Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Making Soap Step 2: Measuring and Mixing

At around noon today I decided that I was ready to make my batch of soap.  My safety gear was checked and in place.  My ingredients and tools were out and ready.

Here is the recipe that I used:

3 lbs. solid vegetable shortening
12 oz. soft water, cold
6 oz. lye

This recipe calls for an 8"x 8" mold so I used a plastic container that I have.  Liberally grease your container with petroleum jelly.

Grease Mold With Inexpensive Petroleum Jelly

Begin melting the vegetable shortening in an enamel or stainless steel pot.

Melting Shortening

I love my digital scale, but any kitchen scale will work for measuring your ingredients.  Measure out the 12 oz. of water.  I used a local bottled water (more on this later).  It must be cold.

Now it is time to safety gear up.  Put on your safety glasses, apron and rubber gloves.  Make sure there is water nearby in case of splashes.

Measure out your lye into another glass or heat resistant container.

Measure Lye Carefully Into Dry Container

At this point I put my water container in my sink, then slowly stir the lye into the cold water using my wooden spoon.  NEVER POUR THE WATER INTO THE LYE!  Stir slowly until the lye solution is clear.

The Sink Is A Safe, Contained Place For Mixing Lye and Water

You lye solution will be hot and your shortening should be melted by now.  Keep the lye safely in the sink and remove the pot with the melted shortening off of the heat.

Now you can take off your gear and rest a bit.  Every few minutes touch the side of the lye container and the pot to see how hot they are.  When they are warm, not hot, it is time to gear up again.

With your wooden spoon, slowly stir the lye solution into the warm shortening.  Continue to stir.  You will see it begin to thicken.  Don't rush this step.

Slow, No Splashing

After twenty minutes of stirring my soap had not thickened enough.  It was obvious that there was not enough lye present.  I believe that this was caused by my using local bottled water that had too many minerals in it.  Hard water minerals take up the lye and make it less effective.

So, I mixed up a small batch of 4 oz. cold water and 2 oz. lye.  I slowly added this to the pot, stirring, and the soap began to thicken properly.  This is a tricky thing to do as you don't want to add too much lye either.  Next time I will use distilled water with this recipe.

Not Thickening Correctly
Much Better!

I stirred for about ten minutes after adding the additional lye until the soap began to trace.  Tracing is when you can drizzle soap off of your spoon and it will leave a trail.  Unfortunately my camera isn't that great or I'm not a good photographer, but here is a photo of tracing.

Once it begins to trace you can add some essential oil to the soap.  I added about twenty drops of sandalwood oil for a mild scent that the whole family will enjoy.  Some people will add an ounce or two for a strong fragrance.  Stir this in well.

Pour your soap into the greased mold.  Cleaning up should be done using your rubber gloves.  This raw soap is very harsh.  If there is a lot of soap stuck in your pot you can add a little water and heat it until the soap has dissolved.  This makes a liquid soap good for cleaning.

Soap In Mold

Wrap your mold in an old towel, then place in a safe place to cure.  I am using the back of my stove, but when dear daughter was younger I used the top of my dryer in the garage.

Wrap In Old Towel
Tomorrow check your soap.  You are looking for it to be hard enough to hold a cut line, but soft enough to cut easily.  Let it cure until it is hard enough to easily unmold.  If you see any liquid in the mold it is time to put on the safety gear and unmold it in the sink.  The liquid is probably unabsorbed lye.  Rinse this off carefully.

Place your bars of soap on a rack and place in an out of the way place to continue curing.  I use a shelf in my linen closet.  I let my soap cure for at least six weeks.  The more you cure soap the milder it will be.  I leave mine unwrapped to continue to dry out as it seems to last longer this way, but you can wrap it in wax or parchment paper to store also.

Some warnings.  If your soap doesn't turn out please dispose of it in a container outside and let the trash men take it away.  Don't pour it down the drain.  I heard a story of a woman that did this and when that soap hit her cold pipes it hardened solid.  Her plumber had to take the pipes apart all the way down to the basement.  Keep your soap that is curing in the mold away from animals.  I don't know why, but animals seem to love the taste of curing soap.

From start to finish, even with my mishap, I was in the kitchen for 1 1/2 hours, but not continuously.  You may prefer to buy your soap, but try it at least once.  You should be able to do these basic home keeping tasks in case you are ever in a situation where soap is unavailable.  Or you may become like me and just find that your home made soap is more to your liking.

God bless,

No comments:

Post a Comment