Miller's Homemade Soap Pages
Dear Ms. Miller,
A short while back, I attended an herbal soap making workshop. The instructor made it all seems sooo easy! I started shopping to gather all the ingredients I needed, ( quite expensive going the retail route ) and eventually got everything required for two of the eight recipes the instructor gave us to try at home. I also bought a couple of books, and started surfing the net and came to your site via askjeeves.com. It's amazing, how many different schools of thought there are on this one subject!
Well, I just got done doing the first-time-ever-soap-making-adventure-thing! Both batches look and smell good, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the next 24 hrs!! I do have to say though, a couple of times I felt a little overwhelmed, like when you make sauce from scratch and the lasagna right after the sauce for the very first time by yourself! Like the sauce and lasagna, it's not that it's so difficult, it just takes some time to put it all together! I also need to find a way to become a little more organized, but I'm sure that will come in time.
I wanted to say that I love your website! It is very informative, has lots of facts, and adds humor as well! This site is an incredible resource and for that I thank both you and the site's creator!
The question I have is this. In all the sites I've visited, books I've read, everyone, EVERYONE has much to say about how careful we need to be handling the lye, from the container, to measuring and then mixing. What I haven't found a lot of information on is how to handle the clean up of the lye! I found where you describe the clean up process for the stick beater. The instructor at the workshop I went to said to be sure and wipe out the containers well with rags, and to keep plenty of vinegar on hand in case of a spill or a splash on the skin. I used two stainless pans. I mixed the lye and water in one pan, and the coconut oil/shortening, etc., in the other. So the lye crystals wouldn't touch anything more than it needed, I put the pan on the scale and weighed the lye that way. What I had a hard time with, was figuring out how to clean all this up. I wiped out both pans with some disposable cloths someone gave me, wrapped the cloths in more clean cloths, and tossed them. I noticed later the pan had a sort of film on it, so I grabbed the vinegar, put some in the pan, added hot soapy water, and washed it that way.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is SO much information out there about the set up, preparation, the process itself, the molds, the variations in recipes, etc., but not a whole deal on the clean up! I am hoping you will add more to your site about cleaning up the mess, how other people clean up, what they use, (hot water, cold water, soap?, vinegar?) throw away rags or washable ones? Can you wash the washable rags in your washing machine after having gotten lye on them? What about septic tank users? What are the environmental effects? Does it hurts your pipes?
Again, I thank you for all the helpful information for the newbies like myself! I look forward to (hopefully) seeing yet another link/page about how to handle the clean up.
From Connecticut with thanks,
PS. If it turns out that you do in fact have more on the clean up on your site and for some reason I didn't catch it, I do apologize!
Thanks for such nice comments! That's me... just one person... although I've posted a lot of comments from others, I maintain and put all of the copy on the site except for things I've credited to others. Did you think someone else put the site on the server? Just curious if there was something you read that made you think it was more than one (maybe that my son designed the Olympic Views logo?). It's just a personal page... although I periodically get promos to put it on a place like Tripod... I would hate having those ads pop up whenever someone visited. Blah!
On the cleanup... you're making it too much work for yourself. I use a stainless steel 2 cup measure for weighing the lye (put that on a postal scale and use the tare feature to have it set to zero with the cup on... then pour in the lye carefully until it hits the number of ounces I need... my scale goes to 4 pounds. If you don't have the tare feature, you would weigh the cup and then calculate how much it will need to weigh with the right amount of lye poured in... maybe what you're already doing). I don't mix in this cup... but mix the lye solution either in a larger stainless steel pan or in a 1 quart Pyrex measuring cup. After using these... I just rinse them out with water over the sink and when all is done, I wash all the dishes with hot soapy water and rinse like usual. People buy the Lewis Lye specifically to put down their drains (within reason) for cleaning out their pipes and clogs, so you need not fear running a small amount down when you rinse out your lye solution/measuring containers. The thing you don't want to do is put a lot of raw soap down the drain... there's a lot of fat in there that isn't soap yet and it's not what you want in your drainage system. That's where wiping out the containers with a paper towel first is necessary... not on the containers that just had lye crystals or lye and water mixed. Am I explaining this clearly? I've had a busy week and am suffering from brain fog!
I hope they turn out great and have nice texture for you. It's amazing to handle the bars of soap and think what it looked like before the whole process... I love handling soap! (Am I weird?)
Happy soaping! I have a feeling you are on your way to getting hooked!
I need your advice. I am a beginning soap maker and attempted to teach some parents from my son's school how to make soap. We did great. Made 5 batches from Elaine Whites book, 70 soap recipes. But I just realized that I did not line the trays/molds that we put the soap into. These are not actual soap molds. I found these plastic trays at some garage sales.They are 1" deep and coincidentally a double batch fits perfectly in each one. They are made from plastic similar to the white ice cube trays, the hard plastic type. They are also fairly easy to flex just like an ice cube tray. My fear is that I will not be able to get the soap out of the trays without damaging the soap. If I flex the tray like and ice cube tray , I think it will squash (is this a real word??) the soap or change its shape. If I try to scrape it out like brownies, they will also get mushed (real word??). Please tell me you have a solution other than remaking the soap. We worked from 10:00 am till 6:00 pm and made 5 double batches for a christmas faire we are having the first of december to raise money for our little school. That barely leaves us with enough cure time before the faire. I am desperate. I am also looking for a inexpensive source for soapmaking supplies, fats, essential oils, and additives. I will be looking through your web site but wanted to get this mail out to you as soon as possible since I am desperate.
You're right to be concerned... it will be trickier than if you'd put one piece of saran across the bottom. But... you should be able to get it out with a bit more time. I would wait longer than the usual for just cutting bars... until you see the soap pulling away at the sides. Then you can try turning it upside down and "massaging" the bottom or flexing it slightly to see if it comes loose (it usually comes away slowly... working from the edges to the center). If it's stubborn, put it up and wait another day and try again. The bars will be a bit harder to cut the longer it sits, but you should still be able to do it if the texture of the soap is good.
Good luck! Let me know "how it comes out" for you!
Well, I love homemade soaps, hate and hate the pre-Christmas crowds at craft fairs this time of year. I had 2 - 1/2 weeks to kill between jobs and got this brilliant idea that I should make my own soap!!!
Okay, I have probably had smarter ideas in the past but now I have a bit of a problem. I got information from a bunch of web pages (all of which gave different instructions - one said hand stir slow or you will ruin it yours said use a mixer). I figured people have been doing this for centuries, so it can't be rocket science as long as I handle the lye correctly and use the right amount of oil/fat & lye and the correct temperatures I should be okay RIGHT???
WRONG!!! I stirred the stuff for two hours and it never got thicker than Campbell's tomato soup. At that point, I figured I better move on or I would be late for my dinner plans. I decided to pour this in my containers. If it separated, I could always reclaim it (you have instructions for that and it sounds less excruciating than standing at my stove for another two hours)! Now, it is time to unmold it (I think... again I have lots of different time tables for this) and let it cure. It does not appear to have separated, but gosh it is this sort of semi solid pile of mush. Not to far off from the Crisco I put into it.
Do you unmold it and cut it up when it is this mushy? Some sources say use dental floss to cut it and it would this, but it sure doesn't look much like soap. Or is it supposed to be hard when you unmold and cut it? And if so, any suggestions? None of the various sources covered this tidbit.
I do have one piece of promising news, when I went to clean my stainless steel pan, it did foam when I added water!
That doesn't sound good... kind of like slight separation. Soap like this will often develop ash during cure if it's what I'm thinking.
