In my previous article on Artisanal Soaps I mentioned that I have a friend Rose M. who makes her own homemade artisanal soaps. To get a better understanding of how these soaps are made I asked Rose to share with me the process of how she makes her soaps. I was blown away at the instructions. It’s not a quick “let’s make soap” type of project. Making artisanal soaps take time, effort and precision.
Let me share with you Rose’s instructions on how she makes her goats milk soaps with natural fragrances such as eucalyptus, lemongrass, rosemary, lavender and rose. Once you read her procedure, you will truly get a better appreciation for these nature inspired soaps.
How to Make Natural Homemade Soap
Instructions by Rose M.
“Making soap is extremely simple and extremely difficult at the same time. Simply speaking, you mix a fat with lye dissolved in water and it magically becomes soap. The difficult part is that the fat and the lye MUST be close to the same temperature — like within 2-3 degrees Celsius. The stirring is crucial, and the materials are quite dangerous if not handled properly.
My girlfriend and I make soap together at her place, a couple times a year, because she has been doing it for years, has all the supplies, and is VERY precise and picky about the process.
We get most of our supplies from an online company called Brambleberry (www.brambleberry.com). For someone interested in making their own soap, this is a good source of information and classes.
Here is the process we use to make the soap you have:
- Following a recipe my friend has perfected over time, we (VERY carefully) mix a measured amount of lye into a measured amount of goat’s milk. This mixture becomes quite hot, quite quickly and you have to be careful to wear protective gloves, apron and eye shield because it is highly caustic at this point and can burn your skin quite badly if even one little drop gets on.
- While the lye and milk mixture is cooling, we measure and melt together the fats that we plan to use. Your soap was made with a combination of coconut oil and palm kernel oil. This is also the point when we prepare the molds.
- When the two mixtures are close in temperature, we (carefully) add the lye mixture to the fat mixture while constantly stirring.
- As the mixture is stirred and cools down a little, eventually you see what is called “trace” on the surface. Trace is the indication that the two mixtures really have combined and will eventually harden into soap. It is hard to describe. To test for “trace”, we dip a spatula or spoon into the mix and dribble a bit of it back into the pot. If it leaves a little mark, ridge, trace, behind then the soap is ready. One soap maker described it as the “point of no return” in the soap making process. This is when the oils, lye, water have all emulsified and will not separate.
- Once trace is achieved, this is the point when we add any scented essential oils, usually some Vitamin E oil and any colorant. Then we carefully pour the soap into molds, cover the surface with plastic wrap and cover the whole thing with blankets. The idea is for the molded soap to cool down very, very slowly.
- After a few hours, the soaps will be hard enough to un-mold. The soaps are still quite soft though and still VERY caustic. We take the bars out of individual molds or cut bars that have been taken out of bigger, block molds. All this is done still wearing all the protective gear because even now the soap is not ready to use.
- We usually gently cover the bars with plastic wrap and set aside (me on the top of a book case, her on top of the fridge) for 6-8 weeks to cure. At the end of that time, the bars are hard and no longer caustic and can be used to wash your beautiful face 🙂
- Lately, instead of stirring with a spoon or stick, we have been using an immersion blender, which makes the mixing easier.
- Another point is, once trace has been achieved, the mixture starts to thicken up rather quickly and needs to go into the molds right away.
- Also, she has a set of tools that are dedicated to soap making because you wouldn’t want to chance that some lye might be left in the pot or pitcher or on the blender.
- We also keep a small jar of vinegar handy, in case a drop of either the lye solution or the new soap gets on our hands. The vinegar neutralizes the alkali to keep it from burning our skin.
As well as the Bramble Berry site, there is another really good source of soap making expertise at their blog, Soap Queen (www.soapqueen.com).
I’d be happy to talk more with you about the process if you need clarification about any of the above information.”
Rose, you want me to ask questions about the process of making artisanal soaps if I want more clarification? Are you kidding Rose? This looks pretty complicated! You really have to enjoy making artisanal soaps to go through all this work to produce a beautiful bar of nature inspired soap.
Try artisanal soaps in your shower. There is nothing like the fragrance and the soft feel of nature inspired artisanal soaps.
Now for those of you who maybe interested in a simpler homemade spa-like skin treatment for a smooth complexion, try this home skin regimen compliments of my Aunty Vinatha. She commented on my Artisanal Soaps article and shared with me how she makes her own skin treatment of turmeric and coconut oil that has been passed down generations from her Grandma.
From Aunty Vinatha: I love all kinds of Soaps but my favorites are Good Old Mysore Sandalwood Soaps and Aloe Vera …. Every Friday I make a face pack of Turmeric Powder, Cream of Milk with a few drops of Coconut Oil and believe it or not even at age 73+ I have a silky smooth complexion and flawless … My grandma’s Beauty Tip …
Homemade soaps or homemade skin treatments, anything with natural ingredients and minimal amount of chemicals will make any of us look and feel great.