Virginia Visit 2: Soap Making

Fresh soap in the mold

Fresh soap in the mold

I learned how to make soap the old-fashioned way!  My friend Susan makes amazing cold-processed soaps as a hobby.  (I am proud to be part of her soap-of-the-month club.)   During my visit, she agreed to show me the ropes!

It takes her approximately one hour to make soap and get it into the mold, plus time for cutting the soap into bars a few days later, and then air-curing them for a few weeks until they are ready for use.  A regular-size bar costs a little over a dollar, so it’s definitely a cost savings, especially considering it is such a high-quality product.  It’s all good stuff in there, which is important since our skin is our largest organ.

Cold-processed soap is made with lye, so we needed to use goggles and gloves, which took me back to my high school chemistry days.  We mixed the lye with water and let it cool down to approximately 110*.  Then we heated the oils (we used a mixture of olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and shea butter) to approximately the same temperature.  We also used a fragrance oil to make it smell nice.  Then we carefully mixed those together until it turned into something like a light pudding (called “trace”), and poured it into the mold.  Then it’s a careful clean-up since the young soap still has active lye in it.

It’s a pretty simple process, but it does require precise measurement all the way through, as well as careful mixing.  If the lye doesn’t process all the way, it can burn people’s skin, so safety first!

Susan, thanks for the fun demo.  I will definitely be trying it on my own!

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