with no other ingredients.

Each oil you use brings something different to the soap. Coconut oil is cleansing, and helps create great bubbles in the soap, but too much can be drying for those with a dry and/or sensitive skin-type. Olive oil is conditioning to the skin, but can make a soft soap that can feel a little slimy in too- large amounts. Lard is inexpensive and helps give the soap stable lather, conditioning to the skin, gentle, and helps make the soap hard. If you are wanting a vegetable oil only soap, you may use palm oil instead of lard, but run it through a soap calculator to double check the lye!

A typical soap recipe looks like this:
  • 60% Lard
  • 20% Coconut oil
  • 20% Olive oil
  • Superfat at 5% (Superfat is the amount of excess oil used to ensure that all of the lye is used up, so the soap is not lye heavy, and the excess fat is conditioning to the body)
The recipe looks like this after you enter those amounts:

View attachment 67590

You will notice that the recipe page gives you a lot of information about the make up of the oils, and the qualities including cleansing, hardness, bubbles, lather, etc. For now, seeing that your recipe is in the general recommended percentages of each of those properties is great. Once you get more experience, you can vary this by your preference as you learn to formulate your own recipes.

You can see that the amounts of the oils are calculated for us by entering our percentages. The recipe also calculates the lye amounts and water amounts as well, so we are ready to go!

The printed page gives us all we need:

View attachment 67591

There are check boxes to help you check off the ingredients as you use them, so be sure to do that as you don’t want to leave out any ingredients. You can measure in grams and/or ounces by looking at the amounts in the columns.

Steps to making your first batch
  • Step 1 - Find your recipe, and run it through a soap calculator. Ensure you have all your ingredients handy, as once you start it goes pretty fast! Grab a pen so you can check off the ingredients as you go.
  • Step 2- Put on your goggles and gloves, and carefully weigh the lye in a small plastic container. Set aside, and weigh your water in a large non-reactive, non-glass container (plastic is good for these items). Add the lye to the water, stirring well and avoid breathing the fumes. Try to do this in a well-ventilated area. It gets HOT fast. Use caution. Let sit to cool.
  • Step 3- Weigh your fats/oils, and melt the hard ones over low heat. Once melted, add the rest of your oils. Do this in a heat-proof vessel- stainless is great, and plastic works too. Do NOT use aluminum!
  • Step 4: Once both your lye solution and your oils are 120 degrees or less, add the lye water slowly to the oils, and stir well. You will want to fully mix the ingredients, and this takes quite a bit of time with hand stirring. The batter will begin to change, from oils with liquid to a smooth soap batter that will become opaque and look like a thin pudding. An immersion blender, with burst off and on as to not burn out the motor, will make this job much faster and easier. Keep the immersion blender under the surface of the soap, as to not whip air into it. Then stir with the blender off, to keep checking to see when you are at “trace”
  • Step 5: When the soap batter reaches a trace (when you can move the spoon through the batter and see a line, or a ‘trace’ left behind), the batter is ready to pour. Trace can be a thin trace or medium trace, but pour before the soap batter gets too thick. Add your “add at trace” ingredients if using them (like color or fragrance) and pour into your prepared mold. Cover with a towel to maintain the temperature without allowing it to overheat. At this point, you can remove your safety gear. Wash your items before the soap sets up on them. Some people will use old rags or newspaper to wipe off the thickened soap batter and discard so it doesn’t go down the drain. Some don't wash out their soap-pot and soaping utensils until the next day when the soap batter in them/on them has turned to soap overnight and they are super easier to clean then.
  • Step 6: Allow to sit until firm, usually about 24 hours but some will harden faster than others. You will want to cut your soap with a sharp knife when the soap feels like cheddar cheese when you press on it. If it’s too hard, it may crumble. If it’s too soft, you won’t be able to unmold it. Check it several times if necessary. Because this is a ‘cold process’ soap, that is, not cooked or heat applied, the saponification process is not finished when the soap is poured into the mold. The chemical reaction will continue while the soap is in the mold and will finish as the soap heats up a bit more, and cools. The soap may go through a ‘gel’ stage as well, and you may see that if you check the soap during that time. It will look clear in the middle, and go out to the ends as it finishes. Don’t worry- this is a normal process!
  • Step 7: Once you cut the soap, place on a rack in a dry place and allow it to cure for 4-6 weeks. It will become milder and sudsier with curing.
That’s all there is to it! You’ve made soap.

