Today I Told Our Postie That I Was Making Soap And Was Not Walter White

Soap making is kind of a weird hobby.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to practice your inner Chemist from High School or Junior High, but how often do you want to eat up two hours doing that?

First of all, you can go to a market almost anywhere in the world and pick some soap up cheap.  Pennies.  If you are paying more than $3 an ounce I need you to commission me to make the stuff for you.

Really.  That’s a massive rip-off.

Second of all, since it is so cheap, people don’t value what it is doing for you or really give it a second thought.

I don’t want to be near anyone who doesn’t use the stuff, but when is the last time you picked up a bar and thought what it takes to make it.

It makes modern society possible along with dogs and other social constructs.

Third, you look the fool if you make it yourself.

I call it my “Breaking Bad/Walter White Routine”.  I’m mixing Lye into Ice and doing so in my front yard.  I have on gloves and a pair of safety goggles.  I’m mixing chemicals outside because there is no stove hood in my house, and it can make nasty chemicals when the magic happens.

I got a raised eyebrow today when the Postie rolled up to my mailbox and I was standing in front of my porch dressed for this.  Mixing and stirring in a plastic Red Solo Cup, I was peering into a milky white toxic witches’ brew.

“Hi, Soap Making Day today.  Thanks!”

She got back in her truck after handing me the mail with a shrug.

I then married that witches’ brew with the oil mixtures and mixed for a while.

Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Grapeseed Oil, and Shea Butter.

Add Lye and Water.

Mix with a stick blender for 20 minutes until pudding consistency and you can draw lines on top.

Then add Cinnamon and Cinnamon Essence.

Pour into molds.

Fourth, it takes at least a month before you can test your results.

Yep, your pudding needs to cure.  It gets warm, hardens, and needs to evaporate off most of that water.

But I waaa-naaa!

Nope. Even at a month, I’m rushing it a bit.  Second Week In March today’s batch will be ready.

When the soap is hard enough to unmold, I will stand it up on a side on paper in the bedroom to let the drafts waft away the extra water.  Weigh one.  When it stops losing weight, we can use it.

Finally, I have caught myself lecturing the TV.

Remember Beverly Hillbillies?  Granny is always out back by the Cee-Ment Pond?   Makin’ her Lye Soap?

Granny, you have Lye or you have Soap.   If you have Lye in the mix when you are done, then you put too much in it.  You will burn when you use it.  Too much Lye bad.  In fact you actually want to go low, leave some of the oils non-reacted so they can moisturize and sooth your skin.

Also, Who on Earth needs a three foot tall cauldron of “Lye Soap”.   You will be using the stuff for ages, and if it is a three foot tall cauldron, can you imagine how much of the stuff she’s making?

But really, then there’s the soaps that scream “VEGAN”.  Yeah, the soap probably should be vegan.  Small V.  Because the better recipes are.  Olive Oil for cleansing, Coconut for Conditioning and lather, some other oils for moisturizing.

If you look at that label and it says “Sodium Tallowate” you are washing yourself with Lard.  Sodium Palmate comes from Palm Trees and is killing Orangutans, as is Sodium Palm Kernelate.

And so on.

Rather a lot from a hobby that people would not give a second thought to.

Oh and skip that Liquid Soap.  Way too many chemicals in it to be pure.  You’ll end up having cracked skin and blisters.  They try to sell it as a premium product but one average sized bottle cleans like one bar of solid soap.

Don’t get me started on that stuff, Liquid Soap is the absolute worst.

So if you see me standing on the front porch with a red solo cup in hand, dressed in protective gear, stirring obsessively, you know what’s up!

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The Sugar Free Pumpkin Spice Recipe Fit For The Bathroom

First the recipe. 

I have been using a couple recipes for this for the last couple years.  About 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon to a large mug of coffee, about 24 ounces.  It’s added right as the coffee poured into the mug.

A Little Goes A Long Way.

This one will work well, it’s adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, and this is one of the most widely quoted recipes  for Pumpkin Spice that I have found.  I usually either double or half the recipe depending on what I need it for – hence the “adapted”.

To a jar you can seal the top of, add the following spices:

3 Tablespoons Cinnamon

2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger

1 Teaspoon Nutmeg

1 Teaspoon Allspice

1/2 Teaspoon  Ground Cloves.

Stir the spices until mixed, seal jar, use as needed.

Now about that Bathroom I’m blathering on about.

I have used that spice mix in coffee, and dropped a little in some bread once or twice with differing results.

But it also works well for making soap.  In fact, I liked this stuff so much I will use it to make up a batch of soap with it.

