I Finally Ventured into Soap Making

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.

Good tips:

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 economicalΒ 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 πŸ™‚ 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!

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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 –Β Make Your Own soap. I added Lavender oil and dried buds. This is silky and creamy and not “earthy” like the fist one.

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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.

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47 thoughts on “I Finally Ventured into Soap Making

  1. You are so amazing! Despite everything and the cat – overcoming all those trepidations and then turning out beautiful creamy lathery sweet smelling soaps!

    I chuckled at the thought of you doing movie scream – poor kitty! I bet that soap looked delicious too, all wrapped up in marigold petals. You have such a creative eye! Can’t wait to see what you do next!

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    • I was very brave Pauline lol – I have been wanting to make it for years but kept psyching myself out. The more sites I looked on I realised this wasn’t actually a biggy, I just needed to get over it πŸ™‚
      CATS!!!! Why would he think that was OK??!!
      It does look delicious doesn’t it, I hope it is nice to use.

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  2. Thanks heaps for this – great to see your trepidation and then success. You’ve inspired me to give it a go sometime. Can’t wait to see what you think of it once you’ve used it. xoxoxoxoxox

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  3. Wow Wendy – how cool! I always wanted to try soap making but it is way down the list on things that need to be done. I thought it would be really expensive, and hard to source the stuff here, but you seem to have removed those false illusions for me. That seemed really affordable and sounds lovely. All the best with your future soap making ventures. Cheers Sarah : o )

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  4. Oh that sounds like fun, changing up the recipe for scent and looks each time. I’ve never made soap either but stayed at a B&B in Virginia once that had the yummiest smelling glycerin soap. I took a bunch home. How you seen those glycerin soaps with things like whales inside?

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    • No, I haven’t seen those but do like glycerin soaps πŸ˜‰ You can buy the glycerin soap bases and melt them down and do all sorts with them – a oood way to make soap without lye and I would love to try that also πŸ™‚

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  5. So glad you tried your hand at soap making. With two curious cats, I place my newly made soap in the guest bedroom and shut the door. The soap can harden without a kitty taking a nap on top of it.

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  6. Pauline took my words, “You are so amazing”..that was my first thought, then I read she said it…but you are truly a talented woman! You should have your own television show and show us all how to do stuff, you just have a knack for picking those things I have always wanted to try, but am fearful like you ( lye etc), so to find you doing it gives me courage to try some day….my cats are always doing things like that, and can’t leave a lap top they are on that ,too!
    Your soap is beautiful!!!

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    • Lol, no, I am not amazing!! Lots of people do way more “stuff” than me πŸ™‚ Honestly, if you are wanting to try it then try it, it is easier than you think and once you get over that first hurdle it’s simple, just takes a bit of time. I gingerly added the lye slowly and stirred after each addition, no frothing or anything. It never occurred to me the cat would do that…must’ve been the lard!!

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  7. LOL! The feral cats here love it when Steve takes the car to work as when he comes home they sleep on the bonnet ;). The first one will be amazing for Roger, especially as he is a man and most probably has dirty hands 24/7 and the second one will be for you and for gifting. $20 isn’t much for 3kg of soap! We pay $6 a small bar for handmade soap here…when I say “we” that is metaphorical and meaning “Tasmanian’s” as I would rather explode than pay $6 for a bar of soap! That means that “we” get 3 bars for what you got a whole pan for…BONUS and cat approved. What’s not to love? πŸ˜‰

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    • It’s about that here too for a handmade soap and I just don’t buy it but I do love nice soap. The Lush shop in the next town is just gorgeous. I want my house to smell like that!! πŸ™‚ Perfect as little gifts because even those can cost more than you really want to spend. I think it’s going to become rather addictive πŸ™‚
      The cat will NEVER get that opportunity again!!

