Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Soap Making Adventure

My great grandma used to make soap and I always wanted to learn how. I prefer to make and grow what I can. Making and growing our own stuff gives my kids an appreciation for where the things we have come from.

I read up on different methods and decided I would use the cold process method that my great grandma used.

There are lots of options for molds. Wood, silicone, acrylic, etc. I'm on a budget so I opted to make mine its something similar to what my grandma would have used. I dug around in my scrap pile and pulled out some 1x3 took some measurements from various molds I had seen online and came up with this one that you see on the right.

It has pins on each end so that I can pop the sides off to get the soap out. With a wood mold you will need to line it with freezer paper do this before you ever start to mix your soap.

I bought my coconut oil and lard at the local grocery store when they had it on sale. Then I ordered the lye on amazon. I could have made my own lye from wood ash but I opted to buy the lye this time. I may try making my own some time in the future.

When you work with lye you have to be careful it can cause serious burns. When lye mixes with water it get very HOT. You need to make sure you have good gloves and eye protection. Always pour your lye into the water. Never pour the water into the lye. Always do it in a well ventilated area i prefer to do it out side. Keep a bottle of vinegar handy in case you accidentally splash it on your self vinegar will help to neutralize the lye.

Measure all your oils water and lye by weight.

I first measured my fats my lard and coconut oil into my stainless steel pot. I set that on the stove and began to heat on medium low. Put on your gloves I used chemical resistant ones just because that's what we have in the shop. Then I measured out my lye and my water placing them in separate containers. I took them out side and pored the lye into the water. I used a glass mason jar for this step. Then you need to watch the temperature of the lye mixture and the temperature of your fats. You want them both to get to about 120 F. Once they reach the same temp or close to it. You will slowly pour the lye into the oils while mixing with a spoon. Now get ready to stir. If you are mixing by hand this could take up to an hour or more to reach Trace. Trace is when your soap gets thick enough to leave a trail on top when you drizzle a little off the spoon. If you are lucky enough to have a stick blender than this will go much faster. You can reach trace in as little as 15 min. I do not have one but I do have a half worn out blender so I used that. It took about 30 minutes before it reached trace. My fats went from runny and clear to milky white and a pudding consistency when I reached trace.

Once your soap hits trace you can put in what ever additives you want. I infused vanilla in my oils while they were heating. I didn't put enough in so it really has no smell just some cool speckles.

If you are using a wood mold you should have pre lined it with freezer paper. Once it hits trace you dump it all into your prepared mold and level it out I banged mine on the counter a little to be sure I got the air bubbles out and to level it. Or you can leave swirls on the top with you spoon what ever you like. Put your top on wrap it in a towel and let it sit for 24 hours.

The next evening I pulled the pins and took the sides off. My soap came right out very easily. I used an old knife to cut it into blocks. Once your soap is cut it will need to cure for 3-6 weeks. You want to be sure your soap cures long enough so that the lye has time to finish converting the fats into soap. According to my great grandma he longer you let your soap sit the milder it will become. This soap will sit for about 6 weeks before we start using it. Next I will be making a shampoo bar and some summer time soap to help repel the ticks.


  1. Looks great. One day I would like to make soap using the cold process. Would love to see more details of how you made your soap mold.

  2. Julie---you are amazing! I am still afraid of the lye and processing. But I am so impressed