Soap making is a complicated, time-consuming but worthwhile
task. This site is intended to explore the cold process
and instruct you on some of the mistakes to avoid if a.) You have
bad directions, b.) you do not fully understand the
directions, or c.) you try to take short cuts through the process.
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2 stainless steel buckets to hold fat and lye seperately-Glass
or stainless steel
Food or postage scale (w/ounces wt.)
Mold for the soap to cool in
Thermometers (candy thermometers work well, they must go up to at least 54.4 Celsius)
Spoon (stainless steel/ wood)
Coffee Filter Paper
Everybody loves bacon. But what to do with all that fat? Just
looking at it can clog an artery. Well, one answer, for the sustainability-minded
individual is to use it to make soap! Soap can be made using rendered
animal fat or various oils. If using animal fat, it must be "purged"
so that the "clean" fat can be used. There are a couple
of ways this can be done. One way is to boil the fat in an equal
amount of water and then let the mixture cool down. Ideally, the
clean fat should float to the top and the rest will sink to the
bottom. So after breakfast, we used coffee filter paper to remove
the bigger chunks, then measured out 8 ounces. This 8 ounces of
bacon fat was then mixed with an equal amount of water and set
to boil. Five minutes later, it exploded.
Good thing no one was in the kitchen at the time. Not that
we should have left the mixture unattended, but it worked out
well in this case. Still, if you don't want bacon grease all over
your kitchen walls, soap making should be done outdoors. If it
is done indoors, a double boiler should be used or a set up of
two pots (as shown below) where the bottom pot is half filled
with water so that the fat doesn't reach higher than required
temperatures. Also do not set the temperature on high. Set
it really low then increase the temperature if needed. That is
where we hypothesize that the problem started. The oil should
be in the top pot. Eye protection is a must. A thermometer should
be used to gage the temperature of the oil. It heats up pretty
Lye is an integral part of soap-making. It's the part of the
soap that does the cleaning. It's also a highly basic chemical.
In a developing country, there are ways to make lye water from
wood ash, and ways to test the strength of that solution using
an egg or a potato. But we won't get into that. For our experiment,
Red Devil Drain cleaner was used instead, as that is a 100% lye
product. Using the Smooth and Simple Soap recipe from Maria
Nerius's book Soapmaking For Fun and Profit,
we measured out 1 ounce of lye. This was then stirred in, little
by little to 2.5 ounces of room-temperature water. We were careful
not to inhale any fumes. This is a chemical reaction. No heat
is needed as the reaction produces its own heat. Measured with
a thermometer, it went up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in a
matter of minutes.
It is important to know the concentration of the lye solution
being used. If it is too low, the lye will not react properly
with the fats and the soap will not form. Seeing as this is a
chemical, this probably should not be used near other food items
commonly found in the kitchen.
Another attempt was made with Canola oil. It's already clean,
so this eliminates the "purging of the fat" step. Using
two pots for a double boiler, we warmed the oil to about 100 degrees
Fahrenheit. (Recommended temperature range is 90 - 130 degrees
F). Again, 1 ounce of lye was mixed to 2.5 ounces of water.
At this step of the process, stirring is critical. We probably did not stir as much as we should have. The directions on this part were very general. We also did not insulate our molds after pouring because they did not trace to begin with. So far, it does not look much like soap, but it's hard to tell. It's possible we did do things right and don't know it. Perhaps we made soft soap. We'll let it cure, and time will tell.