Author Topic: Homemade Soap!  (Read 20826 times)

Offline euge

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Homemade Soap!
« on: May 25, 2011, 11:05:56 PM »
Per Tom's request I'll start a soap thread.

First thing to know this isn't your dear old Grannie's harsh soap. It is so good I quit buying shampoo and just use the soap instead. Haven't bought soap in 5 years. It is nearly as gratifying as making beer! Almost...

I'll address cold-process soap first. The base recipe is similar to beer. One uses a base fat and can augment it with various other types of fat to comprise a recipe. I like to make Castille soap (100% vegetable based) out of 80% vegetable oil (soy) and the other 20% can be olive oil plus some coconut oil. Or you can add melted lard to the mix- this will result in harder bars- which somehow correlates to "clarity" in beers to me. Just for drawing comparisons. LOL

How it works:

My house soap usually is 1000 grams of vegetable oil (very neutral light oil); 250 grams of olive oil (makes the suds very silky); 300-400ml of h2o; and 161 grams of pure sodium hydroxide (lye) to comprise about 5% excess fat. I don't usually add scents, but have used anything from cinnamon to basil flowers. Tea tree oil is nice.

Dissolve the lye in the water until it is clear. Add to the fat and mix with a stick blender or in a regular blender. Be a grown-up and be careful. It is very caustic at this stage.



Mix well until one begins to see signs of "trace". This is when the mixture comes together and emulsifies. Looks like custard and will leave a line when you sweep the blender through it. There is such a thing as a "false trace" so make sure you don't quit when it initially thickens. I like it super thick before it goes into the mould(s).



It's still not soap yet. It has to saponify. That is to go through the exothermic saponification process which converts itself to soap. Sound familiar? The soap will harden quickly once in the mould. It will look like beautiful creamy soap. It isn't soap yet! In an hour or two it will start to saponify. The appearance will become gel-like and it will begin to put off a significant amount of heat. This is just the chemical reaction. We are not physically heating anything with this method. I like to insulate my moulds which makes for a better finished product.

After a couple days or longer I'll tighten the cap on my mould and use an air pump to push the soap out like a piston. It will look creamy again.




I will then air-dry it in log form until it is firm and dry to the touch. Might be a few days but usually at least a couple weeks or more. Depends on water content. Similarly, like most beer the soap only gets better as it ages. I slice bars off as needed.



Here is a great calculator for making up soap recipes.



The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2011, 11:29:58 PM »
With the stick blender, is it caustic enough that you need a dedicated stick blender or do you use the same one you use for food?  What do you blend it in?  Just bend it up and pour it into the mold?

What is a reasonable proportion of scent to add from tea tree oil for example?  I could see it varying from one oil to another, just looking for a starting point.

Was there two ends to that tube while it was saponifying?

Where do you buy an air valve?  What did you use to mount it like that?

What do you use to slice it, just a knife or something?

Where do you get lye?  I assume I don't want drain cleaner, but what type of store would carry it?  There's got to be some place around here.

Did you size your batch to fill the tube?  I assume different size batches work fine, just scale linearly?  Does the thickness of the tube affect the saponification time?

Sorry for all of the questions, but I'm going to need to try that soon.  :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline punatic

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2011, 12:06:43 AM »
I use liposuction fat cells to make my soap.   ;)
There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in your own way.


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Offline euge

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2011, 12:14:32 AM »
With the stick blender, is it caustic enough that you need a dedicated stick blender or do you use the same one you use for food?  What do you blend it in?  Just bend it up and pour it into the mold?

I bought a $10 stick jobbie from WM, but also have used the bar-blender without it affecting my margaritas. Just run the parts through the dishwasher. What's on it is basically soap. A 2 gallon bucket, and yes- just blend it up and pour. Takes just a few minutes. Have a beer.

What is a reasonable proportion of scent to add from tea tree oil for example?  I could see it varying from one oil to another, just looking for a starting point.

An ounce or two for scents.

Was there two ends to that tube while it was saponifying?

Yes and I used the cheap cap/protector as a base/plug. I seal it with some cling wrap and tape otherwise it will leak. This is my method, but I'm sure there are better. I just peel the wrap/tape off and give it a few psi with the pump. Usually that's enough to piston the cap and soap out.


Where do you buy an air valve?  What did you use to mount it like that?

Autostore. And I drilled the cap out, but no sealant. 

What do you use to slice it, just a knife or something?

A sharp one. Think cheese.

Where do you get lye?  I assume I don't want drain cleaner, but what type of store would carry it?  There's got to be some place around here.

Locally a cleaning supply store in tubs as sodium hydroxide. Not Draino or Red Devil. I thin k it is available online. You want 100% sodium hydroxide.

Did you size your batch to fill the tube?  I assume different size batches work fine, just scale linearly?  Does the thickness of the tube affect the saponification time?

Yes, I calculated out the volume and sized the tubes accordingly to the standard size batch. I like to have a good sized mass so that the exothermic reaction heats it up real good. Chose 3" pvc for this since it's a decent sized round bar and there is a good solid column of solution to heat up. I don't think the walls' thickness matters- it just has to be strong. I used to make blocks of soap with those flimsy cardboard flats that soda six-packs come in. Line it with cling-wrap and dump it out when the soap is done. I've never done individual moulded bars, but suspect that they would saponify poorly.

Sorry for all of the questions, but I'm going to need to try that soon.  :)

My pleasure. I hope you do try it soon. :D

I use liposuction fat cells to make my soap.   ;)

Medical waste? Eeeeew. Too much lard for my tastes. :P I like my soap vegetarian.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline punatic

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2011, 01:10:44 AM »

I use liposuction fat cells to make my soap.   ;)

Medical waste? Eeeeew. Too much lard for my tastes. :P I like my soap vegetarian.