I got the idea from my friend Craig in Atlanta.  He likes dark and bold soaps, and challenged me one day.  He suggested I make up a Coffee based soap.  We batted the idea back and forth and I came up with the idea, I think it was me anyway, to make a Pumpkin Spice Coffee Soap.

I was afraid of this stuff.  And I still have to make that only Coffee Scrub Soap.

Everyone said to make the soap outside, lye plus coffee makes some horrible stench that will drive you away.  You always add the lye to the liquid before adding that to the oils in that order.

So I did the math.

It turns out Coffee can be substituted for Water at a 1 to 1 ratio.  I made up a standard soap with a frozen coffee slug as the water, and mixed it out on my front porch.  I added it to the oil mix, and stirred it until trace.

Mixing in the normal 1 Tablespoon to the Pound of soap gave me something that looked like a gritty Brownie in size and shape.  I allowed it to cure for a month, and I had six bars and three testers.

I was shocked when I finally sampled this stuff.

It smelled good.  The Coffee did make the lather look tan to brown, but it smelled spicy and did clean just as well as any other blend without staining the tub.  Using the Pumpkin Spice Mix as a grit was not too abrasive, and there was no burning like I was warned could happen with anything like Cinnamon against “tender” areas of the body.

The bonus was that the scent did not linger after rinsing.

I’ll be making this again later, but this time just the Pumpkin Spice.  Making the Coffee into Ice Cubes takes up time, and I can make up a batch of soap in about a half hour.  It’s a fun little diversion in the middle of the afternoon.

 

In case you’re curious, here’s what it looks like once it’s packed into the molds with the soap recipe to the side.

Mind you, I didn’t have a line of Suburban Soccer Moms waiting in their SUVs this time, because I promised to share the recipe for the spice mix – at the top.

The Difference Between Liquid Soap and Solid Soap and Can You Change One To Another

I got started on this weird hobby of soap making because that stuff you buy in the market for pennies burns my skin.

Strange multi-syllabic chemical names and weird un-placeable scents and bizarre colors added in had rendered my hands into a cracked, dry, and bloody mess in winter.

I moved down here to Florida and that helped my tortured skin a lot.  It wasn’t perfect so I searched.

Going onto the web I realized that making soap at home is a trivial task.  Oh sure, you look like you are Walter White in Breaking Bad wearing goggles on the front porch with gloves on the hands and an industrial apron that probably is overkill while mixing chemicals and trying not to breathe them.  Then you bring that stuff inside, using your fractional gram scale and weighing the “product”, you are able to create soap.

Did I mention I’m easy to notice since I’m a bruiser of a guy who looks like the High School Football Coach you had who is subbing for the Chemistry Teacher?

So I can throw a batch of soap together in under 30 minutes.  Big deal you say, you can get a brick of 24 Ivory bars for under $5 and wash your stanky butt for months and not have to go through all that work.

Uh … Huh… you’re missing the point but I digress.

Since I’m going for quality and a moisturising and cleansing soap, I get to play with recipes.  Coconut Oil will give me a hard cleansing soap that is ready to use faster.  Olive Oil makes your skin soft and is the basis for Castille soap.  A little Shea Nut Oil or Grape Seed Oil to make your skin silky and moisturized.  An ounce of Essential Oil for scent to 20 ounces of soap and we’re done.

Right?

I batched this up and found out not everyone uses bar soap.  Right, My Sister?

I don’t get the fascination with liquid soaps but I was making this partly to give away as gifts.

Then I researched the “real” way to make liquid soap and truly it is heinous. 

However that $10 bottle of Liquid Soap has really about $.50 or less of soap in it, and for someone making it at home, you’re really talking about a massive $1 to $10 Mark Up in Price.

Or More.

Instead of Sodium Hydroxide Lye (NaOH), you use Potassium Hydroxide (KOH).  A lot more KOH than you would NaOH because it’s less efficient.

KOH doesn’t just convert fat to soap, it crackles, pops, spits, and makes a LOT of heat.

NaOH is a comparatively mild reaction with your oils to make soap.

I mix my lye in water and then that goes into the oils because NaOH will make some pretty noxious smells, and it may indeed be toxic.  I also live in South Florida and there’s a lot of breeze coming off the ocean on any given day.  Colder Climates will have to make soap under a strong stove hood to draw off the gasses.

Yay Science!  Yay Chemistry!

I don’t want to attempt that with KOH.

So what to do.  I truly want my sister to enjoy herself, so I did some further research.

It turns out that KOH gives a less firm soap than NaOH.  You end up with a goo instead of a nice firm brick.  Add extra water and you get a liquid soap.

Oh and a lot more time.  As in around 4 hours of cooking and a hot process instead of my 30 minutes or less and a cold process with NaOH.

