Archive for August, 2012

Finding the Perfect Soap Recipe

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Soaping with knowledge, experience, and confidence.

With such a variety of soaping bases, fats, and oils available in the market, one can easily see where the excitement can collide with frustration, especially if you are new to soaping.  We strive for a perfect recipe, but where to begin, the possibilities are endless.  From this soap making blog series, we have already gone over the different types of soaping processes, soap safety, and soaping terminology.  Now, we seek out creating the perfect soaping recipe.

Soap is made by the chemical reaction that occurs when mixing fatty acids, lye, and water.  The lye component actually works as an emulsifier, bonding the fatty oils and water together.  Without the lye, this bond would never form.  These 3 elements, fatty acids, lye, and water are all essential components to the saponification process.

Each soaping oil/butter has a fatty acid composition, and since every oil/butter is different, so is their fatty acid composition.  It is through the variance of each fatty acid composition that important soaping characteristics and qualities are found.   Let’s briefly look at some of the most common fatty acids, as well as, the qualities that are provided by them in a cured bar of soap.

Lauric Acid:  Provides hardness, cleansing, and bubbly lather.

Linoleic Acid:  Provides conditioning

Myristic Acid:  Provides hardness, cleansing, and bubbly lather.

Oleic Acid:  Provides conditioning

Palmitic Acid:  Provides hardness and a creamy lather

Ricinoleic Acid:  Provides conditioning, bubbly lather, and a creamy lather.

Stearic Acid:  Provides hardness and a creamy lather.

As you can see, each and every element that is put into your soaping recipe has distinct benefits or uses, and some ingredients can also inhibit certain soap bar qualities.  Please also notice, that none of the fatty acids allow for all five of the soaping qualities that you are looking for in a bar of soap.  This is why; in order to find a good symmetry among these qualities, a soaping recipe usually contains several different oils (fatty acids).

In order to create a quality bar of soap, it is necessary to find a balance between hardness, cleansing, conditioning, bubbly lather, and creamy lather. This usually involves using a combination of oils/butters in your soap recipe. A typical bar soap recipe calls for 38% water content, and a 5% superfat (the percentage of oils that do not saponifiy).

Here are the values for a typical bar of soap; they are presented in a range:

Hardness 29 to 54
Cleansing 12 to 22
Conditioning 44 to 69
Bubbly lather 14 to 46
Creamy lather 16 to 48

There is however, one example of a soap recipe that can be done with just one oil.  For people who are allergic to nuts, olive oil soap can be made with just that…olive oil.  No allergen worries.  Once this bar has cured though, you have a nice conditioning soap bar that will not leave your hands dry, but, that same soap bar also will not produce a nice lather, and will be very limited in cleansing ability.  This is why being aware of all of the capabilities of your oils, fats, butters, and additives will give you a distinct advantage over other soap bars in the market.

Remember, since all oils have their own fatty acid makeup, they also have specific saponification or SAP values.  This is why it is extremely important that once the ingredients of your soaping recipe are calculated, you MUST use those oils.  They cannot be exchanged out for other soaping oils without recalculating your recipe.

Feeling overwhelmed yet?  Don’t!  We know that this is a lot of information to grasp.  This is why if you are new to soaping, it is our suggestion that you try a recipe that has already been tried and tested.  Doing this will allow you to initiate yourself with the soaping instruction and procedure.  Performing the steps from beginning to end will also give you a firsthand experience of the soaping method and key properties of the saponification process like trace or gel phase.

Congratulations Newbies!  Now is the time where we are actually going to make our first batch together.

If you have not read our blog on soap making safety, please do so now

http://blog.naturesgardencandles.com/soap-making-safety/

Working with lye can be very dangerous!

We have already went slightly ahead, and provided you below a recipe for your 1st time soaping.

Here is what you will need for a 2 pound batch:

6 ounces of Coconut Oil, 76 degree

8.4 ounces of Olive Oil Pomace

8.4 ounces Palm Oil

1.2 ounces of Castor Oil

1.5 ounces of a body safe fragrance oil ie Oatmeal Milk & Honey

9.12 ounces of Distilled Water

3.393 ounces of lye (NaOH)

This recipe range for soap bar quality is:

Hardness 43
Cleansing 17
Conditioning 54
Bubbly lather 22
Creamy lather 31

As you will notice all of the qualities fall within the suggested range nicely.  This soap recipe will give you a balanced overall bar of soap.

When selecting your body safe fragrance oil, please take the time to review the CP soap results.  We have a link with all of our fragrance oils listed alphabetically with the CP results:

http://www.naturesgardencandles.com/mas_assets/pdf/fragrtest.pdf

Good Luck and remember, once you feel confident with your testing recipe, it is time to break the mold and explore the realm of crafting your own soap recipe.  Soap that is completely made by scratch, every ingredient controlled by you!

A very informative class has been created to help you find exactly which ingredients you may want to consider using in your recipe.  Here is the link:

http://www.naturesgardencandles.com/mas_assets/pdf/soapoils.pdf

As you looking at all of the various fats/oils/butters that are capable for soaping recipes, jot down or note any of interest.

In the next class, we will review how to use the soap calculator!

Soap Terminology

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Below is a list of some common terms used when soaping.  Although we tried our hardest to ensure that all important soaping terms are defined, this is by no means a complete soaping dictionary.

Absolute-

Derived from plants through a method of extraction involving solvent, this term refers to the highly aromatic, concentrated oil that is extracted.

