Author Topic: Soap making tutorial  (Read 2469 times)

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Offline Mesophilic

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Soap making tutorial
« on: October 29, 2018, 05:09:42 pm »
Thought I'd do a soap making tutorial.  I know this would be better with pics, but its my first soap tutorial and I don't have any right now. 

I've been making homemade soap for about 10 years.  The only soap we buy is dish soap and laundry soap.  It all started when I was working a catering gig cooking 50 prime rib roasts in one night, and dumped buckets of fat into a collection bin.  I thought that there has to be something I can do with this fat besides dump it so I kept a couple gallons and took it home.  The first batches were greasy and awful, but as with most things practice helps alot.

Your calculations will determine the outcome more than anything.  Lye is the catalyst and saponifies the fatty acids in oils in to soap, too much lye and your soap remains caustic and harsh on your skin, too little and the soap turns out greasy.  You want just a slight amount of unconverted oils in your soap, this is called "super fat".  When I calculate I skip the super fat and set it at zero.  I want the remaining oils to be good oils and not my base oils, i.e. avacado oil, coconut oil, olive oil.  Whereas my base oils tend to be beef and pork fat.   Super fat oils will be the oils left on your skin after you wash, and personally, I'd rather they be different oils than my base oils but each to their own. 

You can use any organic oil or fat.  Fats that come from animal or vegetable sources, petroleum products are out as they are not converted by the lye.

I use real lye, sodium hydroxide but potassium hydroxide also works though the calculations are slightly different.  You can make your own potassium hydroxide from wood ashes, but that is a separate subject.

If you want botique soaps you can purchase molds, and they'll come out in pretty shapes of flowers or starfish.  Personally, I'm a bit more practical so I would rather line a bread pan with plastic wrap and cut in to bar shape afterward.

Calculations:  I use a site called soapcalc dot net.  Click on the recipe calculator and it will take you to a page that you can input data.  Most is self explanatory.  Remember that this is by weight and not by volume.  You need a somewhat accurate scale but its not rocket science.

For field 3, I click on water:lye ratio and enter 1.5:1  This makes a dryer soap and doesn't take as long to set and dry out.  If you use their formula you get a wetter soap. 

Field 4 "super fat" I change to zeros.  You want about 5% superfat, so if you zero the field keep that in mind.  If your usind 32 ounces of fat you need 1.6 oz of super fat oils.  These can be anything, but as I said I prefer avacado oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, etc.  Any essential oils you use for fragrance will be a part of this example of 1.6 oz.  I also like to add vitamin E oil, and again, that's part of the final weight.  Super fat will be weighed and sat aside till the end.

Notes on oils:  Coconut oil will add lather to your final product.  You can use up to 20% of the recipe in coconut oil.  Beef fat will add hardness to the final soap.  My basic recipe is usually something like 20% coconut oil, 50% lard, 20% beef fat, and 10% olive oil.  But you can experiment with any of the oils available to you.  I've used peanut oil with good results but shy away from corn oil, soy, vegetable oil, and shortenings.  Many oils will lose any odors when they lye does its job.  I've made soap with bacon grease that smelled no different than any other soap.  But using too much butter fat will make you smell like cheese.  Likewise if you collect fats from cooking, and the food was seasoned, you'll smell like the food.  Made a soap from some saved turkey fat from Thanksgiving one year, smelled like chicken soup when it was all done.
     a)  you can also collect any oils from foods you cook.  Chicken fat, beef fat, elephant fat...but as I note above, if the food was seasoned you will retain some of that.  I did go to work once smelling like chicken soup all day, it was annoying.
           i)  one of the things I do regularly is cook a whole chub or two of lower grade 72% ground beef, completely unseasoned.  I use a pressure cooker but a pot on the stove works fine, just have to cook longer.  I drain the juices and collect the fat, and at 72% it is quite a bit of fat.  The meat I portion and put back in the freezer with a measure of the water based liquid it cooked in.  Later in the week/month I'll turn it in to taco meat or sloppy joes, stuff in ravioli or manacotti, whatever sounds good and season at that time.  The final product is very tender and juicy and works well for certain dishes. 