Can’t I just add water to a bar and hope for the best?

That is a big – Maybe.

This is what I just did to test the theory and the drawbacks are that you have to judge for yourself how much water to add back.

You know?  At Your Own Risk and Your Mileage May Vary?

Also it is possible that your specific bar of soap may be one where the chemistry turns your liquid soap back into a gel that may be too thick for the pump bottle.  Err towards it being a little thin.  Mine was, and it was a nice hand lotion thickness the next day after the bubbles popped and the soap turned from white to translucent.

It is also introducing water to the soap which will dilute it and make it possible for the soap to spoil.  If you start seeing orange spots, your soap has turned.

But my process was simple.

  • Weigh the bar of soap so you know how much water to add in.  (I had 80 Grams or 2.8 oz)
  • Grate the bar of soap to shavings.
  • Add the soap shavings to a mixing container.
  • Boil your water.  It will help deter spoilage of the liquid soap.
  • Add an equal weight of boiling water to the soap so that it is a 1 to 1 ratio.  ( I had again 80 Grams or 2.8 oz)
  • Get a stick blender and mix this until it is fully smooth.
  • Remix the soap and water longer than you did because there will always be chunks leftover.
  • At this point I had a product that looked like a good Icing for a Cake.
  • Now from here on it is a judgement call:
  • Add a tablespoon (14 grams) of boiling water.
  • Use the stick blender and reincorporate the water into the soap.
  • Repeat this water/mix cycle until the soap is at a proper liquid soap consistency.
  • My lotion ended up a little wetter than a commercial liquid soap and I used a total of 1.5 parts water to 1 part Soap.
  • Yes, it can be as much as 1.5 parts water to 1 part soap.

If I haven’t scared you away, here’s where I found the information that I’m going on about above.

It worked great the first day, and I may have cheated and got what my sister wants.  The second day I ended up with a clear soap with the remnants of bubbles on top.

If that’s the case, Pat, yes, I can send you liquid soap.  I believe you liked Orange Scent.

Just use it fast.  I can’t guarantee that this won’t give Orange Spots.

Baking or Soap Making it could be Engineering Tolerances that are causing you problems

I was an electronics geek back when I was a teen.

Everything in Electronics had a percentage of tolerance engineered in.  Any particular theoretical Resistor may have been intended to be 220K, but in reality it had a 10 % tolerance built in and could have been as much as  22K off.  Say 200 Ohm to 242K ohm.

And since everything else had a 10% tolerance it just may work!  After all, analog electronics always had a trimming capacitor or potentiometer somewhere to tune the circuit to make it all work.

I have a habit of scaling recipes.  That Engineering Tolerance can get in the way.

It makes too much, cut the recipe down.  If it doesn’t make enough, double it.

In fact, my favorite bread recipe, Pat’s Pizza Dough works great in thirds.  I can take that third and make a rather nice sized pizza for two or a couple rolls for sandwiches and it works well.

My preferred way to make a pizza crust is to toss the ingredients into a bag, add an extra teaspoon or tablespoon to texture, and squish it around until it is properly mixed and kneaded.

What if I want one single roll?

No, seriously, just one.  After all you’re not eating two rolls at a time, right?  It may not turn out just right.

After all, you took a recipe that you cut down from 3 cups to 1 cup, and it worked out right, but what about going smaller.

Metric measurements may help.

But here is the rub.  Many recipes were converted from very old measurements and work well in one specific climate, but move them they don’t work.  Others were converted into Metric measurements and are rounded up or down.

I have seen conversion factors varying between 28 and 30 grams to the ounce where the official measurement is 28.35 (by my search) grams to the ounce.

28 and lets-call-it-a-third grams to the ounce.

(See what I did there?  Added an Engineering Tolerance?)

Have you ever accurately measured one gram in a kitchen?   – No.

How about 1/3 of a gram.  – No.

Does it matter? – Maybe.

“Cooking” may not be effected.  Your measurements can be a little off when you’re making a roast from Grandma’s recipe but “it’s the way we like it” would be the answer.

Baking, well that can be finicky.  I’m just not going to try to figure out 9.45 Grams of anything.  My scale is not THAT accurate, and frankly that’s only the 1/3 ounce.  A single roll needs 1/9th of a teaspoon of salt and of sugar.

Settle down, if you go up or down slightly, it should still work but you probably have a freezer that would take the other two rolls if you went to the 1/3rd recipe.

My point is that it is a rare kitchen that can measure in tiny fractions of a gram.  If it is. it is probably cooking something that you would see in Breaking Bad.

