Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Soapmaking Process

I love to make soap from scratch.  I use the cold process method where you first mix water and lye (you can't make soap without it!) and then melt and mix oils.  Then you mix the lye water with the oils.  Then this magic thing happens to make soap.  Well, it's not really magic.  It's science, I guess.  It's called saponification--where the lye mixture and the oils get together to make soap.  This soap is really, really nice.  It's not so drying or irritating as the bars you buy in the grocery or drug stores. 

When you make soap, you need to get your stuff together.

Getting everything ready and in one place ahead of time makes life much less stressful when the soap starts to become soap in the pan (which is just out of the photo) and you need to be ready to pour it into molds. 

As you can see, I make soap outside.  I started doing that because I didn't want lye fumes or any spills in the kitchen.  When I use the metal table outside, I don't worry about the inevitable spills.  And cleanup is very easy.  When the weather's bad and I NEED to make some soap, I've made it inside.  I ran the kitchen exhaust fan and opened the kitchen window and had no problems.  I prefer to do it outside, however.

This is my batch of honey and oatmeal soap, some of which is on sale in my  etsy and artfire shops. 

Once I get the lye mixed into the water in the glass measuring cup and let it start to cool, I melt the oils in the stainless steel soap pot.

Once all the oils are melted, you need to cool the lye water and the oils.  In the picture below you can see that the lye water mixture is HOT.  That's another science thing.  Lye mixed with water makes a chemical reaction that makes it HOT!!

And you take the temperature of the oils . . .

When they get to the right (close) temperature, you CAREFULLY pour the lye water into the oils.  Then you start mixing.  Since life is short, you should use a stick blender to mix your soap.  Otherwise, it takes a very long time and your arm gets very tired.  Duct tape may be required on your stick blender when you use it for soap rather than the soups for which it was intended.

Then you run the blender for a bit and then use the blender as a spoon for a bit.  You don't want to burn up the blender motor.  Once it starts to thicken and you can see the image of the blender on the surface of the soap mixture, it has reached or is reaching "trace." 

This is when you add your special ingredients.   Like ground oatmeal.

Then you add the honey.

Then you pour it in your prepared molds (preparing the molds is part of what you do before you get started!).

Then you put all your molds with your fresh soap mixture in a box lid to help contain drips or spills.  Some soaps you insulate with towels, but soaps with honey don't want to be insulated.  So this oatmeal and honey soap isn't blanketed. 

And, yes, some of those molds are "interesting" things from the hospital and the hardware store.  They make good soap molds. 
The soap rests in the molds for a day or two or three.  Until they're ready to come out relatively easily.  That's another blog topic. 

Next . . . CLEAN UP!!

Clean up isn't that big of a deal, but it is a bit messy and oily, so keep your apron and gloves on.  Sometimes I save the mess until the next day because then it's SOAP!! 

There are a few more steps, but we're at a stopping point for today. 

As I explained in an earlier post, there are great places online to learn about making soap:

If this just seems like waayy too much mess and work, then please visit my shops linked above to check them out and purchase soaps already made!!

Next week I'm planning to make more soap.  On the list of soaps to make are patchouli, peppermint and oatmeal, and maybe rosemary and peppermint. 

What other soaps do you think I should try?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Make sure you leave your email address.  Why your email address?  Well, if I select your soapy idea and make up some of those soaps, I'll email you to get your mailing address.  And I'll send some of those soaps your way!!  Now put your thinking caps on and let me know . . .

Friday, April 9, 2010

Soap Queen's Video about How to Make Cold Process Soap

This is very exciting! 

You know how a few days ago, I posted about my soapy morning and how I got started making soap?!  Well, Anne Marie at Bramble Berry soap making supplies produced this video about how to make cold process soap!  Talk about timing!  And we didn't even compare notes!

Anyway, this video presents the very beginning steps for making cold process soaps.  It also discusses in real terms the "scariest" part to potential soapmakers:  using lye.  It's a great place start, so check it out!

How to Make Cold Process Soap : Lye Safety & Ingredients, Episode 1 from Soap Queen on Vimeo.

The next installment should come out in a couple of weeks, so keep checking back!

I have some soaps curing (oatmeal honey, shea butter, sweet orange, patchouli, and peppermint).  If you're in southern Arizona, please look for my soaps at Yard Woman in Tubac.  Thanks, Sharon!  Or you can order them here

If you can't get to Arizona or don't want to order from Yard Woman, please watch my etsy store in about 10 days for the newest soaps.  My store has the soaps with the "rough edges" and end pieces and funky shapes.  But the soap is still great!

Thanks for visiting and Happy soaping! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Soap Making Morning--the Equipment

I thought for a long time before I decided to try making soap.  Just what I need--another project that requires "stuff."  But I want something better for my skin than what I was buying at the big chain grocery and drug stores that left my skin irritated and very dry.

I read books about it.  I read Internet articles about it.  I looked at bars of soap on people's Internet stores.  I smelled the soaps at shops and craft fairs.  I learned that there's more than one way to make soap.  But I still wasn't certain that this was something that I wanted to try. 

Then I read These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner.  It's a novel inspired by the life of Nancy Turner's great-grandmother, Sarah Prine, and it's set in territorial Arizona.  In the novel, Sarah Prine helps to support herself and her daughter by making soap and selling it to a store in Tucson. 

Of course, the way that Sarah Prine did it 100 years ago or so is different from how I do it now.  Where Sarah used ashes to make her lye and used tallow or lard from butchered animals, modern soapmakers can take advantage of lye (sodium hydroxide) made especially for soap making and the various oils to make a nice bar of soap.  I guess I felt that, if Sarah could do it on her own back then, I could do it now.  I like history and I like to try things that my ancestors probably did.  I like that connection with my ancestors. 

So, now I really wanted to try it.  Here are some websites that helped me learn how to make soap:

Miller's Homemade Soap Pages
Teach Soap
Soap Making at

There are many others out there and I really appreciate the generosity of the soapmakers who share their information on the Internet for people like me who are interested and need the push.  I decided that I wanted to try the cold process method of soapmaking.

I started gathering the "stuff."  Here is a good list  from Magestic Mountain Sage.

You probably have many of these things already.  And the things that you don't have aren't that expensive. 
Once you gather your equipment, you'll need supplies or ingredients.  We'll talk about those in another post . . .  See you then!!