February 25, 2015

Making Soap with Goat Milk: Cutting and Curing

This is Part Four in my series on Making Soap with Goat Milk. Click here to read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

I never intended to write a multi-part series on making soap. I thought it would take one long post, or maybe two. There is so much information to give though that it has turned into four - plus one next week with all the odds and ends of information and thoughts that wouldn't fit anywhere else.

Making soap probably takes less time than it has taken you to read all of my posts. It really isn't hard or time-consuming (except the mixing part sometimes), but there is a lot to remember. The first time I made soap I printed out the directions and had them right in front of me while working, so that I wouldn't forget a step. I highlighted the part about adding lye TO liquid because that was the part that scared me the most. I went over the steps many times in my mind before I made my first batch. Knowledge is power, and in reverse, ignorance can be dangerous.

Since we're talking about something that can be dangerous, let's go over the legal stuff again:

These are the safety procedures I use.
Please note that I am not responsible for accidents;
this post is for educational purposes only.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase,
I will receive a small commission, but it doesn't affect the price you pay.
Thank you for supporting Oak Hill Homestead!

Let's step back to Part Two, when my soap reached "trace". Trace is kind of hard to describe, but you'll know it when you see it. The liquid + oils that I started out with were transparent, and after awhile they became translucent, and then the raw soap turned opaque. It thickened up, so that if I picked up a spoonful of soap and dripped some of it back in the dishpan I was mixing it in, the drops sort of sat on the surface instead of immediately disappearing. If I pulled my plastic mixing spoon through the soap, a line stayed visible - not like the parting of the Red Sea, but you could see a "trace" of the line.

So, when my soap reaches trace - whether I'm making Cold Process (CP) or Hot Process (HP) soap - it needs to be poured into a mold of some kind. CP soap will pour easily; be careful when pouring so that it doesn't splash on skin. HP soap needs to be spooned into a mold. I learned the hard way that when making HP soap, the mold needs to be thunked on the countertop a few times or else I'd have big holes or even tunnels in my log of soap from air bubbles.

The very first time I made soap I used a cardboard box lined with a trash bag as a mold. That worked fine, although my bars weren't uniform or pretty. Still, if that doesn't matter to you, this might be the only mold you'll need.

Next I used lengths of PVC downspout as molds. Hubby cut them for me into pieces about ten inches long. I'd cap the bottom end with doubled freezer paper and duct tape, then set them upright in a box, rubberband them all together, surround the whole thing with crumpled paper to hold them safely in position, and pour the soap in. These are called column molds. The downspout had a nice shape and I liked the shape and size of the soap bars.

The downspout molds had to be well-greased for the soap to come out, and I couldn't grease it with cooking oil because that would become part of the soap. The only solution I found was to use Vaseline and lots of it. To unmold, I'd tear off the freezer paper, put a piece of cardboard cut to roughly the same shape on the end of the mold and push like crazy. It was often extremely hard to get the log of soap out, and it became even harder over time. The intense heat of the saponification process warped the vinyl, and as I tried to push out the soap I cracked most of my molds. I struggled with those for a long time but eventually I decided I needed something better, and I gave up using them.

The soap bars inside are just to illustrate the size of the mold.

I bought a silicone loaf mold on sale. To use it I line the mold with freezer paper - a very quick and simple process - and pour in the raw soap. When it's ready to be unmolded I just pick up the ends of the paper and lift the whole thing out. It's so much easier. The loaf mold makes a bigger bar than my column molds; I like the size of the bars from my column molds better, but I'm getting used to the bigger ones. I cut the bigger bars slightly thinner so that they are more comfortable to hold.

Soap made with a vinyl downspout mold. You can see how the top is bowed and the soap is no longer rectangular.

I unmold the soap after about 24 hours. It just needs to be hard enough to hold its shape; some recipes will be ready sooner and others will take longer depending on the oils used. I usually let my log of soap rest on a towel for several hours before cutting it into bars but that isn't a requirement. It's usually kind of wet when it's first unmolded and it's easier for me to handle and cut after the surface has dried a bit.

After hubby watched me struggle to cut my bars into a relatively uniform size, he gave me his plastic miter box. He's a genius. This is the best method ever.

I put a mark with a permanent marker the correct distance from the cutting slit so I just move the log of soap to that mark and use a knife to make the cut. I slide the rest of the log up to the mark again and cut another bar. They are as uniform as hand-cut bars can be. My first bars were 1.25 inches wide. Now that I'm using the bigger mold I cut them one inch thick.

Cold process soap should cure for at least six weeks before use. I set the bars on a towel with space in between them for air to flow and dry the bars. I turn them over every day or so for the first week or two, then occasionally after that. Hot process soap doesn't need to cure as long - it's usable as soon as you cut it into bars, but it will be harder and will last longer if it cures for awhile. Soap is like wine, the longer it ages, the better it is and the longer it will last when you use it, so be patient.

A good reference book for soapmakers is The Everything Soapmaking Book. I like to have hard copies of reference books, but it and many other soapmaking books are available in the Kindle format, often at a lower price. You don't need a Kindle to read them; you can download the free app for PCs, tablets and smartphones here: Amazon.com - Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

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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

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase,
I will receive a small commission, but it doesn't affect the price you pay.
Thank you for supporting Oak Hill Homestead!

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. You're right Kathi, we do have a miter box just like yours. Good idea. I am really enjoying this series.


  2. I've been making our soap for several years now, but never made it with goats milk until our last batch. Needless to say, we're hooked. I love your idea of using down spouts for your soap molds! Brilliant!

  3. I really like soap made with goat's milk, but I have never made it.

  4. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:17 AM

    Fern, I was pretty confident that you had one. No need to dedicate one to soapmaking either, just share it with Frank.

  5. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:19 AM

    Pam, grease the downspout molds generously, and know that you'll need to replace them periodically.

  6. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:22 AM

    Joy, making milk soap is no harder than making any other kind so if you want to try it, go for it. Otherwise, feel good about buying it from another homesteader who will appreciate your order!

  7. I love the miter box idea! Perfect way to get uniform cuts! I love making soap, and hope to get back into it this year because my supply of homemade soap is running low!

  8. Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop this week!

  9. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead11:22 AM

    Angi, isn't that miter box just a genius idea? Thank you for hosting the hop. :-)

  10. Hi there!
    I'm visiting from the Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth link up.

    I make my own goats milk soap. It's the only soap I use on my skin. The miter box is brilliant!

    God bless!

  11. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead8:23 PM

    Me too, Judy - goat milk soap is amazing, isn't it!? Thank you so much for visiting; I hope you'll be back again.

  12. This has been a great informative series and I have really enjoyed it, and I have learnt so much. You are such a blessings for sharing them all at Good Morning Mondays. Have a great week, blessings

  13. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead2:22 PM

    Thank you, Terri. It's a fun hobby with a very useful product.

  14. When I finally get around to making goat's milk soap, your series will be my go-to! Thank you so much for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays :)

  15. These are such great tutorials. Thanks so much for sharing on the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop.


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