Soap Making in the Hill Country

Blustery days kept me inside this weekend. I checked my project list and decided to make bar soap. I had already gathered up the ingredients and bought some molds so I was ready.

First I watched several YouTube videos because lye is used in soap making and it's very caustic.  You must always pour the lye into the water or is it the other way around?

The point is, I can never remember so I sat myself down and watched several "Soap Queen" YouTube videos. I found a Saponification calculator to determine how many ounces of my oils, how much lye and how much water. The cool thing about this Soap Calculator is that I also put in the dimensions of my mold and it calculated the recipe to be exactly the right amount to fill my mold.

The last time I made soap, it took hours. Slowly and constantly stirring over a low flame until "trace" -- basically the consistency of runny mashed potatoes or pudding when it first starts to thicken.  This time I used the Cold Process of soap making.  Your ingredients are not cold but you don't need a stove to make the saponification (turning oils and lye into soap) occur.

I mixed my lye into the water and it instantly heated up to around 190 degrees. I set that aside and mixed my oils together.  The coconut oil was slightly hard so I put the entire bowl into the microwave for 30 seconds to make sure everything was a liquid.  I then poured my lye mixture slowly into my oils.  

Using a stick mixer, I carefully began blending everything together.  I mixed everything in the crockpot, but I didn't actually turn the crockpot on.  I just needed a big glass bowl.

Throughout this entire process I wore protective goggles and rubber gloves.  Lye will burn skin, can cause blindness if it gets in your eyes and produces noxious fumes.  Always make soap in a well-ventilated location and away from small children and pets. I used my laundry room since I have a sink and a counter with plenty of space. 

Once the mixture hit "trace" stage, I added some Sweet Orange essential oil because I *love* citrus. Then I poured it all into my mold.  And the soap calculator was spot on.  I didn't have any mixture left over. It all fit in the mold perfectly. 

I covered the mold with plastic wrap and a towel to insulate and waited 24 hours to slice it into soap bars.  I'll wait another 4 weeks for the soap to cure and then it's ready for use. 

I'm hooked and plan to make a few more batches this month. Maybe I'll experiment a bit with add-ins like Oatmeal, Rosemary or Lavender. 

More Resources:

Soap Molds on Etsy - where I purchased my soap molds and soap cutter
Soap Making Forum - awesome site for ideas and recipes
* Future project - soap stamp - add a flourish to soap bars.  I want to try this.