DIY soap

23 Aug 2010

??As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been trying to figure out why no one knows how to do anything anymore. We can’t understand, let alone repair, most of the gadgets we use everyday. We increasingly eat packaged and pre-prepared food; even organic food often comes wrapped in plastic. We don’t know how to grow tomatoes, can peaches, hem pants, or build fences.

??DIY Soap Making and Other Skills Slipping Away

??I have never found why this knowledge started slipping away from us, but I am trying to re-learn some of the basics. I now make my own soap, hand lotion, yogourt, and bread. I am trying to figure out toothpaste, but it is hard to find good information on abrasion damage. I also found a great cheese site, which has a recipe for labneh, a cheese I can make from my homemade yogourt, and I plan to make other cheeses with my friends, who write about the Hundred Mile Diet.

??Making Homemade Soap Can Be Dangerous

??Before we begin, let me stress that soap-making can be dangerous. Although it is easy to become comfortable with the process, you should only make soap when you fully understand the safety procedures.

??Here is some general homemade soap information

??Soap is made in two parts, lye and water, plus a mixture of oils. The two don’t combine easily, so they must be brought to similar temperatures. Lye and water get very hot when mixed, so the mixture must cool before being added to the oils.

??The oils must be gently heated. The oil is nowhere near hot enough to cook with, but still, please do not start any fires. Every oil has a different saponification index, which is a measure of how much lye is required to turn that oil into soap. This means, if you run out of coconut oil, don’t go replacing it with olive oil.

??Lye is VERY caustic, so don’t get any on your skin. It also gives off nasty fumes, so use goggles and very good ventilation or a respirator. Check out the Materials Safety Data Sheet on lye. You will also need a mould. You could use a 9 x 13 cake pan, and line it with wax paper. I bought a used Rubbermaid bread box that is about 14″ x 6″ x 5″. This makes a big block of soap that is not safe to cut with a knife. I cut it with a guitar string wrapped around a couple of chopstick handles.

??Homemade Soap: The Hardest Step

??The hardest thing about soap is knowing when it is done. This is judged by a state called ‘Trace’. This is when a dribble of soap kind of stays on the surface instead of sinking into the pot. Think honey on a counter top as it slowly flattens out.

??Check online for all the soap info you could want, from a very active community. The book that I used to work out this recipe is called The Soapmaker’s Companion, by Susan Miller Cavitch. This is also where I found recipes for hand lotion.

??Here is my recipe for homemade soap

??Lye - Mix in large pyrex measuring cup, stir with a chopstick saved from order-in Chinese food. Again, DO NOT BREATHE THE FUMES. WEAR GOGGLES.

??700 ml purified water

??270 g or 91/4 oz lye (one small container)

??Oils -Mix in a big pot

??Olive oil 955g 4.5 cups

??Coconut oil 390g 500ml 2 cups

??Grapeseed oil 515g 500ml 2 cups

??Use the cheap pomace olive oil, virgin doesn’t work as well.

??Let lye mixture cool to 110F. Warm oils to 110F. When both are at the same temperature, slowly pour lye mixture into oils. Mix with a stick blender until trace, periodically scraping sides and bottom of pan with a spatula. I mix with short pulses of the blender, and it only takes about three minutes.


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