Soap Making And Soap Recipe
Some of the chemicals used in soap making can be harmful. People experimenting with the methods and information given in these materials, or trying soaps made from the information given in these materials, do so at their own risk. There are no implied or other under-takings given in these materials. References to 'medicated', or the nature of any soap's effect on human beings is entirely conditional upon each individual's allergies and other health considerations. Poorly made soap can 'burn' your skin. The production of safe soap takes time and patience, and comes with the resulting experience.
MATERIALS & EQUIPMENT FOR SOAP MAKING
There are only five main things needed to make soap. They are:
1) White (wood) ash,
2) Rain or Spring Water
3) Animal fats (grease)
4) Plant oils,
In getting the fat ready, sometimes lemon juice or vinegar, potatoes or rice are needed.
You will need some of the following objects:
Plastic buckets or big fired clay jars or pots, and large cast iron or stainless steel boiling pots can be used.
MAKING "LYE WATER"
Soap making uses a `caustic solution' known as "Lye Water".
When available, Caustic Soda is used. Here we will make Lye Water out of certain wood ashes and "soft water".
1) White Ashes
Dried palm branches, dried out banana peels, cocoa pods, kapok tree wood, oak wood, (or for really white soap, apple tree wood) make the best lye ashes. Ordinary wood used in cooking fires will do.
Whatever wood is used, it should be burned in a very hot fire to make very white ashes.
When cold, these are stored in a covered plastic bucket or wooden barrel, or stainless steel container. If these are not available, a clay pot-jar which has been fired in a pottery making kiln (not just dried in the sun).
A wooden drum or barrel which has a tap at the right is best.
2) Soft Water
Water from a spring or from showers of rain is called "soft water", because it does not have metallic or acidic chemicals in it. This makes it useful for soap making, as there are no other chemicals in it which would get in the way of making soap.
`Ordinary' bore, well, or river water can be used for making soap, but this will sometimes need to have a "washing soda" or "baking soda" in added to it. Otherwise some of the chemicals in the water will get in the way of making the soap.
If you are using `ordinary' water and you want to test it to see if some soda needs to be added, simply try to make soap bubble up (foam) in it. If the soap easily foams up, the water is probably ok as it is.
If not, try adding a little bit of soda at a time stirring it to make it disappear, until the water will foam the soap up.
Then add the same amount of soda to the same amounts of the water that you wish to use to make the soap. For example, if you were testing a 1/4 (a quarter) of a bucket of water, and you ended up needing 1/8 (an eighth) of a cup of soda, then you would need 4/8 (or 1/2-half) a cup of soda for a full bucket of 'ordinary' water.
However you have got it, store the "soft water" in covered wooden, plastic, or stainless steel buckets or containers. (Again, a clay-jar as described above can be used if needed.)
Any of the types of containers, buckets, barrels or jars described in the White Ashes or Soft Water sections are called "safe containers".
MAKING "LYE WATER"
If you are going to use a large barrel or drum to make the lye water in, and it has a tap or hole at the right, place some kind of filter on the inside of the barrel around the opening (as shown in the diagrams).
Fill the barrel with white ashes to about four inches (10 cm or O.1 meter) below the top.
Boil half (1/2) a bucket full of soft water (about 10 pints or six litre), and pour over the ashes.
Slowly add more cold soft water until liquid drips out of the barrel. Close the tap or block the hole.
Add more ashes to top the barrel up again, and more soft water. Do not add so much water that the ashes swim.
Leave to stand for four or more hours (or over night if you have the time). Later pour the brownish lye water into a plastic or other "safe" container(s). Then pour back through the ashes again. Let the lye water drip into "safe" containers.
When the brown lye water stops coming out of the barrel, or ash container, then pour four to five pints (2½ to three litre) of soft water through the ashes, collecting the lye which comes out in a separate "safe" container (as this lye may be weaker than the first lot).
Repeat this using two to three pints (one to two litre) of soft water, until no more brown liquid comes out of the ashes.
Either put the lye into "safe" bottles, or cover the "safe" containers which it is in. Dig the ashes into the vegetable garden.
