14 November 2010

Easy homemade soap

So, you want to know how to make your own soap?

Okey dokey here goes. If anything in this tutorial is unclear please let me know and I'll do my best to clarify. (Cos you know I'm such an expert now *cough*).

basic homemade soap
Please ignore stray dirt and hair. You can't get decent stylists these days.

You will need:
long rubber gloves
goggles
long sleeved shirt
apron
closed shoes

a 1 litre plastic/glass jar or jug
large tupperware/decor shallow container
large saucepan
measuring cup
scales
thermometer (optional)

CAUTION! Lye (caustic soda) is highly dangerous and can cause nasty injuries. Cover up, don't make soap with children or pets around, make sure your work area is well ventilated, with no distractions, and always add the caustic soda to cold water NOT the other way around. Keep your soapmaking tools just for soapmaking, don't use them for cooking any more.

Also, and big thanks to Jasche in the comments for this reminder, a very important item to mention for those new to soap making is to never use aluminum containers. The lye reacts dangerously. In fact the only containers/utensils that should be used for soap making is wood, glass, plastic (heat resistant), and stainless steel.


I know, it's daunting isn't it. But if you exercise caution and are sensible it's fine, really. Still interested? Allrighty.

Olive and Canola Oils Soap
Ingredients:
150g caustic soda
500g coconut oil (copha)
250g canola oil
250g olive oil
1.5 cups cold water
50g essential oil for fragrance (optional). Recommended oils are citrus, rosemary or lavender but you can experiment. Don't use food colouring as it's not stable, you can colour your soap with natural colours like tumeric etc if you wish (I haven't).

Method:

Pour 1.5 cups of cold water into the plastic or glass jar or jug. Measure your caustic soda into a separate container and slowly and carefully add it to the water, stirring continuously. Do not lean over or breathe the fumes, and don't touch the liquid (even with your rubber gloves on, and they should definitely be on by now). I use a pyrex jug and place it in the sink so any spills are contained. You could also do this step outside. The mixture will become very very hot. Place the jug into a sink of a few centimetres of cold water to cool to approx 40C.

Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan on low heat. When melted, add the canola oil and olive oils. Mix well. Allow the oils to cool to approx 40C too.

When the two containers are the same temperature, slowly and carefully pour the caustic soda mixture into the saucepan of oils. Mix thoroughly until the mixture looks like thick custard. When drops leave a trace on the surface, your soap has reached 'trace' and is ready. Add fragrance at this stage if desired and stir for another 10 minutes. (Note: I use a stick blender to stir as hand stirring can take ages to reach trace. However, be careful not to splash as the soap is still caustic at this stage. Keep the mixer submerged and alternate 'pulse' action with hand stirring. DO NOT use a handmixer - too splashy! Purists say you should always hand stir).

Now carefully pour your soap mixture into a greased and lined (with baking paper or clingwrap) large shallow container, put the lid on and wrap the whole thing in towels or blankets to insulate it while it saponifies. Leave wrapped for 24 hours. Next day unmould and cut into slices. Arrange on a sheet of baking paper and leave somewhere for at least 6 weeks to cure, turning slices occasionally. (Once your soap saponifies it is no longer caustic so you can handle it while it's curing).

This is my favourite recipe so far, and the coconut oil gives a lovely lather. I haven't yet tried my Castile soap that I mentioned yesterday (it's still curing) but will report back when I do. Update: just used it. It doesn't lather as nicely as soaps with coconut oil, but I'm liking it anyway. The poppy seeds are lovely scrubby scratchy additive.

lovely homemade soap

Notes: this recipe is calculated for the specified oils only. If you substitute oils or use different ratios, you will need to recalculate the amount of caustic soda by running your quantities through a lye calculator, like this one.

Most soap recipes use weight rather than volume measurements. Many are in imperial measurements, others are metric and some specify particular brands of fats or lye that are not available globally (most frustrating). There are heaps of recipes on the internet if you google. Here is the Castile recipe and another I'm hoping to try soonish.

Castile Soap
50 oz olive oil (I have a dual metric/imperial scale so was able to use this one)
7 oz lye
20 oz water
(and I threw in some poppy seeds)

olive oil soap with poppy seeds

Easy Beginners Soap (because it specifies cups rather than grams or ounces)
700ml water
270g caustic soda
4.5 cups olive oil
2 cups grapeseed oil
2 cups coconut oil


Some possible additives are oatmeal, honey, powdered milk, herbs, seeds and petals etc. The possibilities are endless really. Have fun and let me know if you try it.

Edited to answer some questions that were asked in the comments, so may be useful to other folk too:
All liquids are weighed except for the Easy Beginners Soap recipe which specifies cups of oil.

The ounces in the castile recipe are weighed ounces not fluid ounces.

I use a tupperware rectangular container, about 35cm x 25cm approx. Some smaller recipes don't fill the container as deeply, so I cut about 15 bars horizontally, while the larger quantity recipes (the olive oil one for example) filled the container almost to the brim and therefore I could cut the bars vertically (if that makes sense) and got about 2 dozen bars from one batch. You can also use one litre milk cartons or Pringles tubes as moulds.

