Making Soap
There are a few books out on making soap, but unfortunately many people have a hard time understanding the directions and are afraid of trying something new. I'm not saying it's easy to make soap, but after you understand a few basic facts and read through the directions first, you should be able to produce a good first batch of soap. 
For a more visual and interesting article on what every newbie soapmaker should know, please follow the link to Sue Frelick's excellent column that should not be missed for those starting out for the first time- * Newbies' Nook
*NOTE! We have since come to the conclusion that the recipe included in the above link may not be the best recipe for new soapmakers, so please follow the link below to find what we think is a very good recipe for beginner's to experiment with- the Newbies' Nook does contain excellent information on equipment, etc. so please do visit it!
http://www.soapnuts.com/indexcp.html

The information on this website is, to the best of our knowledge, true. Any suggestions made throughout the site  are made without any guarantees on the part of Soapnuts or the web site owner Rebecca Erisch . Neither Soapnuts nor Rebecca Erisch accept any liability connected with the use of the information on this page or elsewhere on this site. You are ultimately responsible for completing research on your own and we do recommend having several books on the specific subject for reference, but please bear in mind that some books can contain errors so please verify everything before attempting anything, : )

These directions are only a basic intro to making soap, temperatures, cure time, mixing, etc. can all vary depending on technique, your experience level, etc.
Equipment Needed:
Stainless Steel Pot or enamel(8qt. should do.)- anything else and the lye will eat through it. Make sure it is big enough to hold your oils and lye/water mix.
Stainless Steel Spoon- Long-handled. You can use a large wooden spoon too.
3 qt. glass bowl or heat proof pitcher.
Scale- you can use a diet scale as long as it's accurate.
High quality thermometer- laboratory ones work best but you can use a long meat thermometer that's easy to read.
Mold- This is where you can get inventive. You can use a heavy corrugated cardboard box lined with wax paper or garbage bag, but I find people have an easier time with a rubbermaid, etc. type shoeboxes or container big enough to hold a batch. Some people use wooden molds but I find the plastic molds work just as good if not better.
Safety Goggles and gloves.
A sharp thin knife for cutting and carving the soap.
An old blanket or something for insulation.
                                   

This batch is quite large for a new soapmaker, feel free to substitute a smaller recipe or recalculate this recipe using an on-line lye calculator and reduce it to 2 pound size if you'd like.

Ingredients: To make an 8lb. batch.
44 ounces olive oil
17 ounces coconut oil
24 ounces Crisco
11.6 ounces lye(red devil)
32 ounces distilled water 
Directions: 

Note-all temperatues unless specified otherwise are generally Farenheit.

Prepare your mold(s). Line with plastic garbage bag removing wrinkles and securing sides. If using plastic shoebox or container grease the mold with mineral oil or olive oil. All ingredients must be in weighed amounts. 
Weigh carefully and accurately or recipe could fail.
From here on out, you should be wearing all safety gear!
Weigh out water and place in glass bowl or pitcher. 
Weigh out lye and add to water slowly, stirring carefully. Do this outside if possible or in a room with lots of ventilation. Stir until water turns clear. Set aside to cool. Caution: the lye/water will be very hot and caustic. If any spills on skin, run under cold water immediately. 

Note-the Newbie's Nook and many soap makers recommend treating lye burns with vinegar, many chemists recommend the use of plain cold water since vinegar is acetic acid and is not generally used when treating caustic burns.


Heat oils together in the stainless steel or enamel pan. When almost melted, turn off heat and let temperature drop to 98 degrees. 
When oils are at 110 degrees, check temperature of lye/water. If it has cooled down to far you must reheat it by placing container in hot water bath...... 
When lye/water has reached 110 and oils are at 110 (may have to re-heat to achieve this) You can start to make soap! 
Pour lye/water into oils in a slow, steady stream. Make sure you are still wearing your gloves and goggles in case of splashing.Mix at same time with the spoon. After all of the water has been added you can carry your pot carefully to a more comfortable spot to get to trace. Tracing is when the mixture leaves small trailings on the top of the oils when dropped off a spoon. The mixture should look like thick pudding. Some recipes are very hard to decipher tracing. A good rule of thumb is: after 2 hours of stirring, you are usually safe to pour. Stir constantly for the first 15 minutes, and then you can rest for a few minutes and then stir some more. Most books tell you to stir constantly but friends of mine have had good success with the on again-off again method. Some recipes will trace in 15 minutes up to 11/2 hours. When you are sure you have reached trace, you can add your choice of fragrance oils, essential oils or herbs. 
For this example we'll say we are making lavender soap. At trace I would add 1 cup or so of lavender flowers and 2 teaspoons of lavender essential oil (or more depending on likes) and stir in.
Pour soap into prepared mold(s) carefully, try not to scrap much off the sides(the reason for this is because the stuff stuck to the sides usually hasn't been incorporated into the rest of the soap base). When you are more experienced, you will be able to keep the mixture in the pan and off the sides. Place in a warm room away from drafts and cover with an old piece of cardboard. Then cover with the blanket. Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours then you can peek and poke with a gloved finger to see if it is hard enough to unmold. The soap is still saponifying at this point which means the lye can still burn you. If soap is not hard, wrap back up and let sit for another 24 hours and repeat test. When soap is hard enough, you can  unmold onto waxed paper. If using plastic box, pull sides away from soap and turn upside down over the waxed paper. push gently on bottom until soap falls out of container. If using garbage bag, pull bag away from soap. You can either cut the soap into bars now, while wearing gloves, the soap is still caustic, or let sit for up to a week or two and then cut. The bars will have to be set on a rack to continue saponification and evaporating the water. If the surface is not 'lye proof' cover with waxed paper or similar item. If the rack has ventilation holes,  the better, if not, then turn your soap daily to prevent warping and to allow  better evaporation. Your soap will need to cure for several weeks before you can use it, depending on the recipe. Generally 2-8 weeks is best.

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