There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in your own way.


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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2011, 01:11:58 AM »
Good stuff euge, thanks.

Ok, existing stick blender, find some lye somewhere, build a tube.  3" seems like a nice diameter for the soap, so I'll probably do the same.  re: thickness, I meant the ID of the tube, not the wall thickness, I can see I worded it poorly.

Re: the cap, you just press fit it on and then wrap it in plastic wrap?  Or does the plastic go on the inside?

The air valve, no worries about leaking because that is the top?  And as long as it is seated ok, when you apply pressure it just hold it against the top anyway?

I use liposuction fat cells to make my soap.   ;)
Nice reference. :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline euge

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2011, 01:41:16 AM »
Plastic on the outside, then wrapped with tape.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline phillamb168

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2011, 02:28:20 AM »
Good stuff euge, thanks.

Ok, existing stick blender, find some lye somewhere, build a tube.  3" seems like a nice diameter for the soap, so I'll probably do the same.  re: thickness, I meant the ID of the tube, not the wall thickness, I can see I worded it poorly.

Re: the cap, you just press fit it on and then wrap it in plastic wrap?  Or does the plastic go on the inside?

The air valve, no worries about leaking because that is the top?  And as long as it is seated ok, when you apply pressure it just hold it against the top anyway?

I use liposuction fat cells to make my soap.   ;)
Nice reference. :)

http://secure.sciencecompany.com/Sodium-Hydroxide-500g-P15962C670.aspx
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2011, 02:30:16 AM »
Euge you're like the crazy uncle I never had, teaching me all this cool stuff. Peppers, soap - it never ends! Fantastic thread. Thanks for all the how-to info.

I think I'll try spent-grain soap, but food processor'ed for a bit first to make it less 'sharp.' If I add some hop pellets, in theory they'll keep the grain from molding, no?

Mmm... tea tree oil, that's a good idea too. Tea tree oil and simcoe pellets.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2011, 06:29:20 AM »
Nice mold idea Euge.  I just made some small rectangular wooden trays for mine, I hold them together with clamps.  Gives me the rectangular bars this way.

One thing I would caution people about, is that the exothermic reaction during the saponification in the mold really generates a LOT of heat.  Just be aware and put your mold somewhere that it won't melt something or ruin a wood finish.  Also, you can't just substitute one oil for another in the recipe.  Different oils have different fatty acid compositions and as such you'll need a little more or less lye to do the job.  There are tables online that give you the amount of oil and lye for a given type.

As for 5% excess oils, this is a safe place to go but I find it to be a little much.  I will usually formulate a recipe using 3% excess.  That is enough to ensure no lye is left and makes the soap less oily feeling.  as it is the stuff is nice and slippery because you still have the glycerine in the soap, unlike commercial stuff where it is removed and sold as a separate commodity.

A tip on olive oil, it is expensive and canola is much cheaper and contains nearly the same fatty acid composition, namely mostly mono-unsaturated fats.  Makes a nice bar although as Euge says its softer than a recipe with something with a lot of saturated fat like lard.  When I was doing this a lot I used palm and coconut oils in some of my soap, as well as cocoa and shea butters.  Nice fancy stuff if you really want something for face washing, not needed for washing those crevies on the rest of the body.

There aree of course soapmaking forums you can learn a lot freom, just like brewing forums only not as interesting.

Euge, tell us about your experience with honey, sugar and milk.  I've made soap with milk and honey and it turned out nice.  I think the sugar/honey causes things to heat up even more right?
« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 06:33:23 AM by tomsawyer »
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2011, 06:38:38 AM »
Euge...you have a very creative spirit. I learn something every day. Thanks for posting.  :)
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2011, 09:28:47 AM »
http://secure.sciencecompany.com/Sodium-Hydroxide-500g-P15962C670.aspx
Thanks Phil, a good backup if I can't find it locally.  Or maybe a good primary if I can't find a decent price. :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2011, 09:44:38 AM »
Awesome. I have been looking to make my own soap for awhile now and this seems to be the kick that I needed.

Tschmidlin, we have a shop within 20 miles of my house that sells soap making supplies. They carry lye. Look for something like that. Probably right next to homebrew shops in the yellow pages  ;D
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline euge

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2011, 10:39:06 AM »
Euge, tell us about your experience with honey, sugar and milk.  I've made soap with milk and honey and it turned out nice.  I think the sugar/honey causes things to heat up even more right?
It certainly does something. I'd like to know how you did it.

I've tried milk in place of water and IIRC it turned brick red when I added the lye. This translated to the soap ending up turning orange. I added honey in another and got the same results. Same goes for sugar. I'm thinking of adding milk and/or honey after trace and blending it in real good to see how that works. It definitely acted really weird and the honey soap log sweated... something. However, I let it dry for a couple months and it turned out to be my Grand Cru batch. I loved that orange honey soap...

Phil, if you put spent grain in your soap make sure it is dry first then pulse it up in the food processor to a nice grind. You'll only need about 1/3 cup at most, which you should mix in right before the mixture goes into the moulds. The same applies to oatmeal which is a popular request that I get.

Yes, this stuff is so good people actually commission me to make them soap. I'll make a year's supply for them in exchange for $20.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Homemade Soap!
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2011, 11:42:43 AM »
I just noticed your recipe says 300-400ml of water. Why such a large variance? I went to the calculator website and they tell me 312-469 ml of water. That's a huge difference I would think.
Mike --- Flint, Michigan