Essential oils: i use essential oils for fragrance.  We prefer lavender the most but I'll switch it up on occasion.  Some oils are photo toxic, many citrus oils fall in this category.  When exposed to sunlight or UV they break down in to toxic chemicals.  So if you want a citric type smell use oils like lemon grass.  If you're in Alaska and don't see the sun for several months in the winter then feel free to indulge.  Some essential oils are very hot, and you can develop a sensitivity to them.  Thyme and oregano are two that I have to be careful with.  There are also various purity and price points, for soap making I use cheeper EO's than I would for hollistic therapy.  Do your research and make informed decisions, but you'll want it to smell real strong when it comes out of the mold as you'll loose alot of aroma during the process.

Dreaded Orange Spots...yes, that is the technical term among soap makers.  They are orange/yellow spots that form in the finished soap.  In my experience, to avoid them, don't introduce bubbles in to the soap mix while stirring or mixing.  The more air I've introduced the worse the final product.  I also add vitamin E and vitamin D for their antioxidant properties, the vit D I use is a tablet that I crush in mortar and pestle until it's a powder.  Now I can store soap for over a year and not develop the dreaded orange spots.

Equipment needed: soap molds (you can get creative but lining with plastic really help the soap release), pot, scale, immersion blender (you can do it the old fashioned way with a spoon but plan on stirring for an hour vs blending for 5 mins), containers to hold lye solution (I use tempered glass only), SAFETY GLASSES, and gloves (my skin it a bit tough so getting lye on it only irritates me but will burn my wife's skin)

1) Put on your safety glasses when playing with lye.  Measure lye and water by weight.  Always add the lye to the water not the other way around.  When lye dissolves it creates an exothermic reaction.  If you dump water in to the lye it can create steam very quickly and cause you a trip to the ER if it blows up in your face.  The concentrated lye can also cost you your eye sight, so don't screw around.  Set this solution aside, it will be hot so take precautions, when it looks clear it is ready.

2)  Weigh and heat your oils.  I've read alot of mumbo jumbo about specific temps but personally I've found no difference.  As long as the oil it hot enough that I can't leave my finger in it for more than a few seconds it seems to work just fine. 

3)  Carefully pour the lye solution in to the oils. 

4)  a)  Mix with immersion blender (stick blender)  As I said above, you don't want it to froth or foam, keep the immersion blender submerged and don't bring to the surface where it will suck air in to the mix.  If you're using a spoon just start stirring and don't plan on going anywhere for about an hour. 
     b)  you're mixing till you get to "trace".  Which is when you stir the soap and you can see a trail in the soap that follows the patter you stirred.  The consistency will be like a warm pudding, thick but pourable.  If you don't notice the trace, keep mixing. 
     c)  once you get to trace add your super fat.  We do this at the end because we don't want these oils used up in the sapponifying reaction.  I also add my powdered vit D to the mix.  Then I blend some more until everything is incorporated well.

5)  Pour in the soap molds then put in a warm place for at least 24 hours.  I have a closet with a water heater that stays pretty warm.  Oven works but there's an energy cost. 
     a)  over this period you'll see the soap start to turn more white opaque and less creamy vanilla pudding.  If it stays in pudding state you weren't warm enough, it may correct if you place it somewhere warm but I've had some stay goopy in the early years. 
     b)  once the outsides are white opaque I go ahead and pull from the mold, cut using a serrated knife, then put the soap bars in brown paper lunch bags and put back in the warm closet for a couple of weeks.  I stack them in the bags so that they can get air between each bar, helps them dry.  If you stack like you're building a brick outhouse then they don't get the airflow and my retain the creamy look in the middle of the bars.  You'll see what I'm talking about when you cut it. 
     c)  you can leave in the soap molds if they are small ones and they'll dry just fine.  If you use a bread pan it can take quite a while to dry all the way through, and I'm not that patient which is why I cut it and increase the surface area to speed up the process.

