Soaps in one form or another have been around for centuries. The Greeks and Romans used different materials for cleaning clothes as well as the body. Ancient Egyptians used animal and vegetable oils combined with alkaline salts to produce a soap-like substance. Some of the first soaps to use to use the common ingredient of lye were produced by the Muslims in Islamic countries back in the Middle Ages. In fact, the ingredients they used then are pretty much the same that are used now. Many soaps in Europe at that time were made with animal fats. But it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that animal fats were replaced with vegetable and plant oils which are easier for the body to absorb. Later the Industrial Revolution took over manufacturing soap but even today people still enjoy the craft of making their own soap.
There are people all across the world that still make their own soap. There are different recipes that one can use for different colors and aromas and you can even use molds to shape your own soap. If you are interested in the craft, here are the steps you need to do your own homemade bars of dirt removers.
Soap Ingredients To Use
- Almost any kind of cooking oil will do. This includes vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, etc.
- Sodium Hydroxide, or lye. Red Devil brand is the best. You can pick it up at the hardware store.
- Distilled or bottled water
- Essential oils or Fragrance oils. These are to add a nice scent to your soap. When choosing scents, stay clear of anything that contains alcohol. Also don’t use oils designed for candles. Stick to oils from health stores or bath stores.
- Safety goggles
- Steel mixing bowl
- Rubber gloves
- 2 Plastic pitchers; one for water and one for lye
- Several plastic stirring spoons
- Glass candy thermometer
- Stick blender
- Flat pan
- A set of scales
- Measuring cup
- Old blanket
The Soapmaking Process
These are the steps for making what is called cold process soap. It is one of the most common types of homemade soaps and is easy to mold. Cold process soap is essentially made by heating up oils and adding a mixture of water and lye into it. The chemical process that these ingredients go through is called saponifaction. There are other methods to make different kinds of soap. There is a heating method which cures the soap quicker and there is a method that doesn’t use lye and is a good project for kids. Here are the steps in detail for cold process soap:
- Step 1: Heat the vegetable oils either in the microwave or in a double boiler on the stove. You want the oil to reach a level of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Step 2: Next you want to mix the water and the lye. Put on your gloves and safety goggles because lye is caustic and can damage your skin and eyes. Different soap recipes will call for different amounts of water and lye. Whatever recipe you are using, you will want to mix the water and lye in a large heat-resistant bowl by using a metal spoon. The lay and water will go through a chemical reaction and will heat up. Be careful not to breathe the fumes from this mixture. The water-lye mixture will get as hot as 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Once that is done, let it cool down to 115 degrees.
- Step 3: Once the lye mixture and the oils are around 115 degrees, then pour the lye and water mixture into the pan with the oils. Take the stick blender and start blending the two together. The mixture should start to thicken pretty soon and within five minutes of blending, you should begin to see what is called trace. Trace is evidence of soap that trails behind the blender. If you do not have a stick blender, you can use a whisk or a spoon and mix it that way but it can take up to two to three hours before you begin to see any trace.
- Step 4: Once you have achieved trace, it is time to add the essential oils and fragrances. Pour the scented oils into the mix and stir them up. Make sure that the soap is fully mixed and is not going to separate before you can get it into the molds.
- Step 5: By now the soap mixture should be thick and creamy. Now is the time to pour it into your molds or pans. If you are using molds, you can take plastic seran wrap and line the molds with it so that the soap pops out easily once it has cured. If you are using a flat pan, you can pour your soap into the pan. After it has cured, you can take a knife and cut it into squares. No matter what method you use, it takes a full six weeks before soap is cured enough that it can be used.
The above steps are for making simple cold process soap. But you can also add other ingredients into your soap for additional properties. For instance, you can use oatmeal in your soap to act as an exfoliant. You can also use cocoa butter or hemp oil which are great for moisturizing. If you have sensitive skin, try olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Some other popular ingredients to add is cinnamon, allspice, cocoa, mint, and coffee. Any of these extra ingredients should be added during the trace stage when the soap begins to thicken.
Cold process soap is very long lasting but some fatty oils tend to oxidize. To help prevent this and give soap a longer lifespan, you can use carrot oil, vitamin E oil, or grapefruit seed extract which all contain anti-oxidants. These can prevent homemade soaps from spoiling so quickly.
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