"Udderly Great Goat Products - Natural Soap Making Workshop"


By: Elizabeth Childers 05/23/00
Web Site:Web Site Coming Soon!
About the Author

      People have been making soap for as long as we have existed. Whether it was plants with natural sapponins or from running water through wood ashes to create a light lye solution which was added to fats and cooked to produce the first bars of soap. Soap in our ancestorsí day was harsh and had little in it that was healthy for the skin. Today, soap has changed drastically. Gone are the soap pots and glycerinless soaps of yesteryear. Now we use Cold Processing for our soaps. That is what you will be learning in class today.

Tools for Soap Making

    Stainless Steal Stock Pot
    Wooden Spoons
    Candy Thermometer
    Pyrex or other heat resistant container to measure water or milk
    Scales for lye and fats (I have one for ounces and one for pounds)
    Primary Mold
    Old Blankets for insulation
Safety Equipment
    Rubber gloves
    Old Long Sleeved Shirt
    News papers
    Red Devil Lye (you can find this in the drain cleaner section of the grocery store)
    Water or Milk
    Oils measured in ounces or pounds
    Essential oils and dried herbs (optional)
A word about lye

     Lye is extremely dangerous and can be temperamental. The first time you think you donítí need to use your safety equipment, will be the day Murphy comes back from vacation and passes judgement on you for tempting his law.

     If you are mixing your lye inside or on a surface you care about, cover it with newspaper. Lye will eat through wood and Formica leaving ugly indention and discolored areas.

     Make absolutely sure that you label the jar, or measuring cup, you are working you lye in. This will avoid anyone seeing it and thinking that it might be a nice drink. I have read a number of letters from people who have inadvertently sent their spouse or child to the hospital from drinking or being splattered with a lye solution. Lye is not something to fool around with.

     Always, and I canít stress this enough, always put the lye INTO the water. NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PUT THE WATER INTO THE LYE. This will cause a violent volcanic eruption of lye water from whatever container you are using. This WILL result in major chemical burns and a trip to the emergency room. I donít think I can repeat this enough: ONLY PUT THE LYE INTO THE WATER AND MARK ALL OF YOUR CONTAINERS THAT YOU STORE YOU LYE IN.

     When you mix the lye, a chemical reaction occurs. The water heats up to around 210 degrees and produces a caustic steam. Avoid all contact with this steam. Do not breathe this in. If you are tempted to sniff it, donít. I can tell you it smells like boiling water. I can also tell you from experience that it can and will, if it has a chance, burn your lungs and throat. I mix my water and lye outside near my flag so I know exactly which way the wind is blowing so I can stay down wind of the fumes. The first time I mixed the lye and water, I was inside and didnít know what to expect. I will never mix this solution inside again.

     Do not reuse anything that you have mixed lye with if it is wooden or porous. I have a large Rubbermaid container that I use specifically to mix my lye/water solution in. It is a heat resistant, tall, pitcher pours easily when I transfer it to the fats. I do not use it for any other purpose. I know that some people do reuse their containers for drinks, but I feel it is MUCH easier to label it and put it away.

     Scared yet? Donít be. If you do have the unfortunate experience of getting lye on you, that is where your apple cider vinegar comes in. Vinegar neutralizes the lye. Once you have put the vinegar on, you want to wash the area with soap and water.

     If you use all the precautions, it is actually pretty safe to make your own soap.

Letís get started!

Step One

     Measure and weigh out all of your fats, lye, and water or milk. Place the fats in your stainless steal pot and set aside. Pour the lye into the water; at first it will be cloudy and steaming. Stir until they water turns clear, place a candy thermometer in it, and wait for it to reach about 110 degrees.

