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Handmade Natural Soap - How to make it? Step by step

caustic potash caustic soda handmade soap NaOH potassium hydroxide sodium hydroxide

Handmade soap - step by step

Now is the time to share with you a way to make self-made natural soap. Do not buy it in the store, because even the so-called "Natural soaps" from reputable manufacturers often leave a lot to be desired, they contain surprising, unnecessary and often harmful ingredients. Meanwhile, making soap yourself is really not that difficult!

What exactly is soap?

Soaps are salts of fatty acids, formed by the reaction of fats (vegetable or animal). The principle used in the production of soap can be sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) - then as a result of the reaction we obtain "hard" sodium soaps, in the form of cubes, or potassium hydroxide - then we get potassium, "soft" soaps, taking the paste form

The saponification process of fatty acids can take place in two ways:

  1. The hot method - by cooking a mixture of fat and lye for a long time (i.e. a solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide)
  2. The cold method - by mixing fat and lye without cooking, which is more time-consuming, but allows you to keep more valuable ingredients that would die at high temperature.

Good soaps are made with vegetable fats, mainly olive oil, sweet almond oil, as well as coconut, palm, linseed and sunflower oils, some contain laurel, argan, jojoba and other exclusive oils with excellent conditioning properties. Sometimes animal fats in the form of various wastes from the meat industry are used for the production of soap, especially commercial soap. They are hidden under the term Sodium Tallowate, which can be easily discovered by reading the ingredients of the soap. So let's remember - soaps containing Sodium Tallowate are not suitable for vegetarians.

Natural soap has little to do with factory-made soaps. It is a product that contains a wealth of ingredients derived from nature. It does not cause irritation, does not dry the skin and, as a result, does not lead to seborrhea. Natural soap is also characterized by a high content of glycerin, which is one of the products of the saponification reaction. Thanks to this, the skin is well moisturized, because it is glycerin that is responsible for retaining moisture. It is different in the case of factory soaps. From them, glycerin is removed for resale as a separate valuable product, which quickly becomes visible on the skin. Often, after the first washing with factory soap, the skin becomes dry and rough to the touch, requiring the application of a lotion or cream.

So instead of buying a chemical product called soap, learn to make real natural soap. It's not difficult!

How to prepare to make a natural soap?

First of all, you need to take care of safety, because when making soap, we are dealing with a caustic substance, i.e. a sodium (or potassium) base, about which I will write another time. Therefore, adequate safeguards are needed. It is necessary to obtain:

 

  • Protective goggles or mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Apron or old clothing with long sleeves
  • Kitchen or jewellery scale (preferably both)
  • Glass jug or jar for dissolving the hydroxide, resistant to sudden changes in temperature
  • Caustic Soda weighing cup or jar
  • Long spoon to mix the lye or a glass rod, avoid using wooden tools
  • Kitchen thermometer, or even better two thermometers - one for lye and one for fat
  • Stainless steel pot
  • Hand blender with a plastic or stainless steel tip
  • Soap mould - it can be wooden lined with paper or foil (but not aluminium, because aluminium reacts with soap), a juice or milk carton, a silicone cake tin or small silicone muffin moulds (we do not use metal moulds)

Ventilation is important

In the room where you will be making your natural soap, you must provide adequate ventilation, easy access to running water, and prevent dogs, cats, children and husbands (wives) from getting tangled under your feet. It is worth having disposable towels on hand and vinegar just in case to neutralize the lye. But remember - if the lye splashes onto your bare skin - do not pour vinegar on it, but rinse it with plenty of running water as soon as possible. You surely don't want the neutralization reaction to happen on your skin! You also need a burner to heat the fat in a pot or in a water bath.

In addition to the equipment for making cold soda soap, you will also need:

  • Fats - what and how much, it depends on the recipe, but it is always worth having refined coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil and some hard butter, for example shea or cocoa, and if you are not afraid to use animal fats, this works well for pork lard of decent quality
  • Some fats can be replaced with herbal macerates based on olive or oil (made by one of the methods described here or here, I also mentioned nettle macerate for making soap)
  • Pure Sodium Hydroxide for soap making

  • Demineralised (distilled) water or water from a reverse osmosis filter - it must be soft water, without minerals; Instead of water, you can use any infusion (herbs, tea, coffee), but always prepared with demineralised water
  • Possibly some essential oils or fragrance oils if you want your soap to smell
  • If it is to be a colored soap - I especially recommend natural substances (spirulina, ground paprika, turmeric, clays, mineral dyes), but you can also use dyes specially designed for soaps.

Natural soap - water phase (lye)

Wearing protective clothing and glasses, prepare the lye first, as it cools down slowly and slowly, so there will be enough time to weigh and measure the rest of the ingredients.

