Soap making is a wonderfully creative craft that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. The only limit is your imagination, with the wide verity of oils, fragrances and other additives you can use to make your soaps one of a kind. Here are the basic soap making steps that you can follow to begin your own adventure.
Most of the equipment you will need for making cold pressed soaps at home are already in your kitchen. You will need the following:
- Kitchen scales to accurately measure your ingredients.
- Soap pot. This should be made of unchipped enamel or stainless steel. This should be large enough to hold your batch of soap and also allow for stirring and mixing without splashing.
- Plastic jugs for mixing your caustic soda solution. As the solution heats up significantly when caustic soda is added to the water, the jugs should be microwave sale to handle this heat.
- Long handled wooden or plastic spoon for stirring, or alternatively a hand held or stand alone mixer can be used.
- Two kitchen thermometers that will allow you to measure in the range of 34 to 38 degrees.
- Safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes whenever you are handling soap making ingredients.
- Rubber gloves to protect your hands whenever soap making ingredients.
- A ladle to transfer you soap from your soap pot or mixing bowel to your soap mould(s).
- A sharp knife for slicing bars of soap.
- Soap moulds or a large plastic container to use as a soap mould. An empty cardboard milk carton can make a good soap mould if you do not have something suitable.
- An old blanket or towels for wrapping your soap one in the mould(s).
- Plastic needle point screen, sushi mats or something similar to place your soaps on to cure.
- Distilled water, which is available in the cleaning aisle of your local supermarket
- Caustic soda (Sodium hydroxide), which is available in the cleaning aisle of your local supermarket
- Fats or oils. Our kits come with vegetable oils for your soap making
- Sustainable palm oil (in the kit);
- Coconut oil (in the kit);
- Olive oil (available at your local supermarket)
- A verity of specialty oils, selected for their beneficial properties (in the kit)
- Essential oils. Our kits come with two 15ml bottles of essential oil
- Additional additives. Let your imagination run wild. Use crushed lavender flowers, honey, kelp, or bran. Additives add texture, can act as an exfoliant or have other healing properties. Remember, its your soap, experiment and have fun.
- Soap colouring.
Note: Additives can also act as soap colourants, but there are also natural colourants available. One example is Annatto, which is derived from a flower, that can give a lovely golden colour to your soap. You can also use a great range of coloured micas to give your soap bright vibrant colours
Caustic soda, when added to water, increases in temperature significantly. It is also a strong alkaline solution and will burn when it comes in contact with your skin. You must be very careful not to spill or splash any on you at any time during the soap making process. If you do get any on your skin, you must immediately rinse it off in cold running water.
Always put on your safety glasses or goggles and your rubber gloves before handling caustic soda. Always add the caustic soda to the water and not the water to the caustic soda. Even after you have mixed the caustic soda solution in with your oils and have a soap, this soap mixture can still burn you as the saponification process is not complete until the soap is cured and the soap mixture is still very alkaline and can still burn you.
Basic soap making steps:
1. Gather all your equipment and ingredients
2. Weigh the water, caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and the fats and/or oils you will be using
3. Mix your caustic soda solution
4. Melt your fats and/or oils
5. Equalise the temperature of the caustic soda solution and the fats and/or oils at 34 to 38 degrees
6. While stirring/mixing slowly pour your caustic soda solution into your fats and/or oils.
7. Once your mixture is ready, pour your warm soap into your mould(s)
8. Wrap you mould(s) in insulating material such as a blanket or some towels
9. Allow to dry
10. Remove your soap from the mould(s) and allow to cure
Detailed soap making instructions:
Gather all your equipment and ingredients.
Before you start your soap making, gather all the equipment you will need and all your ingredients. There is nothing worse than being part way through a soap recipe and discovering you do not have something you need. As soap making is a time and temperature sensitive process, you will not be able to stop what you are doing and pop out to the store to pick up what you do not have.
Weigh the water, caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and the fats and/or oils you will be using
Put on your rubber gloves and your safety goggles. Using accurate kitchen scales, carefully weight out all of your ingredients. I measure my caustic soda first, then pace it into a small dry bowel. Then measure you distilled water and place it into you plastic jug. Measure each of your oils and place them all together into your soap pot or stainless steel bowel.
Mix your caustic soda solution
Add your caustic soda to your water. DO NOT ADD YOUR WATER TO YOUR CAUSTIC SODA. The chemical reaction can cause significant heat production, fizzing and splattering. Always add the caustic soda to the water for safety reasons. Use your wooden spoon to mix the caustic soda into the water. If possible, it is best to do this outside or in a well ventilated room. You d not want to breath in any of the fumes that can be created during this initial chemical reaction. Your caustic soda solution will become quite hot and will need to cool down before it can be added to your oil. Once I have my caustic soda solution mixed up, I carefully place one of my thermometers into the jug so that I can monitor the temperature as it cools.