Additives-

Ingredients that can be added to processed soap, which are not included in the original recipe which was used to calculate the SAP value for lye purposes.  This additive category would include all ingredients with the exceptions of: lye, water, soaping oils, butters, and fats.  This means that additives would describe the addition of fragrance oil, soap colorant, optiphen, vitamin E, herbs, clays, etc.  Note:  If you have a superfat recipe, any leftover or excess oils, butters, or fats, not saponified by the lye solution would also be considered an additive.

Alkali-

Any compound with a pH higher than 7.  Alkali is also referred to as a base.  Both sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are alkalis (or bases).

Allergen-

An element that can cause an allergic reaction (irritation, redness, swelling, discomfort) in one person, but does not adversely affect another.

Anhydrous-

Not containing any water.

Anti-bacteria-

The ability to fight off bacteria successfully.

Anti-oxidant-

Natural or synthetic elements that have the ability to decrease oxidation, preventing breakdown or spoilage.

Anti-septic-

The ability to fight or decrease an infection topically (on the skin), by restricting the growth of microorganisms.

Aromatherapy-

The use of certain fragrance or essential oils that can reform a person’s mood or actions.

Aromatic-

Being odoriferous, having a strong odor; usually found as a pleasant scent.

Astringent-

An element with the capability to pull together or constrict skin tissues (or pores), concurrently restricting the flow of natural secretion from the skin.

Base-

Also known as an alkali; any substance with a pH level higher than 7.  Both sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are bases (or alkalis).

Botanical-

Directly from or related to plant or plant life.

Carrier Oil-

A substance that is used to dilute a fragrance or essential oil so that it is safe for use on the body.  Carrier oils can also refer to an oil that is used to carry the fragrance out in a product like roll on perfume.  Oils used in this way typically do not have a very strong scent, ie: sweet almond oil.

Castile Soap-

Originally denoting an olive oil soap bar; which was named for the region in Spain where it originated.  This term now is commonly given to any soap containing 100% olive oil (no other soaping oil used in the recipe).

Caustic-  

Usually a term to describe a very strong acid or base, this refers to a substance that by means of a chemical reaction will breakdown or destroy other elements under certain conditions.  Caustic material is very dangerous especially to elements containing water such as organic tissue.  An example of a caustic ingredient is sodium hydroxide (lye).

Cold Process Soap Making-

The term cold process is actually attributed to the fact that there is no outside heating source required for saponification; the lye mixture itself heats and saponifies the oils.  This process, abbreviated as CP, involves diluting lye into distilled water to form a lye solution.  This lye solution is then added to melted oils/fats/butters and stirred.  After trace is present, other additives such as fragrance and herbs may be added.  Batter is then poured into molds.  Insulation of molds is required.  Within 24 hours, the soap is solid enough to be removed from the mold and cut, exposing more soap area to oxidation.  For a time period of 4-6 weeks, the soap must complete the saponification process.  During this time, any excess lye and water is evaporated out, creating a milder and harder bar of soap.  Note:  Using a CP bar of soap that still has active lye will irritate and burn the skin.  A pH strip test is the best way to test if your soaps are safe to use.

Cold Process Oven Process Soap Making-

This soaping process; usually referred to as CPOP, involves diluting lye into distilled water to form a lye solution.  This lye solution is then added to melted oils/fats/butters and stirred.  After trace is present, other additives such as fragrance and herbs may be added.  Batter is then poured into molds.  The molds are then placed into a 170 degree oven for 1- 2 1/2 hr.  Within 24 hours, the soap is solid enough to be removed from the mold and cut, exposing more soap area to oxidation.  To ensure milder and harder bars of soap, the soap is then cured for 2-4 weeks.  Note:  Using a CP bar of soap that still has active lye will irritate and burn the skin.  A pH strip test is the best way to test if your soaps are safe to use.

Cosmetic Grade-

Available in different grades which are priced accordingly, this refers to ingredients that are safe for use on the body or in cosmetics.

Cure-

The time period that it takes to saponify soap so that there is no longer any active lye present.

D&C-

D & C is the abbreviation for drug and cosmetics.  If something is approved as D&C safe, then it can be used for cosmetics or in drugs.

Deodorize-

This term refers to the removal of a scent from something.  Within soaping reference, many soaping oils are deodorized to take away their natural scent.  Using deodorized soaping oils is one way to keep your fragrance true to their original aroma.

Detergent-

This agent has cleansing benefits and performs very similar to soap.  However, detergent is made from chemical compounds other than the fats/oil/butters and lye (like soap).  When a detergent is found in the ingredients list of a product, it must be labeled as a cosmetic product under the specific guidelines of the FDA.

Dreaded Orange Spots-

These spots occur in processed soaps that contain are large amount of soaping oils that have turned rancid.  These spots are orangish, brownish, beigeish in color.  It is believed that they are  caused by using soaping oils which are old.

Embeds-

Embeds refer to pieces of soap that are placed into the processing soap during the light trace stage.

Emollient-

Refers to having certain properties that are both soothing and softening to the skin.

Emulsifying Wax-

This is an emulsifier (a product that allows water based ingredients and oil based ingredients to bind together) used in hair and skin care. Emulsifying wax is used in skincare recipes to allow for thick creams.

Emulsion-

This is when two liquids which normally would not blend together, are blended together (oil/water).  Typically, the process involves an emulsifier (a product that allows water based ingredients and oil based ingredients to bind together).

Essential Oil-

Natural volatile oils that are extracted through various means from plant matter.  Extraction could take place by means of:  Distillation, expression, or the use of chemical solvents.

Exfoliate-

An additive that is added to processed soap that allows for the removal of dirt and debris from the skin, as well as, the removal of dead skin cells themselves, for healthier skin.

