Making soap at home is a rewarding and practical skill to have as a homesteader. It can also be the basis for a lot of other body care recipes such as laundry detergent, liquid soaps and dish washing liquid. You can create your own unique soap as gifts for Christmas or if you get good enough, give selling them a go!
You can use a variety of different ingredients and once you know what you’re doing, it can be relatively easy to create your own recipes.
If you want a higher quality, moisturizing soap you can load your soap up with coconut and sweet almond oil.
Do you have a wood range and some wood ash that you need to find a use for? Give making your own lye a shot.
If you’ve never made soap before, it can be a bit intimidating at first. The scariest part that usually puts people off is using lye. Rather than trying to find a recipe that doesn’t use lye, check out this beginner’s guide and start making soap with confidence.
Pour the mixture all in one go
This is important when you’re making cold process soap as it is going in as a liquid. You want to pour into the mold all at once. If you pause in between or try to top it up, you will find that the soap may split when being used.
This can be prevented by using some alcohol spray between layers before pouring more. You can also use this trick to remove bubbles that may form on the surface of the mixture to create a cleaner “finish”.
Keep vinegar on hand
Lye is a crucial part of soap making. People have been using it for as long as they have been using soap. Also called caustic soda, lye is the essential ingredient to create the chemical reaction that leads to soap forming.
You should make sure that you have white vinegar on hand as much as you should be wearing safety gear. Not only will you use it to neutralize the equipment you use, but you will also need it should you get any lye on your skin.
Use a Lye Calculator
Whenever you are playing around with a new recipe, make sure that you use a lye calculator online. Soap making is a chemical process, and as such should be taken seriously. To ensure that the process results in soap and not a big dangerous mess, you need to make sure that the amount of lye that you’re adding is correct.
Repeat after me: Lye goes INTO water!
For your own sake, please always remember that lye is added TO water, and not the other way around. Failure to do so can lead to it blowing up in your face. The way I remember this is that when I make milk from powder, you add the powder to the water. Same deal.
Remember that as soon as the lye is added to the water, it will become extremely hot so make sure that you are wearing safety gear and handle with care. It should also be noted that you should do this in a well ventilated area, if not outside.
Use your thermometer
For the same reason as above. This isn’t the sort of project that you can just chuck handfuls of ingredients in and see what happens. If you want a soap that you can use at the end, use your thermometer to check your oils and lye are at the correct temperature before mixing together. This ensures that the saponification (I promise, I didn’t make that word up!) process will work.
Keep equipment for making soap only
Because of the ingredients you are using, it is recommended to keep the equipment that you’re using reserved for making soap at home.
If you’re using color pigments, the equipment may also end up stained.
Not really something that you want happening to your every day kitchenware.
Always measure your oils by weight, not volume
You need to ensure that you are using the same measurement for all of your ingredients. The reason that you should use weight is because it is a more reliable measurement when using different ingredients. Using volume may lead to undesirable results. Remember, making soap at home is a bit of a science.
Wait 3-5 days to clean your equipment
Rather than trying to clean the equipment straight away (such as spoons or the crock pot), leave them to the side for a few days first. The saponification process would of started during this time and it will be far easier to clean the equipment as soap begins to form.
Prepare all additives before you start making soap
Additives may be added to your soap mix before pouring into the molds. These can be materials such as herbs for medicinal purposes, coffee for natural color or oatmeal as an exfoliant. These materials need to be dry before being added to the mixture.
Goats milk is also a wonderful additive. The milk needs to be frozen before being used in the soap making process. I have seen some recipes that recommend using milk powder instead.
No matter what you decide to add to the soap, make sure that it has been prepared correctly.
Equipment needed for making soap at home
The equipment you use can vary greatly. While I prefer silicone molds, don’t limit yourself by thinking this is your only option. A wooden box lined with a garbage bag can work too. You will figure out what works best for you and develop systems of your own
This is a list of the equipment I tend to keep on hand when making soap at home.
Just make sure that you have it all in front of you BEFORE you begin You don’t want to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find something.
- Molds (silicone is preferred, especially for shaped soaps)
- Scales for accurate measuring
- Safety goggles and rubber gloves
- Heat resistant container for lye (I use mason jars)
- A large stainless steel or plastic spoon for the lye
- A container for mixing your soap in (glass or stainless steel)
- A container for holding your measured oils before being added
- Thermometer (that can withstand being wet and super heated)
- Stainless steel measuring spoons
- A stick/immersion blender
- Rubber spatulas
- Old towels
- Paper towels or cloths for inevitable spills
- Crock pot if making hot process soap
Soap making does not have to be difficult
It is more than reasonable to be hesitant when it comes to using caustic ingredients when you’re making soap at home.
However, don’t let it keep you from developing an absolutely fantastic homesteading skill.
Go on, get your soap making on!