One of the projects I did yesterday was make two batches of cold process soap.
These were my second and third batches, so I am still a beginner.
I am no longer afraid of working with lye.
The book that is my main reference is Sandy Maine's book "Clean, Naturally". Of three soap making books I read I felt this one was the most comprehensive in text. Its shortfall is that it does not have photographs of each step of the soapmaking process (which I would have liked) because the soap changes in its appearance and those changes signal when additives such as grains or essential oils should be added, when more fats for superfatting must be added, and at what stage it is ready to be poured into a mold.
After I finished making the soap I did some web searching for more recipes and information. I was not aware that there are so many free websites giving directions, advice and free recipes. If you do a search on "soap making" and "soapmaking" you will find lots of websites with great, free information.
The recipe I used as my base was the recipe on this website, which is the same basic recipe as is in Sandy Maine's book.
I did get creative by changing the additives to the recipes. For one I added oatmeal which is a great exfoliator, and a bunch of different natural essential oils for fragrance, trying to use up various tiny bottles that I had on hand (some for over ten years). For the other batch I used a combination of blenderized oats, oats, and bran flakes (my own concoction) and an amber fragrance oil which I purchased a year ago just for this purpose.
I used those plastic bins/containers that everyone gets when they are admitted to the hospital as my mold. Yes, I made one giant bar of soap. It will be sliced into regular sized bars when the time is right for that step of the process.
Each big bin of soap was placed in a box with wool blankets and towels around it, to insulate it and let it cool slowly, for 18 hours. This morning before going to church, I checked on the soap and it was still warm. I was surprised to see that the soap with the amber fragrance oil had changed color to a deep brown hue. The scents that greeted me when I unveiled the soap was unbelievable. I removed the blankets and put a lid over it, to let it cool down for another 8 hours. I then exposed it to the open air. Tomorrow I will pop it out of the big mold and let it harden for a two days before slicing it into bars. It needs to cure for at least two weeks before the chemical reaction has the pH calmed down to a point where the soap is no longer caustic (so it won't burn our skin when we use it).
I am so excited to see how these batches turn out!
By the way one batch of soap makes about 35 bars of soap.
Last year when I made it without essential oils for fragrance, the oatmeal recipe had a really nice natural scent from the oatmeal. That ended up costing me 33 cents per bar, and that is by paying retail prices for the base ingredients--can you imagine how inexpensive it would be if I was able to buy the ingredients at wholesale prices? I am too cheap to buy homemade soap in stores to pay $2-6 per bar when I can make it at home for 33 cents per bar. Since this time I used essential oils which can be expensive, the cost will be higher. I bought the ingredients at Costco or the grocery store, using the cheapest ingredients I could find (store name vegetable shortening for example). I purchased the coconut oil through my friend's natural food co-op for a very inexpensive price (and it was organic to boot).
If you have ever considered making your own lye based soap I advise you to give it a try. You will end up with luxurious soap for pennies! The soap is wonderful to give as gifts as well.
To see my next step in the process, read this blog entry.
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