Soapmaking is a great addition to your DIY skincare skills. You can create many different great types, just by simply changing your oil options, giving soap texture with different additives and playing with clays and teas for colouring the soap.
We LOVE the addition of unrefined shea butter in soaps. Unrefined Shea Butter has the most unsaponifiables in all vegetable oils, and creates a creamy, luxurious and nourishing bar of soap. We like to use it anywhere between 5% and 50% of the recipe. It adds in the hardness of the bar as well.
I would like to point out that you can not make soap without lye! Soap is a chemical reaction between an alkali (lye) and fats/oils.
What Do You Need To Make Soap:
Safety Gear: You need to wear these whenever you handle lye.
- Digital Scale
- Stick Blender
- Stainless Steel Pot
- Plastic Bucket or jugs (heat proof)
- Mold - silicone or wooden, or cardboard box etc.
- Liner - if using a wooden or box mold. You can use wax paper or plastic.
- Mixing utensils, like spoons, wooden spoons
- Choice of oils/fats
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Distilled Water
- Additives (essential or fragrance oils, colourants, teas, clays etc)
Following are your basic step-by-step cold process soapmaking instructions for how to make cold process soap from scratch.
- Begin by preparing your soap mold so that it is ready when your soap is ready to be mixed and poured. Cut out a piece of cardboard so you can use it as a cover for your mold
- Weigh out your distilled water into a non aluminium container (Plastic Jug or stainless steel)
- Put on your safety gear and weigh sodium hydroxide. Be extra careful when you handle this as it is highly caustic and can cause burns. Weigh it into a non aluminium container.
- Make your lye solution by putting the sodium hydroxide into the water (never the other way around). Do this in a very well ventilated area, and, make sure there are no distractions, kids, or pets around. The lye will heat up and start steaming, you need to have your mask on. Let it settle for a minute or so and start stirring it until all lye granules are dissolved. Let it cool down to 35 degrees Celsius.
- While you lye is cooling down, weigh the rest of your ingredients.
- If you are working with hard oils (such as coconut, shea butter, palm, etc), heat the oils, in a stainless steel pot, on the stove until just melted.
- When the hard oils have melted, mix in your liquid oils.
- When the temperature of the both the lye solution and oils reaches 35 degrees Celsius or less, it is time to mix them.
- Gently pour the lye solution into your oils and mix with a with a wooden spoon until just-combined.
- Mix with your stick blender until you reach "trace". When you reach trace, your batter looks like custard. More on trace in the next step. The length of time will depend on a number of things, including choice of oils, initial temperature and room temperature.
- Reaching trace. Trace is what we look for to indicate that our soap mixture is mixed well to the point of no separation. You know you have reached trace when you pull out the stick-blender from the soap batter, and drizzle some of the soap off the stick-blender onto the top of the soap and the soap forms an obvious trail of soap on top. Basically, the soap drizzled back mustn't sink back, it must stay on top and form a sort of trail/ribbon.
- When you have reached light trace, put it the essential/fragrance oil and colourants if using and stir. Stick blend briefly until medium trace (more pronounced trail). Careful, don't let it go to thick trace or else you will struggle to get it into the mold.
- Pour your soap into the mould. Cover, wrap with a towel and put away for 24 hours.
- After 24 - 48 hours the soap is ready to cut. Unmold and cut it into bars with a sharp knife, the bigger the better.
- Let your soap cure for 4 weeks (minimum) before you can use it. The curing period is essential. Although soap is safe to use within the first week of being made, as there is no more lye remaining in the soap, it is not the best to use at that stage. Curing it allows the soap to loose excess water and the longer it cures the gentler it becomes. The pH drop and you end up with a beautifully mild and hard soap.
- Repeat all the above, and now you are hooked!