For Christmas this year I decided that I wanted to make things for my friends and family instead of buying things and hoping they would like them. Now don’t get me wrong I will never turn down wine, chocolate, or any geek paraphernalia (I do have Star Trek shirts and sweats on my Amazon wish list after all). I’ve made lip balms and hand creams a number of times and everyones loved them. What I have not made yet is soap or solid lotion bars, so I figured this was a good opportunity to try my hand at making them!
I have to admit that the idea of working with lye is a big part of why I’d never made soap before today. And before you go any further please read this – Lye Safety Guide by Soap Queen – It is important that the proper measures be taken when handling a caustic material. David is insisting I get a vinyl apron, better gloves, and full face shield before I go any further with my soap making. That is what living with someone who is currently majoring in bio-chem is like. 😛
I used the coconut shampoo bar recipe by Mommypotamus as it was the most simplistic soap recipe I’d come across, which seemed like a good starting point. I’d been doing a lot of research on cold process because then I could skip the part where I have to cook it, but this is a hot process recipe so I used my large crockpot. While this recipe doesn’t create a large amount in the bottom of the crockpot I assure you, use a large crockpot and not a small one. You’ll see why in a bit.
Gather all the items you will need to make the soap – I did link above the items I will be getting, and many of the tools I used were either older items I had (silicone spatula) or found at the thrift store (Pyrex measuring cup). I did buy my immersion blender new, but I didn’t spend a lot on it as it will be dedicated for soap making only. I had my mold and soap cutter from prior endeavors in melt and pour soap making.
Goggles (or face shield)
Long sleeve shirt (or vinyl apron with long gloves)
Equipment and Tools
Old mason jar
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
Essential oil (I used lavender)
I used her 12% superfat recipe as I have dry hair and live in a desert climate. A note about the weights – my scale does not get into the hundredths so I had to go to the tenths.
33 ounces coconut oil (2lbs 1oz on my scale)
12.5 ounces water
5.3 ounces lye (I measured it as 150 grams)
Plug in your crockpot and set it to low then measure your coconut oil.
Put the coconut oil into the crockpot and it will start melting right away. While the coconut oil is melting measure your water into your measuring cup (I just got some water in a cup and poured it into the measuring cup on the scale… then drank the rest). Set the water aside. At this point you should get your protective gear on if you don’t already have it on.
Measure your lye CAREFULLY into the mason jar. Take the lye, water, and spatula OUTSIDE. Some people say you can do this next step in your sink with the window open, but it’s easier to be safe and take it outside.
Slowly pour the LYE into the WATER. Never the other way around or you could end up with a very bad reaction (an explosive one). Do not breathe the fumes, they are very bad.
In all my reading about soap making the thing that always stuck with me was the whole “make it snow” … it should snow lye into the water.
Just in case I was not clear LYE GOES INTO THE WATER AND DO NOT BREATHE THE FUMES!
Okay, now that I’ve made that abundantly clear, use the spatula and gently give the lye-water mixture a few good swirls to make sure it’s well mixed.
My lye was almost done being cloudy at this point, and once it’s cleared up you can bring it inside. Once inside I put a thermometer into it. It needs to cool to about 125 degrees fahrenheit before being added to the melted coconut oil.
Once the lye-water solution has cooled down enough carefully pour it into the melted coconut oil taking care not to splash.
Note: I set all my used materials in one side of my sink so I knew what needed a vinegar bath before washing.
The next step is using the immersion blender until you get to the trace stage. It took a few minutes, and I discovered that using the faster setting sped things up. Just be aware of how the blender is in there to prevent splashing the still caustic mixture out of the crockpot.
This is what trace looks like
You can see where the stick blender had been.
I went perhaps a little further than needed, but there’s no doubt that is nice and thick. I put the lid on and set my timer for 30 minutes. At this point I cleaned up all the tools I had used so far with a little water and a good amount of vinegar poured into the plugged up sink. Then everything was washed with dish soap and put off to the side of the sink to dry. With the exception of my crockpot and glass thermometer the remainder of my tools are for making beauty products only.
After 30 minutes this is what I had going on in my crockpot…
Remember how I said to use the big crockpot? This is why. It was almost touching the lid. Still not done yet, I put 15 more minutes on the timer.
It had fallen quite a bit at this point, but there was still a good amount of oil pooled in the middle, so 15 more minutes went onto the timer.
I did a lot of back and forth from my computer to the crockpot, and found Nola hiding out on the stairs on her tablet. Of course I had to take a picture of a pre-teen in the wild because that’s what any normal mother would do, right??
When I checked it again there was only a small amount of oil left on the top, and I gave it a few swirls with my cleaned spatula and it looked like this…
I did the “zap test” – putting some soap on a finger and rubbing it a little, it was indeed waxy feeling and when I touched it to my tongue I did not receive any sort of zap. It was not pleasant tasting though I will admit that. Then came the essential oil.
I used the last ounce of lavender essential oil I had. I’m a little sad, but my house smelled lovely. Mix it in quickly because you’ll be able to feel the soap hardening a bit at the top where it’s exposed to cooler air.
Next up was my somewhat frantic attempt to shovel the soap into the mold. It wasn’t pretty, and I tried to smooth out a little after the fact by putting a piece of plastic wrap on the top and rolling it a little bit with my wooden rolling pin. I can see how a loaf style mold would be advantageous here. I’ll remember that for next time though (I plan to build a wooden loaf mold, and that will be another post).
Not the most beautiful looking, but I’ll go easy on myself since it was my first try. Trial and error after all. 😉
It only took the soap a couple of hours to firm up enough to be removed from the mold and cut in half. It smells nice and I made Nola demo the soap to see how much lather it created.
Not too bad for trying to instruct an 11 year old to rub a few tiny chunks of soap in her hands. 🙂
The soap is sitting and hardening more now, and I will try it tomorrow (because I’m impatient) with the bar that had only filled half a mold square. I have read that coconut oil based soap can be drying, and that you will need to do a vinegar rinse after using the soap. I’ve done the “no-poo” method in the past, so I am used to the apple cider vinegar rinse. 2-3 Tablespoons of ACV in about a cup of warm water will do the trick for my not quite shoulder length hair. As I use this shampoo bar I will update this post on how I like it, so check back!