Soap Making is a therapeutic and calming space for me, it’s a journey that I started off with Melt & Pour soaps. But soon after, I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at cold process soaps. Initially, I was a bit skeptical about trying Lye(Sodium Hydroxide), which is a crucial ingredient in cold process soaps…. but by following the safety precautions my fear faded and soap-making became a safe and fun zone for me.
I’ve been trying different recipes and playing around with ingredients that I love. It’s been fun so far and so I’d like to guide you through the process. But know that it’s a subject that requires some background research. You have to find what works for you, whether it’s the oils or even a base recipe.
11 Steps on How To Make Cold Processed Soaps
1. Choose a Recipe and Gather Your Ingredients
There are various recipes on the internet for making cold process soaps. My advice would be if you’re just starting out pick one that is basic oils and easy to work through. It could be something as simple as a basic olive oil soap to begin with. Once you know what oils and fragrances you would like to work with, gather all your ingredients and gear.
You would need the following :
– sodium hydroxide
– fragrances if you choose to add any
– a measuring scale to get all the measurements spot-on
– a digital thermometer
– safety glasses & gloves
– a stick blender
– 3 different pans/ glass bowls to mix everything in
– a mold to set your soap in
– a spatula
2. Prepare your mould
For cold processed soaps I like to use a big loaf mould. Initially, I tried using the mold I was using round silicon cupcake molds. The soap batter for cold processed soaps is quite thick & so it is difficult to pour and get an even soap in those molds. So, in my opinion, a loaf mold or a box mold works best if you’d like nice even bars. So line it up with parchment paper if you like or put your silicone moulds in wood boxes.
3. Weigh The Water
Now all your liquids need to be weighed in a measuring scale. You can take like 1-2% margin with the oils and water. So to do this you would need a container, I like to use a stainless steel container.
4. Weight The Lye
First of all, get your goggles and safety gloves on for this one. Then measure out the amount of lye needed for your recipe, preferably in a stainless steel bowl. While doing so make sure you dont drop any flakes outside.
5. Pour The Lye Into Water
Pour the lye flakes into the water. As you do this know that it would create some fumes which might be unpleasant. If you like wear a mask too along with the goggles and gloves. Also, the bowl would heat up as the lye & water solution is hot. Make sure all the lye flakes mix well with water & keep this aside till it reaches about 40 degrees Celsius.
6. Weigh Out the Oils & Butters In Your Recipe
This would be where you weigh all the oils you are using for your cold processed soap recipe and any additional butter or fats requirements. Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, and even Coconut Oil sometimes are in solid form. So melt those separately and wait until all your oils reach about 40 degrees Celsius.
7. Combine Lye Solution Into the Oils
Once the lye solution and the oils have reached about 40 – 50 degrees, you can add the lye solution slowly into the oils.
8. Blend Till You Get A Trace
Now using a stick blender slowly blend in your solutions till it starts to thicken. Very soon you’d notice the batter reaches trace.
Trace is when the batter thickens up and leaves a mark on the top surface. This is tricky to understand so watch a few videos to know if you got this one right. Some say there’s a thing such as a false trace, but with a basic recipe, you wouldn’t have a lot of issues…. at least with the recipes I’ve tried so far, it’s been an easy one to get at.
Once you achieve a trace, add in the additives and mix a bit more to have them incorporated. Now here’s the thing, everything reacts differently. Some essential oils seize up the batter, some thicken it too quickly… so this is where some differences could arrive. But more or less this too works out well if you make sure to not blend for too long…. or the mixture thickens too quickly.
9. Pour Into Moulds
Once you’re done, pour it into your mold. This one needs to be done quickly and as you pour tap the mold on the surface to make sure there aren’t any empty air pockets. Once you’re done cover it with a cling wrap and a cloth and keep aside for 24-36 hours. Some soap bars seem soft even after 36 hours and this would depend on the oils used… so if that, then keep it for longer. But usually, 1-2 days works just fine.
10. Un-mould and Cut Into Bars
When you feel like the soap has hardened and would pop out easily, take it out of the mold. Gently pull on the edges and then push them out of the mold. Once the bar comes out you can cut it into your desired-sized soap bars. Some people use a slice cutter which gives you even cut soap bars. So far I’ve just been using a bread knife.
11. Let The Soaps Cure
Once you’ve got your soap bars keep them in a fairly open space. Turn the sides every few weeks and let them cure for about 4 weeks. Curing helps the soap to harden. And four weeks later, your cold processed soaps are ready to use.
Cold-processed soaps are fun to make and make for a very thoughtful handmade gift. They are such a joy to use and I love that you can experiment to such a vast extent with these. You can customize the oils and every other ingredient you use to make these, all based on what suits your skin best. So do give this a try and let me know how you went.
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