How to make Natural Soap

INTRODUCTION TO MAKING COLD PROCESS AND HOT PROCESS SOAP

There are 4 different methods of soap making – melt and pour, cold process (CP), hot process (HP) and rebatching.  Melt and Pour is a pre-made base and is the easiest to make.  All you do is melt it, add oils/colour, pour into the mould and you’re done. The re-batch process (RB) of making soap involves using cold or hot process soap shavings. CP and HP soap involve making soap from scratch.

The type of soap Grandma made is called “Cold Process” soap. Soap is the product of a chemical reaction known as saponification. In order for saponification to occur, an oil or butter (this could be coconut oil, castor oil, olive oil, shea butter, etc.) is mixed with a strong alkali eg lye/caustic soda/sodium hydroxide to form a type of salt. The salt created from this chemical reaction is your soap!  The oil, sodium hydroxide and water create a chemical reaction, which produces “soap”, glycerin and water. It’s this glycerin in the finished product of handmade soap (about 25%) that distinguishes it from commercially made soap (the glycerin is usually removed in commercial soap). Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the air to your skin, which helps keep your skin hydrated.

CP must cure for a minimum of 4 weeks. This is to ensure that all the water in the bar has evaporated, the soap is at its mildest, and thus the bar is hard enough to use. HP soap is similar to CP soap the only difference is the soap mixture is heated or cooked to accelerate the saponification process and decrease curing time however it’s difficult to do swirls or layers with HP as the soap is much thicker.

This tutorial explains how to make soap using the cold and hot process.  The first part of hot process soap involves a process similar to cold process so it’s advisable to learn the cold process first and then progress onto the hot process method.

Note – Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide/caustic soda is an extremely caustic chemical that can cause nasty burns if it contacts the skin. Pouring water over a lye spill will help dilute it. Always wear protective gear – goggles, gloves and long sleeved clothing when you are dealing with lye and fresh soap. Leave as little unprotected skin as possible.

Each type of oil needs a certain amount of sodium hydroxide to saponify it.  Soapers use a lye calculator eg http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp to calculate how much lye is needed to properly saponify the oils chosen.

When soap is made properly, there is no lye or sodium hydroxide left in a cured bar of soap. The process of saponification changes the lye and oil into soap and glycerin, with a pH of approx 8.5 to 10 when fully cured (about 4-6 weeks).  When making soap, do use only stainless steel or enamel utensils. Chipped enamel pots or any other metal will be eaten by the lye.

EQUIPMENT AND INGREDIENTS FOR HOT/COLD PROCESS SOAP

If you live in the US you can buy oils from Walmart (Louanna brand of coconut oil in the baking oil section), Sam’s and Costco.  If you choose to use Palm oil, spectrum organic shortening is popular but do check the ingredients label as the new version might not contain solely palm.  US soapers usually buy their lye online from suppliers such as Brambleberry (they sell great neon colors and silicone liner/mould), essentialdepot, wholesalesuppliesplus, soapers choice, thesage.  You can also buy lye locally from Ace Hardware – “rooto crystals of household lye drain opener.”   Good stick blenders include:- Hamilton beach from Walmart – http://www.walmart.com/ip/Hamilton-Beach-Hand-Blender-w-Chopping-Bowl/14711461 or from amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-CSB-76BC-SmartStick-200-Watt-Immersion/dp/B000EGA6QI/ref=pd_sim_k_30

The suppliers listed below are located in the UK, unless specified otherwise.

