I love making natural products. I started out by making herbal healing salves, then some lip balms which is similar to the salves. I’ve tried making “very close vein” (aka varicose vein) salves, and even an arthritis rub. Then I moved into lotions, which is super easy you just have to get the right blender. I have found that a stick blender is perfect for this. These were my adventures in natural products. I have figured out easier ways to do the processes, I can teach people to do them, I feel 100% confident in herbal salves and lotions. Still when I bought my soaps, I felt a bit perturbed. I mean how hard can soap making be? I should be able to do this, if I can make lotion, I could certainly make soap!
If only it was that easy. I started with the wonderful lady I was buying my soaps from. She has an Ebay store and I was buying her organic shampoo anyway, so I bought her soap too. She had amazing scents, and even emailed me to tell me how to do it. Although she did suggest I go to a soap making class. Then I got a series of DVD’s called Homestead Blessings (two thumbs WAY up on them! Highly recommended) and they have one called Soap Making. So I watched it, over and over and over. They make cold process soap (aka lye, and not a melt and pour glycerine soap) and then make a remilled soap, which makes a harder bar they say. They don’t even wear gloves!! If they can do it, I can do it right?
I joined soap making internet groups, I read about it, and I even found a woman who was selling all of her soap making materials on craigslist for cheap, which included a soap making book, VERY helpful. I had everything I needed to make soap, what was stopping me!? Well… I finally bit the bullet this weekend and did it. Turns out I was terrified of the lye. I’m a klutzy person, I fall on nothing, I don’t pay attention and I knock something over with my elbow, I was so afraid of going to the ER (which I might add, we don’t have in our town… I would have to drive 30-45 minutes for one) with massive lye burns all over my body. Fear is not of God, Corri… get it together!
So after putting the soap off for way too long, here is my story. I was alone, so that didn’t help my fears. First off I recommend having help. The West Ladies (Homestead Blessings) had help, one was stirring while the other added oils, this would be helpful until you get the hang of it. First you add your lye to the water (I used tea… water with camomile and calendula infused in it), not the water to the lye. I wasn’t interested in finding out what happened when I did that wrong, so I didn’t. I had 4 windows open and my back door, which is right by my kitchen. I had an apron on, big goggles, big yellow gloves and a doctors mask, goodness the new neighbors must think I’m an odd duck. I did look pretty funny. But I didn’t know what to expect! Plus this was all in the kit I bought on CL so figured the girl must have known what she was doing. I stir the lye in, next thing I know I get this whiff of something, something nasty. I instantly back away, so the fears of being poisoned by the lye odor is not going to happen. No one in their right mind would WANT to smell this stuff, and I like the smell of gasoline. This was not pleasant. I start to see the steam (is it steam?) come off the water, the water gets hot so I suspect it’s steam, that and lye. Let me say that everything was weighed out BEFORE I started, and I had garbage bags on my counters, just in case. I start to add the oils, coconut and olive and palm. The coconut and palm are solid at room temperature, but the lye water is hot so it dissolves it. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get it totally mixed and I have a couple small chunks of oil in my soap, but this would have not happened had I had a buddy, I’m convinced.
After all that is done, then take a stick blender and CAREFULLY blend your mixture. You blend it until it traces on top, or leaves an impression or line on top of the liquid. I think I blended mine too much, or started too early because of the oil not all dissolving, but it was only a little so I’m still calling this a success. It started to get thick, and it seemed to happen faster that I expected. I worried about one big pot of soap if I didn’t get it into my mold. So I poured the soap in to the mold that was lined with wax paper. The West Ladies use a container that looks like a cat box bottom. Mine is actually a soap mold that I got in my kit. The West Ladies say to check it every half hour to make sure it doesn’t get too hard so you can’t cut it. If you are using a wood soap mold, DO NOT do this. I thought I ruined mine when I lifted the lid and half the soap came up with it! I left it for the evening after that. Periodically I would go and feel the side of the mold which stayed warm most of the evening, but I kept it insulated with a few towels so it would slowly cool.
The next morning I couldn’t wait to get up and check out my soap. Other than some of the wax paper attaching to the soap (and couldn’t get it off and you can see at the top of the soap below) it was quite the success! Here it is before I cut it.
Then I cut it (again everything I bought was great and it had a soap cutter with it, but a knife would work) it was still really easy to work with, so it probably could have gone longer, but better to be safe than sorry. I cut all the soap, lined an oven rack with a paper sack (writing down or you’ll have writing on your soap) and left it to cure in a closet. It has to cure 3-4 weeks, a bit unfair since you want to use it right away, but patience is a virtue. When it is all done I’m going to remill it. Which means you grate it with a cheese grater, put it in a pot with some liquid (coffee, tea, water, goats milk) and then you can remold it. It will only take a short time to get hard again (in the freezer this time) then your soap will be harder and last longer, or so the West Ladies say. At that point I’ll add my fragrance/essential oil. I will try a batch where I add my essential oil before I mold it, but I wanted to try remilled badly this time, so that is my plan with this batch.
Here’s the finished product. I faced my fears and made soap and lye wasn’t hardly as frightening as I gave it the power to be, isn’t that the way with most things in life?