Ever Wondered How Your Soap is Made?
Soap is something that everyone uses, but few actually realize how it’s made. In fact, I would guess that most people never even think to wonder how it’s made. It’s just always there- so why question it?
Here at Ole Tradition Soap Co., we think an awful lot about how soap is made. And we know that some of you do, too. So we’ve decided to show you! In this blog post, we’ll outline some of the basics of soapmaking, but if that’s still not enough, you can head over to our brand new YouTube Channel. Every week, Anna-Kate will demonstrate the making of one our soaps. You won’t want to miss it!
But until then, here’s some soapmaking basics:
The key to making soap is to remember the equation “fats + lye = soap.” That’s all there is to it! Which means the first step to making soap is to decide what fats you want to use. Lots of soapmakers use lard, or animal fat, to make soap. If you don’t have any animal fat handy, however, you can use oils or butters. Some of the most common soapmaking oils are Olive OIl, Coconut OIl, Castor Oil, and Palm Oil. Each oil contains different properties- some are more cleansing, some are more moisturizing, etc. So it's up to you to figure out what you want your soap to do!
Once you have decided which oils you want to use, you have to determine the saponification values of each oil used. That means you have to figure out how much lye you’ll need in order to turn the oils into soap. Nowadays, this step is much easier thanks to soap calculators, such as www.soapcalc.net.
Once you know the proper proportions for your recipe, it’s time to start soaping! First, you need to mix up your lye water. This step can be very dangerous and requires your full attention. Always pour your measured lye into your water- NOT the other way around. Pouring your water into the lye can lead to an explosion, which we definitely do not want!
While the lye water is cooling, you can prep your oils. This part is easy- all you need to do is combine your chosen oils and heat them up. Simple! We try to keep our oils and lye within 10 degrees of each other.
After both mixtures cool to room temperature, it’s time to mix them. This is done by carefully pouring the lye water into the oils and blending them together with a stick blender. This step can be done by hand, but that would take hours, so a stick blender comes in handy. After a minute or two, the soap will reach “trace,” or the point of full emulsification. The soap batter will look like thin pudding. We check for trace by pulling the blender out of the mixture and seeing if the drops that fall off sit on top of the batter. If they do, we’ve reached trace!
Now, it’s time to pour the soap into the mold. There are lots of different types of molds you can use, but we prefer either silicone or wooden molds. After all of the batter is in the mold and we’ve scraped the leftover bits of soap into the mold, spray the top of the soap with some rubbing alcohol. This helps to prevent soda ash (we’ll explain what that is in a later blog post!)
After 24 hours, you should be able to take the soap out of the mold, but depending on your recipe, it may take longer. Once it's removed, you can slice your loaf into bars, and set it on a shelf to cure for 4-6 weeks. Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part!
Once your soap has cured, it's time to use it! We love the moment when you finally get to use a bar of soap you've been waiting for. And there's nothing better than using it and realizing you've finally perfected your recipe. We know soapmaking can be a pretty daunting process, but the end product is so worth it.
But if you decide soapmaking isn't a task you're willing to take on, you can always let us do it for you ;)
Visit our YouTube Channel to watch us make some of your favorite soaps. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any soapmaking videos!
*DISCLAIMER: The above tips are simply an overview for making soap. There's a lot more detail to it (especially when it comes to lye safety), which can be found in many books and other soaping blogs. If you decide to try it out, we recommend extensive research and starting out with a simple, tried-and-true recipe. If you're looking for good starter recipes, feel free to send us an email!*