October 1, 2012


Making soap isn't really that hard, although you do have to be very careful when you use lye. There are several commandments when you are using lye:
1) Always wear goggles and rubber gloves when you are handling lye.
2) Always keep your focus on your soapmaking; do not be distracted by the rainbow out the kitchen window.
3) Do not attempt to make soap with children or pets in the room.
4) ALWAYS add the lye to the liquid, NEVER the other way around. I was taught to "add the lye to ___", because the first step is to add it TO the milk or water, and the second step is to add the milk/lye or water/lye solution TO the oils.
5) Store lye where children and pets absolutely positively cannot get into it, preferably under lock and key.

There are many online tutorials about making soap, so I will let you peruse them if you are interested in making soap yourself. Making milk soaps is slightly different though; I use milk frozen in ice cube trays. Using lye will burn the natural sugars in the milk to a certain extent and the finished color will be anywhere from cream to brown.

All the utensils I use for soapmaking are never used for food preparation - my mixing bowls, rubber spoons, stick blender, crockpot, etc., are used only for soapmaking, and are stored in my "soap studio" (aka the mudroom).

I use both the "cold process" and "hot process" methods, depending on the occasion and the recipe. For cold process (CP), the raw soap is poured into a mold and left for 24 hours to saponify (this is the chemical reaction), then cut and cured for 6 weeks. Hot process soap (HP) is poured into a crockpot and cooked, then put in a mold. HP soap is "done" after the cook, and as soon as it is hard enough it is removed from the mold and cut; it's ready to use at that point.

This summer I bought new silicone molds. The smaller molds I had been using have bowed from the heat of the saponification process, and some have cracked and broken. I've also wanted to try swirling and marbling, which I could not do with the column molds I was using. Since the new ones are larger, I've had to resize my recipe slightly, and made my first test batch with the new amounts this week.

My bars used to be approximately 3.25 ounces when cured, and cost $3.50. The bars in this latest batch range from 5.1 to 5.5 ounces when first cut. They will lighten a bit in weight as the moisture cures out, so when I get a final weight on the cured bars the price will be adjusted accordingly.

HP soaps have a rough top, a very rustic look that I like. CP soaps are smoother since the soap is more fluid when it is poured into the mold, which I also like. Depending on the recipe and the result I'm after, they both have their place.


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