Soapmaking Process

This is Part 3 of 4 in A Beginner’s Guide to Soapmaking.

Previously: Tools | Next: Finish

1. Gather your ingredients and tools. Line your soap mold with freezer paper, shiny side to face the soap.

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2. Place your stainless steel pot on your digital scale, and measure your solid oils into your pot. (Coconut oil, palm oil, and shea butter are solid at room temperature.) Use the tare button on your scale as you add each one.

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3. After you’ve measured the solid oils, warm the pot over low heat for the solid oils to melt. (This is my little kitchen. Soapmaking doesn’t require a lot of space.)

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4. Measure your lye (sodium hydroxide) carefully into a bowl. It’s poison, people.

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5. Measure your water.

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6. Pour your water into a heat-resistant bowl. Then pour your lye into the bowl of water. Stir. It will have a chemical reaction, giving off fumes and heat. After a minute or two the water will turn clear. Use hot pads if you pick up the bowl. I wore glasses as a safety precaution. It would have been a good idea to wear rubber gloves, too. I went outside to do this, assuming there would be a lot of fumes. It wasn’t too bad, maybe because I was working with a small batch. Next time I will stay inside, and not risk spilling it by carrying it around.

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7. Find a strong man to open the olive oil for you when the lid is stuck. Measure your liquid oils (in this case olive oil) into a separate bowl. Once the solid oils are melted, add the liquid oils to the pot. Turn the stove burner off, it’s probably hot enough. You want the oils to reach about 110 degrees (F).

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8. To help the lye solution cool down, put it in a sink of cold water. Check the temperature of the lye solution. You want it to be around 110 degrees (F), but it doesn’t have to be exact.

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9. Once the lye solution is cooled, pour it slowly into the pot. Blend with the stick blender until it looks smooth.

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10. Blend with the stick blender. Every now and then leave the blender off and just stir with it. Alternate blending and stirring. Be careful not to raise the blender up so that it would stir in air bubbles. Next time I will use a pot that is deeper and not as wide, so I won’t have to be so careful about that.

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11. This batch was blended and stirred for about 5 minutes. It starts to resemble pancake batter.

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12. It will start to look dull on the surface and thinly coat the blender. This is called “trace”. Fragrances and colors would be added at this point, but since this is a beginner process, we’ll skip those for now. Pour the soap into the mold before it gets too thick.

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13. I used a mold that was a little deep. You could also use a mold that is more wide and shallow.

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14. I put the mold inside a cardboard shoe box, put the lid on it, and then covered it with a towel to keep it warm. I’ll find out later that I probably didn’t need the towel. The cardboard box covering it should be enough.

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15. Rinse off the lye from your bowls and utensils, and then wash everything in soapy water.

Total time for this process start to finish: 1 hour.

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This is Part 3 of 4 in A Beginner’s Guide to Soapmaking.

Previously: Tools | Next: Finish