Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Making Soap

I made soap this morning and while this isn't the tutorial that was requested, I thought I'd show you what I'm doing. All of my supplies are stored in the garage so the weighing and mixing of lye is done before I bring it on the house. I've dissolved the lye in this pan with a Goodwill spoon that I only use for this purpose.
I get everything ready in advance because once the soap is at trace, i.e., ready to pour, it must be poured or it will seize up. Soap made with fragrance oils is more temperamental but since I only use essential oils, I feel pretty much in control of the pour. My mold is lined and on a double layer of placemats to keep the bottom of the soap from cooling too quickly from the counter tile. My electric stiring stick is plugged in and ready to go.
At this point all my oils have dissolved and need to be cooled. I put the pan in the sink with ice cubes to bring down the temperature. I like to pour in the lye at a temperature range from 86-92 degrees, which is a little low for most people. I like it because the soap goes to trace more quickly, sometimes in as little as three minutes. I consider soap to be at trace when it's the consistency of a #3 white sauce.

You can see why everything needs to be ready. I use a designated meat thermometer to check on the temp. Today I worked at 90 degrees.

This batch is going to be my Mint Chocolate Bar, so here are my pre-
measured essential oils, half spearmint and half peppermint, and also the cocoa powder.

It's the lye's turn to get cooled down. I use a long beer-
making thermo-
meter here. Make no mistake -lye is dangerous. It's dangerous to inhale and dangerous to your skin. It just requires careful treatment and proper precaution. I dissolve it in the garage and quickly move it away to another area to cool. I always stir slowly to avoid splashing and I never do two things at once. When I'm making soap, I am making soap.
Ian came in just as I was getting close to trace so I asked him to take this picture. You can see the change in the characteristic of the mixture and if you click for big, you can see that it very much looks like a white sauce or pudding.
This soap is made in two stages. I've pour a quart of the mixture into the glass measuring cup and the rest in the mold. It was at this point I realized that I had left out the essential oils and they can't be added now. I'm afraid I was doing two things at once - making soap and thinking about this post.

I fortunately was able to redeem my error because I still needed to add the cocoa powder to the remaining soap. I was able to add the essential oils at the same time too.
This is Mint Chocolate soap. I worked to get the "chocolate" mixture into all the soap. Usually I only marble it on the surface so that it contrasts with the rest of the soap which is nearly marble white. It's going to be different this time.


Valerie said...

Like I did you ever have the time to go to work before?!

Nice post!

Jodi said...

Neat! I can't believe that my family actually used to use lye to make lutefisk, a (terrible) Scandinavian fish recipe. It's definitely better to use lye for soap!

P.S. Retirement looks fabulous.

bspinner said...

Wow, mint chocolate soap. Bet that smells great in the shower.

Once you're retired you wonder how you got everything done before retirement.

Great information!

Life Looms Large said...

So the cocoa in the soap doesn't leave chocolate-y smears all over when you use the soap? That's pretty cool!

Is that the same soap mold that was hidden under a blanket in an older post of yours? I somehow imagined it as absolutely huge - like the size of a kiddie pool.

Clearly I still have jet lag! Sorry to ask a lot of questions. I will check back here tomorrow to see if you've left need to hunt me down!

Chocolate mint - yum!


Theresa said...

So if lye is so caustic, why is it in soap? Is there something else that will do what lye does.
Chocolate Mint sounds perfectly delicious. i have a bar of olive oil soap that is scented with coffee. Wonderful for morning showers when you need to wake up!

Robin said...

Great pictures and your soap looks fabulous! Can't wait to get set up here for soap making. I haven't unpacked any of that yet. There's just nothing like handmade soap! said...

And do you sell the soap? "Cause although I have made soap before (bfore I started to work fulltime, that is) I don't now. And you have made me want some. It is all your fault, I was perfectly happy using plain old ivory, but now I want mint chocolate... and does anyone around here have any? Nooooo.....

Birdsong said...

It looks great! I can imagine the smell, and am thinking about prowling through the pantry next.

Tina T-P said...

It always amazes me that something as corrosive as lye is used for soap! (and lutefisk!!!) T.

Leigh said...

This is good enough to wake up the old soap making brain cells! I've never had much luck with scented soaps though. Maybe I need to work on this this winter.