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Guide to making your own soap

Guide to making your own soap

Published by N-essentials Team on 29th Jan 2021

One of the best things about soap making is being able to personalise your recipe down to the very last ingredient. Whilst there are plenty of choices of soaps to buy in supermarkets, you can make soap at home according to your own personal preferences. It is a fun and cost-effective experience helping you spark your creative side and spend your dollars wisely based on what you know is good for your skin.

Homemade soap trends are all the rage these days. People are opting for milder soaps made by DIY enthusiasts and small-scale business owners looking out for skin-friendly ingredients. Also, with the growing environmental concerns happening all around us, some now choose to take the more natural and sustainable approach to life. For us here at N-essentials, we prefer soaps that are skin-friendly and skin-nourishing. DIY soaps are easy to make and you have control over what goes into the soap.

If you are one that loves handmade soaps, then this blog will help you gather the confidence to dabble in real soap making. It's not as complicated as it sounds. You can make soaps that last for months for your family and friends and save your budget even after buying all the ingredients. There’s a wide array of ingredients, colours, and scents you can use based on your tastes!

Here at N-essentials, we provide soapmaking supplies to help you get started with personalising your own recipe. You'll never want to go back to the store-bought soaps again once you get the hang of it!

What is Lye and its role as a soap making ingredient?

Depending on your skill level, making soaps can be either simple or complicated. The steps may also differ depending on the ingredients you use. In DIY soaps, you may have heard or seen lye in the list of ingredients.

Lye or sodium hydroxide is a caustic alkali that should be used with great caution. In its raw form, t's unsafe for skin and fabrics and often makes people pause when making soaps. However, this ingredient is responsible for the chemical reaction that happens with fats and oils, turning your mixture into soap. Also, when mixed correctly, it’s perfectly safe to use.

Combined with fats, lye goes through a reaction called saponification hen heated. This reaction is what makes it possible to combine liquid oils (which, without alkali, does not happen naturally). Technically speaking, even at home, you can't make soap without lye, since it is an un-substituted soap ingredient. Lye is also the reason why soap helps cleanse our bodies.

Using oils in soap making

Choosing the right type of oil is one of the most important part of creating homemade soaps. As lye may not sound so appealing, oils are found to transform soaps into something entirely different. It’s considered to be the most enjoyable part of the process as it adds character to your soap. To the finished product, each oil will carry out its own different roles. For instance;

Oils affect your soap’s moisturising properties, how well it lathers and the designs you are able to make. Although essential in making soaps, using oils and selecting the right kind all boils down to your personal preference and skin type.

Fragrance oils

Fragrance oils have been widely used in soapmaking and hundreds of cosmetic applications due to its long-lasting aroma. It’s an ideal alternative scent to add in soaps as it’s relatively cheaper than essentials oils. This is because fragrance oils are made artificially from chemical compounds intended to emulate natural fragrances. Sometimes, manufacturers create fragrance oils that contain synthetic and natural components in order to achieve a crisp aroma. Also, most soap makers are aware that not all fragrance oils are best for soaps. There are different scents available and some fragrance oil are better than others. While you could find a fragrance you just love, you'd have to be lucky enough to find that it really works perfectly.

Other fragrance oils make the batch harder to deal with, whilst others make it difficult for your soaps to get the right hue. Furthermore, once the soap is done, you may also find that the smell you loved so much disappears. We understand the challenge of discovering the best performing fragrance. We, at N-essentials, stock a wide selection of fragrance oils you can choose from for soap making, candle making and more. Get fruity and girly scents with a spunk by using peach, spicy pear and coco mango fragrance oils. We also have almond milk fragrance oil for a richer and luscious aroma. You may also go for a fresh and floral scent from frangipani and lemon myrtle & verbena fragrance oils.

Essential oils

Extracted from plant and flower essences, essential oils are perfect alternatives if you want genuine and natural scents on your soap. They are highly scented oils that are derived most often via steam distillation. This process involves heating the components until a gas is released, then condensing the gas back into a liquid to create that intense and concentrated aroma. It is a delicate method that ensures the sensitive substances do not disintegrate.

Choosing essential oils that have lasting scents is a vital note to remember when mixing essential oils into soaps. This is particularly important if you make soaps via cold process method. We recommend using lavender, peppermint, clary sage , and grapefruit essential oils in soap-making for your range of essential oils.

Using Colourants in handmade soap

Many individuals are curious about how they can naturally add colour to their homemade soaps. There are brilliant soap pigments and natural colourants available for you to unleash your creative side. For best results, use colourants that are safe and have been neutralised for cosmetic use.

There’s a wide variety of mica pigments, iron oxides, and many others you can choose from. Of all these, mica pigments are considered to be the most used colourant. They do not clump and have been shown to give out mesmerising prismatic shades. However, mica can be unstable in cold process soap. You may want to add titanium dioxide during the process to allow for a degree of stability. It does not only help to stabilise, but also helps to brighten and moisturise the skin.

There are also other natural colourants you can use if you want soft and deep muted tones on your soaps. These materials do not only give colour but also do more such as rejuvenate, exfoliate, moisturise and some other benefits. Natural colourants include dried calendula flowers (for a yellow streak), cinnamon or cocoa powder (for a brown color), green tea powder (for a green hue) and many others. Explore your kitchen cupboards for these handy materials and do not be afraid to experiment.

