Sunday, January 13, 2013

Then There Was Soap

   Let me start with a confession- chemistry was not my strong point..ever. I am sure my attendance in Mrs. Tamborello's high school chemistry class drove her to her knees every was bad. So I find it rather funny that as an adult I dabble in soap because, for crying out loud, that is serious chemistry.
   Growing alarm over chemicals and toxins in everyday products paired with asthma (in two of my children) drove me to learn more about chemicals and toxins in the products we use every day. The transition wasn't easy and it definitely wasn't overnight but the results came as quickly as the changes were made...asthma was relieved, skin rashes cleared, migraines were milder...and that drove me forward in my quest.
   The actual process of home made soap scared me to death..after all..lye will kill you. Year after year I read and researched the process, the precautions, the methods available..and then, with great prodding from my family I tried it. From the first batch I was hooked.. basic raw ingredients ..creamy, beautiful soponification magically morphed into firm bars of gently fragrant soaps..what's not to love.
    This year, my focus is on getting back to the roots..why do I do things things I do and what drove me to start them. I make soap because I love's fascinating and amazing and much easier than I ever expected. As for why I started, be get in touch with those amazing processes and skills that are rapidly being lost..and to provide simple, natural skin care for my family. My soaps never have chemicals added (aside from the lye)..the oils are natural and raw. Milks that are added came from right here in my own herd- naturally raised and loved. Any fragrance added is gentle and derived only from essential oils to keep things healthy and not overpowering. Simple..that is my goal.
    Many wonderful soap makers put out some amazing product..swirled and glazed..glittered or brightly colored. It is amazing and wonderful..but it isn't for me. There is a huge market for those products and I applaud them, but that doesn't fit with my conviction and purpose...back to the basics simplicity.
    You may or may not be interested in soap purchase some from is a luxury you are sure to enjoy..but if you are considering let me just, safety, safety. Work in a well ventilated area- I use my out door kitchen area. Wear eye protection/ least when first starting out. Keep vinegar on hand with you to neutralize lye spills. Measure it definitely matters. Finally, know why you are doing you want to experiment with color and fragrance? To sell it? For fun? Or, just to say you did it. Knowing why has helped me not to keep my self in check and maintain my focus.
      Let me share my first basic recipe for soap, and later, if there is an interest, I will gladly do a tutorial with step by step pictures.  This particular recipe is 'cold press' meaning the soap is not cooked to trace, it is stirred together and let work. Cold process soaps require a longer curing time to allow the lye to release and the soap to 'harden' (about three to six weeks).

Basic Cold Process Soap

Carefully measure into a 'stock pot':
12 oz canola oil
 8 oz coconut oil
 8 oz olive oil
Stir this well and set aside.
In a glass measuring cup:
8.5 oz water
Measure out in a separate cup:
3 oz lye
Carefully and slowing- in a well ventilated area- stir the lye into the water. Once the cloudy solution turns clear, stir the lye/water mixture into the oils. Herein we can stir by and until we reach trace (which takes about 3-4 hours) or we can alternate between hand stirring and stick-blender stirring to bring it to trace in under and hour. Hitting trace will lend a custard-like consistency to the mix. Fragrances, colors, or exfoliates can be added now. Pour the mixture into a prepare mold..cover and let set 24 to 48 hours..I leave it until it is cool to touch and firm. From there, remove to a protected surface and cut into bars..I simply use a knife. Set soaps on end in a well ventilated area to cure until firm..three to six weeks.

***This is a small soap batch easily molded in a lined shoe box or similar size plastic box. I line my mold with wax or parchment papers and cover them with it as well. Cake racks are used to set the cut bars on for curing. Mine set on a book shelf in the sewing room.

   Honestly, soap making can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. Ingredients can be ordered online, purchased at a local health food store, or even gathered from your own property (milk/herbs). The key to it all is your own personal satisfaction with the product...if you're not satisfied, you won't use it..and neither will anyone else. I hope you will give soap a's wonderful and so much fun.

   If you would like a sample of our Simply Soaps email me at with your address. Our soaps are available at Simply Scaife Handmade.

Growing Home


Keli Martin said...

Thank you for sharing your recipe! I've been dabbling in soap making as well and it is nice to keep building up my recipe collection.

Simply Scaife Family said...

Thanks, Keli. Recipe sharing is a great way to encourage each other along.