Monday, November 2, 2015

Getting Soapy

On October 17 I did a little soap making demonstration for the Great Plains Church Women's Ministry.  I told them I'd leave directions on my blog.  So here it is! 

Before I start with any directions, I need to do a little safety warning.  We will use lye to convert the oils into soap molecules.  Lye needs to be treated with respect.  If it gets into your eyes, you might go blind.  Wear your safety goggles when handling lye.

Step 1: Collect your materials.
12-14 oz filtered water
7 oz lye
15 oz olive oil
15 oz coconut oil
15 oz vegetable shortening
3 oz cocoa butter
1-2 oz fragrance or essential oil
10 capsules vitamin E oil
0.5 oz additional olive oil
kitchen scale
silicon or enamelware pots, pitchers, and bowls.  Use silicon, enamel, or wooden utensils because metal ones can chemically react with the lye. 
wooden spoons
immersion blender
rinsed cardboard milk carton

Step 2: Mix up lye solution.
I prefer to weigh out the ingredients instead of measuring them with cups.  Remember to zero or tare the scale after you put the bowl/pitcher on it.  Measure out 12 oz of filtered water.  The dissolved minerals in regular tap water will make the lye solution cloudy.  Use filtered water to avoid this. 
Measure the lye out in a separate container.  For this particular recipe, you need 7 oz of lye.  If you change the amounts or types of oil, you will need a different amount of lye.  Use a lye calculator to determine the exact amount necessary for any mixture of oils.  Wear the safety equipment while you work with the lye.  You can find lye in the plumbing supply section of your local hardware store. 
Carefully add the solid lye to the water while stirring.  This will create a lot of heat.  Don't put your head over the pitcher as you stir.  Avoid breathing the vapor that rises from the hot mixture.

Step 3: Mix up the oils.
Weigh out 15 oz of olive oil.  Remember to zero out your scale after you put the bowl on it. 
Pour the olive oil into an enamel pot.  Heat the pot on low.  If you prefer, use a crock pot on low instead of the enamel pot.  Just remember, once you use it for the chemical reaction that makes soap, you shouldn't use it for food anymore.  This will become your crafting pot/crock.  The same goes for the wooden spoon, spatula, and immersion blender.
The coconut oil might be a solid at room temperature.  If it is, heat it in the microwave for about a minute to melt it.  Then measure it out just like you did the olive oil.  Pour it into the pot with the olive oil.  The shortening is a little different.  Scoop it out as a solid to weigh it.  Then heat it in the microwave to melt it.  Finally, pour it into the pot with the coconut and olive oils.
The last oil to add, cocoa butter, is a pretty firm solid at room temperature.  Weigh out 3 oz of it, then heat it in the microwave to melt it.  This might take a few minutes.  Pour it into the pot with the rest of the oils.  They all need to be melted and well mixed before you can do the next step. 

Step 4: Prepare for the emulsion.
The oil mixture and the lye mixture both need to be at 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit before you can mix the two together.  If necessary, cool the lye mixture by adding a couple of ice cubes. 
While you are waiting for the perfect temperature, measure out your 'goodie' ingredients.  These are the ingredients that make the soap special: vitamin E for skin health, fragrance or essential oils, and a little extra olive oil to prevent separating. 
 Once the oil and lye are at the correct temperature, you can create the emulsion.

Step 5: Reaching trace and pouring.
Wear your safety great!  Pour the lye solution into the mixture of oils.  To create an emulsion, you will need to stir a lot.  You can stir by hand with a wooden spoon for about an hour OR you can use an immersion blender for about a minute.  Mix until you reach trace.  What is that?  Well, it's easier to show than tell.  Check out this awesome video that I did not make.  When you reach trace, quickly mix in the 'goodies'.  Then pour the mixture into the milk carton mold.  I'm using a special soap mold, but when I started, I used a milk carton.  Use a spatula to get the soap out of the pot and smooth the mixture into the mold. 
Cover the soap with plastic wrap.  I like to get the soap to the 'gel' phase, but some soap makers prefer to avoid this.  Let the soap sit for a day or two before you un-mold and cut it.  I cut it with a wavy soap cutter to get a decorate edge, but you can cut it with a knife.  The soap has to 'cure' for about three weeks before you can use it. 

Happy Saponification!