Hello and Welcome!
There are just a few more things to consider before you actually begin making soap:
Distractions – you don’t want to have a lot of other things going on when you are making soap – especially when you are measuring ingredients. You really need to pay attention and make sure your measurements are accurate.
Safety Of Others – If there are other people or animals in the home you need to make sure they are aware of what you are doing and protect them from potential hazards. This is not an activity to do with young children and be sure that the cat is not crawling around on the counter where your lye water is cooling.
Timing – I find that how long it takes to make a batch of soap varies depending on how much soap I am making. For this recipe the large (four lb. batch) took me about 2 hours. If I double the recipe it takes about 3 hours. Making the small (1 lb. batch) might take 1 1/2 hours or less. Keep in mind that I am using an emersion blender for mixing the lye water with the oils. This speeds up the process exponentially. If I was going to hand stir the soap, I would plan on at least an extra hour – maybe more. You will also need to have some time in the next 24-48 hours to take the soap out of the mold(s). Lastly, as far as timing goes, you need to understand that this soap, made using the cold process, will not be ready to use for 4-6 weeks.
Space – Not only will you need some clear counter space to work you will need a somewhat out-of-the-way place to allow the soap to harden while in the mold(s). You will also need a place to allow the bars to set for about 4-6 weeks while the saponification process completes.
Reading this tutorial
This is quite a long post as I’ve tried to provide a lot of detail and pictures so you know what to expect and have a successful soapmaking experience. The first part of the post gives detailed instructions in regular font, photos and my commentary in italicized font. After that I give the soap recipe in two different batch sizes followed by (step-by step) instructions (no commentary). I encourage you to read through the entire post before you begin and leave any questions you have in the comments section below (I will answer your questions as soon as possible but it might take a day or so).
Now for the part you’ve been so patiently waiting for. Let’s make soap!
Start by measuring (weighing) the correct amount of each oil. The oils will need to be heated so as you measure each oil put it in you (stainless steel or enamel) pot.
While I don’t advise it you could heat/melt the oils in a microwave in which case you would put the mesured oils in a microwave safe dish.
** Keep in mind when weighing each ingredient you will first place the container on the scale, then set the scale to zero before putting the ingredient in the container.**
Place the pot of oils on the stove over low heat.
Put a thermometer in the pot to monitor the temperature of the oils.
While the oils are melting/heating weight the correct amount of water.
I usually use cold or room temperature water because when the lye is added it will heat up. Cold water keeps the temperature lower, and it will cool faster.
Since the next step is measuring lye you will want to put on your rubber or latex gloves and protective eyewear.
If you are concerned about lye beads or flakes escaping you could place a flat board across the sink and place your scale on the board. Thus any escapees will fall or can be dumped in the sink and washed down the drain.
Measure (weigh) the correct amount of lye.
Next you will be adding the lye to the water. As a safety measure you could place the container with water in it in the sink.
You should also do this in a well-ventilated area as you will notices fumes rise as the lye reacts with the water. I usually do it near an open window or near the kitchen exhaust fan. If yo are concerned about breathing the fumes you could also wear a mask (we all have them, right?).
Slowly add the lye to the water while stirring.
Always add the lye to the water – never add water to the lye. Make sure you do this slowly and stir it in as you go so that the lye dissolves. Dumping all of the lye in at once could cause the lye to form clumps that refuse to dissolve. You don’t want lye clumps!
The lye-water will look cloudy for a while but there should be no solid pieces left in it.
Place the other thermometer (if you have two) in the lye-water. Check the temperature when it stops rising. Mine usually is about 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65.5 Celsius).
Check the oils to assure all solids have melted. Check the temperature of the oils. I try not to let the oils get as hot as the lye-water. Between 130 and 140 Fahrenheit (54.4 and 60 Celsius) is good as long as the solids have melted. Then turn off the heat.
One of the reasons I like heating the oils on the stove instead of the microwave is because I can better control the temperature.
Now let both mixtures cool to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius).
I usually check both temperatures every 15 minutes or so.
While the mixtures are cooling prepare your mold(s).
For this tutorial I decided to use some of the soap molds I suggested to you in my previous post. I wasn’t sure how many molds it would take for my 4 lb. batch so I prepared more molds than I knew I would need. I set the molds where they are going to stay while the liquid soap hardens so I don’t have to carry them with liquid soap in them and risk spilling it. Since the soap will be wrapped in a towel once it is poured into the mold(s) I place a towel underneath the mold(s). I also lined the cardboard mold(s) with plastic.
Once the oil mixture and the lye-water have cooled to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit 37.7 Celsius) slowly add the lye-water to the oils while stirring.
If the lye-water cools quicker than the oils you have a couple of options. The first would be to help cool the oils by placing the pan of oil in a sink of ice water and stirring it (do not get water in the oils). The second option, if the two mixtures are within 10-15 degrees of each other would be to mix them together anyway. They will probably still come to a trace it will just take longer.
It is important to add the lye-water to the oils – do not add the oils to the lye water.
As you begin stirring the lye-water into the oils you will see the change taking place.
At this point you can continue stirring or begin mixing using the emersion blender.
If you use the emersion blender make sure the entire blade housing is emersed in the mixture. You don’t want this mixture splattering.
Stir or mix the batter until it comes to a trace.
Trace is when the mixture becomes thick like cake batter or a thick gravy. If you let a drop of the mixture fall off the end of the spoon it will leave an indentation for a second or so.
If you have decided to add a fragrance (.5 oz. per lb. of soap) add the fragrance once the mixture comes to a trace.
Once the mixture has come to a trace it can be poured into the mold(s).
My 4 lb. batch filled these three molds.
Cover the soap with plastic wrap to prevent soda ash from forming.
(Soda ash is a white powdery looking substance that forms when unsaponified lye reacts with naturally occurring carbon dioxide in the air. It usually forms within 1 to 3 days and although soap with ash is completely safe to use, it can look a little odd or unsafe to someone who doesn’t know what it is.)
Now wrap the towel up over the soap or cover it with another towel. It will sit for 24-48 hours before it is ready to remove from the mold(s). I’ll explain in Part V.
Soap Recipe – Large batch (Makes about 18 – 20 average size bars.)
Coconut oil – 20 ounces (1 lb. 4oz.) (566.99 grams)
Olive Oil – 44 ounces (2 lbs. 8oz.) (1247.38grams)
Sodium Hydroxide (NoAH) – 8.86 ounces (251.05 grams)
Water – 24.3 ounces (1lb. 8.3oz) (689.22 grams)
Soap Recipe – Small Batch (Makes 4-6 average size bars.)
Coconut Oil – 5 ounces (141.75 grams)
Olive Oil – 11 Ounces (311.84 grams)
Sodium Hydroxide (NoAH) – 2.21 ounces (62.76 grams)
Water – 6 Ounces (172.36 grams)
- Measure olive oil into pan
2. Measure coconut oil add to pan
3. Place pan on stove over low heat to melt coconut oil.
4. Measure water
5. Measure lye
6. Slowly add lye to water while stirring.
7. Remove oils from heat when temperature reaches between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit or when coconut oil is completely melted.
8. Monitor temperature of oils and temperature of lye-water.
9. Prepare mold(s).
10. When both mixtures reach a temperature around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius) slowly add the lye water to the oils while stirring.
11. Stir or mix with emersion blender until mixture comes to a trace.
12. Optional – add fragrance.
13. Pour into mold(s).
14. Cover with plastic wrap.
15. Wrap in towel.
Leave it for 24-48 hours. See Part V for unmolding instructions.