This sounds like the kind of soap I sometimes got when I hand stirred in the old days and used the old recipe. First, I'd run this recipe you used through the lye calculator at Majestic Mountain Sage (online) and see if the lye ratio was okay. You'd be amazed at the recipes that are out there that are not all properly balanced. I strive for 5% lye discount. If it's off, you'll know how much of something to add back in if and when you rebatch it. You can try waiting a bit longer to cut, but I have a feeling you will need to remelt this stuff and do a rebatch. If the texture is crumbly and weird when you cut it and has a tendency to break apart... that would be the thing to do. Might even be lye heavy and if that's true, you can adjust and add some oils in when you rebatch it.
That's good! It will certainly be soap in the end! I will say that if you get and use a stick blender (I have a picture on the website)... you will not get soap with this texture any longer (at least I never have since switching). It's a jewel to the home soaper. Really mixes that stuff thoroughly and you get a much smoother and blended final product. I could not believe the difference when I first tried it! Wow!
Enough of my going on about the stick blender!
Dear Ms. Miller:
First of all, I would like to say how very much I am enjoying your page. What a wealth of practical information! And so pleasantly presented... I have been to many soapmaking pages on the Internet, and not all of them are as friendly, helpful, clear, or just plan NICE as yours. The pictures of the mold your husband made and the soap-cutting process are particularly of interest to me. You should be very proud.
Secondly, I have a question. I am very intrigued by your directions and testimonials of making soaps with the stick blender. I wonder though, can a regular hand blender be used also? Or would the soap be beaten up too much? The mixers on mine are stainless steal, so they shouldn't react with the lye. It also has varying speeds, so maybe that will make it easier to blend thoroughly without hurting the soap? I am willing to buy a stick blender if that's the way to go, but of course I want to avoid spending the $20 if possible. :)
I hope that isn't too silly a question. I tried to find an answer on my own so I wouldn't have to bother you, but I can't seem to find anyone who says, "No, don't use hand mixers" or "yes, hand mixers work almost as well."
Thanks for such a nice email. Glad you have enjoyed the page!
These are not the same and YES... it's worth spending the $12 or so for the stick blender. It really whips things at high speed and works magic in the soap pot. The electric mixer (used for cake mixes, etc.) can be used, but doesn't have the same effect and is more likely to incorporate air into the mix if you are not careful to keep the rotating blades immersed. The same can happen with a stick blender, but it's easier to keep it toward the bottom or center of the pot because of the ways it's designed.
I should post this added note on the page where I talk about the stick blender so it's more clear to people such as yourself. Thanks for making that apparent. I'll put your email in my bulging "pending" folder and update in the near future. Might take me awhile since there are other things to finish first... but eventually I'll get it done!
Hi! At that point, mine is on the stove but the heat has long since been off (I usually remove the pan to a cooler counter until the fats reach the right temp, unless they were in need of warming to 110 degrees). I only turn the burner on for a bit if the soap seems to be getting grainy or looks to be losing too much heat. Then once it gets smooth, I turn it immediately off. When the saponification takes off, the soap will heat up on its own. When I'm mixing with the blender, I mix it for a minute or so after adding the lye and then turn it off and hand stir with it for a bit before turning it on again... and so on.
It varies by batch, but usually with fragrance oils, within the first 15 minutes to half an hour. Once in awhile, I'll have a batch take an hour or more to reach gel, but that's rare. My one box that I set over the mold has a crack between the flaps where it's taped with clear saran style tape. When I see that start to gather condensation, it's usually gelling. That might be cheating, but on that one it's my clue. The other one I cover with a piece of cardboard and I just have to tip it up a bit and peek. When the house gets colder, I might use some extra towels over the boxes once the gel has been reached and I've let them cool a bit... but not had to do that yet. Deeper molds will build up heat in the soap more than shallower ones.
Usually, anywhere from 18 to 24 hours is when I cut a batch. It needs to cool and firm up, but also it will usually start to pull away slightly from the edges of the mold when it's ready and as firm as I want it (only slightly... but not all batches are the same). If you have rebatched soap for some reason, you can cut it as soon as it has completely cooled.
Your site is wonderful..but reading the 'botched batches' page made me feel very fortunate for my recent success. :) I made soap for the first time yesterday, a Lavender/Oatmeal formula, and spent a whole day talking myself into actually starting the process. I had quite an investment in some premium ingredients, and was terrified of wasting them. However, after I got past the lye solution/melted oil temperature timing nightmare (giggle), I merely stirred the mixture in a large plastic bucket until trace, then added lavender EO, ground oatmeal, ground lavender flowers, and some extra olive oil. I have to say that leaving my mold undisturbed and insulated for 24 hours was very difficult indeed. I wanted to peek so badly. But my bars cut beautifully, smell wonderful, and are already starting to harden. Woohoo!! I hope no problems arise in the curing process now. But I do have a few questions...
I do own a stick blender, but am afraid that if I use it for mixing the soap I won't be able to continue using it in my kitchen for other tasks (blending cream, eggs, etc.). Will you tell me if I should donate my blender to my soap making hobby? On a similar note, I bought a large pyrex dish for the lye solution...should this be 'donated' to soap making as well? With the candy thermometer I used for the lye? I would appreciate your input on this...for the time being I am keeping these contaminated items heavily guarded. :) My last question: I would really appreciate a formula for a good, basic soap made with fairly inexpensive ingredients, so that I may rebatch, mold, and decorate it to my heart's delight. I got my hands on some homemade unscented soap that is great fun to work with, and I would like to have my own.
Thank you so much,
So glad your first batch went well! You can peek... the main thing is that you want the soap to hit the gel stage and not lose too much heat at the beginning. It's not like a cake that will fall or anything!
Go back to my site and read what I have in a box entitled "Special Utensils?". I have this in a couple of places... think the best one is the main page with the index on it... you will scroll down a little:
I use all my utensils for other kitchen tasks. Just wash them well when done. I clean my stick blender in a pot of hot soapy water by swishing it around while running. This really cleans around the blade. The rest of the shaft (which is removable on mine) can carefully be washed over the sink (I'm not supposed to immerse mine). My only concern about the stick blender would be if you got it so imbued with fragrance that it would taint your food products with that smell! Haven't had it happen... but you should clean it right away and thoroughly.
I really hate rebatching so I'm not sure what to recommend to you as a rebatching soap base. You can try it with any basic soap, but I think soaps with tallow in them are better rebatching candidates than those with all vegetable. If you want all-veg, you might try one that has some soybean in it... in cold process it stays smooth longer than ones with a bunch of olive oil. Don't know if that would translate to rebatch, but it's worth a consideration. You could try the Rachel's Tried and True and use some soybean in it as one of the oils where you have an option. Or maybe as is. Sorry I can't give you a specific... I REALLY hate rebatching! Consequently, I'm not much of an expert on the best way to do it!
If you already tried some homemade unscented that you liked, maybe you should try to find out what they used for the oils and fats. Then you can go from there.
Just for good all-vegetable soap... the one I make the most lately is the Sudsy All-Vegetable one. That uses coconut and palm and you might not want to buy palm, in particular.
THANX....for the info...A garden eastward has an awesome awapuhi seaberry...JUST made a batch and am ordering MORE of that oil 2nite,,,,,Here are my observations on soapmaking...
I've been reading your web page, and I'm hooked. I've also come to the conclusion that soap makers have my sense of humour... I haven't made any soap yet, but I can't wait to try. I go down to KwaZulu Natal every Christmas for about a month, and I'm going to start when I get down there. There is a community down there called the Midlands Meander. It's a bit difficult to describe, but it is a geographical area where many crafts people live and they have all got together and formed a community (quite extensive). They have produced a map, and there are artists, potters, weavers, all sorts of crafts. I have a house down there, and my mother lives in it. We have come up with the idea of joining this community by making soap. My mother hopes that she will be able to make a living out of it.
