Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Soapmaking 101... for the curious

okay... this is me... at my worst. But I wouldn't chance making soap without eye protection. It's not worth losing an eye over it. The mask is to protect me from the fumes when I mix the lye with the water.

Come on in, and learn how to make cold-process soap!
Don't forget your heavy rubber gloves. We don't want to have to call poison control!

Carefully pour the lye into the water. Never pour water into the lye. To me, the hardest part of the process is jockeying the temperatures of the lye water and the fats and oils. They both get hot, but have to cool back down. My recipe calls for the lye water to be at 100 F, while the oils are at 110 F. Here you see the lye water sitting in a cool bath to obtain the right temperature.

The fats and oils are ready.

Pour the lye water into the melted oils. Stir gently.

Mix. Mix. Mix.

The mixture starts to thicken as the oils/fats saponify.

It's getting thicker...

almost there...

Heavy trace! See how there's a visible trail on top?

Adding the essential oil to fragrance the soap. Usually you add your color and then the fragrance, but I had a reason to do it the opposite way.

Adding the color into the soap mixture. I used turmeric (the spice!) mixed with a very small amount of olive oil for a natural color that enhanced the bay rum essential oil.

Gently stirring the color into the soap.

I purposefully did not fully incorporate the color into the soap as I wanted a marbled effect in the finished soap. This is why I added the fragrance before the color in this batch.

Tapping the mold on the counter to release any air.

Soap can be molded in many different shapes. Candy molds, and old jello molds are ideal for this.

Decorative molds make lovely hand or gift soaps. Aren't they pretty?

The soap popped out of the mold and is ready to cut.

My finished bars of bay rum scented soap! These are ginormous (to borrow a word from Elf) weighing in around 7 ounces!
Now the bars have to cure. This takes about 4 weeks. If we would use them right away, the lye might still be too strong, and could burn our skin. Patience is the key word here.

I made this batch yesterday, and cut it this morning.

Last night, I made another batch. Peppermint Patty soap. It has real cocoa powder in it. As I was pouring it into the molds, Collin and Autumn wanted to lick the spoons. Yea, it smelled that good.


Sharon said...

Soapmaking has been on my mind, too! Thank you for the lesson!!

The marbled effect is very pretty!

Mrs. Brigham said...

Thank you so very much for sharing this! The marbling is beautiful. Soapmaking is one of the things on my "to try in the future list," but has has always appeared quite intimidating to me. :o)

Beck said...

I WANT TO MAKE SOAP! What an amazing post!

HsKubes said...

Oh, what fun! Beautiful soap, too!
They make such lovely gifts.

Thank you for your comment on my post. I appreciated what you said.

Enjoy your week ~

Rebecca said...

Well-I told you I have been wanting to make soap for EVER now...and I told you that I have always put it on the far backburner for my babies' sakes...but now.

NOW, Tracy, you may have RUINED me! Maybe naptimes COULD be used to make soap.

My jaw seriously dropped when I saw how GORGEOUS that marbled soap was that you created! Wow. WOW. That is GORGEOUS stuff. I love that you used spices to color it too.

Kris (the sewing machine lady I wrote about today) (PS. THANKS for your comment about it. I am glad mine were not the only wet eyes...) also gave me three bars of handmade soap and they were the most beautiful I have ever seen. It was called Mint Medley: one was peppermint, one speariment, and one wintergreen. They too, were marbled, but had the most BEAUTIFULLY vibrant colors! The peppermint was red and white, the speariment was green and white, and the wintergreen was blue and white. I looked on the card and it said she used candle wax for coloring.

Anyway. I am in LOVE with your soaps and would just LOVE it LOVE it if you were to post some of the recipes you are creating... That peppermint Patty sounds divine! For when I DO get brave enough to try it...though it looks fairly simple. Here are a few questions for you:

How long does it take to stir it like that? I don't have that mixer thing so I don't know if I could do that?

How long did it take for it to pop out of the molds like that?

Is it terribly hard to cut?

Good job Tracy!

Rebecca said...

oops-forgot something else. Do you have to grease the molds or anything?

Oh man...I am in trouble here. I only use handmade soaps...I should really learn how to make them myself...

YOu've done me in Tracy!

Tracy said...


The stirring process took me about 1/2 an hour, but that was with the stick blender. It would take longer if you were only using a spoon. However, you can walk away from it, and come back and stir every so often. It CAN take hours to reach trace with hand-stirring from what I've read. The stick blender was $10.88 at Wal*mart. The recipe you use affects how long it takes to reach trace.

Yes, you do grease the molds. Spray like PAM work fine. How easy it comes out is debatable. Two ladies that I talked to at a craft fair several weeks ago told me to cut the soap as soon as it was cool, so that's what I've been doing. (I've only made three batches.) Each recipe is different, but they should sit in the molds for 24-48 hours. If they are difficult to remove, you can pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes or so to help shrink them up.

Cutting has been easy so far. (But, I'm cutting it fairly soon.) Again, this depends on the recipe. Some soaps are harder than others, and need to be cut quickly, while others can be cut weeks later. I used a taping knife. Matt will know what that is. (He may have one.) $5.00 at Lowe's. A regular knife is thicker toward the handle, and thinner toward the point. Also, I didn't want any serrated edges showing up.

I hope that helps!

Daughter of the King said...

The soap looked wonderful...and the tutorial...great...and you are industrious...
When I see the stirring..the cutting etc...I HURT looking at the fibro body could not take it ....I fear. I will have to buy from those who make...somebody has to right.

Gena said...

I'm so glad you posted this. Maybe some day I will try it - I want to NOW, but I don't think the time is right.

Maybe you'll sell some soap in your Etsy shop?

Tracy said...

I DO hope to sell some soap in my ETSY!

randi---i have to say said...

Can I come over and get soap making lessons? This looks so fun!

I have a friend and I am going to email her your post because we have trying to work up the guts to do this for two years! We are going to have to do this after the holidays!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Julieann said...

Tracy, I really enjoyed the soap making lessen in pictures--and you look so adorable in your mask:)


Anonymous said...

If you sell it I will buy it. ;o)

Rachel said...

Tracy, that was so much fun. Thanks for sharing the photos of each step along with the instructions. That really sounds like a lot of fun and I hope to try it some day:)

Jen in MS said...

Ohhh....I love home-made soap! What an awesome thing to know how to do!!

I finally got a new computer and am trying to catch up a bit. I'm still monitoring my online time though so if I don't make it back around this month, I want to go ahead and wish you and your family a Merry Christmas!

Have a blessed day!

Anna S said...

Tracy, you are so skilled and creative. I don't think there's any hand work you haven't tried!

Short Stop said...

Again...never surprised at your talents. These look so neat, Tracy. Love them.

And, I love that pic of you in the glasses! I think it's great! :)

Jennifer said...

HOW NEAT! You make it look so simple :o) I bet the smell is out of this world! can't wait to hear how they are received as gifts.

Thanks so much for sharing the pictures!

Mrs.B said...

As I was reading, I thought "That looks good enough to eat! And then I read your last paragraph and laughed out loud! (o;


Lori said...

That was cool to see the process of how you make soap. Thanks for sharing the steps with us.
I just may have to do that one day. That would make for some great gifts.
Looks like fun!