Thursday, April 30, 2009

abandon hope, all ye who care not for soapmaking

I've got four batches of soap chillaxing on my buffet, two of which are dubious fragrances. The batch I made on Monday--remember, the one I wanted to name "Cough Drop?" Well, now I think it would be more aptly named "Urinal Cake." Or "Gas Station Bathroom." It smells clean, but sort of a scary clean. Then Emily came over and we made some of what I think I'll call "Angry Lemon." So then we decided we'd better play it safe and do some lavender and cinnamon.

Holy crap, this is a lot of pictures. It's quite an involved process, and the pictures SUH-HUCK (sing-song voice), because my camera is being naughty.

But here is the soap tutorial! Note: I am not a soap expert, nor do I wish to become so. I just want a good, easy recipe that is easily adapted for different fragrances. I refuse to accept any responsibility for losses financial, physical or emotional incurred by the concoction or use of this soap. There are many sources on the web for other soap recipes, but this one is all I need. A good site for any of you who want to be brown-nosers is, where they have recipes, ingredient descriptions, and a lye calculator so you don't atomize your home and family in a moment of carelessness. Or you can visit Their prices are not as good, but you can purchase your lye online, after you've signed and mailed them the form promising not to be a domestic terrorist.

Hot Process Soap
crock pot
heat-resistant measuring bowl
heat-resistant spatula
soap mold
scale that measures to within 1/8 oz.
safety goggles
face mask/train robber bandana
gloves (the kind the doctor uses to palpate your strangulated hernias)
hand blender
wooden skewer for stirring the lye

Ingredients (you can be 1/8 oz. off of the amounts, but NO MORE OR EVERYONE WILL DIE I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING YOU RIGHT NOW:
8 oz. olive/canola oil
10 oz. lard
8 oz. palm oil
6 oz. coconut oil
1 oz. beeswax
8-12 oz. liquid of choice (water, milk, juice, etc.)
4.39-4.54 oz. lye (olive oil recipe) OR 4.41-4.55 oz. lye (canola oil recipe)
1/2 oz. carrier oil (grapeseed, apricot kernel, etc.)
1/4 oz. essential oil for fragrance

Protect your work surface with parchment paper or a garbage bag or something, just in case you spill some lye later on, which of course you will not. Put your measuring bowl on the scale and tare it. Emily is pouring the canola oil, because I lost my olive oil and decided to use this so I can get rid of it, since it will KILL US anyway, just like it did those turkeys in Canada!

Tare the scale, then add the lard. It smells like bacon, but I promise it dissipates.

Tare it again. TARE IT. Don't pretend that you can do that higher math, just mentally adding the amounts together and keeping track. Liar. You are a product of our public school system, and the only math you know how to do is type BOOBLESS on your calculator.

Add the palm oil.

Tare, then add the coconut oil.

Tare, then add the beeswax.

Lookit all the yummy fat!

Pop it into the microwave for 1 minute, stir, then microwave another minute, stir, then cook it 30 seconds at a time until all the fat is melted, including the beeswax.

Stirring. Sorry about my stupid hair.

The beeswax takes the longest to melt.

Then pour it into your crockpot. I like to turn mine on while I'm measuring the fats, so it will be nice and warm. Turn it off once you add the fat.

Measuring the lemon juice with which we replaced some of the water.

Rounding it out with ice cubes. I always use frozen cubes of whatever liquid I'm using, otherwise the lye smokes and fumes something shocking, and it makes me feel like I'm getting black lung.

When you're ready to measure the lye, put on your gloves, mask and goggles. I measure it from the container with a small paper cup into a larger paper cup on the tared scale, since paper doesn't get staticky like plastic.

Lye all ready to pour into the liquid.

Always pour the lye into the liquid, not vice versa, or it will create one of those cool science fair volcanoes, only this one will actually burn, not unlike real lava. Stir continuously while you're adding the lye, but not vigorously, because you don't want splashies.

See, even with the ice cubes it gets super hot and cooks the lemon juice.

It even turns it red, don't ask me why, and it doesn't turn the soap red, which is sad. Red is a hard color to come by naturally.

Once the lye is completely dissolved, you can add the mixture to the fats in the crock pot. Again, a slow, steady stream, stirring gently.

As I get done with the various things that have touched the lye, I put them into a dishpan full of water, just in case. You don't want any lye crystals running around in your shoes-optional kitchen.

Then get out your stick blender and start blending. No splashing!

Keep stirring . . .

. . . and stirring . . .

. . . and stirring until the mixture is quite thick, like thick pudding. If you lift up the blender and glop some of the mixture onto the surface, it should remain on top and not absorb back in. Like, way past the point that you would have stopped with your lemon curd.

Then you'll turn your crock pot on to "low," put the lid on it, and wait a couple of minutes.

Almost instantly this happens to it, and you will think, "HOLY FREAKING CRAP! I've just ruined all that soap!" You haven't. Stir it a little and put the lid back on. Let it sit for another minute or two.

It's super thick, like the worst mashed potatoes you could ever hope to eat.

But then, as you keep checking it every couple of minutes, you will see little clear patches start to appear that look sort of like petroleum jelly. If you USE petroleum jelly, Earth-murderer.

While you're waiting, measure out your carrier oil and add the fragrance oil.

Almost there . . .

I added some lemon zest, and vanilla at the last minute to calm it down. It's a good thing, or this batch of soap would be playing Texas Hold 'Em on my dining room table.

Okay, it's all Vaseliney, so we can add the fragrance.

Stir it in well, then scoop it into your mold.

This is my high-concept soap mold, a child's shoebox lined with plastic wrap. It works just fine.

Like I said, I didn't realize that I had Deliverance hair--I promise I really do wash it every day. Once the soap is cool and firm--a couple of hours--you can cut it into the size of bars you want.

Let them dry, and use them the next day when they've finished hardening.

How about that? Don't you feel so empowered? I like that I can make whatever fragrance I want, and that none of it is going to render alligators incapable of breeding. Then I can feel superior about my groceries AND my health and beauty products.


tipsybaker said...

I think this is beyond me, but it is so incredibly cool.

amy greenway said...

Thank you! I feel so informed. This is definitely on my list of projects for next week...or whenever I get cleared for lye.

Just one question. When you say "Almost instantly this happens to it, and you will think, "HOLY FREAKING CRAP! I've just ruined all that soap!"" What exactly will I be freaking out about? I like to be prepared for freak-outs before they happen.

Layne said...

Amy--you will be freaking out that the soap has gotten all stiff and lumpy, instead of pudding-like. But as it heats, it softens and gets melty--the Vaseline stage I talked about.