Last weekend, I had a great time with my seven year old making soap. It’s a bit of a project, soap-making. It takes some planning and organising, but the rewards are great. One batch of soap lasts for months, and there is a wonderful sense of pleasure in using an item you made yourself, knowing it contains no added chemicals. Plus, home-made soap retains all the glycerin that is often removed in commercial production, so your home-made soap will be extra creamy and delicious.
The last time I made soap, little Peanut was only three. Here she is preparing a mould then:
There are lots of soap-making tutorials online. They are not always easy to follow, so I’ll try and make this one nice and clear. DEAR READERS, IMAGINE I AM SPEAKING VERY LOUDLY AND VERY SLOWLY.
Firstly, you need to gather all your ingredients and equipment. For this batch of soap, I have modified a recipe from the fabulous Rhonda at Down To Earth (a great resource on all things homesteady.) But there are soap recipes all over the internet. Have a look around. Then come back.
Oh hai! Now, the gathering.
For ingredients, you will need:
- 1kg olive oil
- 172g caustic soda (also called lye)
- 250g coconut oil
- 450ml rain water, spring water or distilled water
- 2 tsp lemon pure essential oil
- 2 lemons
And for equipment, you will need:
- Stainless steel saucepan
- Wooden spoon
- Measuring jug
- Candy thermometer
- Stick blender
- Protective goggles
- A time when the kids are not around. If this is difficult, strap them to heavy pieces of furniture.
Here we go!
1. Measure the oils into the saucepan you’ll be using. I have used olive and coconut oil in this recipe, but you can use any oils. Refer to a soap-making calculator is you want to alter this basic recipe, and it will give you the different ratios of oil to caustic soda you need. This will also help if you want to ‘superfat’ your soap, or make it extra moisturising.
2. Measure the water into a jug.
3. Carefully weigh and measure caustic soda and set aside. Wear goggles whenever dealing with your soda, as the fumes can be strong. You can also wear gardening gloves to protect from contact with your skin, and I like to keep vinegar close to hand in case of an accident.
4. Zest lemons with a microplane, and set aside. Measure essential oils into a small container and set aside. The zesting, weighing and meausuring of ingredients are all excellent jobs for a small under-chemist, but make sure small people are well out of the way whenever you are dealing with the caustic soda.
5. Next, add lemon zest to oils in the pan, and heat slowly in a saucepan with thermometer clipped to the side, until oils reach 50 degrees C.
6. Carefully pour caustic soda into the water and stir gently. (Stand back and be aware of fumes). I did this outside.
7. Check temps between the soda and the oils until both reach approximately 50 degrees.
8. Carefully pour the soda into the oils, avoiding splashing.
9. With care, use a stick blender until the mixture reaches ‘early trace’, and becomes stable. This will be when it thickens, and slight ripples appear on the surface. This will take up to twenty minutes.
10. Add essential oils and mix until full trace. You’ll see a change in your mixture, which means your oils have ‘saponified” or achieved the chemical reaction that neutralises the caustic soda and turns your soup into…soap! Once saponified, you no longer need to worry about the caustic soda.
11. Pour the mixture into the greased mould, and wrap it up like a baby in a towel so it slowly cools overnight.
13. The next day, release it from the mould.
14. Give your under-chemist a great big knife and ask her to cut the soap into bars. It will need to sit on a rack somewhere (mine is on top of the fridge) to cure for about six weeks, which takes you just about up to Christmas – a lovely gift idea. Turn your soap every couple of days.
Do not, I repeat do not clean up the deck before you photograph your final product. And be proud you made soap. You made soap! Should the zombie apocalpyse come, you will smell fabulous.