Have personal protective equipment ready - Clothes that covers the entire body including arms, legs and entire feet plus neoprene gloves and a chemical mask.
Have additives such as herbs, exfoliants, colorants and any super fatting oils prepared in advance. Have oils and additives measured until needed. Leave workspace clear, and clutter-free.
This recipe is simple enough for the beginner. It has 20% coconut oil, which is fine since too much coconut oil tends to be drying. The castor oil is added at 3% as a humectant and the olive forms the major portion of the soap contributng over 76% to the soap. Olive oil is always a wise choice for making a hard, gentle on the skin bar of soap. The lye in this recipe is discounted at 5% which allows for any variation or inaccuracies in the exact saponification values of the oils. This ensures that all the lye will be used up in the saponification process and we will not have any lye (sodium hydroxide NaOH) floating around in the finished soap bars.
Gentle Olive Bar (makes 2 pounds of soap)
olive oil -- 24 Oz.
coconut oil-- 6.4 Oz.
castor oil-- 0.96 Oz.
lye (sodium hydroxide NaOH)-- 4.32 Oz.
Total= 32 Oz (2 pounds)
1. Open windows to allow fresh air to come into room.
2. Put on chemical mask. Use the mask when weighing the lye and while combining the lye with the water. Don gloves and protective goggles.
3. Get the two pitchers, one to weigh the lye and the other to weigh the water. Weigh water in one pitcher and weigh lye in the next. Add lye to the water and stir. Note: Never add the water to the lye or it may erupt into a volcano-like mass that spills everywhere.
3. Mix lye and water gently but thoroughly to dissolve the lye particles in the liquid. A whisk makes dispersing the lye in the water easy. Dissolve all the lye particles which sometimes stubbornly refuses to break up and may clump. It is important to stir gently enough so it does not splash everywhere.
4. After mixing lye and water, you will notice that the container is very hot; this is because the lye and water are involved in a chemical process that produces heat. The temperature is too hot to immediately combine the lye with the oils, so remove it from your primary soap making area and leave it somewhere to cool down a bit (100 - 120 degrees farenheit)- in an area that is inaccessible to children or pets.
5. Heat oils and melt any solid fats. The pot used should be large enough so that after adding the lye and water mixture, there is enough room to mix so that it does not easily splash out of the container.
6. Leave oils to cool to the same temperature as the lye 100 - 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Check temperature with thermometer, wiping off to check the next liquid or use two different thermometers. After both liquids have reached the desired temperature, add lye/water liquid to the cooled oils.
7. Stir with the wire whisk briskly, or use a stick blender, which speeds up the whole process immensely. We are mixing to reach trace. Trace is the point when the mixture thickens, appears opaque and shiny and when the whisk or stick blender leaves an impression after it is stirred. This will look similar to a gravy or sauce of medium to thick consistency. It usually takes anywhere from 15 – 40 minutes of stirring to reach trace. If using the wire whisk, after mixing for 5 minutes or so, take a break of a couple minutes and continue stirring. I usually stir in between doing other things. After making soap several times, one learns to gauge how much time is actually needed to reach trace in a certain recipe. However, for the first time making soap, it is important to be vigilant and watch for discrete changes that occur in the mixture.
8. If using the stick blender, keep the blender blades immersed near the bottom of the pot stirring in a circular and figure eights. What we need is to make sure all of the mixture is stirred. It is especially important to have a pot that is deep enough with ample headroom when using the stick blender. The stick blender causes more turbulence in the mixture, therefore increasing the risk for accidentl spillage. Turn the blender on after immersing it in the lye/oil mixture, so it does not splash out of the pot. Trace occurs quicker using the stick blender than mixing by hand with the wire whisk
9. After soap reaches trace combine additives, colorants, super fatting oils and fragrance or essential oils to traced soap and mix thoroughly, dispersing them throughout the mixture. Add the fragrance or essential oils last as some fragrances or essential oils cause the soap to seize or become very thick and unmanageable.
10.Pour mixture into prepared lined mold. I usually use thick utility type plastic that is cut into manageable pieces, to line the mold. Alternately, freezer paper maybe used as well as a kitchen garbage bag with the sides cut open so that it is flat. Cover mold with a lid (if it has one) or a piece of cardboard or a flat piece of lumber. Then insulate this with a blanket, by covering the top and sides with the blanket.
11. Leave covered soap in a safe place away from children or pets for 12-18 hours to saponify and set. After 18 hours, uncover and allow to sit in mold a couple more hours. If firm enough, unmold onto plastic, utility paper or a clean dishcloth. Don neoprene gloves and cut bars with a sturdy chef's knife or a soap cutter. Store soap on a platter or open box lined with absorbent paper and allow to cure for two to three weeks.
Sources for Supply and Ingredients
Lye - Sodium Hydroxide
Boyer Corp -- sells lye by the carton, which is very cost effective to buy. A hazmat form will be emailed or faxed to you to be filled out as per goverment regulations to ensure that the lye will be used for its intended purpose and stored according to safety regulations. Click Here For Website.
Columbus Foods located in Chicago, Illinois has quick shipping and excellent prices on base oils. Click Here for Website.
Natural Colors and Herbs
Emporium Naturals, located in Cohasset, Ma is my favorite place for natural soap colorants. Julia, the proprietor has extensive experience blending herbs to get that perfect natural color. Colors are sold in sets. For the person new to coloring soaps using natural colors, Julia suggests getting set #408. In addition to herbs for coloring soaps, she sells herbs for inclusion in soaps and other body care products. Click here For Website.