You make soap?

Yes I make soap. I don' t make anything to sell but for personal use only. I also make lotions, laundry powder, tooth powder, and deodorant but those are a topics for other posts. And no, I don't use melt and pour I actually make lye and oil based soaps.


So many of the soap makers on-line and on YouTube act like the process is SUPER dangerous and YOU MUST WEAR PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) or you will end up dead or something. Let me allay your fears for the "SUPER DANGEROUS" aspect. Humans have been making soap for millennia. If making lye soap was so dangerous why are we still using the same principals, chemicals, and in some cases processes to make soap that should have killed off our ancestors? Well for one, they work and for two it isn't as dangerous as the fear mongers want you to think. Always question fear mongers as frequently they are trying to sell you something.


So how do you make lye soap? Cold process - Mix lye into water, let cool, add to your oil, mix until cake batter consistency, pour into mold, let solidify, cut into bars (if needed). That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Seriously you DON'T need any special equipment. You DO need to be CAREFUL and PATIENT! Don't rush, have kids or pets pushing into or under your feet, and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS remember to pour your lye INTO the water and not the other way around. Pouring water into lye can cause the lye to explode. Possibly entertaining until you are rushed to the ER for chemical burns.


So a bit of history on soap making. Originally our ancestors used lye made from the ashes from the fires. There is a YouTube video that does test this out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGKm-0GUZTI ). There are also about a hundred videos making lye lard soap some of which are recipes from the Great Depression. Obviously it works. Oh, and our ancestors didn't have any fancy equipment. They used whatever they had. The Victorian recipes talk about potash and soda lye. Again, no fancy equipment for making the soaps just what they had. A couple of interesting websites for information are https://www.victorianpassage.com/2009/02/old_soap_recipes/ and https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2011/06/suds-up-how-to-make-soap-19th-century-style.html . Soap is literally the interaction of oil and lye. Lye and water mixed also get VERY hot. I have checked just for fun and registered temps of 160 deg F.


"Saponification is a process that involves the conversion of fat, oil, or lipid, into soap and alcohol by the action of aqueous alkali. Soaps are salts of fatty acids, which in turn are carboxylic acids with long carbon chains. A typical soap is sodium oleate". - Wilipedia


I have an old recipe from my grandmother (born in 1911) in a family cookbook. It is:

Homemade Soap

9 cup cold water

9 cups melted, rendered lard

1 pint Hi-Lex bleach

2 tsp borax

1 can lye


Pour cold water into plastic pal or enamel container. Add borax and stir. Add melted lard and bleach. Stir well after each addition. Add lye pouring very slowly. Stir until the consistency of pudding. Pour into enamel pans or wax paper lined boxes. Cover to keep heat in. When solution had hardened into soap cut into bars.



I have not tried this recipe. I do make soap for my laundry. Laundry detergent, which is what all commercially produced laundry "soap" is, was not a thing until 1946. In fact, the detergents we now use in our hair and on our dishes weren't really a thing until the 50s. Yes I do have a laundry wash board, it was my paternal grandmother's but I don't use it other than as a wall hanging to remind me doing laundry could be worse.


So what recipies do I use? Actually none. I use a online soap calculator instead. SoapCalc (http://soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp ) allows me to input the size of my batch and then specify what oils I plan to use. I also use a water to lye ratio of 2.3:1. Lucky for us, since lye as an alkali can cause some nasty chemical burns, we no longer have to guess how much lye to water to use.


For my laundry soap I use either lard (pig fat) or Crisco. Sometimes I will add baking soda and salt to the mixture for hardness and I may or may not add essential oils for scent. Lavender, rosemary, basil, and tea tree are some of my faves especially since they have anti fungal, anti bacterial, and as oils sometimes are anti static.


So what does this look like?




Pictures left to right: Melted Crisco, Lye/Water mixture before ready, Temp of lye/water showing it is too hot, jar of sea salt, baking soda jar, clarified and ready lye/water, my hand mixer, lye water added to oil, consistency of ready to pour soap, my fancy soap mold


So let me go through this step by step. First I go to SoapCalc and enter the oils, amount of soap, and water:lye ratio. I then pull out my digital postal scale (a digital food scale will also work I just don't happen to have one). Weigh out my lye and water in two separate containers. Mix lye into water. This gets hot immediately. It does also give off mild fumes. I set the container under my stove fan. Make certain the lye completely dissolves into the water. Be aware, lye will eat your stainless steel. I use a cheap plastic measuring cup from a thrift store. I always wait for my lye water to get to a lukewarm to the touch (outside of the container, DON'T put your hands/fingers/etc in the mixture unless you want to go to the ER). This can take awhile, like 15-30 minutes. Be patient. Have a cup of coffee/tea. Mix lye water into oil SLOWLY. Again be patient as you don't want the lye water to accidentally splash on your skin. I use the same whisk to mix the lye water into the oil that I used to mix the lye water. At this point it is time to just mix things together until you get a cake batter/pudding. You can hand mix or you can use a hand mixer. I have used a hand mixer with the beaters and found the stick mixer above is less messy and faster than mixing by hand.


My soap for personal shower use is pure castille. Now I know there are soaps on the market that claim to be pure castille but they aren't. Castille soap is made from olive oil. That's it. Nothing else. Just olive oil. No coconut oil (non comedogenic which means it clogs pores), palm oil (not environmentally friendly), or any other oil. Now with all of that said you can add these oils AFTER the soap is made or during re batching. At this point they are an additive and can have some benefits (except I am anti coconut and palm oil). I then do a process which is called both re batching or triple milling. Re batching is basically taking the soap, remelting it with water, I then add my "super" oils and fragrance, and re pouring it. Triple milling is the same but companies have large machines that press the soap to make a harder bar.


Castille Soap


Process is literally the same as the Crisco soap. Be aware that the olive oil does take longer to saponify than crisco or lard.


If you want a no nonsense approach to making soap I highly recommend Uncle Jon's Soaps on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/user/unclejonssoap ).

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