BE A SOAP MAKER
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You do not necessarily have to completely understand the chemistry of soap making in order to make soap at home. Don't be scared away from this enjoyable craft because of its relation to chemistry. You can be a great soap maker even if you can't quite grasp the exact process of saponification! This course will help you clear the basics so that you can go ahead and make your own soaps.
- None. The student needs to be passionate and should be willing to experiment and try out practical exercises which are safe.
- Basic techniques of soap making
- Confidently start making your own basic soaps using Melt & Pour and Cold Process Method.
- Get to know about how soap making started
- Comprehensive knowledge about soap making related terms, equipment and safety handling.
- Introduction to various additives used like colors and essential oils
- Techniques for designing M&P soaps
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF SOAP
Although no one really knows when soap was discovered, there are various legends surrounding it’s beginning. According to Roman legend, soap was named after Mount Sapo, an ancient site of animal sacrifices. After an animal sacrifice, rain would wash animal fat and ash, that collected under the ceremonial altars, down to the banks of the Tiber River.
Women washing clothes in the river noticed that if they washed their clothes in certain parts of the river after a heavy rain their clothes were much cleaner. Thus the emergence of the first soap – or at least the first use of soap.
A soap-like material found in clay cylinders during the excavation of ancient Babylon is evidence that soapmaking was known as early as 2800 B.C. Inscriptions on the cylinders say that fats were boiled with ashes, a soap-making method.
Moses gave the Israelites detailed laws governing personal cleanliness. Biblical accounts suggest that the Israelites knew that mixing ashes and oil produced a kind of gel that could be used on hair. Soap is mentioned twice in the Bible, but it is generally agreed that the Hebrew word “borith,” which has been translated as soap, is a generic term for any cleansing agent made from wood or vegetable ashes.
By the second century A.D., the Greek physician, Galen, recommended soap for both medicinal and cleansing purposes.
Bathing habits all over Europe rose and declined with Roman civilization. When Rome fell in 467 A.D., so did bathing. It is believed that the lack of cleanliness and poor living conditions contributed to the many plagues of the Middle Ages.
Not until the seventh century did soapmakers appear in Spain and Italy where soap was made with goat fat and Beech tree ashes. During the same period, the French started using olive oil to make soap. Eventually, fragrances were introduced and specialized soaps for bathing, shaving, shampooing, and laundry began to appear. King Louis XIV of France apparently guillotined three soapmakers for making a bar that irritated his very sensitive Royal skin.
The English began making soap during the 12th century. In 1633 King Charles I granted a 14 year monopoly to the Society of Soapmakers of Westminster.
According to Alison Sim, in her book “The Tudor Housewife,” wealthy ladies of the Tudor period (1485-1603) used a scented toilet soap or ‘castill soap’ for their daily washing. This soap, made with olive oil and imported, was very expensive. A household instruction manual written during this period included recipes for soap which suggests that people of all levels of society were interested in personal hygiene.
During the reign of Elizabeth I, soap consumption in England was greater than in any other European country. It seems that Queen Bess set the fashion herself, for it was reported that the Queen took a bath every four weeks "whether it was necessary or not."
Just as the soap industry was gaining momentum in England, it became the subject of a series of restrictions and crippling taxation. It was not until 1853 that Gladstone abolished the tax on soap.
It wasn't until the 18th century that bathing came into fashion. In 1791, the French chemist Nicolas Leblanc discovered how to extract soda from common salt. Around the same time, Louis Pasteur proclaimed that good personal hygiene would reduce the spread of diseases.
By the beginning of the 19th century, soap making was one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. Rural Americans made homemade soap using a process from the Colonial times. They would save ashes from their fires for months. When they had enough fat left over from butchering hogs they would make soap.
Old fashioned lye was made using hardwood ashes, a barrel or ash hopper, and rainwater. Holes were drilled in the bottom of a barrel. The barrel was placed on a grooved stone slab which rested on a pile of rocks. A layer of gravel was placed over the holes. Then a layer of straw, twigs, and sticks was placed on top of the gravel as a filter to prevent the ashes from getting in the solution. After filling a barrel with hardwood ashes, rainwater was pored through the ashes to leach out the brown lye liquid which would flow into the groove around the stone slab and drip down into a container.