As you gain experience, you may want to try different ingredients, fragrances, colors, and recipes. You are only limited by the ingredients available and your imagination.
Your information for basic soap is great - a lot of detail. Avoid breathing the fumes when lye is added to water. You may want to include a brief note about creating hot process soap. When I began making soap I was using a small postal scale and didn't realize for years the scale was inadequate and really non functional as my soap was lye heavy. Fortunately, we didn't suffer any burns but the soap was great for my oily skin. For my soap making I prefer essential oils and use no fragrance except what, rose petals(amber queen holds the pale yellow color - I assume the yellow or white rose petals do the same), where red oxidizes to brown. Anyway, I'd try making soap using your beginners information.

Almost forgot to suggest using a container with vinegar water to neutralize any lye spills and wiping areas where lye may have spilled.
 
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Raw LYE molecules can become trapped in microscopic cracks of any porous container or tools used during the soap-making process. These may then leech-out, into food during food-preparation. (such as stewing, or stirring) NEVER use once ‘soap-making tools’ or any equipment, which comes into direct contact with LYE, during the saponification process of mixing or blending SOAP.
Keep all soap-making equipment, completely SEPARATE from your food-preparation equipment.
A separate room or studio is preferable, by law, but few have that luxury. Proof of knowledge regarding the cross-contamination of LYE and FOOD is required for your License.
The lye I use is food grade, and lye is often used in food prep (i.e. bagels, pretzels, hominy, canned mandarin oranges, olives, etc). Sodium hydroxide is a dangerously strong base, but that's affected by concentration. It's caustic and dangerous in soap because it's very concentrated while we work with it, which means a high pH. The incredibly low concentration I'll get if microscopic amounts trapped in microscopic cracks mix with my food doesn't concern me; after all, bagel dough is dipped in a lye solution, then boiled and eaten. But I'm also based in the US, and I don't know all the regulations soapmakers deal with in other countries. I also know the colorants and scents I use aren't poisonous (some have laxative effects, though), but that could be something to think about when you're deciding whether to use a ceramic crockpot for both food and soap.
 
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RoseéMatinale

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Preparation (Collect all of your supplies)
  • Nonreactive vessel to melt your oils on stove or microwave (HDPE #2 or PP #5 plastic or stainless steel).

I really lile this extensive explanation 👍🏻

Ther is something I would change here:
“…on stove (stainless steel) or microwave (HDPE #2 or PP #5 plastic).”

Concerning the dual use:
I don’t think the lye causes problems, BUT: the colors and fragrances you use are usually designed for use on your skin, or, sure not to be used inside your body. You could get allergic reactions, and some (especially colors) might not be too healthy when swallowed.
And, as previously mentioned, there is the risk that you cannot get rid of all residues, I would change the wording to something like “not recommended“.

Thanks for all your work!
 
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I would recommend pouring the lye water through a small strainer in case there is undissolved lye. I would recommend an infrared thermometer.
I would include information about dispersing your colorants in oil from the recipe before adding to the batter to prevent spots.
I would make sure to tell them not to put essential or fragrance oils in plastic.
As others have said, I do use Pyrex for my lye water and have never had an issue.
I do keep my soaping equipment separate from kitchen utensils mostly for aesthetic reasons. I use my soaping food processor to grind up my citric acid and baking soda for bath bombs and it scratches the container. Plastic containers can hold fragrance that might be unpleasant if later used for food.
 

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According to Springer, sodium hydroxide dissolves glass particularly fast, as far as hydroxides go. Then again, water also dissolves silicate glass. I personally wouldn't worry about the trace sodium silicate in the soap.

