Tag Archives: soap making

The Soap is Curing

I am sure anyone who makes cold processed soap will agree that the hardest part about it is waiting for the soap to cure.

Maybe I should backup a step for anyone not familiar with soap making. There are basically three methods that can be used for making handcrafted soaps. There is the melt and pour method which involves buying a premade base soap and melting it to add ingredients such as fragrances and colorants then remolding it perhaps into pretty or cute shapes. The other two methods are hot process and cold process. Both of these methods involve mixing lye with liquid and oils. With hot process, once the ingredients are combined the soap is heated in order to speed up the chemical reaction, known as soaponification, which must occur in order for the soap to be safe to use. This soap can be ready to use in a matter of hours. Cold process soap, on the other hand, is poured into the mold after the lye/liquid is mixed with the oils. While it can usually be taken out of the mold in 24 to 48 hours it needs to cure for several weeks while the soaponification takes place. Many factors can effect the speed which soaponification takes place including the soap recipe, the size of the soap bars and the temperatures in which the soap is curing. I allow my soaps to cure for a least six weeks and have almost always found this period to be sufficient.

I have several batches of soap in various stages of curing right now including the soap I made a few days ago by request https://donteatitsoap.com/category/lard-soap/ I honestly found it difficult to make that batch of soap because it was such a simple recipe. It lacks the creativity and experimentation aspects that I find so challenging and fun. While it was very tempting to add extra ingredients I restrained myself because this, three-ingredient, soap was what the person who requested needs.

Some of the other soaps that I have curing have allowed me to be more creative so I will tell you about those. Both the Sweet Dandelion and Coffee soap that I made a while back are cured and ready to use. I have made both of these recipes in the past and they are both favorites.

This time when I made the coffee soap I decided to experiment with it. I have been having some success at getting light fragrances and or colors in my soaps by infusing herbs into the oils. I wondered if this would work for coffee as well. In the past when I have made coffee soap I used brewed coffee for the liquid, I also added coffee grounds. This time in addition to using brewed coffee I added the coffee grounds to my oils. I knew that in order to release the oils from the coffee grounds the coffee would need to be heated much higher than I normally heat my soap oils. I put the coffee grounds into my oils and heated them about 190 degrees Fahrenheit. I then let the coffee infused oils cool.  As usual I mixed my oils with my lye/liquid (brewed coffee) when both were cooled to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Coffee Soap

The coffee infused oils gave the soap a dark, rich coffee color but the fragrance that I had hoped for is still largely absent. I have since read that the optimal temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 and 205 Fahrenheit so next time I will heat it just a little bit more.

I have had positive feedback from a few people who have used this soap. Comments were things like “it’s a really nice soap” and “I really like it” and my sister who called me yesterday said “I love the coffee soap” and she found it to be “refreshing”.

Among the other soaps that are curing is a completely new recipe. I decided to try this back in the summer when we were harvesting our beautiful cucumber crop. I know that cucumber is often used in skin care products so I wanted to give it a try. I don’t usually make a lot of soap during the summer so I pureed a couple of cucumbers and put them in the freezer until I was ready to make the soap.

About 5 weeks ago I was ready to use the cucumber puree in my soap but I wondered what ingredients would pair well with the cucumber. The most common way we eat cucumbers is as pickles but for more than one reason that doesn’t work for soap. It took me a while to figure it out but I eventually decided to try yogurt. Since milk based soaps are known to be gentle and creamy I though yogurt could add this as well. I also wanted to add an herb to this soap so I decided to infuse my oils with rosemary that I had harvested from our garden. I didn’t want to leave the rosemary leaves in the soap so I put them in a teabag then placed the teabag in the oils as I heated them. I again brought the temperature up higher than I would normally heat them for making soap in order to draw out some of the rosemary properties. When adding the cucumber puree and yogurt I knew that they should be counted as liquid. Since I didn’t know how they would react to being mixed directly with lye I decided to add them later in the process. In order to do this I discounted the amount of water I was mixing with the lye. I decided that the combination of cucumber puree and yogurt should equal 1/3 of my total liquid, I divided the amount of water my recipe called for by 3. I then measured my cucumber puree and added enough yogurt to bring this mixture to 1/3 of my total liquid. I set that mixture aside then measured the other 2/3 water and added my lye to it.

Once the lye/liquid and the oils cooled to around 100 Fahrenheit I removed the rosemary from the oil then I mixed the lye/water with the oils. I blended this mixture until it came to a light trace (started to thicken) then I mixed in the cucumber/yogurt mixture. I continued to mix until the mixture had come to a full trace ( the consistency of a thick gravy) then I poured the mixture into the molds. I am excited that this soap will be ready for testing this week.