     Start heating the fats when the lye cools to approximately 110 degrees. You want your lye and fats to be about 100 degrees each. Here is a chart form my favorite soap-making page called Millerís Home Page:

Sweet Rancid Fat 97o to 100o F 75o to 80o F
Sweet Lard or other soft fats 80o to 85o F 70o to 75o F
Half lard and half tallow100o to 110o F80o to 85o F
All tallow120o to 130o F90o to 95o F
Vegetable Fats100o to 110o F90o to 95o F

This gives you all the info you need to figure out the temps that work best with different oils and lye.

     Getting the lye and the oils at the proper temperature at the same time can be a little daunting at first. If you find that your lye is too cold, you can put your lye container in hot water in the sink until it reaches the temperature you want and like wise you can use cold water to bring the temperature down faster. Be careful not to splash the lye into the sink or the water you using. It is best to add the water to the sink after you place your container in there. This will avoid your contianer floating and spilling the lye into the sink.

     The oils you can treat the same way when you are cooling them down. There is only one problem that you might face with the oils if you are using ones that is solid at room temperature. You want to watch the sides of the soap pot to make sure that they are not developing a film where the oils are beginning to harden. If they do, simply stir them back into the hot oil. I usually will heat my oils long before I need them so they are cooling down at the same time the lye is.

     Another option here is to heat half of your oils, and then mix them with the cold oils in the soap pot. I find that you risk loosing some of the oils when you transfer the hot to the cold or visa versa.

Step Two

     Now you have your oils and lye to temp. It is time to mix them together. You want to pour your lye into your oils. Pour the lye slowly and steadily to avoid splashing the lye or hot oils out of the soap pot. As you pour, you want to make sure that you are stirring rapidly to incorporate the lye into the oils. Donít stir too quickly or you run the risk of splashing the lye. It helps if you have a partner at this point, or a stick blender.

     Once you have poured all the lye into the oils, be prepared to stir. You are going to be stirring in this fashion for a while. With any luck your soap will trace quickly. Most likely your first few batches it wonít. Donít get discouraged; keep stirring.

Step Three: Tracing

     What you are looking for is something called a Trace. Tracing is when you are able to see the traces of your spoon through the soap. It will resemble, of all things, vanilla pudding. Some soaps donít really have a noticeable trace, while others are blatant. Pure Castile soap is notorious for having a very shy trace. Soaps made from hard fats, such as coconut oil, tend to have a very distinct trace. The steps to Trace tend to be consistent in most soaps.

     First you will see the soap move from a lusciously golden smooth color, to an off white, grainy, shiny liquid. You may also notice that when you lift your spoon you can see a shiny ring where the drop incorporated itself with the larger batch. This is a good thing. This indicates that you will be tracing shortly. Of course time here is relative.

     Some soap will trace in less than an hour while others may take as much as 4 hours to trace. Much of it depends on the amount of solid oils you use in your recipe. A pure Castile soap may never come to a noticeable trace. Soaps made with solid oils tend to trace much more rapidly.

     The next thing that will happen is called Light Trace. You will be able to see a scum develop on your spoon and the sides of the stockpot and your soap will start to thicken. This phase quickly moves into Heavy Trace.

     Heavy Trace is the time your spoon will leave deep lines in the soap. At this point you want to add any fragrance oils and herbs that you had planned on putting in there.

     One problem with using additives at this time is you are putting them in direct contact with the lye. This will cause some of your herbs to turn brown and your fragrances to evaporate. You will have to use about half again as much fragrance as you would on a rebatch. Some essential oils and fragrance oils will speed up tracing. So be prepared to pour your soap quickly.

Final Step to Soap

     Once you have achieved heavy trace, it is time to pour you soap into a mold. This mold can be anything that is heat resistant, non-metallic, and has a lid. I use a Rubbermaid, 2-Ĺ gallon, square container. You can pick these up inexpensively at Kmart.

     Once you have poured your soap into your mold, put the lid on it. You want to insulate it so the heat will stay in the soap. You do this by wrapping it with an old blanket. This aids in the saponification process.

     Saponification is when the lye matches up, molecule for molecule, with the fats. It then binds to the fats and turns them to chemical salts.