As for keeping the implements separate, sodium hydroxide is a component in dishwasher detergent, soap can also be used for washing dishes, and oils can be cleaned off containers and implements with either. I don't think a starting soapmaker needs to shell out for a spare stick blender or extra pots and pans. I occasionally use lye to wash particularly greasy dishes.
 
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Soapmaking for Beginners

There are several reasons people may want to learn how to make soap. While some may choose to do so simply because it’s a fun and satisfying hobby, many people start making their own soaps so they can avoid undesired ingredients like fragrances and synthetic detergents. Most commercial “soaps” are not 100% soap- they are detergent based and have their natural glycerin removed and may be called beauty bars, cleansing bars, face bar, etc. Glycerin is a skin-loving ingredient, but it is removed from commercial soaps to increase shelf life and to sell separately commercially for lotion and skin care products. If you make your own soap, not only do you get to use the ingredients of your choice, but the glycerin in your soap remains. Some hobby soapmakers may decide to make soap so that they may use homegrown ingredients like lard or tallow, aloe vera gel, herbs, and liquids like goat’s or cow’s milk. Some will make their own soap to use all organic ingredients, or perhaps make vegan soaps. Making your own soap allows YOU to choose the ingredients that suit you and your lifestyle.

While everyone seems to know what soap is, it does have a scientific definition. In short, soap is the salt of a fatty acid. From a chemical standpoint, “salt” is not the substance you sprinkle on your food (although sodium chloride IS a salt). A salt is the substance formed by the interaction of an acid and a base. In soapmaking, the acid is a fatty acid (the oils chosen, like olive oil) combined with lye (usually sodium hydroxide). The reaction between them is called saponification. Saponification can be defined as the process taking place that converts those oils/fats by the lye dissolved in water to soap. While lye can be dangerous to use, and precautions must be taken to make soap safely, lye is needed for this process. If someone tells you that you can make soap without lye, that is not true. What IS true is that if the soap is made properly, there is no lye remaining in the soap at all due to this chemical reaction between the lye and oils. There is an entirely new substance created- soap!

Preparation (Collect all of your supplies)
  • Nonreactive vessel to melt your oils on stove or microwave (HDPE #2 or PP #5 plastic or stainless steel).
  • Nonreactive pitcher or container to mix lye into water (NOT PYREX OR GLASS!!!!)
  • Nonreactive utensils like stainless spoons or silicone spoons to stir
  • Protective gear like safety glasses, apron, rubber gloves, long sleeves
  • Mold for your soap, (lined if needed with either freezer paper lining, quilter's mylar, plastic cutting mats or silicone fondant mats) or silicone molds. Silicone and other molds sold for soapmaking generally do not need to be lined. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if using a commercial soap mold.
  • Consider an immersion blender for stirring/mixing the soap batter as a time and labor saving device
  • Soapmaking software. Because of the need for precise measurements for both the oils and lye, always run any recipe you find through a soap calculator. Each oil has a different saponification value and requires a different amount of lye; and especially if you are substituting one oil for another, you will always want to double check the lye amount. We recommend the simple, easy to use calculator at SoapmakingFriend.com.
Safety notes