  • caustic soda/lye/sodium hydroxide – Robert Dyas call it drain cleaner- £2.09 – but double check it’s product code 121869 as that one contains 99% sodium hydroxide – see http://www.robertdyas.co.uk/P~121869~Caustic-Soda-500ml If there isn’t a Robert Dyas near you you can either buy “value caustic soda” own brand from homebase (cleaning section) or order from soapkitchenonline or justasoap.  (In the US you can buy online from a soap supplier or buy from ace hardware – see above).
  • coconut oil – KTC brand from tescos 500ml for £1.69 and sainsburys also sell it.  You can also buy it from www.gracefruit.com, soaposh, justasoap or soapkitchenonline.  (UK soapers have warned me against buying palm oil from soapkitchen and gracefruit as their palm is unhomogenized and this may lead to your soap having white grainy spots).
  • Colour – Oxides and ultramarines work well in cold process soap as they do not bleed or fade.  You can buy from http://www.gracefruit.com/cp-soap-colours/ or https://www.soapkitchenonline.co.uk/acatalog/Pigments_and_lakes.html but if you order from soapkitchen check it says “oxide” or “ultramarine” in the product name otherwise it might bleed or fade. Soaposh also sell colour which does not bleed or fade under “oxides & pigments”. You can also use some types of mica.  In the UK http://www.micamoma.com/ also sell mica as well as the usual suppliers. If you prefer to use natural colourants be aware that most will fade with time due to the high pH of the soap. Some also bleed. 3 natural colours which I have tested and don’t fade are bourneville cocoa powder (brown), rose clay as pink colour, activated charcoal as black. You could also try alkanet (pale blue/grey depending on the ph), madder root (peach), orange peel (orange), blue indigo powder, moringa leaf powder (green).    (You can also buy brambleberry in the USA’s soap supplies in Europe – http://www.youwish.nl/index.php? – although the prices are quite high, they sell excellent non-bleed neon colours, pearly white mica, crinkle cutter and the fabulous silicone liner which goes with the wooden mould.
  • Decoration – The suppliers mentioned above also sell calendula petals and Himalayan salt which make a nice addition to a soap.  (As decoration you could also buy poppy seeds from a supermarket and skin safe cosmetic glitter .)
  • Olive oil from the supermarket – but do check the word “pomace” isn’t written on it.  If you already have olive oil check it’s no more than 5 months old already. You’ll need at least 1 litre.
  • 3 or more plastic jugs – including one which is very large eg 2 litres.
  • Essential oils/fragrance oils – do check these are cosmetic grade and skin safe and check the recommended maximum usage.  Essential oil – lavender, tea tree, lemongrass, patchouli, rosemary or peppermint essential oils work really well in soap. Citrus also work but fade quickly so folded ones eg 5x or 10x overcome that.  Floral and spicy (eg cinnamon, clove) essential oils and most fragrance oils tend to accelerate trace dramatically so aren’t recommended.  Others can discolour soap.  You can also buy the following fragrances (these aren’t essential oils but are synthetic fragrance oils) from http://www.gracefruit.com – apple pie, love spell, cherry blossom, honeywash, tangerine, pear, banana, vanilla bean.  The other fragrances from Gracefruit may either discolour the soap, accelerate trace or both but you can check the descriptions on their website for more details.  You can also buy fragrances from soaposh under “CP fragrances” but see the description to check that it does not discolour or accelerate trace. Unfortunately justasoap and soapkitchen do not state whether their fragrance oils accelerate trace or discolour.
  •  deionised water from Halfords/supermarket/Robert Dyas/petrol station (Car Plan brand sold in the car section) or purified water from a chemist (otherwise the trace metals in tap water can make the oils oxidise rapidly).  In the US you can buy distilled water easily in your local supermarket.
  • mould – you can use the following without having to line your mould: silicone baking moulds, yoghurt container, empty milk or juice carton.  In the UK you can find a long enough crinkle cutter and mould from http://www.themouldsshop.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=132. I would recommend the ones with silicone liners. Some moulds from Taiwan and China which are very popular with soapers – https://www.facebook.com/YouMoYouYang and https://www.etsy.com/listing/157189151/1kg-rose-cuboid-soap-mold-flexible.  In the US Brambleberry sell some great silicone moulds. You can also use a shoe box or drawer, food container, wooden mould if you line it first with (if you live in the UK) Tesco own brand unbleached baking paper is great as it has a very waxy side to it so won’t leak soap like some other baking papers.  (In the US you can line your mold with Reynolds freezer paper). Tutorials on how to line a mould –

http://www.craftserver.com/forums/showthread.php?62609-Lining-a-Box-(Soapmaking)

  • You will need a crock pot/slow cooker if you want to do hot process soap (see at the end of this document/webpage for details on hot process).

Other equipment – Put aside the following: stainless steel fork, knife and lots of spoons (all of these must be stainless steel otherwise they will burn or you can use plastic ones) and also your rubber gloves and swimming/ski goggles to protect your eyes, newspaper to protect the work surface, paper towels, spatula, chopsticks, cling film/plastic wrap.

PREPARING TO MAKE SOAP

When formulating a recipe, it’s common practice to “super-fat” a soap, or include a “lye discount”. This is to make the soap milder, as it will leave unsaponified oils in your finished bar of soap. It also helps to ensure that all the sodium hydroxide is properly saponified and none is left in your finished soap. A super-fat (or lye discount) of 5% is standard, and 10% is the recommended maximum.

