Saponification is the making of soap

Understanding the sanctification process could be daunting if we delve deeply into the chemistry. But let’s not to that. Why don’t I just tell you how I make soaps, generally speaking, of course.

Simply stated: Saponification is the chemical process of making soap.

I used to be very concerned about the process of making soap until Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs came into my life. Honestly, most of the situations that man gets himself into are insane. Soap making is a breeze compared to what some folks do for a living. I honor them all and now thoroughly enjoy soap making.

BEGIN WITH THE GREATEST OF CAUTIONS. Be alert, aware and focused at all times.

I recommend working with stainless steel or glass utensils and containers. Aluminum will melt, wood, and some plastics, will burn. Have plenty of water available in case something is spilled and it will. Vinegar is a neutralizer for lye so keep that handy too. By all means, protect your skin/eyes/breathing at all times. Make sure you are in a well ventilated area because the lye fumes are dangerous, too.

I won’t go into formulas/recipes because there are so many available online or in books. I’ll mainly share my experiences with soapmaking. You’ll need three main ingredients:

  1. sodium hydroxide (lye);
  2. liquid (usually water); and
  3. fats and oils (fatty acids).

Since the oils/fats take longer to blend, I begin the process by weighing them. Because some of the oils/fats are in two different forms (solids versus liquids), you’ll need to heat the oils/fats mixture until they have melted and blended together. Careful: it gets HOT.

Remember: Oil and water do not mix. So you need to mix the water and lye together first. Be careful with this mixture because it gets HOT and lye is dangerous. Mix thoroughly. Sometime a crust forms on the bottom of the mixture if it is left too long without stirring.

More than likely, you now have two different mixtures at two different temperatures. It’s been my experience that the oils/fats take longer to cool down than the water/lye mixture. Doesn’t matter; I stay with these two containers without interruption (no cell phone, animals, or distractions) until they are ready to blend.

When both containers are in the low 100s, I put them in a water bath (large utility sink outside my garage door). I stir and watch each of them closely until both of them are in the low 90s or high 80s AND within 5 degrees of each other. At that time I pour the lye mixture into the oil mixture and begin stirring like a crazy woman.

After the initial blend, I carry this cauldron inside to my factory where the essential oils, coloring, and molds are located. Mind you, the factor work areas has been sanitized and the molds have already been prepared or lined. They are ready to go because once the soap ‘traces’ I’ll JUST have time to pour the mixture into the molds.

The faster you stir or agitate this hot mixture, the faster it will setup. I recently purchased a super big deal blender and have yet to use it at full power because the mixture traces too quickly. Darn, I want to play with my new blender but can’t. Sigh … . I digress.

You should know your design strategy (molds, colors and essential oils) before you begin. Again, you will NOT have time once the saponification process begins.

Again, exercise caution: this mixture is hot with heat and is hot chemically. You can/will get burned both ways.

Carefully pour your pudding-consistency mixture into your mold. Cover with blankets so it will cool slowly.

Here’s where I stop. I leave all my tools, mess, buckets, containers alone until the next day. It’s all hot and will burn me with heat and chemically. By the next day it’ll be cool enough to wash.

The exception is the lye mixture mess. I pour vinegar/water in the container and put the utensils inside. I make sure this container is concealed so no critters can get into it. By critters I mean chickens, goats, birds, or dogs. The chemistry could really hurt them.

I frequently check the soap for hardness then cut it when it’s firm enough to keep it’s shape; but, soft enough to cut. If you wait too long, it’ll become too hard and you might not be able to cut it. (I did this once and still have some of that log.)

Happy soaping …

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