Category Archives: soap safety

Apr
17

How to Rebatch

This entry was posted in bath and body, bath products, body safe fragrance oils, cold process soap, cold process soap scents, Fragrance Oils, homemade soap, how to rebatch, Natures Garden, soap ingredients, soap making recipes, Soap making supplies, soap safety and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on by .

rebatched soap How to Rebatch

Sometimes it is a hard pill to swallow, but when it comes to soaping, mistakes will be made, tears will fall, and you learn from your errors!

This week, we had a slight oversight.

All of our soaping ingredients were weighed out and ready for the combination and melt down.  We had the lye and water ready to make the lye mixture.  Everything else was prepped and ready to go.

We put on our safety gear and started the soap making procedure.  Everything seemed to be going flawlessly.  Our scent was perfect, the color combination was the spot on, and the soap batter poured beautifully into the mold.  It was soaping bliss.

Then, we started cleaning up.  That was when we found the sunflower oil.  It was still in its dish, waiting to be added to the soap recipe.  And, it was about 5% of our total soaping oils no less.

Devastated, it was now time to play the waiting game.  We had to wait for our beautiful soap to mold for at least 24 hours before it would be sturdy enough to remove it.

What resulted, after unmolding, was a gorgeous shade of green soap that broke into pieces when sliced.  Our soap was too lye heavy.  And, we knew this was because of the forgotten and overlooked sunflower oil.

One way to correct this soaping error was through rebatching.  Rebatching is almost like a do over for soap.  Although there are various reasons as to why you would rebatch, one of them is the fact that you can add an oil to your soap.  Our soaping oversight would be a perfect example to rebatch.

So, in order to save the 4 pound soap batch we had, we decided that we would take this opportunity to learn about rebatching and write a blog post on how to rebatch.  Although it was the very first time we ever attempted a rebatch, here is the process we did to show how to rebatch soap (pictures included).

Step 1:  Grate the soap.  This was no small feat for us.  In total, 4 pounds of soap took us about 45 minutes to do.

grating soap for rebatch

Step 2:  Melt the soap back down.  For this we selected to use our crock pot.  Since we had missed the first opportunity to add the sunflower oil, we did this now to the grated soap.

superfatting the rebatch

Step 3:  Stir.  Actually, this step is more like trying to rotate the soap.  Since you never want to scorch your soap when using a crock pot, this stir was more like a rotation of the soap within the crock pot.

melting the grated soap

Step 4:  Wait about 25-30 minutes, then check the soap again and stir/rotate.  The longer the soap melts, you will notice more of it becoming very gel like.

soap is still melting down

Step 5:  At this point, we noticed that the soap looked a little dry.  If this occurs, add a little water.

adding water to rebatch
Step 6:  Stir to disperse the water among all of the soap.

stirring the water through all of the soap
Step 7:  Wait for another 20 minutes or so, then give the soap a good stir.

a final good stir before rescenting
Step 8:  Add fragrance and stir.  Although we did scent the original batch, we wanted to rescent the rebatch for any scent that may have been lost through the saponification process and the reheating process.

rescenting and stirring one final time
Step 9:  Get your mold, and start to fill it with the soap.  Remember to tap your mold as you fill to reduce any bubbles that may be trapped in your soap.

molding your rebatch soap
Step 10:  Continue filling your mold and tapping it until all of the soap is out of the crock pot and into your mold.

molded rebatch soap
Step 11:  Insulate and wait.  The soap will need about 12 hours or so in the mold.  Once the time elapses, remove the soap from the molds and slice.

Our rebatched soap bars are awesome now.  They have a creamy full lather, and even better they don’t crumble and are actual bars!  Although the finished rebatch bars do have a rustic appeal, it kind of suits them.  Overall, this was a great learning experience, and we were able to save the 4 pound batch of soap.  Learning how to rebatch really was not difficult, and was well worth the effort in the end.

 

Aug
15

Soap Terminology

This entry was posted in how to make cold process soap, Natures Garden, soap oil properties, soap safety, soaping terms and tagged , , , , , on by .

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

Aug
10

Soap Making Safety

This entry was posted in crafts as a hobby, herb, homemade, Natures Garden Fragrance Oils, soap oil properties, soap safety and tagged , , , , , , , , on by .

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!