Monday, May 16, 2011

Making Soap...& Some Stamping, Too

About a month ago, I resurrected an old hobby that I hadn't done for 10 years...soap making! I've always been interested in recipes, and I love seeing how the fats and oils magically turn into bubbly soap after the lye has been added. I remember giving away dozens of bars before finally putting my supplies into storage long ago. Well, I finally pulled them out and put 'em to use again.

Although there are many steps and a few important precautions that need to be taken, the process of making your own soap is really quite simple. After choosing your recipe, start by weighing out each of the fats and oils.

For this formulation, I started with coconut oil:

I poured the proper amount into my pot and then measured the rest of the oils, including palm, olive, and avocado:

Into the pot they went, as I heated them gently:

Once the oils were warm, I turned my attention to the lye/water mixture. I made sure to put on my goggles before proceeding:

Not exactly a fashion statement, huh? But as you may know, lye is caustic and can burn right through skin even faster than a hot knife through butter. A chemical burn from lye is not something you want to experience, so it's best to make sure your eyes and skin are protected with goggles, long sleeves, and rubber gloves.

Once I was suited up, I carefully weighed the lye:

Yep, Red Devil is a drain opener. It's also 100% lye. Don't substitute with Drano, however. That has other stuff in it that you don't want in your soap.

Incidentally, many people might ask why you'd want lye in your soap if it's so dangerous? Don't worry, there won't be any lye left once we're done. Part of the mystery of soap making is how the lye turns fats and oils into soapy goodness in a chemical reaction called saponification.

All soap is made this way, actually, although commercial bars of soap are often a mixture of soap and detergents. Handmade soap is usually more moisturizing, however, in part because the natural glycerin (a by-product of saponification) isn't removed as it sometimes is with commercial bars.

Anyway, back to the story. Next I weighed out the water:

Then I slowly poured the lye into the water and stirred to dissolve the crystals:

As the lye dissolved, the water heated up:

Meanwhile, I checked on my oils that were still heating:

Oops, the temperature had gotten a bit too high. Before combining the lye/water and fats/oils, you want both to be around 90-110 degrees F:

My recipe called for mixing them at 105 degrees F, so I cooled the lye/water and oils until both were at the right temperature.

Now I was ready for the fun part! I poured the lye/water into the oils while stirring constantly:

After stirring for a few minutes, I pulled out my trusty stick blender:

That really got things moving! You can see how the texture of the oils started to change as the lye/water was incorporated more thoroughly:

After several minutes, my soap had reached trace. This is the stage where the ingredients are fully mixed. You can usually tell when you've hit trace if you dribble a ribbon of soap over the surface and it takes a second or two to disappear back into the mixture:

This is when I added my scent, which was orange essential oil:

Then I stirred in some ground apricot seeds (the photo turned out blurry, so I didn't post it) before pouring the whole batch into my mold:

By the way, can you guess what kind of soap I made? Orange roughy! Get it? Hahaha!

I covered the mold and wrapped it with a towel for insulation:

As the saponification process continued, it went through a stage called gelling. This started in the center:

When I checked it several hours later, it had fully gelled:

Eventually it became solid again, and the next day I unmolded the block and cut it into slices:

Ta da...a block of handmade soap:

At that point, it still needed to cure for 4-6 weeks. Curing ensures that it's fully saponified so it's nice and mild, plus some of the water evaporates so the bar is harder and will last longer.

I've still got a couple more weeks to wait before using it, but today I thought I'd make a gift box for one of the soap bars. My inspiration was the Box & Bag Blog Hop we'd had a few weeks ago. Since my mold happens to yield 2 3/4" square bars, I figured our X2-2940 Square Box Template would fit the bill perfectly. (And, hey, it also happens to be on sale this month!)

I think the finished box turned out pretty cute decorated with 0460F Tub Turtle:

I used ultrafine glitter topped with Glossy Accents to add a sparkly, shiny look to the bubbles and water:

The saying is 0078D Bubbly Day, and I cut out the image, saying, and both matted layers with Nestabilities. (The image and saying are also in 10968MC Spa Turtle Clear Set.) The soap shows through the window, which is lined with acetate:

And it only took me about 15 minutes to put it together...for a lovely handmade gift that I'll be pleased to give soon!


Jovita said...

Wow that's a lot of work, I'm sure it smells great. Thanks for the step by step process. I wonder if you can stamp your soap with an Inky image... that would be neat ;)

Jovita said...

Forgot to mention that the little gift box you created is wonderful :)

Chelsea said...

Love the googles! You make it look and sound easy. Thanks for sharing!

Rochelle said...

I love the box, what a terrific gift that would make.

I've made melt and pour soaps before, but I'me impressed that you make the "real stuff".

I really do like your goggles. They're girly, not your typical manly safety goggles.

Thebug415 said...

WOW...didn't realize how much went into this! I was thinking of doing this with my girls for holiday gifts...but might change my

Patricia said...

Wow Jackie. You make it look so easy. I have always wanted to try it and maybe now I will. I love those beautiful handmade soaps and your packaging makes it the perfect present.


Jackie Wamhoff said...

Thnaks for your nice comments, ladies. :-) Jovi, I hadn't thought about stamping on the soap...hmm, that's a neat idea. Chelsea and Rochelle, those goggles are designed for cutting onions (no tears!), but they work great for this purpose. Laura, that would be fun to do with the girls (assuming they're older and, of course, in full protective gear). Hope you and Patricia decide to give it a try!