The reason for all this waffling is this: at the moment my mother works in one of these little places where they make paper. The woman who runs the place thinks the idea of making soap is great, and she suggested that my mother use the paper drying room to accelerate the curing process. My mother has already made a couple of batches of soap, and she is going to experiment with putting a few bars into the drying room.
I wondered if you had ever come across anything like this? WOULD it accelerate the process, or would it simply dry out the soap, and not cure it? What is the purpose of the curing time? It must have something to do with the PH values. I'm hopelessly ignorant about the whole soap making process, and I'd be really interested in hearing from you!
Hello! Nice to know there are soapmakers all over the world!
I have heard of trying to accelerate the curing process by using heat and drier air, but I'm not sure how hot you can go without warping the soaps. If it is just toasty but fairly reasonable temps, it should be great. You are right about the curing time allowing the pH to even out and for all the saponification to complete itself. Heat will hasten this process, but I don't know if you'd want to recommend use of the soaps before four weeks. If it is really dry in that room, it will be nice for hardening the bars up more quickly before storing them in a more closed environment or packaging... but the period of time for the pH to stabilize might still take at least three weeks, and better four. You can experiment with doing the "tongue" test on some bars if you like and see how soon the soap seems ready for use. I'd be interested in how this works out for your mother. Let me know what her observations are.... and if cure truly is accelerated by an appreciable amount... not just hardness.
Also... can you describe what a paper curing room is like... do they keep it warmer and run a dehumidifier or something like that?
You don't sound hopelessly ignorant to me! It's a lot of fun and if you get your feet wet, you'll be an expert in no time. :-)
Let me know how it works out for your mother.
Thanks for the quick reply. I have been able to find corn oil ( which I feel weird about using because we cook with it) canola oil, peanut oil, olive and "vegetable oil". I don't see any recipes which call for corn oil specifically and one of my sons is allergic to peanuts. I don't really know what is in the vegetable oil. The problem is that I haven't been able to find any fats which are solid at room temperature. I have not found any lard or shortening. There is Crisco but it is very expensive here. I have found a source which says they have coconut oil but it is in liquid form. I am very interested in the recipes that use palm oil and coconut oil. I am worried that if I use a recipe with mostly olive oil, I will be spending a long time stirring.
I have checked with a palm oil importer and they say that all the palm oil is exported out to China. I am currently trying to find a source in China. Unfortunately, the yellow pages in Hong Kong are not of the same caliber as the yellow pages in the states because advertising in it is so expensive that there are only three listings under oils and no listings under restaurant suppliers for oil . Therefore, I can't let my fingers do the walking in trying to find a restaurant supplier who may carry oils even though I am convinced that both coconut oil and palm oil exist in Hong Kong.
Anyway, I have printed out the recipes from you site for vegetable oil soaps. Are there any recipes there that I can use with the ingredients I have or with some reasonable substitution? Can I use the liquid form coconut oil (your site said that our fourth of the fats should be solid)? Although no one else sells coconut oil, lots of stores sell coconut milk. Can solid coconut oil be derived for coconut milk by say boiling and skimming? Has anyone ever tried this? May be I should be the one?
If all else fails, I guess I can get some of these things shipped from the US which will make it prohibitively expensive to make soap.
By the way, I think you are right. I am never going to use MP soap again. May be I will save what I have for my kids to play with.
I asked my friend, Rachael about this and here was her response...
Of course, your sons are allergic to peanut, so it's out. Corn oil works just fine as a filler oil and the sap number I think is .129... very close to that of olive. If they export all the palm oil, it might not be as simple as she thinks, but if you can get it from China, that wouldn't cost as much, would it? With palm to harden the soap you could work out a nice recipe with what you can buy in the oils. Coconut with the palm would be even better... a person can "render" their own coconut oil, but I don't know exactly how they do that. In the Philippines, it is a common practice. You would probably start with coconut meat to do that (and maybe just "sauté" the pieces in a pan on a low heat until the milk and oils come out... then skim off the oil) and I don't know how many coconuts it would take! I'd opt for finding some already done. The regular stuff that melts at 76 degrees would be better than the liquid kind... which has been separated from the whole oil and would be lacking some of the fatty acids that make a hard bar.
The other option for a hard fat is tallow. Are you against using some of that in the soap? It's a personal preference thing... but I make soaps with both. Rendered beef tallow as part of the recipe makes a very nice soap... as long as it's very clean and fresh.
When you scout around more, let me know and I can help you with a recipe if you need. I just use the Majestic Mountain Sage lye calculator on the Internet to work out the bugs.
After all the helpful advice, I thought maybe you would like to hear how I was doing. I found some "vegetable ghee" at an Indian provisions store. At first, they said it was made of palm (in solid form) but when I read the label, I found that it was really a mixture of vegetable oils, including palm. They don't even tell you the percentages. Anyway, because I had no other source at that time, I bought it and thought I would try to use it anyway. I eventually used it as if it were shortening (Crisco) because I finally did find a source that sold palm, coconut, canola and corn oils and vegetable shortening all in one place - it was a cooking oil distributor. No soybean though. The coconut and palm oil, when I bought it were both liquid but the palm oil was the viscosity of gritty heavy cream. The oil guy assured me that the weather was just too warm and that, in the winter, both these oils will solidify. I thought, sure, he'd say anything to get me to buy this stuff off him. He says it will take about 6 months for him to re-order the palm and coconut oils. I bought it all.
Anyway, this stuff was in bulk. The coconut was in a 25 kg drum and the palm and canola were in a 16 kg drums. It's hard to tell whether its reasonable or not. The coconut oil was about US$40 for the 25 kg and the palm and canola were the same price at about US$18 for 16 kg. I guess I will really have to be into soap making now.
I made Rachael's Tried and True recipe as my first ever batch and I kept notes. I think if there is a type of soaper I could be categorized as, it would be the too-greedy type. I wanted beautiful color and wonderful scent as well as great texture and lather in the soap - all in the first try. I had got these "stained glass colors" from Soap Supplies Plus and I was using lavender eo. So I thought I would add the purple colorant to the soap. Well, it didn't show up at all when I put it in. In fact, it turned the soap a light gray kind of color - really ugly. So, in desperation, I took out this jar of red powered colorant I had for making bath bombs and dumped some in there hoping for pink. Still no color and by this time, the soap was really getting stiff. I did not get the powered colorant mixed in very well before I had to pour or scrape is more like it, everything into the molds.
I felt kind of depressed about the color and so I took my kids out to dinner instead of staying around to watch the gray soap. When I came home about 3 hours later, the soap had heated up considerably and was now a beautiful purple rose color. The stained glass colorant which I could not see before had ended up in tiny speckles of deep purple all over the soap. The red powered colorant which did not mix in very well ended up as speckles of hot pink. All in all, the soap now looked very pretty.
I cut it up after about 30 hours and it cut really nicely. It is firm and kind of waxy and feels the way soap is supposed to feel, I guess, and I am amazed at how well it turned out considering what I thought would happen. The cutting job was not very good. For some reason , I can't seem to cut straight down. Even using a ruler to mark the size of the cakes, my knife seems to have a will of its own and my bars are sometimes the intended thickness at one end where I started cutting and either too thick or too thin on the other, where I finished off. Tell me this comes with practice.
The soap has been sitting around for about 4 days and is getting lighter in weight. Is this right? The scent and color remain stable. The texture seems to be getting a little harder. I just can't seem to keep my hands off it.
On Sunday, I made a second batch of soap - the Milk, Oatmeal and Honey soap. I used a fo called "Country Spice". Well, the milk turned the soap kind of a pumpkin pie color and the fo made it smell like old socks. Again, it started to stiffen up so quick that I ended up with big air bubbles in the small molds. The air pockets worked themselves out a little in the big molds. I cut it this morning and it was still a little soft in the middle so maybe I should have waited 48 instead of just 24 hours. They are getting darker and that weird odor is starting to fade, I think - or maybe its just my imagination. I think it will cure out OK but not smell so great. Because of the stiffening up, I had to cut off a lot of bumpy parts to get nice bars. Can I reuse these remnants to rebatch them with other soap ends and pieces even though they have milk and oatmeal in them?
