This tutorial will cover cold process soapmaking. Cold process soapmaking allows you to be in total control of what ingredients go into your soap. Not only does this give you piece of mind, knowing that you are using only skin-loving products on your skin, but it also gives you the freedom to be creative.
Making your own soap can be very satisfying. Personally, it is one of my favorite ways to explore and be creative. I enjoy playing with colors, adding extras like botanicals or seeds, exploring with different oil combinations, and finally, cutting through the soap to see what it looks like inside (my favorite part!)
That said, making soap from scratch for the first time can be a little intimidating! The most scary part of making cold process soap is working with lye or sodium hydroxide. Lye is mixed with water and then combined with your soapmaking oils of choice. This causes a chemical reaction called saponification (sapo is Latin for soap), which turns it all into soap!
Now, you might be wondering, “Why is a chemical used in the making of natural soap?” Actually, the lye is neutralised during this whole process, so there is no lye left in the soap bar after it has gone through the curing stage, which simply means that the lye, water, and oils are transformed into soap. This curing process usually takes about 4-6 weeks. After this period, what is left behind is only pure soap.
Lye is very dangerous and extremely caustic. When working with lye, you need to wear protective gear at all times to help prevent the lye or lye solution coming into contact with your skin or eyes. Once you have a few basic recipes under your belt, you might want to consider formulating your own recipes. For this you will need a lye calculator. A lye calculator helps you to calculate the correct amount of lye to use in your recipe. If you add too much lye it can be irritation to the skin because then there will be extra, free floating lye that was not made into soap during the saponification process. You can use Soap Queen’s lay calculator or SoapCalc.
Here are the basic steps of making cold process soap, using a very basic beginner recipe. A link to a basic recipe will be given at the end of the tutorial. For now, I’m simply giving you the basic steps of making soap:
- Weigh out and heat your oils. It is important to weigh your oils as this will give you more accurate measurements than using measuring cups and spoons.
- Put on your protective gear and weigh the lye, then slowly add the lye to the water. It is very important that you do not do this the other way around! Stir until the lye has fully dissolved and the water is clear. Then put is aside in a well ventilated area.
- Wait for the lye water and oils to cool down to 130 ° F or below and within 10 degrees of each other, then slowly add the lye water to the oils. (The best temperature range at which to add the lye water to your oils is 110-130 ° F.)
- Blend the lye and oils using a stick blender. Be careful not to blend it too much to avoid air bubbles. Rather blend it using short bursts, alternating with stirring the mixture with your stick blender’s shaft. Keep doing this until you reach trace. Trace is when the water and oils have emulsified and there are no streaks of oils left in the soap mixture.
- Pour the soap into your mold of choice and let it cure for a couple of weeks.
- After curing, unmold and cut your soap into bars. Your soap is now ready to use.
Now that you know the basic steps of making soap, the next step is to watch someone else make soap! There are many soapmaking websites and videos out there. Personally, I’ve found Soap Queen to be the best place to start. This website has many, many soapmaking recipes and information on oils. They also have a YouTube channel with plenty of cold process soapmaking videos.
Here is a very basic recipe that you can use for making your first batch of soap.
When you are done learning how to make soap, the next step is to source and buy your soapmaking ingredients! If you live in Gauteng, South Africa, Fun With Soap is a good supplier to use. There are others, but this company’s prices are very good and you will find all the ingredients you need to make soap in this one shop!