Soapmaking really is a simple process. The details needs more attention.
  • All ingredients, including liquids are always measured by weight. This ensures precision.
  • Lye is a caustic, and should be handled with care. Safety googles and protective clothing should be used throughout the process. Also, lye mixed in water gets HOT fast. So always mix cold water or whatever liquid your using with the lye-never use hot or warm liquids. In general, you will use about 2 times the amount of water as lye, but can err on the side of caution with a 2.5:1 ratio- that is, use 2.5 times as much water, by weight, as lye.
  • Even though this soapmaking technique is called ‘cold process’, the soap batter is hot. Have hot pads at the ready, and protection for your counters.
  • Mixing the lye into the water is crucial. Always add lye to water, in a taller vessel than you think you need. Never, but ever, add water to lye- it will volcano on your and be dangerous. “Add lye to water, just like you oughter” will help you remember this.
  • Measuring is critical. You need to measure carefully as to ensure you have the proper amount of fats and lye so that you don’t have a lye-heavy soap. The old “grandma’s lye soaps” that you’ve heard will “take the hide off of you” should remind you of this. Your scale should go to the hundredth of an ounce if using imperial measurements, and to the tenth of a gram if using metric. Measuring lye in grams is a great idea, as it is more precise but ounces will work if you have an accurate scale for small amounts.
  • Use only fragrances or colors designed for soapmaking. Anything with alcohol (like perfume) will cause the soap to seize right away. Some fragrances, like those with vanilla scents, will turn the soap brown. Consult the manufacturer’s directions if you are using a fragrance or essential oil new to you.
  • As was mentioned earlier, make sure you run ANY recipe through a soapmaking calculator, even one you may have made before. This avoids any possibility of a lye-heavy soap, or not using enough lye and having a ruined batch. This takes just a few minutes, less than 2 minutes usually, and is important for the safety of your batch.
Basic Steps
  • Step 1: Gather equipment and ingredients
  • Step 2: Measure lye and add to the measured (weighed) water
  • Step 3: Weigh the oils, and melt the hard oils first. Add soft or liquid oils so all of your oils are combined
  • Step 4: Add the lye water to the oils gradually, stirring.
  • Step 5: Stir until you reach trace, when lifting your spoon across the soap batter leaves a line or a ‘trace’ behind.
  • Step 6: Pour into prepared mold(s)
  • Step 7: When cooled and firm, cut into bars and set on a rack to cure for 4-6 weeks.
Get Started!

Now that you have your equipment, a knowledge of the safety rules, and the basics, we need our recipe and ingredients. Our recipe comes from the ‘sample recipes’ on SoapmakingFriend.com.

We’ll be using ingredients that you can find at your local grocery or drug store, except for the lye. Lye is found online, or in hardware stores with the drain cleaners. Just make sure you have 100% sodium hydroxide, lye, with no other ingredients.

Each oil you use brings something different to the soap. Coconut oil is cleansing, and helps create great bubbles in the soap, but too much can be drying for those with a dry and/or sensitive skin-type. Olive oil is conditioning to the skin, but can make a soft soap that can feel a little slimy in too- large amounts. Lard is inexpensive and helps give the soap stable lather, conditioning to the skin, gentle, and helps make the soap hard. If you are wanting a vegetable oil only soap, you may use palm oil instead of lard, but run it through a soap calculator to double check the lye!

A typical soap recipe looks like this:
  • 60% Lard
  • 20% Coconut oil
  • 20% Olive oil
  • Superfat at 5% (Superfat is the amount of excess oil used to ensure that all of the lye is used up, so the soap is not lye heavy, and the excess fat is conditioning to the body)
The recipe looks like this after you enter those amounts:

View attachment 67590

You will notice that the recipe page gives you a lot of information about the make up of the oils, and the qualities including cleansing, hardness, bubbles, lather, etc. For now, seeing that your recipe is in the general recommended percentages of each of those properties is great. Once you get more experience, you can vary this by your preference as you learn to formulate your own recipes.

You can see that the amounts of the oils are calculated for us by entering our percentages. The recipe also calculates the lye amounts and water amounts as well, so we are ready to go!

The printed page gives us all we need:

View attachment 67591

There are check boxes to help you check off the ingredients as you use them, so be sure to do that as you don’t want to leave out any ingredients. You can measure in grams and/or ounces by looking at the amounts in the columns.