I am going to keep on trying your recipes to see which work for me - after all, I am the proud owner of over 100 lbs of oil. By the way, this morning, the weather started to cool down a bit. It went below 80 for the first time in months and you know what, my buckets of coconut and palm oils solidified, just like the oil guy said they would.
One last thing to end this over long message. Have you ever heard of Beef ghee? I tried to get the guy at the Indian provisions store to tell me what it really was but he couldn't. He just said its nicer than the vegetable ghee.
Those sound like great prices! If I calculated right (online)... that's about 55# of coconut for $40. Here, I would pay about $1 per pound for it. Great also on the palm. That beef ghee stuff you mentioned might be like the beef shortening I've used on the animal fats page. It makes great soap that is really long lasting and a hard bar. Just a matter of preference as to whether you prefer vegetable over animal. When I use it, I use the sap number for lard in the calculator. Your description of the palm sounds correct and the coconut oil will melt at 76 degrees, so if it's warm there it would be quite thin. It's weird how hard it is when set but how it liquefies when you put it on your skin. On the palm... be sure when you use it to get an even amount of the hard particles and the liquidy stuff if it's in a melty stage... those are the fatty acids which tend to separate. The ones that make a hard bar are those granules. You just want to get the full spectrum so your soap will not be softer than you wanted or too hard! :-)
Sounds like it turned out well. The cutting will be easier with practice, but I still have trouble with it... some days better than others. I have trouble sometimes getting the sides of the "towers" evenly cut and also sometimes the soap wants to creep as I finish cutting the bar and it makes the bottom half a bit wider than the top. I hate that! Kind of depends on the batch a bit. You will get better at it. Can you get a cheap miter box there at a hardware store? That makes it a little bit easier. I have a picture of one on the Modern Procedures page.
Soaps with milk added to them (and other organic materials as well sometimes) will usually have a bit of ammonia smell at first which cures out in a few days. Fragrance oils can sometimes mutate or disappear in cold process soap. Once you find a good supplier of reliable oils for your soap... stick with what you know will work. I always have to trim off a few bumps on my vegetable soaps also... you can save those scraps to either remelt, grate up and make into soap balls, or cut into chunks and stir into another batch for a bit of texture and color contrast. If you do these things, you should not let the soap get fully cured before handling it if possible. It gets quite hard and harder to manage.
Congratulations! :-) The ones I like the best are the Sudsy All-Vegetable, the Favorite Castile II and the Beef with Coconut Oil. The Canolive II is great for molding. There are others that are nice also... these are just the ones I've made the most. The Canolive III (if that's the one with the palm) is harder and nice also... if I had palm, I'd make that version of Canolive.
Have fun! Think you'll be giving soap for Christmas or selling it one of these days!
Thanks for the follow-up. When I finally get around to updating, I'll post what you found there. Some other soapmakers in your area might benefit from you doing your homework.
Hi, Kathy. It's me again with another "new to soapmaking" question. I was wondering if sweet almond oil incorporated into a recipe would impart any fragrance to the finished bars, or would they have to be scented with an almond fragrance?
Also, I made a small batch of honey soap using Karon Adams' recipe for Honey Soap. The soap seems to be fine and is now sliced into bars, but just after it reached light trace, and before adding the coconut oil and beeswax, the mixture in the pot seemed to get a little lumpy and acted like it wanted to separate. I had my temps right for the lye and oils, and the finished batch seems fine, not dry or flaky and is evenly colored. I said, what the heck, and went on and put in the coconut and beeswax and turned on the heat on low for about 1 - 2 minutes and kept stirring. It set up okay and smells wonderful. Just wonderin if it was the brand of veg shortening I used. If was a store brand but with the same ingredients as Crisco, no more, no less. Any way, thanks for your time and help, as always. Thx.
Hi! I don't think sweet almond oil will do anything for the smell at all. If you want that distinctive scent, you should add some bitter almond fragrance oil... not the real essential oil, but the fragrance kind. The EO mutates (or at least... did for me and I've read as much in a couple of places). Was kind of rancidy after cure... blah!
From your description, I'm more inclined to think that it lost too much heat and was getting grainy on you... it seemed to smooth out after you warmed it up. The smaller the batch, the more likely this can occur, or if your kitchen is on the cool side (which mine is right now until we crank up the woodstove).
Glad it came out okay in the end. Honey soaps can be problematic and I've had a couple of batches separate ... reclaimed them all right, but it's disappointing when that happens.
I used to live in Washington State but moved away about 10 years ago. I just started learning to make soap but so far have only map M & P soap which I don't find very challenging. The trouble is, I live in Hong Kong and it is very difficult to get supplies out here. I had my first batch of supplies shipped out last week and the shipping costs were more than the order costs. Anyway, I guess the first question is: Do you know of any suppliers out in Hong Kong for fixed oils? I think I have located everything else.
Hi! Thanks for your nice email! I'll try my best to answer your questions, but I am sometimes guessing. ;-)
Not offhand, but what oils DO you have there? You could probably tailor a recipe to what you can find locally. Let me know what oils can be bought at the local markets and we'll go from there.
You also might try posting on the Latherings Forum and see if anyone else happens to know what is available to you there. Might actually be someone else from your region that lurks on that forum and can post a suggestion for you. I have a link for them on my soapmaking links page.
Second question: I would like to start off with small batches. Since all your recipes are for 8 lbs. of soap, could I just divide the ingredients by 4 and make 2 lb. batches? Should there be any adjustments?
You can do this... but the smaller the batch, the more critical accurate measurements are. You should have a really accurate scale (with decimal places) for weighing your lye and oils.
Third: I have located a supplier for lye which sells them in pellets. Now, I understand that all measurements are by weight so, does it make any difference that this is not crystals or flakes as in North America?
Actually... what I buy probably technically IS pellets. They are little round balls. Pellets or flakes are fine. You are right... it's the weight that is the thing.
Fourth: (and this is really stupid) I love the look of the sliced bars of soap as opposed to molded soap in general but I can't seem to cut a straight line, at least not with the MP soap. Short of building a cutter like the one you showed on your website, do you have any tips for cutting - like: best kind of knife to use, how to keep the bars squared and uniform in size and shape, etc.
Before I used the miter box thing, I would draw faint lines on top of the soap with a ruler before cutting. Then I would use those lines as a guide when I would slice through with the knife. A sharp knife with a fairly thin blade works well. I think I describe this way of cutting on the site... just can't remember if it is on the main page or on the soapy success one.
Fifth: I got my MP soap base at Soap Supplies Plus but even after adding the recommended amount of fragrance, I still think the soap smells "chemical - ly". How can I fix this. Also, I find the MP soap (glycerin) too soft, can I make it harder? How?
I have not used melt and pour so I'm not sure what to say. The best solution is to not use it... and make the soap from scratch. It won't be clear like the M&P but should have a nicer smell. Melt and Pour is softer than cured cold process and I don't know that you can do much to make it as hard. It tends to be almost flexible. That is because of what's in it and the process they use to make it clear. It generally has sugar and extra glycerin in the base.
I think I had better stop for now or else maybe you won't want to answer this email because it ran on forever. I sure hope you reply soon because I am quite nervous about getting started and feeling like I don't know what to do and there are NO live soapers that I know of in this part of the world. Actually, most people that I talk to about this don't understand why I just don't buy my soap like every other human being in Hong Kong.
