Making soap is a wonderful pasttime that can take over every flat surface of your house. It is a great way to make gifts for the family, design soaps for people with troubled or sensitive skin, or give an artistic release for crafters. Making soap is easy to do in the kitchen. Elsewhere on this site you'll find discussions about what soap is, and how it is made commercially. This page is for a discussion and description of how to make soap by hand in the kitchen.
There are a number of methods to choose from to make soap. They all start off the same way (see CP) and then you have the option of moulding the soap, or applying heat to the mixture. This forces saponification to finish, and also evaporates some of the water. CP soap requires up to 8 weeks of curing time - theories abound as to why this is, but in general it is accepted that a few days to weeks is needed for saponification to finish in the solid bar, and the remainder of the time is used to drive off water. Bars may continue to lose water even after you think they're done!
We'll start off describing how to do basic or cold process/processed soap [CP]. In the fullness of time we'll add photos to describe what we mean. From CP you can move to hot process/processed soap [HP] and beyond!
Making soap requires the use of heat and of hydroxide solutions commonly referred to as lye. The solution you use has a pH of approximately 15 - if it gets on your skin it will start to turn the fats in your skin to soap. That's painful so it's best to keep the lye off your skin by wearing old, long pants and shirt, and gloves. Safety goggles are advised as well, and working in a well-ventilated area is a must. If you get lye or caustic soap on your skin, wash the area with cold running water or vinegar and keep doing so until it stops hurting. If you get it in your eye then rinse with lots and lots of water and see your doctor. If ingested please call Poison Control in your state.
How to make soap
Get together the supplies and equipment listed below, clear off the kitchen bench and stove and try to keep pets, children and partners out of your way while you make soap. Concentration is the key to not making a mistake in the recipe or method, and so not wasting your oils!
Heat resistant jug, 1.5L or larger
Medium plastic or glass bowl
Large stainless steel pot - 10L is good
Large, long handled plastic spoon
Mould - you can just start with 1L paper milk cartons
Recipe! A simple one is: 500g palm oil 250g coconut oil 250g olive oil 375g water (room temperature) 144g lye 20g essential or fragrance oil
Safe clothes such as: long sleeved shirt long pants rubber gloves safety glasses (safety should come before style :)
CP - cold processed or cold process [basic instructions]
DHHP - direct heat hot process
ITMHP - In the mould hot process. Also called CPOP (cold process oven process).
DBHP - double boiler hot process
CSDBHP - closed system double boiler hot process
CPHP - crock pot hot process
MWHP - microwave hot process
Clayton's HP - the HP you're doing when you're not HPing. Arises when you turn the stove off under a DB and it just takes a lot longer. Can also be done with heavy insulation.
Liquid soap - made with potassium hydroxide. For an amazing site, visit here!
M &P - melt and pour soap. A pre-made base soap that is bought in bulk and remelted, scented, coloured, moulded, cooled and used.
Transaperent soap - the fabulous Kathy Miller website has some great transparent soapmaking instructions!