I was determined, and I began to read everything I could get my hands on regarding making soap from scratch; all the way from rendering out beef tallow (which makes a wonderful and gentle soap), to the melt and pour type (which allows you to avoid using the lye). It's just way more expensive, and I was looking for the least expensive and the best soap in the world.
On the day I made my first "batch" of soap, my husband helped me. First, we locked all the pets out of the way so that they could not possibly get in the way or splashed if (God forbid) there was an accident of any kind.
When we ended up pouring up that first batch of soap in the big Rubbermaid containers, it was one of the happiest days I've ever spent doing anything.
It was ready to cut into bars the following morning, and we stacked it allowing the air to circulate through it, then patiently waited the 4 weeks for it to "cure" before using it, but Oh My Goodness, what a treat it was using that first bar of our own soap.
From there, I made our own shampoo, dish-washing and laundry soap. I can't even tell you how much cheaper it is. Any soap product is expensive today, and if I can make our own, that's what I want to do.
We in America will most likely see the day when knowing how to be more independent in almost every aspect of our lives will prove to be beneficial. I consider cleanliness a necessity, and I'm so glad that I can take care of that necessity all my myself now.
Of course, I am still having to buy some oils, fragrances and a few other items in addition to my Red Devil Lye, but I'm staying way ahead of the game by saving money and making the best possible face and bath soaps, shampoo, and the other soap products we use every day. Soap, when made properly will probably last for many, many years, so I'm making and packing it away now while I still can.
It is a very satisfying and rewarding craft and I'm so glad I spent the time learning how to do it right. I'm also very thankful that I'm not having to leach wood ashes to make my own "lye" or butchering the beef to get the tallow. If I really had to, I guess I'd soon learn to do those things too.
By Julia (pookarina) from Boca Raton, FL
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For the molds, I have found that Pringles cans are great. I'm not sure what the metal end of the can is, so I always line that end with parchment paper. (I assume that end probably is at least part aluminum which lye can react with.) After the soap cools, it comes out in a log that can be cut into rounds or half moons depending on how big I want them.
Some years back I worked for a woman who made soap for craft fairs. She used the cardboard box bottoms that 4-6-pks. of soda come in...you know, cardboard on the bottom, then shrink-wrapped, as molds. A 13 gallon trash bag lined the box, the mixed lye soap was poured in and cured for a day or so, then was upended and cut into 3 or 4 long soaps which could either be cut into bars and cured or cured and then cut at the craft fair. She got a two handed knife at a restaurant supply store. It saved a LOT of time compared to pouring into molds.
Sounds like something I have dreamed of doing for many years and your experience sounds wonderful, however you neglected to share the ingredients and methods. I would be grateful for both if you would kindly send them to me. please.
snoonie AT msn.com
Thanks for sharing your recipes.
I thought I would add a couple of websites I always open when I get ready to make soap. Both have some really good pictures that help me remember what each stage should look like.
And for recipes and stuff I like
http://www.millersoap.com/SoapFAQs.html -- Lots and lots of soap making tips, tricks, don'ts and recipes here.
So many have asked for my formulas for laundry and shampoo soaps, so I thought I might as well post them right here where you can find them easily.
My Laundry Soap is basically what you'll see posted on the Internet by several other soap-makers, however my amounts are probably a little different. I start with a large bar of either Octagon or Fels Naptha soap that you can buy online. I had to buy it online because I couldn't find it anywhere else.
Thankfully, I remembered my Mother using it from the time we used a big black 3-legged iron pot over an open fire, and she simply chipped up a half bar of one or the other and added it to the pot along with a cupful of 20 Mule Team Borax. I do add Washing Soda (about 2/3 cup) to the mixture when I'm making detergent to last me for a long time.
1/2 Bar Octagon or Fels Naptha Soap
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
2/3 cup Washing Soda
Chop or grate the soap into an enamel or stainless steel pot and add 8 cups of water. Turn on the heat while stirring to dissolve soap, and when it's all dissolved, add the Borax and the washing soda, and bring to a boil while stirring. Turn off heat .
