I have been wanting to try making soap for the past several months. This past week I got around to chatting with a co-worker about it, then I received a phone call for some friendly Saturday crafting, and then, to top it all off, I found a recipe worth trying. This was fate saying it was now time to try making homemade soap. I will not be retyping the recipe; however, I would like to make some general notes about the soap making process.
It took some running around to find all of the necessary equipment. I didn’t have many tools I was willing to sacrifice to crafting. As a result, I hit up the local Big Lots and bought an assortment of spoons, bowls, thermometers, etc. If you have a Good Will near you, second hand would also be a good option. Big lots proved to be fairly inexpensive and I found most of what I need.
Ingredients- I didn’t have any troubles finding the necessary ingredients. This recipe explains that lye can be difficult to find; however, my local Lowe’s carried it. I also found inexpensive olive oil at Big Lots. Conveniently, I had some dried lavender that, until last weekend, made a beautiful centerpiece on my kitchen table. I used cow’s milk rather than goat’s milk and it worked well.
Honestly, I was nervous about working with lye. I covered all of my skin and locked the dogs in their room before getting busy with this stuff. An important side note, the associates at Lowe’s recommended I didn’t wear latex gloves because chemicals can still make their way through them, I spent the few extra dollars for special chemical gloves.
From what I have read, and I am no soap expert, the important thing to keep in mind while working through soap making is that the lye and mix of fats needs to be 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the same time. I struggled with temperatures. While I allowed my lard to melt into the other fats, I didn’t allow the temperature to exceed 115 degrees (I was very patient). When everything did come together, the chilled milk had cooled things too much and I couldn’t get all of my ingredients to 100 degrees. As a result, I had to turn up the water heater, fill up the bath tub, and move the bucket to the tub for an hour of mixing as I waited for the temperature to rise. Doing this rose the temperature to 120 degrees, and my lye finally began to dissolve. Once the temperature exceeded 100, I removed my bucket from the tub and stirred for another hour (I considered this my workout for the dayJ).
Given this bump in the process, I was really concerned about the safety of my soap. Through further reading, I learned that safe homemade soap made from lye should have a ph of 7-10. Conveniently, I had some ph strips sitting around (you can find these at your local brew shop for a few dollars). Based on my testing, I was at a good level. Just to be safe I read about chemical burns before putting the tip of my pinky into the thickening solution. All was well!
Once my soap thickened sufficiently and went into the molds, it took a full 48 hours for the mix to solidify and dry. I then removed the soaps from their molds and laid them out for another 24 hours on a paper bag.
Results: This turned out great! I learned a great deal from this initial soap making process, but it was a lot of fun. I was also glad to have the help of some crafty friends. I’m not sure what I would have done when I realized things weren’t going right. (Thanks team!) There will be a next time, and next time I will be adding some essential oils to provide a bit more fragrance. My lavender was quite strong prior to adding it to the mix, but the soaps lack a lavender scent. Throughout this process, I also learned that plastic and metal made great molds. As the soap solidifies it separates from the walls of this substance. Egg cartons made bad molds. The soap was difficult to remove and was sent to the trash. I would assume anything capable of absorbing the moisture would make a bad mold.