I have been wanting to try making soap for years but two things held me back. Firstly, working with lye – my first husband had a bad accident with caustic soda so I wasn’t keen to use it myself. Secondly, alot of the recipes I had read looked to be quite expensive, I didn’t want to spend alot of money to make something that may not turn out.
A couple of weeks ago one of my sisters gave me a bar of her homemade lavender soap and it’s such a treat to use! I adore nice soaps but rarely get them, just using commercial brands instead. Natural soaps are quite pricey, handmade ones even pricier. So…I decided to just get over myself and make some of my own. I read heaps on the net and found a couple of good recipes to start with. I also found some helpful tips from well experienced soap makers which took some of the complexity or possible issues out out of the process.
Mix the lye into the water on top of the stove with the range-hood going, the fumes go straight up that. Lye commands respect, it can be dangerous to use so do read and follow the safety precautions written by experienced soap makers first – but once you have done it the first time it’s no longer a biggy and is a simple process done wisely.
Keep vinegar on hand if you do happen to splash yourself, it’s alkaline and will neutralise the acid.
The lye and the oils just need to be cooled to body temperature and many people don’t test with a thermometer at all, just wing it – so that’s what I did (I don’t own a food thermometer)
You don’t have to stand over it mixing until it reaches trace. You can mix for a few minutes, go do something else then come back to it, mix a few more minutes…..until it reaches desired stage.
Covering in cling film lessens the chances of soda ash occurring.
Putting the soap into the freezer after cutting makes it easier to remove from mold if it’s a bit stuck.
Cutting the soap with a strand of fine wire (or guitar string) lessens the wastage found in using a knife. (I don’t have a fancy soap cutter, used a knife and yes, did lose some through crumbling)
Honey and Oat: My first effort turned out!! I used a recipe which was economical Lard and Olive Oil Soap. It cost around $12 (NZ) to make just under 2 kg (4 lb) and I added honey and ground oats, Roger gets eczema and needed a simple soap. Apparently this recipe has a nice lather and is gentle. Because it wasn’t perfumed I wanted to dress it up a bit and sprinkled dried calendula petals on it. Wrapped it in glad wrap and a towel and left it on the bench to show off to Roger 🙂 You can imagine my utter horror when I next went into the kitchen to find not only was the cat on the bench but was curled up on top of the towel wrapped (and still soft!) soap. I don’t know what movie that scream “Nnooooooooooooo!” came from but heard myself sound just like it. Unwrapped the soap to find it one great mess but managed to scoop most back in, the petals no longer on top!
Footnote: This soap, despite the recipe saying it had good lathering properties did not lather well and probably because I did not follow a recipe when I threw in the ground oats and honey (too much of one or the other I suspect!) BUT it is super gentle, super moisturising and I have never used anything on my face that has left it so soft, probably more-so with the use of the oats. I also washed my hair with it to try that and rinsed off with cider vinegar – beautiful!! If I can get over the fact it contains lard I will use this lots!
Lavender: Yes folks, the fraidy cat is gone and Wendy is now hooked on soap making. This first one didn’t smell pretty enough so with new-found bravado I tried Lavender, this time using a vegetable, coconut and olive oil blend. This cost around $20 to make, for around 6lb, it smells divine and will be nice enough for moi and for gifts. The vegetable oil in this is similar to Crisco but Kremelta (coconut and soya oils). i found this recipe by our own wonderful Wendyl Nissen – Make Your Own soap. I added Lavender oil and dried buds. This is silky and creamy and not “earthy” like the fist one.
This made two medium sized dishes which will be cut tomorrow and a better photo added here. Left now to cure for 4 – 6 weeks I look forward to trying them!
Footnote: Beautiful. Rich, creamy, gentle, lots of lather…smells divine. Not as moisturising as the Lard and Olive Oil one but still lovely. I wish I had researched the use of lavender buds first before I added them though, they go brown as it matures. I have since read they should be ground and will try this next time.