Monday, September 23, 2013

Soapmaking! {Without expensive oils}

I have wanted to learn how to make soap for quite a number of years. There were actually quite a few reasons that I wanted to make my own soap. They were:
  1. I always enjoy being able to make something instead of buying it if I can.
  2. Whenever I have tried homemade soap it has been so much nicer than anything that I can buy at the store.
  3. I prefer to use bar soap over liquid soap so that I can avoid the Sodium Laurel Sulfate.
  4. If I did it the old fashioned way, I could use ingredients that were basically free and extra from meat processing. So I could save money with soap making too.
 In my quest to make soap however I started to feel a little discouraged with learning how to actually make old fashioned soap. Soap making is a popular hobby now but pretty much all the information I could find on it, whether on blogs or in books, was using expensive oils like coconut oil, cocoa butter, almond oil and so forth. Not that I have any problem with soap made out of those oils - I have tried some that others have made and I really, really like them. My problem was with the expense of it and also because one of the reasons I wanted to make soap was so that we could cross one more thing off the list of things that I needed to buy.
   I did however go over to a friends a couple of times while she was making soap (from purchased oils) and watched and helped her with that so I could get the general idea and then I found out another friend made soap and she made soap with things that I could easily get and which where basically free to me. Yea!!! She shared her recipe with me which I ended up tweaking slightly (after doing quite a bit of research) and so I will share that with you.
 Goat Milk, Peppermint and Oatmeal Soap
~12 oz. lye flakes/powder (I bought mine from Amazon - it was labeled as a drain opener)
~ 3 pints goats milk (most of this should be frozen in ice cube trays or something so it can be made into a frozen slush)
~5 1/2 pounds of Animal fat/tallow (I used beef and goat tallow) This should be clarified and lukewarm (around 100 degrees)
~ 4 heaping teaspoons borax (optional)
~ 2 cups oatmeal either whole or finely ground (optional)
~ 2 cups dried peppermint leaves (optional)
~ Peppermint oil (optional)
 1. Weigh and melt your fat. I used Ken's old postal scale. Someday I suppose it might make sense to buy a digital scale but right now I am trying to avoid buying anything. It worked!

 2. Put your goat's milk (frozen and unfrozen) together in a pan and try to make into a slush. I should have done this a little more before I added the lye. The purpose of having the milk really cold is because the lye will naturally heat up as soon as it hits liquid and it can heat up so fast that if your milk is all liquid it can cause it to burn and turn a funny orange color so I hear.
 3. Weigh your lye and carefully add it to the milk. Lye is a dangerous substance so I did choose to do all the working with lye outside (there are some fumes) and I wore long sleeves, pants, gloves and goggles just to be cautious. Lye can truly burn. I guess vinegar can neutralize the burn so just in case I also kept some vinegar handy.
 4. Stir the lye and the milk carefully together. It will heat up naturally.

5.  When the lye mixture is warm (feel the outside of the pan or use a thermometer that is just for this) and a similar temperature as the fat/oil then add the oil to the lye and milk. Stir while combining if possible.

 5. Add the borax.

 6. Stir, stir, stir (for probably 15-30 minutes) until your soap traces. Trace is when you soap thickens and I believe the saponification is happening at this time too. A bunch of chemical stuff that I don't truly understand. If you make gravy or pudding then I think the trace won't be that hard for you to figure out either.

7. At trace is when  you start adding additional ingredients like oatmeal (which is good for your skin), peppermint (I love the smell of it and thought it looked kind of cool - but it didn't add as much scent as I had hoped.), and any essential oil. With my batch I did add around 10 drops of peppermint oil along with the dried peppermint but it didn't nearly have the peppermint scent that I had hoped for. A soap making friend told me later that when you add essential oils you need to add tablespoonsful not just drops if you really want to smell it. I don't know if I will ever do that or not as essential oils are expensive. The soap does smell nice anyway- I think everything combined made a nice smell just not a strong peppermint one.

 8. The next step is putting the soap into "molds". In researching I found that many things could be used as molds - there is really no need (at least from a practical standpoint) of buying or making expensive molds. We used all sorts of plastic containers. When it was in something like the dish soap bottle above I did have to cut the whole bottle (making it useless for being a mold another time) in order to get the soap out but that didn't bother me as it was "trash" anyway.

9. Put all your molds in a rather insulated spot where they will stay warm and not harden to fast. I put all my molds in a cardboard box, wrapped in a towel out on our hot deck.