Melt your fats and/or oils
Using your soap pot or you stainless steel bowel, heat your oils to melt them. If using a soap pot you can do this on your stove. If using a stainless steel bowel, you can do this by placing it into a sink of hot water. Place your second thermometer into the bowel of oils so that you can monitor the oil's temperature.
Equalise the temperature of the caustic soda solution and the fats and/or oils at 34 to 38 degrees
Once you have you caustic soda solution made up, and your oils melted, you will need to equalise their temperature until they are the same, somewhere in the range of 34 to 38 degree. To do this use hot and/or cold water in the sink and place the jug and/or bowel into the appropriate water. I have a double sink in my kitchen, so I usually cool the caustic soda solution in a cold water sink while I heat my oils in a hot water sink. When they reach the same temperature, you are ready to mix them together. This may take a little practice, but once you have made a few batches, it becomes quite easy, as you get used to how long caustic soda solution takes to cool down from its initial heat reaction and how long it takes for the oils to heat up.
While stirring/mixing slowly pour your caustic soda solution into your fats and/or oils.
Once the oils and the caustic coda solution reach the same temperate you are ready to pour your caustic soda solution into your oil/fat mixture.
Wearing rubber gloves and your safety glasses slowly drizzle the caustic soda solution into your oils, stirring as quickly as possible by hand. If you are going to use a free standing or hand mixer it should be set at its lowest speed. I recommend using a free standing mixer which allows you to move away when mixing, to avoid getting any small splashes on you. If you are using a hand held mixer, be sure you have on long sleeves and rubber gloves and that the bowel is big enough so that you can work without getting splashed. If you are mixing by hand, continue to stir briskly keeping as much of the mixture in continuous motion as possible.
Keep stirring in a swift, forceful manner until the soap mixture starts to thicken. As the mixture starts to thicken you need to test for “tracing' To test for tracing, use your spoon and pick up a small amount of the soap mixture and drizzle it across the top of the remaining soap mixture. If it is not ready, the drizzle will immediately sink back into the soap mixture without leaving a trace. However, as it thickens, and you test the mixture again, a small amount of the soap mixture, drizzled onto the remaining soap mixture, will leave a faint pattern before sinking back into the mixture. This is called tracing. You do not want to wait until the trace is thick enough for the pattern to remain on the surface, as this will them be too thick to pour.
Once your soap has reached trace, you are ready to mix in your fragrance and any other additives, such as soap colouring. Mix these in and them immediately pour your soap.
Once your mixture is ready, pour your warm soap into your mould(s)
You are now ready to pour your soap into your soap mould(s). If using silicone soap moulds, place them onto a tray, such as a baking tray. Carefully pour your soap into the mould(s). You can use a spatula to get every last bit of soap out. Do not over fill them. As you are going to have to wrap them to keep them warm, you will need to cover them with another tray. If you overfill your moulds, the top tray will come into contact with soap and ruin your nice smooth surface. If the surface is not smooth from when you poured your soap, give them a little shake and they will smooth out. The same applies if you are using some other container as a mould.
Wrap you mould(s) in insulating material such as a blanket or some towels
Once your moulds have been filled, and you have covered them with another tray or a piece of cardboard, wrap your soaps in an old blanket, or some old towels, to keep them warm. Place them in a warm location. I usually use my kitchen, as this is the warmest room in my house.
Allow to dry
Allow your soap to set, undisturbed, for eighteen to twenty-four hours.
Remove your soap from the mould(s) and allow to cure
After eighteen hours, check your soap for firmness. It should be firm to the touch but not rock hard. If it is still too soft to remove from the mould(s) without damaging the shape of the soap, leave it longer. Once it is firm to the touch, simply pop the soap out of the mould. Place your soaps on a plastic needle point screen, sushi mats or something similar to air dry. You want something that will allow air to circulate around the soap. Turn your soap over once a week. Allow to cure for six weeks before using your soap. This allows for the saponification to be completed
So following the above directions, here s a simple soap recipe for you to follow.
Evening Primrose oil soap
- 120 grams caustic soda
- 300 grams distilled water
- 200 grams Coconut oil
- 200 grams sustainable palm oil
- 400 grams olive oil
- 50 grams Evening Primrose oil
- 15ml fragrance of your choice
Get creative, have fun and let me know how you go!