After all, I remember my high school chemistry very well and used to get ridiculously accurate measurements in a true Laboratory with balance scales and graduated cylinders and Scientific House weights and measures, and MY kitchen is not equipped!

Since my High School Chem teacher was a stoner, learning Chemistry well was self-preservation around all those possibly toxic ingredients.

The one gram weight was, by the way, a small square of brass that was about the size of a quarter of a common postage stamp.  Now cut that down to a third.

Just stop right there.  My point is with food, it just might not be a problem and you can always have leftovers since that oven isn’t exactly free to run.

But soap?  Don’t try this at home kiddies!

The size reduction… Soap Making is easy but take your time with measurements.

You see, making larger batches of soap seem to be fine.  Bread Loaf sized batches mean that you can do your measurements in ounces and your kitchen scale will be happy to oblige.  Use Grams if you like and be more precise.   Anything over 500 Grams or a Pound (you choose) and the numbers get nice and round.

Since you are using less than 100% of the Lye you need in the recipe to leave things nice and moisturized after washing  your hide with it, coming in a wee bit low makes things happy.

My first batch was at 96%.  That soap was so good that my skin problem cleared up.  Add to it that I only ever use Human Food Grade Ingredients for making soap and you can really see why.

Then I got “creative”.  “Lets make One Single Bar Of Soap.” I said, in earnest!  “After all, how difficult can it be?”

Hah!  You jest.

You see, the measurement came in wanting a fraction of a gram of lye. 8.45 grams, to be specific.

No.  Just no.

Since different oils have different properties, I fiddled with the soap calculator web page and came up with a combination that ended up being exactly 8.00 grams of Lye, even round numbered gram amounts of oils, and 17 1/2 grams of water.

Why such small amounts?  I wanted One Single Bar of Soap that was going to be 3 ounces.

Actually I wanted two of them but one had scent and the other did not.

When I was through, the same measurements gave me two bars through two separate preparations of ingredients.

Bar one was 86 Grams.

Bar two was 79 Grams.

From the same measurements.

Bar one was fine and made the house smell like peppermint, and that was intentional.

Bar two had no scent and a sheen of “something” clear on top.  I don’t know if it was oil or water but it all “digested” into the bar and was (semi) solid the next day.

Don’t ask, I have no idea why.

They are both curing until they are ready to use.  Bar One will probably be too strongly scented and Bar Two might be harsh.  I won’t know until I use them.

So if you’re wondering why it does not work out when you do all that weird calculations and get different results, well, you made a measuring mistake and it happens.

Go with larger batches next time.  I will.  My mold will make six bars of soap, each 3 ounces.  I will calculate 21 ounces and see what I get.  I’ll let you know how that worked out.

A Beginner’s Notes On Soap Making

I had one of my frequent writer’s block wanting to write about something else.  This stuff kept floating back into my consciousness and I figured why not let it out.

It’s basic info – meant to help me later, but if you are considering trying this on your own, you will probably find a few details that could make life easier for you.

And this is not exhaustive, I’m most likely leaving a detail here or there out of what I am writing since I am still learning this.

If you have ever gone to a flea market and saw someone with boxes of soap to sell, it’s probably one of three processes to make the stuff.

If you can bake from scratch, anything, I’d wager you can do this.  Just be careful, lye can be dangerous.

Basically Soap Making is one of three processes.

Melt and Pour.  This isn’t what I do.  You go to a arts and crafts store, buy a brick of this clear stuff, melt it down, add scent and color, pour it into a mold, and call it done.  That is all.  It usually has a brilliant color and a pleasant looking result, and it works well enough.  But you’re not really “Making” soap so much as re-batching someone else’s work.

Cold Process Castile Soap.  I’ve done this and got excellent results.  My very first batch was this soap.  You mix your oils together, add them to a cooled down mixture of Lye and water.  Stir constantly until it begins to thicken and moving your spoon through the mix will leave a trace of your path through it.  This is referred to as Trace.  It will still be liquid when you pour this into a mold.  Unmold and slice this tomorrow, and allow it to air dry and cure.  I allowed my soap a month to cure.

Hot Process Castile Soap.  I did this to make a bread loaf sized block of soap that I sliced about four hours later.  You mix your oils up and warm them to the temperature of the Lye and Water mix (140F or so).  Then add them together in a double boiler, and stir until trace begins.  Pour into molds, and allow to firm up before slicing.  This should be ready to use a week later or so.  The heat speeds up things greatly.  If your soap is firming up in the pot, pour into a mold immediately.

Castile Soap is named after the Kingdom of Castile, a precursor to Spain, where it was popularized like other similar soaps.  There were people there that realized you can make soap out of Oilve Oil, Water, and Lye.  This formula came about separately, elsewhere, before the Spaniards got it, but they popularized it in Western Europe.  My second batch was strictly that recipe and, as expected, it did not foam up for me well. It was an excellent cleansing soap.

