Making Soap

Ever since I started Luvabee, I’ve been wanting to make cold process soap.

It’s absolutely beautiful, and made from heated oils and a lye-water solution.  When the oils and lye solution are the right temperature, you use an immersion blender and blend them together until they trace, or a thin stream of soap when drizzled over the top of the soap, will stay for a few seconds before melting back into the soap.

I bet you’re thinking about the lye — very dangerous stuff.  I was too, until I read enough to understand that it’s how soap has always been made.  The fireplace ashes were mixed in a solution of water to create lye, and the lye solution was mixed into the boiled fats that the family had been saving just for their annual soap making day.

When we make cold process soap, the soap needs to sit for 4-6 weeks until all the dangerous lye has dissipated, or until saponification is complete. Then the soap is safe to use.  And it’s the most lovely soap . . .

First of all — don’t try this until you have really studied up on it.  I spent hours combing every bit of information I could, and asking other soapmakers how they do it.  Better yet would have been to make a batch with a soapmaker, but I got too excited to wait for that!

First, I made a soap mold.  This is a mold I’m using for “sample” batches.  I took a 1 x 4 and created a rectangular box 10 inches long on the inside.  Then I lined the box with freezer wrap.

Next, I gathered and weighed out my ingredients.  That’s critical.  Being prepared makes soapmaking trouble-free.

Using a postal scale, I weighed out sunflower oil.  Soapmaking uses weight measurements rather than volume measurements.  So even though I am using a measuring cup, I’m ignoring the markings and weighing everything.

Next, I weighed out olive oil.  Olive oil makes the soap very soft.  Both sunflower oil and olive oil can be found in the store.  It’s best not to use extra virgin olive oil/first pressing.

Then, I added hydrogenated palm oil.  This I had to special order.  Look for fair trade palm oil.

Then I added coconut oil.  At room temperature, coconut oil is a solid.  This I also found at the grocery store.

Last, I measured out beeswax.  While not an oil, it should be heated with the oils.

Then I added them all together and heated them over medium heat on the stove until they all melted.

Beeswax was the last to melt . . .

Next, I measured out the scent I’m using — sweet orange essential oil.

Then I measured the honey.  Both of these are additives.  I’ll add them after the trace.

Next, it’s time to measure the water for the lye. You need distilled water. Again, this is a weight measure and not a liquid measure.  Unless you have a tried and true recipe, you need to calculate the lye-water measurements with a lye calculator.  I used Majestic Mountain Sage’s and also Summer BeeMeadow’s online calculator.  You put in the weights of the oils you’re using, and it figures out how much lye and water.

Now we get out the gloves.  Lye is very dangerous, and should any lye spill on me, it might not hurt at first, but it will continue to burn, so I need protection.  They recommend protective clothing and goggles, but I’m using a very tall pitcher, and no one is around to distract me, and I’m going to go very slowly and carefully into this . . . and turn on the house fan . . . because fumes are possible . . . it’s probably best to do this outside, but it’s dark and cold, and I have a super ventilating fan.

First measure out the lye.  I got the lye at the hardware store.  It MUST say 100% lye.  Anything additional is not good.  Sometimes 100% lye masquerades as drain cleaner.  Don’t use drain cleaner unless it says 100% lye.

Then, I SLOWLY poured the lye into the water, while stirring constantly.  This gets very hot.  Keep stirring, to dissolve completely.  This is what the lye will look like as it’s dissolving.

Now we wait. The melted oils and the lye solution shouldn’t be combined until they are between 100 and 125 degrees.  I have a separate thermometer for each.  Everything that the lye has touched should be put into a box marked – lye- danger — including the thermometer.  That is if you want to make another batch of soap.  If you keep everything together with your gloves, there is less chance of inadvertently getting lye on your hands . . . and I’d put the box up very high, out of the way of children and pets . . .

Now, I pour the lye solution very slowly into the oils.  While I do this, I stir with an immersion blender.  Be careful — don’t let the new soap splash up.  It may be good to keep on your protective clothing and gloves for this part.

When the mixture thickens, and a stream of it sits on the surface for a few moments it’s tracing.  Then you add in your scent and honey.

I didn’t take any pictures here since I had the gloves on and didn’t want to get any lye on the camera.  The soap mixture is very thick and creamy.  I mixed up the scent and honey and then poured it into the soap mold.

After I poured it in, I rapped the mold on the counter to release bubbles.  Then I made decorations with my wooden spoon on the top.

I sprinkled silver balls (for cookies) on the top.

Then I sprinkled silver sugar.

No, I’m not going to eat it.

But doesn’t it look good enough to eat?

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow, when I unmold and cut the soap.

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