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Here is a step by step guide to making your own soap. You may wonder why you'd want to do this. Well, not only is it fun and rewarding, but when worse comes to worse, and we are all scrambling to survive, I imagine we'd all like to maintain a little personal hygiene - at the very least those stuck with us would sure appreciate if we did!

Here's a basic recipe for soap that we could all find the ingedients for if we had to:

    lb. lard
    1 lb. tallow
    4.3 oz. lye
    10 oz. liquid

The directions for making soap are fairly easy, but they must be followed closely - and all ingredients are typically measured in WEIGHT, not volume. Make sure you invest in a decent scale that will accurately weigh your ingredients.

For my first batch of soap, I made an oatmeal soap. I found the recipe on Kathy Miller's webiste. Here's the recipe:

    32 oz. cold water (4 cups)
    12 oz. lye crystals
    4 lbs. lard (64 oz.)
    17 oz. olive oil
    8 oz. coconut oil
    At trace, add 1 cup pulverized oatmeal and fragrance ( if desired)

A few notes:

  • Lye has become rather difficult to find. Check out your local hardware stores. Be sure you use 100% lye. Some drain cleaners are 100% lye - do an internet search if you can't find it and you may be able to order it. I used Rooto drain cleaner.
  • ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES, GOGGLES, and protective clothing when using lye - lye is highly caustic and can cause severe bodily damage and burns.
  • If you can't find coconut oil in your grocery store, check out Walmart. I found some there - it's next to the Pam spray oil. I also found lard at Walmart in the same area.
  • Tallow is the grease left over when you fry meat - like hamburger.

For some excellent soap making tips and recipes, visit Mullers Lane website. Great resource!

soap1

Other than the ingredients, this is what I started with - a digital scale, a glass bowl to mix the lye in, a stainless steel pot to heat the grease/oil in, soap molds, food thermometer, and an electric mixing stick.
soap2 Although I am mixing this on the stove, you do NOT heat the lye and water. The mixture will heat itself by the chemical reaction of mixing with water. I sat it on the stove so it would be under the exhaust. The fumes are VERY potent, so be sure to ventilate the room well. Always pour the lye into the water, not the other way around.
soap3 Stir as you pour in the lye into the water to avoid lumps. You do NOT want lumps. Once you've stirred all the lye in the water, you will notice that the mixture gets VERY hot. Over 100 degrees. Set it to the side where no person or animal will get into it and where you will not knock it over.
soap4 Next, I measured out the lard and put it in the pot on the stove to melt. I used medium heat - but in the future I will use a low heat. The temperature of the oils needs to be between 95 - 120 degrees before adding the lye. Mine was at 160 and took a while to cool down.
soap5 Next I added the coconut oil. It was a lot firmer than I expected and I ended up using a knife to get it out.
soap6 Finally I added the olive oil.
soap7 Once the oils were down to around 110 degrees and the lye was about the same, I added the lye mixture to the oils, stirring the entire time. You'll notice I also put on my gloves and safety goggles. You really do not want to take any chances with that stuff. If your lye is too hot when your oil cools down to the desire temperature, you can sit the container in a little cold water in the sink - be sure to monitor the temperature. You do not want it to get too cool.
soap8
I used the stick blender and began blending the mixture. It took around 10 minutes or so before I began to see trace. Trace is reached when you begin to see trails following your mixer. They only last a few seconds, but you will know when it happens if you pay close attention.
soap9 There is a LOT of stirring involved, so I really was happy that I used a stick blender. Once trace was reached, I added oatmeal and 3 ounces of fragrance.
soap10 I then poured the mixture into my mold.
soap11 My mold holds 2 pounds, and I had about 6 pounds of soap, so I poured the rest in a shoe box that I lined with wax paper.
soap12 Then I put the molds in a safe, cool area to harden.
soap13 I covered them both with shoe box lids and then wrapped them in blankets. Because it was a nice warm day and we had the windows opened, I ended up removing the towels and just leaving them covered with the shoe box lids.
soap14 And then we decided to take a break and grill out some burgers and dogs!
soap15 Just as a side note, if you decide to peek at the progress, about an hour or so after you've left it to harden, your soap start turning dark in the middle and it will spread all over. Don't worry - this is the normal process that occurs as the soap starts to gel.

soap16

soap17

These were taken the next morning. If you click on them and look closely, you can see they are pulling away from the side. Good sign! That means we can remove them from the mold and cut them into bars.
soap18 I started with the shoe box mold and cut it in half length wise. Bernie's hack saw worked beautifully. Once I got it sunk into the soap, all I had to do was press on the top of it and it just slid right through it.
soap19 I then had 2 nice sized bars that fit beautifully on Bernie's miter saw. I scored the long bars about every one inch and then used the miter saw to cut them into bars. Tip for the ladies - if you use your husband's tools, be sure to clean them thoroughly when you finish. That way he will let you use them again on the next batch of soap. Or, if you didn't ask him in the first place, he'll never know you borrowed them - unless he notices they are unusually clean afterward ;-)
soap20 And here are all my beautiful soap bars on an old wire shelf rack we had laying around. We lined it with brown paper (from a grocery bag I disassembled). So now I have 4 - 6 weeks to wait for it to cure. Then I'll wrap and label each bar and store them for my Christmas gift victims. And for the record, Bernie willingly let me use his tools - so don't think you are ratting me out if you tell him about it. I think he agreed because he knew I'd have to clean them before I could ever even use them in the first place. Now I have wonderful soap bars and he has clean tools. It was a win/win situation!

 

 

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