Articles

Soapmaking 101:  A Beginner Soap-Making Recipe
By Whitney Allen

Why make your own all-natural and all-vegetable soap?  Some very good reasons motivate Whitney to make her all-natural plant-based soap as well as other all-natural skin care products. And where to buy low power laser pointer pen is a big questions ? We can tell you.

ADVANTAGES OF NATURAL BOTANICAL SOAP

Some of the many advantages to making natural botanical soap from scratch include:

a.) You can have complete control over the ingredients you put in your soap. The purest, freshest, most natural ingredients possible can be used, many of which are in your garden, kitchen cupboard or refrigerator. Many of these ingredients are available at grocery or health food stores.
b.) Handmade all-vegetable all-natural soaps are mild and gentle, and can be customized to suit your skin type.
c.) Hand-crafting all natural, all vegetable soaps are better for your skin, and the environment. They are biodegradable: they contain no phosphates, or toxic chemicals, preservatives and dyes that irritate your skin and pollute the earth. They are not made with animal product(tallow).  They are not tested on animals, and recycled or natural packaging is a must!
d.) All-vegetable, all-natural handmade soaps offer an alternative to the irritating,  drying, overly scented, overly dyed, synthetic detergent and tallow-based soaps that dominate the commercial market. Hand made soap is naturally beautiful and very gentle.

You can create a mild soap that cleans, nourishes, and moisturizes, that is environmentally friendly! If you are bitten by the soap-making bug, you can move on to more complex recipes that require more challenging techniques and that use exotic oils and ingredients not commonly available. What follows is a beginner�s recipe that Whitney Allen has created specifically for Harrowsmith readers. The ingredients can be found at most grocery or health food stores. Welcome to Soap Making 101!
Soap making is not a craft for children under the age of 15 yrs. Set aside a two or three hour period when there are no children or pets around. Plan to work without distractions such as telephones, televisions or visitors.

EQUIPMENT

All equipment used for soap must never be used for food prep; it must be �soap dedicated�
1. Safety goggles, long sleeves, old clothing, and shoes.
2. One 6-8 quart (7.6 liter) stainless steel pot. Do not use aluminum, cast iron, teflon or non-stick, as these all corrode
3. Dish washing rubber gloves. These should be close fitting so you can get a good grip.
4. Stainless steel whisk (medium size, not too large) for stirring soap, and a stainless steel spoon for stirring lye. For such a small recipe I use a long ice-tea spoon.
5. Rubber spatula (heavy duty rubber or silicone) for scraping soap pot.
6. Two heatproof 1-quart containers. One for measuring lye, and one for mixing lye and water. Two 1-1.5 liter ( 4-6 cup) glass or heavy plastic measuring cups will do.
7.  Plastic wrap to cover lye-water solution as it cools.
8. Two 1.5-2 litre plastic containers for measuring oils (empty ice cream containers will do).
9. Two glass candy thermometers or two quick read thermometers. Make sure thermometer temperatures match by testing them in a cup of warm water. It is very important, before you begin, that they are calibrated to read the same temperature.
10. A plastic food storage container with lid, (4in x 6in works well for this recipe) that will become the mold you pour soap into.
11. Old wool blanket or old beach towel for wrapping soap during the 24-hour insulation phase.
12. A good quality kitchen scale, measuring in grams, is highly recommended for accuracy. You can use volume measurements (cups and teaspoons)but these are not as reliable as measurements by weight. If you measure by weight, don�t forget to subtract the weight of the container you measure ingredients into. If you measure by volume, be accurate, using level cups and teaspoons.
13. A plastic bottle of white vinegar for neutralizing lye in case of a spill.
14. Ice cream bucket or large bowl for water bath to help adjust temperature of lye and oil.
15. Freezer paper

Successful soap making depends on attention to two important details: accurate measuring of ingredients and accurate matching of temperatures. This is one good time to let the perfectionist in you loose! Measure ingredients exactly, and match temperatures exactly!

Soap making is a metaphor for the transformative power of a good relationship, like a good marriage or friendship that brings about creative change in both people. Lye and oil go into the pot, but neither lye nor oil comes out! Soap is made with lye, but there is no lye in soap! The lye and oil marry, molecule by molecule, and transform into soap and glycerin. This marrying of lye and oils is called saponification, and what a beautiful marriage it is! The result is a wonderful, moisturizing soap that is � natural glycerin!

ABOUT LYE
Lye�s chemical name is sodium hydroxide; it is sometimes called caustic soda.  In Canada the most available brand is Gillett�s Lye, in the U.S. look for Red Devil Lye. These are granular in form. Lye is found near drain cleaners in 9 oz or 12 oz containers at grocery or hardware stores. DO NOT USE DRANO OR LIQUID DRAIN CLEANERS as these are not pure lye and contain toxic chemicals and metals. Shake the container before purchasing to make sure it is loose inside, not solid. Always measure your lye, do not rely on the weight printed on the label.