Some soapmakers used an ash hopper for making lye instead of the barrel method. Using the same basic process, the lye dripped into a container located underneath the hopper.
The most difficult part of early soapmaking was determining if the lye was the correct strength. The “lye water” was considered the proper strength to make soap when an egg or small potato placed in the solution floated about halfway beneath the surface of the solution. If the egg or potato floated on top, the lye was too strong. If it sank quickly, the lye was too weak. Some early soapmakers used goose or chicken feathers to test their lye. If a feather inserted in the lye water began to dissolve in it, then the lye water was at the right strength.
During World War I, commercial soap, as we know it today, came into existence. The injuries of war brought an increased need for cleaning agents. However, at the same time, the ingredients needed to make soap were scarce. German scientists created a new form of "soap" made with various synthetic compounds and as a result detergents were born. Most commercial soaps available today are actually detergents, which are made with petroleum by-products. Since these "soaps" are detergents, by law cannot be called soap. Chances are that when you see a soap called a "body bar," it is not soap at all.
After the Great War and until the 1930's, soap was made by a method called batch kettle boiling. Commercial soap makers had huge three story kettles that produced thousands of pounds of soap over the course of about a week. Shortly thereafter, an invention called continuous process was introduced and refined by Procter & Gamble. This process decreased soap making production time to less than a day. Large commercial soap manufacturers still use continuous process.
Commercial soap manufacturers also learned that they could remove the natural glycerin in soap which gives it moisturizing properties. They sell it or use it in other higher priced products like the moisturizers and creams you need when their soap dries out your skin. Removing the natural glycerin also extends the shelf life of the soap so that it can sit in storehouse or on store shelves for many years.
Today there is a heightened awareness of the possible adverse effects of many of the synthetic additives and chemicals in commercial soap. Educated consumers are turning to all natural products like ours. Even large companies are starting to advertise "natural ingredients" in their products. BUT BEWARE! The addition of one or two natural ingredients does not make a product "all natural.” It is virtually impossible for large companies to create natural, handmade soaps.
A quick review to go through the history of this craft.
There are many ways to make soap- Melt & Pour Soap, Cold Process Soap, Hot Process and Rebatching. Each soap making method has its benefits, and disadvantages. As you continue learning how to make soap through this resource, you will form your own style and surely adopt one of these four soap making methods as your favorite.
Melt and Pour Soap
Technically, all hand made soap is “Glycerin Soap.” In many commercial soaps, all the extra glycerin (formed naturally by the cold process soapmaking method) is harvested out. Thus, all handmade soap is glycerin rich (since hand made soapmakers don’t harvest out glycerin in their soap).
In today’s market, the term “Glycerin Soap” is commonly used to refer to clear soap. Generally, the clear soap has extra glycerin added to it to produce a very nourishing, moisturizing bar. Glycerin is a “humectant.” It draws moisture to itself; the theory is that if you wash with glycerin soap, a thin layer of glycerin will remain, drawing moisture to your skin.
Clear soap base can be purchased in large blocks to be melted down, colored and fragranced, and placed into molds (or used to make loaves of soap to be sliced). This type of soap is called “Melt and Pour” and the artistry of melt and pour is called “Soap Casting.” Melt and Pour soap making is gaining in popularity because of its ease of use. There are no significant safety measures (other than basic common sense – don’t put your hand in the hot soap, don’t cut your finger off with the knife etc…) needed for soapcasting. Children can do it. It’s a great outlet for creative types.
You can also make clear soap from scratch. This method involves all the aspects of cold process soapmaking, but takes it a few steps further by adding alcohol for clarity and a glycerin and sugar mix to suspend and enhance the clarity. It is a dangerous process because of the alcohol vapors.
View our Melt and Pour Soap making videos
Now that you are well acquainted with the different methods theoretically, in this lecture let's go through some recipes that you can try. Also attached are the videos that will make bring alive the recipes.
