Monday, November 30, 2009

Cold Process Soap - Instructions

Cold process soap is far easier than made to sound, and unlike Melt and Pour, you get to make soap from the bare bones. There are a few safety requirements, but as long as you follow these, cold process soap is a safe way to make soap for the whole family, I stopped buying soap and shampoo and year ago and love making my own!

Real soap is made with Lye (sodium hydroxide), you can't make real soap without it. Lye is caustic, so you should always be careful with it (not something for little kids to help with). I use a tall sided plastic jug to mix up my lye, it prevents splashing. If it touches you it will burn a little, but it can be washed right off. Many people wear gloves with it. Use in a well ventilated area - I do mine with the jug in my kitchen sink right by the windows, and i tend to leave the kitchen for a few minutes when it off gases. Some people mix it outside and then bring it in (it only gases for literally 30 seconds on contact with water). Whatever works for you - my protocol, no gloves, tall sided plastic jug, sitting in the sink, good window ventilation, long handled spoon for stiring.

I don't believe in scaring people off making soap, lye is perfectly safe if you are careful with it, and it's a wonderful way to make your own.

Expect to spend 30 minutes to an hour making lots of soap!

The steps

1 - Mix the lye with the water. Always add the lye to water, not the other way around. It'll heat up at this point (why I do mine in my sink). Let cool to ~140F - exact doesn't matter, just let it cool down (use a metal thermometer not a glass one, they break in Lye).

2 - Warm up your ingredients in a large saucepan. The goal is to get the lye and the oils to be around the same temperature when you mix them (exactness not needed!)

3 - Add the lye to the oils - always in this order, if you add oils to the lye you risk splashing.

4 - Mix with a stick blender until you reach "trace". This is where the mixtures begins to look like thin pudding. Don't overmix as it'll be hard to pour. The timing for this depends entirely on your oils - one recipe might take a minute, another ten minutes. Persistence! Generally, if you use solid oils (coconut, palm), these will get to trace faster than just using liquids

5 - Pour into heat proof molds and cover with clingfilm (stops air getting to it and causing ash on top).

6 - Wrap up in several layers of towels - the soap still needs to "gel" (cook), so will get very warm. Place in an out of the way spot for ~24hrs.

7 - Unwrap and leave to harden - take the soap out of the mold as soon as it is hard enough (~24-72hrs) and cut into bars. Place these bars on a cutting board or shelf to harden further for 3-6 weeks!

8 - Use and enjoy!

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