I don’t have a formal testing process. It basically goes like this – I use the soap first. I pay attention to it’s properties – hardness, creaminess, lather, does it rinse off well, does it leave my skin feeling soft or dry, is there any scent. I then give my husband a bar to use and get his opinion. With new recipes I generally like feedback from a couple more people, so a friend or family member who stops by when I have a new soap ready will likely be given a bar to try with the condition that they provide me with honest feedback about the soap. I’ll be sure to let you know how this soap turns out.

I do have one major concern about this new recipe with cucumber, yogurt and rosemary.Maybe you can help. The  problem is what the heck do I call it? You can leave your suggestions and any other questions or comments about this post in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

🙂 until next time.

 

 

Rendering Beef Tallow

Tallow is an ingredient that is commonly used in soap making and if you are buying commercially made soap, tallow is likely an ingredient. You won’t see tallow listed as such on the package. As an ingredient it will be listed as sodium tallowate, which is the name for soap that has been made by combining tallow with sodium hydroxide (lye).  This Wikipedia article explains other uses for tallow.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallow#Food

Unlike coconut oil, olive oil, lard and some of the other oils used in soap making, tallow is not readily available in most grocery stores. When I first began making soap I used oils that were readily available and while I could have ordered tallow online or perhaps sought it out at a butcher shop, I never did. It wasn’t until we started buying our beef from a local farmer that I began using tallow as an ingredient in some of my soap.

We had ordered a quarter of a cow. When I called the processing facility to tell them how I wanted our beef cut up, I asked if I could get some tallow as well. At that point I had not done all of my homework, I didn’t know that the fat that I wanted was called suet before it was rendered, so the lady did correct me. I did know that I would have to render the fat before it would be suitable for soap making.

When we picked up our meat order I found that the suet was a large chunk of fat wrapped in a large plastic bag. I put it in the freezer until I was ready to use it.

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Suet

 

I had read several tutorials and I realized that in rendering the suet into tallow the objective was to melt the fat in order to separate out any parts that were not pure fat.

I’ll share with you the method that I used and have continued to use ever since.

I started by taking the suet out of the freezer and letting it thaw for a while. It seems that it is easiest to cut while it is still cold but not frozen. I cut it into fairly small pieces. The smaller they are the faster they will melt or the less cooking time it will take. I put the suet pieces in my large stock pot and added enough water to cover it. I put it on the stove and brought it to a boil. Since I did not want the water to cook off I put a cover on it but I tilted the cover so that some of the steam could escape.

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Rendering Tallow

It took a few hours of boiling before most of the fat chunks were completely melted. At this point I dipped in with a sieve and took out some pieces of meat that would obviously not melt.

I then let it cool. Since outside temperatures were in the 40’s (Fahrenheit) and lower, I decided to let it cool outside overnight. The next day the tallow had hardened and floated to the top. The water and some remaining meat particles were in the bottom of the pan. I had to break through the layer of tallow to drain the water off. I did this outside because I didn’t want any tallow particles clogging up my drain.

When I removed the tallow from the pan the bottom was covered in a layer of mushy grey stuff. I scraped off this layer and discarded it. My tallow was not yet as clean as I wanted it so I put it back in the pan, covered it with water and repeated the process.

The tallow did not take nearly as long to melt as the suet did so my cooking time was greatly reduced. After letting the second rendering cool and harden, I again scraped the mushy stuff off the bottom and decided to repeat the process once again.

After the third rendering the tallow looked clean and pure. I placed it on a tray lined with paper towel to dry and patted the top and sides dry with paper towel as well.

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Tallow

I then cut it into chunks, but because it is very hard it cracks rather than cuts, and placed the chunks in a freezer bag. I then store the tallow in the freezer until I am ready to use it.

Tallow is not an essential oil for soap making, and I realize there are individuals who prefer not to use animal fats in their soaps, but tallow does make a hard bar of soap and adds a creaminess to the lather. For me the greatest advantage of tallow is that it can be locally sourced, unlike coconut oil, olive oil and many others that must travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to arrive at my home and be turned into soap.

🙂 Until next time…

Home Made Laundry Soap

I was just mixing up a batch of laundry soap and thought I do a quick post about it. There are many recipes on the internet for homemade laundry detergent. They usually call for grated bar soap such as fels naptha, borax, and washing soda, some add oxyclean and or essential oils for fragrance. The main difference in my recipe is that I use homemade bar soap.

The bar soap that I make for laundry soap has only 3 ingredients. They are coconut oil, water and lye. Out of all of the oils used in soap making coconut oil is most known for it’s cleansing ability. This soap certainly could be used for bathing. My husband likes it but I personally find it to be a little drying. I am sure that is because of it’s cleaning power. I really like it for laundry detergent though. I make a liquid detergent dissolving 1/2 cup each – grated soap, borax, and washing soda in about 2 quarts of very hot water – not boiling. Once all of the ingredients are completely dissolved I add another two quarts of cooler water then I pour it in an old detergent jug. I always shake the jug before using it incase the ingredients have separated, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem at these proportions. This recipe cleans our clothes at least as well as any commercial detergent that I have used in the past, and there is no need for fabric softener, as our clothes come out of the dryer nice and soft.

