I had just popped my latest project out of the molds to allow them to cure before trying the first bar. My little joys had taken me a lot of research and prep work to get to this moment. To me they were little bars of gold just waiting for a trip to the shower or sink. In a quick and excited moment I snapped a picture with my phone and sent a picture to my best friend a few states away. I looked down at my phone and noticed she was in the process of responding back to me and I eagerly waited for “they look awesome”. I set my phone down to get a drink and when I returned a message was waiting. I opened it up to read.”It looks like Peanut Butter Fudge.” Not exactly the response I was looking for, but they did kind of look like fudge. Still this is the story of my first soaping experience, outside of a high school chem class.
Making of the Soap
Assembling everything to make the soap was actually a lot easier then I ever expected and only required a trip to a hardware and grocery store. I never realized the main ingredient in soap was fat, until embarking on this project. For this soap I was using Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, and Castor Oil. Each oil offered a benefit and adjusting the percentage of each ingredient could cause a major difference in the soap.
The recipe I was using also called for using half and half as the liquid to mix with the lye. Lye is commonly found in cleaning products and can cause a really bad burn if it comes in contact with skin. When lye is mixed with water it causes a very noticeable chemical reaction. In this case my first attempt at mixing the lye and half & half ended with burning the milk. Yep, one step down from being totally black and you could smell burnt milk. In my second attempt I make sure my half & half was pretty much frozen solid to keep the temperature from burning it a second time. It’s not uncommon for water to boil when you add lye to it. Make sure you have it in a container that can handle the heat.
While my lye mix was hanging out in the sink i turned my attention to melting the oils and fats I was planning to use. I should have started this while I was working with the lye, but I wasn’t sure if I’d burn it again. I placed the fats into a Crockpot I purchased for $5 at the local Goodwill and turned it on low. Before long everything had melted and I was ready for the next step. Adding the lye mixture. When you add lye to oils it separates just as you would expect. A few minutes with my hand blender and I had created what soapers call trace. It’s basically where you can see an outline of where you removed something from the soap. Think pudding if you need to have a texture in mind to fully understand.
At this point you have two options in how to move forward. You can use either the cold process or hot process method. For this soap I used the hot process method because I didn’t want to have to wait to try the soap. The soap mixture after coming to trace is still very lye heavy and could cause a chemical burn if used in the shower/sink. By using the hot process method I was able to neutralize the lye in just a few hours cooking on low in the crock pot. If I had used the cold process method I would have added the mixture to my molds and waiting 24 hours before removing it. At this point the soap would need to cure for 2 to 6 weeks before it could be used. During this time chemical reactions continue and the lye is neutralize in the process. It takes longer, but creates some very pretty smooth bars in the end. My next soap will be a cold processed soap, but until that finishes I have my soap fudge to keep me clean.