Last Monday began our spring break. Michael and the boys left for the week to go camping and I had a long list of things I wanted to get done. The first of which was making soap with my dear friend Nancy.
In the past we have always made soap at Nancy’s house. I wanted to use my canning kitchen and so Nancy and her husband Richard drove down for the day.
Why make soap when you can just buy soap? Well, first of all Nicholas has eczema and he can’t use anything on his skin that has fragrance or coloring. Second of all I have access to Nigerian Goat milk which averages 6% – 8% butterfat. That high fat content increases the moisturizing nature of the soap.
Another thing that makes homemade soap so nice is that it still has glycerin in it. Glycerin helps maintain moisture in the skin throughout the day. Soap manufacturing companies remove the glycerin and put it in cream and lotions. In effect they are making the soap not as moisturizing but giving you opportunities to purchase lotions and creams to add moisture back to your skin. Store bought soap is more like detergent.
There are some great websites out there that help with soap making . You can purchase supplies, watch “how-to” videos, find proven recipes, etc. My two favorite sites are: Soap Making Resource and Bramble Berry. I found my goat milk recipe at Soap Making Resources and then found a really boring three oil, milk, lye recipe from somewhere else. That recipe will be the soap for Nicholas.
The first thing we do is combine all the oils (some of which are in solid form) and let them melt together. When making soap you really benefit from having a digital scale. All measurements must be weighed. In the same way that baking is more of an exact science than cooking, soap making is more of an exact science.
Once you get those melting you need to mix your goat milk with the Lye. When lye is mixed with a liquid it will get very hot. Heat and goat milk don’t work well together. To safely mix the two we freeze our goat milk first. I use ice cube trays. I weigh the amount of goat milk ice cubes that I need into a non-reactive container. Then into another container I weigh out my lye. When I have the proper amount of each of those I sprinkle the lye over the milk ice cubes. Stirring regularly until the lye melts the cubes. When it is done it is quite cool.
Once both the oils and the lye/milk mixture are done you need to mix them. If we were not using milk but using water instead you would want both mixtures at 100 degrees. Because we are using milk we want both at room temperature. When you mix the oils and the lye/milk you always pour the lye mixture into the oil mixture. Because lye is corrosive, we wear gloves and glasses to protect ourselves. If you did get some of the lye on your skin vinegar is your best friend. Somehow it neutralizes the corrosive and caustic nature of lye. Keep it near.
Once the two mixtures are combined you need to mix it until saponification. Big word that means all the ingredients have combined to make soap. The mixture will get thick and when you lift the immersion blender out and let it dribble the line will stay on top for a bit before sinking, we call it tracing.
For one batch I added a little ground oatmeal and just a bit of orange essential oil. Then mixed to combine.
At this point it is done. You will need to pour it into a mold quickly. In the past I have used boxes lined with parchment paper. You can really use anything as long as you like the shape and you can remove the soap after it has firmed up. A quart milk carton would make cute little bars. This summer I treated myself to an official five pound soap mold. It was $50 so I only bought one. The weekend before Michael and the boys left for camping Michael made me two extras in about a half hour. He is so talented. My homemade ones didn’t have the hardware that the purchased one has but they work great. I lined each of them with freezer paper.
I put the lid on top and set it off to the side. Nancy and I made two other batches. It went much faster after that first batch.
Once the soap hardened I pulled it out of the mold and cut it. The purchased mold has a cutting slot and one inch marks.
Using a bench scraper I cut one bar at a time.
Here is a finished bar of soap. Ok, so it isn’t finished. It has to sit for six to eight weeks before it is good to use. In that time the excess liquid will evaporate making the bar hard and the lye will be converted and no longer caustic
So now I have sixteen nice big bars of soap and 32 half size bars of soap all curing on baking racks. I cut the boys bars in half hoping it will be easier for them to use. I need to do all I can to encourage them to use soap. It’s a boy thing.
Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist nor am I an expert soap maker. So please excuse my simplistic explanations. Both web sites I mentioned go into much more detail than I have done here.
But hey, if I can make soap you can to.
Enjoy your Monday! It’s the first one of spring you know.