Just in case I haven't mentioned it, your website was the most helpful and fun one I had explored. I started this adventure when I decided to learn to make bath bombs/fizzies for my baby who insists on having one with every bath but I think my real vocation is in soapmaking - if I ever get going.
Signed, Mother of Boys
Let me know what you find out about what oils you can find locally. Here I would check for a restaurant supply business and see what they had in the way of fats and oils (and just the market... if you have ethnic sections in a local market that's a good place to check also). If you can find coconut oil, palm kernel, palm, tallow OR cocoa butter, you can work with one of those to make the soap hard and use whatever oils you can buy for the rest of the recipe. Let me know what you find and I'll try to help you with a recipe. You might want to do more reading on the "Design Your Own Recipe" page to find out what the various oils do for the finished bar. It helps when you are trying to blend oils to get a good quality bar at the finish.
I'm making soap to give out at christmastime. I was thinking about making "soap on a rope" for the guys. Have you ever tried to make this? I've been looking for some when I go out shopping so i can copy but haven't seen any. How does the rope go through the soap? What kind of rope would I use? Where would I find it? Do you have any ideas o great lady of soapmaking?
Not feeling like a great lady this week... except for my girth! Too many pre-Halloween candies. :-)
I think nylon rope would be good since it dries out more quickly. If you can find some with a soft feel, that would be nice in the shower... as opposed to the hard stuff!
I've never done these... would think you might put the end of the rope loop in the soap with a knot on it. Not sure about molds... could even use a quart milk carton (tall and skinny) on its side and put several hunks of rope in it evenly spaced and then cut the blocks apart after it's set... something like that. I'm sure you'll think of something more creative than that!
Good luck! If you figure out something really nifty, email me and I'll post it.
Talk about falling into a pot o'lye and coming out smelling like a rose!
Yesterday was my very first try at making soap and I started with a honey/goat's milk recipe. Actually combined two I found on the Net. And let me say at the outset, I've *no* business making soap as I'm extremely math challenged - once going to bake an 8 lb. ham for 16 hours until my math error was pointed out - and for this very reason have put off making soap.
Had read your comment regarding "Red Devil" lye now coming in 18 oz. cans instead of 12 oz. Since one recipe called for "one small can of Red Devil lye," I knew I had to use only 12 of the 18 ounces... Have some kosher salt and figured that was pretty close to the lye granules, so measured 1.5 cups of salt into a container, noting measure. Viola! That's how much lye I needed!
Read, re-read, and re-read yet again the directions. Had all ingredients out and ready. Greased two large glass baking dishes with petroleum jelly. And then I began making soap.
Combined honey and water and added the goat's milk. Tossed in half a cup of baby oat meal, and the same amount of walnut meal, and then hauled the large stainless steel pot outside. I measured the lye, and slowly began adding it to the honey/water/milk/meal mixture. As I stirred this I noticed streaks of a HORRIBLE, VIVID ORANGE coming up from the bottom of the pan. As I continued to add lye, the entire mixture turned the WORST dark UGLY orange-brown I've ever seen! And there were particles of *something* in there, too!
It was at this point I realized I'd forgotten to get a thermometer! Nothing to do but continue as my lard was melting. I took the melted lard out to the cooled lye mixture, only to find I had a gooey, jelly-like mass of yucky orange stuff, though stirring it did liquefy it. I added the lard to the lye mixture (only later reading here the lye is supposed to be added to the lard...) and stirred my heart out.
Nothing. Not a d*** thing. Just a stinky, ugly, watery mess.
Figuring *something* hadn't been hot enough, put the pot on the stove over low-to-medium heat. And I stirred and I stirred and I stirred. Again, nothing. Back and forth, from the computer to the kitchen I went, trying to figure out where I'd gone wrong (besides not having a thermometer!). I read your comments on *weight* of lye (not volume as I'd done) and remembered I had a kitchen scale. Weighed remaining lye and found I was in the ballpark. Recalculated lye to lard amount and realized I'd forgotten half a pound of lard! (I *told* you I'm math challenged!) Melted the remaining half pound of lard and added it to "soap" mixture. Remembering I'd read here something about when you have too much lye, you need to not only increase the fat content, but also the water content. So, I opened the refrigerator, grabbed the carton of milk (cow's) and not even measuring, poured some into the mixture on the stove. Figuring I'd also increased the fat content by adding milk, I also poured in some water - maybe half a cup, again I didn't measure. And for good measure, I added another handful of baby oatmeal and one of walnut meal!
And I stirred and stirred and stirred this horrible orange mess that still reeked of lye. But it would not trace. Then I had an idea... Maybe it's because I was "cooking" it still? Nothing, that I could remember, had said, "Remove from heat." Disillusioned and very disappointed, but with a small flicker of hope, I carried the pot out onto the back porch and continued stirring. I thought my arm was going to fall off I stirred so much. And I so badly wanted my own soap, I imagined the mixture was coating the wooden spoon more, was not so watery, but more syrup-y. And so I continued stirring.
Was my mind playing tricks on me? The mess seemed to fold more as I stirred, was smoother with the splashes making a different sound...
And all of a sudden... It was thick! My spoon WAS standing up in the middle of the pot, all by itself! Laughing, I ran into the house and grabbed my two glass pans. In just the few seconds I'd been away, the soap mixture had thickened even more! I had a gloppy, very thick, oat-mealy looking pot of what I prayed was soap! The colour was a nice brown with darker brown flecks from the walnut meal. But it smelled terrible!
I filled the two glass pans, covered them with plastic wrap, and put them in the oven with the light on. I took my stainless steel pot and wooden spoon into the back yard to rinse out. As the cold water hit what little remained of the mixture in the pot, it quickly set. I laughed with glee, as I had SOAP! Then I realized, "Bet it's only the lard setting from the cold water," and my disappointment came back full force. Still, I hoped...
Took the pot and wooden spoon into the kitchen to wash out... And as I scrubbed the spoon, and then the inside of the pot... I had LATHER and little SOAP bubbles!!! I'd made soap! I'd done it!!!
Today, I've cut one pan into bars. Still smells kind'a lye-y/permy, but you CAN smell the honey and walnut! Smells like a cookie and is a pretty medium to dark brown, with darker brown flecks. It's a bit crumbly and a little soft yet, but I hope that will change as it cures. It doesn't burn when touched or you use it, and gives the softest lather/feeling to your hands. The bars are crudely cut with funny edges - you can tell they came from a baking pan - but they're mine!
I MADE SOAP!
Thanks for listening and you've a wonderful site. Keep up the good work!
Wow ... what a tome you wrote! I'm so glad it finally became SOAP! I had to chuckle as I read the steps you went through... kind of a "Soapmaking by the Seat of Your Pants: 101". ;-) Glad it finally saponified and I hope it's nice after cure. That ammonia smell will probably ease off in a couple of days. That's from the milk and the other organics you added. I probably would have put the oatmeal and nuts in at light trace and not into the lye solution(eeeuwww) but hopefully, it will all be the same in the end. Next time you do soap, you should be really careful with your measurements... I'm still not sure how the ratio on this will be... measuring lye by volume is an iffy proposition, but you'll find out after it cures out. The milk and honey in soap give a nice lather.
You might want one of those fairly inexpensive postal scales to weigh out the lye if you plan to do much more of this. Will give you more peace of mind.
Congratulations! I have a feeling that you have become hopelessly hooked like some of the rest of us!
I am new to soapmaking... in fact I made my first solo batch today. I used the all vegetable, no palm oil recipe. I halved the recipe, and added about 1 1/2 cups of applesauce in lieu of the water, and make a strong tea in the remaining water. It became a lovely, deep brown colour, so I then added cinnamon e.o., a dash of lemon eo, and some brown sugar for texture. So far, it looks and smells great, and looks like it is saponifying well!! Thus is my first batch of apple cinnamon soap!! I hope it works, and thanks for your informative web site.
