Cosmetics and health

Making soap at home – basics

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Homemade soap is something made for generations and if we know the nature that surrounds us and if we know to make use of it, combining it with the possibilities of the e-shops we can create some really impressive cosmetics. Soap is one of the more complicated things, therefore, I’m going to start with a “How to” article.

You need to invest a bit before you start and if you’re not sure if this is your thing, there’s no shame in buying a homemade soap from your local soap maker. Buying local you’ll support a good thing and someone who makes soap with love. Such soap might be a little more expensive but if fact it’s worth the price. There are many articles explaining the price/quality relationship in homemade soaps. To give you an example, here is one.

Keep reading to know how to get started:

Traditional soap making involving lye isn’t a completely safe activity. Therefore, you have to be very careful, especially make sure there won’t be any children close to you. Soapmaking won’t necessarily take you the whole day but you want to have at least two hours just for this.

Utensils you will need:

Ingredients:

  • sodium hydroxide
  • distilled water
  • fats (coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter etc.)
  • nutritive ingredients (for example argan oil, hemp oil…)
  • anything else you want to mix in (herbs, clay powder, honey…)
  • preservative (such as grapefruit seed extract) – not absolutely necessary but it will prolong the shelf-life of your soap

Basics:

Having everything clean is a must. Your utensils have to be clean, the working table has to be clean. You don’t want any nasty dirt in your soap which will moreover shorten the lifespan of the soap. Use the utensils only for making soap and nothing else.

I have already mentioned the safety. Especially when working with the lye you need to keep your glasses and gloves on. Stir the lye outdoors or at an open window.

Combining the two basis:

You will need to combine the oil basis and the lye basis. First melt all the fats in a water bath until they are combined. Set it aside to cool and meanwhile measure the sodium hydroxide and pour it into the distilled water while stirring it carefully. The mixture will become very hot (as will the bowl) and you need to stand back to avoid the fumes. Make sure you keep the lye to cool down in a place where no-one will touch it.

When making the lye you can substitute the water with herbal infusions.

The two basis should be mixed together at the same temperature. Pour the lye into the fats and mix with the hand blender immediately until everything is perfectly combined. If you have some additives to the soap – essential oils, herbs, preservative – you add them after you mix the lye with the fats.

Temperature and accuracy:

The two basis should have the same temperature when you mix them. There’s no one right temperature, each recipe can have a bit different correct temperature which depends on the ingredients. If you’re not sure, stay around 30°C but I really recommend you to do some studying and learn to adjust the temperature to the ingredients. There is plenty of material online and good books to get from Amazon. Use lower temperature for example when you want to replace the distilled water with another liquid (e.g. milk), and higher temperature when you work for example with beeswax. Also the higher the temperature, the faster the saponification.

You have to be very exact and accurate when weighing the ingredients. Different type and amount of fat means different amount of lye and a difference in grams could ruin your soap. Use good scales.

Saponification and curing:

The saponification is a process during which the liquid becomes soap. It begins when you mix the fat and the lye. After you mix in the rest of the ingredients, you pour the mixture into the soap mold and cover it (try to keep in the original warmth of the soap and feel free to cover the mold in plastic foil and some blanket or rug) and let it rest for 24 – 48 hours. It’s usually good when the soap goes through the gel phase over night. After this time has passed, the soap should be hard enough to get out of the mold in one piece and to cut it. Then let the soap cure preferably on a wooden grid for 4 – 6 weeks. During this time the caustic sodium hydroxide should evaporate from the soap.

I hope this article gave you an idea about the soapmaking process. I will share with you my soap recipes a bit later.

 

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