The following is a guest post from my dearest friend, Alana. Alana and I met on the first day of our freshman year of college. We bonded quickly over our love of rollerblading, macaroni and cheese and Jane Austin. As Anne Shirley says, she is a true kindred spirit and I am beyond lucky to count her as my friend.
Alana has a creative mind and has always been good at brightening up spaces. I was not at all surprised when, staying at her house in Virginia this March, she greeted me with a bar of beautifully wrapped homemade soap. It smells amazing and immediately became my favorite bar! I asked her to share her recipe so that you can share in this delightful product. As for me… I’m just hoping she brings a few bars my way when she comes to visit next week! :)
Ever since I was little, I loved making and using new body products. From applying mud masks to that middle school phase of using roll-on body glitter, I was hooked on trying new things. So when one of my friends invited me this past fall to make soap bars with her, I could not pass up the opportunity! I was surprised at how beginner friendly the process was and within a few weeks I had purchased all the ingredients to make my own.
The concept of soap making “boils down” to the process of saponification. This is the chemical reaction that occurs when oil mixes with a lye/water mixture. Putting lye in your soap may seem like a bad thing to do for skin, but it is basically the catalyst that creates soap. Without lye, your soap would just be oils without the power to clean. So when you go to your nearest hardware store in the plumbing department to purchase lye, you are in the right spot!
The soap recipe below can be tweaked to suit your skin’s needs and you can use anything from muffin tins to pvc pipe for soap molds. I did a lot of research into different oils and the ratio to use to produce different results. It’s still a work in progress but this recipe is the one I have liked best. I hope you enjoy creating handcrafted soaps as much as I have!
16 ounces of olive oil
2 ounces of castor oil
6 ounces of coconut oil
3 ounces of grape seed oil
14.5 ounces of shortening
16 ounces of water (you can also substitute coffee, tea, or beer!)
6 ounces of lye (you can find this at any hardware store in the plumbing section)
Extras: essential oils, texturizers (oatmeal, coffee grounds, herbs), dye
Safety solution to clean tools: equal parts vinegar and soapy water
1 large crock pot
tall glass jar (not metal)
smaller glass jar/bowl
plastic spatula (anything heat resistant)
kitchen scale (measuring ingredients)
hand blender (an immersion blender or stick blender works best)
soap mold (http://www.brambleberry.com/ a great website for soap materials)
1. Measure and melt all the oils in a large crock pot.
2. While the oils are melting, put on safety goggles, mask, and gloves. Measure the water into the tall glass jar. Measure the lye into the other glass jar/bowl and carry both the water jar and lye outside into an open area. This is the dangerous part of soapmaking so be careful to wear all protective gear. Lye can burn the skin and can emit fumes that will burn so take great caution during this step. Pour the lye into the water slowly. The mixture will heat up rapidly so do not touch the water jar. Use the plastic spatula to stir the lye into the water and let the mixture stand until cool and clear/dissolved.
3. Shut the crockpot off and pour the lye mixture into the oils in the crockpot. Use a hand blender and mix until a trace forms. A trace is when you drizzle a little of the soap mixture over the pot and see a ridge that stays on the mix. You’re looking for a pudding-like consistency.
4. Put the lid back on the crockpot, turn the crockpot on low, and let the soap “cook” for about 30-40 minutes. It will bubble and grow so make sure to keep an eye on what it is doing. (Mine has overflowed a few times and created quite the mess!)
5. Shut off the crockpot and stir the mixture to cool it down. This is the time to add any essential oils, dye, or texturizers.
6. Pour the mixture into a soap mold and leave overnight. (Remember, you can use a variety of things for molds. Look online for ideas and suggestions!) Cut, share, and enjoy!
7. Clean everything well with the safety solution and store for your next soap making experience.