Congratulations on your maiden batch! Your soap sounds really interesting. I'd be curious about how it smells after it goes through the 4 week cure... whether you can pick up the apple or not. The cinnamon (and the apple, for that matter... since it's organic) may go through an awkward stage during the first week or two, but should smell okay over time. Just mentioning that in case you pick up some weirdness in the scent at first. Organic stuff in soap can sometime throw off an ammonia smell also... especially when you use milk.
Let me know what you think when it's ready to use! Thanks for writing...
You would probably love the Applejack and Peel FO.
Your webpage is awesome, and your generosity in sharing information is just amazing. Thank you, thank you!
My question is: Which one recipe would you recommend for someone brand new to soapmaking? My preference would probably be to start with an all-veggie version, but the object is to "guarantee" success.
I've done the melt & pour thing and am would like to graduate to the lye thing. With typical newbie enthusiasm, I'm ready to quit the day job and become a full-time soaper/chemist! ;-) Fortunately, my S.O. is very patient with my flights of fancy....
You can use whatever recipe you like, but the Rachael's Tried and True is probably a good newbie one... ingredients are easy to get. The ones I use the most are the Sudsy All-Vegetable, Favorite Castile II and the Beef Shortening with Coconut.
I can't "guarantee" success because technique is important and it's a learning curve thing, but if you've done your homework and go in prepared, you should make a fine batch of soap the first time around!
Have been engrossed in your site for past 3 weeks!! Love it--better than Disney Land!! Ð Just ordered some stuff from The Garden Eastward...but their soapbase, I believe is just glycerin...does anyone sell the palm oils over the net?? or soap bases that ya just add eo's etc???? Lots of people sell palm oil... Shay and Company in Portland, OR sells it and so does Columbus Foods in Chicago. If you want smaller quantities, check out some of the other sites that sell soapmaking supplies... it will cost more but good if you only want a smaller amount. well I appreciate all of your help!! will send ya a bit of my first batch if/when it comes out...but first here are a few more questions
1. is "ASH" that whitish almost powdery looking stuff on the bars?? I actually think it adds to the "Homemade Look"
That's the stuff... some people leave it on and stamp cute little motifs into it, but I don't really like the stuff and think it usually indicates poor mixing and temps that were too low... no gel stage, etc.
2. Can the blanket covered soft-still-curing soap be moved??
As long as it doesn't slosh around. The main risk is losing heat too soon, but if that's not a problem, you can move it. It tends to put out heat underneath itself and if you set in on something cold, it's going to draw more heat out of it.
3. How long must the blankets stay on??
I actually pour my soap into a deeper mold and only insulate with a cardboard box turned upside down... but if you are using blankets, you probably leave them on for about a day or at least overnight if your soap sets up quickly.
4. About how big of a container does one batch of Rachael's Tried and True make/need for a mold??
The mold I used for my batches (and they are the same size as that one) is about 8.5 X 8 X 3.5". There is a picture on the site on the modern procedures page, I think. The dimensions could be different than this, but this gives you an idea. In this mold, the bars are sitting on end and I get 32 of them. If you had a shallower mold it would be wider and longer and the bars would be sitting on their sides. A REALLY shallow mold would have the bars on their backs, but it's better to have the soap deeper... it's more likely to heat up and gel that way and the overall quality and texture will be better. Hope you can visualize what I'm talking about! :-)
5. Can I mix fragrance oils w/ essential oils or will they separate the batch and ruin it?
I do it all the time. It's even better to mix them together in advance and let them blend a bit before using them.
I was wondering what exactly does Beeswax do to a bar of soap and if you know the negatives and positives of it. Thanks,
It firms it up when used and gives a nice soft gold color. People like the idea of it, but I don't know if it really adds much as far as emollients. When using honey in soap, some folks recommend adding a bit of beeswax to offset the tendency of honey to make the soap soft.
Don't really know of any negatives... actually I don't know much more than what I just told you! :-)
I just wanted to tell you how wonderful your site is. I also have a few questions. My first batch of soap were beyond terrible. My grandmother gave me the lard from her farm. It was not rendered, it was very old, and it had been sitting in her basement for who knows how long. All I had was a recipe with no specifics. I mixed the lye and water, then just threw everything in the pot. All the lard, EO, vanilla extract, poppy seeds, and lye-water. Well, you can guess what happened next. Wow! My kitchen turned into Yellowstone Park. Old Faithful blew her top!! Once that was under control, I continued on my journey. I had NO idea what trace meant, so I just waited until the top got puffy. After 1 and 1/2 hours later I decided to poor into my mold. It felt hot to me so I put it outside (I live in Wisconsin)for a few minutes. Two days later, after the smell was gone, I dumped it out from the mold. The top was hard as a rock, and the bottom was a weird jelly like substance. The next day I decided to go online and see what I did wrong. That's when I found your site!! Oh happy day. Now that I know what I am doing, I have a few questions.
I found "food colorings" at a local wholesaler, how well will that work? I also found 50lb container of coconut oil at a local popcorn company. If it is not pure, how do I clean it?
Well I've taken too much of your time already, Thank you so much for your site. Its the best one I've found!
Hi! I love soapers with a sense of humor! ;-)
Food coloring is an iffy proposition and I tend to avoid it. On the site you will find some info on colorants and I posted things from Rachael and other people about what worked for them. Generally... the food coloring is a disappointment... the lye does weird things to it. Might be exceptions, but until I'm sure what they are, I won't recommend it.
That coconut should be just fine as is... is it the yellow treated stuff or plain untreated white? The best is the regular white coconut because you don't have to work around all that screaming beta carotene color when coloring your soap. The yellow coconut will work for soap though... but I would hate to have to use 50 pounds of it... might eventually whittle down a 25 pound bucket!
Good luck! Do some more reading and I think you'll be ready to take the next plunge.
I was so inspired to finally make cold process soap after spending a year doing melt and pour glycerin soap. I went to a soap factory with my list for coconut oil and palm oil.
When I got home I realized they had given me "Palm Kernel" Oil and after reading your website, realize this is different than Palm Oil. I am trying to find a recipe that is super moisturizing--I know people going through chemo and the treatments dry their skin out so terribly. I would like to donate some soap to cancer patients to help them with this problem.
Do you know of any recipes I can use that requires Palm Kernel Oil, Coconut Oil (since I now have quantities of these lol) and other easier to find ingredients that might result in a super moisturizing bar?
Thank you so much for any assistance.
Hi! You should probably spend some time looking at the chart on the "Design Your Own Recipe" page and compare the properties of the various oils. Palm Kernel isn't really the best substitute for palm because their properties are a bit different but it makes really hard and nice soap. Its qualities are more similar to coconut oil but it's sap value is lower. Since their properties are similar, I would not tend to use those both in the same recipe... palm and coconut are nice together though. Maybe later on you can get some palm. What you can do is to substitute palm kernel oil for coconut in one of the recipes on the page and recalculate the lye by using the Majestic Mountain Sage online calculator. It will take more ounces of palm kernel to replace the coconut because they have different sap values (use different amounts of lye to saponify)... the coconut being higher. An easy recipe to start that is nice would be the Rachael's Tried and True and you can use either coconut or palm kernel (after adjustments) in the recipe. I like to use a 5% lye discount for mild soap that is not prone to spoil in storage. If you want a slightly richer lather, you can add in a couple of ounces of castor oil after incorporating all the lye solution, or calculate it into your recipe and add at the beginning... either way is fine.
Hope this is not too confusing! I hope your first batch is a great success! You are generous to want to donate some to others. I know another fellow that does that as well.
