Thursday, November 12, 2015

Adventures in Cold Process Soap Making




Conversion into soap, denoting the hydrolytic action of an alkali on fat, especially on triacylglycerols; in histochemistry, saponification is used to demethylate or reverseblockage of carboxylic acid groups, thus permitting basophilia to occur.

[sapo- (sapon-) + L. facio, to make]

(I have been absent from this little space and blogging generally.  I attribute the absence to the death of google reader and my smartphone. I do not like posting from my smart phone / tablet and at the same time, because of I have been more or less connected throughout the day, I no longer feel the need to turn on the computer in the evenings.  I still enjoy reading blogs (although it is again difficult to comment on the smart phone) and think blogs remain useful - especially when the author wants to share something more than a single photo which can be easily posted on Instagram.)

Anyway, a neat small business opened in my neighbourhood called Pitchfork Company . Pitchfork offers interesting courses such as pasta making, canning, pastry, etc. Last year, I took a course in jam making and the other night I took a course on cold process soap making. Our instructor was Rebekkah of Alchemy Pickle who has been make cold process soap for about 10 years and guided us through all the steps.

I did not know anything about cold process soap making, but after experimenting with homemade lip balm last winter I thought it would be interesting to learn the process.

The class of 12 was divided into two groups and each group had a chance to make a version of “Sherry’s Fantastic Soap” – the recipe can be found here.   The main ingredients are sunflower oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, castor oil, olive oil, water and lye.  

The lye (lye is highly corrosive and should only be used under very strict safety precautions  ) is mixed with water and put outside to cool. As soon as the lye crystals hit water it becomes extremely hot and there are also vapors. I can’t stress enough the importance of safety (this site has excellent safety precautions – gloves, mask, goggles) and that is why it is a good idea to take a course if you are interested in cold process soap making.

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We then melted our solid oils and added them to our liquid oils.

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Once the lye water and the oils reach the correct temperatures,it is time to pour the lye water into the oils and mix -  preferably with a stick blender. The mixture will become  custard-like and will eventually start to stick (called “trace”). The blender must remain submerged so that there is no spray as the mixture is still caustic.


Once the mixture has reached the “light trace” consistency, it is time to add essential oils or colours to personalize your soap.


Our group made a cocoa cinnamon soap and the other group made a lavender soap. After adding the essential oils, the mixture can be poured into the molds to cure (we used cardboard loaf molds) – again, take strict precautions.

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If you want the change the colour to add a swirl effect or two colour – like my group - you can keep some of the mixture as reserve, add cocoa mix and pour on top. It sort of looked like mashed potatoes and gravy.

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After 24 hours the soap will harden and it can be sliced into bars with a knife.  Try not to handle the soap too much as it is still not ready to use.  The soap must cure for at least 3-4 weeks before using.


Below is my soap which has been sliced, but still needs to cure for the 3-4 week period in a safe place where air can circulate.

IMG_8951 I am not sure whether I will try this at home. I am a little anxious about the lye. It might be fun to do it as another group. Our instructor mentioned another method – melt pour (blocks shown below)– which is an easy method and no lye involved and might be better suited for the kids. I will investigate this further and report back.


Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!