Yes, I know I am oversimplifying that story.  This is a damn long article.

Recipe.  Look around your house for what oils you have that you want in your soap.  My first batch was all out of date oils.  I fed them into a “Lye Calculator” and it told me what I could do and how much water/lye mix I could add to my oils to make this into soap.  To the fraction of an ounce – or to the gram. Absolutely use the Lye Calculator!  It makes this recipe stuff into Child’s Play.

Then refer to the next link for what properties you want in the soap…

Different oils will change the properties of the soap.  Olive Oil makes for a firm soap but does not foam well at high concentrations (over 50%).  Coconut Oil will aid in foaming.  Shea Butter or Shea Nut Oil will make for a moisturizing soap and you only need about 10% so it goes a long way.

My first soap was a mix of every old oil I had in the house that was past its sell by date.  Olive, Coconut, Corn, Safflower, Shea Nut Oil, and perhaps others.  That “mutt” had less than 50% of Olive oil.  I ended up with a pure white bar of soap that made huge amounts of lather.

Lye.  Lye is caustic.  Nasty stuff.  It can be used as drain cleaner.  ALWAYS wear eye protection while working with lye.  ALWAYS, even you!  Even ME!  Long sleeved shirts and long pants are recommended.  Cover up.

Don’t let this scare you, you should be able to do this.

What you need is 100% Lye Drain Cleaner with zero additives.  It must say 100% Lye or Sodium Hydroxide.  If the package specificially says For Soap Making, that will work well instead of Drain Cleaner.

I paid just under $6 a pound with tax at an old line hardware store.  You can get it cheaper in bulk, however you are using it a few ounces a time per batch and it will degrade if it picks up moisture from the environment.

Work with Lye under a stove hood that vents outdoors, or preferrably work with it outdoors.   The fumes that Lye makes when added to Water are poisonous and will burn.

Yes, do this outdoors if you can.  I did in a well ventilated area.

If you are well prepared, you can use ice instead of water, freezing the correct amount and adding the lye to the ice to counteract the heat the lye will give off.  This will allow you to add the mixture to the oils quicker since the two liquids should be within 20F/11C of each other to minimize risk of any flare up.

Lye Discount or Superfat.  There is a trick to making moisturizing soap.  What you are doing is making a Chemical Reaction called “Saponification“.  The Lye and Water mix will react with the fats in the oils to make soap.  If you follow the recipe you can choose to have a discounted amount of Lye (Lye Discount) or not.  A Lye Discount results in leaving some of the oils unconsumed by the chemical reaction and your skin may appreciate it.  I used a 4% lye discount on my first two batches, but will reduce that in the future.

Fragrances.   Optional.  I used Rosemary essence in mine which was unnecessary but pleasant.  There are different calculations for when you add the essences depending on which of the three kinds of soap you are making.  They are available on the Lye Calculator that I keep referring to. Add after you get Trace.

Other Ingredients.  My second batch I used no water.  Substituting milk for water meant that it would be more of a moisturizing bar since there are proteins, solids, and fat in the milk that would not be saponified.  Glycerin is used in making Melt and Pour soap base.

Preservatives are typically added so that you do not get the “Dreaded Orange Spots” on the bars.  One of the bars from my first batch of Cold Process had some of the Dreaded Orange Spots.  They are mold.  I cut the mold out and used that bar immediately.  This is stopped by adding preservatives to the mix when you go to form your bars or your cake.  I still have to research that for my next soaps.

Supplies.  Your utensils can be silicone, plastic, wood, or stainless steel.  Whatever you use for soap making should be separate from the normal baking supplies because of cross-contamination.  Wood will absorb the soap and the mixes so I personally won’t use it.

Goggles for working with Lye are required.

You will want a stick blender, again at the thrift stores.  I got mine for $8, and ended up saving that new one for later since the older one I had in the house would be sacrificed for soap making.  You can use a stick blender to mix the soap mix until it is ready to trace.  At that point you can pour the soap into the mold.  Making soap will be tough on a stick blender so if it gets too hot, let the thing cool down.

A silicone soap mold that has multiple molds is an excellent suggestion, however if you are making a large “ingot” of soap that will be sliced down later, I found my silicone bread loaf pan will hold 40 ounces of soap and will be used for that on my next large batch.

Line the bottoms of your flat bottomed molds with parchment paper.  Yes, and you will thank me later.   You will also want to tap those molds to let trapped air float upwards  and out of your soap.