For Oily Skin- Charcoal & Tea tree soap
Here is what you will need to get started
Clear soap base
Soap bases are pre made saponified bases and are like open canvas for us to craft our desired soaps. They are available in basic clear, opaque and many other pre added varieties like with aloe, papaya, and even charcoal.
Activated carbon from bamboo charcoal for its power to absorb impurities and toxins
Tea tree Essential Oil - Tea tree as we know is excellent for oily skin. It contains natural antibacterial properties which make it an excellent alternative to harsh synthetic chemicals
Color of your choice
Microwave & microwave containers
& some interesting moulds to give pretty shapes
First we will take the transparent soap base and cut in uniform even chunks so that they melt uniformly. We will put it in the microwave and give it heat burst of 30sec. Check if they have melted, if not, repeat with another 30sec. In the absence of a microwave, you can try melting it on a double boiler. We will take Add one tsp of charcoal and about 7-8 drops of EO, and mix it. Pour it into a basic mould. Let it get set. Keep it to set for about half an hour and unmould it.
This we will use as soap inserts. Let’s cut them into small pieces further.
Now we will melt some more chunks of the clear base.
Add a few drops of the food color till we get the desired color. To give color, you can even use natural pigments like turmeric, or indigo. Add EO for its fragrance and properties. Now, let’s place the carbon inserts in the mould and pour the melted base over it. There are variety of molds available online.. and you can experiment with the designs as you wish. Let it set again and unmould after some time. Here you go, you have this, beautiful tea tree and charcoal soap ready !
For Detanning- CLAY & PAPAYA SOAP
White soap base &
Transparent soap base – Soap Bases are plain pre made bases without any additives. These are Easy to use and save you from handling caustic soda or lye.
Clay – We can get Bentonite Clay, Dead sea clay or even Multani Mitti. We need These clays are available online.
Poppy Seeds – Poppy seeds, what we call as khus khus and use them in cooking often. It’s a natural exfoliator, does gentle scrubbing due to its fine round granules
Papaya Essential Oil to impart the some glow post usage of the product. You can use lavender, rose or peppermint too for sun damaged skin to restore, calm, cool and soothe the skin
& rubbing alcohol to fuse layers and give a neater finish
& yes the usual, moulds, microwave safe containers, some spoons etc
We will make a soap with two sides, both with it’s unique benefits. Where, one side gentle scrubby with poppy seeds and the other side will be softening as it will have clay. Let’s melt some clear base. You need to cut the base into small even chunks, and melt it in the microwave giving it 30 sec heat bursts. Once melted, add a few drops of color of your choice, about 8 drops of Papaya EO. And a tsp full of poppy seeds.
Mix them all and pour them into the mold. Fill it only half. Spray rubbing alcohol to remove any bubbles. Let it set for some time till there is a thickened top layer. Separately, lets melt some white base following the same process. Once melted, we need to add 1 tsp of the clay, papaya EO. We will not add any color here and let it look it’s natural way. Stir it so that there are no lumps. Spray some rubbing alcohol on the soap in the mold, make sure only the top layer is set and the full soap is not ready yet. No pour the hot liquid carefully on this. Let it set.
Unmold it and you have your two sided soap ready!
FOR DRY SKIN - MOISTURIZING SHEA BUTTER SOAP
Opaque white soap base.
Shea Butter to add moisturizing benefits to your soap. There are other natural plant butters available too, such as Kokum butter, Mango butter or even Coco butter.
Vit E- we get them as capsules or in bottles at chemists. Capsules can be pricked or cut open and we can use the content that’s inside. We need about 2 capusles. Or straightaway about 5 drops from the bottle
Sandalwood Essential Oil for it’s calming properties and earthy soothing fragrance.
Food Color of your choice
A pretty mold to give a beautiful shape to our soap
First, we will cut the pre made soap base into small equal sized cubes so that when we heat the base, they melt evenly. We will heat it in 30 sec bursts till they are all melted. We do it in short bursts so that it doesn’t get overheated as it makes the soap harder.
