When I first read the Orange Blossom Farm blog, I was the most excited to learn how to make soaps and essential oils. I thought it would be the coolest little hobby to have. I don’t know many friends [read: anyone] who does this and I couldn’t wait to learn. I’m a visual and kinetic learner so I much prefer to watch and try something under supervision before I go experimenting on my own.

The day finally came when Anke would teach me how to make soap! I was so happy! [We actually made two batches! On different days – what a treat!:] I didn’t get to do a lot of the important stuff but I did help measure things out and watched very carefully while Anke handled the lye and the mixing.

Before I get into the steps we took, I’ll back up with some terms that I’ll be using.

Lye: The active ingredient in all soaps is lye. The only thing I knew about lye before I made soap was that you can burn your hand preeeeetty badly [Thanks, Fight Club].
Water: Typically, you want to use distilled water during soap making because mineral or tap water may have other, well, minerals that you may not want to interact with the lye. We used Anke’s homemade distilled water. More on that in this post.
Fats [or oils]: The other important ingredients we used were different fats, or oils. You can use all sorts of different fats for your soaps to get your soap to a certain hardness, increase lather, moisturize, etc. There’s two main types of fats, solids and liquids. Some soap recipes will call for very specific forms of the fat [ex: coconut butter can be both a solid or a liquid in various temperatures]
Essential Oils: This is an optional ingredient to add scent to your soap. You’ll find, though, that the fats and lye mixture will have a sort of natural scent to it already so this isn’t necessary but it’s certainly fun to play with. I didn’t know much about complimenting scents so this task was left up to Anke.
Coloring Clay or Pigment: Another optional additive is coloring. Our soaps that we made already had a slight tint because of the fats but coloring definitely spices things up a bit. Anke and I mostly made swirly soaps, which, I think, was so pretty [soapretty-get it??]
[A lot of the information I’m quoting here is from what Anke taught me and also from what I read from this book: Smart Soap by Anne L. Watson]

To be clear, I am not a soap-making expert. Please read additional, reliable sources before you attempt to make soap yourself. I can’t be responsible for any soap mishaps!

Here’s a breakdown of what we did:

One] Anke used an online soap calculator to determine the measurements for our soap mix. You simply enter in the percentage of fats that you want to use to make up your soap [we used different combinations of coconut butter, olive oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, wheat germ oil, and cocoa butter]. Based on what you enter in, the calculator identifies what water-ly ratio you need to use. It also helped tell us what the different properties of the soap would be. [Ex: Hardness, Cleansing, Condition, Bubbly, Creamy, Iodine, INS]

Two] Once we printed out the soap calculator results, I started measuring out all the ingredients [which I quite like doing] on a scale. We used grams to measure because 0.29 oz is kind of ridiculous to try to measure. Fun fact, there’s 28 grams in one ounce so measuring in grams is actually much more accurate than ounces! When I measured these out, I measure the solid fats [like coconut butter, cocoa butter, shea butter] in one bowl because I could easily take some out with a spoon if I over-measured. Also, after each ingredient I made sure to tare the scale [reset the scale to weigh at zero, I did this with the pot on the scale and then for each subsequent fat – this prevents math errors and makes for more accurate measures] For liquid fats [like olive oil, jojoba oil, and wheat germ oil] it’s best if you measure these separately so that you can easily remove the oils if you over-measure; when you combine these into one bowl when measuring, it’s harder to separate oils.

Three] Notice that I said I put the solids into a pot and the liquids into a bowl? That’s because our next step was melting the solids. I think best practice is to use a microwave but because we didn’t have one, we used the stove. The important thing when melting the fats over the stove is to avoid grease fires and you also want to make sure you don’t boil the fats; you want it just hot enough to turn into a liquid.

Four] While the fats cool down a bit, Anke separately measured out the distilled water and the lye. At this step, if you didn’t already, do make sure you put on the appropriate safety attire. We wore long sleeved shirts, gloves, and goggles for good measure. Once the water and lye were measured out, we moved the bowls to the sink. When you add water and lye together, it’s extremely important to slowly mix the lye into the water! Not the other way around! I haven’t heard what happens when you do the opposite but I can assure you I don’t want to find out. Also, we put the water into a heat-resistant bowl or stainless steel pot. I believe copper reacts with lye so be sure to read up on the appropriate equipment you should use in your own soap making. When water and lye are added together, the mixture gets extremely hot. At first, the mixture will appear cloudy but you’ll want to continue mixing with your spoon until it becomes clear. Once it turns clear, we set the pot in a cold water bath to bring the temperature down.

Five] The ideal temperature to make soap is somewhere between 90-110 F or [around 37-42C I think? – Double check the Celsius temperature – I forget]. To speed up the cool down, we put the mixed the liquid oil and melted oils and ran a cold water bath for this too. Once the oils and water-lye were cool enough, we added the oils to the water/lye pot. At first, Anke used a spoon to stir the combined mixture. Soon, the mixture will get thicker.

Six] This is the point of the instructions where what you do next may deviate depending on the method of soap making you choose. Since we made soap twice, we did two different things each time.
—-a] The first time we made soap, Anke began using a stick blender to mix the soap mixture. She mixed it until the mixture was very, very thick, and looked almost creamy. Afterwards, we put the pot in the oven at perhaps 120F to begin the gel process. We checked on the mixture a couple times; I would say we left it in the oven for maybe 10 minutes? While the soap is in the oven, it will first turn a bit gelatinous and mildly clearer. Then, it will reach a point where it will return to its former state of creaminess again. Once we saw that, we pulled the mixture out, added our essential oils and coloring and finally poured it into the soap mold, making sure to bang out the air bubbles.
—-b] The second time we made soap, Anke stirred the mixture until it barely started to get thick, added the essential oils and coloring and then immediately poured it into the soap mold, making sure to bang out the air bubbles too.

Seven] Once the soap molds were set, we let insulated the soap mold with a couple towels and set it aside for the rest of the day. Usually, with the second method, you need to let the soap sit for a couple days [maybe weeks] but we cheated and threw it in the oven for a bit to speed up the gel process.

Eight: At the end of the day, our soap was great. And it smelled wonderful. I can’t wait to make my own back home. Expect many many soap gifts, friends. Maybe for the next few years.



One response to “[soapretty]

  1. Pingback: [top ten favorites at the orange blossom farm] | simplysheu·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s