For your first soap let’s try a v easy recipe where you don’t need to take temperatures –  30% coconut oil and 70% olive oil. Use http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp to calculate your recipe.

  • Under no., 2 choose “grams” – input how much oils you want to use but input at least 500 grams.  Cosmetic formulators use the weight measurement of grams instead of ounces, cups, teaspoons etc. To help with conversion, there are 28.3495 grams (g) in an ounce (not fluid ounce). 453.592 grams equal 1 pound. 1000 grams make 1 kilogram.  (Note: Grams (a weight measurement) is similar to millilitres/ml (a volume measurement) as 100g of water is the same as 100ml of water but this isn’t accurate for all liquids – oil weighs less than water so 100g of oil might measure 110ml.)
  • Under no. 3 “water as % of oils” input 30 (30 means that you will have quite a while to play around with your soap before it gets too thick. After you have made a few soaps you can reduce the 30 so your soap will contain less water, will trace quicker and will be harder).
  • Under no. 4 input superfat of 8.
  • Under fragrance – using grams is handy for converting percentages – if you’re making a soap which has an oil amount of 100g then 1% of that weighs 1g.  Do check with your supplier the recommended maximum usage and that the fragrance/essential oil is skin safe.  The amount added to soaps is usually between 3 – 5% of the total oil amount (but could be less than 3% so do check recommended maximum usage).  Example calculation: 3% of 100g is 3g.  There are 1,000g in 1 kg so 3% of 1kg is 30g.  4.5% is 45g per 1,000g (1kg).   So if you wish to add 4% fragrance, input 40g into soapcalc (per 1kg).
  • Under no. 5 highlight your oil (normal coconut oil is 76 degree and olive oil is NOT pomace unless it has pomace written on the bottle).
  • Under no. 6 click on the plus sign and then input the percentage amount of the oil.  We are using 30% coconut and 70% olive.
  • Do this until you’ve entered all your oils then click on “calculate recipe” and then “view or print recipe”.  A new window will open up which will tell you how much water, lye/sodium hydroxide, oils and fragrance you need in grams.

Next, do take a look at these very helpful tutorials on making soap

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghvQ4v_Fjrs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHBdZR42IOA

You will need to know how to recognise trace –this video explains it well – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP7mvbAdYWc – watch from 5.15 mins in.

The earliest sign of trace is when the soap goes from matte to shiny and looks propery mixed.  Trace is the signal that the emulsification of the oils and water has occurred.  It is also a term used to describe the consistency and appearance of the ‘soap’. There are varying descriptions but my favourite is melted chocolate when you lift the spoon out and drizzle some chocolate across the surface, it leaves a trace before disappearing back into the melted whole.  So if you dribble at bit with your stick blender on top of your mixture the dribbled bit takes a second or two to disappear back into the mix. The soap does not have to be really thick just yet, it just needs to be well mixed with no streaks of remaining oil. If the dribble makes no mark, your soap has not traced. When it leaves a little lump on the surface that sinks in quickly, it’s beginning to trace.

First a light trace will happen – looks like a thin sauce – at this stage it’s good for swirling. Next a medium trace which looks like gravy and finally a thick trace which looks like pudding. Thick trace is good for texturing the top of your soap or piping.  All soap goes through trace to properly saponify.    A light trace may be like a thin pancake batter, a medium trace like a medium-thick gravy. If your soap gets gloppy, you’ve got a heavily traced batch, and you need to get it into its mold as soon as possible. If the soap suddenly goes thick when you add a fragrance/essential oil then it has seized and do your best get it into the mould asap squashing it down to get rid of air holes – see under the heading below called HELP I JUST ADDED….

Trace is where it all happens – you quickly add color, fragrance, additives at this stage and do your fancy swirls.

Additionally, trace signals the beginning of the pouring stage of the process. Without being able to recognize trace, you run the risk of pouring too soon or pouring too late. Pouring too soon will not allow the saponification process to begin and will cause your soap mixture to separate. Pouring too late may cause your mixture to harden, making it difficult to get your soap in to the molds.

INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO ACTUALLY MAKE THE SOAP (please read all the info above before attempting this).

