Soapmaking oversimplified

Posted by Jennifer DeLonay on March 1, 2016 in Making Soap
Finished trays of handmade soap.
Finished trays of handmade soap.

More often than not, fellow artisans and soap consumers alike, simply want to know how it’s made.

Handmade soap can take on many forms, shapes, colors and sizes, while maintaining a relatively basic formula. All handmade soap makers follow a particular recipe of their choosing or own creation, which contains 3 definite elements: water, lye and oils. All necessary materials are carefully measured and/or weighed for accuracy.

melting-oilsFirst off, soapmaking begins with the dissolving of lye (sodium hydroxide) in water.

In this step, the lye meeting water situation is an instantaneous exothermic reaction that produces dangerous fumes. (Most soapers will do this step out of doors to avoid inhalation.) This mixture is then set aside to cool.

Next, in a separate pot, the oils that belong in the soap recipe are prepared.

If the oils are in solid form, such as lard or coconut oil, they must be melted. If the oils are already in liquid form, a gentle heat on them is sufficient.

When both the lye solution and the oils portion are at similar temperatures, the soaper is ready to combine the two. The lye/oils solution is blended by hand or with an immersion blender until the “soap batter” is the consistency of a thin pudding or white sauce.

Now the soon to be soap is ready to accommodate any essential oils, fragrances, herbs, spices or colorants.

The combination of additions is endless. But, the soaper must work quickly, as the soap batter continues to thicken as it sets.

Finally, the soap mixture is poured into a designated mold.

Pouring the soap recipe into the soap mold.

It will need to be covered with a lid of sorts, and swaddled in a blanket or towel for insulation purposes, as it continues to thicken and set for at least 24 hours.

This is cold processed soap.

The soap is the consistency of hard butter at this point. It now needs cutting and stacking for storage on the curing racks. Handmade soap is best when cured for 6-8 weeks.