Treat lye with respect!  Before saponification occurs, lye is a bad guy.  It is a poison, fatal if swallowed.  Its fumes are toxic, and it will burn most surfaces it comes in contact with�including your skin! As long as you stick to the  following safety rules, however, soap making is a safe process:
1. Wear eye protection, close fitting rubber gloves, long sleeves, old clothing, and shoes. Inevitably a small droplet of lye will find you.
2. Keep a plastic jar of vinegar close, and a sponge or rag soaked in vinegar ready. Vinegar neutralizes lye.
3. Measure lye, and mix lye and water outside, or in a well ventilated area on a stable surface or table covered in newspaper away from even the remotest possibility that a child or pet will happen by. This means careful planning before you begin making soap.
4. Never make soap around young children. This is not an activity for anyone under the age of 15 yrs. Pick a time where you can be totally uninterrupted for 2-3 hours.
5. Only open lye when ready to measure, and close container immediately after. Store lye out of the reach of children.
6. Store equipment, freshly made soaps, and utensils away from children and pets.

WHITNEY ALLEN�S BASIC SOAP RECIPE

This recipe appeared in Harrowsmith CountryLife Magazine, as an example of a simple, do-it-yourself recipe.

Volume measure is followed by weight measure in grams in parentheses. If you can get a good quality kitchen scale, use the weight measure in grams for better accuracy.

� 6 fluid ounces (180g) cold or room temperature distilled water. (Do NOT use tap, well, or rain water).

� 1/2 cup (130 g) Gillett�s or Red Devil Lye

� 2 cups & 4 Tablespoons (406 g) vegetable shortening. (Do not use lard or tallow.)

� 2 2/3 cups (570 g) olive oil. Use grade A olive oil, not Pomace, and not Extra Virgin.

Optional: the above recipe will make a basic plain and gentle soap without any additions, but if you wish to add botanicals for further nourishing and exfoliating properties, you may add 1 � -2 tsp of finely ground herbs, spices, or grains. If you wish, you may also add up to 1 Tablespoon of any pure essential oil found in health food stores.

SOAPMAKING STEPS
Note: if using scales, you must take the weight of the container prior to measuring the ingredients: place the empty container on the scale, bring the scale to zero, and then weigh out the ingredient into the container.

1.  Prepare your mold ( a plastic food storage container with a lid, about 4in x 6in, works well.) Grease liberally with vegetable shortening. Cut a strip of wax or freezer paper to fit inside and come up and over two sides like flaps�press this into the greased mold to make a smooth liner, grease this liner as well. It will help  release the soap from the mold. Place mold on top of blanket or towel, on a level surface where it will not be disturbed for 24 hrs. after it is wrapped.

2. Measure cold or room temperature distilled water into heat- proof container. A glass or heavy plastic 1 litre (4 cup) measuring container works well.

3. Wearing goggles, gloves, long sleeves, old clothing, and shoes:
a.) Measure lye into the other empty 1-litre (4-6 cup) glass or plastic measuring container. Measure lye on a well-protected surface covered with newspaper.
b.) Add lye to the distilled water, stirring with a long stainless steel spoon to dissolve lye completely.  Place plastic wrap over lye-water solution.
Do a.) And b.) Outside or in a well ventilated protected area. Work on a stable surface covered with newspaper away from children and pets. Avert your face to avoid fumes.
4. While lye solution is cooling, measure olive oil and vegetable shortening into separate containers. Two empty ice cream containers (1 litre) work well.

5. Melt the vegetable shortening in a 4-6 quart pot on low heat.  Remove from heat as soon as it is clear and melted, stirring in any foam that may have developed on the surface. Allow vegetable shortening to cool slightly.

6. With the pot off the heat, add olive oil to warm melted vegetable shortening, mixing well.

7. Now the tricky part: bring oils and lye solution to an exact match in temperature anywhere between 80f-100f (27c-38c). Be patient, this will take some time as you juggle the temperature of the lye solution using the cold or hot water bath in the sink (an ice cream bucket or large bowl placed in the sink works well as a bath for the lye container). You may have to reheat the oils if they fall below 80f (27c).  Remember, the lye solution and the oils must be the exact same temperature before they are stirred together. Use one thermometer for the lye solution, and the other for the oils, stirring both as you check the temperature. This is the most time consuming step of the soap making process. (Answering the phone may make you miss the magic moment when the temperatures match, so be sure to remain undistracted!)

8.When the temperatures match between lye solution and oils, slowly pour lye solution into warm oils in a thin stream, stirring constantly. (this always reminds me of how my Grandmother made her own mayonnaise!) Use a wire whisk during the stirring phase.  The constant stirring brings the lye and oil together to begin the remarkable transformation into soap and glycerin (saponification)! Your solution will turn creamy and begin to thicken. (If you choose to add botanicals, do so right after the lye solution has been added.)