We will add a tsp of the butter. For a full size soap which is about 110-120g, any solid or liquid additive can not exceed 1 tsp. If we add more of the butter or oil, the soap will not hold together. Let’s add Vit E drops.
Now, let’s add a few drops of color and Sandalwood EO & let’s pour it into the moulds and allow it to set for sometime.
After about half an hour, your soap is fully set. We can unmold it now and it’s ready to be used.
Additional video recipe
Though crafty, M&P soaps offer a great deal of flexibility in terms of designing and the whole method results in great output that serves instant gratification for the maker. Let's go through some questions to polish our knowledge further
Cold Process Soap
The type of soap Grandma made is called “Cold Process” soap (commonly referred to as “CP” soap). It is made by combining fatty acids and sodium hydroxide (lye) together. Fatty acids can be almost any oil – from beef tallow to olive oil. The combinations for making your own personal recipe are endless.
Cold process soapmaking is a combinations of an art and science. The condensed version of this type of soapmaking is that there is a certain proportion of lye (sodium hydroxide) and water to fatty acids that forms a chemical reaction called “saponifaction.” During saponification, the oils and lye mix and become soap – the process takes approximately six weeks to fully complete.
Cold process soapmaking requires the use of lye and the use of safety equipment, such as goggles and gloves. Cold process soap is known for its hard, long lasting quality. Depending on the oils used, the bar can have great lather (COCONUT OIL has excellent lathering properties), be incredibly mild (OLIVE OIL is renowned for its gentle qualities) or be very moisturizing (with the addition of oils, such as shea and coco butter
Here, let's go through the simplest cold process recipe. The simplest soap would be the pure soap without any additives such as fragrance or color. This might sound a little boring to some, but there is a lot to learn when making your first batch of cold process soap. First, you need to learn how to safely mix your lye solution. Then, you need to correctly mix and measure your soap making oils. Your first batch also teaches you what trace looks and “feels” like. Let's go through the recipe below in detail for the measurement and the attached video for the procedure.
Basic Cold Process Recipe (Super fat 5%):
8 oz. or 237ml Coconut Oil (24%)
15 oz. or 444 ml Olive Oil (44%)
11 oz. or 325 ml Palm Oil (32%)
4.8 oz. or 136 gm Lye
11.2 oz. or 331ml Distilled Water
Always run a recipe through a lye calculator (available online) to double check the measurements
Step 1: Slowly and carefully add the lye to the water and gently stir until the lye has fully dissolved and the liquid is clear. Set aside to cool.
Step 2: Combine the coconut oil, olive oil and palm oil (remember to fully melt then mix your entire container of palm oil before portioning). Allow the lye water and the oils to cool to 130°F or below (and are ideally within 10 degrees of each other). For this recipe, both the oils and lye were around 120°F.
Step 3- Place your stick blender into the oils and tap the container to release any trapped bubbles
Step 4- Gently pour the cooled lye water down the shaft of the stick blender and into the oils.
Turn on the stick blender and pulse several times. You will immediately see the lye and oils begin to come together, and begin to create a creamy yellow color. Alternate between using the stick blender to stir the mixture, and pulsing the stick blender. After about 30 seconds, test for trace. Because this recipe contains a large amount of olive oil, it will stay at a thin trace longer than recipes with fast moving oils such as butters.
Step 5- As you continue to pulse and stir with the stick blender, you may notice the soap starting to lighten in color. It will also start to become thicker.
Step 6- Once your soap has reached medium trace, pour it into the mold until all the soap is in the mold.
Allow the soap to sit in the mold for 3-4 days. Unmold, and cut into bars. Allow the soap to cure for 4-6 weeks. During this time, water evaporates from the soap making it firmer and longer lasting in the shower.
When many soapmakers first start out, they don’t give much thought to how to make handmade soap safely. And when they do, their efforts are typically focused on the caustic nature of lye, and not on any of the other ingredients or important safety measures.
How to Make Handmade Soap Safely
While this should be a very basic topic for many soapmakers, I think that a lot of important parts of how to make handmade soap safely are typically overlooked.
