Cold Process Soap, Day One

Today I won’t go into depth on the hows and whys of our soap recipe, but I will give you one. I want to cover the basics of how to get ready as our primary focus.

HAIR
If you have long hair please pull it up in a clip or bun or something. The worst thing to happen is to have your hair fall into your work.

SHOES
Please wear closed toe shoes. If you spill during your soapmaking session then washing a pair of sneakers is easy, trying to clean up toes in flip-flops is dangerous.

SHIRT
Wear a long sleeved shirt. Long sleeves keeps your skin protected, and when a large splash occurs you are more likely to remove the wet clothing than if you are wearing a tank top. Don’t wear overly loose clothing, comfortable is best. Excess fabric can easily get in the way.

PANTS
Long pants please. For the same reasons as the shirt.

GOGGLES
Wear goggles. Anti fog is the most helpful. You do not want to get a splash of lye in your eye. If you wear eyeglasses get a pair of goggles that will fit OVER your vision correction gear. Don’t forgo the goggles and claim your eye glasses are sufficient. If you do get splashed in the eye, flush with adequate amounts of water (about 15 minutes) and seek immediate medical attention. Don’t think you should wait until the soap is finished. Just GO!

GLOVES
Make sure you are wearing sturdy gloves. Don’t get cheap dishwashing gloves, use real chemical protection Nitrile gloves. Fold a small cuff at the top. If you need to reach for something, or raise your arm, drips will be caught in the cuff instead of flowing straight to
your elbow. Or worse, flowing up to your armpit!

Now that we have covered our clothing and protective gear, let’s move on to mixing lye. Lye mixing isn’t hard. Start with cool water. Never stir lye granules into hot water. You will notice the water gets very hot after the addition of the lye.

I am using tap water so the mixture will remain cloudy in my beaker. If you use distilled water expect it to clear just like drinking water. Notice, we are NOT mixing the lye solution in a
drinking cup. If you are using containers that look like drinking cups, erase the words/print from the outside of the cup with nail polish remover long before you start your soapmaking project. We don’t want any kitchen guests thinking your drinking cup has a
consumable beverage.

Once I start adding the lye crystals it only takes about 5 seconds of pouring time to get all the crystals into the water, of course this is for today’s recipe. I then stir gently with a spoon. Try very hard to not let any lye clump at the bottom of your mixing vessel. Once I have the lye mixed I melt the oils in the microwave. These winter chilled oils took about 2 minutes in my microwave. As you can see there are small clumps of fat remaining. A quick push of the button on my immersion blender (also known as: stick blender) and the
fat lumps are gone.

I now pour my lye solution into the fats and turn on my immersion blender. Note from the photos that I have started with the immersion blender in an upright position, then I have tilted the blender to the side. This leaning technique causes the oils and lye to be forced
through the blades, then up and around again. If I left the immersion blender in an upright position I would only swirl the mixture around and around, leaving fat to rise to the surface and not mix with the lye solution.

Today’s Recipe:

6 ounces weight Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
5 ounces weight Coconut Oil
4 ounces weight Olive Oil
1 ounce weight Shea Butter

2.2 ounces Sodium Hydroxide
6 fluid ounces cool water

Weighing time: 8 minutes
Adding lye to water: 5 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of stirring
Heating of oils time: 2 minutes
Pouring lye solution into the fat mixture: 5 seconds
Using immersion blender to mix soap solution: 90 seconds
Pour into mold: 10 seconds
Allow soap to rest: 24 hours

As you can see I haven’t spent a lot of time. I also haven’t talked about temperature. The temperature is tomorrow’s discussion. Send comments to us through the blog or through our Contact Us link. See you tomorrow!

Andee
Feel free to e-mail us any questions you have.

Weigh oils.
Weigh oils.
Weighed oils.
Weighed oils.
Measure water.
Measure water.
Properly folded cuffs on gloves.
Properly folded cuffs on gloves.
Add lye to water.
Add lye to water.
Stir lye solution.
Stir lye solution.
Melted oils ready for lye solution to be added.
Melted oils ready for lye solution to be added.

Lye solution added to the melted oils.
Lye solution added to the melted oils.

Blend with immersion blender.
Blend with immersion blender.
No oil floating on the top.
No oil floating on the top.

Soap in the mold.
Soap in the mold.
Tilted immersion blender.
Tilted immersion blender.

Pour soap into the mold.
Pour soap into the mold.
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29 thoughts on “Cold Process Soap, Day One”

  1. question – are you weighing all your oil in that plastic container and just leaving it on the scale as you add oil – get 6 oz soybean, then start adding next oil adding 4 oz coconut oil (scale reads 10 oz) then going on to next? OR are you weighing each oil separately and then adding it all together in the glass beaker (in photo) and Nuking in the glass beaker? is it important to weigh oil separately? thanks, Emily

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    1. sincerelyemily-
      I weighed all the oils into the plastic bucket. I would weigh one oil, tare the scale and then weigh a new oil into the same bucket. The scale would read something along the lines of 6 oz for the soybean, tare the scale (0 oz), 4 oz for the coconut. We showed the oils in the glass beaker, so you could see what the oils looked like from a side view. Unfortunately, white plastic buckets are not easy to see through! The 87 oz plastic bucket that we showed weighing the oils into is fine to melt oils and add the lye to your oils. We use that bucket all the time when testing fragrances.

      It is not necessary to weigh each oil separately. I think it is easier to weigh all the oils together for small batches like we made in this post.

      Hope this helps!

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  2. question – what kind of tap water do you have (well,city water or water softener)?

    Thank You,
    mb

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    1. MB-
      We are on city water. We live in the high desert and our water is hard. We have NO water softener in our test kitchen. This soap will not have a noticeable difference using this type of water vs distilled water.