     You want to leave your soap insulated for approximately 2 days. No peeking!!! If you do peek, you will find that your soap turns into this gooey jelly looking mess at one point. Many people think that this is what is called separation when the fats and the lye donít seem to actually match up and revert to their original state. Castile soap goes through this phase and seems to stay there for about 4 days. Castile soap is, as you have probably guessed pretty difficult to work with.

     After 2 days, unwrap the mold and remove the lid. Allow your soap to air dry for about a week. You will start to see it pull away from the sides of your primary mold. Once this happens, you can dump out the block of soap and cut it. You need to let it sit for about 3 weeks longer before you use it on your skin. Other wise, you can take your unmolded soft soap and grind it up for a rebatch.

     I will save rebatching for another class. If you are interested in rebatching, please call me and I will be happy to assist you in anyway I can.

Now what?

     Well now you have a huge batch of soap that you can use or sell or give away. If you are going to sell it or give it away, you need to package it. Let your imagination run wild. Ideas will be given in class.

Advanced ClassIn the advanced class I will be explaining how to choose your oils, what soaps are best for and a demonstration of rebatching. I will also explain how to reclaim a separated batch of soap.Appendix I

Soap Recipes

Class Recipe

    8 oz pound cocoa butter
    8 oz sweet almond oil
    56 oz coconut oil
    96 oz olive oil
    2 cans (12 oz each) Red Devil Lye
    60 fluid oz water
This produces a soap that is between 4 and 6% super fatted and will weight about 12 pounds before it is cured and 11 pounds afterward.

My Favorite Recipe

    7 pounds Olive Oil
    2 pounds Coconut Oil
    1 pound Sweet Almond Oil
    13 oz lye
    2 Ĺ pints water
    This makes a 9 pound block of soap.

Appendix II
Oil Characteristics

Almond-- gives fairly good lather and is good to condition the skin
Apricot kernel---same as almond
Borage--same as almond
Canola--same as almond
Castor oil--same as almond but speeds up trace
Cocoa butter--Gives a hard bar fairly good lather and is good for skin
conditioning and speeds trace slightly
Coconut oil--Gives a hard bar, good cleansing qualities, fluffy lather, andspeeds trace slightly
Corn oil--Same as almond
Cottonseed--Fairly good lather
Hazelnut--Fair lather and good skin conditioning properties
Hemp seed--same as hazelnut
Jojoba--same as hazelnut
Kukui nut--same as hazelnut
Lanolin--Give a hard bar that has fair lather is fair to good for skinconditioning if not allergic and speeds trace slightly
Lard--Gives a hard bar that has fairly good lather good for skin and speedstrace slightly
Macadamia nut--same as hazelnut
Neem oil--same as hazelnut with healing properties
Olive--same as hazelnut and gives a fairly hard bar
Palm Kernel--Give a hard bar with good cleansing properties, fluffy latherand speeds trace slightly
Palm oil--Give a hard bar with fair lather and speeds trace slightly
Peanut--fair lather with good skin conditioning
Safflower--same as hazelnut
Sesame--same as hazelnut
Shea butter--Gives a hard bar with fair lather and good skin conditioningand speeds trace slightly
Soybean--same as hazelnut
Soybean (Crisco type)--fair lather and skin conditioning
Sunflower--same as hazelnut
Tallow--gives hard bar with fair lather and good skin conditioning andspeeds trace slightly
Wheat germ--same as hazelnut

Appendix III

Quick Steps to Soap (From the Toiletries Library)

1. Find the weight of each of the fats you plan to use.

2. Calculate the amount of lye required for each fat.
Take the total weight of the fats to be used and divide by 3. This is the amount of water you will need.

3. Make a solution of the water and total lye required. Be sure to read the safety precautions for lye.

4. While your lye is cooling (it will heat up when poured into water to over 200 degrees F so be careful) warm your fats to about 100'F. This temperature is not set in stone. Some people like it hotter and some like it cooler.

