Second go at soapmaking – going slightly mad!

Today I have had another go at making soap, and I decided to try several different things with the base soap. This may or may not turn out to be a good idea, but at least the experiment should teach me something.

I only have two pieces of soap left from my previous batch, so I needed to make some more now and give it time to cure. Here it is:

Two pieces of homemade soap

Homemade soap

To make the new soap, I got my equipment together and put newspaper down to protect as much of the area as possible. Here are the items I used:

Sodium hydroxide, olive pomace oil, solid coconut oil and shea butter

Soap ingredients


Essential oils in several small vials

Quite a few essential oils


Optional extra soap components - red, blue and yellow dyes, and pumice powder

Optional extras for soap


A Pyrex bowl, electric whisk and thermometer

Essential equipment


Two bottles of mixed essential oils

Oils I mixed ready for the soap making


A small digital kitchen scales for weighing soap ingredients

Small digital scales for ingredients

The scales are particularly important! I protect mine by covering the plate with a piece of cling film. Then, if any really nasty chemicals such as the sodium hydroxide get on the cling film, it does not matter – that can be thrown away more readily than anything else bar the newspaper.

I measured out the oils and then heated them in a pan until they all melted. Note that the coconut oil is a solid – there are other types that are liquid at room temperature, but this is the best kind for the soap. They don’t look too promising at first:

Soap oils - some as solid lumps of white  - ready fo melting into soap

Soap oils in the pan

Then, once the oils were slowly warming up, I weighed out the cold water (the recipe I have uses weights rather than wet measures) and put it in the pyrex bowl. I then weighed out the sodium hydroxide (or lye) on the scales on top of some cling film, and added it to the water. This reaction is exothermic, which means it generates a lot of heat. By the time the oils have melted, the lye was be nearly boiling hot, all from the chemical reaction.

The next bit I couldn’t photograph because it all either goes far too fast, or needs both hands to be constantly on the job! Once both the oils in the pan and the lye in the water were at about the same temperature – about 45 degrees Celcius – I added them together in the pan and used the electric whisk to mix them. They should reach “trace” – a bit like doing meringues where the egg whites start to leave a trail if you lift the whisk out of them. This took about 15 minutes even with the electric whisk, so I am very glad I did not try to go old school and do it by hand!

I made up a third of the mixture with a seven-essential-oils mix involving Frankincense, Lemongrass, Lemon, Orange, Mandarin, Cinnamon and Ginger. This is quite close to my first ever batch, though I don’t think I bothered with the Cinnamon that time. The second third, I added red dye, and an orange and vanilla mix. The third part, I went silly. Two small cupcake moulds were given some poppy seeds, red and blue dye and lavender oil and then topped up with soap, and mixed. A third cupcake mould was given some pumice powder, blue and yellow dye, and tea tree oil then topped up with soap. I did the same again but making one soap with each of Rosemary and then Tea Tree oil. These should make fancy foot soaps. The last scraps I repeated the lavender and poppy seed mix.

Needless to say, there was a lot of washing up to do! The soaps are now curing quietly in the bedroom, where they should cool slowly to make really nice soaps. I can’t wait to try them out.

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