Caustic soda is in the cleaning aisle of your supermarket or hardware shop. Mechanix is the brand I use.

No, the glass won't (shouldn't) crack. The liquid becomes hot but not boiling. I put my pyrex jug in the sink first, mix the lye solution and then drizzle cold water into the sink to cool the whole thing.

And finally, yes you should keep a stick blender exclusively for soapmaking. You really don't want traces of caustic soda in your next banana smoothie.

21 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Thanks so much! I'll let you know when I try one of these recipes. The lye is a little daunting, but the finished result is pretty tempting!

alice c said...

Must. Read. Slower.

(Got to bit about caustic soda and wondered what sort of soup required caustic soda and closed shoes.)

Hyena In Petticoats said...

I love that there is such a thing as that Lye Calculator in the world....

I'm determined to give this a go - I had sucess with the bread today and the vegie garden is thriving, so my conversion to urban farm is going well so far!

Next time I'm in Melbourne we should stage a raid on Shulas house - she sent me some jam when I was sick, and I may have a jam problem now. I can totally help you kidnap a duck. Plus, I've been popping in here to read for years, so we're long overdue for a cup of tea!

Leah xx

Frogdancer said...

Your top recipe is the same one I downloaded to try.

This past weekend was quilt making weekend. Maybe next weekend will be soap weekend...?

(After reading the above comment, can you imagine how hot lye soup would be? What a winter warmer!!!!)

Thimbleanna said...

Wow -- I'd love to try this, but holy cow, it sounds complicated! Do you have to worry about the glass container cracking when the mixture gets so hot? And can you put the container in the cool water in the sink before you put the lye into the container? And, did you buy an immersion blender just to use with your soap? Your soap looks beautiful!

Leonie Guld said...

Oh..you are a gem...thanks a bundle for this!!

Duzza Bear said...

Just came across your blog, and now I'm going to have to spend a long time perusing past posts. Thanks for the soap recipe, I might just try it as I have a smidgen of hippie in me! One question, which may be a dumb one, but where does one buy lye? I've never noticed it on the shelf at my grocery or hardware store, but maybe that's because I haven't been looking for it.

flowerpress said...

Oooh, its a bit scary!
Thanks for sharing all your information though Suse, makes it all seem a little more doable.
One day!

pinry said...

thank you! so very inspired by this. just wondering what size container you use to mould the soap, and how many bars you end up with from this batch ... it would be so good to not buy soap again.

silverpebble said...

Hmm. Injuries? I am a little scared , but then my jewellery-making involves a blow torch and molten glass sometimes so I need to bite the bullet with this soapy lark.

Tish in Colorado said...

You mention a metric/imperial scale for the Castile recipe. Are the oil and water fluid oz or do you weigh them? I haven't made soap with lye since a summer project in high school (maaany moons ago) and the last time I made soap with my kids it was just melting glycerine blocks and adding color and scent and pouring it in fancy molds so that doesn't really count since no real danger was involved. :)

Suse said...

Hi Tish! I weighed the liquids.

Some other answers: I use a tupperware rectangular container, about 35cm x 25cm approx. The smaller recipes don't fill the container as deeply, so I cut about 15 bars horizontally, while the larger quantity recipes (the olive oil one for example) filled the container almost to the brim and therefore I could cut the bars vertically (if that makes sense) and got about 2 dozen bars from one batch.

Caustic soda is in the cleaning aisle of your supermarket or hardware shop. Mechanix is the brand I use.

The glass shouldn't crack. The liquid becomes hot but not boiling. I put my pyrex jug in the sink, mix the lye solution and then drizzle cold water into the sink to cool the whole thing.

And finally, I used my existing stick blender, so now have to buy myself a new stick blender for making smoothies and soups :)

Sarah said...

Wow! This looks like another amazing craft to try . . . thanks for such nice detailed directions.

shadygrey said...

Oh wow, looks great, but a little daunting. Not sure I'm ready for this challenge Suse.
Hey, my word verification is 'balling'. Does that mean I get some sort of prize for rudest word verification or what?
Sorry, that was inappropriate. I spend too much time around teenage boys, obviously.

Suse said...

I had a similarly inappropriate word verification earlier today on someone's blog.

PASHING.

Anonymous said...

I would love to make soap some day. I'd make it with soil and rain water.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I love the sound of the Castile soap and of the oatmeal one ( a little oatmeal in a net bag swished around in warm water , ideally in a bath , soothes chicken pox and various other itchiness ) .
But I'm too chicken to even begin to dabble with caustic anything ! So I'll admire your beautiful rich , smooth soap from afar .

Jasche said...

A very important item to mention for those new to soap making is to never use aluminum containers. The lye reacts dangerously. In fact the only containers/utensils that should be used for soap making is wood, glass, plastic (heat resistant), and stainless steel.

shula said...

I've wanted to do this all my life...

shula said...

ps. and you KNOW i'm going to do it by hand. I'm a total purist.

Frogdancer said...

Do you know HOW LONG this takes to make when your old stick blender that you kept as an emergency dies without you knowing it, so you have to use a whisk?
An hour and a half.

Ask me how I know...