Monthly Archives: June 2011

The First Rule of Making Soap Is…


Actually, there are tons of online articles – so here’s mine.

Perhaps I had my own project mayhem to uncover, or perhaps I liked the smell of bubbling Olive Oil, or perhaps I just wanted to give the wife a nice creamy bar for a reasonable price.  In any case, I started with looking at how it is made, then looked at the ingredients I already had.

I came across a few handy dandy articles, beginning with the Art of Manliness, which is what got me thinking about this in the first place.  In a nutshell, you take fats & oils, add diluted Sodium Hydroxide (Lye), and voila!  I’m not sure how, but the lye breaks down the oils in  a process called saponification, which in turn creates what we call soap.  Different oils yield different results.  Some moisturize better, some produce more bubbles, and others create a harder soap.  From that article I picked out a decent soap ratio from another site, plugged it into a soap calculator, and it was a matter of locating more stuff to mix it together.

Since we had some Orange essential oil, I thought to mix up a bar of my own version of Orange Clove.  Most of the ingredient oils we already had for cooking, but finding some Palm Oil was a bear.  Eventually a tub turned up at Whole Foods, labeled as vegetable shortening.

To save some bucks I picked up the pot and mixer at the local Goodwill.  Wooden spoons came from the dollar store, and in the end I have lots of leftovers for my next batch.

Once the oils hit 95 degrees on the stove and blended together, I slowly added the lye mix.  After about 30 minutes of mixing, it all thickened together, and I added in the orange, bergamot, and clove essential oils, and hard ingredients like orange peel and coriander powder.

I had prepped a wooden mold I built the week before, by lining it in parchment paper.  The pancake-like mixture was poured into this, covered, and left alone for 24 hours to cool and form.  

It is still semi soft at this stage, so this is when the block is cut up into bars.  I had measured out dimensions of 1.25″ thick X 3.5″ long X 2.5″ wide.

Once they were cut up, I laid them out to cure.  Because you use a chemical to create them, it can be pretty harsh on the skin otherwise until it finishes the reaction, which while mostly done, will complete over time.

Some people say you can use the soap after two weeks, but others say waiting a month is best.  As for me, I was too giddy (or maybe it was the fumes), but I gathered up some of the soap chips from the cutting and lathered up.

The proof is in the pudding they say, and it seems to lather up like a champ.  Of course, my skin dried up like a senior in the sun afterwards, and I needed lotion on my hands like when I was a teenager, but I was pretty impressed overall and can’t wait for the month to go by for the finished product.  The scent is what I was shooting for, and I’m looking forward to making other  blends.  I think a Woodshop one, an earthy Vetiver, and a Lemongrass are in order.  Woo-hoo!!