When you can safely handle the pot, pour the soap mixture into a 5-Gallon bucket which has a lid. Immediately add 6 cups of very hot water and stir that in very well.. Then add 2 Gallons of cold water, stir it in and allow to sit for 24 hours. It will gel and be ready to use. I stir it each time I go to remove 1/2 to 2/3 cupful to do a load of laundry.
You can add up to 3 ounces of essential oil of your choice when mixture is still just warm. Not hot, and Not cold. You want the essential oil to mix into all the soap. Depending on how many loads of laundry you do a week, this bucket of detergent will last you quite a while. You may use Clorox along with it when necessary to whiten linens and towels etc.
My Shampoo Formula is slightly more complicated, but is still easy enough to make me enjoy making it and happy that I know how to please myself.
Number One Rule is to always use a good Lye Calculator. I swear by the one on Majestic Mountain Sage...and as far as I'm concerned, the whole of the Soap-Making Subject is better covered at that Website than in any book I've read so far. I can't tell you how many books I've bought and read, then found the best information FREE on that website.
My Shampoo Bar recipe (YES, a BAR of Shampoo)
2 oz Avocado Oil
2 oz Castor Oil
6 Coconut Oil
2 oz Jojoba Oil
28 oz Olive Oil
This makes a total of 40 ounces and approximately 3 pounds of soap when cured. It makes a "soft" bar, and readily lathers up so nice, full of bubbles. It is gentle and has enough olive oil to make your hair its shiniest.
I never use cream rinse. Only very cold water to close up the scales on the hair shafts when it's clean and I do the final rinse.
I use 5 oz (weight measure) of Red Devil Lye into 6 oz icy cold distilled water and later add frozen 6 oz goat's milk that's nearly frozen to my soap mixture.
At trace, I add the contents of 8 capsules Vit E capsules and the contents of 8 capsules of Evening Primrose Oil along with 1 full oz of Lavender essential Oil. (I never use anything except a good essential oil)
The excess fat range is 10% which insures a nice gentle soft soap bar...easy to use, You can use it to bathe with, but I like a harder bar for bathing. This shampoo bar will not dry out your hair or make it fuzzy like some shampoos do.. My 3 daughters, my DIL and my husband like it just as much as I do.
Let me know when you try it, and don't forget to read all the Basic Instructions for Soap Making on Majestic Mountain Sage. Without that website, I'd never have had the courage to try.
Photo is of my Bud and me with Florida Atlantic University's mascot "Hootie" this past weekend at the Relay For Life (for the American Cancer Society"). We had such a good time helping.
Wishing you all "Happy Soap-Making". Julia in Boca Raton, FL
I am a happy soapmaker from about ten years ago, and have not bought commercial soap (detergent bars) in all that time. I have not made glycerin soap (the transparent kind).
While fragrance and color are lovely, I am chemically sensitized, so I leave them out at no loss of pleasure. If I am making some for gifts, I add the fragrance and color.
My favorite batches are those made with saved grease from my kitchen: beef, butter, olive oil, chicken fat, etc. They actually are gentler than the costly palm oil, coconut oil, etc. recipes.
The initial start-up costs may hold some back. Don't let them! You'll need a good kitchen scale, two candy/dairy thermometers, a great big bowl made of plastic or stainless steel, a wooden spoon reserved for only soapmaking, glass measuring cups and a half gallon jar with a perforated lid. Some sort of large container for the first mold is also essential. It can be a square Tupperware. My husband made me a couple out of plywood and one for our daughter. These supplies will last a very long time under normal circumstances. You can cut the giant bar that comes out of the first mold into neat hand-sized bars, or you can hand-mill batches of it and add fragrance and color, then pour into fancy molds. Our daughter used the bottom parts of 20-oz soda bottles and her bars looked like flowers.
For those who want to make soap, get a good book. My first was "Soap; Making it, Enjoying it" by Ann Bramson. It is a good primer in the hows and whys of soap making. You can't just pick up a recipe and make it without a lot of background, as if it were a casserole. (Yeah, I tried that for my first batch, and it was a total disaster!) Besides, soap books have dozens of different recipes for every kind of soap you can imagine. Also each author has different ideas about packaging and presentation. Some take my breath away!
