Adventures in Soap Making Part II

Posted on

Jan 19, 2024

Book/Edition

Pennsylvania - South Central PA

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As one of my new favorite YouTube soap-making friends, Katie Carson of Royalty Soaps, would say, let’s make some soap!

What exactly do you need to make soap?

Pretty simple ingredients it turns out.  Distilled water, lye, and olive oil will get you a basic Castile soap.  This type of soap was made famous by the city of Castile in Spain.  Because this soap uses only olive oil it takes a long, long time to cure.  The best Castile soaps are aged for a year or more.  So for those of us who are impatient, there are other oils that you can add to make your soap cure more quickly because they are “hard” versus the liquid olive oil.  The most frequently used of these hard oils are coconut oil and palm oil.  You can find many recipes online that use only olive oil and coconut oil which you can purchase at the grocery store or Sam’s Club or lard can be used as well and is pretty easy to find.  And you can use a cardboard box lined with freezer paper for a mold so you can get started pretty inexpensively. 

The process is simple.  You mix lye with distilled water in a prescribed proportion, melt your hard oils and mix them with your liquid oils, again a prescribed ratio, and mix the lye water into your oils until it reaches “trace” or thickens (but not too much, about the consistency of thin pudding) and pour into a mold.  Let it sit until is saponified, about 24 hours, remove it from the mold, cut, and cure for 6 weeks and, voila, you have soap.

Easy right?

Yes, it actually is pretty easy but it takes some practice to make sure you mix it enough but not too much.  And this isn’t like your grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s lye soap which could just about eat through your skin.  You have the advantage of being able to purchase lye and measure it in exact amounts to produce a good product every time. The lye soap most people remember was harsh because folks made their own lye solution by boiling ashes from a hardwood fire in rainwater, allowing the ashes to settle to the bottom and skimming the liquid lye off the top.  Using that method you had no way of knowing the concentration of the lye so many times it was too strong.  

But the fun part, the part that made me want to make soap, is all of the colors and fragrances you can use in your soap.  And how you can mix the colors to make patterns and scenes or just the happy accidents in mixing colors that can happen.   There are also many other oils you can experiment with to make your soap more moisturizing or have a different consistency and many other things.  There is actually a lot of science behind soap.  Maybe if we had made soap in chemistry class in school I would have been much more interested!

Check out Royalty Soaps Creative Academy on YouTube if you want to try your hand at soap making, it is a free series of video tutorials.  You can find lots of pictures online of the awesome soaps people have created.  The one included here is a picture of one of mine!

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