Once I started writing about making soap I just kept going and going! There was just so much I wanted to share. This post contains some random thoughts that didn't fit anywhere else, where to find ingredients, ideas for additions to soap, a basic recipe, and a way to get around using lye if you want to make soap without lye.
First, a disclaimer and disclosure:
These are the safety procedures I use.
Please note that I am not responsible for accidents;
this post is for educational purposes only.
Oils and Fats
You can substitute any fat for another kind of oil, but be sure to use a lye calculator so you know how much lye to use. Anytime you change a recipe you'll need to check the amount of lye, but if you use the same recipe all the time without changing the amount or type of oils or fats, the amount of lye won't change.
Many soapmakers stick to vegetarian soaps that use plant-based oils exclusively - no lard or tallow included. Consumers tend to believe that tallow produces a low-quality soap that doesn't clean well and clogs pores, but this isn't true. Tallow makes a creamy lather, is skin-conditioning, and makes a hard bar of soap that will last longer than one made with vegetable oils only.
In fact, many of today's brands of commercial soap are made with tallow. This has given tallow a reputation of being harsh, but it's the harsh chemicals and detergents in commercial soaps that are hard on our skin, not the tallow itself. Commercial soap manufacturers also remove the glycerin that is a natural by-product of soapmaking; handmade soaps contain all the natural glycerin. This website has a very informative discussion of tallow in soap.
A bar of soap made with 100% tallow wouldn't clean as well as one made with a variety of oils and fats though, so it's best to make soap with more than one kind of fat. Different fats give different properties to your soap.
I have a favorite recipe that I've developed and I use it 98% of the time. I prefer using oils and fats that I can purchase easily or even render myself from animal fat. I use coconut oil and that is the hardest ingredient to source, although it's so popular now that it's much easier to find than it used to be when I started on the adventure of making soap. Lard can be purchased at the store but I render it from our pigs when they are butchered. I've rendered sheep tallow from the lambs we once butchered, and friends give me fat from their deer when they have a successful hunt.
Where to buy fats and oils: Lard can be purchased at the grocery store, usually in the baking aisle, probably on the bottom shelf. Coconut oil is in the same area, on a higher shelf. Vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, safflower and soybean are easy to find and might be in your cupboard already. Castor oil is in the health and beauty section; ask the pharmacist if you have trouble finding it. Other soap oils such as shea butter and palm oil are available online if you wish to use them.
A simple and frugal way to obtain beef tallow is to save the fat when cooking ground beef, keep it in the refrigerator until you have enough, then render it. I've done it - it works just like you'd butchered your own steer, although sometimes I've had to render it two or three times to get clean tallow. I'm now using the beef fat I rendered from our steer.
Change It Up With Additions
I've made soap using tea or coffee added to the goat milk, using the same total amount of liquid that the recipe calls for. It's possible of course to make soap with all of the liquid being tea or coffee or whatever but I simply used a combination of the two liquids that totaled the amount of liquid called for in the recipe. I've found that using cream instead of milk produces a lighter, whiter bar of soap.
Sometimes I've added cinnamon and coffee grounds as exfoliates. A bonus is that these additives also change the color of the soap. Paprika turns soap orange, cinnamon gives a brown color and coffee (both the liquid and the grounds) lend a dark brown color.
One of my favorite soaps contains healing herbs that I've infused in olive oil. I use chickweed, yarrow and plantain that grow wild here on Oak Hill. I measure the infused olive oil as usual to make the soap - if my recipe calls for 12 ounces of olive oil, I use 12 ounces of infused olive oil. The infused oil is dark green and lends a light green color to the finished soap.
|Soap made with herb-infused oil|
A Recipe at Last!
Several of you have asked for a recipe. I started out with a recipe similar to this one, a basic three-oil soap, but with lard instead of palm oil (this would change the amount of lye, so be sure to use a lye calculator to tell you how much lye to use). Please don't try making your first batch of soap with a single ingredient; I've had so many people tell me they've tried olive oil or castille soap first and it was a total bust. Once you've mastered this three-oil soap you can try another recipe, ok?
After I made this one a time or two, I changed the recipe a bit, one oil at a time, until I was happy with the result, and that's what I've been making ever since. A tip: castor oil lends a nice lather to your soap and is a good addition to the combination of oils you use.
Melt and Pour Soap
If you want to try soapmaking but just don't want to worry about the danger of using lye, you can buy melt-and-pour soap base (affiliate link). I've never used it, although I have a box of soap base that was given to me several years ago. I'm hoping to make some as a craft project with our granddaughter this summer, so there may be a Part Six to this series someday.
I have a soap Pinterest board with pins that range from basic to herbal to exotic and beautiful. Some soapmakers are true artists and their soap is absolutely gorgeous. Mine will never reach that level, but it's fun to look at the photos.
In this series:
Making Soap with Goat Milk: Safety, Equipment, and Getting Ready
Making Soap with Goat Milk: Cold Process
Making Soap with Goat Milk: Hot Process
Making Soap with Goat Milk: Unmolding, Cutting and Curing
Making Soap with Goat Milk: Random Thoughts and a Recipe
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
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