Go to a Thrift Store or Dollar Store or Pound Shop for as many supplies as you can get.   I spent $8 and got all my mixing spoons, many molds, and a gallon (4 liter) stock pot for this process.  Buying retail for this process is a bit spendy – take advantage of the thrift stores.

Absolutely you will need an electronic gram scale.  It should do both grams/kilos and ounces/pounds.  Which ever measurements that you are more used to using, do use them.  Smaller batches I have found are best done in grams, larger in ounces.  Round numbers are easier to work with after all.

Curing.   Times will vary due to how hot/humid/drafty the room is that you are curing your soap.  Hot Process soap will cure much faster, and I was able to use my hot process soap in a week.   I allowed my Cold Process soap to cure 5 weeks.  Curing allows the excess water in the soap to evaporate and produce a much more firm bar.  It also mellows the causticity of the soap because the Saponification process does not stop when you pour it out of the pot and into the mold at trace.

An excellent way to test for curing is to segregate one specific bar of soap for this test.  Weigh it In Grams as soon as it is ready to be set in a frame to cure.  Write the weight down.  Repeat this every second day (or so).  When the weight stops dropping, the soap is cured and ready for use.

Sensitive Skin issues.  Here’s the disclaimer.  I am not a doctor, nor do I give medical advice.  This is merely what I have noticed from using this soap exclusively for two months now.

I love this soap.  There’s nothing in this stuff that I didn’t put into it.

Your results may vary since if you have skin problems, you may be allergic to your ingredients, you could have something that irritates the eczema, or you may be lucky like me and have it just about completely clear up any problems you have.  I noticed a week after switching over to the hot process soap (90% olive oil, 10% shea nut oil) that my skin was softer, my hair was softer, my eczema was clearing, and I was even getting a better shave.

Don’t take my word for it, but do go into this intelligently.  If you are allergic to Coconut Oil, do not use it because the allergens may still be there.  You can use a very long list of oils to make this soap.  I did the first time, and the second time was simpler.  Both soaps cleaned the same.  My skin is much better than it was.

So it may work for you, it may not.  Like I said, eczema is a very tricky beast.  I never thought I would find a soap that worked better than Ivory.  My hands do not burn when I handle the homemade soap.

Conclusion. The best suggestion I can give is that if you do try this, make a small batch first.   A bath sized soap bar is between 3 and 5 ounces.  You can scale the batch down to make one single soap bar.  That is about 3 ounces of oil plus water and lye.

Find a Soap Calculator and use it make the calculations and proportions for you and your particular preferences, needs, and mixes of oils.  I could not calculate a soap recipe for the life of me, but I don’t have to.  It’s a matter of fiddling with the numbers until I get what I want.  My first batch was 20 ounces, the second was 45.  You don’t have to do things the same way every time.   I’m sticking with tiny one bar (5 ounce) batches until I find the soap for me.

After all, it really is all about getting what you want.  If you can’t do better than what you find in the market, why bother?  On the other hand, there’s a great feeling of satisfaction of walking down that soap aisle and thinking “Nah, I can do better!”.

Good luck!

What I found with my first try at Soap Making from scratch

To start with

Lye Soap is a misnomer.  The recipe for soap is Water plus Lye makes a liquid that is added to oil.  The chemical reaction is called Saponification.  Saponification converts the Oil (fat) to Soap.  No Lye should remain once the soap is cured.

Water + Lye + Fat = Soap. 

 

First off, no, I am not talking Melt and Pour.  That process is where you buy a big block of soap base, slice it down, melt it in a pot, add colors and scents, and pour into a mold.

May as well buy it at the store.

This is the actual “chemistry” side of things.  If you are good at Chemistry, Baking, Measuring precisely, you probably can do this.

Second, Lye.

There is always a warning about Lye, and a disclaimer.

By using this information, you acknowledge that your are voluntarily agreeing to not hold Ramblingmoose, and all people within free of any responsibilities and liabilities due to damage, injury, loss of bodily function or death.  This is to be interpreted in the broadest possible terms.

Wild huh?  Needs to be.  And it is by no means complete.  Both the disclaimer and these notes.  Do your research.

Lye, in the strengths you will be using, is a highly caustic chemical.  Lye can burn, and the fumes that result from the chemical reactions between Lye and Water, and the mixture of Lye and Water when added to oils and fats can be toxic.

When I mixed my Lye and Water, I used plastic containers, plastic utensils, and did it outdoors.  Some people say that you can do this indoors, I say no.  Mix your Lye by adding Lye to Water, and never the other way around.  Do so slowly and outdoors, even if you have a really great stove hood that is vented outside.  Use plastic or stainless steel to mix Lye.

Never Use Aluminum.

