Homemade soaps are not hard at all to make but certain safety precautions need to be in place such as eyewear, ventilation and skin coverings. I am still a little jittery when it comes to dealing with caustic soda solutions but have come to the conclusion that if I want natural, homemade soaps for the family to use then I will just have to overcome this hurdle! I do ensure the room (kitchen) is well ventilated and that I am adequately covered - long pants, shoes, long sleeve top and rubber gloves. I even wear eye protection, much to the 9yo's amusement who thinks I go from being mum to "The Mad Scientist". I don't mind the teasing though, if it came down to a splash of caustic in my eyes or wearing eye goggles, I'll choose the latter, thankyou very much!
I hope this doesn't put you off making your own soaps at home if you have been considering it. It is very straightforward and I highly recommend obtaining a copy of The Soapmakers Companion by Susan Miller Cavitch, even if borrowed from the library for a short while to get you started on the right track. Rhonda at Down to Earth also has a fabulous tutorial for making cold pressed soaps here.
Another site I recommend is in the useful links in my sidebar: The Sage soap calculator. Here, aside from having access to further advice and recipes, you will be able to run your ingredients/oils through the online calculator and have it total up how much lye (caustic) is needed for your soap batch. Very important as if too much lye is used it will not saponify with the oils and could result in a bar that is irritating and possibly even harmful to the skin. So the key advice is to go in with eyes wide open, research well, be cautious but have fun! There is nothing like using your own homemade soaps as they are particularly gentle on the skin, retaining glycerine which is a natural by-product of the soapmaking process which is often removed in commercial bars for separate sale!
I know! What a scam!!
To cut my blabbering short, I got to making some soap this week and took a few snaps of the process to share. As I had a sizeable bunch of dried sage from summer prunings hanging in the kitchen (along with some lavender), I decided to put these to use in the soap...
|Dried sage from the garden, ready to be ground in a coffee grinder|
|Infusing dried herbs into oil in a crockpot|
The next day some leftover dried sage was ground up finely in the coffee grinder. About a quarter of a cup all up, which was going to be added to the soap in it's final stages to remain in the bars for texture and appearance.
|Finely ground homegrown and dried sage|
At the same time my soft oils were mixed and the coconut oil was melted and allowed to cool. Once the lye had cooled down enough, the oils were mixed together (and reheated slightly as the coconut oil had started to solidify) and then carefully mixed with the lye, avoiding any splashes. It was at this stage I pulled out the stick blender to hop into action. Below is the colour of the mix when the lye and oils were first mixed together:
|Mixing the lye and oils together|
|Light trace - when ripples sit on top of the surface|
Once in the mold, some extra ground sage was sprinkled on the surface and then the lid placed on. The container was then insulated by wrapping in a large beach towel and placed in a warm spot (next to the fire) to be left undisturbed for 24 hours. During this time the soap heats up as the saponification process occurs and then cools down slowly. It is a marvelous occurrence to witness!
The following day the lid was removed to reveal a solid lump of soap that was easily removed from the container with the aid of the plastic wrap.
|Set soap, ready to be removed from mold and cut|
|The block of soap, in one hefty lump!|
|Lavender and Sage soap, curing|
Lavender and Sage Soap
975g herb infused olive oil, strained (65%)
450g coconut oil (copha) (30%)
75g apricot kernal oil (5%)
Total oils: 1500g
Oils and lye mixed at 100F.
At trace: added 1/4 cup dried sage and 30mls lavender essential oil.
Insulated for 24 hours then cut and allowed to cure.