NOTE – THESE INSTRUCTIONS ARE FOR COLD PROCESS.  FOR HOT PROCESS PLEASE READ THIS ANYWAY

AND THEN READ THE PARAGRAPH AT THE END WHICH IS SPECIFICALLY ABOUT HOT PROCESS

I find it best to have  all of my extra ingredients ready, (fragrance, herbs, additives, and/or colour).  Pre-mix your powder colours in some oil to help them dissolve – for colour powders use – 1/2 tsp. per 450 grams of oil. Note most herbs, botanicals, additives turn brown in soap.  If you wish to put petals in your soap, the only ones which don’t discolour are calendula (for every 220g of oils use 1 tablespoon of calendula petals). You can also sprinkle the following on top of your soap for decoration: oats, poppyseeds, Himalayan sea salt, cocoa powder, coffee, glitter, soap shavings, coffee beans.  For poppyseeds for every 40g of oil I add 1g of poppy seeds.

Measure your distilled/purified/deionised water (please do not use tap water) into your container.  Put on your protective clothing including rubber gloves and goggles.  (If you have a back porch or an outside area you may want to combine the lye and water outside) .

Gentle reminder, please do not use any metals except stainless steel as this will react with the lye solution.

With your goggle and gloves on, slowly pour the lye into the water. Stir the lye for about 1-2 minutes (or until it goes clear) or the lye will harden onto the bottom of the container. Warning: Always pour the lye into the water.  If you pour the water into the lye, the lye will spatter and spit and you may get some lye on you. When pouring the lye into the water there will be fumes and the temperature of the water will sharply.  This will only last for a couple of minutes, but you have to keep stirring for about 2 minutes until the lye water goes clear and is dissolved.  If the water starts to bubble quickly, stop pouring until the bubbling stops (keep stirring though).  Slowly start pouring again.

Next, choose the appropriate paragraph below :-

  • If you are using palm oil or other solid oil or butter (except coconut) – heat the solid oil very gently in the microwave (do not let it boil) – then add your liquid oils and stir well.  Feel the outside of the container – the ideal temperature is it the container would feel warm (slightly cooler than you would drink coffee). Try and get both the lye solution and the oils to very roughly around that same temperature.    Try not to let the hard oils fall below their melting points otherwise they may resolidify and you could end up with white blobs in your soap however stirring the oils frequently and continually helps with this. Strategies to get the oils and lye mixture to a similar temperature – if the oil is too warm you could put it in an ice bath (ie place the jug containing your oils into a large saucepan quarter full of ice water) for a few mins.  If the lye is too warm you could do the same. You can warm your oils gently in the microwave if need be. When the containers of both your oils and lye mixtures both feel warm (cooler than you would drink coffee) then put your stick blender in the oil container and whilst blending very slowly pour the lye mixture into the pot containing the oils. (Note if when you add the lye water and oils together the temperature is too high then straight after trace the mixture will get thick very quickly and you will struggle to have enough time to do nice swirls).

OR

  • If the only hard oil you are using is coconut oil at no more than 30% (as per the easy recipe I suggested above) and the rest of the oils are liquid oils eg olive, castor, rice bran then you don’t need to worry about getting it to the right temperature.  Place your coconut oil in the largest container and the rest of your liquid oils in a different container. Slowly pour the very hot lye onto the coconut oil and this will melt the coconut oil and mix with a spatula/spoon until its thoroughly melted and then put your stick blender in the container and slowly add the rest of the oils whilst mixing continuously.  (This method of using the hot lye to melt the hard oils is called room temperature (RT) soaping).

Alternate between using stick blender and hand stirring – 5 seconds each continuously. Try not to mix in any air – keep the hand blender under the surface of the liquid at the bottom of the pot. Mix until trace occurs. The soap begins to thicken at trace and will look completely mixed together.

Add your fragrances at trace and other non-fragile additives eg poppyseeds, oatmeal, clay and fragrance/essential oils quickly. Give one thorough mix with the stick blender. Mix in fragile additives such as herbs, with a spoon. (If adding powder colour or clay mix with small amount of oil first – clays will need some extra water).

