Different oils contribute different properties to a bar of soap. For example, tallow (rendered beef fat) makes a nice hard white bar of soap. This is a good property to have because hard soap lasts longer. Coconut oil can dry the skin but if used in combination with other oils that are more moisturizing, it will give the soap a lot of fluffy lather and be moisturizing. Here is a list of the most common types of fat/oils used in soapmaking and the properties they contribute to the bar of soap.
- Olive oil - moisturizing
- Canola - moisturizing but not as good as olive oil, when combined with olive oil it can reduce the overall cost of the oils.
- Tallow - hard bar of soap, medium lather, cheap fat to use, doesn't moisturize well, used a lot in commercial soap products.
- Lard - somewhat moisturizing, helps to make a white bar, makes a soft bar of soap so it is best when used with other oils.
- Palm Oil - makes a hard bar of soap, doesn't make nice lather nor does it moisturize so it is best used with other oils.
- Coconut - coconut is THE oil to use if you want fluffy lather. No other oil does it better. Best when used with a combination of other oils.
- Cocoa Butter - this is one of my favorite base oils! This is so moisturizing, makes a hard bar of soap and smells good enough to eat! Because it is so expensive, it is best used in combination with other oils.
There is a lot of information on the Internet about the properties of soapmaking oils. Do some Internet searches and I am sure you can find plenty of additional information.
Most of my soaps use a combination of oils. I use one combination for laundry soap, a different one for bath soaps, and a third combination for facial and moisturizing soaps. Today, we are going to make a bath soap. For bath soaps I use a combination of:
- Palm Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Cocoa Butter
- Olive Oil
- Canola Oil
Mixing the Base Oils
It is time to melt the oils. Oils are measured by weight. For example, if you use 5 lbs. of oils in any combination, you have a 5 lb batch of soap. The rest of the ingredients are not counted in the weight of the soap. Generally, I make my soap in 5 lb and 8 lb batches. If you search, I am sure you can find recipes on the Internet that measure by volume. My recommendation is to stick with a recipe that measures by weight. You are more likely to have a successful batch the first time if you measure by weight.
In order to combine all the oils together, you have to melt the ones that are solid at room temperature. For my soap, that means melting the palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter together first.
I purchase my coconut oil and palm oil in five gallon buckets because I use a lot of it. I purchase cocoa butter in 1 lb packages.
To prepare for melting, simply spoon out and place in a container. Weigh the container and continue adding oil until you have the correct weight for that type of oil. These are the pictures I took when measuring the palm oil. I don't wear my rubber gloves or goggles when measuring the base oils. They aren't needed when you are working with just the base oils.
Add the rest of the solid oils. Heat on low or medium low heat. When the oils have melted, stir well. This is what mine looked like.
For today's batch of soap, I am using an Almond scent. (This stuff is one of my favorite scents and smells fabulous!) Like the base oils, scent is added by weight. All I can give you is a rule of thumb because scent is so personal. I tend to scent on the heavy side. When I walk by my bathroom, I want to smell the bar of soap. I add one ounce of scented oil per pound of base oil. If I am making a 5 lb batch of soap, I will use 5 ounces of scented oil. If you would prefer not to smell the soap every time you walk by the bathroom door, you may want to use .5 ounces per pound of oil. In that case, for a 5 lb batch of soap you would add 2 1/2 ounces of scented oils. The synthetic scented oils and some of the essential oils can ruin the finish on your counter tops and are not good for your skin straight out of the bottle. You should cover the counter with some freezer paper and wear your rubber gloves when measuring the scented oils.
Once you weigh the scented oil, put it off to the side. You are not going to add it to the soapmaking pot until you add the lye water. If you want to add color, prepare the color now. That will be added after the lye water as well. I didn't add any color to this batch of soap.
It is also time to prepare the mold. I have two main molds I use. I have one for 5 lb batches and one for 8 lb batches. Tupperware makes an excellent soap mold. Be sure to get a container big enough to hold the entire batch. Don't split the soap batch between 2 or 3 different molds. Wood makes a nice mold too. I use the wood mold for 5 lb batches and the Tupperware mold for 8 lb batches. Both molds must be properly prepared to take the soap.
When I use the Tupperware mold, I grease it heavily with lard or Crisco oil (the solid Crisco oil). This works really well. When the soap is ready to cut, just a few pushes on the bottom of the Tupperware container will pop out the block of soap.
If you would like to use individual personal size molds, it would be best to cook the soap with the hot process method. Individual personal size molds don't work well with the cold process method I am demonstrating here. That is because for the cold processed soap to heat up sufficiently to have the chemical process turn it into soap, it needs a certain amout of mass. You can only get that if you put the entire batch in one mold.
Since I am making a 5 lb batch of soap, I will use my wood mold. It is best not to pour the soap directly into this mold. Over time, the lye will slowly eat at the wood. Also, since the mold isn't flexible enough to easily pop the soap out, I line my mold with freezer paper. The block of soap is is a breeze to remove when using the freezer paper.
Once the mold is prepared, check the temperatures of the oil and lye water. When they are both between 90 - 95 degrees, they are ready to mix.
You can see how that is done in Part III.
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