KEEP LYE WATER AWAY FROM CHILDREN.
LYE WATER IS DANGEROUS!
LYE WATER STRENGTH.
If an egg or potato will float just below half way, or a chicken feather starts to dissolve in it, then the lye water is at the right strength. If the egg will not float, then the lye water could be boiled down if you wanted it to be stronger.
If the egg seems to pop up too far, add a little bit of soft water (a cup at a time) stirring the lye water, until the egg floats so that its head pops up.
3) Animal Fat (grease)
The fat of most animals can be used in the making of soap.
Grease made from beef fat, makes the best soap. Beef fat is taken from a cow, calf, steer, or bull cow, or bullock.
Once the meat of the animal has been cut away, the fat is chopped into bits and placed in a cast iron frying pan or a (not too deep) wide pot.
Melted slowly over a low heat, each pound (450 gm or 0.450 kg) produces about one cup of useful grease.
Pour the melted grease through straining cloths (cheese-cloth).
The grease must now be "washed". Add an equal amount of water, and bring to the boil, take off the heat, and add one quarter (1/4) as much cold water. Leave the water and grease to cool. When the fat has hardened, scrape the dirty stuff off the right. If the fat still looks dirty, "wash" it until clean. On the last washing use twice as much water, and before boiling add one table spoon of salt (80 ml salt crystals). If fat which has been used for cooking is to be used for soap making, then you may need to get rid of smells. For each cup of smelly fat, add two table spoons of vinegar or lemon juice in half a cup of water and boil.Any fat which smells "off" should be treated in this way. Another method for treating smelly fat, when lemon juice or vinegar is not available, is to use sour milk. Melt the fat, and to each cup of fat add one cup of sour milk, and cook. When cooked, add cold water as before and let cool. Cooking potatoes or rice in fat can also help one medium sized potato for each three cups of melted fat. Strain off fat when cooked and pour in cold water as before. All these ways will help to purify fat if it is rancid or smelly. If the fat that you wish to use is discolored. Potassium permanganate (if you can get some) will help to "clean" it. Dissolve a few crystals in two cups of soft water added to two cups of discolored melted fat. The cleaned fat will harden as it cools and be able to be taken off the top of the liquid. [Potassium permanganate is purple in color and is sometimes called Kondies Crystals. It should not cost much at all.] Washed fat, can be stored in a cool airy place for a few weeks before being made into soaps
"Common" salt is used in making soap.
Any salt made out of sea water (or from some stagnant lakes) which can be eaten with food, should be ok.
PROVING (Information 1)
Getting the right mixture of grease and lye is perhaps the most important step of soap making. If too much lye is left in the soap, the soap will be able to "burn" the skin. Also, the soap may not "set" properly. Too much grease causes its own problems as well. Three different main ways of "proving" the soap are explained later on. Three, because some people will find one way better, while others will find another one works better for them. In "proving" the soap, either one or more of the different ways can be used. Only one has to be used not all of the different ways have to be used. When making soap for the first few times however, you may like to try them all out.
If you are wanting to mix beef tallow grease with another fat grease, like mutton (sheep) or lard (pig), it is better to only replace one fifth (1/5th) of the beef tallow grease, with the other grease.For example, if you were going to use four pints of melted beef tallow grease, you could use one pint of another kind of grease mixed in. This would probably be useful as a clothes washing soap.
DONENESS - (Information 2)
After having "proved" the soap mixture, an eye is kept on when the heating has got rid of the water that is not needed.
During "boiling down", the mixture rises up the sides of the pot with many small bubbles (called foaming or frothing).
This is the stage when water is going out of the mixture while the heat is kept going. When the foaming starts to slow down, the froth will go towards the right of the pot.Large white round bubbles will appear. If you are only making "soft" liquid soap, now would be the time to store it.
GRAINING AND REWORKING - (Information 3)
When aiming to make a "hard" soap, salt is added at this point. Any sort of eating salt like ones made from sea water should do. Salting the soap mixture makes the soap rise to the top, often looking quite "grainy"- like sand. So this step is sometimes called "graining". This step makes a good solid soap for washing clothes. But it also removes some of the things which make soap nice and safer for people to use on themselves. Soaps which are good for people to use are called "toilet" soaps. However, clothes soaps can be used by people -if properly "proved". To make a "grained" soap more useful for humans, it is "reworked". This involves remelting the "green" soap, and adding some more grease and or oils and lye.