10. Check them every so often to see when you will need to cut them. My friend was able to wait until 48 hours later to cut them. We ended up cutting them only 8 or so hours later as they were already hard. There is a danger of them getting to hard and being very hard to cut. Because of our variety of "molds" we ended up with soap in all shapes and sizes. We even dedicated a few old candy molds to soap making so we ended up with some pretty little sunflower soaps too.  When cutting the soap I would advise wearing gloves. I didn't and it wasn't any big deal but the girls who were helping unmold the soap too found that their hands felt a little irritated. This batch made around 30 bars of regular size and 8 small bars.

11. Let the soap ripen for 3 weeks or more in a moderately cool, dry and airy place.

I have now been using our soap for around a week and I like it quite well. We are using it in the shower/bath and I have also started using it for my dish soap. I hadn't thought of doing that before until I was reading in Carla Emery's book (The Encyclopedia of Country Living) and she mentioned that she used bar soap for dishes and then I realized that my friend who makes soap only had that available for dishes (at least that I could see) at her house too. Lye soap is supposed to cut grease well.
I am rather excited to be able to make not only my own soap for cleaning us but also for cleaning our dishes. I can cross 2 items off of my buying list! At this point the only thing I bought for soap making is lye and then the oatmeal (but we already have that on hand for eating) but I have been reading up on making lye (from ashes) so that is something I plan on trying sometime.

 DISCLAIMER - this post contains information on how I made soap but I want to make sure you know that I am no authority on the subject. This was the first time I made it all by myself. Lye is a dangerous chemical and it does need to be treated with respect. If you want to make soap please do quite a bit of research and familiarize yourself with the process and the risks involved. If you make soap using these instructions you do it at your own risk.


Would you like to try some of our homemade back the basics soap? I have decided to host a giveaway of one bar of our soap.

   If you would like to win.....

1. Leave a relevant comment on this post telling me why you would like to win this giveaway or tell me some soap making tip or story. Please be sure to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you if you should win.

2. If you would like a second chance at winning then please become a follower of my blog via Google Friend Connect or subscribe by e-mail and then leave another comment telling me that you did that.

This giveaway will go through September 29th. I will e-mail the winner at that time to get their mailing information.

AND THE WINNER IS: KIMBERLY IN NC - if you haven't heard from me yet please e-mail me with your mailing information.


Don't miss my other giveaway going on right now: "One Thousand Gifts" book.

I am linking this to:

monday's homestead barn hop

and the Chicken Chick's Blog Hop



Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to make my own soap, but haven't yet as it seems a bit daunting. I'm glad to see you used a regular, non-digital scale with success since that is all I have as well.
Kimberly in NC
knchock at yahoo

tlword2007 said...

I have been looking at making my own soap, too. Sadly, I would have to use oils or ask my father-in-law for fat from his hunting kills. I would love to try your soap.

Anonymous said...

I made soap once before. It worked great, but smelled like old cheese. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to try again. Thanks for the cool blog.

Amelia said...

Oh this is so nice of you to share! I will have to keep this on file, very, very good and helpful information here. Thank you so much!

I have been so blessed by the Ann Voskamp book; One Thousand Gifts...Such a huge blessing.

Take care now, Blessings.

angie said...

Homemade soap has a short and readable ingredient list. I'd love to try yours.
Thank you

Ben said...

I had trouble with my first batch. I think the second batch will go a lot better. There is a good lye calculator for checking to see if you have the right ratio of fats/lye.

Anna "Banana" Jackson said...

I've been interested in soap making. We did a unit of early America last year and I thought (wrongly) that making lye soap would be a fun little project we could do. But when I looked into it... there is just so much more too it that I got really intimidated.

Linda said...

I would love to try your soap, but I am totally intimidated by the idea of making it myself!

skenaWalker at

Hobbyhorse1027 said...

I purchase lye, coconut and palm oil online from Essential Depot, it has sales often. The best prices I've found have been at Essential Depot. No, I don't work for the company but am a satisfied customer.

I add some vegetable oil and lard to each soap recipe to make it more economical. Pre-used oil also gets added to soap batches.

Sometimes it can be difficult to get the soap out of plastic cups and containers. To remedy this problem I just use a cardboard box with a plastic bag lining it. Plastic storage bins could be lined with plastic wrap or a bag and used as molds too.

Homemade soap can also be used as a shampoo bar or in laundry and dishwasher detergent.

Good luck in your soapmaking adventures.

Sue D said...

I made soap quite a while ago with one of my sons as a self-determined 4H project but have not made any since. I would like to win one of your bars so I can see if I want to try your recipe. I never thought of using bar soap for dishes.
slrdowney at hotmail dot com

Sue D said...

I am a GFC follower and an email subscriber.
slrdowney at hotmail dot com


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