Exothermic- 

A term referring to the heat that is produced and released when a chemical reaction occurs. Examples of an exothermic reaction would be when lye is added to water or when the lye solution is added to the oils and butters.

Extract-

For essential oils, this is when the oil can be extracted from the plant without the use of any chemical solvents.  This is the most pure, concentrated form of an essential oil.

F,D&C-

F,D&C is the short abbreviation for Food, Drug, and Cosmetics.  If something is F,D&C approved, that means that it is a safe ingredient for use in food, drug, and cosmetics.

Fatty Acids-

Fatty acids are compounds either saturated or unsaturated, that are found in all fats and butters.  The fatty acids are what is responsible for giving your soap bars conditioning, creamy lather, bubbles, hardness, and cleansing ability.

Fixed Oils-

These are oils such as olive, palm, and coconut, that can be heated without evaporating.

Flash Point-

The possible lowest temperature that will inflame the vapors of a liquid when introduced to a source of ignition.  Flashpoints are available for every fragrance and essential oil that Natures Garden carries.  They are located in three places, on the website under the fragrance information,  on the specific MSDS sheets, as well as on the fragrance labels themselves.  Fixed oils also have a flashpoint.

Fragrance Oil-  

The blended combination of essential oils, synthetic aroma chemicals, and resins to produce a liquid that is extremely aromatic. Certain scents can only be derived synthetically such as Strawberry, Coconut, Banana, Mango (to name just a few) because these particular aromas cannot be made into essential oil form.

Gel Phase-

A possible phase of saponification, since not all soap batches will do this; occurring in the beginning of the process, this refers to the short period of time when the soap batter transforms to a warm clear gel.  This gel will then slowly return to being opaque, but it will also be a little bit more solid and cooler.

Glycerin-

A natural emollient and humectant, glycerin is a product of processed soap.  It is also often removed from commercial brands soaps and used to created creams and lotions.

Hot Process Soap Making-

This soaping process, generally referred to as HP, has steps very similar to the CP soap steps, but varies in that you are adding heat to the equation to speed up the saponification process. The heat sources are usually a crock pot or stovetop.  The HP process includes: making your lye water mixture, adding your oils to the heat source, blending the lye water and oils together, stir, cook, stir, stir, stir, add fragrance/ additives, stir some more. With this process, it is not until the soap batter is closer to a solid than a liquid that it is scooped and packed into a mold. Since the saponification process has already completed from the heat, there is no need to insulate your mold.  Although a cure time for these soaps is not required, to get a milder and harder bar of soap, a cure time of 1 week is advised.  The final soap bars will have a very rustic appeal.

Humectant-

An ingredient that not only attracts water from the environment, but also aids the skin in absorbing the water as well.

Hydrating-

Something that provides moisture or water to the skin.

Hydrogenated Oil-

An oil that has the addition of hydrogen added to it to make it a solid or semi solid at room temperature.  The process of hydrogenation helps to decrease the chance of oils turning rancid.

INCI Name-

Mandatory for labeling in the US and Canada, the INCI names were created to ensure that all ingredients would be listed the same on various cosmetic products.  This also allows for ease on consumers when comparing ingredient lists on cosmetics.  INCI stands for International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient.

Infusion-

Taking an additive such as a herb, and allowing it to steep in a liquid to extract the herb’s beneficial aspects.

Insoluble-

This means not able to be dissolved.  Oils/Butters/Fats will not dissolve in water.

Irritant-

Much like an allergen, irritants cause disturbing and painful reactions to skin.

Lye-   

Essential to the saponification process, lye is a caustic base.  Lye can also be referred to as either sodium hydroxide (used to make bar soaps) or potassium hydroxide (used to make liquid soaps).

Lye Discount-

The method of purposely decreasing the amount of lye that should be included in a soaping recipe.

Melt and Pour Soap Making-

This soaping process, usually referred to as M&P, involves using soap that has already gone through the saponification process.  The pre-fabricated soap base only needs a few steps before use.  First, the slabs are cut and melted down into a liquid form in order to add any fragrance, color, or additives.  Once this is complete, the liquid must be poured into a mold where it will harden.  The soap is finished and can be used once it has hardened and is popped out of the mold.  Since this process does not include the use of lye, no cure time is needed.

Melting Point-

The temperature at which a soaping oil will turn from a solid to a liquid, or starts melting.

MSDS-

The abbreviation of Material Safety Data Sheet.  These sheets contain all of the relevant information of a specific material.

Natural-

Anything that is of the earth, not containing any manmade or synthetic additions to its makeup.

Nutrient-

Within the realm of soap making, this refers to anything that is beneficial or has favorable advantages for the skin.

Organic-

Without the additions of anything man made or chemically altered, this term denotes anything that was once living.

pH scale-

A form of measurement for the acidity or alkalinity of a substance in ratio to water.  Ranging from 0-14, the lower the number, the more acid it is.  The higher the number, the more alkaline.  A pH of 7 will denote neutral (water has the pH of 7).  Processed soap will have a pH of 8.5-10.5 when cured completely.

pH strip-

Litmus paper containing water soluble dyes that when dipped into a liquid or set on a bar of soap will show a color.  The color is then compared to a chart to find the pH level.

Photosensitizers-

A substance that once used on the skin will make the skin super sensitive to the sun or to sunlight;  increasing the chance of a sunburn in some people.

Preservative-

An ingredient that is added to a substance that will prevent the breakdown and spoilage from microbial growth.