Before your soap thickens you might want to try a swirl:-

Tiger stripe – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sRe9_W_8R8

Funnel pour – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLjX1tTsEoc

Spoon swirl –- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3R14Mdix8E&lr=1

Swirling in the mould – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQnmlm_h8zg

In the pot swirl (ITP) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCruun5ZoVg

Peacock swirl http://www.lovinsoap.com/2011/10/the-peacock-swirl/

Hanger swirl http://thesoapbar.blogspot.ie/2012/08/the-hanger-swirl-technique-tutorial.html#

Spider web http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/cold-process-soap/cold-process-spider-webs/

Drop swirl http://soapandrestless.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/simple-droplet-effect-in-cold-process.html

Celine swirl http://soaperstar.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/ultra-violet-new-soap-new-style.html

After you pour your soap gently lift up the whole of the mould and tap it gently on the table – do this a few times – this helps get rid of air bubbles.

Once your soap is in the mould, wait for it to get very thick and you can then decorate the top of your soap:

Mica oil swirl on the top – watch from 14 mins 15 secs in – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kblbLHzuzEw  end result: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=631673030193009&set=a.631203310239981.1073741835.231445363549113&type=1&theater

watch from 15 mins in – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NtJn0sqL6MQ#!

watch from 15 mins in – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yz2zxwdxc5k&feature=player_embedded#!

watch from 10 mins 15 secs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMv6uCb79L4

Once you’ve finished decorating your soap spritz the top of the soap with isopropanyl alcohol/rubbing alcohol to prevent soda ash. Soda ash is a harmless white powdery substance that can form on the surface of your soap. It will obscure the swirl pattern if you have done a swirl but can easily be washed/scraped or steamed off. Spray lots of the alcohol over the top of your soap over the first three days.

If you keep your house at a lower temperature than about 25c/77f you may (not compulsory) wish to insulate your mold with blankets for the first 24 hours if you want it to go through the gel stage. (Going through gel state is not essential so don’t worry if your soap doesn’t go through it but it does make colours appear brighter). If it does go through gel stage it gets very hot and becomes darker/opaque from the middle then spreads outwards– sometimes soap might do a partial gel so you might find a round/oval dark circle in the middle of your soap where the soap got very hot but it didn’t spread outwards to the whole of the soap.

Wait 3 to 5 days until your soap is hard enough to cut it. (You can use an ordinary knife or a cheese wire cutter to cut it) (The higher the % of hard oils in your soap then the quicker it will go harden.  Also the higher your water as % of oils then the less water there will be so it will harden quicker). Before you cut the soap touch the tip of your tongue on the bar of soap. If you get nothing but yucky taste of soap then its safe to use but if you get a little tingle or zap then it still have lye in it and needs more time to cure.  Soap should not zap after 24 hours if it has gelled. If it hasn’t gelled, it might zap up to three days. (If it still zaps after 4 days then your soap may have too much lye in it due to a mismeasurement so will be unusable). Leave the soap to cure in a warm dry place (away from metals unless they are stainless steel and away from plastic which might absorb fragrance) for at least 4-6 weeks before using. Turn the bars every few days so they don’t warp and deform as they lose water. As they cure, they will lose more of their water weight, and become milder, since saponification can continue for three days or more.  Note: olive oil soaps with a high % of olive oil take 6 months to cure – you can use it after 2 months then but it will become much milder with age.

The best way to preserve the scent of your soap as long as possible is to store in closed containers by scent after they have cured. In general paper bags or cardboard boxes do a better job at preserving scents than plastic. If you are thinking of storing your soaps in a plastic container place your soaps in paper bags first. Do not store in metal containers.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR HOT/COLD PROCESS SOAP

TRACE

The following ingredients speed up trace making your soap thicken quickly (so you won’t have much time to do your swirls or get your soap into the mould)

  • Floral, spicy and some vanilla essential oils
  • Discounting water from soapcalc.net’s default of 38 for “water as % of oils”
  • High % of hard oils eg over 60%
  • Stearic acid
  • Pomace olive oil (you will know if the oil is pomace because it should say on the label)
  • Castor oil, cocoa butter, milk
  • Soaping at high temps (this means adding your lye water to your oils at a high temperature)
  • Using stick blender more
  • Too much clay
  • Coconut oil
  • Palm oil, Shea butter

The following ingredients slow trace – plenty of time for swirls

  • Lard
  • 0live, Rice Bran Oil, sunflower, almond, avocado.
  • Citrus, lavender, peppermint, patchouli essential oils
  • Soaping at lower temps (but not too low)
  • Full water
  • High % of olive oil
  • Liquid lecithin at 1sp ppo
  • Hand stirring instead of stick blending
  • Using a whisk instead of stick blender to slow down trace

CREATING YOUR OWN RECIPE

After you have tried the 30% coconut 70% olive oil recipe a few times it’s time to make your own. Though you can make soap using only one oil, the best soap recipes have a balance of oils.  Each oil will contribute a different quality to the final bar of soap. The qualities can be categorized in three ways:

-           Hard, stable, long lasting – (palm oil, lard)

-           Lathering – (coconut,  palm kernel)

-           Moisturizing/conditioning – (olive oil)

Most people aim for between 40% to 60% hard oils and the rest are liquid oils. (If you have less than 40% hard oils the your soap will take much longer to harden so you may wish to decrease amount of water – see below).