Steps to making your first batch
  • Step 1 - Find your recipe, and run it through a soap calculator. Ensure you have all your ingredients handy, as once you start it goes pretty fast! Grab a pen so you can check off the ingredients as you go.
  • Step 2- Put on your goggles and gloves, and carefully weigh the lye in a small plastic container. Set aside, and weigh your water in a large non-reactive, non-glass container (plastic is good for these items). Add the lye to the water, stirring well and avoid breathing the fumes. Try to do this in a well-ventilated area. It gets HOT fast. Use caution. Let sit to cool.
  • Step 3- Weigh your fats/oils, and melt the hard ones over low heat. Once melted, add the rest of your oils. Do this in a heat-proof vessel- stainless is great, and plastic works too. Do NOT use aluminum!
  • Step 4: Once both your lye solution and your oils are 120 degrees or less, add the lye water slowly to the oils, and stir well. You will want to fully mix the ingredients, and this takes quite a bit of time with hand stirring. The batter will begin to change, from oils with liquid to a smooth soap batter that will become opaque and look like a thin pudding. An immersion blender, with burst off and on as to not burn out the motor, will make this job much faster and easier. Keep the immersion blender under the surface of the soap, as to not whip air into it. Then stir with the blender off, to keep checking to see when you are at “trace”
  • Step 5: When the soap batter reaches a trace (when you can move the spoon through the batter and see a line, or a ‘trace’ left behind), the batter is ready to pour. Trace can be a thin trace or medium trace, but pour before the soap batter gets too thick. Add your “add at trace” ingredients if using them (like color or fragrance) and pour into your prepared mold. Cover with a towel to maintain the temperature without allowing it to overheat. At this point, you can remove your safety gear. Wash your items before the soap sets up on them. Some people will use old rags or newspaper to wipe off the thickened soap batter and discard so it doesn’t go down the drain. Some don't wash out their soap-pot and soaping utensils until the next day when the soap batter in them/on them has turned to soap overnight and they are super easier to clean then.
  • Step 6: Allow to sit until firm, usually about 24 hours but some will harden faster than others. You will want to cut your soap with a sharp knife when the soap feels like cheddar cheese when you press on it. If it’s too hard, it may crumble. If it’s too soft, you won’t be able to unmold it. Check it several times if necessary. Because this is a ‘cold process’ soap, that is, not cooked or heat applied, the saponification process is not finished when the soap is poured into the mold. The chemical reaction will continue while the soap is in the mold and will finish as the soap heats up a bit more, and cools. The soap may go through a ‘gel’ stage as well, and you may see that if you check the soap during that time. It will look clear in the middle, and go out to the ends as it finishes. Don’t worry- this is a normal process!
  • Step 7: Once you cut the soap, place on a rack in a dry place and allow it to cure for 4-6 weeks. It will become milder and sudsier with curing.
That’s all there is to it! You’ve made soap.

As you gain experience, you may want to try different ingredients, fragrances, colors, and recipes. You are only limited by the ingredients available and your imagination.
I would suggest you stress (maybe in capital letters) that lye is always added to water (not the other way around). A good reminder is “snow always falls on the lake.” Otherwise, aside from a bit of wordiness in some areas and the typical grammatical errors, this is a great intro for beginners! Thank you for taking the time to introduce the craft to newbies.
 

Hertzyscowicz

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Maybe you should specify that the temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit, and include the equivalent in Celsius. I know you can get oils to 120 centigrade, I'm not sure how hot a lye mixture can get.
 

Valerie bishop

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This is great! I would change: 'If you make your own soap, not only do you get to use the ingredients of your choice, but the glycerin in your soap remains. '
to: If you make your own soap you can choose the ingredients you'd like, and the glycerin will remain.
 

MickeyRat

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Good job!

I can see the gang is being just as argumentative as usual. :) You might want to mention that like barbecue there are a lot of opinions on how to make soap best.

I think it's okay to use pyrex for soap making. It's not okay to use for storing lye.

You don't mention that you should use distilled water as opposed to tap water. In most cases, it won't make any difference but, there could be substances in tap water that will react with the lye.

There are those that will disagree but, I'm of the opinion that long sleeves should not be used for making soap. Here's my reasoning. If you spill lye water or thin batter shortly after you dump the lye on your sleeve, the sleeve will serve to hold it next to your skin while it's burning you. It's easier to wash off with no sleeve there. Sleeves will provide some protection when the batter is thick but, it's not all that reactive then. If you get some on your skin, you get a little itch first and you have some time to get it off before it starts burning.

I'll take it a step further and say you shouldn't be wearing anything you can't get off in a hurry. I usually wear goggles, nitrile gloves, a tee shirt, stretch shorts, flops and a rubberized apron.

I posted this topic when I dumped a thin batch in my lap. That experience is what formed my opinion.