Potassium Hydroxide-

Symbolized as KOH, this is used for lye solution of gel or liquid soaps.  Also known as caustic potash.  This ingredient is a very strong base with a pH of 14.  Note:  The SAP values of your recipes fats/butters/oils will vary depending on whether you are using sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH).

Rancidity-

The breakdown or spoilage of oils/butters/fats used in soaping.  Often, there is a stale or off smell due to the decomposition of the oil/butter/fat.

Rebatch-

Considered a do- over in the soap making process, this process involves the use of soap that was already crafted through CP or HP.  The processed bars are grated down and melted with a heat source, usually a crock pot, but other sources are used as well.  A liquid, like water or milk, is added to help prevent scorching of the soap shavings.  If a rebatch is being done due to an error, the correcting elements are added too.  The rebatch heats for 1 hour.  Once it is in a thick liquid form, any additives such as color, fragrance, or herbs, are added.  The thick batter is scooped out and molded.  Once cooled completely, the soap is removed, cut, and cured as usual.  Rebatching is generally done for two main reasons.  The first is to correct a soaping error or seize.  The second is for the addition of additives that may not survive or react badly during the saponification with active lye.  An example of these temperamental additives would be natural exfoliates.

Refined oils-

These are oils that have been filtered, removing any impurities in the oils.

Safety Equipment-

A category for all of the equipment used to keep one safe during the soaping process.  This equipment includes but is not limited to:  Safety goggles and/or face shield, rubber gloves,  a face mask, aprons, etc.  This category would also include items like protective coverings for work areas, fire extinguishers, bottles of neutralizing substances (such as vinegar for lye spills), first aid kit, etc.

Saponification-  

This is the process of the chemical reaction that the lye solution and oils/fats/butters go through when making soap.  Saponification produces both soap and glycerin.  Glycerin naturally occurs as a byproduct of this chemical reaction.

SAP Value-

The abbreviation for Saponification Value.  This refers to the number of milligrams of lye that is needed to completely saponify one gram of a specific oil/fat/butter in a soap recipe.  Note:  The SAP values of your recipes fats/butters/oils will vary depending on whether you are using sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH).

Seize-

A term referencing the condition of the soap batter when saponification has occurred enough that the batter is no longer a liquid, and has started to solidify.  This occurs while mixing together the ingredients of a soap recipe when the batter becomes too thick to mix easily or pour into a mold.

Soap Measurements-

Soap Measurements are measured in weight, not volume.

Soda Ash-

Sometimes forming on processed soaps, this powdery substance has no direct negative effect on soap bars.  Soda ash can be cut or wiped off bars.  Insulating soaps while in the mold will help prevent soda ash.  Soap that has soda ash can be sprayed with rubbing alcohol to improve the appearance of your soap.

Sodium Hydroxide-

Symbolized as NaOH, this is used for lye solution of solid bar of soap.  Also known as caustic soda.  This ingredient is a very strong base with a pH of 14.  This is the component that is interchanged with KOH (Potassium hydroxide) for saponifying gel or liquid soap recipes.  Note:  The SAP values of your recipes fats/butters/oils will vary depending on whether you are using sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH).

Soluable-

A substance that can be dissolved in a liquid.

Superfat-

This term involves purposely adding an excess of soaping oils or fats to your batter that are not included in your calculated recipe for lye saponification.  This is done to intentionally make your soap bars richer in soaping categories such as creaminess, moisturizing, bubbles, etc.

Surfactant-

A substance that reduces the surface tension of a liquid when it is dissolved.  In soap, surfactants allow for the dirt and impurities to be rinsed off of the skin.

Synthetic-

Something that is created chemically.  Not natural.

Tallow-

Rendered from animals, this is the hard fatty substance used for soap making.

Trace-

This term references the stage in the soaping process where the batter begins to thicken because of the saponification process. You will know if your soap batter is at trace by drawing up some of the batter with your spoon to see if it leaves any trails on top.  If the lines in the batter disappear, the batter is not in full trace.  If the lines stay visible on the surface, then your batter has traced.

Vegan-

Products that are produced without the use of any animal ingredients or animal parts.  If a product contains tallow/lard/beeswax, it cannot be vegan.

Volcano Effect-

This term describes when water is added to lye, WHICH SHOULD NEVER BE DONE!  The top layer of the lye starts to dissolve from the chemical reaction with the water.  Immediately, the water starts dissolving and releasing heat.  The heat causes a hard crust to form, and the water starts evaporating.  The lye that is below the crust remains dry, and untouched by the water.  As more water is added, pressure starts to build from the dissolving and heat release.  The crust ruptures from this pressure and force, causing the dry lye, partially dissolved lye, steam, and boiling water to spew out the top resembling and active volcano eruption.  ALWAYS ADD LYE TO WATER!

Volatile-

Oils that will evaporate quickly under normal temperatures.

Water Discount-

The method of purposely decreasing the amount of water that should be included in a soaping recipe.  Doing so will accelerate trace and the saponification process.  Not recommended for newbie soapers.