The same "proving" and checking for "doneness", steps are followed as for simple soap making, without "graining" adding salt.
POURING &"SETTING" (Information 4)
Before starting to make soap you will need to have made some shaped-moulds for the melted soap to "set" and harden in.
You can either have one large block, or many small moulds. A plastic bucket, wet wooden troughs, or small greased wooden moulds can be used.
SPLITTING (Information 5)
When hardened, the soap is "broken out" of the moulds, and if necessary "split" down to useful sizes with a wire or fine cord. (.) Either wear rubber gloves, or put lots of grease on your hands while handling the "green" soap.
DRYING (Information 6)
After all this the soap should not be used until it has been aired for about one month or so It should be stacked so that air can get around it, but without sunlight or water being able to get near it.
After it has "dried", you can polish it with a clean cloth if you wish.
SOAP MAKING METHODS
As shown in the chart above, the methods given here can make one of three kinds of soap:
Soft liquid soap
Hard clothes washing soap ("laundry soap")
Hard soap for washing people ("toilet" soap).
It depends on the quality of the things used to make soap, and how far the method is followed, as to which kind of soap ends up being made.
Three large cast iron or stainless steel pots are needed the largest pot has to be twice the size of the next biggest one.
In one of the smaller pots melt the amount of fat that you want to use, over a hot fire. In the other of the smaller pots heat lye water. To give you an idea of how much lye water you will need overall, twelve pounds of clean rendered beef tallow (4.4 kg or -13 pints or nearly thirty cups of melted tallow) needs about 20 gallons of lye water (96 litre =160 pints) to completely make soap.
You will not use all of this up at once. Approx one pint of melted grease reacts with about 12 pints lye water (at egg floating strength). Many things can upset this balance. That is what the "proving" methods help to sort out. (If you are going to "re-work" and add oils or fats at the end of the method, you will have to allow for about a 1/5th more lye water for that as well.)
When melting the grease, put half an inch (1cm) of water to stop it burning in the pot at the start. When ready, put the big Pot on the fire and spoon into it one fourth (¼) of the melted grease. On big jobs, another person should pour in one quarter (¼) of the hot lye water, while the first person stirs the mixture with a wooden stirrer. Continue to add lye and grease, one person after the other, while stirring very well. Keep heating the mixture. The liquid will become stringy and muddy-looking. Continue to add lye water until the mixture looks quite clear, and not so muddy.
If a thick scum of grease forms on top, more lye is needed. If the soap mixture does not thicken, and no scum appears, more grease is needed.
If there is a strong thin white streak against brown, then more lye is needed.
Some mixture dropped on a smooth glass or China plate, will not split up in to oil and water, but will stay the same. If this does not happen, keep stirring for some time if it has -then add more lye until all the fats or oil disappears.
The mixture should eventually look like cream or light caramel or light brown rice.
Now the mixture is tested by a method called "proving".
There are three methods for "proving" given here. Although only one needs to be used, using them all is a good idea when making soap for the first few times.
Proving Method A
Take a clean knife. Lift some soap from the pot on the knife and hold it over a cold plate. If the soap turns whitish and falls from the knife in short pieces, there is too much lye - add more grease (or oil if you are reworking the "green" soap).
If the soap falls from the knife in long ropy pieces, it needs more lye.
The soap is said to be ok, "When it stands transparent (almost clear) on the knife, neither too white nor too ropy".
Proving Method B
Take a one inch by one inch (approx 2 x 3 cm) bit of the soap mixture out of the boiling pot, and put on a glass or "fired clay" plate (China plate).
If it cools transparent with whitish streaks and specks it is "done".
If it is grey and weak-looking or has a grey bit around the outside, it needs more lye.
If there is a grey skin over it, more fat needs to be added
Proving Method C
This method is known as the "ribbon test". It is very useful towards the end of boiling.
