Monday, February 11, 2013

Soap Making 201: Cold Process

Here we go...time to add the final instructional to the Soap Making post.  For Soap Making 101, click here.  You'll learn how to render fat, making a beautiful white tallow for your soap pot.  Or...if you're a traditional cook, just use it for your cooking! let's get our ingredients and what-not in order.

Soap: Cold Process
(click here for printable version of recipe)

5 c. cold soft water
1 (13 oz.) can pure lye
6 lbs. soft fat (otherwise known as tallow)
2 T. Borax (optional)
1-2 T. perfume or 1 oz. essential oil (optional)

1. Put 5 c. cold water into a 2 quart utensil (enamelware or heat proof glass pot or bowl).  Slowly add one can of pure lye to water and stir until dissolved.  Continue stirring and cool solution to between 95-98°.  (Grandma said when you can leave your hand on the bowl it is good enough, I found that to be about 100-110°.)
2.  Melt fat in a 6 quart utensil (enamelware or heat proof glass pot or bowl).  Let cool to 95-98° and add the the lye solution in a slow steady stream.  Stir slowly until mixture is thick and creamy, and when dripped from a spoon, traces across the surface or leaves a trail.  The could take upwards of an hour.  If desired, add borax, perfume/oil or coloring after this stage has been achieved.  Still in very well, so as not to have "pockets" of oil or borax powder.
3.  Have a box already prepared.  Line 2 or 3 shoe boxes with plastic sacks (large garbage sacks are great!), stapling all around the box tops to secure.  Pour thickened soap into boxes.  Let set several hours, then score about 1/8" across top to the desired size of bars.  Let sit 24 hours, you may then remove, break apart, and place in paper bag or pile so air can circulate around the soap bars for a few days.  Will be good and hard in 2-3 weeks.
4.  On top of the hardened soap, you may find a white layer of "soda ash".  You may wish to scrap this off, as it can be caustic to the skin.  My family's skin has had no ill effects, you may want to test a bar before you go to all the effort of scraping.  I never do.

(Just as an FYI before we is a very informational site you may want to check out before we begin.  Most of your questions will be answered here.)
To begin with, make sure you have your box or soap molds ready to go.  You don't want to be fussing around with that when you're ready to pour.
I just used some old shoe boxes I found in the garage.
Line the boxes with your plastic trash bags...
...and staple across the top to hold in place.

Now you're ready to begin the fun stuff...

Weigh out your tallow.  You need to be precise or things will go sideways for you.  I invested in a good scale years ago and it was worth it.
Place the tallow into a large pot and melt. I use a nice 6 quart enamelware pot that is "soap-dedicated".
While the fat is melting...
Put on your rubber gloves and if you're a wild stirrer...I'd get some eye protection on, too.
Measure out 5 cups water and place in a container, slowly add the lye.  Be very careful to not splash. Make sure any children are well clear of your work area!!  When my children were small, they were not allowed in the kitchen when I was working on soap. 
I have found that using a 2 quart plastic pitcher works really well.  You'll see why shortly...

Another tip...the lye is going to "smoke" and fume the first few minutes after you add it to the water.  So, weather permitting...I try to do this step outside.  You may want to just plan for a decent day!  Once the smoking has finished, you can bring it back inside to continue.  Just BE CAREFUL!  No tripping!

Now the trickiest part need to get the lye mixture and the fat stirred down to the same temperature.  My grandmother's directions stated 95-98 degrees, but I'm always uber impatient and tend to want to rush the process...hence I can only make it to 100
Lye Mixture
Sometimes, it's hard to get them to the same temperature at the same you have to help them along...with ice bathes...
Just place whichever pot needs to be cooled quicker to catch up with it's counterpart into an ice bath and continue to watch the temps.
Once you have both pots at the same temperature, pour the lye slowly into the pot of fat while stirring.  This would be a good time to find a friend or hubby to help...but if not...this is where the pitcher comes in handy!  You have much more control and are less likely to spill!  Works beautifully.  

Now, get comfy, spread a blanket out on your living room carpet, put in a movie, place your pot and yourself down on the blanket and stir, stir, stir...nice slow strokes work well.

It will take close to an hour if your temperatures were near the 100 degree mark when you started.  The lower the temp, the quicker set up you will achieve.  Patience pays early on...but I believe it all comes out in the wash (soap it comes...

See the tracing above?  That is exactly what you want.  You should be able to feel the "weight" change in the soap at this point, too.  It's just thicker!  Congratulation...Saponification has occured!

Add any essential oils, herbs, borax, etc., at this point.  Stir it in well or you'll get bubbles of oil, etc. in your soap later.  It's happened.
I like to add Lavender essential oils and Borax (for a little more suds umph).  

At this point, all chemical processes have occurred and you can now get your hands dirty... (arh-arh)... don't panic if you get some on your hands.

Pour your newly created soap into the prepared boxes/molds.
Let sit several hours and, for me, before you go to bed...score the soap about 1/8" to your preferred sizes.

After 24 hours, you are ready to release them from their molds and break the bars apart...
On, waxed paper, flip your mold over and release your soap...
...pick it up and turn it over and you'll be able to start breaking the bars apart along the scoring lines you placed last night...

See how easy it is?!  

Here is an example of how I didn't get my oil mixed in
It's still usable.  Just not pretty.
Once all your bars are broken apart, stack them in a box.

Let them cure for 2-3 weeks in an area with good circulation.  

After they have cured, you may find that your bars have developed an almost powdery top.  This is called "soda ash".  It is harmless, but some people find it is hard on their skin.  Just scrape it off.  No one in my family is sensitive, so I never remove it.  

Finally, I like to wrap my bars in tissue paper, for individual storage.  You will find that your newly minted bars last much longer in the shower than store bought bars, so you'll want a nice way to store them. 

I hope this post inspires you to try something new.  Soap is really not that hard to make and a wonderful skill to have in your arsenal.  It is WAY cheaper to make than to buy...

Borax=whole box is under $ only need 2 will last forever!
Fat= .25 ....rendered enough for 2½ batches
Lavender Oil= .25  (I bought a quart 10 years ago for $6....I'm still using it)
So, what...under $10 for 2½ batches that will last me 2½ years!!  Here are the smelling salts...

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