Since soap making is its own art form, and is less known to most people than the yarn and fabric arts, I figured a bit of background info might help in case I go off on a rant and you don’t know what I’m all on about 🙂
Soap Making in a Nut Shell
Soap is made through a chemical reaction between fatty acids (oils) and alkali solution (lye.) This chemical reaction is called saponification. With out getting too into the chemistry it changes the triglycerides into free fatty acids, salts and glycerin. The ratio of lye to oil is found by using a table called a SAP table, which lists the amount of lye needed to saponify a specific oil (chemists have figure that all out for us.)
In our great-grandmothers day the fatty acids would often be animal fats trimmed off meats. The big trend now is to use organic oils such as palm, coconut, olive and vegetable oils. I use a mixture of cocoanut and olive oils. Hand made soaps feel different to use than store brand soaps, mainly because it has intact glycerin in it. The store soap has had most of the glycerine removed for re-sale and use in other industries (beauty and pharmacy) it is more valuable than the soap they are selling you.
The method I use is called cold processing, after an initial heating of the oils and lye the saponification process continues over a few days at room temperature. The soap is then left to cure for 6 wks – and yes it is sooo hard to be patient ! I also use special organic additives like shea butter, australian pink clay or colour swirls. Essential oils are used to make the soap smell all yummy. So its totally chemical free, and so great on the skin. When making cold press soap the key step is to get the soap to “trace” this is a stage where the mixture starts to thicken, and once reached you can add all the yummy extras in. The whole process looks like this…..
- choose my recipe, including special additives and essential oils
- measure out all my ingredients on my scale
- mix my lye (I have tried pre-mixing as well)
- bring all the base oils and lye to temperature on the stove
- add lye to oils and mix with a hand blender
- once ‘trace’ has been reached (thickening of soap) add special ingredients
- pour in mold and wait of 24 hrs
- open mold (smile delightedly) cut and leave to cure for 6wks
I’m new at this all and delighted to be sharing it on my blog, so this is by no means a tutorial, just some back ground. If you google soap making there are lots of great stuff out there from experienced soap-a-teers.