6)  To tell if your soap is ready, touch it to the tip of your tongue.  If there's still lye in there it will give you a little electric tingle.  It's quite unmistakable, like a 9 volt battery that's a bit on the used up side.  If no jolt, then it's ready to go.  If you do experience the jolt let it age for a couple more weeks and try again.  I've never had a batch need more than one extra two week period.

7)  I generally wrap each bar in plastic wrap and put them all in a large plastic bag till we're ready to use it.  Seems to retain fragrance better when individually wrapped vs loose in a large bag.  Also absorbs less moisture during humid parts of the year. 

Variations:  a) if you're wife (or you) prefer a more moisturizing soap you can increase the super fat ratio a little bit.  You can also research oils known for these properties but I'd recommend you get a couple of batches under your belt.  I'm not sure where the top end is but I've done as high as 10% super fat, just be prepared for more soap scum in your bath or shower.  Good news is, if you mix up a strong lye solution and pour it all over your bath tub or shower, let it sit over night, it will practically wipe out with just a sponge and warm water (may have to use a green scrubby a little bit for stubborn spots).

     b)  Adding Dawn dishsoap at trace makes a great soap for when you're working on cars or other oily greasy jobs.

     c)  adding corn meal at trace will give you a scouring, abrasive type soap.

Next batch I'll try to remember to take pics and update this thread but it may be a while.  In the meantime, all of this info is online and there's no shortage of pics and vids if you're really interested in doing this.

Hope I covered everything.  If you have questions please let me know and I'll look in to them and update the OP as necessary.



« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 05:27:11 pm by dieselcheese »
Trying is the first step to failure
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Offline JW_Halverson

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Re: Soap making tutorial
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2018, 04:50:29 pm »
Welp, there goes the four hours I spent writing a soap making article for P.A.

 ::)
Guns have triggers. Bicycles have wheels. Trees and bows have wooden limbs.

Offline Mesophilic

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Re: Soap making tutorial
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2018, 04:16:01 pm »
Welp, there goes the four hours I spent writing a soap making article for P.A.

 ::)

I left the wood ash potassium hydroxide method for you ;)  It's more primative anyway, right?  Seriously  though, it needs pictures, so if you've got that covered you're doing better than I.  My write up is just putting my method in to words, a beginner really needs the visuals.
Trying is the first step to failure
-Homer Simpson-

Offline JW_Halverson

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Re: Soap making tutorial
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2018, 04:36:47 pm »
I don't want to fool around with the inaccuracies of guessing the strength of wood ash lye. I will leave that for others to play with.

Maybe we should work on a shot list of photos that I can take with the batch I plan to do next? 
Guns have triggers. Bicycles have wheels. Trees and bows have wooden limbs.

Offline Mesophilic

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Re: Soap making tutorial
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2018, 05:02:21 pm »
Once upon a time I wanted to do the wood ash lye.  But now I'm with you, would rather work with known variables.  Maybe if I ever get a hydrometer calibrated to the appropriate range I'll give it a try one day.

Not sure about shots of the lye water in a clear glass container, when it's first mixed and cloudy then when it clears.  It's pretty self explanatory.

Shots of mixing just before trace and after.

Shots when poured in to the mold(s) then again after it sets.

Then final shots after cutting.  Not sure how yours comes out but I would have to do a shot after cutting and then again after letting it age/dry a bit.

And then there's the obligatory shot with a puppy and a baby  :)
Trying is the first step to failure
-Homer Simpson-

Offline Hawkdancer

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Re: Soap making tutorial
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2018, 09:00:03 pm »
Almost all of the shots I pour are Tullamore DEW, or another appropriate beverage!  I did use wood ash once to dehaired a deer hide.  Had to wash the hide 3 or 4 times to get it clean, I don't do that any more!
Hawkdancer
Life is far too serious to be taken that way!
Jerry

Offline GlisGlis

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Re: Soap making tutorial
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2019, 10:46:13 am »
Thankyou for the tutorial cheese. I had a single try at soap making and it was a total failure.
I went the primitive (ash lye) way but definitely it's too difficult to guess the strength of the alkali and make reliable measurements
next time I'll be a little more modern