Get Started Soap Making Information
Soap making is not recommended for children as lye can pose potential hazards. Read carefully the warning label on the lye bottle. Lye can cause significant burning, is fatal if swallowed and gives off noxious gas, and can greatly irritate the lungs when combined with water. Work in a well-ventilated area. Always have a bottle of vinegar handy to neutralize the lye/water if it happens to splash on your counter. Flush with water if it’s on your skin.
Always wear rubber gloves and protective clothing, mask, and goggles when working with lye.
Keep the lid of the lye bottle tightly closed as it reacts with moisture in the air and weakens the strength and causes it to form lumps.
Freshly made soap can burn and irritate the skin so when slicing freshly un-molded soap – be sure to wear protective gloves.
DO NOT use containers made of metals: tin, zinc, and aluminum – lye reacts with them.
Recommended containers include plastic, stainless steel, and non-porous materials.
Soap is a salt and when fats and/or oils are combined with lye (sodium hydroxide) the saponification process results in soap.
Oil/Fats (Fatty Acid) + Lye (Base) = Soap (a salt)
To calculate your own soap recipes you will need to know the Saponification Values (also known as SAP factor) of the various oils you may want to use in your soap recipe. This is the real benefit of making your soap from scratch. Not only do various oils have different saponification values, but some oils can also offer therapeutic values and when combined together can make a truly beautiful bar of soap. This is where you can have a little (or a lot) of fun and be creative. You can make your own special soap for your skin type.
To use an SAP chart you need to figure out how much oil you want to use in a soap recipe. Chemically speaking: a fat or oil is converted into soap with an alkali (lye). Each fat or oil requires a certain amount of lye to saponify.
You can also use a lye calculator to do the math for you. A reliable one is at www.soapcalc.net
Don’t get hung up on the lye thing. When soap is properly made and saponification takes place, the soap should cure for a minimum of 4-6 weeks. During this time the lye is neutralized resulting in a salt – which is soap. If you’ve used too much lye then you will have a very hard and brittle soap and it will be caustic and drying to
Before You Start:
Work in a well-ventilated area.
Protect your workspace and countertops with newspaper or old towels unless you plan to redo your countertops.
Keep some vinegar handy to neutralize the lye if it splashes. (see lye cautions)
- 1 stainless steel or plastic mixing bowl (or non-porous, heat-proof bowl).
- 1 thermometer
- Accurate scale to weigh ingredients – a good kitchen scale from a kitchen shop that weighs to the gram is best
- Protective wear (long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes/slippers, rubber gloves, protective eyewear, protective mask).
- Desired soap molds
- Mixing spoon/whisk
- Heat proof spatula
- Distilled water (at room temperature)
- Measured fats & oils
Molding The Soap
If you’re just starting out and want an easy soap mold for one batch of soap (1 lb) – I first started using the heavy plastic “Rubber Maid” drawer organizer (9 x 3 x 2)”. This requires 16 oz of fats/oil to fill to the top of the mold. You can get these molds just about anywhere (Walmart, Save-On-Foods, London Drugs, Home Hardware, etc.) You can also use almost any heavy cardboard (milk cartons), plastic, PVC pipe, etc. for a soap mold. You can also use wood and silicone molds that are available on our website
Avoid using metal containers such as aluminum, tin, and zinc. They will react with lye.
DISSOLVING LYE IN WATER
- Measure the lye (sodium hydroxide) carefully. Use a good scale that weighs in oz and grams. A good kitchen shop should carry a good scale.
- Weigh your distilled water and pour it into a heat container.
- Working in a well-ventilated area, stir the water and slowly pour the lye granules into the water. The mixture will get quite hot. Never reverse this process by adding the liquid to the lye. An eruption may occur with splattering and spitting and the risk of burning skin and eyes
Be careful not to inhale the fumes and continue stirring until the lye is dissolved in the water and the lye/water mixture is clear.
Set the lye aside in a safe place away from children and pets.
TIP: Place measured water in your sink. Start stirring the water. While carefully pouring lye into water, once you have added the lye.
Keep stirring until the lye is dissolved (water will turn clear).
Making your soap:
When the lye solution and the oil mixture are both at the soap-making temperature, you are ready to make soap. Wearing your gloves, slowly pour the lye into the oils, stirring quickly and carefully by hand. Once the lye has been well mixed into the oils, you may use your stick blender, being sure to keep the blender submerged in the mixture to avoid any splashing and run for only 10 seconds at a time. Alternate between hand whisking and stick blending for equal amounts of time to ensure your soap is getting thoroughly and evenly mixed. Always hand stir just before putting soap into your molds. Using the stick blender only and not alternating with equal amounts of hand stirring may cause your soap to mix unevenly, causing flaking and cracking of your soap.
Stirring must be maintained until the soap reaches the trace stage. Trace is identified in the soap mixture when it is slightly thickened or when you lift some of the mixtures and let it drizzle back into the bowl, and a trace or mark is left on the surface to slowly blend back into the mixture. If the trace or marks stays on the surface you may have over-mixed the soap and will have less time to add fragrances and pour into the molds.
After incorporating final additives such as fragrance, color, or exfoliates (i.e.: oatmeal, etc) and stirred to fully incorporate these added items, the soap is ready to pour into the molds. Quickly pour the soap into the molds. The mixture should be smooth, with no lumps or unmixed watery liquids.
Cover the filled mold or molds with a piece of freezer paper or parchment paper and cover this with a towel or blanket to retain the heat in the soap mixture. Leave undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours. During this period saponification (the process of becoming soap) is completed.
Remove soap from molds after this period.
Cut larger blocks of soap into bar-sized pieces. Place soap on storage to begin drying out (curing). This process takes anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. The longer soap cures for the harder the final bar will be and the longer it will last when used.