Introduction to Soap Making & Common Mistakes Amateurs Should Avoid
How about trying something new today, like making your own soap? Sounds interesting? So, let’s begin.
While commercially manufactured soaps promise a whole lot of ingredients, there’s hardly anything in them but chemicals. We don’t need to tell you what chemicals can do to your skin in the long run. The next best alternative is to buy handmade soaps. Most curated and natural products stores like Qtrove sell exquisite handmade soaps.
But wouldn’t you like it better if you could add your choice of ingredients and make your own soap at home? Trust us — it’s not very difficult, and if you’re cautious enough, you’ll get it right in the first shot!
Getting the formula right
A perfect soap formula cleanses your skin without overly drying it. It should have the right mix of essential oils and additives. The final soap bar should be long-lasting and should also produce abundant creamy lather. Once you’ve mastered all this, you have to ensure that your soap recipe cost isn’t too high, especially if you’re planning to sell it.
What’s the ideal recipe for soap making
Mastering the fatty acid profiles, understanding oil properties and putting in the ingredients that you like will get you the perfect soap you’re looking for. Learn the art of making soap and use it to your advantage. However, if you’re making soap for the first time, be careful about a few simple mistakes that we’ll discuss further.
What you need to make soap
A few things that you’ll definitely need for making soaps are herbs, colours, essential oils, lye, other liquid oils and other ingredients like oatmeal, cornmeal, salt or anything else that you’d like to use.
A simple soap recipe to start with…
- ⅔ cup coconut oil – for good lather
- ⅔ cup olive oil – for making the bar hard and mild
- ⅔ cup other liquid oil – like sunflower, almond, safflower or grapeseed oil
- ¼ cup lye – also known as 100% sodium hydroxide
- ¾ cup cool water – use distilled or purified
- Protect your work area with newspaper. Put on gloves and other protective wear. Measure your water into a quart canning jar. Measure exactly ¼ cup of lye. Slowly pour the lye into the water, stirring as you pour. Keep a safe distance while you stir to avoid the fumes. As the water begins to clear, you can let it sit while you move on to the next step.
- Add the three oils together in a jar. The mixture should be exactly one pint. Heat the mixture for about a minute in a microwave or place the jar of oils in a pan of water to heat. Check the temperature of the oils — it should be about 120°. By this time, the temperature of the lye should be about 120°. Let them both to cool somewhere between 95° and 105°. This is a critical stage of soap making. Too low temperature and it’ll come together quickly but will be coarse and crumbly.
- When both the lye and oils settle to the right temperature, pour the oils into a mixing bowl. Add the lye slowly, stirring until it’s all mixed. Stir it by hand for 5 minutes. You need to get as much of the soap and lye in contact with each other — a very important aspect. After about 5 minutes, use an immersion blender to mix the whole thing. The soap mixture will lighten in colour and become thick. When it reaches the consistency of pudding, stop stirring.
- Add your herbs, essential oils or other ingredients at this point. Stir thoroughly to mix. Pour the mixture into moulds and cover them with plastic wraps. Let it set in an old towel and wrap it up. This way, the residual heat will be contained and the saponification process will begin. Saponification is the process of the base ingredients turning into soap.
- Check your soap after 24 hours. If it’s still soft or warm, let it to be for another 12-24 hours. When it’s cold and firm, turn it out on a piece of parchment paper or baking rack. You can cut the soap into bars at this point. Give it 4 weeks or so for the soap to cure. Turn it over once a week to let all sides come in contact with air.
- Once your soap looks fully cured, keep it in an airtight container or wrap it in wax paper. Handmade soap creates its own glycerine, which is a humectant, drawing in moisture from the air. The soap should be properly wrapped to keep it from attracting dust and debris.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get the right soap formula.
1) Measure your ingredients ahead of time
Don’t begin without making sure that you have everything you need. Measuring your ingredients before starting the process will speed up your soap making and ensure that you’re not missing anything that you may need later.
2) Increase the conditioning of your soap
If you want your soap to keep your skin supple, add aloe vera juice, goat’s milk or yoghurt instead of water while preparing the mixture.
3) Don’t substitute lye
Lye is caustic soda, and it is an ingredient that you cannot substitute if you want to make soap. Always use 100% lye in crystallised form. Do not use liquid lye or drain cleaners. Lye can cause burns on your skin and clothes. Always use gloves, a mask and eye protection when you’re using lye.
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