The Ten-step Procedure
1) Heat the fat. Put the fats
in a lye-resistant container and place a glass or stainless steel
thermometer into the fats. Be sure the thermometer doesn't touch
the bottom of the container and give a false reading. Heat the
fats and optional ingredients to the temperature specified in
2) Put on eye protection and
3) Use a heat-proof container
to measure the amount of cold water (70 to 75 degrees F) specified
in the recipe. Cold water is important. If you add lye to hot
or boiling water, the water could "boil-up" out of
If you add lye to *really* cold
water, the lye/water might not reach the high temperatures required
to make some recipes.
Stir the water and slowly add
the lye. The water will get hot and turn cloudy. Continue to
stir until the lye dissolves. Don't breathe or intentionally
smell the fumes coming from the cup because they are quite "chokey."
If you wait too long to stir the water, the lye could harden
in the bottom of the container. This is not a problem. You can
still sitr it, but it will be more difficult. Add a glass or
stainless steel thermometer to the lye/water and wait until it
reaches the temperature specified in the recipe.
4) When both the fat and the
lye/water reach the temperature specified in the recipe, add
the lye/water to the fat. It's sometimes a balancing act to get
the fat mixture and the lye/water mxiture to specific temperatures
at the same time. Never place lye/water in a microwave (the cup
It takes lye/water longer to
cool than it takes fat to heat. Most soapmakers wait for the
lye/water to cool to about five degrees above the desired temperature,
then heat the fat. When both the lye/water and the fat are within
five degrees of the temperatures specified in the recipe. Use
a pot holder and move the bowl to a sink (to contain splatters).
Slowly pour the lye/water into the fats while stirring.
Temperatures for small one-pound
batches of soap poured into individual molds aren't critical.
As long as the lye/water and fats are between 120 and 140 degrees
F you will have good success. Larger batches or batches poured
into a single mold, require lower temperatures.
5) Stir the soap until it "traces."
When lye, water and fat first combine, the mixture is thin and
watery. Gradually, as the lye and fat react chemically to form
soap, the mixture thickens and turns opaque.
"Tracing" is a term
to describe the consistency (thickness) of soap when it's ready
to pour into molds.
To test for tracing:
a. Drip some soap onto the surface
of the soap in the stirring bowl. It should leave a "trace"
or small mound.
b. Draw a line in the soap with
a spoon or rubber spatula. If a "trace" of the line
remains for a few seconds, the soap has traced.
Tracing is easy to recognize,
yet it causes new soapmakers a lot of worry. Relax and know that
the soap will trace eventually. Just stir the soap constantly
for the first 15 minutes or so, then stir the soap every fifteen
minutes until it thickens and traces, no matter how long it takes.
6) After the soap traces, add
up to one tablespoon essential oil (if desired) and stir a few
minutes longer to incorporate the oil. About the only soap that
remains totally scent-free is the Pure Soap Recipe that follows.
Other fats result in soap that has a "fatty lye" smell.
Essentials oils are necessary for a pleasant-smelling product.
7) Pour the soap into molds
and wait for it to harden. The recipes states this length of
time as 'time in mold.'
8) Unmold the soap.
Soap is still harsh when it's time to remove it from the molds.
Put on rubber gloves and press the back of each mold compartment
to release the soap. It's a lot like removing ice cubes from
a tray. Sometimes the soap doesn't release easily from the mold.
To overcome this problem, leave the soap in a freezer for a few
hours. Freezing soap causes it to contract slightly, become hard
and release from the plastic mold.
9) Wait the time specified in
a recipe for the soap to"age" (usually 3 weeks). During
the aging time the pH of the soap decreased (the soap becomes
mild) and the bars harden. It's a good idea to write the following
information on a piece of paper and place it with the soap: the
date you made the soap, the date the aging time is over, and
10) Step 10 is *enjoy your soap!*
As soap ages, a fine, white
powder may appear on the surface. This is soda ash (sodium carbonate)
formed by a reaction of lye with carbon dioxide in air. This
white powder is mostly on the surface exposed to air while the
soap was in the molds. Soap that contains wax develops little
or no soda ash.
There are three ways to deal
with soda ash:
Try to prevent it.
Immediately after pouring soap into molds, cover the soap with
plastic wrap or waxed paper. Press the wrap or paper onto the
surface of the soap to prevent air contact.
Cut it away.
Overfill the molds slightly. Later, when the soap hardens, take
a knife and cut the soap level with the mold. This also cuts
away the soda ash.
Wash it away.
Wait until the soap ages and hardens. Wash the powder away by
rubbing the soap with your hands under running water or by rubbing
the soap over a wet dishcloth. Set the soap aside to dry then
enjoy your soap!