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-   -   Soapmaking (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f19/soapmaking-350200/)

Yooper 08-27-2012 01:36 AM

I had one or two people ask me a bit more about soapmaking, and requested I start a thread.

First, the definition of soap is the salt of a fatty acid. If you remember your high school chemistry, the process of saponification takes fats and alkalai (lye) and makes a new substance, which is soap.

So, in order to make soap you need lye. The pioneers would use wood ash, but we have lye (sodium hydroxide). Remember that it is a strong base, and is caustic! I buy my lye from a soap making source, but it's available at Ace in my state as Rooto 100% lye and it works just fine.

For fats, there are many choices. Most people like coconut oil and lard, but there are many other choices as well. Things like palm oil, tallow, and various other oils make great soaps.

I tend to use olive oil (pomace grade), coconut oil, palm oil, and shea butter, along with smaller amounts of castor oil and other oils.

Homemade soap is not nearly as drying to your skin (no detergents!) and there are no weird added ingredients. Soap is, well, just soap. You can add more oils than can be saponified, and that is called "superfatting" so that the soap has a bit more oil, for a less drying effect.

Soaping is easy, and the process is easy. The thing to remember is that lye is caustic, and the lye/water and oil mixtures get HOT. Not only caustic, but hot as well. So googles, gloves, and long sleeves are strongly recommended along with an area with good ventilation.

I will continue this tomorrow, with photos, and recipes, and helpful hints so that anybody can make a batch of soap. Please let me know of any questions in the meantime!

Glynn 08-27-2012 01:45 AM

My wife make her own bath and laundry soap. I know she use olive oils as a base for bath soap. If i remember correctly the laundry soap is 1.5 bars grated peppermint Castillo 1 cup borax 1 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup baking soda

Pezedorado 08-27-2012 01:50 AM

Im already voting for a sticky. I am so desperate to make hop soap after ordering some DFH 90 min pale soap and it made me and everything else so hoppy.

pabloj13 08-27-2012 01:54 AM

This is awesome. What about added ingredients like goat's milk?

SharonaZamboni 08-27-2012 02:52 AM

I'd definitely like to see a soap making discussion!
Do you make any liquid hand soaps? Eczema and washing my hands a hundred times a day makes me want some nice soap.

borden 08-27-2012 02:58 AM

I can't believe I've never considered making my own soap, but as someone with pretty sensitive skin, it sounds really appealing. Looking forward to learning more. Thanks Yooper! :mug:

IXIboneheadIXI 08-27-2012 07:17 AM

can you just add some aloe vera gel into your bar of soap? i love that stuff. and what kinds of things should you use for scent

Yooper 08-27-2012 12:03 PM

I have to head off to work, so I'll put some more things down later.

But one of the great things about making your own soap is you can use ANY liquid you want- aloe vera gel, coconut milk, coffee, goat's milk. These liquids do sometimes need special treatment as the oil/lye mixture gets hot and things like milk can scorch. But there are some work-arounds, and I will definitely explain them.

I only do cold process soaping, and have limited knowledge of hot process or oven processing, but I can describe a bit about them.

You can do lots of "specialty" soaps- pine tar for ezcema, certain soaps for acne, etc. You can make laundry soap by not superfatting, and then grating the bars for example! And the "detergent" by mixing washing soda, those soap flakes, and borax is awesome!

Liquid soaps are a bit different, and I have limited experience with them. I can provide some links for them, though. They use a different chemical, potassium hydroxide, for a softer result.

Which reminds me! For a regular bar of soap, you'll need to read the container of lye and make sure it's 100% sodium hydroxide.

As far as fragrance, you can choose essential oils and or fragrance oils, or go fragrance-free. The heating of the soap sometimes "blows off" much of the fragrance so typically quite a bit is added, like .5 ounce (or more) per pound of oils. Fragrance oils can cause some problems, like seizing of the soap, but many people like those "smelly" soaps and so find it worth it. I do use some essential oils, but in fairly small quantities as I don't like heavily scented soap.

As far as additional ingredients, things like spices and hops turn brown in cold process soap so they aren't really very pretty but they still are kind of neat. Exfoliating things are nice for hand soap by the sink- like a gardeners soap with coffee grounds or poppy seeds. I use some ground oatmeal in several of my soaps and it's really nice in the shower.

If you think about what you love, you can probably incorporate it into soap!