Below are bog standard soapmaking oils to use (these oils don’t tend to go rancid and cause dreaded orange spots (DOS)).  I have also listed their shelf life:-

-           Castor oil increases the volume of bubbles of other oils (doesn’t give lather on its own though) but it’s sticky so only use up to 8% – shelf life 1 year

-           Coconut oil – hard oil, good cleanser and nice bubbly lather, hard, quicker trace – shelf life 2 years – melts 25c/77f. Don’t use more than 30% as it’s quite drying

-           Olive oil – check it doesn’t say pomace on the label otherwise it’ll trace fast. Slimy, long lasting non-drying mild soap with slight lather – v gentle– takes longer to saponify – shelf life 1 year (Note a soap made out of olive oil and no other oil is called castille – it takes 6 months to cure).

-           Palm oil – I buy organic sustainable palm oil – the white version is a good choice.  Other soapers have warned me against buying from gracefruit or soapkitchen as their palm oil is unhomogenized and grainy.  In the UK soaposh do a nice creamy palm oil. Shelf life 2 years – makes for a hard bar.  Please melt it completely and stir continually with the other oils from when it’s melted until you reach trace otherwise you might get white blobs due to resolidifying. Melts 35c/95f. Not much lather but the lather is creamy like lotion.

-           Palm kernel oil – (In the UK, only soapkitchenonline sells) hard oil, shelf life 2 years – melts 24c/75f, hard, lots of lather, white, cleans well. Please melt it completely and stir continually from when it’s melted until you reach trace otherwise you might get white blobs.

-           Lard – hard oil, a subsitute for palm oil – shelf life 1 yr to 1.5 years, slow to trace, low amount of lather, conditioning, cheap but combine with eg coconut to get more bubbles – melts at 30c/86f. Please melt it completely and stir continually from when it’s melted with the other oils until you reach trace otherwise you might get white blobs due to stearic acid resolidifying.

Note: If you intend to buy an oil not listed above do check its shelf life. Also note: sunflower oil, corn oil, canola, peanut, grapessed, soybean oils tend to go rancid quicker (causing “dreaded orange spots” aka DOS). Also calcium and iron which can be present in oils and tap water contributes to this.  Also be careful how you store your soap – avoid storing it on top of metals (other than stainless steel) and other materials which might interact with the soap.  For more information on rancidity and what to do to guard against it see: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/blog_post/Soapsmith/136/soapsmith_s_dos_experiment and http://cavemanchemistry.com/DreadedOrangeSpot-Dunn.pdf.  To help guard against rancidity use deionised/distilled/purified water  (not tap water).  If you live in the UK you can buy Soapkitchen’s or Gracefruit’s rosemary extract/rosemary oleoresin (£7) to also help prevent DOS.  When you come to open your bottle of oil add 1.2g of it for every 1,000g of oil (note with oils (not water) grams is not the same as ml – a 1,000ml bottle of olive oil will only weigh about 800g.)  Or if you open the bottle and use the contents straight away add rosemary extract just after trace.

Some easy basic recipes to try using common soapmaking oils:-

-           50% olive 20% coconut or palm kernel oil 30% lard/palm oil

-           60% olive, 30% coconut or palm kernel oil, 20% palm oil/lard

-           50% olive 20% coconut  or palm kernel oil 23% lard/palm oil, 7% castor oil

ADJUSTING THE WATER AMOUNT TO SUIT YOU

Once you get more experienced you will want to calculate what “water as % of oils” you wish to use (ie what to input in no. 3 of http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp ) Note, the lower the figure, the lower the quantity of your water so the quicker your soap will harden.

-           Normally I use 34 but if you need time to do time consuming swirls choose the default 38 (but if you are using the 30% coconut oil and 70% olive oil recipe then it will trace much slower as it has a high % of liquid oils so try between 26-32 for this recipe, depending on whether you want to do swirls or not)

-           If you plan to do a simple soap so can just dump it in the mold as soon as it has traced and don’t need time to decorate/swirl it then you could choose 28.