Take two teaspoons of mixture out of the pot and cool it on a plate.
When cooled, take some of the soap off the plate, and press between the thumb and forefinger. The soap should come out from between your fingers looking like shiny ribbons with dull (opaque) ends, and be clear when held up to the light.
If the cooled bit of mixture comes out from between your fingers in the shape of threads, then there is too much water left in the soap, more boiling down is needed.
If the dull ends of the piece of soap between your fingers, first can be seen then disappear, then the soap is too greasy or oily and needs more lye. If the soap is grainy, or turbid (all mixed up looking) and a bit whitish, there is probably too much lye, and more grease or oil is needed.
Proving Method -"Tasting"
This is not a main method, and takes some experience to get right.
Taste some cooled soap mixture on the tip of the tongue. A sharp "bite" or "burn" shows that there is too much lye in the soap mixture While no "bite" at all, shows that there is too much grease stir and/or add more lye.
A good soap should give a little bite on the tongue.
Keep boiling the mixture until the froth settles down into the pot. Large white bubbles will "pop'" over the top of the mixture, as if the soap is "talking". If not sure - then use Method C. The soap can either now be stored as "soft" (liquid) soap in a wooden, or other "safe container", OR it can be turned into "hard" or solid soap.
Salt absorbs water, and will attract it more than the soap mixture does. By adding few handfuls to a large mixture, or less to smaller pots, the soap will float on top of the rest of the mixture.
A brownish looking liquid will sink to the right of the pot, and the soap will float on the top.
The method is very much like the last step of "washing" fat adding salt, when making grease.
Here as well, the top layer is left to go cold It is then taken (or "skimmed") off the surface of the cold mixture.
Slowly melt it and add a little water (depending on how much "skimmed" soap you have).
Heat this in a safe pot, and after boiling for only a few minutes, add salt again. Leave to cool and then "skim" again.
Now at this point, you may either remelt and color (and/or add perfumes) to the soap, and pour into moulds to harden and set, (or to improve its quality it may be melted and "re-worked"
Some of the amount of grease used to "re-work" the soap can be added as oil. Coconut oil is said to be the best.
The grease being used may be perfumed. If you are to add perfumed grease at this point, then use more petals in treating the grease when perfuming it).
To the remelted "green" soap, add more grease and or oil, until it is all melted, then add more lye until the mixture has a "bite" or "burn" to its taste. Continue heating and stirring (not too much stirring) and follow the general method for Soap Making ("proving" and watching for "doneness".) When "done", pour out into moulds and set. Grating means using sharp metal to break soap up into small pieces. Cutting the soap with a sharp knife is ok, but does not do the best job.
3 Cans lye
10 quarts water
12 pounds lard or old grease (clean). Must be animal fat.
18 quarts water
Mix the lye and ten quarts of water, and bring to a boil. Add twelve pounds lard or old clean grease and boil it slowly for one hour. Then add eighteen quarts of water and continue cooking. When the mixture is the consistency of heavy syrup, pour it into a mold. Cut into bars when cold.
Staying clean during a survival situation can be critical: the inability to properly wash your hands can transfer
Heart of Iowa Soapworks offers the best in custom, handmade soaps.
contamination and seriously affect your health! At some point, you might run out of handsoap. Here’s a recipe from soapmaking expert Karla Moore that uses two ingredients to produce a very mild and usable cleansing bar!
by Karla Moore
Soapmaking is a skill that is easily learned, and you can soon figure out how to make your own special blends.
But don’t even think about starting soapmaking without the proper safety gear, and don’t make soap around small children! The lye used in the soapmaking process can seriously injure or kill you! When the lye/water solution is cool, it is very caustic, but looks like drinking water. In one documented instance, a person unknowingly drank lye solution, and died from it!
Don’t try to make soap unless you are willing to follow safety precautions!
With this warning understood, here’s what you need to know:
Use only containers and utensils made of stainless steel, heavy plastic or pyrex. Use absolutely nothing made of aluminum – lye reacts to the metal and that chemical interaction will completely ruin the soap and pan.