Soaping Abbreviations:

-KOH: Potassium hydroxide

-NaOH: Sodium hydroxide

-H20: water

-TD: Titanium Dioxide

-DHHP: Direct Heat Hot Process

-HP: Hot Process

-CP: Cold Process

-MP: Melt & Pour

-B&B: bath and body

-SB: Stick Blender (or shea butter)

-FO: Fragrance Oil

-EO: Essential Oil

-ISO : In Search Of (or in reference to isopropyl alcohol)

-SS : Skin Safe

-OOB: out of the bottle

-CPHP: Crock Pot Hot Process

-CPOP: Cold Process Oven Process

-DWCP, DW: Discounted Water Cold Process

-OHP: Oven Hot process

-DBHP : double boiler hot process

-DHHP : direct heat hot process

-MWHP : microwave hot process

-RT: Room temp

-AVG:  Aloe Vera Gel

-SAP:  Saponification values

-DOS:  Dreaded Orange Spots

-AO:   Animal Oil

-PKO: Palm Kernal Oil

-OMH: Oatmeal Milk & Honey

-OM: Oatmeal

-GM: Goats’ Milk

-CM: Coconut Milk

-PKF: palm kernel flakes

-EVOO: Extra virgin olive oil

-OO: olive oil

-SAO: Sweet Almond Oil

Soap Making Safety

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Natures Garden takes safety seriously.  When it comes to crafting soap, protective gear is mandatory.  It is also just as important to have a safe and clean work environment. 

Before even getting started making soap, ensure that you have all of your ingredients in your work area.  Being prepared is one key factor in successful crafting.   Once you get started, it is vital that you stay in your work area.  Leaving certain ingredients such as lye out in the open can lead to very serious and dangerous situations.  While you are prepping your area, it is also important to make sure that you have the proper soaping equipment, and it is in working order.  Be sure to check the batteries on your scales to be certain they do not need changed before beginning the soap making process.

During the soap making process it is very important that you do not rush.  Since soap making is a science, and you will want to ensure that everything is measured out exactly.  Soap recipes are measured by weight units, not volume units.  In other words, if a recipe calls for 8 oz. of coconut oil, you will need to weigh out 8 oz. of coconut oil on your scales.  Take your time and move methodically.  The best way to work is in an organized fashion.  It is also very important that while you are making soap you are able to concentrate and work uninterrupted.

Safety gear for you from head to toe:

  • Hair should be tied back and away from your face.
  • Protective eye gear or safety goggles should be worn at all times to prevent anything from getting into your eyes.
  • Shirts should be long sleeve.
  • Rubber Gloves should be worn during the whole soaping process.
  • Pants should also be worn.
  • Shoes must be worn.  Nothing that is open toed or leaves any portion of your feet exposed.
  • A facial mask is suggested for the mixing of the water and lye.
  • Always wear an apron.

Safety gear for your work environment:

  • Cover your work area with a protective layer ( like several layers of newspaper, or old towels/blankets)
  • Prepare a Spray bottle filled with vinegar

Equipment:

Once these tools have been designated as your soaping materials and used, they can never be used for anything but soap making.  We advise that you clearly mark everything and keep it separated from your other kitchen utensils.  As a suggestion:  If your work area is in your home, large storage containers with lids work wonderfully for storage.  Using a large storage tote provides you the benefit of having all of your items and equipment in one place, as well as, the capability of removing the storage tote and placing it in a lesser traveled area of your home such as the basement.

  • Proper containers for weighing out recipe (heavy duty plastic or stainless).  Fragrance oils can eat right through certain plastics.  PET and HDPE are the best plastics when working with fragrance and essential oils. NEVER use anything composed of aluminum!
  • Thermometer
  • Towels
  • Stick Blender
  • Mixing utensils (rubber or stainless steel). Wood will break down over time and can eventually leave splinters in your soap batter.
  • Scale
  • Notebook & pen
  • Paper Towels or old rags
  • Mold for soap
  • Freezer paper
  • Spatulas (rubber, silicone works the best)
  • Old blanket or towel for insulation purposes
  • Large containers for the blending of the oils and lye solution (heavy duty plastic or stainless steel).  Never use glass to mix your lye solution; it can crack and break.
  • A permanent black sharpie marker to mark every piece of equipment you use “CAUTION-LYE”.  After you use this equipment to make soap, you will never be able to use them for food-contact again.

Lye:

The most dangerous aspect in the soap making process is Lye; Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) is the lye used for bar soaps, and Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) is the lye used to make liquid soaps.  NaOH is also referred to as caustic soda; while KOH is referred to as Caustic potash. Essential to the saponification process, lye is used with distilled water to make your lye water solution.  It is extremely important that you are in a well ventilated area while working with lye.  If you have small children or pets, you may want to consider doing this portion outside or in a garage.  Regardless of where you choose to mix your lye water solution, it is advisable to remove all pets and children from the area where you will be working with lye.  It is estimated that 5,000 accidental lye ingestions occur each year by children under 5 years of age.

Lye can lead to death if ingested, so it is best not to take any chances.  In fact, ingestion of bases such as NaOH (lye) produce the most significant injuries to our bodies.

If ingested, seek medical help immediately.  Do not induce vomiting unless directed by medical personnel or poison control.  Milk or water may be given to the person unless informed otherwise by medical personnel.  Do not give the person milk or water if they are unconscious, vomiting, having convulsions, or if the person is showing a decreased level of alertness.  Loosen any restricting clothing such as ties, collars, belts, buckles.

The phone number for the National Poison Control Center is 1-800-222-1222 (US only).  The National Poison Control Center can also be contacted in non-emergency situations such as Poison Prevention.  The center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The lye solution is made up of lye and distilled water.  Because the solution is a chemical reaction, it has an exothermal reaction.  This means that heat is given off as the chemical breakdown occurs.  One tip that we learned is to divide the amount of grams of water you need for your recipe between water and ice cubes.  This will help reduce the lye solution temperature so that you are able to begin making soap faster.  The solution, even with ice water, will still be very hot.  Be cautious.

