Alright, let’s make soap! It is easy, you can make it however you like, and you will never buy another bar of drying, chemical laden soap again!
First, gather your ingredients. You can buy these items online at places like Brambleberry or Essential Depot but I like to support local business so I head down to Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Old Colorado City and pick up what I am missing.
You will need a digital scale to measure your ingredients. Place the digital scale in a plastic freezer bag to protect it. When dealing with the lye use safety glasses and rubber gloves. But don’t be overly scared of it to the point that you scare yourself out of using it. I have licked my finger thinking I had coconut oil on it, rubbed my face, dropped it on my bare foot….a bit of good lotion (like my Lavender Lotion) and a washing gets the sting out really quick. You will also need a plastic pitcher, a plastic spoon, a plastic mixing bowl, and a plastic spatula (see the pattern here?). I get mine from the dollar store and only use them for soap making. You will also need a red solo cup, a measuring cup, and a soup pot. Only the things that touch lye need to remain solely for soap. My soup pot and measuring cups stay in the kitchen. You will need an immersion blender and a laser thermometer as well.
You can purchase molds or you can chop the top off of a paper milk carton and use that.
16 oz. of liquid. I use goat’s milk. I have also used half goat’s milk and half wine and one time I did half goat’s milk and half coffee. That was a great bar of soap! You could use beer, water, or store bought milk. How about beet juice for the color or green tea? Just don’t use anything acidic like orange juice or pineapple juice as the lye will react to it.
7.4 oz. of lye. Pour this into the plastic cup when measuring it on the scale and simply rinse out afterwards.
16 oz. of olive oil
16 oz. of coconut oil
16 oz. of palm oil (I am not crazy about using palm oil but it is what makes the soap hard. Later we’ll learn to make lard soap and then we won’t need the palm oil.)
2 oz. of castor oil (This is what makes it sudsy.)
2 oz. of essential oil. Now don’t get crazy and get 2 ounces of cinnamon or something, you don’t want the soap to be super hot! Try vanilla, or lavender, rose, maybe orange and peppermint, a combination of oils, or pine for Christmas, or maybe just coffee scented if you used coffee as your liquid and skip the essential oils! I am not a proponent of multi-marketing oils, just find a good essential oil at the local health store at an affordable price and use it. Don’t use fragrances!
1. Now that we have everything assembled let’s get started! Place the liquid in the plastic pitcher and put the plastic spoon in it. Put your glasses and gloves on and pour the lye into the cup. Now put the laser thermometer in your apron pocket and take the pitcher and the lye outside. Make sure there are no chickens around to tip the thing over or curious dog noses! Slowly pour the lye into the liquid while stirring. It will get super hot, about 175 degrees and will change color. We have this outside so we don’t asphyxiate folks in the house. Outside it will cool faster as well.
2. Back inside measure all oils, except the essential oils, those go in at the end of the process, and place in a pot. Warm on a wood cook stove (or regular stove) until the oils have just melted.
3. Taking temperatures. Now here is where we get our workout. Check the temperature of the oils. You can alter the temps by sticking it in the snow or fridge or reheating it. The oils will cool down faster than the lye. Once the lye cools down there is no reheating it so this is the point that you have to be rather diligent about watching temps. The goal is to get the oil and the lye to 105 degrees at precisely the same time. There can be a three degree temp difference. But ideally, 105. Bring lye in when it is 120 degrees to slow it down while you work on the oil temp.
4. Prepare the bowl, set up the immersion blender, have the tops off the essential oil ready to pour in all at once and have some paper towel on hand. Put gloves and glasses on. When the oil and the lye are ready pour the oil into the bowl, then slowly pour the lye mixture in. Keep the immersion blender below the liquid line or you will spray soap everywhere! Blend until the mixture starts to feel like pudding. When you can swirl the blender (turned off) over the top of the mixture and it makes swirly lines that is called tracing. Add essential oils, and any additions for exfoliation (oatmeal, coffee grounds, poppy seeds…) and continue to blend until almost cake batter consistency then pour into mold.
5. Place a piece of cardboard over mold and wrap in a towel. Leave for 24 hours. After 24 hours peel back paper or take out of mold and slice with a kitchen knife into desired size. I generally like one inch thick pieces of soap. Place small side down on dresser and let cure for four weeks. Wrap and give as gifts or store in a zip lock bag to retain scent.
Homesteading skills like making soap are fun, save money, and will always come in handy! Look at our Homesteading School on the menu to see what fun classes are coming up. We’ll start anew after the holidays.