Making Soap

Nase is a big tough guy but he has sensitive skin, so a few years ago I started making my own fragrance free, colour free soap. It’s much gentler than commercial soap and it’s cheaper than buying fancy soap all the time. I got quite into it and we did not need to buy commercial soap for a couple of years. It is much gentler than commercial soap but the process uses caustic soda which is quite a nasty chemical so it fell by the wayside when I got pregnant. This week I ticked it off my list of things to start doing again. I used a new, simplified recipe from the Down To Earth Blog which uses olive oil and coconut oil in nice rounded amounts.  If worked out fine, but it’s much softer than my old combination of Olive Oil, Rice Bran Oil and Coconut Oil (which also came from Rhonda at Down To Earth) so I think next time I’ll go back to the old recipe. There are lots of great tutorials for soap making and what I make isn’t anything fancy so I won’t do a complete tutorial but I will share a few handy tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • All soap uses Caustic Soda. It’s a necessary part of the process. There is no need to fear it, just use common sense when your handling it.
  • Don’t leave your soap in the moulds too long, it will stick. Remove it while it’s still the texture of firm cheese. If it’s stuck, try putting it in the freezer for a couple of hours. Conversely, don’t take it out too early either, it won’t come out cleanly.  I make this mistake this time, you can see the messy cakes near the back of the picture It’s fine for us to use, but nice neat bars are handy for gifts and so much more satisfying to see lined up in the cupboard.
  • If you don’t have enough moulds 1L milk cartons work well. Just pour the soap in and when it’s firm rip the carton away and cut the soap into slices.
  • Copha is a cheap and easy to find alternative to coconut oil.
  • Different oils give your soap different properties and it’s tempting to get carried away with exotic combinations. Cut your teeth on a basic recipe with cheap oils first.  Better to waste a batch or two of cheap soap than come to tears over $50 worth of cocc0 butter-almond oil-jojoba-organic goats milk-virgins breath ingredients.
  • Don’t store your soap in an airtight container.  It needs air circulation to continue curing, a cooling rack is perfect.

Oil Combinations I Use

Every Day Soap
I used a different combination this time, but I’ll be going back to this recipe in future.

460g Olive Oil 600g Rice Bran Oil
440g Coconut Oil
570g Water
230g Caustic Soda
Down To Earth Soap Tutorial: This is an excellent step by step tutorial for a beginner.  

Shaving Soap
This is a more expensive recipe to make, but it’s excellent to shave with (mens faces and ladies legs too). I pour it into old tea cups, when Nase runs out he just grabs a fresh cup. A batch makes about 6 x 1/2 cups and lasts our house about 18 months.

300g Olive Oil
250g Coconut Oil
100g Castor Oil
50g Cocao Butter
50g Shea Butter
285g Water
107g Caustic Soda
2 Tablespoons Cosmetic Quality Clay Powder
Shaving Soap Tutorial

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