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Natural Simple Cold Process Soap
If you've never made natural cold process soaps at home before, you'll need to make sure you have the equipment and utensils before you start. This recipe makes a simple cold process soap which you can then adapt to be more creative as you gain confidence. Why not view our simple tutorial on You Tube
1) Two good sized stainless steel or enamelled saucepans. 2) One heat-proof glass measuring jug or plastic jug able to withstand boiling water. 3) Accurate kitchen scales. 4) Utensils for stirring etc. i.e. Wooden or stainless steel spoons, a balloon whisk or rubber/wooden spatular, or similar. 5) Two (preferably) cooking/brewing thermometers (although 1 can be used fairly successfully) 6) A mould to pour the liquid soap into whilst it sets. A wooden or cardboard tray or box lined with grease-proof paper or siliconised baking sheet is great. Silicone cake-baking moulds are also suitable, as are some other forms of plastic moulds such as 'tupperware' containers. 7) Eye and hand protection (safety glasses and rubber gloves). 8) A blanket or large towel.
Make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment listed above BEFORE you start and weigh them out into suitable containers ready to use. Always wear safety goggles/glasses and use protective gloves when soap-making to avoid injury from spills and splashes.
First choose your mould. Traditionally, soaps are made in wooden moulds lined with waxed or siliconised 'greaseproof' paper, but a carboard box lined in a similar way is fine or you can choose to use a silicone cake-baking mould, as they are usually lye and heat-resistant. Also, many forms of plastic kitchenware will be suitable and may also not need lining, such as 'tupperware' type containers.
If choosing a traditional lined wooden mould, make sure the lining paper is not cut or holed in any way below the top of the mould. It must be folded into corners etc. to ensure there are no leaks.
Measure out 12 oz (340g) of cold clean water into a jug. Weigh (accurately) 125g of sodium hydroxide beads (or pearls) into a suitable container. Carefully add the sodium hydroxide to the water, stirring all the time with a spoon or spatular. Be careful not to breathe the vapour that is initially given off, so hold your breath and stir until all the sodium hydroxide has dissolved and there are no lumps stuck to the bottom of the jug.
The solution (now known as Lye) will heat up to nearly 200oF and will need to be left to cool. Place one of the thermometers into the solution and leave to one-side. If you want to speed the cooling, place the jug in a large bowl of cold water, being careful not to 'float' it.
Meanwhile, measure out exactly 10oz (284g) of coconut oil and 6oz (170g) of palm oil into one of the saucepans (the smaller if there is one) and gently melt it on the stove. Don't overheat it, just melt it. When there are tiny pieces of solid oil still left to melt, turn off the heat and leave until completely liquid. If using a Lake or similar pigment to colour your soap, add a little to the warm oils now (see guide below).
Whilst the solid oils are melting, measure out 1lb (454g) of olive oil (pomace grade is best) into the other saucepan (this will be the soap-making pan). If adding optional preservative, add it to the olive oil now.
Once melted, pour the combined coconut and palm oils into the olive oil and mix them all together.
Place the other thermometer in the pan of oils. You should end up with a thermometer in each of the lye and oils as shown above.
Important... What you now need to do is keep watch on the temperatures of both the oils and the sodium hydroxide solution (Lye). If you haven't two thermometers you'll need to move one between containers ensuring it is cleaned between each. Depending how fast you are working it may well be beneficial to make use of the hint above about placing the jug of lye in a large bowl of cold water. This is because it starts off hotter than the oils and has more cooling to do. Once both oils and lye are at near similar temperatures they can be combined. Don't let everything get too cool. As a guide a minimum of around 80oF and a maximum of around 130oF are ideal limits of temperature. As long as oils and lye are both at similar temperatures between these limits your soap should turn out just fine.
When at the correct temperatures, slowly and carefully pour the lye into the oils, and start stirring (preferably with a hand (balloon) whisk to ensure the mixture all starts to chemically react and combine.
You should stir throughout the mixture fairly briskly. You will notice the solution start to turn more opaque and as the minutes pass it will start to thicken. The stage in the process you have to wait for is known as the 'Trace'. This is when you can drizzle the mixture from the whisk (or spoon/spatular) onto the surface of the solution and it leaves a visible trace before sinking back into the rest.
If adding colour with ultramarines, oxides or food-safe water soluble powders etc., make them up in a little water and add them now (just before or at the trace).
If adding essential oil/s, add them at 'the trace' after any colour and stir in well.