9.When your solution has turned thick like rich pudding, and dribbling some across the surface leaves a trace before sinking back in, you are ready to pour the soap into the mold. (This is when you would quickly stir up to 1 Tablespoon of essential oil into the soap if you choose this option). Work quickly now, pouring the soap into your prepared greased mold. Quickly scrape the pot to get all of the soap into the mold. You need to do this before the soap becomes too thick to work with!

10. Quickly cover mold with lid, and wrap the wool blanket or towel around soap. Work quickly so the soap does not begin to cool off. The soap must be insulated for 24 hours as saponification continues. During this insulation period the soap heats up as saponification steps up its pace.

11. After 24 hours unwrap your soap. It should be firm and solid, ready to be turned out onto brown paper (a cut up grocery store bag works well). After 20�30 minutes, you may cut your soap. �Draw� lines with a sharp knife, dividing it up into the size of bars you want. Cut along these lines with a sharp knife. Stand bars up, domino style, in a cool, dry place out of direct light to continue saponification. The soap must cure for 4-6 weeks before it is ready to use. The soap is still saponifying as it cures. Beautiful soap, like fine wine, gets better (milder and longer lasting) with age.

ABOUT BOTANICAL ADDITIONS TO YOUR SOAP
Some wonderful possibilities include ground oats, ground flaxseed, almond meal, cornmeal, ground herbs, cinnamon, cloves, poppy seeds, dried ground citrus peel, ground lavender flowers, or ground rosehips. These will add subtle colour and texture as well as nutritive properties. Do not add fresh fruit or vegetables; contrary to claims made by some, vegetables and fruit will ROT in your soap. Soaps claiming to be made with fruits or vegetables are also using strong preservatives, synthetics, artificial fragrances and dyes. All additions to soap should be finely ground ( a coffee grinder will do a great job). Less is more: use only up to 11/2 tsp per batch of soap or the final soap will be scratchy instead of gently exfoliating.

Non-vegetable additions can include honey and powdered milk. Use only � teaspoon per batch, as these tend to soften the final soap.  All additions to soap should be added before trace, right after the lye has been poured into the pot.

ABOUT NATURAL COLOUR FOR YOUR SOAP
If only rose petals turned soap red or pink! Unfortunately they turn black in soap due to lye before it is transformed by saponification into beautiful gentle soap. Food coloring doesn�t work either. There are natural colourants for soap, some listed above. Others include:  tumeric (pale yellow to orange hues), cinnamon, cloves (brown hues) and ground parsley (pale green hues that will fade in light). I have come to love the subtle creamy caramel colour of natural soap made without dyes.  I now find it appalling when I see emerald green �green tea� soap or bright blue �blueberry� soap. Since when did the green tea in your cup appear emerald green? Blueberries do not turn soap blue! Its time we unlearn the very persuasive and successful lies told to us by the commercial soap and skin care industry!  Natural colourants would be considered botanical additions to the soap; add before trace.

ABOUT SCENTING YOUR SOAP
Please don�t dump vanilla extract, or your favorite perfume into the soap pot! These contain alcohol, which does not mix with soap. You will have to throw the entire batch away.  Like natural colour, I have come to love the subtle scent of all natural soap made with pure essential oils. These soaps will not bang you in the nose with synthetic fragrance, but they will provide skin care properties those scented with fragrance oils cannot. Fragrance oils are synthetic imitations of pure essential oils and do not offer the  skin care properties found in pure essential oils. Pure essential oils are very expensive, but if you wish to use them they can be purchased at health food stores. Use up to 1 Tablespoon per batch of soap; any more may not be incorporated into the soap and will end up sitting on top of the soap when you uncover it.

WRAPPING YOUR SOAP
Never trust soap wrapped in plastic! All-natural soap needs to breathe. When it comes to wrapping soaps to present as gifts, it only makes sense to wrap all-natural soaps in all-natural, recycled and environmentally friendly materials.  Use handmade papers, recycled kraft paper; decorate with dried fruit, cinnamon sticks, dried flowers, etc.  Your back yard or neighborhood will prove to be a bountiful resource!

CLEAN UP
Never dispose of lye or raw soap down the drain. Wipe containers out with paper towel before washing with soap and hot water. The lye residue will eventually neutralize in garbage when exposed to oxygen.

SUGGESTED READING
The two books I could not live without are:
1.) Susan Miller Cavitch�s The Natural Soap Book, Story Publishing, Vermont, U.S.A., 1995.
2.) Merilyn Mohr�s The Art of Soapmaking, Camden House Publishing, Ontario, Canada, 1988.
3.) Go online!  Soapers have gone electronic (an interesting juxtaposition given the Luddite-like appeal of making one�s own soap!)