Warning: This is how I make soap. Soapmaking can be dangerous because of the caustic nature of lye. I hope I scared the kids enough that they will not do this without adult supervision. I am not responsible for any injuries, losses, or other damage that may result from your use or misuse of the information I've provided.
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Here is the recipe we used:
You need a good recipe or a lye calculator to make sure you get the proportions right between the lye and the fats. Each fat has a different saponification value. If you want to experiment with different fats, you need to use a lye calculator to input the amounts and types of fats you will be using. The lye calculator tells you how much lye and water (or other liquid) you will need.
The lye calculator I used can be found at Benjamin Farms. Here is a link to their Soapmaking 101 page. Simple step by step directions that I used when I taught this group. Another lye calculator can be found at Pine Meadows. I buy my supplies from Pine Meadows because they are so helpful and their prices are reasonable.
Gather all your equipment first.
- safety equipment (rubber gloves, apron, goggles)
- wooden spoons dedicated to soapmaking
- stainless steel pots to melt the fats in (never use aluminum or cast iron for making soap)
- a thermometer
- a scale that is accurate to 0.1 ounces (many kitchen scales are)
- a stick blender (or an old blender container for your counter blender)
- containers to measure the water, lye, and fat in (you must use a completely dry container to measure the lye in)
- a glass (or other non-reactive bowl) for mixing the lye and the fat together
- soap mold (a utensil organizer from Wal*Mart works very well for a single pound of soap)
- a spray bottle with vinegar (to neutralize the lye if you spill some)
- an old towel (for keeping the soap warm after it is mixed)
- an old cooling rack or something to sit the soap on while it cures for a few weeks
Now for the fun part!
Beeswax has the highest melting point, so that went in the pot first. In the picture above you see one of the children measuring the Coconut Oil.
Here is another helper measuring the Palm Oil.
The fats beginning to melt in the pot.
All the fats melted and ready to be mixed with the lye.
The lye mixture was still too hot at 180˚F. I put the plastic container that had the hot lye/water mixture into a bowl that had ice and water. This cooled the lye/water mixture fairly quickly to about 110˚F. The idea is that the melted fats and the lye/water mixture are close to the same temperature--about 100˚F. The fat had already cooled down to about 115˚F.
This is what the melted fats look like before I added the lye/water mixture.
Vet2Be told me I should have taken a photo of the soap as it came out of the mold. He's right. Sorry I forgot! After the soap came out of the mold I cut it with a sharp knife. At this point the soap is firm, but still cuts easily. You can cut the bars into whatever size you want. I cut the soap into smaller bars so that I can give each family a few to finish curing at their house.
The soap is ready to use now but if you let it cure longer (let the water evaporate out of the bars) then the soap will last longer when you are using it. I've had different instructors and books give different time estimates for curing--anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 weeks.
You can let it cure in the linen closet and it will make your linen closet smell wonderful when you open the door! You can cure the soap any place that is in a fairly dry area and out of the sun.
If you want to learn about the history of soapmaking you can look here (an easy to understand explanation) or here (from Wikipedia--a more 'chemical' explanation).