Saturday, November 22, 2008

making soap

I have always wanted to make my own soap. Many years ago, soap was made from lye and animal fats. The lye was obtained by pouring rain water through hard wood ash that had been burned at a high heat in a sort of filtering system. You can make your own filtering system out of a water tight wood barrel. You would need to put the barrel up on blocks in a remote location so that it wouldn't get knocked over. Then you would drill a hole near the bottom of the barrel and place a cork in the hole. Next, you would need to add a layer of river rock, followed by a layer of hay, then top it off with the hard wood ash. Finally, you would pour in rain water; leaving up to six inches from the top of the barrel. This would need to sit for three days. After that you could place a container under the cork and fill the container deep enough to float a potato. If the potato didn't float a quarter size piece above the water line, the solution would be too weak and you would need to either add more ash or drain all the water and pour it back through the barrel letting it sit for another 3 days. If the potato springs up, the solution is too strong and you would need to add more rain water. Remember not to use metal containers or utensils because the lye will react with metal.

For the sake of this process the lye was purchased. As you remember lye was taken off the shelves several years ago, but you can now purchase it on line specifically for soap making.

The following are all items needed to make a basic 10 pound batch of soap:

3 three pound cans of Crisco.

4 cups cold water

1 18 ounce can of 100% LYE!

large stainless steel spoon

10 qt pot for melting

9 pounds of Crisco

1 measuring cup candy thermometer

2 qt plastic pitcher Large plastic bucket (must be able to hold all the oil with room to stir)

shallow rectangular cardboard box (like the kind used to hold a case of cokes)

2 white kitchen sized plastic garbage bags

2 old thick blankets


Playtex rubber gloves

old clothes

Optional items: 1/4 cup honey 3 tbs oatmeal (finely ground)

First we measured out the lye by weight.

Next we added the lye to the water. The lye and fat need to be within 5 degrees apart between (100 and 120 degrees) Always add the lye to the water, not the other way around.

As you can see the lye heated up room temperature water to almost 217 degrees.

Next we melted the lard.

It took the lye a while to cool down, but when the two were within 5 degrees of each other we mixed them together in this large plastic container.

Once we reached trace** we added honey and oats.

You can add other essential/fragrance oils if you like.

We then poured the mixture into our box mold that we had lined with a plastic garbage bag.

At this point you must cover the soap and allow it to cure** for 24 hours.


Cure time- the length of time to let the soap air dry and the water content of the soap to evaporate.

Saponification- the chemical process of making soap

Essential Oils- these are natural oils that are extracted by various means from plants and fruits to form scent. Rose Essential oil etc. These are extremely volatile and not stable when making cold process soap. They are also extremely expensive.

Fragrance Oils- these are man-made or synthetic oils. The hold up very well when used with cold process soaping. They are inexpensive and easy to use.

Lye Solution- water or milk after Lye has been added.Setting up- when the soap is left ALONE UNDISTURBED (no peeking) for 24 hours to turn solid.

Trace- refers to the stage of soap where the soap leaves a "trace" of the spoon trails. The consistency of the soap is similar to thick pancake batter.

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