Ok, I know people are using PVC pipe for soap molds because I see them in gift shops, but, how in the heck do they get the soap out of the pipe? I have tried unlined plastic litter boxes and couldn't dig it out, so how are they doing it with a 3" pipe????? I put tons of shortening on the inside, but it won't come out. Perhaps they cut them lengthwise and tape them to pour and then they'll come apart easily after the soap hardens???? Any ideas?
There have been tons of different methods shared on places like the Latherings Forum (go to their archives and look up this subject... they are on my soapmaking links page) and different soap lists. Some use the method you mentioned, but the one that sounded nice to me was to slip a tube of freezer paper inside the PVC (plastic side toward the soap) and leave a section to hang out on the outside and to use as a handle in order to slide it out (you'll have to carefully pour through this section and then could twist it shut at the top... or maybe don't twist it!). If I were to use PVC pipe (which I have not) that would be the method I would try first. If you do this, you would not grease the inside with anything... that would just gum up the paper.
Remember me, the one that tried to get a message to you for so long, Fran.The batch of soap I told you about was just cut and the swirl came out beautiful. It is a beautiful opaque white with the prettiest green swirl through it I have ever seen. I used the Cocanolive recipe, green crayon for color and an FO named Eternity (the soap has a nice clean scent like Fresh Start soap).
Wanted to share this with you. It is all so exciting! I'll keep you posted on the outcome of the next batch (this week end).
A happy soaper,
Hi there from Florida: I just returned from a vacation to Washington and Oregon and am anxious to try my hand at soap making. Checked around my area for these products and could only find olive oil at Sam's Club, maybe some coconut oil at one of the health food stores. No Asia mkts. had these items...So I need to mail order from somewhere...Alas if I can find the name of a company that makes these products I'll try to entice them to order some for me...I'd appreciate any information to this effect. Thanks, Joyce S. in Sarasota, Fla.
Not sure who the closest mail order supplier would be to you... Columbus Foods in Chicago sells soapmaking oils in large quantities and had good prices... shipping is a factor. You might want to check some of the other suppliers and see where they are (I have links for many on my soapmaking links page). Also... visit the Latherings Forum (also on my links page) and post where you live and your questions and someone will probably respond who is in your neck of the woods. They are very helpful there.
Ladies have you ever heard of a company called Columbus Foods? I've been buying from them in drum size. So I make 40 bars at a time and turning out three batches of three different scents. My cost per bar is well below a dollar. So when the ladies come to me for their produce (thompson seedless .75 lb. tomatoes .25 lb. bell peppers 4 for dollar melons .10 lb.) they say OH .98 a bar I'll take three.
I have them linked on the soaplinks page and they are a great source of soapmaking oils if you are living on that side of the country. Thanks for sharing!
Well, last night I made my first milksoap and...it was a success!! I put it in individual molds instead of my "box" for fear that it might overheat and erupt--from what I've read, milksoap can get quite hot. I also stirred it by hand to allow heat to escape (vs. the stickblender) and used COLD, "slushy" goatsmilk powder that I mixed with water and added at the very end. I also melted some shea butter with some honey and threw in that and some pulverized oatmeal before the goatsmilk. This was at light trace and by the time I poured it into my molds it looked like golden applesauce. I was too chicken to try a big 8# recipe so used one that I found on another website which yielded approximately 4# or so. It also called for sugar and salt in the lye water. You were right, the oatmeal milk and honey fo smells heavenly! Perhaps with this experience under my belt, I'll have the courage to use use your recipe because I would like to make a bigger batch and use my box mold--that mold is just fantastic. Thanks soo much for sharing your instructions for it!!
This week has been filled with making soap every day in preparation for a craft fair Nov. 13. Consequently, I have six baggies of different colored soap shavings that I'd like to use in soap. What's the maximum amount of shavings that I can use in an 8# batch? Is there any recipe of yours that would lend itself better to doing this? Any tips on how I can avoid or minimize airpockets caused from adding the cooler soap bits to the soap? Would warming the shavings in the microwave a bit help?
Also, I recently read on a soap forum that once the soap cools, hardens, and is able to be removed from the molds, it is completely saponified and actually safe to use--that is presuming there is no free lye oozing from it. It was said that "curing" the soap is the drying out process which allows for a harder bar of soap which therefore lasts longer. What do you know about this? Is this true? My personal experience seems to think it is, but since I'm rather new to soapmaking, I don't know. If it is, could I package my soaps after say 2-3 weeks when they seem to be nice and hard? This is why I LOVE your recipes; They use minimal amounts of water and are hard practically right from the start-plus they lather wonderfully! How long do you generally leave your soap sit before you store it?
Let's see any more questions? Humm... my mind is blank right now, but I'm sure the moment I send this off I'll remember that other one or two... ;-)
As always, thanks!
Hi! Glad your milk soap turned out okay for you. It can be problematic... but think your taking care with temps probably paid off. I'll have to watch that next time I do one.
For an 8 pound batch, you could probably use shavings from 3 to 4 previous batches (the usual amount of trimmings... beveling shavings, ends that are cut to straighten the bar). If you don't ever cut the ends and just have shavings from doing all the edges, you could get away with a bit more. I made a 1.5 sized batch of soap before and added the scraps from 18 batches and then poured into two box molds. This makes it FULL of shavings with enough base soap to hold it all together well. I cut the chunky pieces up smaller with a knife first. Warming the shavings in a very SLOW oven can be a good idea, like you thought and also having the base soap a bit warmer than usual to allow for heat loss. Also... I add a bit more water when using a lot of shavings than if I weren't... they will absorb some moisture from the base soap since they are drier. Air pockets can be avoided if you stir them in thoroughly before pouring and I wouldn't use shavings if you think you're going to have a super thickening problem with a fragrance oil. Essential oils usually behave themselves, but some EOs can really get thick quick! I don't know if any one recipe is better than another, but the soap needs to be fairly thick at pour to keep the other soap chunks suspended.
You can only use your soap right away if you are talking about "hot process" soap (boiled completely... not the simple rebatching, but more involved and prolonged than that). There is a list devoted to hot process and a couple of pages that describe the process. The extra heating completes the saponification. In cold process, you need to let it age for this to finish and the soap would be irritating if you used it too soon. Hot process is ready right away (once it dries out some) but I don't think it's as pretty... in a similar way that rebatched is not.
Depending on the batch, I let my soap sit for around 3 or 4 weeks before I put it into drawers. I used to put it into open ziploc bags after two, but had sweating problems with some batches that way.
Kathy, I'd just like to say thank you for everything. Your advice and your web site are really helpful. It seems like all my soap needed was more time to dry, I suppose from too much water. It's not completely dry yet, but the dry scrapings and such lather really well now, no slimy feeling or anything! The best advice you've given me was the very first, on my first batch, which was to never throw my soap batch away. Well, I may have had to reclaim my first couple batches two or three times, but my hard efforts paid off. I was happy to find this soapmaking hobby, excited by the idea of making and creating something useful and yet personal. I am so glad I found your web site for the support I've needed since then, otherwise I probably would've thrown out the batches I've made and been miserable and blue. I tell ya, I can see why some call this an addiction, really. Soapmaking is very fulfilling and rewarding. Thanks Kathy for your inspiration.
PS--I think the reason my first two basic batches didn't turn out right the first time is because they cooled too quickly. I made my first one last fall and my second one this fall (why the year apart? since then I've married and bought a house...). I keep the temperature at 68' and there are no 'warm' places really. All I was advised from my book was to wrap in a towel. I kept it on a table top, and I don't think the towel did much. This last time around I placed it on the spare bed and covered with blankets. Already I can't wait to make my next batch!!
PSS--I'm getting the stick blender for Christmas!!