I hope this list of seven safety measures will help you get your wheels turning on how you can make cold process soap more safely!
Safety Measure #1: Understanding the Ingredients
Consult a Safety Data Sheet for Each Ingredient You Use
To ensure you know how to safely use and store an ingredient, consult a SDS (Safety Data Sheet) for that ingredient from your supplier. If your supplier does not have a SDS for an ingredient available, you may want to ask them to supply you with one and consider finding a new supplier, if they will not give you one.
For instance, in the case of sodium hydroxide, many soapmakers for years have passed around the knowledge that they should clean lye solution spills and splashes with vinegar, when in reality, many SDS specifically state not to use any neutralizing agents!
Research Your Ingredients Independently Before Using Them
Should you be using the ingredient in the manner that you plan? Is it safe to use the ingredient? With the ingredient react to another ingredient or react in the environment of the formulation?
Safety Measure #2: Using Accurate Measurements
Measuring your ingredients by volume makes it extremely easy to use inaccurate amounts of an ingredient in a formula. You should always weigh your ingredients on an accurate digital scale for precision.
Keeping Your Scale Accurate
Once you have a quality digital scale to weigh your ingredients, it’s not a set and forget it scenario! In order to make handmade soap safely time after time, your scale needs to remain accurate. How do you do that? Check it for accuracy often, and calibrate your scale periodically or as needed.
Safety Measure #3: Keeping Your Eyes Safe
Both lye solution and raw soap are caustic in nature and can severely injure a soapmaker. It goes without saying that wearing safety glasses or goggles will help prevent any eye injuries.
Safety Measure #4: Keeping Your Skin Safe
Soapmaking is hands-on, so it makes sense to protect your hands! All soapmakers should wear gloves that can withstand exposure to lye solution, raw soap, and fragrance materials.
Other Skin Protection Measures
Some soapmakers also wear long sleeves, an apron, and/or a labcoat to protect their skin and clothing. If you choose to wear long sleeves or any other skin protection, ensure that it’s either waterproof or can be removed easily.
Safety Measure #5: Breathing Clean Air
A lot of soapmakers are aware of the dangers of mixing lye solution and the resulting kickback of particles and fumes. The most common precaution most soapmakers follow is either mixing lye solution outside or under an exhaust hood in a kitchen.
12 Steps to Make Cold Process Soap
1. Choose a recipe and run it through a lye calculator.
2. Assemble ingredients and safety gear.
3. Prepare the mold.
4. Weigh the water.
All soap ingredients should be weighed with a digital scale, this includes your liquids. Oils and lye weight must be exact. For liquids, you have a little bit of play room.
5. Weigh the lye.
(Wear those gloves and goggles!)
6. Pour the lye into the water.
Make sure you pour the lye into water that is cool or no warmer than room temp.
Always add the lye to the liquid and not the other way around. Lye + water shoots up to over 200 degrees F quickly, so use caution when handling. Stir with a heavy duty plastic spoon or rubber spatula until fully dissolved and set in a safe place, out of reach of children and pets, until it cools to about 90 to 115 degrees F.
7. Weigh and heat the oils, butters & fats.
Do this while the lye solution is cooling.
You can either heat everything together in a stainless steel soaping pot and then let it cool to 90 to 115 degrees F.
8. Monitor the temperatures & combine.
Try to get your oils and lye solution fairly close to each other, but it’s completely fine if they’re 10 or even 20 degrees different.
Once the desired temps are reached, slowly drizzle the lye solution into the container of oils and butters.
9. Blend until trace.
Using a stick blender, blend the soap in short bursts of a few seconds at a time, stirring by hand with the motor off in between times. Don’t run the stick blender continuously or you may burn out the motor and your soap will thicken up too quickly.
10. Pour the soap batter into the mold.
Working quickly, pour the soap into your prepared mold, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon if needed.
The soap is still caustic at this point, so keep your gloves on and be aware that raw soap batter can burn your skin. If that happens, rinse thoroughly with cold water.
