Rub-A-Dub-Dub

This weekend my Mom offered to teach me how to make all-natural soap from scratch. It is a tedious and time-consuming process, so needless to say, I was very thankful when she was willing to take the time to do this with me.

The homemade soap making process is basically 2 main elements mixed together to form the soap base.

1) Lye/Water Mixture     2) Fat, usually some type of oil (we used several different types of oil mixed together)

These two elements have to stay separate until they reach the exact same temperature(100 degrees), then you are able to carefully mix them. Lye can cause serious burns if it comes in contact with bare skin. Mixing the lye(powder) with water causes it to heat up and even the fumes can cause minor burns and irritation.

Also, anything that is used to mix, or even touched the lye should only be used for soap making from then on.  Above you can see the lye being measured out on a digital scale and the water is in the plastic tupperware container to the left. The water/lye ratio must be exact for the correct process to take place….hence the digital scale.

After the correct ratio of water to lye is measured, the lye is slowly poured into the water. As you can see, my mom is all gloved/masked up in order to protect herself from the fumes. She’s probably going to kill me for putting this picture up, but she’s beautiful even with her crazy, rigged-with-a-clothespin mask on.

Honestly, it’s kinda scary stuff…

Scary in the science project, it-could-blow-up-or-something kind of way!

While she was working on this part, I was measuring out the oils. We chose to use a combination of olive oil, palm oil, and coconut oils. Everyone knows what olive oil looks like, but most people probably aren’t familiar with palm and coconut oil.

The tall container to the left is the coconut oil. It is solid at room temperature, really oily, and smells just like fresh coconuts(duh!). The larger container to the right is the palm oil. It is also solid at room temperature(as you can see). I combined these two oils and the olive oil into a large stainless steel pot on the stove and slowly began to heat it to 100 degrees.

Once the two mixtures(the oils in the pot & the lye) reached exactly 100 degrees at the same time, we slowly combined them. The chemical process is called saponificationThis forms the base of the soap itself. After this process is complete, we then added our extra elements. That day we were making Oatmeal Lavender soap(this is the same soap I have been using on my face as well as raving about for a few weeks now).

So to form the oatmeal lavender part of the soap we ground up the oatmeal into a powder as well as ground up the lavender flowers. You can see the lavender below. Isn’t it just beautiful?!? And as you probably could imagine, it smeeeellls wonderful as well!

You can see the 2 different powders we poured in. The darker powder is the ground lavender flowers and the lighter is the ground oatmeal.

We also added all-natural lavender essential oil for extra lavender fragrance.

After everything had been added we stirred to combine everything and used a handheld electric immersion blender. Below you can see how, as the oatmeal and lavender becomes incorporated, the soap becomes lighter in color and thicker. You blend this mixture until it becomes thick enough to “trace”. This is a very important part that, if not done correctly, can mess up the entire batch of soap. The “tracing” is where the droplets falling from the blender are able to sit on top. This lets you know that the soap is now thick enough to pour into the molds.

Next, we poured our soap into the molds. My mom usually just uses lined bread pans for this job. She has tried PVC pipes in the past(that makes round soaps), but found that the bread pans are a little easier to handle.

The bread pans are lined with parchment paper, except for the blue mold. That one is a silicone mold that she bought to try out for the soap molding(turns out it works great!). The allows the soap to be easily removed once set as well as keeps the pans from being directly exposed to the lye that is still active in the soap.

After pouring the molds, we covered them with plastic wrap and secured it with a rubber band around the sides of the pans. 

The covered soap has to cool down slowly in order for it to set correctly. The way this is accomplished is by insulating it with a towel on all sides and putting it in an out-of-the-way place for 24 hours.

After 24 hours the soap will be completely cooled and set. After it has set, you can cut the soap into the desired shape and size.

We made the soap on Sunday afternoon so it was completely set by Monday afternoon. I had already gone home by that time, so my mom cut all off the soap into bars once they were ready. All of the bars are all about the same size and shape, but of course they are completely handmade so some of them are bigger or smaller depending on which part of the mold they were cut from. This may bother some people, but I kinda like it because it gives the bars a little bit of character. One other thing you have to keep in mind is that this soap takes 4-6 weeks to completely dry out and be ready to use. The lye in the soap takes that long to become “inactive”(pardon me if I’m not using the correct terminology. That’s just the way I think of it). So now I am anxiously waiting for it to dry so I will be able to bring some home and use it!

So there you have it…..100% natural Lavender Oatmeal soap from start to finish! I absolutely loved the process and I am so thankful that my mom was able to teach me this….so here’s my public shout-out to my dearest mother! “Thanks, Mom! You’re the best!”

Once day when I’m looking back over my life I think this is a skill that I will be so grateful I learned. It’s funny because the first thing I thought of when I was learning this was it could be a good bartering tool if things ever got reeeaaally crappy in this world(ya know, like if we had a nuclear emergency and ran out of household products and things to take care of our families!). I may not be able to defend a colony of people or kill our dinner, but I have soap! It’s got to be worth something, right?!?

So tell me….Has anyone out there ever done/tried to make soap from scratch before? or maybe you think it’s crazy to make soap when you could just go to the nearest store and buy it. Do tell…

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3 Comments

  1. That’s awesome!! I had thoroughly convinced myself I was going to make soap last fall and even had a couple volunteers to help me but I never got around to it!!
    I feel inspired! I wanted to make some oatmeal soap and coffee soap and all kinds of stuff 🙂

    Reply
  2. Mom

     /  February 27, 2012

    Thank you Bretta for all the wonderful things you say about me. I love you dearly and am enjoying how you are turning into such a talented domestic goddess!
    Love,
    Mom

    Reply

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