This information is the general procedure for making cold processed soap at home. For detailed safety information, soap recipes and complete detailed specialized instructions including bits of information on incorporating herbs and other wonderful ingredients, get the book: Country Living's Handmade Soap, Recipes for Crafting Soap at Home. The jacket cover is pictured above and features the Creation Soap oval oak style bar in the center. The book is currently in its 7th printing!
General Procedure for Cold Process Recipes
Put on eye protection and rubber gloves.
Place the weighed amount of solid fats that need melting in your recipe into a stainless steel stock pot for the stove top or suitable container for the microwave and heat gently until the fats become liquid. When these fats have become liquid combine with the other weighed amounts of oils for your recipe and check the temperature with your thermometer. Be sure the thermometer doesn't touch the bottom of the container and give a false reading. Now either heat or cool the fats and optional ingredients to the temperature specified in the recipe.
Measure the amount of cool or tepid water (65 to 75 degrees F) specified in the recipe. Cool water is important. Combining lye with water that is too hot can cause a volcanic type eruption of lye solution that can be quite dangerous as well as a major pain to clean up, please donít ask me how I know this, just believe it. On the other hand if your water is too cool the solution may not reach a high enough temperature needed for some recipes. Stirring the water, slowly add the lye. The water will get real hot and turn cloudy as the lye dissolves in the water. Continue stirring until the lye dissolves thoroughly. Remember not to breathe these fumes directly and wear your face mask when mixing the lye & water. At this point check the temperature of the solution. We will need to match the temperature of the lye solution to the temperature of the oils at the temperature specified in the recipe. To help accomplish this I usually bring up the liquid oil temperature by adding the melted oils, while bringing down the lye solution temperature in a cool water bath. Checking both the lye solution and oil temperatures every few minutes. When the lye solution gets within 5 to 10 degrees of the temperature Iím looking for Iíll add it to my pouring jar (as I described earlier). Since the glass jar will be at room temperature it will usually pull that last few degrees into the glass of the jar bringing it to the desired temperature. The idea is to get the lye solution and the oils to the same temperature at the same time. This gets easier as you get more experienced. Tips: It takes the lye water longer to cool than the fats to melt. If you get the fats too hot, the lye solution will get too cool before the fats have cooled. In this case set your lye solution in a hot water bath to hold it hot enough until the fats begin to cool to the desired range.
Now to begin mixing the soap I start slowly drizzling the lye/water from my modified mayonnaise type jar into the fats while stirring rather briskly(not fast, just faster and more intently than slow, making sure to mix all parts of the container as I am stirring). With my larger batches poured into a single mold the temperature seems more critical than small batches poured into smaller molds. I have quite often poured small batches into individual molds at a slightly higher temperature without any problems. I have found that most recipes will work quite well mixing them fairly close to 100 degrees. If you use fats with higher than normal melt temps such as 96 degree coconut oil(as opposed to the 76 degree which is more readily available)or 107 degree palm kernel oil(as opposed to the 86 degree palm oil more readily available)then I recommend increasing the blending temperature to between 110 to 120 degrees. For recipes using beeswax you'll need to increase the temperatures to about 130 degrees as most beeswax melts at about 147 degrees and will not blend properly below the melt temperature.
After combining the fats with the lye solution youíll need to keep stirring until the reaction is nearing completion and begins to "trace". Tracing is when you can drizzle soap from the spoon onto the surface of the soap and the line of soap dripping from the spoon retains it shape for a few seconds. After you have stirred for fifteen or twenty minutes and you soap has not traced you can take a rest for ten minutes or so checking it every few minutes in case it changed gears. Then come back and stir for a while and break for a while until it traces. My soaps usually trace within the first half hour but sometimes take 1 to 2 hours. If you can write your name on the top of the soap with the spoon itís tracing. This is the point where you add your essential oils and herbs if any and stir until blended. When making larger batches that Iím pouring into individual molds Iíve found I need to add the essential oils and begin pouring into the molds slightly before trace in order to get it all poured before it sets too much to pour(it will begin to thicken in the pitcher and become too stiff to work with the spoon).
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