Before you begin the soap making process, be certain that you are wearing protective gear:  Protective safety glasses, a mask, gloves, an apron, shoes, a long sleeve shirt, pants, and shoes that cover your entire feet (nothing open toed).  Have your pets and children away from your soaping area.  Now, let’s get started.

Using two separate, heavy duty plastic containers, weigh out your lye according to your recipe in one of the containers, then weigh out your water in the other container.  Slowly pour the lye into the water.  Never ever pour the water into the lye!  You do not want to pour the entire lye amount directly into the water either.  It is best if you slowly sprinkle the lye into your water and constantly mix until the lye has dissolved in the water.  Your water solution will become cloudy at first, and then you should begin to see the lye dissolving into the water as you mix.  Be extremely careful with this step.  Adding too much lye too fast will cause a volcano/boiling effect, and anything that the mixture touches can be damaged.

Do not mix your lye solution in glass.  Glass can explode leaving your hazardous lye solution everywhere.  Absolutely never use aluminum containers or aluminum tools for lye solution.  Lye reacts with aluminum to produce a highly flammable hydrogen gas.  It is best if you use a stainless steel or a heavy duty plastic container for mixing your lye solution.   Note:  Certain plastics will breakdown after repeated usage.

Mixing these two elements together is crucial to your solution.  If you do not mix it completely, the lye will crystallize at the bottom of your container, and in the next step, your solution will not complete the saponification process of the oils.  As you stir, you will notice two things; the water will become cloudy and get very hot.  You can stop mixing once the lye solution becomes clear.  Note:  Sometimes, there will be pieces of white debris that is floating on top of your lye solution.  These are simply impurities, and can be strained or sieved out before pouring your lye solution into your soaping oils.  They will not hurt your soap.

Stand as far away from the mixture as possible, while still being able to mix it.  Lye can give off fumes during this reaction that are extremely hazardous and should not be inhaled.  Lye will do quite a number on your mucus membranes, irritating your throat and lungs.  It is also mandatory that you wear safety goggles for this step.  You do not want to get any lye or lye water solution in your eyes.  This can lead to serious and permanent damage.

If while mixing your lye solution, any portion spills or splashes in your eyes: Remove any contact lenses.  Start flushing your eyes with cold water immediately.  Repeat this for 15 minutes.  Do not rub your eyes.  Seek medical help.

If while mixing your lye solution, any portion spills or splashes on your skin, start flushing with cold water immediately.  Remove any clothing that may have the lye solution on it.  Keep flushing and rinsing affected skin for 15 minutes.  Spray your skin with vinegar to help neutralize any lye solution that is left on your skin. Seek medical help.  When lye comes in contact with your skin, it literally begins making soap from the natural oils found in your skin.  This is why you will notice that hands that have been exposed to lye solution will feel greasy when washing them.

If you have a serious interaction with the lye solution on your skin:  Wash the affected area of your body immediately with disinfectant soap and water.  Cover the area with anti-bacterial cream.  Seek medical help immediately.

While waiting for your lye solution to cool down, it is important that it is set in a safe place.  Do not put it near anything that is heat sensitive, since many times the temperature of the solution is over 200 degrees.  You will also want to keep a visual on it for several reasons such as accidental ingestion, outside particles coming into contact with it, referencing the degrees, crystallization of lye at the bottom, pets knocking it over, etc.

Having several vinegar spray bottles in your work area, while making soap, is a very smart idea.  If you only have one vinegar spray bottle, you will want to keep it close to you at all times.  Vinegar is one way to neutralize the caustic lye.  If a spill should happen, spray ample amounts of vinegar on contaminated area.  With hot, soapy water, wash area well.  Rinse and repeat.  Use paper towels to dry.

Rubber gloves as well as protective eye gear should be worn through the whole soap making process.  Even after the lye solution has been added to the oils, it is still a caustic mixture.  Spilling or splashing any portion of this on your skin can leave a serious burn.

Melting your oils:

Some of the oils that are used in soap making are hard and need to be melted down into a liquid form before they can be weighed out.  This can be done in various ways such as:  microwave, double boiler, hot water bath, the sun, etc.  It is very important that if you do use heat like the stovetop, that you never leave oils unattended.  If the oils became too hot, you risk burning the oils.  Burnt oils cannot be used for soap making.  Also, another stovetop safety tip:  Always make sure the handles of the pots are pointed away from the edge of the stove.  You do not want someone accidentally knocking your pots over, or even worse, children spilling hot oils on themselves.

The Clean Up:

It is important to keep your gloves, safety goggles, and apron on.  Until the area is completely neutralized and cleaned, you do not want to take any chances.

Since soap making is caustic you will want to ensure that your work area is properly cleaned when you are finished making your soaps.  We recommend that the first step in cleaning is to neutralize the area first with vinegar.  The next step will be to wipe the area down with hot soapy water, then rinse.

When washing your soaping utensils/equipment, you will also want to use hot soapy water.  Since the lye solution will still be caustic you will also want to add vinegar to your soapy water to neutralize this.  Rinse and dry your utensils and equipment.  Store all soaping supplies together and out of the reach of children and pets.

If you have designated rags specifically for soaping, you will want to wash them by hand.  Once you are finished with your soaping rags, place them in a vinegar and water solution to soak.  This will neutralize any active lye.  Once they have soaked for awhile, place the rags in hot soapy water and give them a good jostle, making sure that the soapy water is thoroughly getting all over the rag.  Then let the rags soak a little while longer.  Then, get rid of the soapy water, and rinse the rags out.  You know all of the soap is off once the bubbles stop forming and the water rinsing through the rag is clear.  Wring out any excess water, and hang dry.  Place with other soaping materials when finished.