The chemical gasses that are given off are poisonous when you add Lye to Water.

All products are caustic until at least partial curing happens.  Keep White Vinegar nearby to neutralize anything then flush with a lot of water.

On the other hand, you probably can make this.   

Furthermore, Always use 100% Lye.  You can buy Food Grade Lye online for Soap Making and Baking.  Never use the drain cleaner from under the sink – it has probably aluminum in it and you don’t want.  You can use drain cleaner only if it is CLEARLY labeled 100% Lye.

Remember only use 100% Lye.  It comes in granules like grains of sand or flakes.  I found mine at an old school hardware store and it says that it is a drain cleaner.

Third – your choice of oils.

This started because we found a very large bottle of rather high grade olive oil.  It did not smell “off” but it was past the sell by date by a year and a half.

Being thrifty I remembered that Castile Soap was made from Olive Oil, Lye, and Water.

I began to look for videos on Youtube for them and frankly there are so many soap recipes there that I won’t bother including one.  A Three Ingredient Soap Recipe will make a great product.

Olive Oil, Lye, Water = Castile Soap.  You know, the stuff you pay five dollars minimum a bar at a posh market?  How does $.75 a bar sound?  Or less if you are using leftover oils like I am.

But I am writing this to remind myself in a couple months how I did this the first time and how to tweak things at that point.

And soaps cure at different speeds.  While pure Castile soap takes 4 to 6 MONTHS to fully cure, others take 4 to 6 WEEKS to cure.  I am expecting what I made this first time to be “weeks rather than months” and will check in six weeks by using it in the shower.

Then I went to the cupboard and discovered that I had some Cold Pressed Sesame Oil, and some Coconut Oil both of which were out of date.

I bought some Shea Nut Tree Oil for the project since I wanted a softer soap that would help with dry hands, and added that to my selection.

What I am getting at is that if it is a natural oil, it can probably be used to make soap.   Every single oil out there has their own chemical profile.  Some are silky soft like the Shea Butter and Shea Nut Oil.  Others build a firm soap to counteract the softer shea butter – like Coconut Oil.  The chemical profiles will change the way your soap will react with your skin.  If you have sensitive skin, consider adding oils that are commonly used in hand creams like Aloe, Shea Nut, and Jojoba.

Furthermore, all this fiddly stuff is basically an Algebra Equation.  That means that someone has already written a calculator that will tell you how much Water and Lye mixture you shall add to your oils.  You enter in your quantity of oils in ounces or grams, and tell the calculator that you want to have a solid or a liquid soap, and it spits out a recipe.  Easy huh?

My weird Kitchen Castoff Soap was a simple recipe –

7.4 Oz Coconut Oil

6 Oz Sesame Oil

2 Oz Shea Nut Oil

5.08 Oz Water

2.28 Oz Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)

Fragrance Essential Oils would be added, I used 1/2 Ounce or 14 grams of Rosemary Essence Oil.

While this is a “Cold Process Soap Recipe”, technically it is not a “Castile” soap because there is no Olive oil in it.  Won’t matter, I’m looking for something for sensitive skin first time out.

It made for a small batch of five smallish soap bars.  It is curing and will remain curing for six weeks to harden.  After four days, it is noticeably more firm than it was on day 2.

Fourth – Assembling Supplies.

No Aluminum – Ever.

Everything used should be either Plastic or Stainless Steel.

Silicone can be used for molds.

Parchment Paper worked best to line the molds.

Individual soap bars can be made in a loaf in a silicone bread pan, then sliced on day 2 by using a dough cutter that is typically stiff plastic or stainless steel.

Silicone individual soap bar molds are available.

Plastic handled Silicone Tipped Spatula to scrape the soap out of the mixing bowl.

Disposable container to mix Lye into Water (in that order).

Container to mix oils.

Measuring cups – glass or plastic.

Electrically powered stick mixer is pretty much a requirement.

You should take a trip to the kitchen and see what you can “sacrifice” to Soap Making.  You really don’t want your soap supplies to mix with your cooking supplies since you will never get all that residue off of things.  Take a Sharpie or Paint and write “Soap” on these supplies.

No, really, keep things separate.

Then go to the local thrift store, then the dollar store, then perhaps a Kitchen supply house in that order.

Why in that order?

Because of price.  I got my 4 Quart (3.8 Liter) stainless steel Farberware pot for $4, and a Stick Mixer for $6.   Also found silicone spatulas and plastic mixing spoons for $.50 each.  Soap Molds?  They were there for $.25 each.  Measuring Cup was a Dollar.

I made do with some old plastic Cottage Cheese containers for mixing Lye into Water.  It got recycled anyway!

The Thrift Stores are your friend.