-           If you plan a castille soap (soap containing solely olive oil and no other soft/hard oils) then use 25 so there is much less water in your soap so it won’t take forever to harden (as you will not have any hard oils in your recipe) but castile soap takes months to cure (although you can use it after 2 months) so is best used after 6 months.

-           For hot process choose the default 38 as during cooking a lot of water evaporates

-           Note: when soapmakers say full water they mean 38 – this is good for fragrance/essential oils that speed trace as it will give you plenty of time to do swirls which are time consuming eg spoon swirl.  (Water discount means less than 38).

-           Note – the term “lye concentration” is different from “water as % of oils”.

HELP I JUST ADDED MY FRAGRANCE/ESSENTIAL OIL AND MY SOAP SUDDENLY THICKENED UP AND I CAN’T POUR IT

This is usually caused by a floral or spicy (clove, cinnamon etc) essential/fragance oil. Try to put it in the mould asap – you may need to bang it, pushing it down into the mould.  If you can’t do this, in order to save it you can put it in an oven or slow cooker/crock pot, set it on low and then get out your potato masher and mash it (you can add a tiny bit of water if it makes it easier) so you have most of the lumps out and then leave it in the cooker for up to 1.5 hours stirring occasionally as per the advice set out in the hot process section below.  Actually this process of cooking your soap is similar to hot process. See the webpages under the Hot Process heading and follow instructions from just after trace to see what stages your soap should go through.

HELP – MY SOAP HAS DEVELOPED OVER TIME SOME ORANGE SPOTS

Your soap maybe rancid.  For more info read these 2 webpages:-

http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/blog_post/Soapsmith/136/soapsmith_s_dos_experiment&ei=3v57UOCGDMjQ0QXG6oDQAw&usg=AFQjCNEMh32ry5wGeUmSi2dnrQWrp485MA&sig2=b0bFABySd8mcsbVA8mRhXw

http://www.zensoaps.com/singleoil.htm

To prevent the orange spots you can add rosemary oleoresin (as detailed above) or add EDTA from (a) if you live in the UK – phoenixproducts.co.uk or (b) if you live in the USA – lotioncrafter or theherbarie – add 0.03% of your oil amount to your water before you add the lye to it.

HOT PROCESS

If you like rustic looking soaps (no swirls, no layers) and want your soap to cure much quicker, ie to be able to use it 1-2 weeks after making it then the hot process method might work for you.  Hot process is very similar to cold process except it is cooked in an oven or slow cooker.  The first part of cold process, measuring oils, water and lye is the same but you just put all the oils in the oven/slow cooker/crock pot on low until they melt and then add the lye water and stick blend until trace and then leave the whole lot in the pot on low for about an hour or so.  See the webpages below for more details.  You need half the amount of fragrance for hot process as for cold process (add at the end rather than at trace) and your water as % of oils should be 38 as you need full water for this process.   Also, do not fill your slow cooker more than half full as the mixture will rise significantly.  You will also note that you will not be able to swirl hot process soap as it is thicker when you pour it or spoon it into the mould (pressing it down so you don’t get air holes) and is more rustic looking.  Hot process does not need a 4-6 week cure time like cold process, you can use it shortly after making it, or even better, wait 2 weeks.

http://www.lovinsoap.com/2011/10/hot-process-soap-series-lovely-lavender/

http://www.gracefruit.com/crock-pot-hot-process-soap-tutorial.html

FOR FURTHER HELP, DISCUSSIONS GROUPS AND INFO …

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6 Comments

6 thoughts on “How to make Natural Soap

  1. Thank you so much for this inspired resource!
    You have put together an invaluable source of information for anyone wanting to make CP or HP soap. You have presented here what I have spent 2 – 3 months searching for and researching on the internet and in books. However, I still found new and valuable information on techniques and more on your site!
    How Kind of You to give us this.
    This is much appreciated – from a very grateful reader.
    A. Johns

  2. This is a wonderful resource. Thanks a whole lots for the time and effort put into the making. Although, this is coming my way on my first research as a prospective soap maker, surely, am using all that contained in this article.

  3. I completely agree with A. Johns in that your site has been the most informative I have found on the Internet over the course of several weeks and the purchase of five soapmaking books. Thank you so much for this in depth information!

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