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  3. It would be nice to include what size all the containers need to be. I did find the organizer size – it’s 3″ x 9″ if anybody else needs to know. I just guessed what size measuring cups to buy. I hope that a 4-cup and 1-cup measure will do.

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  4. I have shortening that is a mixture of hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed, mono and diglycerides would this work for this recipe I am a first timer so pls help.

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    1. I would like to know the answer to your question too. I see it was never answered. Does anyone have the answer?

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  5. Hi Andee,
    I made some soap and left for saponifiction for three weeks but found later that the soap was’nt very hard I decided to keep it in the fridge for some time and it became hard what’s really the cause? Have I made a mistake somewhere? Igredients used are as follows sunflower oil 950g olive oil 50g caustic soda126g water300g 15ml essential oil.
    Thanks
    Alex

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    1. Alex,

      Don’t worry! You didn’t do anything wrong. Your soap is just fine. You chose some oils that are liquid and make a softer bar until the bar has been allowed to dry or “cure”. The refrigerator actually help speed the curing process because it draws moisture from items in your refrigerator. If you want a firmer bar sooner, I would suggest adding Coconut Oil, Palm Oil or Palm Kernel Oil to your formulation. It will give you a harder bar about 24 hours after you pour the soap into the mold. It will continue to firm as it cures.

      If you have any more questions, please let me know.

      Taylor

      P.S. Welcome to the soaping addiction!

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  6. Please let me know alternative(plant origin) for shea butter.Is it possible to make soap without solid fats?

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    1. Mango butter. Solid fats help make better soaps, but soap can be made without solid fats. Look at Castile soap for example.

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  7. Hello! I am loving your website! It has been incredibly helpful to me trying to learn all I can about making soap. I am going to attempt my first batch shortly, but had a couple questions.
    A lot of your recipes call for hydrogenated soy bean oil. I was wondering if I can swap that out for avocado oil with out any problems? I noted the saponification value is only 3mg off.
    My other question (not for soap but for lip balm) is do you suggest any specific products that are a natural sunscreen?
    Oh! One more, are there any good local stores to buy lye? *I saw you are in Utah, I am as well, so you can be specific :)
    Thank you in advance!!!!

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    1. You do not want to replace a solid oil with a liquid one. Hydrogenated soy or palm oil or tallow or lard will work well as the base oil in this recipe.

      Sunscreens make a lip product an over the counter drug and that is not something we deal with at all. I am sorry.

      As far as lye it is best to call our office and we can determine where you are located and suggest how you can find a local source.

      Tina

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  8. I’ve begun the exciting hobby of soap making and had a very successful first attempt. I gave some to my niece who said she can only use gluten free soap. Is there such a thing? It never occurred to me that soap would have gluten. I’ve heard of vegan but not gluten free. Might you have a recipe or a suggestion? I’d like to make her some soap that she can use. Thank you!

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    1. I can’t think of a soap that would contain gluten. Do not add grains to your soap and you should be fine. If you are just making fixed oils into soap then do not worry about gluten. Gluten is a water soluble material and not an oil soluble. This is one of those things that makes me scratch my head and wonder what the issue is that would cause her to say this. If she has gluten intolerance then that relates to consumption of gluten and not on the skin. If she has an allergy to certain grains then she should be asking for soaps free from those ingredients. I’m just not understanding.

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  9. I have made a fewl batches of soap that turned out great. Then I heard that I could pre mix the lye/water solution and save time and effort. I premixed the solution at 6-61/2 % and used my regular recipe but the soap is still soft after a month. Is the problem the pre mix, or not heating the pre mix prior to adding to the oils, or…?? Also, can the soap be salvaged? Will more time result in a hard bar?

    Thanks!

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  10. I sm as a beginnet and I just start to make my own soap. Can you tell me how to use a calculator soap.

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    1. Our Lye Calculator is very helpful. Go to TheSage.com and use the link to the Lye Calculator. It is so simple! Cheers!

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  11. Hello,

    Thank you for your amazing instructions and all your tips on your blog, I have just started making soap and I’m completely hooked so I know your website will become invaluable to me! I have a question, why is it that some of my batches come out if the mould after 24 hours and are still sticky? They are squishy and really hard to cut. This has only happened to some of the batches, and others using the same recipe are fine. Any ideas of where I am going wrong and what I should do are greatly appreciated!

    Thanks again,

    Faye

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    1. Faye,

      The reason is higher percentages of oils that are slow to saponify and incomplete saponification. If you use temperatures that are a bit higher adjust your recipe to have oils and fats that convert more quickly then your soap will be much firmer upon removal from the mold.

      Tina

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  12. I am like 5 minutes into the soap making thing. Regarding the immersion blender–is this just a standard one like you get at Walmart? Also, I live in TX. Where can I get lye?

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    1. An immersion blender can be found all over town. I even saw a very nice Cuisinart at Kohl’s. Get a quality name because cheap dies quickly.

      Check your phone book for lye under Chemicals. You can also call the local high school and ask the chemistry teachers where to find small quantity chemicals.

      Cheers!
      Tina

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    1. Are you having problems with certain oils? There are some that are very temperature sensitive such as jojoba, castor, beeswax and lanolin. This is just a short list of items that can be sensitive.

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  13. I am brand new to soapmaking, but used to be an analytical chemist (now a Montessori teacher). My friends taught me how to make a beautiful soap yesterday, but I’m confused by how she measured the ingredients. Some things were measured in grams (the dry stuff), but then she measured the water in ounces (I thought)…poured out a 16oz bottle of water and called it 16 ounces. Help?!

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    1. Water is a variable ingredient. It moves all the other items around and makes things mingle together. It must not be precise, nor will it remain in the soap in an amount equal to what was used to make the soap. Most of the soap (70% or more) will evaporate.

      Taylor

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