It's not actually part of the soapmaking process but, you might want to mention that for cleanup, it's easier to let the greasy goop sit for a couple days and turn into soap. Just tell people to soak the items and get the soap off. If you just toss them in the dishwasher, you wind up with a kitchen full of suds. Guess how I know. :)
 
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Happysoapersdanz

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Great job!! There are a few things I feel need to be addressed. All my suggestions are in red, original text is in black.

Most commercial “soaps” are not 100% soap- they are detergent based and have their natural glycerin removed and may be called beauty bars, cleansing bars, face bar, etc. Glycerin is a skin-loving ingredient, but it is removed from commercial soaps to increase shelf life and to sell separately commercially for lotion and skin care products. If you make your own soap, not only do you get to use the ingredients of your choice, but the glycerin in your soap remains.

Many commercial "soaps" are not 100% soap. Some are detergent-based with ingredients synthetically derived. They may be called beauty bars, cleansing bars, face bars, etc. but they are not true soaps. The few true commercial soaps on the market remove the natural glycerin formed as a by-product of the soapmaking process and sell it for use in cosmetics and other applications. If you make your own soap, you get to use the ingredients of your choice, and the glycerin in your soap remains.

You stated that ......
Glycerin is a skin-loving ingredient, but it is removed from commercial soaps to increase shelf life.....I don't believe glycerin affects the shelf life of the soap, at least I have never read that it does. One of the reasons glycerin is removed from commercial soaps is because the soap is pressed between rollers and the glycerin makes the soap stick to the rollers, another reason is the soap is made with excess lye and is "salted out" or treated and the treatment separates the excess lye and glycerin in the process. The glycerin is then recovered for other uses.

Saponification can be defined as the process taking place that converts those oils/fats by the lye dissolved in water to soap plus glycerin.

  • Nonreactive vessel to melt your oils on stove or microwave (HDPE #2 or PP #5 plastic or stainless steel). I would make this a bullet and then an indented bullet.....Some people don't have good reading comprehension skills and some people don't think things through. It is best to be very specific!

  • Nonreactive vessel to melt the oils on the stove or in the microwave.
    • If melting your oils on the stove, use a stainless steel container. (Aluminum, copper and other metals react to the lye solution and create harmful gasses).
    • If melting your oils in the microwave, use either HDPE #2 or PP#5 plastic. (Not all plastics are microwave or lye safe!)
  • Nonreactive pitcher or container to mix lye into the water.
    • Use only heavy-duty plastic or stainless steel containers.
    • Do Not use glass! Glass, including pyrex, will break down over time due to the high alkaline content of the lye solution, causing the glass to break without warning.
  • Protective gear like safety glasses, apron, rubber gloves, long sleeves should read....Protective gear includes safety glasses, apron, rubber gloves, long sleeves and closed-toed shoes.
There should be the following additional bullets...
  • An emergency rinsing station in the event of a lye spill. It can be as simple as a couple of gallons of water set aside for such an emergency until you can get to free-flowing water or the kitchen sink with a spray attachment.
  • Paper towels for spills.
  • Accurate scales for the amount of material being weighed. A good soapmaking scale many soapmakers use is the MyWeigh KD-7000.
  • Cooking thermometer for checking the temperature of the oils and lye solution.
Basic Steps
  • Step 1: Gather equipment and ingredients
  • Step 2. Safety first! Put on your personal safety equipment!
  • Step 3. Weigh the water and set aside
  • Step 4. Weigh the lye and add to the weighed water. Stir until the lye is completely dissolved.
  • Step 2: Measure lye and add to the measured (weighed) water
  • Step 3: Weigh the oils, and melt the hard oils first. Add soft or liquid oils so all of your oils are combined
  • Step 4: Add the lye water to the oils gradually, stirring.
  • Step 5: Stir until you reach trace, when lifting your spoon across the soap batter leaves a line or a ‘trace’ behind.
  • Step 6: Pour into prepared mold(s)
  • Step 7: When cooled and firm, cut into bars and set on a rack to cure for 4-6 weeks.
 

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