I start by assembling most of the ingredients and the equipment. This takes very little time because I keep most of it organized in this big ol' container in the garage. Note: All pots and mixing bowls as well as stirring spoons must be made of non-reactive material such as glass, enamel ware or stainless steel. I use wooden spoons for stirring but I have two that I use only for soap making. Do NOT use aluminum or cast iron.
Olive, canola and coconut oil plus water and lye are the basic ingredients. They all have to be measured by volume. (I love this scale.) I keep a spray bottle of vinegar handy to neutralize any lye that might get on something that I don't want it to be on.
After carefully measuring out 12 ounces of lye and 24 ounces of water, I take them outside to mix them together. The lye is always added to the water and not the other way around. This prevents any volcanic type eruptions.
I got the bright idea today to use some ice cubes as part of the water. It did not help and caused the lye to bind together and need more stirring.
The solution will turn white and immediately heat up to a little over 150 degrees. The fumes are awful and highly toxic which is why I do this outside. Today it took over an hour for it to cool down to the 100 degrees it needs to be for mixing with the oils. That is because it is over 90 degrees here. When the weather is cooler, it doesn't take quite as long.
While the lye solution is cooling, I measure and mix the oils. This scale allows me to be precise. I can set it back to zero before adding each oil so I don't have to do any math. 36 ounces of olive oil (I went a little over here and took out .35 oz.), 12 ounces of coconut oil and 40 ounces of canola or peanut oil. We save the oil Stephen uses in his deep fryer. It makes great soap. The saponification process gets rid of any rancid smell. Also, I use the cheapest olive oil I can find, although it is all pretty expensive right now. It doesn't have to be EVOO.
Then I decide what fragrance I want to use and mix the essential oils. I don't use any synthetics with the exception of sandalwood which I don't use very often. It is very expensive and it is such a subtle fragrance that it takes a lot of to get any smell at all.
This time I divided the batch and used a mix of lavender, lemon and orange oil in half and and mix of clary sage, rosemary and lavender in about half. I saved about a cup and a half to which I added a few drops of rose absolute.
Then I waited, and waited and waited some more for the lye mixture to cool down to 100 degrees at which time, I heated the oils to 100 degrees so that it could all be mixed together. I like to do this in my sink because this makes height is more comfortable for me to stir it.
Time to get out the boat motor and let 'er rip.
I use the stick blender to mix the oil and lye together. Remember, this is oil and water so it doesn't go together easily. Today, it traced pretty quickly, within 5 minutes. Trace is when the mixture gets thick enough that the mixer starts to make a trail in in and if you drop and drop or two if the mixture on its surface, it makes little dimples that just stay there. When that happens, it is time to mix in the essential oils and pour the soap into the molds. I always use the boat motor to mix in the essential oils just to make sure that they are fully incorporated. Some of them will change the viscosity of the product and make it set up faster or slower. You need to work pretty fast after you mix them into it.
Here it is in my fancy schmancy plastic molds. Until a few months ago, I lined cardboard boxes with wax paper for molds then cut the bars after the soap set up for a few hours. I found these molds on sale and they have made this a little easier. The only catch is that I have to put the molds in the freezer for a few hours in order for them to release the bars. Four weeks from now, it will have saponified (cured) and be ready for use. I test it with ph strips to make sure that is is in the 9ph range but this really isn't necessary. The older the soap, the lower the ph.
This recipe makes a wonderfully soft and fine lather. I have tried adding other oils to it to make a harder bar but the oils separated and the bars look weird. My apologies if I sent you some of the weird looking soap. It works fine. The soap is close to true white unless I add an essential oil such as vanilla which turns it brown or a clay or colorant of some kind to change the color.
Some of the ingredients for making soap are a little hard to find. It seem that lye is used in the manufactoring of meth and other illegal substances. I used to be able to get it in the grocery store and then in hardware stores but now I get it from Texas Natural Supply. You have to sign a waiver stating that you are not using it for illegal purposes or making it available to anyone who is and they will ship it to you just about anywhere in the lower 48. I also get all of my essential oils there. Their prices are great and the quality is very high. It takes quite a bit of essential oil to hold its own with the lye and the saponification process so quality and price are very important.
Soundtrack for this post: Splish Splash by Bobby Darin