Once everything is added and the mixture traces simply pour it into your lined mould.
Cover the mould with something like a cardboard sheet to prevent anything touching the surface of the soap whilst it's setting.
Insulate with old towels or a blanket and leave at room temperature until the soap has solidified. With a small batch like this example, this should be no more than 24 hours. Larger batches can take longer.
Once set and cool, remove the soap from the mould and remove any lining paper from the soap. At this stage it will be a soft solid and can be easily cut into bars or smaller blocks if desired. If it appears too soft to handle, leave it for 2-3 days and try again.
Leave your soap 'curing' at room temperature for typically at least 3-4 weeks, preferably on a sheet of uncoloured absorbant paper allowing air to circulate around each bar or block. Curing will allow the soap to loose excess moisture and become harder.
Do not store your soap in a cold place. Soap will 'sweat' if cured or kept in a cold or cool place and then moved to a warmer one. Avoid 'sweating' by keeping your soap at a constant room temperature.
If packaging your soap, avoid absorbant paper or card coming into contact with your soap directly as any 'sweating' of the soap once packed will spoil the packaging. If you must use paper or card, wrap your soap first in something like waxed or siliconised paper or plastic film. Note... If using higher grades of olive oil it will usually take longer to reach a trace. Pomace grade is ideal for soap making. If adding fragrance use pure essential oil/s (20ml in this recipe size). Avoid fragrance oils until you're more experienced. See information below. Suitable and simple-to-use colourants... Ultramarines: Oxides: Water Dispersible Organic Pigments: Insoluble pigments which are used to colour the oils: Some food-safe dyes (sold as water soluble powders)...e.g. Tartrazine yellow: Sunset yellow (orange): Amaranth red: many types of ground spices i.e. Turmeric: Paprika: Cinnamon.
If you're using this recipe as a base for a soap you're adding your own colours and fragrances to, take a note that in your early attempts at natural soap-making it is far easier to fragrance a soap using pure essential oils. Avoid most fragrance oils as they are often alcohol based (something like dipropylene glycol) and virtually all forms of alcohol can cause 'siezing' in a soap mixture. This is when the mixture starts to set solid very rapidly, before you have a chance to pour it, ruining all your efforts. Also, bear in mind that many 'pretty' additions to a soap such as dried flower heads etc. will very possibly turn brown and discolour the soap if added to the mixture whilst it is a liquid. This is because of the high water content and caustic nature at that stage. Additions that work well are dried pulses, spices and some woodier dried herbs. Some spices achieve good colour as well. Turmeric (yellow) and paprika (salmon-like) are two examples. Petals etc. (like dried lavender) can be successfully 'pressed' onto the surface of the soap after pouring, before covering and insulating, although keep your gloves on when doing this as the mixture is still caustic at that stage. Generally food-safe colours are not suitable for natural soap-making (there are some exceptions). There are colours that work well and are simple to use (see tip above). Procedure as follows... All ultramarines and oxides require mixing with a little water and can be added at any stage after all ingredients are in the soapmaking pan together, up to the trace. Some types of pigments (known as insoluble pigments) are NOT water soluble and give colour to soaps best in warm oils. Add the powder or dispersion to melted coconut/palm oil and whisk in very thoroughly to avoid any 'spotting'. Ground Spices are basically in 2 varieties. Those that will add colour to the oils (Turmeric and Paprika) which can be added to the warm oils similar to Lakes and those that simply add colour by suspension (i.e. gound cinnamon) which are best added near the trace in a little olive oil as a runny paste. With ALL colours/pigments, the depth of colour will vary with the amount added. Keep colours subtle to avoid bleeding of colour into the lather when using the soaps. Mix up enough in a little water (except insoluble pigments) and add a bit at a time until the depth of colour you want is apparent. Guide for this size recipe... All ultramarines/oxides max 1 tsp (5ml). Most food-safe water soluble powders max 1/4 tsp (1.25ml). Lakes max 1/4 tsp (1.25ml). These are a guide only. If you want to enrich your soap with specific oils for their properties (maybe hempseed or wheatgerm etc.) use aprox 1 Tbsb (15ml) at trace. Honey, also aprox 1 Tbsb (15ml) at trace. Exfolients, i.e. oatmeal or similar, up to 1/4 cup (60ml). at or before trace. Take care to ensure your soap is thick enough to 'support' any exfolient additions before pouring or they may sink or float (depends what they are). GUIDE TO SAP VALUES