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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

[AlternativeAnswers] Recipe: How To Make Real Soap


Soap is easy to make once you get the hang of it, and as long as you
keep in mind that being CARELESS with LYE CAN KILL ! Lye can burn
skin away, it can blind you, it can kill you if ingested! It would be
best to make sure no children would be in the house until the soap is
ready to put up in a safe place to cure. Just pay attention, be
careful, and everybody will be fine. Everybody will be better than
ever, what with real, natural soap used on their skin.

Please read and understand these cautions before ever opening a lye

To make soap, you need fat, lye, and water. And a non-aluminum
container to let it harden in (lye dissolves aluminum). Soap molds
can be really fun to find :-) Anything that's not aluminum, and is
flexible enough to pop out the hardened soap, will work. Jello molds
are good, as well as plastic containers of just about any kind. You
can also buy fancy soap molds at craft stores. Candy molds, yogurt
tubs, etc., etc.

You can make soap out of just about any vegetable or animal fat.
Plain olive oil soap is excellent for the skin, though some people
will complain that it's "slimy". And it melts faster in water than
other soaps, so make sure you keep it out of standing water. Use
olive oil from the grocery store -- extra virgin olive oil makes a
darker green color soap, and may have more benefits for the skin.
You'll probably see mention of "pomace" olive oil; that is the last
dregs they could possibly squeeze out of the olives, extracted with
so many chemicals it's not even food-safe. I would not recommend even
trying to find any pomace....

Lye can be a real problem to find. Do not use Red Devil lye! -- it
now has metal flakes in it. Around here, the ACE Hardware has Rooto
brand that is still 100% lye. You should probably call the
manufacturer of any lye products to see if it actually is 100% lye
with no additives. Or you might be lucky enough to live near a
soapmaking shop.

It would be better to at least have a kitchen scale, for measuring.
You *can* make soap by volume measure, but I'll assume everybody has
a little scale.

A stick blender would be very helpful, especially with olive oil
soaps, which take longer to "trace". Make sure it doesn't have any
aluminum parts where it will be touching the soap.

Goggles to protect the eyes from lye splashes would be a good idea.
If you do get any lye water on skin / eyes / anywhere, immediately
wash it off with cool tap water (it takes at least a few seconds to
start feeling a tingle on the skin). Some sources will tell you to
pour vinegar on it -- bad idea!! That would make a very hot chemical
reaction! If any lye crystals fall on floor / other surfaces,
immediately pick them up and drop them down the drain. Curious pets
or children might pick them up, and you don't want to find out how
much lye it takes to poison someone!

I use an old brown plastic pitcher, on which I drew a big skull-and-
crossbones and "LYE" and all that, to mix lye water. Make absolutely
sure that no one is going to mistake it for a drink!

One major thing to remember is to always slowly pour (and stir) the
lye crystals into the water, not the other way 'round. There is a
very popular soapmaking book that somehow got out of the publishing
house with these exactly wrong instructions. If you pour water onto
lye crystals, you will get a very caustic explosion!


16 ounces BY WEIGHT (1 pound) olive oil (your choice of variety)

2 ounces BY WEIGHT of lye crystals (NOT Red Devil; make sure it's
100% lye with no additives!)

about 5 FLUID OUNCES of cool water (filtered would probably be better)

Put the water in non-aluminum container, for mixing the lye water.
Lye water will get pretty hot, so don't use just any old thin plastic

Put lye container and measuring utensils in the sink, to catch any
stray lye crystals. Carefully open lye bottle, pour or dip it out
with a dry spoon.

In the sink, slowly pour lye crystals into the water, and stir --
with plastic, stainless steel, silicone, or wooden spoon until they
dissolve. It will get quite hot. Let it cool in a safe place.
(setting it in a pan of cold water will cool it more quickly)

Put the olive oil in a non-aluminum bowl or pan that has plenty of
room for the soap to expand (lye will eventually etch enameled pans
and such, and eventually eat up wooden spoons). When the lye water is
cooled to room temperature, or at least 'til it's not too hot to
touch, carefully stir the lye water into the olive oil. It will turn
cloudy. And it will start smelling sooooo good! I love soap!

If you have a stick blender, pulse it in the raw soap mixture for a
little while. Or, you can just occasionally stir it. Leave it long
enough, and you'll see a thick layer forming on the bottom. Just stir
it all up, keep stirring / blending until when you drop a trail of
the liquid across the surface, it stays there. Make sure it's not a
flat oil-spot; it needs to stick up above the surface. This is called

Once you're sure it's actually "traced", pour the raw soap into
whatever non-aluminum mold/s you want to use. You can always cut it
up later, into bars. Or carve it :-) Carefully -- it is still liquid;
it will spill! -- put it in a safe place where no pets or children
can reach. Insulate it with towels or something, to hold the heat in,
for maybe a day or two. When it hardens enough to firmly hold its
shape, you can pop it out of the mold, and put it back in a safe
place to finish curing. If it doesn't pop out, put it in the freezer
until it will pop out.

Any bowls / pans / spoons / stick blender / anything that has had lye
or raw soap in it, put it in the sink, in water. Let them soak, or
wash them off with soap (or "soap" detergent), rinse thoroughly, wash
again. One thing to understand here is that lye will eventually
neutralize, just left out in the air. That's another reason you want
to keep it in air-tight containers. But go ahead and get all traces
of lye washed off your stuff.

Different people say different things about how long this "cold-
process" soap needs to cure. If you leave it for a couple of weeks,
it will most likely be completely cured -- all the lye will have
reacted with the oil, so that you have no free lye left in the soap.
What I and many others do is stand by the sink, and touch the tip of
the tongue to the outside of the soap. If it zaps you like a 9-volt
battery, there is still free lye present. Rinse your tongue in
running water immediately. If it just tastes sweet and soapy, you're
good to go.

"Hot-process" soap: If you want to be able to use it immediately,
just heat up the raw soap to make the saponification happen faster.
You'll need to add a little more water, because the heat will drive
some of the water out. One way to do this is to put your pan of raw
soap in a bigger pan with water in it -- a "double boiler". Gently
heat, stirring constantly. The soap will go through several distinct
stages. Do not leave it unattended with active heat under it! It will
jump out of the pot! When it sort of looks like vaseline, it's done.
But get a dollop on a spoon, let it cool, touch your tongue to it,
and if it doesn't zap you as above, it is done. Then you can glop it
into molds, or even just in a pile. There is no "pour"-ing of hot
process soap... It gets thick.

Wow, this really turned into a long saga... Hope I didn't skip
anything. Any questions, ask away. There is also lots of info online,
and there are several fine email lists dealing with soap-making. And
feel free to share this with anyone. Let's put the petroleum-
detergent-bar people out of business! ;+)


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