Sunday, 30 January 2011

My soap making adventure!

New Thing number 2

I have wanted to make soap from scratch for atleast 8 years. So why have I waited this long? Well I was abit worried about using lye (sodium hydroxide) which is a very corrosive alkaline substance. If you search for soap making instructions on the internet you will find all sorts of cautions about using it. These include not breathing in the fumes and not getting it on your skin or in your eyes. I have been putting off making soap for ages because of this. This has been another thing where I have let fear get the better of me!

 I have decided that if other people can make soap without causing themselves injury then so can I!

So here is a little bit about my adventure into soap making.

If you fancy making soap yourself then search on the internet for instuctions or get a good book like this The Soapmaker's Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How (Natural Body Series - The Natural Way to Enhance Your Life) I am new to this but I will give some basic instuctions on what I did. However please don't assume that my recipe is OK to use as I haven't used the soap yet!

I didn't want to follow someone elses recipes as I wanted to use oils I already had at home. I also didn't want to use any palm oil because of the environmental implications.

The oils I had at home were - Macadamia oil, Olive oil, Coconut Oil and Sunflower oil.
 I decided to use 8 ounces in weight of each oil. I used the soap calcualtor to  check the amount of lye and water I should use. This is really important as too much lye could result in the soap being too alkali and unsafe to use on the skin.

So my recipe was-

Macadamia Oil 8 ounces
Sunflower Oil 8 ounces
Coconut Oil 8ounces
Olive oil 8 ounces
4.47 ounces Lye - Also known as caustic soda
This was all weighed.
Plus 10 fluid ounces of water

I put on old clothes that have long sleeves and an apron, safety goggles and rubber gloves. I slowly and carefully added the lye to the water. This should never be done the other way around as it could cause a volcanoe which would be dangerous. The lye and water mixture got very hot, very quickly. I did this bit in the garage as you need plenty of ventilation. Don't breath in the fumes!! Stir every so often until all of the lye dissolves. I then carefully carried the lye and water mixture into the kitchen.  I had  heated the oils just  enough to melt the coconut oil. I added the lye/water to the oils and then I stirred it. I used a stick blender to mix it until it traced (until you can stir it and leave a trace from the spoon that stays there for abit.)
I had already lined a large shoe box with greaseproof paper. I poured the soap mixture into this. Be careful the mixture is still causitc at this stage. I put the lid on and wrapped it in a towel. I put the box in a fairly warm place. After 24 hours I opened the box and tipped out the slab of soap. Still wearing my rubber gloves I cut the soap into rectangles. It looked great - a nice creamy colour. It was still a little soft. However I then put it on a towel and put it in a warm place to cure. Soap needs to cure for atleast 4 weeks so that it can harden and so that there is no lye left in it.

Making the soap was nowhere near as complicated as I thought it would be! I am also not frightened of using lye anymore - as long as you are careful and follow the safety procedures you should be fine.

When the soap has cured I will need to test the PH level to check that it is safe enough to use on skin.

I will post a photograph of the soap soon - that is another thing I need to learn how to do!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Hi Ellie it is the Kate,you know we spoke last night. Well done for trying something totally new. It sounds very complicated. I haved tried to
    No.1 be less technophibic and blog and twitter.
    No.2 When I can't sleep do some of my course work, so I will gain from lost sleep hours!

  2. Well-done Kate that's great!!