I sell my soaps at craft fairs just about every weekend (April-December) and I always get asked who makes the soap and where "you guys" are located. I smile and say there is no "you guys" just me! I make everything on the table. The lip balms, the lotions, and yes...the soap!
The cool thing about making soap, is that I can make something that cannot be found in most stores. Some of my more popular soaps have unusual ingredients like cucumbers, bananas, and beer. The other day, I took some pictures when I made a batch of my cucumber aloe soap. So, I will explain a bit how the magic works!
Making soap is simply following a recipe...just like you would follow a recipe to make a cake or an empanada. An accurate scale is a must. I first puree the cucumbers and measure out the aloe juice to mix with the lye (sodium hydroxide.)
You cannot make soap without lye...no matter what anyone says. No lye....no soap! When handling lye, you should be wearing protective goggles. If you were to get any in your eye, you risk serious injuries!
Then I mix the lye into the aloe juice and cucumber puree. I do this in the sink just in case of any spills...it is contained in the sink. The last thing you want is little bits of lye all over the kitchen.
While I was pureeing cucumbers and measuring out aloe juice, I melted all of my oils and butters. You can make soap with just one oil or twenty oils. It takes a bit of experimentation to come up with a recipe that you like.
Then I mix everything up with my trusty stick blender. You don't need a blender, you can use a spoon, but the stick blender speeds everything up.
I mix until the soap batter reaches trace. This simply means that the soap is mixed until the batter is thick and emulsified. I mix it until it is almost solid in the pot.
Most soapers pour the soap into a mold once they reach trace. I take things a step further and cook the soap in the oven. This is called "hot process." Basically, I am accelerating the chemical reaction by the addition of heat. This means that the soap is fully "saponified" and ready to use asap. Normally, If you don't add heat, the soap needs to sit for at least 4 weeks before use.
While the soap is cooking, I measure out my fragrance/essential oils and my "superfat" shea butter. Because the soap is fully saponified, the shea butter is not involved in the chemical reaction, and in theory, will be left free in the soap. This means that the soap will not overly dry you out!
Then I pour the soap into a mold. You can use just about anything for a mold...tupperware, a shoe box, silicone muffin pans, an empty carton of milk. You just need to properly line the mold, so your soap can be removed. Once the soap is hardened in the mold, you can take it out and slice.
Here is the soap sliced and ready to be labeled and wrapped. I always include all ingredients because some people may have certain allergens. I once met a woman who was allergic to olive oil!
Until next time, happy crafting!