- digital scale accurate to .1 oz. (1/10th oz.)
- large stainless steel pot to melt oils and mix soap in
- stainless steel slotted spoon or wooden spoon (that will never to be used for food again)
- rubber spatula
- 2 quart Rubbermaid or equivalent pitcher for mixing lye (Mark it plainly, so there is no way to mistake the contents for water!)
- small container to measure lye. ( A one-pound margarine tub, with a lid, works fine.)
- small stainless or glass container to measure optional fragrance
- plastic container or soap mold to pour soap in (Rubbermaid containers work great!)
- immersion (stick) blender or stainless steel whisk
- rubber gloves
- eye protection
- face mask to protect you from lye fumes
- old long-sleeved shirt and/or apron to protect clothes
It never hurts to have extra containers on hand to measure and weigh ingredients. Stainless steel is your friend – watch those garage sales!
Rendered Tallow or Lard 5 pounds
Sodium Hydroxide (lye) 10.5 oz.
Water 16 oz.
Every ingredient must be WEIGHED
1. Measure Sodium Hydroxide into small container observing safety rules for handling chemicals. This means using a mask, eye protection and rubber gloves.
2. Measure 16 oz. COLD Water into the lye pitcher. You may also use ice or ice/water mixture if shorter cooling time is desired. If using ice the mixture must be weighed.
3. Slowly add Sodium Hydroxide to the cold water. Stir gently and thoroughly until mixed. DO NOT BREATHE IN THE FUMES! Set aside to cool.
You may remove your safety protection for the next couple of steps. Then:
- Measure tallow into stainless steel pan. Set on low heat to melt. When melted, remove from heat source to cool.
- While the oils and lye water are cooling, measure out your fragrance oil (optional) and line your soap mold if desired. Clean & dry milk cartons make good molds. Just peel off the carton after the soap has set up for 24 hours. Remember DO NOT use anything aluminum!
Put on Safety Equipment!
Check the temperature of the lye water and melted oils. They should be in a range from 100º- 115º Now combine the ingredients to make soap!
- Slowly pour the lye water into the melted oils stirring constantly until combined. You may continue to hand stir if or, as I prefer, use a stick blender! Stick blend off and on until the mixture starts to thicken and leaves a wave after the blender. This is called trace: think of trace as a warm pudding- like texture. When stirred, it leaves a trail behind the spoon.
- Quickly stir in the fragrance and blend well.
- Pour into prepared mold and cover with a heavy towel to insulate.
Leave the raw soap undisturbed for 24-48 hours before removing from mold. After this time, it is safe to cut into bars and place in a well-ventilated area to cure and dry out. I recommend letting your soap cure for at least 3-4 weeks before using. The longer the bars cure, the better they will be. Water continuously evaporates off, leaving a harder bar that lasts longer in the shower. Handmade soap is at its best when it’s at least a month old.
Raw soap may be wiped out with paper towels and the pots and pans washed like normal. Wear rubber gloves when handwashing – new, raw soap is very caustic.
Coconut oil may be purchased from a grocery or Asian food store. It is used to pop popcorn and may come in a golden yellow color. This is perfectly fine to use and it lends a nice orange/yellow tinge to the finished product.
To buy sodium hydroxide (lye) look in the plumbing section of a hardware store. The container MUST say 100% Sodium Hydroxide and be dry flakes or granules, not liquid. If the material in the container has colored specks DO NOT USE! It contains heavy metals and is unsuitable for soap making.
Karla Moore, expert soapmaker
Karla Moore is a professional soaper, and owns and operates “Heart of Iowa” soapworks near Gilbert, Iowa. She started making soaps for her own personal use, and started her business in April, 2000. Karla has very sensitive skin and is allergic to the detergents used in most commercial soaps. Her experimentation, and earlier training as a cosmetologist, subsequently lead to a special line of soaps designed for people with allergies or similar skin conditions.
Today, Karla sells soap products all over the world and offers a complete line of scented and specialty soaps, shampoo bars, and custom blends. Karla specializes in soaps for people with allergies and also teaches soapmaking classes. She enjoys visiting with both beginner and experienced soapers.