Nevertheless, caution still has to be practiced when using colourants for your handmade soaps as there are some that can’t be used or might contain harsh chemicals. Avoid using food colouring in DIY soaps as they have not been certified and approved for use.

Soap making reminders

  • Make sure to use 100% sodium hydroxide or you may also go for crystalised lye.
  • Remember to slowly add lye to water and not vice versa - as this is unsafe
  • Always calculate a safe amount of lye to be used according to the type and amount of oil you want added in the mixture.
  • Do not let lye clump at the bottom, stir right away as it may heat up and explode
  • Once saponification process happens, lye will not remain in the final product
  • Use safety googles and gloves to protect your eyes and skin (long sleeves, pants and apron to fully cover any exposed skin from spillage).
  • To protect your face from lye fumes, use a mask
  • Use stainless steel pots for mixing. Avoid copper, aluminum or plastic as they will react with lye
  • Prepare a space to work. Select an area where you will not be interrupted, especially by children or animals.
  • Choose an open space or a well-ventilated area. Or if you need to work in a room, make sure to stay by the window
  • Choose a flat surface such as a countertop with easy access to the stove and sink. Also, remember that lye is a caustic substance. So, working on a stainless-steel countertop is ideal. Otherwise, protect or cover the surface you’ll be working on. 

Tools needed to make handmade soap

  • Safety gears – gloves, goggles, mask, apron
  • Kitchen scale
  • Stick blender
  • Thermometer
  • 2x Old stainless-steel pots
  • Spatula
  • Mould (plastic or an ordinary baking tin coated with baking paper)
  • Soap cutter

Soapmaking recipe

To help you get started, here's a basic soap recipe to serve as your guide in creating your own soap. You might find some of the ingredients listed below lying around in your pantry or drawer!

Ingredients needed for homemade soap

Lye water

  • 130g Distilled water
  • 65g Lye

Fats/Solid oils

Liquid oils

Scents

  • 15g Fragrance or essential oil of your choice

Colourants and decorations

  • ¼ teaspoon dry colourants – mix with 1 tbsp of distilled water (optional)
  • Dried herbs or flowers (optional)

Method for soap making

1. With a newspaper, cover the surface where you are working.

2. Prepare all your ingredients and put on safety gears such as goggles, gloves, mask and apron.

3. Prepare your two pots on the burner, one for the water and lye, the other for the hard fats and oils to melt.

4. On the scale, measure out the oils and fats.

5. Begin by melting the solid oils. Place pan on the burner and turn heat to low

6. Add liquid oils to the pot once your hard oils have melted. You may even turn off the stove shortly after adding the liquid oils as the residual heat can melt pieces of the hard fats

7. Prepare your lye solution. Slowly add the lye to water and not water to lye as this is dangerous. You might notice fumes coming up as you mix – make sure your safety gears are in place. Once combined, your lye water will get very hot. Set aside to cool

8. Once your lye mixture is cooled, gradually, pour the lye mixture into the melted fats and oils. Mix as you go.

9. With the stick blender, give it a few bursts. Once the soap has reached a trace, it’s ready for saponification. You will know this once you see the oil and lye solution have combined very well with a pudding-like consistency.

10. On low heat, cook the mixture and stir every 15 minutes.

11. At about 30 minutes, the mixture will come to a gel state where the oils will start to separate around the edges of the pot. Mix the oils back in and keep cooking.

12. Take it off the heat when it is uniformly light and fluffy (looking like a heavier pancake batter) after about 50 minutes and at about 180 degrees Celsius.

13. Now, your essential oils and colorants are ready to be added. Mix well.

14. Once done, spoon the mixture with a spatula into your mould. Thump it down a hard surface to remove air pockets.

15. Set this aside for 1-2 days until it’s ready to be cut into bars

16. When it's cold and firm, place it on a parchment paper and slice into bars.

17. Once the soaps are sliced, you may wrap it using wax paper or an airtight container. You can also buy or create custom soap boxes to help give your homemade soaps a more personalised touch, especially if you plan to gift it to someone.

18. Once all steps are done, your soap is now ready and safe for everyday use.

Soap making aftercare reminder

As a final step, do not forget to clean thoroughly and sanitise the equipment that has been exposed to lye. Do not take off your gloves at this stage because the lye will still be very caustic. You may choose to rinse the pots and tools you used before the residual soap hardens. Or you may leave them for a few minutes on the surface and then wash off in hot water. Lye can also be neutralised by white vinegar.

Conclusion

In conclusion, soapmaking is not for everyone but it sure is a fun and practical skill to learn. Whether you like a safer alternative to store-bought soap or you’re a crafty person looking for a new creative avenue, soap making is a satisfying and easy DIY. Before jumping into this process, ensure that you have a distraction free work area or best not to attempt it. Reading DIY instruction is one thing, and doing it is another. However, the best way to know if your research works, is to actually try it out!

Buy soapmaking supplies

Before you get your hands busy in making your own handmade soap, make sure you have all your supplies ready. Here at N-essentials, we stock quality raw materials to help you choose from a wide array of just the best ingredients for all your DIY needs.

For more information, contact us at info@n-essentials.com.au

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