I haven’t made soap in years. Too much knitting, blogging, working and a bit of burnout—I did some craft shows when the economy tanked—retired my stick blender.
This winter, though, a bout of unremittant, body-wide itching forced me back into the basement to review my supplies. All my luxury oils—rancid. Olive oil—out. But my hard-come-by palm and coconut oils, sealed tight as drums and smelling just fine. A trip to Costco for a gallon of not-so-virgin olive oil and I was back in business.
Let’s make soap, shall we? (You can find Kathy Miller’s instructions for cold process soapmaking, here.)
1. This is lye, aka sodium hydroxide. This is bad, caustic stuff, but you don’t get soap without it. This is why the poor kitten spent part of the afternoon in the bathroom time out.
2. This is water mixed with lye. When water and lye are combined the mixture gets really hot and really volatile. This is the second batch of water and lye I made after the first batch of water, honey and lye exploded. This is why you mix the water and lye outside.
3. This is coconut oil. It’s solid at room temperature. Coconut oil imparts a nice, bubbly lather.
4. This is olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil combined. Cellulite never looked so good.
5. Add lye and a stick blender and, voila, raw soap.
6. Keep blending, you don’t want nasty fat chunks in your soap. This is when you add your essential oils. This is a batch of lavender/honey soap. After my little mishap, I zoomed through a couple off soapmaking references only to learn that this is the proper time to add honey.
7. Pour into lined molds and cover with blankets for 24 hours. Soap is very shy when it’s young, so you need to keep it under wraps. It also continues saponifying and it likes to be warm when it’s doing this.
8. The true joy of soapmaking. Cleaning up.
9. But wait, there’s more. This afternoon I’ll uncover the soap and let it harden for several days. Then I’ll remove it from the molds, slice it like tea cakes and set it out to cure for three weeks. No instant gratification here.