That said, IT IS NOT HARD TO DO! It is a sensual, satisfying craft for those who love using their own two hands. If you save your own grease to use, (yes, you have to clean it) it is also extremely economical.
For the dear person in the UK who asked about Red Devil lye, it is the pure lye that we use to clean out the clogged plumbing. It is NOT the drain cleaner mixture that has little metallic chunks in it. You can make your own if you have access to hardwood ashes. Again, find a good soap making book and if it is printed in the UK, it will surely use familiar names that simplify the job.
I'd like the recipe too! Does it leave a film in the tub? I use the liquid soap because I don't like the soap scum.
Hi does anyone have the recipes for the soap making and what is red devil lye. I live in the UK, and maybe the product is different. Many thanks for sharing. helen xx
I really enjoyed your article, will you be posting instructions on how to make soap? I have always wanted to learn
I'm hoping you'll share your recipe, since it's tried and true! I've seen so many recipes online but don't know where to start. It's nice to have such a great referral!
I too am new at making bars of soap and my own laundry soap. I am lovin' it! Haven't started the shampoo and dish soap. could you share your recipes for shampoo and dish soap? would love to try those! Deb
ps: I use goat milk!
So far I've made: lemongrass/lemon: wintergreen/peppermint; clove; lavender and oats. it's just plain fun, fun, fun!
KUDOS to you! My sister and I made a few soaps last year to try it out but didn't go the lye route, my lye is sitting on the shelf waiting for to to get it done. I think you have given me the courage to get at it.
Years ago my sister made soap of a rope using the lye recipe and had no problems, it was a great soap, so long lasting and we all enjoyed it men and women.
The soap recipe we used last fall was shaving bars of soap then adding Epsom salts, adding liquid glycerin, scent, coloring and melting in the microwave. The exact recipe I can't find at the moment or would share it, if I find it I will post it on my blog. We then poured it into a plastic container you find in the craft store jewelry area. It has adjustable compartments. One batch we scented rose and added rose petals as we poured it into the molds.The soap wasn't a complete liquid just melted enough we could stir until smooth and pour into the container.
Our bars were 2"x1 1/2" and we decorated them with a strip of handmade paper, ribbon and antique buttons for small gifts. We sold them at a craft fair for $1.50 a piece and had only a few cents in them. One lady bought 10 to but on gifts as her bows. I will post some of the other recipes we used if you want to check them out.
I have done it for years. Congrats on handmade soaps. I stay away form the oils and fragrances for smells. You can grow your own Roses & Lavender among other things right out of your yard and just dry them and scrunch them up to use. Also try goats milk in it.. That is my personal favorite and unscented. You cannot find a creamer soap. There are recipes all over the web. I just love it when someone finds & follows through with this age old process. Good for you!
Hi Julia, I'd love to make my own soap, (I have psoriasis) and washing powder too. Could you please share your recipes?
I,too, would be interested in making dish washing soap and shampoo.
would you share your info on how to make them?
I started making my own soap almost a year ago. Like you I was also afraid to use the lye. I do make my children stay out of the kitchen when I am making it now. (Usually I wait until their bedtime to start.) What recipe do you use for your own shampoo and dish detergent? Those are the two I have not yet tackled. I do make my own laundry detergent.
"Learning to make your own soap can be a rewarding and worthwhile experience. Not only does it teach a valuable skill that could come in handy during less than prosperous times, but I have found it to be a lot of fun. It is abundantly rewarding to use something like this that one has made himself. (Self reliance is a very good feeling.) I have also found that making my own soap from store bought raw materials is cheaper than buying it. My first bar lasted a month in the shower with my wife and myself using it - much longer than a store-bought bar of soap would have lasted."
Then I take a toothpick and give it a swirl or two to mix it. Let sit at least 30 minutes or until the soap has hardened. Flip it over and gently pop it out of the mold. You can add things like plastic spiders, etc. to the soap but it needs to be done as soon as you pour soap into the mold. (03/15/2006)
I am going to make homemade glycerin bath soap. What can I use for soap molds?
By Chammich from Keizer, OR
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