When it comes to soap, it’s not just hygiene that is at stake but also your own skin. While the market is flooded with various kinds of soaps that are allegedly specific to skin types, you can never quite be sure of the amount of chemicals in what you are buying. Often, a soap leaves your skin dry and itchy. You are then left with the task of raiding supermarket aisles trying to find what will be a perfect fit for your skin type. Which is why making your own soap ensures that not only is the soap you are using hygienic, it is also harmless. Read the steps given below to learn how to make soap.
Complexity Level: Moderate
Time required: 30 minutes
2. Fats – white, hydrogenated vegetable oil, like Crisco (42 ounces or 5 ¼ cups)
3. Canola oil (5/8s of a cup)
4. Castor oil (5/8s of a cup)
5. Coconut oil (5/8s of a cup)
6. Lye (6 ½ ounces or 185 gms)
7. Sugar (I Tbsp)
8. Essential oils
9. Protective eye gear
10. Rubber gloves
11. Cloth to cover your nose and mouth
12. A kitchen thermometer
13. Herbs, essential oils and colours of your choice
14. Wooden/Strong Plastic mold for the soap
15. A beater
16. A spoonful of olive oil to grease the mould
1. Protect yourself first:
- Lye or sodium hydroxide used in the preparation of soap is a highly reactive substance that shouldn’t be bought into close contact with the skin or eyes. Hence, it is always safer to cover yourself thoroughly and wear eye goggles when you are preparing soap.
- As it is a pure chemical, also ensure that you prepare the mixture in glass containers as lye tends to mix with aluminium, non stick and even corrode wooden vessels over a period of time.
2. Use an accurate measuring system:
- For beginners, it is better to stick to these instructions to ensure that you end up with the right mix, that leads to the right kind of soap.
- The fattening agents used in the soap mixed in the right amount with lye, makes for a sturdy soap that can do wonders for your skin.
- It is better to measure all the ingredients with the same measuring tool – either a weighing scale of a measuring cup.
3. Start with the fat:
- In the cold soap making process, that involves very little heating, it is always better to prepare the fat before in order to mix it with the lye. While this recipe using Crisco you can use most kinds of fat – like vegetable or pork fat.
- Next, take the suggested measurement of fat you are using and place it on low heat to melt it. You could use a large stainless steel vessel for this.
4. Preparing the lye:
- Dissolve the sugar in some water. Once it melts, add some more water to make the entire mixture weigh 17 ounces or an approximate of 2 1/4 cups.
- Before you pour in the lye, ensure that the room is well ventilated and your face is well covered so you don’t inhale any of the fumes that rise. Slowly pour the lye into this water. Stir very gently until the lye dissolves into the water.
- The liquid mixture will emit fumes and the temperature rises. In case at any point you need to cool this mixture, you should keep the container with the liquid in an utensil containing cold water. This leads to a drastic fall in temperature.
5. Preparing the fat mixture:
- Heat the caster, canola and coconut oils separately so they are slightly warm and in a liquid state.
- Add this to the fat mixture.
- Stir it until it reaches 110 degrees.
6. Mixing lye and fat mixture:
- The optimum temperature to mix the two would be when they are both at 110 degrees.
- As lye takes a while to cool, the best way to make sure that both of them are around the same temperature is to quickly place the lye container in another container containing chilled water just as the fat mixture reaches the required temperature.
7. Setting the soap:
- When they are about at same temperature, pour the lye into the fat mixture (never the other way around).
- Use a blender to mix the two together until it takes up a pudding like consistency. This process is called “tracing” as at the end of it, when you raise your blending tool, the dripping matter will leave a trace on the mixture, rather than melting into it immediately.
- You can add color, herbs and oils at this stage and stir it in.
- Grease the mold with some olive oil. For a homemade mold, you could use strong plastic.
- Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and a towel and leave it aside for 3 days.
8. Before you begin using the soap:
- Make sure that you wear adequate protection (goggles, long sleeved clothes, a cloth to protect your nose and mouth) when you undo the wrap.
- If it looks set, you can cut it into required shapes and cure it for 30 days. A well cured soap gives rich lather and becomes softer and milder as all the water in it drains away. To let it cure, leave it in a well aired space.
Frequently asked questions:
1. How to make green soap at home?
Following the cold process mentioned above is the greenest way to make soap. All these ingredients are available in all local shops and stores. With the exception of lye, which is neutralized by the fat, there are zero chemicals in the process. It also helps make large quantities of soap in very little time.
2. How to make exfoliating soap?
Exfoliating soaps can be made by adding “exfoliating substances” to warmed, liquid glycerin that is heated up on the gas on low flame. You can then set this in moulds and leave them to cool overnight. The soaps set within 3 days. In case glycerin is hard to find, you could mix the exfoliating substance of your choice with the herbs and oils at the last stage of soap making. Some substances that are highly recommended as good for the skin are oatmeal, dried lavender petals and honey.
3. Where to find lye?
Lye is also known as caustic soda or sodium hydroxide and is generally available with chemists in pure form.
- Soaps make for great hosting gifts. You can cut them into several pieces and leave them in cute baskets during parties.
- If you add oils that suit your skin the most (you could consult a dermatologist for this), can make the soap softer and give out even better lather. It also helps the soap last longer
- Minor variations to the soap making recipe and the right additional oils can also lead to this being a great substitute to shampoo.
Things to watch out for:
- While there are no particular restrictions that you can add to a soap, fragrance oils are generally a no-no as they may contain chemicals that may become dangerous when mixed with lye. It is better to stick to cheaper and more effective essential oils.
- Refer to books and other soap makers before you experiment with the ingredients. For example, changing measurements or finding substitutes for the fats interfere with the ‘saponification process’ and could lead to your soap making going completely wrong.