Disposal of lye solution:

If your work area has a septic tank, you do not want to pour it down the drain or flush it down the toilet.  The best suggestion that we have is to use your lye solution in a “false batter”.  Mix your lye solution with vegetable oil.  You are looking for just the right amount to get trace when you stick blend it.  Once trace is established, simply take your spatula, and dump it right into a garbage bag.  Allow the soap batter to set up, then take it to your trash container and dispose of it.   Do not attempt to dispose of the soap batter while it is still fluid; the bag could break and spill the soap batter all over your garbage container.

Checking your soap for pH safety:

There are various ways to check your cured or curing bars for their safety of use.  You never want to use or sell a bar of soap that has not cured completely.  An uncured bar means that there is still active lye solution in your soap.  Washing with this soap could result in very serious skin irritation and even burns.

The first and best way to check whether your cp bars are cured is to pH strip them.  Using this method is concrete.  If the number that you get from the pH strip does not fall between the correct range, then, the soap still needs a little more cure time.

The pH scale ranges from 0-14.  The pH scale measures the amount of acidity or alkalinity a substance has.  If the number falls between 0-6, then your substance is an acid.  If the number falls between 8-14, then your substance is a base.  If the number is 7, then it is a neutralized substance.

Soap is a base, because of the lye solution used.  The range that you are seeking to see if your cp bars have cured is 8.5-10.5.  Please note that the 10.5 pH level is for that of industrial strength soap.  8.5 is the typical ph for homemade soap that is used on the body.

The second way to check your soap for active lye is to wash your hands with the soap.  We only advise this if you are sure that the majority of the cure process has already taken place.  If there is any active lye left, you will have a greasy feel on your hands that will seem to not want to wash away.  Even if you wash your hands with another bar of cured soap, the greasy feel will still be there.  Your hands will also tingle or burn.  This is because the active lye from the high pH bar is saponifying the natural oils in your skin.  This soap bar would still need more cure time.

The final way to check if your cp bars are cured is to do a “tongue test”, or a “zap test”.  This involves sticking your tongue on the bar of soap.  If it zaps your tongue (just like a 9V battery does), then your soap still has active lye and needs to complete the curing process.

Natures Garden does not advise the tongue test as a way to check a curing bar of soap.  Lye is extremely caustic and does serious damage to our bodies.   Why take the chance on active lye, when you can use a pH strip and get a safe result?

If you plan to resell your handcrafted soap (after testing for a long time), please follow the FDA guidelines on how to label your product.  We will discuss product labeling in a future class.  In the mean time…Happy Safe Soaping!

Soap Making: Where Do I Start?

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

M&P soap, CP soap, CPOP soap, HP soap, which method is right for you?

For the next few weeks, we at Natures Garden will be writing a series devoted to soap making.  We hope that you find this series informative and that it may help to answer any unresolved questions in your mind when it comes to making soap.

The first decision you need to make before you start making soap is what soap you want to make.

Just so that everyone is starting off on the same base, a general definition for soap is:  an emulsified product of an alkali treated fat yielding a cleansing agent.

There are 4 different types of soap making.  They are M&P (melt and pour), CP (cold process), HP (hot process), and CPOP (cold process oven process).  Each group has its own pros and cons.   Each process differs in varying ways, but there are two similarities that all of the groups share:  Each group’s process has already gone through, or must go through the chemical reaction of saponification.  And, each process results in finished soap.

MP soap

One of the greatest advantages of melt and pour soaps is that the actual soap making chemical process (lye process) has already be completed; technically making this a ready-made product.  When working with M&P, you are dealing with soap that essentially only needs melted, fragranced, colored, and molded.

For precautionary reasons, this is a perfect soap making process for anyone with small children or pets, since the process does not require working with lye.  Melt and pour soap is also a great place to start if you have never made soap before.  The steps are very simple.  Melt the soap, add color, add fragrance, and, place in mold to harden.  That is it!  There is no cure time.  Soap bars are able to be used once they are popped out of the mold.  Coloring M&P soap is also very predictable.  Unlike the other soap making processes, the color that your liquid soap is before you pour it in the mold, will be the same color of your finished bars.  There is no color morphing since that soap has already been saponified.

Melt and Pour soap is also known as glycerin soap.  Glycerin is a natural by-product of the chemical reaction of lye and water.  Having glycerin as a component in your M&P soap is very beneficial because glycerin is not only an emollient keeping the moisture in your skin, but it is also considered a humectant- absorbing the moisture from the air so that the skin does not dry out.  Additives such as herbs and exfoliates can also be added to M&P soap, resulting in bars that can do various things for your skin.

This is a very forgiving soap for error.  If soap hardens too quickly, it can always be re-melted in the microwave or by using a double boiler.  Since M&P is very pliable you can safely handle the soap without the worry of being burned by lye; forming swirls and other shapes.  This process is very cost effective, and allows for you to have a healthier bar of soap for your skin than any store bought brand that has had the glycerin stripped from it.

The cons of M&P soaps are that you do not have direct control of all of the ingredients in your soap.  Melt and Pour soap can also easily burn during the heating process so you will want to watch it closely.  Because glycerin is the most prominent ingredient, your M&P bars are softer and tend to not last as long as the other processed bars of soaps.  This is because glycerin is quick dissolving in water.  Aesthetically speaking, due to its humectant tendencies, this soap is very prone to sweating (or beading).

CP soap

Cold process soap is generally accepted as the most commonly used process by soap crafters.  The term cold process is actually attributed to the fact that there is no outside heating source required for saponification; the lye mixture itself heats and saponifies the oils.