(Read below to understand this next paragraph better)
actually i was using a real sharp knife as an ice pick to separate some frozen dough and my hand slipped down the handle, cutting only my little finger (a miracle). it cut through the tendons so had to have surgery, wear a cast for 3 weeks and next week will be the third week in a splint and the 3rd week of phys. therapy. i have 6 more weeks of pt. i am 60 yrs old and this is the first time i have had stitches as the result of an accident and 1st time i ever had a cast. thought i would share this story so others might be more careful. the price is high for being just a little careless sometimes.
i had rendered some lard (according to everyone's instructions i did not do it right, i put it in a big pan without cutting it and cooked it on low for hours, probably lost a lot not to mention the time.), before my accident. i had also purchased several pounds and 2 cans of lye. i priced lye at several places before i purchased and the price ranged from 2.69 to 3.69 for same size can. every time i go to town i try to pick up something. got a 33 gal stainless steel pot with lid at dollar general for $10. i have picked up several bottles of fo and eo, so i will be ready one of these days.
thanks again for your help. jan
Subject: Signed Guestbook
I am a beginner in soap-making, and living in Viet-Nam. Cashew nut oil is readily available here, and very cheap. I would like to use in addition to coconut oil and make my own recipe. Can you provide me with the saponification number for cashew nut oil?
How nice to hear from you! You're my first known emailer from Vietnam. I'd be interested in hearing how your soap turns out for you.
I found some information on Cashew nut oil on the Alban Muller Page, but no SAP number. If I had to guess at one, I'd try it at the .136 to .138 range and see how it is. I usually make my recipes at a 5% discount (when using the Majestic Mountain Sage lye calculator). If you use their site to calculate the lye amounts, you might try the Almond Oil (.136) or Cocoa Butter (.137) field since I'm sure they don't list cashew nut oil.
Here are the other stats on Cashew Nut Oil for analyzing its properties:
Good luck with your recipe. I hope it turns out well for you! :-)
This may sound very strange, but a really good place to find sodium hydroxide is a photo lab that processes slide film. I am a lab manager, and we use it to correct the pH levels in our e-6 slide processor. Some of the chemical companies that we use as suppliers sell it in liquid form, or as in our lab we bought 50 pounds of flake several years ago. (we paid about $50 for the bag) There is no way that we will ever use that much sodium hydroxide flake in our lab (in fact we have only used about 5 pounds in the last 2 years). Just go to your local photo lab (an independently owned lab would probably be best) and ask them if they do e-6 processing in house, if they do ask them if they would sell you some sodium hydroxide. I am sure that they would be willing to get some of the stuff off of their hands and probably wouldn't charge you that much. You can also ask them if they would special order some of the stuff from their lab supply company which should stock it since it is a very necessary chemical in any photo lab that processes slides. The lab may give you some strange looks, but they would probably be happy to do it. Hope that this helps.
Subject: scented oils
I just sent you an email but forgot to mention that I have also found several good sources for fragrance oils. One of them is Victorian Green House in North Carolina, (they are very cheap $3.00 for 2 oz.) another place is Candlechem they are not as cheap as Victorian Greenhouse, but they stock over 200 different types of scents and are worth checking out, and another is the San Francisco Herb Company. They cater to crafters of all sorts and I have found them to be the cheapest source of dried herbs and some essential oils by far ($2.50 for a pound of chamomile flowers!!!) A great place for finding bees wax is to go to the grocery store bulk food section, and see who supplies their bulk honey. Call information and find out the number and ask them to sell you beeswax I get mine from a local supplier for $3.75 a pound, just make sure that it does not have dead bees in it (some of the cheap beeswax that I have found is absolutely filthy) The grocery store is also a great place to buy some of the more exotic oils, like walnut and grapeseed, and small amounts of coconut oil. I have found just the good old grocery store to be much less expensive than the health food store that stocks them.
I love your website. I've cruised around the "net" quite a bit & keep coming back to yours. I'm a new "soaper" and have overloaded my brains with soap making information...I must be an addict because I can't seem to get enough!
Hi! Thanks for you nice comments about the website. I'm glad you've enjoyed it!
I have a couple of questions (well actually three) & I know you'll be able to help me.
1. I really don't want to mess with rendering fat/tallow but have seen some recipes I'd like to try that call for tallow....so, can I use the recipe & substitute the same amount of 100% veg. shortening for the amount of tallow?
You can't do a straight substitution because the sap values are different (tallow uses more lye). Also... tallow makes a really hard end product and the shortening will not have the same impact. You might see if you can find a source for tallow shortening... a blend of tallow and cottonseed or tallow and soybean. I've seen cans of that at discount grocery stores. It is good for frying, etc. When using that, I use the sap value for lard in the Majestic Mountain Sage calculator... not the same as straight tallow. It makes nice soap though... I have a recipe or two posted in which I used that (on the animal fats page). If you want a whole 50# block, you can probably find it at a restaurant supply outlet! That's where I got mine... it was called "Fri Al".
2. Can you explain what it means when someone is talking about blending essential/fragrance oils and they say "top, middle & bottom notes"? Is it a formula & if so, how do you determine which are top, middle & bottom?
3. Is there is a list of blends that other people have tried & posted on a website?
They are talking about the nature of the fragrance and how fast it dissipates in the air... scents that do that more quickly are usually stronger to you at first and hit your nose first. Bottom notes have more staying power after the top notes have faded and anchor a blend. Middle notes are kind of in the middle (silly)! For a nice chart, go to Nature's Gift site...
She has a basic chart up showing what notes some of the more common oils have and talks a bit about scents and blending on her site. Another good site to go to for blends and info about essential oils is A Garden Eastward. I have a link for them on my soapmaking links page.
I hope this gets you started and clears up some of the confusion about the "notes".
Thank you so much, Kathy, for your generosity in providing information to all of us soapers! You are a blessing.
We are new to soapmaking - but are having so much fun so far. One question we do have is in regards to Palm Oil. We purchased some at an Asian Food Market (we live in Winnipeg, Canada). The Palm Oil is a bright orange in color, hence our soap is always bright orange! Did we buy the wrong kind? Is there white or clear Palm Oil and different qualities?
No... not exactly. You are lucky you can find it locally at all. I have to mail order mine in pails. What you have can be used, but it limits your color choices. You can get bleached refined palm oil that is more of a creamy color. It allows you to make soap that is nearly white and offers other color choices. Less smell also, I'm told. You can make some pretty brightly colored soaps with what you already have and I would capitalize on its screaming color qualities! :-)
One other question, to make a soap with a heavier lather, we read that you can use Castor Oil. Do you add the castor oil along with all of the other oil ingredients or replace some of the oil ingredients with castor oil? When do you add the castor oil, at the beginning or after it traces? Would really appreciate hearing from you.
Art & Marg
If you just want a touch of castor in your soap... 1 or 2 ounces, you can add it at the end before trace (when all is blended well but before actual trace happens). I generally use about 4 oz. per batch when I do use it and add it as part of the base oils... doing a calculation for it on the lye calculator. I like the end product to be about 5% lye discounted so like doing the calculation with the castor included.
Happy soaping! By the way... the castor will make the lather really slick and silky... kind of like shaving soap. If you want more lather of the profuse and "squeaky" kind, you will want to use an appreciable amount of coconut oil in your recipe. Lots of options are available!
I finally received my soap cutter from Kathy Sedler. I like it - it saves time, is very adjustable for slabs of soap (the best feature). The only draw back is that you really need 3 hands to adjust the lines of wire. If you are not holding the screw while tightening the bolt, the wire will twist and if not careful it will pop. (Speaking from experience - as soon as I got it I broke one!) An extra hand is needed to hold the bolt or wire at the bottom so it will stay exactly where you need it to. It beats cutting with a knife - but I still think somehow there is a better way.
The site is: www.motherearthherbs.com/imagescutter.gif if you would like to look at it.