Making your own soap is not only fun, it is cost effective and you know exactly what goes in it meaning you avoid the exposure to harmful toxins that are contained in commercial soaps. Botanical Skin Essentials has quite a frightening list on their website of the ingredients that are used in soap https://www.botanicskinessentials.com/uncategorized/toxic-soap-ingredients/
I have quite sensitive skin and react to many commercial skin products so prefer to avoid them as much as I can.
The recipe I use is from Rhonda Hetzel’s book ‘Down to Earth a guide to simple living’ a fantastic book with loads of helpful hints that I am sure was common sense for my grandmother.
Caustic soda / lye is also know as Sodium hydroxide (NaOH). This is an inorganic compound and when activated in a solution it will burn the skin. If you splash yourself flush the area with copious amounts of cold water. These properties are removed from the soap as it cools and hardens.
- 460g Olive oil
- 600g Rice bran oil
- 440g Coconut oil
- 570ml rain water or tap water that has stood in a container for 24hrs to allow the chlorine to evaporate off. I use water straight from the water filter so it has had everything removed; living on the coast with an international airport less than 20 km away does not make the rain water pure!
- 230g Caustic soda
- Essential or fragrant oil (optional)
- Newspaper to cover your work area
- Soap moulds or resin cake mould or muffin pans, cardboard milk cartons also work – don’t use aluminium
- Stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan – don’t use aluminium
- Measuring jug
- Small bowl – don’t use aluminium
- Milk or candy thermometer
- Stick blender
- Ensure you have good ventilation in the area you intend to make the soap. The activation of the caustic soda and water has toxic fumes.
- Cover the work area in newspaper.
- Grease the soap moulds, I use coconut oil.
- Weigh all the oils into the saucepan and attach thermometer onto the side. Place on a low heat on the stove. Heat to 50 degrees; I use the Thermomix as it heats to the desired temperature.
- Carefully pour the caustic soda into the measuring jug with the water and carefully stir until the caustic soda is fully dissolved. Stand back as there will be fumes coming from the mixture as it heats up. Take care not to splash this on you, as it will burn. Allow this to sit and cool to 50 degrees.
- The oil mixture and caustic soda need to both be at 45 – 50 degrees. Pour the caustic soda mixture into the oil mixture taking care not to splash it.
- Mix with the stick blender for about 5-10 minutes. Keeping the stick blender under the surface will reduce splashing. The surface of the mixture should be smooth.
- When slight ripples form on the surface and remain there, stop mixing. This is the sign you look for that the soap has become stable and is ready to be poured into a mould. This is called the ‘trace’. At this stage the caustic soda is almost gone and shouldn’t burn your skin. However I don’t use the soap until it is completely hardened, this allows all the caustic soda to disappear.
- If you are going to add fragrance or colouring add it during the trace phase before pouring into moulds. I use essential oils and keep adding until I am happy with the strength. The heat will make some of the fragrance dissipate. I haven’t experimented with colouring but I do like the look of the products available on this website greenlivingaustralia.com.au. It is also possible to use powders like turmeric, cinnamon or cocoa. Food colouring is not suitable.
- Pour the mixture into the greased moulds. The mixture needs to cool slowly to avoid cracking, place a cutting board on the top and wrap it in a towel. Nothing cools rapidly in our climate so I don’t cover mine and have had no problems.
- Leave to sit for about 15 hours and then remove from the moulds. Cut the soap into blocks.
- Place soap onto a cake cooling rack and leave to dry for about 6 weeks, this will depend on the climate. I try to avoid making it during the wet season, as it takes a lot longer than 6 weeks to dry. The longer you leave it the harder it will be and the longer it will last when you wet it. Once they are dry I seal in zip lock bags until they are needed.
I have experimented adding loofah, placing it in a muffin pan and pouring the soap over the top, these were really nice. I have added rolled oats, again very nice however it did turn to a bit of a goop in the shower and a few grew mould after sitting for a few months. I have also crushed up pumice stone and added to the trace. This was great for feet and gardening hands but a bit gritty for the rest of the body.