Learn the basics of at-home soapmaking

July 29, 2015

Home-made soap is perfect for both your own use and as gifts for friends and family. It’s great to know what ingredients you’ve put in your soap and you can suit it to individual taste.

Learn the basics of at-home soapmaking

Home-made soap equipment

Making soap is a little like cooking. You need to follow a recipe and have the right kit. You'll need:

  • A strong container to hold the caustic soda solution. A two-litre glass jug or wide-necked bottle with a plastic lid.
  • Punch two holes on opposite sides of the lid for pouring the solution over the oil or, later on, the fat.
  • A 10 to 12-litre pot for the oil or fat and caustic soda solution.
  • A wooden spoon to stir the solution.
  • A dairy thermometre that is accurate to within half a degree in the 25°C to 50°C (77°F to 122°F) range. For convenience you may want to have two thermometres.
  • Moulds for the soap. Old baking dishes or shallow wooden boxes are practical containers for large amounts. Prepare the moulds by lining them with clean, damp cloth or plastic, or greasing them with a commercial petroleum jelly.
  • Insulation to keep the soap warm after it is poured into the moulds. You can use cardboard, newspaper, towels or an ordinary blanket.

Home-made soap instructions

  • Prepare the caustic soda solution first and allow it to cool. To make the solution, pour cold water into an enamel pot then add the crystals slowly while stirring the water with a wooden spoon.
  • The reaction between the caustic soda crystals and water will generate temperatures over 90°C (194°F). You can place the container in a large basin of cold water to hasten cooling.
  • Once the solution has cooled, pour it carefully into the two-litre glass container. If you are going to use animal fat for your soap, you should also prepare it in advance to allow it to cool down. The rendering process takes place at well above the temperatures needed to make soap.
  • You can refrigerate oils or fats then bring them to soap-making temperature by warming in a basin of hot water.
  • The type of material oil or fat you should use and the relative amounts of oil or fat, caustic soda and water that should be combined depend on the particular type of soap being made.
  • The standard recipe calls for three kilograms of beef fat, 1.5 litres of water and 410 grams of caustic soda crystals. If you’re using vegetable oil, respective quantities are 4.5 kilograms, 1.8 litres and 585 grams.

Easy soap making

Making your own soap is fun and creative. Follow these steps to make your own supplies and as personalised gifts for friends in no time.

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