11. Cover and insulate the mold.
This keeps the soap warm so that it can go through gel phase and finish saponifying. Leave undisturbed for about 24 to 36 hours. (It’s okay to peek at it every now and then though. If you spot a crack forming on top, it means the soap is too hot and should be uncovered.)
12. Unmold and slice into bars.
You can cut the soap into bars right away or later. I like to do it fairly soon after making, so that the soap is still easy to cut.
Use a knife or you can use a wire soap cutter
Let the bars of soap cure in the open air on pieces of wax paper, turning occasionally, for at least 4 weeks.
And that’s how to make your own soap, from scratch!
A quick test to check if we have the basics clear
Try out these really basic and simple recipes that yield great results. Do inbox us the results, would be great to see the output.
Basic Cold Process Recipe
This is an easy, mild olive oil soap, also good for beginners. This recipe makes 8 pounds of soap.
- 24 oz. olive oil
- 24 oz. coconut oil
- 38 oz. vegetable shortening
- 12 oz. lye
- 32 oz. distilled water
- 3-4 oz. essential oil of your choice (optional)
Basic Moisturizing Soap
This lovely combination of gentle oils will make a mild soap that leaves your skin smooth and soft.
- 24 oz. Distilled Water
- 9 oz. Sodium Hydroxide
- 20 oz. Palm Oil
- 17 oz. Coconut Oil
- 16 oz. Safflower Oil
- 8 oz. Olive Oil
- 3 oz. Sweet Almond Oil
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GET EXPERIMENTING & ALL CRAFTY WITH THESE SOAP RECIPES. GO THROUGH THE ATTACHED PDF AND PENNING DOWN OUR FAVORITE ONE FROM OUR WORKSHOPS BELOW -
2 oz clear melt & pour base
2 oz white melt & pour
10 drops chocolate fragrance
10 drops vanilla fragrance
Cocoa powder or brown colorant
Melt the clear soap in double boiler and add the cocoa powder to get a nice deep brown color and a natural cocoa scent. Alternatively, you could also let the clear MP cool slightly and form a light skin, then sprinkle it liberally with the cocoa powder and swirl loosely with a toothpick before pouring. This will cause a swirl effect of chocolate instead of a clear brown. Let it cool briefly. Add 10 drops chocolate fragrance oil if you wish. *You may wish to make this bar extra special by adding a little cocoa butter to the brown batch*. Pour into a mold, filling halfway up. Let the clear sit for about twenty minutes until it is slightly tacky at the top.
In another pan melt the white soap. To this you may add a little shea butter or coconut oil. Allow the melted base to slightly cool and then add vanilla fragrance oil. After letting it cool a few more minutes, pour over the cocoa colored soap.
Let the soap sit for a few hours to firm. Overnight would be best. Pop out and voila! Layered Chocolate-Vanilla Soap! Some other ideas are: Chocolate-Peppermint Honey-Almond Lemon-Orange Mango-Shea Use your imagination!
It's an open canvas when it comes to making soaps. Be experimental yet be mindful about the ingredients you use. Lot of ingredients can find their way into your experiments from your kitchen shelf itself. Coffee, turmeric, rice powder, herbs, nigella seeds etc make great additives and have skin beneficiary properties too.
Some soaps can be made to suit different skins and hair colors.
For dry skin: Use a tea made from acacia or clover
For oily skin: Use a tea made from roses or cucumber
For putting the red back into black hair use a tea made from stinging nettles.
To make an astingent soap use chamomile or raspberry leaves.
To get your hands set and be confident until you have run your first 20 batches, it's a nicer way to be safe with single additive additions.
It's perfectly alright to have a few batches not turn out the way you wanted. Some developing DOS due to stale rancid oils or even being over excited and cutting the soap loaf in 24 hours before it gets set. Take all this in your stride and move ahead. We learn from every batch we make and the more we make, the more confident we get. The first few batches also set the course for more experimentation with designs and ingredients. Swirling, spooning, layers, patterns, what stage of trace makes sense for what design technique, We can only master these techniques once we are confident and have our hands set on basic soap making.
On that note, Happy Soaping! (Yes, there are more recipes attached, so suit up!)
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