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      • Good luck stopping the cat πŸ˜‰ I adore those soaps that smell like bergamot and lemon grass etc. GORGEOUS things. I am going to have to give this a go now as I know that if I need a hand I can just “ask a friend” πŸ˜‰ Doesn’t look too hard from those recipes and I would make the softer soap as it appeals to me more (and the thought of larding up my hands doesn’t appeal much at all πŸ˜‰ )

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      • I bet that lard one would appeal to Earl…I don’t even want to THINK about that one! πŸ˜‰ Green tea and gardenia sounds gorgeous πŸ™‚

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      • Yeah, can’t sleep as I am excited about making amigurumi crochet dolls for my daughter for Christmas. Made my first head yesterday and it looked like a propper head! I NEVER get things first go…a good sign that I might just manage to make an entire Korean pop band in time for Christmas πŸ™‚ Hush-hush though as she reads my blog…doesn’t read yours though πŸ˜‰ am going to spend the day nutting out the pattern for the body, arms and legs etc. as I have had to learn a whole new set of crochet stitches and rules to make this but it’s great fun and I am enjoying it (so far). If I have to frog the lot (rip-it…rip-it… πŸ˜‰ ) you will probably hear me chopping wood from your house πŸ˜‰

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      • Oh, neat!!! That sounds fun… but also a challenge. If I hear wood I will know there is much frustration going on at the Serendipity household.
        I also am excited πŸ™‚ My youngest son is marrying his sweetheart today!! His second marriage and I couldn’t be happier πŸ™‚

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      • OOOOH! Congratulations to both him and you :). Always excellent to welcome someone new into the family that makes one of your kids “Squee” on the inside πŸ™‚ Hope the day goes amazingly well and it is as fine and blue skied as yesterday was here, an absolute bottler of a day πŸ™‚ I will go easy on the wood chopping (and the swearing that goes with it)…wouldn’t want to interrupt the harmony of the ceremony ;). You are up early too! πŸ˜‰

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  8. Congratulations you! Well done entering into the world of saponification! πŸ˜€
    Have you checked out greeningofgavin.com? Gav makes a wonderfully easy soap with vegetable oils too and it was his that I first had a go at making. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I added a heap of rosemary oil and it is DIVINE! I’ve also made pure tallow soap from our lamb fat but that’s for the laundry only (although I want to try it for a texture comparison πŸ™‚ )
    Making soap is awesome hey but I remember how scared I was to have a go too. First attempt down and I felt very comfy second time around. I mix my lye outside but yep, the range hood is a great way to do it too. πŸ™‚

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    • Oooh, I’ll have a look, ta. I wanted to try several different blends and see what I like best. I really enjoy it but yes, it was scary. I have seen a nasty burn and it took ages to heal, that was in the back of my mind but it’s not the biggy I had thought – just common sense and proper precautions. Second time easy πŸ™‚

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      • Gav is one of my 2 main inspirations for taking on the green lifestyle. Since finding his blog I’ve also become priveledged to get to know him and his lovely wife. Gav’s recipe is a cinch. πŸ™‚ In fact it was the first soap I made and it came out perfectly.
        I can also suggest making your own soap recipe using http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp which is what I did to make my own 100% lamb tallow soap for the laundry. πŸ™‚ It took me a while to navigate around the page but once I had it straight it worked perfectly. πŸ™‚ If you have a play and get stuck, email me. πŸ™‚

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  9. I have looked into making soap too but the lye holds me back. if I could find a recipe without it maybe, but not sure when I would ever get the energy to start it. You wear me out with everything you find time to make and do around your home.

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    • You can buy batches of plain vegetable or glycerine soap base to do your own mixing and blending of different sorts but I wanted to try from scratch.
      I’d go stir crazy if I didn’t find my own interests Lois. Roger is so full of energy and is always outside doing something when he is home and he prefers a rather the hermitty life and he is in his own bubble of what he wants to do in a day. If I didn’t settle to do my own thing I would go nuts πŸ™‚

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  10. I love this post!! Since I adore homemade soap I’ve always wanted to make it but the reading and research I did on it always seemed to overwhelm me. Thanks for this great post. I feel truly inspired and really want to give it a go! Cheers, Gina

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