For anyone thinking about making bar soap using coconut oil as the only oil I will give you some advice.  This recipe will make a very hard bar of soap and it hardens up very quickly. If you want this soap to end up a particular size or shape, mold it that way. Do not expect to cut this into nice looking bars once it has set up. Attempts to cut this soap after it has hardened will result in the soap cracking into any size or shapes it desires.

 

 

 

 

 

Two New Soap Recipes

I am really excited about the two new soap recipes I made this week. The soap I made on Monday was inspired by the dandelions that are popping up everywhere screaming “spring is here.” I decided that those yellow beauties might just make a nice soap.

Usually before I try something new with a soap recipe I do an internet search to see if others have done similar. Artisan soap makers are a creative bunch and it seems there is not much they haven’t tried and wrote about. I did indeed find several sites with dandelion soap recipes, stories, and for sale. I do not use other peoples recipes but I like to get an idea of how others have used particular ingredients, what the results were and if there is anything major that might go wrong.

By this time I have learned that when adding botanicals to cold process soaps you will very rarely capture any fragrance and I have no way of testing to see if any potential therapeutic benefits from them survive the process. The most I could hope for is to capture some of the cheery yellow color. Hoping to double up on any benefits I infused both the water and the oils with dandelion flowers. I decided to add honey as well.

This recipe is now out of the molds and has a deep yellow color. It still has to cure for about six weeks and doubtless the color will change as the soap cures. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Todays soap experiment is maple. When I did my internet search for maple soap I found that maple syrup is often used as an ingredient in handcrafted soap. My plan was a little different. When my husband was collecting sap to make syrup this spring I asked him to save me a couple of quarts so I could make a batch of soap with it. “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” he asked. I explained that I plan to use the sap in place of the water in my soap recipe. He graciously obliged my request and I have kept the sap in the freezer waiting to be turned into soap.

One morning when we were having our homemade syrup on our pancakes and I looked at the sugar sand that had collected at the bottom of the jar and wondered about using it in soap. Will the sand particles remain sand or will they dissolve during the processing. I remembered reading that it is mostly composed of calcium salts and malic acid. It is not harmful to eat and upon further research I learned that those ingredients can be beneficial for skin care. Again I can’t make any claims about my soap providing these therapeutic benefits because it is questionable whether they survive the soap making process. The sand in that jar was gone before I had a chance to tell my husband that I wanted to save some for making soap. We had a few more jars with sand at the bottom, so I opened one this morning, poured most of the syrup into an empty jar and put it in the refrigerator for future breakfast. The sand and a small portion of the syrup that was left in the bottom of the jar were added to my soap.

The maple soap, if it turns out well, will definitely be a seasonal soap and I expect the sweet dandelion soap will be as well. Although they won’t be ready for 6+ weeks you can contact me by email ( ruth20012001@yahoo.com) if you are interested in purchasing either of these soaps. 🙂

Lye

Lye is the key ingredient in turning fat and oils into soap.

Lye is actually a common name for two different chemicals, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH). Both of these forms of lye can be used in making soap, however they are not the same chemical, and are not interchangeable in soap recipes. This means they are required in different amounts in a recipe and will produce a different type of soap. While sodium hydroxide will produce a hard bar-type soap, potassium hydroxide is more often used in making a liquid or soft soap. Sodium hydroxide has a PH of 14 while potassium hydroxide is reported to have a PH between 12 and 14.

Sodium hydroxide was once readily available in grocery stores and hardware stores, most commonly packaged as Red Devil Lye, it was used mostly as a drain cleaner. Because of it’s illegal use in the production of methamphetamines, it has become harder to find. While I’ve read that it is illegal to sell in retail stores in the U.S., I have been able to purchase it in a few stores. The easiest way to purchase it is online through soap making suppliers.

Potassium hydroxide is made from wood ash and water. I have not yet made soap using potassium hydroxide, but this is on my to-do list.

Because of it’s high PH lye is a dangerous chemical and must be use with caution. If it comes in contact with bare skin it can cause severe burns. It will erode some metals, but it is safe to use in glass, plastic or stainless steal containers. If mixed improperly or with certain substances it can create dangerous gases.

Once lye has been properly mixed with the liquid and oils and the chemical changes occur lye becomes safe to use on the skin. Soap should have a PH between 7 and 10.

You don’t see lye, sodium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide listed as ingredients on commercial soap products. Instead you will see thing like sodium cocoate, which would be the combination of coconut oil and sodium hydroxide after the chemical change, known as soaponification, has occurred. Other examples would be or sodium palmate or potassium tallowate.  I, like many handcrafters, list the ingredients as the raw materials put into the soap even though the chemical change does occur before the product is finished.