Every day, people take baths or showers lathering up with commercial “soap.” Keep in mind, our skin is the body’s largest organ and like a sponge, absorbs chemicals. Most grocery store soaps are not actually soap at all, but detergent or deodorant bars. Detergent bars strip the natural moisturizing oils from your skin. No wonder after you take a bath or shower with commercial soap, you reach for that bottle of lotion to put back the moisture that was taken away by the commercial soap.
If you’ve ever used a bar of handmade soap, you realize quickly that your skin feels better. There is something so special and pure about handmade soap. The lather, the moisturizing qualities, the use of herbs and essential oils make for such a special treat. Those that use handmade soap know that once you start using it, you rarely go back to commercial soaps that often contain harsh chemicals.
These directions are for a method of making soap called “cold process.” Basically, the lye cures the soap instead of heat being applied to achieve the same result. This allows for smooth, creamy soap that is, quite frankly, addictive! Many people cringe when they hear that “lye” is in their soap, but all soap is actually made with lye. Lye is a natural agent that triggers saponification. When used with the correct calculations, you’ll make moisturizing soap that is wonderful for your skin!
You can use many items found in your pantry to make handmade soap. It is such fun to experiment with different additives like herbs, clays, honey and even seeds!
Use approximately 3 tablespoons of your chosen additive (herbs, seeds, clay, etc.) for the recipe below.
• Ground dried patchouli
• Cinnamon—orange, speckled soap
• Ground oatmeal—wonderful for exfoliation
• Bentonite clay—pulls impurities from skin
4 Pound Batch:
Water 13.25 oz.
Lye (sodium hydroxide) 5.75 oz.
Coconut Oil 10 oz.
Olive Oil 20 oz.
Palm Oil 12 oz.
Stainless Steel Pot
Wooden soap mold (a brownie pan or plastic shoe box would also work)
1.5 oz. Essential Oils of your choice
Additive of your choice
While wearing safety goggles, mask and gloves, measure your lye in a pitcher on the kitchen scale. Measure your water in a separate pitcher on the scale. Combine lye/water mixture in the plastic pitcher, stir well with spoon. Always add your lye to the liquid. If the liquid were poured into the lye, splashing could occur and the lye is very hot from heating with the water! Set aside and allow to cool to 100° F.
Measure your oils.
Melt the oils over low on the stove and allow the temperature to drop to 90° F.
While everything is cooling, line your mold with freezer paper.
Combine lye solution and all melted oils. Be careful not to splash while combining the mixtures.
Stir with stick blender until the mixture traces. Tracing looks like thin pudding. It will support a drop, or your stir marks, for several seconds.
Once tracing occurs, add the essential oil blend and whatever additive you choose. Mix a few more seconds.
Pour raw soap into your wooden mold.
Cover with plastic wrap (this prevents a soda ash from forming on the top of your soap), and a blanket. After 24 hours the soap can be cut and turned out of the mold.
Cut soap into bars and set the bars out to cure and dry for four weeks. It is important to let soap cure for the full four weeks.
Once cured, you may want to use a kitchen grater to clean up rough edges.
Wrap your soap! Here is your chance to get creative. Use vintage fabric, raffia, muslin bags, kraft paper, stamps, etc. Crochet or knit a soap sack. One of my favorite ways to give a gift is to knit or crochet a wash cloth and tie the soap and cloth up with pretty ribbon.
Tracey Adams began making soap to help her daughter’s sensitive skin problems. Soapmaking soon became an obsession! Tracey has been featured on HGTV’s (Home and Garden Television) show “That’s Clever.” She teaches soapmaking at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. Tracey owns Nanty’s Naturals, which is named for the river that inspires her – the Nantahala River, nicknamed “the Nanty.” She sells her soap in retail stores, at craft shows, and online. You can find Tracey on her blog or visit her website.