5. When the lye has cooled to about 100'F and the fats are at about 100'F, slowly pour the lye/water into the fats while stirring. A bit of heat is needed to get the reaction going.

6. Stir until a drop from a spoon sits on top of the soap for a short time before blending in with the rest of the mixture. This is known as tracing. You need to stir until the soap traces to keep the fats and water from separating. Now is the time to add any fragrances, colorants, essential oils, herbs, etc. that you desire, unless you plan to add them in a rebatch.

7. Pour the raw soap (it is soap, just very harsh soap and can burn if you get it on the skin) into your mold.

8. If the weather is cool, insulate with blankets to towels to hold the heat of the reaction in. The reaction itself will generate enough heat to keep it going unless it has to fight against cold surrounding air. Depending on the fats you used you should have hard soap in anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

9. Remove the soap from the mold and cut it into bars.

Appendix IV


Web Pages

Millers Home Page: http://www.Silverlink.net~/timer/soapinfo.html
Toiletries Library: http://www.Esoft.com/thelibrary/index.htm


Liberty Natural Products: http://libertynatural.com
This is a nice place to shop and the prices are great. The only problem is you have to spend $50 for a minimum.

Snowdrift Farms: http://www.Snowdriftfarms.com
This is one of the best sites I have ever seen. There is no minimum and the pricing is excellent.


Herbs for the Skin

This is a brief list of herbs that are helpful to the skin and can be used in soap making:

Burdock: decoction of the fresh leaves makes a good wash for soars and may be helpful for acne

Calendula: A very good salve for wounds can be made from the dried flowers or leaves, from the juice pressed out of the fresh flowers or from the tincture. The salve or dilute tincture is also good for bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, sores, and boils. The New Age Herbalist states that Calendula is cleansing astringent, promotes healing of wounds and toning.

Chamomile: external swelling, inflammatory pain or congested neuralgia, and will relive where other remedies have failed, proving invaluable for reducing boils. The antiseptic powers are stated to be 120 times stronger than seawater. A decoction of the flowers and poppy heads is used hot for abscesses (10 parts chamomile to 5 parts poppy in 100 parts distilled water). Makes an excellent shampoo according to Culpepper. He also says that bathing with a decoction of chamomile removes weariness and eases pain to whatever part of the body it is employed. (A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M Greive) According to the New Age Herbalist, this herb is cleansing, cooling, lightening, and anti-inflammatory.

Chickweed: The fresh leaves can be made into an ointment or bruises, irritations, and other skin problems.

Comfrey: Root-poultice for wounds bruises, sores, and insect bites. Add to bath water regularly for a more youthful skin Leaves - demulcent, anti-inflammatory, use for psoriasis, eczema, ulcers and to promote wound healing. The New Age Herbalist suggests that this herb is an emollient.

Elder Flowers: Cleansing, emollient, lightening, promotes sweating. Antiseptic wash for skin problems, wounds and inflammation.

Horse Tail: Astringent.

Irish Moss: Emollient, demulcent, and mucilaginous. Lends a VERY strong odor to soap.

Ladyís Mantle: Astringent.

Lavender: Antiseptic, stimulating.

Marshmallow: Emollient. A decoction is made to wash wounds and soars. A poultice can be made for irritations and inflammations.

Rosemary: useful in rheumatism, scrofulous sores, eczema, bruises, and wounds. An infusion of the leaves has been used as a scalp wash to prevent baldness.

Thyme: Toning, refreshing, disinfectant. Stimulates the flow of blood to the surface of the skin, and alleviates nervous exhaustion.

Yarrow: Cleansing, toning and promotes sweating. Styptic.

This is by no means a complete list of herbs for the skin and for use in soap.

About the author: Elizabeth Childers is a soapmaker with many years experience in the making and writing about of this art. Elizabeth has been kind enough to provide GoatWorld.com with this information. Elizabeth also hosts a weekly Soapmaking Chat here on GoatWorld.com, Tuesday nights in the Chat Room.

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