Monday, October 17, 2011

Make it Monday: How to Make Soap (hot process method)

My Currently Curing Calendula Castile Soap :)

Ever wanted to know how to make REAL soap (like with lye)?  Yeah, so did I.  I really wanted to get to the point where I knew what was going ONTO my kids as well as going into them and the thing that was costing me an arm and a leg to do THAT was soap.

Anyone who has ever bought a bar of hand made soap knows that it costs ABOUT 10.00 for one and if you wash your kids, that can get expensive.  So, I went looking into how to make my own just because of the cost for one and to be able to put into the soap what I wanted for the skin conditioning benefits (without the added fragrances and dyes so common in hand made soaps out there) for two.

I found out that there were two methods for making hand made soap.  One is called "cold process" where you do all the soap voodoo steps and then cut and cure the soap (to let the lye mellow out) for about a month.  I didn't really LIKE this method.  It's not that I minded curing the soap...actually with the hot process soap method you should cure the soap too just to get the bars to dry and harden up a bit.  No, I just plain didn't like the idea of RAW soap, with active lye still in it, sitting around my house with two kids that climb like monkeys.

So, I went with the second method I found which was "hot process".  Basically you MAKE cold process soap in your crock pot but where the cold process leaves off you continue on and cook the raw soap to force the soapification process and in the cooking of said soap you cook out the lye.  I liked that idea much better.

I heard a lot of horror stories about making your own soap with lye, so before I link to the tutorial that taught me how to do it, I wanted to share some insights.

1)  Be sure you have a GOOD scale for this as in a digital one.  Everything in soap making is measured by weight, not volume, so be sure to weigh liquids AND solids on your scale.  I actually set mine to grams just because my scale only went to tenths and not to hundredths on weight.

2)  Do not be scared to use lye, but by golly do NOT take it lightly either!  Lye is really caustic and when you mix it with water you create some nasty and very toxic fumes.

Some different sites I found sort of blew off working with lye and basically said to keep some vinegar right near by (it counter acts the lye to help you avoid getting chemical burns) and just to not breath in the fumes and no big deal.

Me?  I measured my lye out in a gladware container, slapped the lid on to transport it and after I shook the lye into the water (I went out on my deck to do this too...yes paranoia is not a bad thing when working with chemicals), I threw the chopstick I used for stirring the lye (grab a throw away pair from the store when you're walking by the sushi counter the next time you go :) and the gladware container directly into the dumpster.  When done with ANYTHING that came in contact with the raw soap, including my rubber gloves, I immediately doused them in vinegar before I even attempted to wash them in the sink.  I also made sure I had a left over glass jar with a tight fitting lid to put the lye water into to transport it BACK into my house so that I didn't worry about tripping over anything (like a kiddo) and ending up with someone in the burn ward.

3)  Trace is not as scary as some people think.  "Trace" is the point that you have to watch for before cooking the soap and does exactly what it is called.  As you are dragging your stick blender through your soap watch for a "wake" after the stick blender.  It'll get thicker to the point that the wake actually stays instead of immediately sinking back into the soap.  I found that this is the "thick trace" stage.  The soap will look pretty much like liquidy pudding (imagine stirring a thing of pudding until it's liquid again and you'll get the idea).  If you're looking for "thin trace" stage (which doesn't really apply to hot process soap making that I can see) you'd want to add things into the soap when the wake of the blender is there but still disappears.

4)  Make sure you have a good mold.  I ended up using the toddler shoe box I'd made for my melt and pour soap (just took the toddler shoe box, lined it with parchment paper all the way around and used that) and it worked SLICK.  Hot process soap turns out like mashed potatoes in consistency and you sort of mush and jam it into the mold, so it's not like you have to worry about it leaking or anything, which was a double bonus for me :).  I'm so happy I have a mold that'll work for future use too!  

Don't let me scare you off of soap making though with my lye paranoia.  Actually it didn't take very long (from start to finish it was ABOUT an hour and that's because I was careful with measuring things fifteen times and kept stopping my stirring to check my computer to see what their trace pictures looked like) and it was VERY fulfilling to know that I have soap that in approximately 3 weeks (curing the bars to harden them) I'll know EXACTLY what is in the soap that is coming in contact with my kids.  For a LOT cheaper than I could buy it for (1/3 a container of lye made 15 bars of soap...none too shabby).

So, if you are ready to try your hand at soap making, you can go HERE where Soap Making shows you how to make your own hot process soap (for recipes check out their soap recipe section :).



Anonymous said...

Where were you able to pick up lye locally? I have always wondered where to find it.

Alaskan Bargain Hunter said...

I actually bought mine through for about 9.00, but I have heard that Lowes and Home Depot carry it and some Carrs do too. It's actually sold as a drain cleaner.