Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Make soap when the sun shines

The sun shone today which was wonderful after the rainy days we have been having. The rain was very welcome but its nice to have some sunshine.

I've been waiting for a sunny day to make soap so that is what I did today. I make my soap outside in the sun. I have an old ceramic casserole dish which I put the oil in and place in the sun. It soon warms up to the correct temperature for soap making. Some pretty nasty fumes come off the lye mixture so you need good ventilation when you make soap.

There are lots of tutorials on the web about soap making. I made my first batch with a friend. Its a very simple process so find a good tutorial and give it a go. Remember though that caustic soda burns. Always wear rubber gloves and goggles for eye protection at a minimum. Make your soap somewhere the kids can't reach it and the pet dog and cat can't access it. Don't use aluminum pots or utensils to make soap, the caustic solution will eat into it. You will need a kitchen thermometer (preferably two), do not use a clinical thermometer. The lye solution gets hot!

Soap making is simple but it does take time. You need to be able to stir the mixture for about 20 minutes and then every half hour or so until the soap traces. The olive oil soap I made today won't trace until tomorrow. I'll stir it every hour or so until tonight and then give it a good stir in the morning. Most soaps do not take this long to trace. The coconut oil soap I made a couple of weeks ago only took an hour to trace.

Olive oil soap (castile soap) is great for your skin. Its very moisturizing. The recipe I use is below. When the soap traces you can add essential oil for a lovely scent , colouring if you wish and other additives such as ground oats to exfoliate.

My soap making work bench.
Always protect surfaces with plastic and have vinegar on hand.
My brown ceramic pot heats up enough in the sun that I don't need to heat the oil on the stove.


Castile Soap
500g olive oil
200g filtered water
67g caustic soda

Heat oil to 37 degrees centigrade.
Measure caustic soda. Measure the water into a plastic container (I use an old icecream container). Add the caustic soda to the water NEVER the water to the caustic soda. This mixture gives off irritating fumes and gets very hot. Do not breathe in the fumes.
Allow the lye (caustic solution) to cool to 37 degrees centigrade.
When the oil and lye are at the correct temp add the lye to the oil in a thin stream and stir to combine.

Stir the mixture slowly for about 20 minutes then every half hour after until the mixture traces.
Add colouring and essential oils at trace stage. Pour into greased moulds. Leave to set in a warm place then remove from moulds (could take a few days). Leave to cure for 6 weeks in an airy place.

If a white powder forms on the outside of the soap, scrape it off (wear gloves). If there white powdery bits in your soap do not use - this is caustic soda which has not combined with the oil.

Give it a try, it really is easy, you just need to take care with the lye solution. Keep some vinegar on hand in case of spills. When I'm finished I wash all my soap making tools in a strong vinegar solution to neutralize any caustic.

Coconut oil soap made in moulds from orange drink containers. I scented this soap with lemon oil so they smell yummy. These soaps still need to cure for a few weeks.

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