Soap Making Technique

This is about the cold process of soap making.
Soap making requires water, caustic alkali and fats or oils.

The soap making equipment

For safely making homemade soap it is essential that the specific proportions of these soap ingredients are scrupulously followed.

It is highly recommended that you use a specialised software to calculate the proportions for each ingredient and to run it every time a new recipe is tried. There are many types of softwares for this purpose. There are even iPhones apps.

Some basic equipment must be used when preparing soap ingredients and making soap:
-          an accurate scale
-          an accurate quick reading thermometer
-          a few small measuring cups
-          a stick blender to blend the oils with the lye mixture and start the saponification process

and soap molds.

Here is an example of the proportions for the various soap ingredients:
-          450 grams of vegetable fat
-          170 millilitres of water
-          60 grams of caustic soda

The soap making process

Preparation of soap ingredients

It is very important that caustic soda is gently poured into water, and NEVER the opposite which will cause a kind of explosion and splash corrosive product on your body. The temperature of the water and soda mixture naturally rises up to around 190°F, or 90°C. Therefore a glass (Pyrex) or a stainless steel container is to be used. Do not use a plastic container as it would melt due to high temperature. Please remember that aluminium is corroded by soda. Always use wooden spoons to stir soda.

Mixing the soap ingredients

Soda temperature must lower down to 95-105°F (35-40°C) and oil must be heated up to 130°F (55°C). After checking those temperatures with an accurate quick reading thermometer, slowly pour caustic soda into the heated oil. As soon as the two ingredients are mixed, you can use a stick blender to blend the oil with the lye mixture. While stirring the lye-water-oil mixture with the stick blender, you turn on the blender in short bursts. Blend for 3 to 5 seconds and then stir some more. Once you start using the stick blender, you may see the oil turn cloudy and the soap mixture begin to come together. Keep blending in short bursts until the oil and lye-water are completely mixed together. This should not take more than 30-40 seconds. Now you are nearing the stage called “trace”. Using the stick blender enables you to reach trace in under a minute whereas if you use a wooden or a plastic spoon it will take 10 to 75 minutes for the same result.

Successful soap making secret

Trace is the term to describe the consistency or thickness, and the stage where the handmade soap mixture is ready to be poured into molds. Tracing is easily recognized. Using a plastic spatula, drizzle a small amount across the top of the soap mixture. If a mark or trail remains for a few seconds before disappearing again, your soap has traced. The mixture should have the consistency of liquid honey or pudding.

Your personal touch in your homemade soap

It is now the right time for you to add your own additives (essential oils, honey, milk, etc) before pouring the mixture into the soap molds, which you would have lubricated already with vaseline.

You may now cover the molds with a cloth and let them rest for 24 to 36 hours before getting hold of the soap. Indeed, saponification takes at least 24 hours to complete and, during this period, soap is still corrosive. You should be particularlycareful to keep children away from it during this period of time.

After soap making

After this time, you can take the soaps off the molds, and rinse them to remove any excess of lye.

However, soaps are still rather soft, and you need to allocate around 6 weeks for them to be completely dry and hard.

Example of soap recipe

Various soap recipes will be found under the heading « Soap Ingredients And Recipes ». For example, here is a very simple recipe:
-          450 grams  of coconut oil
-          700 grams of olive oil
-          450 grams of vegetable fat
-          600 millilitres of water
-          223 grams of caustic soda.