As far as soap molds, you can buy the fancy ones. Or you can use just about any container you have lying around. I'm not neat with freezer paper lined boxes, and found my soap was all crinkly, so I bought silicone loaf pans and just use that. To cut the soap, I use my hand slicer for carrots (the crinkle cut one from Pampered Chef) or the straight handled cutter. I'll cut some soap this afternoon and take a picture of that.

For equipment- you need some non-reactive bowls and pans. That means no aluminum! Stainless is great, and so is pyrex or glass or plastic. A thing to note is that pyrex and glass are not great for mixing lye. It seems like a few people have had even Pryex break because it gets really hot, really fast. So a tall Tupperware pitcher seems to be best.

You always, but always, add the lye to water and never the other way around. A boiling lye volcano is dangerous! So, you make sure the pitcher is way taller than you think you need, weigh the water (everything is by weight, not volume) and add the weighed lye slowly and stir well. Let it sit to cool while you prepare your oils. Again, wear goggles, long sleeves, shoes (don't ask!), plastic gloves while you mix the lye, and make sure you're in a well-ventilated area and do NOT breathe the lye fumes. This is great to do outside, but be careful when you carry it back into the house and make sure no kids or animals are underfoot or can touch this mixture!

Yooper 08-27-2012 06:31 PM


There are many different kinds of oils you can use- grapeseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, lard, even Crisco. There are sources on the internet that can give you the qualities of each oil, and what they bring to the soap, so I won't go into that much. Castile soap is traditionally 100% olive oil, and is well liked by most people for its gentleness, but can get slimy (some say "snotty") in the soap dish in the shower. Animal fats tend to produce a nice firm soap, but some people have objections to animal products, and use all vegetable oils with good results. You can also use "butters"- like cocoa butter or shea butter. I've used a bit of castor oil for nicer lather. There are lots and lots of recipes on the internet, and a good basic bar is pretty easy to formulate.

Now, comes the important part! Lye. In order to make soap, you need to have the lye (as was discussed earlier). The important thing to remember is that you need to have the proper amounts of fats/oils and lye. If you have too much lye, you will have a lye-heavy bar that will be caustic on your skin. If you have too little lye, the soap will be a mushy sodden mess. You need to calculate the amount of lye you need for a certain amount of oils. The tricky part is that each type of fat has a different saponification level. The work around on this is to use a free internet calculator that includes the probable levels of each oil. I use soapcalc.net. http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp The other important thing is to err a bit on the side of too much oil, instead of too much lye. Most people will always do a "lye discount", or "superfat" of about 5% to ensure they don't have a lye heavy bar even if they aren't 100% accurate with the calculation. You can go much heavier with superfatting if you'd like. I like a nice bath bar with about 7-8% superfat. For laundry soap, I would not discount the lye but that is the only case.

Water amount isn't critical, but you need to have enough to mix up the soap. If you use a bit too much, the worst thing that will happen is the bars take longer to dry and cure. Most people will use a set amount of water (or other liquid), as a percentage of the amount of oils. That is generally around 38% as a default. I'd suggest sticking with that until you know exactly how to use more or less, and are experienced.

So, what does all this mean? Ok, let's put it into practice.

Say, you want to make a "general" body bar using olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. You have one loaf pan, so you want about 25 ounces of oils. Coconut oil makes a nice hard bar, with fluffy lather and is very cleansing. But it can be drying. Palm oil also makes a hard bar, with stable lather. Olive oil is very conditioning, and mild, but without much lather. So mixing those three can give you a wonderful bar of soap. So, let's use 40% olive oil, 30% palm oil, and 30% coconut oil, with 7% superfat (lye discount).

Using soapcalc for the lye, we get: lye 3.528 ounces (it's most accurate in grams, so I'd use grams for lye- 100 grams).

The water, at 38% of the oils, is 9.5 ounces.

That makes our recipe:

That gives us:
10 ounces olive oil
7.5 ounces palm oil
7.5 ounces coconut oil
100 grams lye
9.5 ounces cold water

Now, if that seems too difficult I understand! So feel free to pick a recipe from a good internet source or book. But always still run it though a lye calculator!!!!!!! You do not want to have a lye heavy soap, or a big pile of goop, and oils are expensive.

Yooper 08-27-2012 06:36 PM

2 Attachment(s)

Now, the key is to combine these ingredients and make soap!

Gather your ingredients.

Attachment 73450

First, any oils that are solid at room temperature need to be melted. So, weigh them and put them on low heat to melt.

Attachment 73451

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