An overview of soap
The process of making handmade soap is called saponification, which can be cold, hot or continuous.
Tools of the soap trade
Equipment you will need includes
a large enamel or stainless steel pot, two plastic jugs for mixing and pouring, kitchen scales, safety goggles, a long handled spoon, two kitchen thermometers, rubber gloves and soap moulds. Some of these things you will find around the house and others can be purchased from craft stores.
Materials used in soap
The ingredients that you use will determine the type of soap you produce and include a fat such as lard, olive oil or coconut oil and lye which hardens soap. Additives can include colourings such as candle dye and scents such as almond, honey and lemon.
Techniques of soap
Listed in Part 2 and 3 are the stages involved in making handmade soap. Alternatively you can buy pre-made glycerine blocks, which can be melted in a microwave, before adding colours and scents and then pouring into moulds.
Prepare the moulds, which could be purpose made or any heat resistant container such as jelly or candle moulds and greased tins.
If you are not using purchased tallow, render the fat by melting it to remove impurities and strain what is left to get the tallow.
Pour the correct amount of lye slowly into cold water, held in an enamel or steel pot. The liquid will heat up and should be stirred until the solution cools to approximately 100 degrees and becomes clear.
Measure out the oils and fats. Mix and melt them and allow them to cool to approximately 100 degrees.
Slowly pour the solution of lye into the oil and fat. Stir gently for a few minutes then leave for approximately 15 minutes and repeat this process until the mixture begins to thicken.
When the mixture begins to thicken add any colours or scents that you have chosen to include.
Pour the mixture into the moulds that you have chosen and cover them with a towel, to slow the rate of cooling.
After leaving the soap for a couple of days to harden, remove it from the moulds and leave it for a few weeks before it is ready to use.
Perfume and colour
Before your soap sets you can add perfume and colour to enhance your handmade soap. Instead of purchasing commercially available products you could use flowers like rosemary or lavender (bees love lavender) for a beautiful smell and spinach, carrot or beetroot for colour.
You can make your own Alkali from ashes. Drill holes in the bottom of a wooden barrel, place a layer of gravel in the bottom, then a layer of straw. Fill the barrel with ash (better if it is hardwood). Pour rain water over the ash. Place a container under the barrel to catch the liquid that drips out (this will take a long time). Boil the liquid down to until a fresh egg will float in it. Wear gloves as this is powerful and may burn.
If you are making your own lye, you will need to test it. The traditional way to do this is to use a saturated salt water solution. Get a stick and place a small weight on one end. Float the stick in the salt water and make a mark where the stick meets the water. Float the same stick in your lye solution, if the mark is above the level then slowly add rain water, stir.
Ideas and inspiration for soap
Why make handmade soap
Handmade soap is a real luxury often using the finest and purest ingredients to create a real quality luxury handmade product. In addition, they often use locally sourced materials that give the handmade soaps a unique local character.
Pretty not just practical
You can make a wide range of soaps using a variety of techniques including Faux Funnel Mica Swirls as well as Cup Cakes using a range of different cake decorating techniques. Soap can be pretty not just practical.