 

Place the scale on a stable, even surface, place a stable soda weighing container on it and turn on the scale. Carefully pour sodium hydroxide into the cup, measuring exactly the amount given in the recipe. The soda can be in the form of granules or flakes. Be careful that no pellet "escapes" and rolls unnoticed where you do not want it. Remember, it is a caustic and highly hygroscopic substance! Set the cup of NaOH aside, place a glass jug or jar on the scale, preferably a beaker from a chemical store, and tare the scale. When the display shows “0”, pour in distilled water slowly, also weighing out the amount given in the recipe.

Now place the jug on a firm surface, preferably in a sink, and carefully, slowly pour the weighed sodium hydroxide into the water, stirring with a long plastic spoon. Important: ALWAYS PUT SODIUM HYDROXIDE INTO THE WATER, never the other way around. During this operation, the liquid will heat up considerably. Remember, do it in a well-ventilated area and even outdoors if you can. DO NOT BREATHE THE VAPORS, THEY ARE DANGEROUS! Once the caustic soda has melted, leave the caustic pot to cool down. You can also cool it in the sink compartment filled with cold water, if you are sure that the jug will not break. It is a good idea to put a thermometer in the solution. The lye should reach a temperature of around 40 degrees.

Natural soap - fat phase

Now is the time to carefully weigh out the oils and butters listed in the recipe. You can do this right away in a pot set on the scale, just remember that every time you weigh another fat you have to tare the weight. Now it's time to heat the fat to around 40 degrees, and if you have solid fats or wax in a pot - you will certainly need to heat them to a higher temperature for them to melt and then cool them down to the required 40 degrees.

Dissolve solid fats in a pot slowly, and put the liquid fats in a jug where you will mix both phases later. Pour the dissolved hard oils and butters into the jug. Thanks to this, You do not have to heat up various delicate and sensitive to higher temperatures fats and usually you do not have to wait long for it to cool down to about 40 degrees. In fact, the temperatures of the two phases - water and fat - do not have to be identical, it is enough if they are between 37 and 45 degrees Celsius and are as close to each other as possible.

Mixing both phases

When the temperature of both phases approaches the required range, they should be joined. Slowly, with a thin trickle, pour the lye into the oil, mixing it with a long spoon or the tip of a blender, but without turning it on. Important: ALWAYS Pour lye into FAT, never the other way around. When the fat jug has all the contents of the lye container, turn on the blender.

Mix thoroughly, mixing evenly with a hand blender, but not so that it does not splash. Try not to aerate the mass so that air bubbles, i.e. holes, do not appear in the finished soap. Gradually, the yellow liquid will turn into a creamy pudding that is still highly corrosive. Mix very carefully so that the caustic mass does not splash everything around and cause damage. Mix until smooth - when you can "write" on the surface of the blender dripping with a trickle of pudding, it's time to finish mixing.

Note, if you are going to add dyes and fragrances to the soap (which we strongly advise against making your first own soap) you need to do it right before the end of mixing, when the mass is already mixed, but has not turned into a "pudding" yet. You have to be careful about the right moment, time comes sooner, sometimes later. You will gain experience over time! From now on, the soap mass solidifies fairly quickly. In addition, some dyes and essential oils significantly accelerate its thickening. Sometimes the mass turns into "concrete" almost immediately...

Pouring into a mould

Now pour the ready-made mass of soap into the previously prepared form. If it has already thickened a bit - help yourself with a spoon or a silicone spatula. You can transfer the mass to a large mould (and then cut the soap) or silicone moulds in the form of any figures, then you will get small soaps with funny shapes - for example, like in the first photo in today's post.

You can decorate the mass somehow, for example by sprinkling flower petals. The time for colourful decorations will come later, when you get used to it! Then cover the form with thin cling film (not aluminium), wrap it with a towel, cover it with a blanket or put it under the duvet. A well-insulated natural soap, at a constant temperature, will go through the gel phase (then it becomes almost transparent), and then starts to harden and become a light, opaque block. They should be left alone for 24-48 hours.

Cutting and resting

It  is worth looking into the soap after 24 hours and if its surface is quite hard and opaque, you can take it out of the mould and start cutting. Sometimes the soap has to spend more time in the mould; it depends on the recipe and the conditions under which the saponification reaction took place. Gloves must be put back on before cutting the soap as it may still be slightly corrosive. For cutting out of the mould, use a large knife or a steel construction spatula. Put ready, sliced soap cubes on a tray lined with paper or in a flat cardboard box. Make sure that there is airflow between the ankles. Cover everything with a sheet of paper so that your soap does not get dusty while aging. Now you have to be patient - depending on the composition of the soaps, maturation will take from 3 weeks to even a year!

During the aging process, the soap changes its pH, becoming harder and more gentle on the skin. On average, natural soap has a pH between 7 and 10, but most often around 8-9. You can check it with an indicator paper . As time passes, the care properties of the soap increase, and it becomes milder by itself, so it's definitely worth the wait.

And now, your handmade natural soap is ready.


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  • Jackie on

    amazing article. Thanks a lot for all the photos that actually picture what I have to do.


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