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Making Cold Process Soap

Posted by Marko on April 27, 2018 in Off Topic |

As most of you know, I enjoy making everyday items myself. I like to know what goes into the products I’m using to clean our home and bodies, along with the food we’re eating. And by making most of my own food, cleaning products and some personal care items, I’m able to be creative while making consumable items that won’t clutter up my house.

Kate, a reader, recently turned me on to cold process soap making. I have to admit, I haven’t been this excited about something or had so much fun creating in quite some time.

As long as you don’t get carried away buying exotic oils and/or fragrances, making your own soap can save you money while allowing you to indulge in incredibly high-quality luxury soap. As a bonus, if you make your own laundry detergent, you can use your cold process soap scraps instead of buying a commercial soap product made up of questionable ingredients.

Kate graciously agreed to write a guest post offering further information on cold process soap making for any other readers that may interested in giving this incredibly fun process a try!

Thank you so much for the wonderful information Kate!

Most of us don’t spend very much time thinking about soap.  We grab it off the shelf, set it in the shower and that’s that.  In fact, most people are blissfully unaware that the “soap” they’re using is not actually soap at all: it’s a detergent bar made from petroleum by-products.  Seriously, look at the box – the word soap is nowhere to be found! You might see the words “beauty bar” or “deodorant bar,” but the word “soap” will be conspicuously absent.

So what’s your alternative to these detergent bars?  Good old fashioned soap!  Real soap is made with fat and lye (also known as sodium hydroxide).  The chemical reaction between the two is called saponification. The fats used can be anything from lard to exotic plant based oils, but there is no substitute for lye.

I have always been a sucker for anything that smells good, but my obsession with soap really took hold when I decided to try making some for myself.  I love adding the scent of pure essential oils, the rich lather of handmade soap, and the unique colors I can create with natural ingredients.  Some of my other favorite reasons for making it myself include:

  • By making my own soap, I control exactly what goes into a product that is in contact with my body every day. I leave out the petroleum by-products and synthetic fragrances and add soothing oils, like shea butter and olive oil.
  • It’s a chemistry experiment! I get to play with scents, colors and different oils to create my perfect bar of soap.
  • No animal testing. I use human subjects for testing: me and my partner!

Have I piqued your interest yet?  Great!  I just have a few words of caution before you run to the kitchen to start experimenting.

First, respect the lye!  Lye is a very caustic chemical and it will burn your skin and eyes.  You’ll definitely want to keep kids and pets out of the room while you’re making soap. Long gloves and eye protection are not optional!  I use a pair of chemistry goggles left over from my college days and your eye glasses are not sufficient protection.  Before you do anything else, buy a pair of goggles.

Finally, make sure that you’re purchasing 100% sodium hydroxide.  You can find drain cleaners at hardware stores that include lye, but unless they specifically say that the product is 100% lye, don’t use it (who knows what else would be in there!).

To learn more about the process, please read at least one book about making handmade soap before you dive in. You can also find a wealth of information from experienced soap makers by reading forums and websites.  I have included some of my favorites at the end.

If making your own soap doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, you can probably find some locally if you look around (farmers’ markets and natural food stores are good places to look).  Etsy also has a huge number of sellers who offer natural soaps.  Give them a try!  You’ll never go back to the funky detergent bars again.

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