First Steps in Soapmaking
Well this summer I gave cold process soap-making a go, having read a couple of websites and deciding that I want to stop using palm oil in my life as much as possible. I love orang-utans, as my favourite author does, and it is heart-breaking to see the “person of the forest” increasingly become the “person with no forest left”. These highly intelligent and interesting apes are far more important than the convenience of the palm oil. And I do not believe that it is as good in all the uses it is put to as is claimed. It is in just about any processed food you can buy, and also in loads of cosmetics.
The soap was a great success, using olive pomace oil, coconut oil and shea butter as the basis and then going slightly mad with all my favourite essential oils! I am nearly at the end of the first loaf-tin-full, and so this week I shall try to get in another batch.
Here are some of the websites and so on that I found useful when making my soap:
http://www.soap-making-resource.com/cold-process-soap-making.html was great for a basic instruction for the cold process. There are loads of typos that I found distracting – took ages to work out that “leaf mold” meant “loaf mould”! But the instructions were essentially spot on.
https://www.thesage.com/calcs/LyeCalc.html was a fantastic tool for working out the recipe I wanted, especially given that I have not made soap before. It helps you to work out important things like “super-fatting”, where you put in more fat than the lye can convert, both for safety (no nasty lye left over at the end), and for skin moisturising. You also get an indication of how the various types of fat work singly or in combination, with useful information included.
https://www.thesage.com/calcs/FragCalc.html And this is their calculator to try to indicate how much fragrance or essential oil to add. This is probably not going to be pin-point accurate, as the grades of oils and their strengths can vary, but it should get you somewhere near.
I can add a couple of tips of my own:
1. Cover the main processing area (apart from the cooker of course!) with loads of old newspapers. This will make tidying up much easier.
2. If using an electric device to spare yourself having to hand-whisk for up to an hour, choose a cheap stick blender rather than a whisk type machine. Otherwise, you are going to have a terrible time trying not to cover the kitchen in blobs of half-made soap…!
3. I found that the colourant I wanted to use was wholly inadequate. Maybe it was meant to do a smaller quantity, but after sticking in half a bottle I decided it was unnecessary anyway.
4. Choose fragrances or essential oils that will work for everyone who will need to use the soap. My boyfriend would not want to smell of lavender, so a bath soap cannot contain it. Frankincense, however, is suitably “blokey” and very good for the skin, so that is a winner. Mandarin and Roman chamomile are supposed to be sufficiently benign that they can be used in baby products, so they should be fairly safe too. I love lemongrass, orange and ginger, and fortunately most of those blend well with each other. I got a lovely well-rounded scent in the end.