February 4, 2015

Making Soap with Goat Milk: Equipment and Getting Ready

I've been making goat milk soap for almost ten years. I just can't tell you how superior it is to store-bought soap. The fat in the milk makes the soap extra-rich, and I use skin-nourishing oils. There are plenty of recipes or formulas online to choose from. Some soapmakers prefer to make vegan soaps; I use both lard and tallow in my soaps as well as oils and butters and of course goat milk.

If you want to make soap, please do some research before you try it yourself. I'm going to show you my process and give you tips that I've discovered and use myself, but I recommend that you read as much as you can before you begin. There are many tutorials online; the more you read, the more confident you'll be.

Let's get the legal stuff out of the way first:

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

Making homemade soap is easy, but not simple. There is a lot to remember - so much that I'm going to split this into three posts. Today's post is about equipment and getting ready to make soap.

Safety when making soap is a big concern. Lye is a scary ingredient, but unless you're making melt-and-pour soap, lye is a necessary ingredient in soap. Lye is a caustic substance, and contact with skin or eyes will result in a nasty, permanent burn. There are horrible pictures on the internet of lye damage, and I don't want to be in one of them.

Safety procedures for using lye are:
  • Always wear goggles and rubber gloves when you are handling lye.
  • Always keep your focus on your soapmaking; do not be distracted by the rainbow out the kitchen window.
  • Do not attempt to make soap with children or pets in the room.
  • Always add the lye to the liquid, NEVER the other way around. I was taught to "add the lye to whatever" 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.
  • Store lye where children and pets absolutely positively cannot get into it, preferably under lock and key.
I have a very healthy respect for lye, and I always wear safety equipment: goggles or safety glasses, a mask, and rubber gloves.

Along with the safety equipment, I use the following:
  • a digital scale to measure oils, lye and liquid. Measuring in grams is more precise than measuring in ounces. I use this scale but I didn't pay that much for it. This is a nice scale for under $20. (Affiliate links)
  • plastic or glass containers to hold soap ingredients - mine are from the thrift store
  • large spoons, non-metallic - also from the thrift store
  • stick or immersion blender - optional but it makes the process so much easier (Affiliate link)
  • soap molds - I used to use sections of vinyl rain gutter about 10" long with one end capped. The heat from the saponification process eventually warped the vinyl and some of them cracked and broke. It was also hard to get the soap out of the mold. Now I use a silicon loaf mold from Brambleberry. (Not an affiliate link)

My scale can be "zeroed out" by putting a bowl on top, hitting a button to set it back to zero, and then adding the oil or milk to the desired weight.

All the utensils I use for soapmaking are never used for food preparation - my mixing bowls, rubber spoons, stick blender, and dishpan are used only for soapmaking, and are stored in my "soap studio" which is just a fancy name for our mudroom.

Most people start out with water-based soaps; making milk soaps is a bit trickier. I disregarded this and jumped right in to making milk soaps, and I've only made a water-based soap once or twice. The trick to using milk is to freeze it. The heat of the lye burns the milk and turns it brown. Using frozen milk helps, but I still end up with soap that ranges from cream to beige. Each batch is a different shade and I can't predict the final color. I like to think that it depends partly on which goat produced the milk, since the amount of milk sugar and butterfat varies by goat.

I usually split my soapmaking into two sessions. On the first day I weigh all the oils into plastic containers and put them in the refrigerator until I'm ready to make the soap. I put the liquid oils in one container and the solids such as lard and coconut oil in another - I'll explain why in the next post. If I measure oils for more than one kind of soap, I tape a label on the containers. If it's going to be awhile before I make the soap I put the containers in the freezer.

I also freeze the goat milk if I don't already have some in the freezer. The easiest way is to use ice cube trays, but I usually end up pouring milk into quart-size freezer bags and freezing them flat. When I'm ready to make soap I have to bang the bags with a hammer to shatter it into pieces. It's pretty easy to weigh out enough milk whether it's in cubes or chunks. Then I line my soap molds with freezer paper to make it easy to get the soap out.

I don't measure the lye until I'm ready to make soap; I think it's safer that way. I keep my lye under lock and key for safety reasons. I use a plastic margarine tub to hold the lye when I measure it - it's labeled well and is only used for this purpose. When not in use it's in the same place I keep the lye.

So to recap, on the first day I weigh the oils I'm going to use, label the container and store in the refrigerator. I also weigh the frozen milk and store it in the refrigerator or freezer, and line my mold with freezer paper.

On the second day I make soap - that's Part Two.

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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

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disclosure pageThank you for supporting Oak Hill Homestead.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
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  1. I loved reading this!! I've been researching soap making for the last few months. This research has intensified as kidding will be soon, and hopefully plenty of milk! I can't wait to read more!

  2. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead1:47 PM

    Monica, I hope this helps. The first time you make soap it can be intimidating, I remember.

  3. Just a few days ago, we finished gathering the last of the equipment we need to try making our first batch of soap. I will be reading your posts with interest! I've read many, many sites and watched quite a few YouTubes, not to mention the books I've bought in preparation for this new adventure. Your timing is perfect! Thank you.


  4. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead5:56 PM

    Fern, the more you read and the more videos you watch, the easier it will be to make your first batch of soap. I'm glad this series was so timely for you.

  5. My first soap was Goats Milk Soap too. Since, I don't have any goats milk on hand right now, I was going to try a different recipe.

  6. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead6:11 AM

    Are you going to try a water-based recipe, Sandra?

  7. I want to learn to make soap so bad! :) Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop. Hope to see you again this week! :)

  8. Goats milk soap is on my list of "learn to make" too! Thank you for sharing this process in steps for us and linking up to the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week! I really hope to try this project soon!

  9. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead6:33 AM

    Jes, thank you for hosting The Art of Home-Making Mondays hop.

  10. This sounds great, I made tallow soap late last year and I have wanted to make milk soap for a while. We have cows milk not goat so I wonder if you can just replace one milk with the other? Thanks for sharing this at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

  11. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead4:08 PM

    Terri, yes, you can substitute cow's milk for goat milk, ounce for ounce. Tallow soap is wonderfully luxurious, isn't it?

  12. Ok that's great I am definitely going to make some soon. I enjoy the tallow soap and yes it is lovely but I should have added more scent and next time I am going to add oatmeal as well. Thanks again for another great post. Blessings

  13. I have always wanted too but have been to uniformed/scared to try to make soap. Thanks for the education! Thanks for sharing on the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop. I can't wait to see what you share next next time!

  14. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:08 AM

    Mindie, I do remember how scary it was to decide to make soap the first time. It really isn't hard to do but you must have a very healthy respect for the dangers of the lye.


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