The Dollar Stores sometimes also have Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter, but make sure that they are Pure and have nothing else listed in the ingredients.

I got my Lye at an Ace Hardware at 5.38 a pound.  It was clearly listed as 100% Lye, and was sold as Drain Cleaner.

White Vinegar for neutralizing any Lye, or Water/Lye, or Soap mix that gets on your hands.  All products are caustic until at least partial curing happens.

Finally Beauty Supply houses may be helpful.

Of course there is always online.  The Lye Calculator has affiliate links so that they can pay for that wonderful Lye Calculator page that they wrote.

Fifth – How I made my first batch.

I gathered all my gear together in the kitchen.

Measured out my Ice Water – the water should be as cold as possible without any chunks of ice.

I set the water in a plastic cottage cheese container inside my stainless steel mixing pot, then surrounded the cottage cheese container with ice.

The reason for all this cold water is that Lye reacts with water to create Heat, Noxious Poisonous Fumes, and the Water and Lye that you need to add to your oils.  The colder you have the water, the better.  It will become hot to the touch and you need the Water/Lye mix to be close to the same temperature as your Oils when you go to mix your soap.

Mix your Oils – All my oils were liquid.  Knowing that the Water/Lye mix was going to be hot, I heated my oils to 120F or about 50C.  Approximately.  My house is warm enough to keep Virgin Coconut Oil soft or even liquid in the winter months – this is South Florida after all.

I placed the oils in a plastic cottage cheese holding container and set aside.

Weighing out the precise amount of Lye, I walked it outside where I had previously set the ice water.  It was on a table next to my garden hose in case it splashed.  More importantly, a gallon of White Vinegar was sitting next to the table in case of emergency.

White Vinegar will neutralize Lye better than Water.

Getting a plastic teaspoon in one hand, I began to SLOWLY pour the lye into the ice water and stir it as I mixed things.  As it mixed, the water clouded up, and there was a production of gasses.

I continued slowly adding lye to the now warming water in the cup in the middle of the ice bath while stirring and making certain not to breath in the fumes.  Luckily I had a very light breeze that way off the ocean blowing the fumes off.

Once the Water/Lye mix was complete, I left it there to cool.  Removing it from the ice bath when it got roughly room temperature, I dumped out the ice water and dried out my pot thoroughly.

Next, I added the Oils Mixture to the mixing pot.

Adding the Water/Lye mixture to the Oils Mixture is done slowly.  Using the long plastic mixing spoon I had, I poured the lye into the Oils seeing an immediate clouding of the oils signifying the beginning of the Saponification Reaction that converts fats, water and lye into soap.

I was told that I could get the soap to change into a stiff pudding consistency in about 45 minutes max.  That was wrong.  I made the mistake of stirring this by hand for 50 minutes.  I saw a very slight thickening from a watery oil to a semi thick motor oil consistency.

I could have poured this all into molds and stopped however I had more to do.  Liquid Castile Soap made with the right recipe will firm up in a day if placed in the mold in the right conditions.

At this point I added in the one half ounce of Rosemary Essence and stirred this by hand before using the stick blender.   It was still quite liquid.

Then I brought it into the kitchen and mixed it with pulses from the Stick Blender.

It immediately thickened into something that looked like soft peaks in a meringue, or a not completely set pudding.

Next time I make soap, I will stir with the big plastic spoon for “A Couple Minutes” (arbitrary amount of time) then immediately come in and use the stick blender.

There’s a reason why electric tools are made!

Finally I scooped the soap into the molds that were lined with Baker’s Parchment Paper.  One was lined with plastic wrap and a third was unlined.  Stick with the Parchment Paper, it was absolutely the easiest to remove the bars from the molds.

Once removed from the molds, I placed the soap into a large cardboard box to cure.  Covering the soap with a towel helps to keep the curing bars from getting dusty.

Curing takes between 4 and 6 weeks.  It allows the Saponification Reaction to finish converting the fats in the oil and the Lye to Soap.  The longer you allow it to cure the less caustic the soap will be.

Be Patient.  A longer Cure is better than a shorter one.

Now I wait.  Some time around May 2, my soap will be ready to use.

Conclusion.

Watching all those videos put a scare in to me that I am glad I had.  Adding Lye to Water I got a sniff of the fumes they were talking about.  Dilute and a small accidental sniff, it was an evil acrid, smell.

Like I said, add Lye to Water and do so outdoors.

When I de-molded the soap, it left a little on the outside of the mold.  By the time I got around to cleaning the molds, the soap was strong but I was able to get a first “test”.  Not bad.  The Shea Butter helped to leave my hands silky smooth.

Looking forward to May to try this out safely.