The CP process includes making a lye water mixture, melting your oils, blending the lye water and oils together- bringing it to a very light trace, adding fragrance and/or color, and molding.  For the first 24 hours, your soap molds need to be insulated with towels or blankets.  After 24 hrs, the soap can be cut and laid out to cure.

If you are not a patient person, then one downfall of CP soaping is the cure time.  This averages 4-6 weeks before the soap is safe to use.  During the cure time a lot occurs.  Any residual lye is counteracted by saponification. This cure time is needed to make soap milder on your skin.  Any excess water is evaporated out, allowing for a nice hard bar of soap.  The soap bars have to be manually rotated and flipped so that air touches all of the sides.  It is also during this time that soda ashing occurs.  This ash is not harmful, but it can be unsightly, especially if you have decorated the tops of your bars.

The biggest and most rewarding benefit of cold process soap is that you make it completely from scratch.  You control each and every aspect of the soap from beginning to end.  Because cold process soap directly relies on a chemical reaction to occur, ingredients and measurements have to be exact.  Each component of your cold process soap has a specific SAP value.  This value is the amount of lye needed to saponify each oil in your recipe.  Therefore, it is impossible to swap out anything or add anything once your lye water ratio has been figured out.  Adding a little too much lye can result in soap that is lye heavy.  This means that the ph level will be very high, and it could result in burns or irritation to your skin.  On the opposite end, adding too much oil can result in bars that are soft and greasy due to the unreacted oils.   CP recipes usually contain either palm oil or coconut oil, or both.  Their values in any recipe are generally 20-30%.  This is because these oils provide for a bar of soap that is gentle, lathers, and cleans.

With CP soaping it is very important to know how a fragrance oil will affect the mixture.  Some fragrance oils cause soap batter to accelerate trace, rice, discolor, or will seize the batch (become soap-on-a-stick).  Vice versa, there are also fragrance oils that do not adversely affect the soap batter, and allow for plenty of time to decorate.  Swirling is one decoration technique that requires soap batter that is slow to trace.  Trace can be affected by the actual soaping oils used in your recipe, the temperature of your lye solution, the temperature of your soaping oils, and by the fragrance oil you select.  This type of artistry provides an exclusive look that is almost impossible to duplicate again.  Columning and funneling can also be used with cp soap batter for a very unique look.

Since CP soap must undergo the saponification process, color morphing can become an issue.  FD&C or D&C dyes tend to morph (change color) in the presence of lye.  Oxides and ultramarines can withstand the high ph environment of the saponification process, and are much less likely to morph in CP soap.  Depending on the ingredients found in mica pigments, you will find some micas that do not morph in CP soap, and some that do.  To easily test to see if your color choice will morph in CP soap, you can always add a small amount of your color to a small amount of lye mixture and observe any changes.  This will save you the frustration of ruining an entire batch of soap that is colored a color you do not desire.

HP Soap

HP soaping is the second most popular process of crafting soap.  With this process you now have the control of what goes into the soap like CP provides with the ready-to-use-now element of M&P soaps.

Hot Process soap has steps very similar to the CP soap steps, but varies in that you are adding heat to the equation to speed up the saponification process.  The HP process includes: making your lye water mixture, adding your oils to the heat source, blending the lye water and oils together, stir, cook, stir, stir, stir, add fragrance/ additives, stir some more.  With this process, it is not until the soap batter is closer to a solid than a liquid that it is scooped and packed into a mold.  Since the saponification process has already completed from the heat, there is no need to insulate your mold.

This process is done in a crock pot or on a stove top.  Crock pots are recommended over stove tops because a crock pot allows for slow, even heating of the batter and it is less likely to scorch.  The most important key to remember when doing this method is to stir and stir often.  One of the biggest benefits of this heat addition is that it does not require a curing period.  Although, for harder, milder bars that will last longer, Natures Garden suggests that you allow these bars to cure for at least a week before using.

The finished soap bars of the hot process have a very rustic appeal.   The soap bars individually are not completely uniform in shape nor are they completely smooth.  This is due to the scoop and pack method of filling the molds.  Color morphing, like experienced in the CP method, can also be a problem.  Therefore, choosing colorants that can withstand high ph environments is a must when making HP soap. Getting uniform coloring throughout your bars of soap will be more challenging with HP than with CP.

CPOP Soap

Often dubbed as the best of both worlds, CPOP, or cold processed oven processed soap allows for cold processed soap to saponify quicker with the extra step of heat and therefore directly shortens the cure time.   This is a very good method for soap crafters who love to do CP without the long wait of cure time.

The CPOP method includes:  preheating your oven to 170 degrees F, making a lye water mixture, mixing your oils, blending the lye water and oils together- bringing it to a very light trace, adding fragrance and/or color, molding, baking for 1- 2 1/2 hrs, turn off the oven, and let it sit for 24 hours in oven.  Finally, remove, cut, and start the cure time of 4 weeks.  This cure time allows for milder, harder bars of soap that will last longer.

Visually, CPOP soap bars are very close to that of CP bars.  The only slight difference is that the tops of CPOP bars are not as smooth as CP ones.  CPOP soap can appear dry on top, but this can easily be remedied by spraying the tops of the soap with rubbing alcohol.

In summary, the first step to soap making is deciding which type of soap making process is right for you.  Natures Garden will have two different soap making kits that will further help you.  We currently carry a melt and pour soap kit, and very soon a CP soap making kit.  Each of these kits will allow you to experience soap making first hand.  How fun is that!