Soap with lye or not, hot or cold ?  Soap making for beginners or newbies.

Soap with lye or not, hot or cold ? Soap making for beginners or newbies.

Natural living is not only became more popular in last few decades as trendy thing, but it is became also as ''have to learn'' thing for most of us from western society. Soap making is one of my latest subject in this learning journey and it is quite excited. 

The use of synthetic detergents in enormous amounts makes it increasingly uncertain how harmful to health and the environment. So, when you looking for something better more natural in the soap industry -  it turns out we don't have looking for something new, but returning to the traditional homemade soaps. 

Natural, pure and genuine soap, made according to ancient traditions and recipes with some new natural ingredients as beneficial supplements, is becoming increasingly popular both in Europe and the United States.  Also manufacturers of mass soap products are trying to bring their new products closer to nature, but it is not easy task.  Large companies will never be able to massively produce such natural soaps as separate soap artisans in small portions.

It took a while before I made my first batch of soap. I seems so easy when others make them, but when you have to make your own, so many questions rises.....

I was so proud of my first homemade soap and they were really good. I did not know yet how to make a good recipe and how to read soap calculation, so I used very simple recipe and use only 3 oils olive oil, coconut oil and shea butter.

 

Most common question for beginners is:  Can I make soap from single oil?

My answers is - yes you can, but all depends what kind of oil you choose and what kind of soap you expect to get. So, today I decided to write this blog post to guide you how to choose oils for your own soap and what you should know before start.

For example soap made just with olive oil is perfect soap for skin and laundry, but it takes 12 month to get it ready for use. Soap made only with coconut oil is quick work and it is great as laundry soap. Make your own research before you made one oil soap to avoid unexpected experience.

If you never made a soap before, you should learn some abbreviations used in soap making to follow many of instruction available online, so I will try to write clear my posts for newbies and will try to not confuse you with lot of abbreviations:)

To understand how soap is made you should know that there is three basic methods used in soap making and each of them has several 'upgrades'.

Most abbreviations is Melt and Pure method (so called MP method). This method gives many misunderstanding for beginners in soap making because this soap you can make without lye and you can find so many times the same question all around the internet forums - how to make soap without lye.  Only way how to do it is to use pure glycerine soap base, it is ready to use, just melt it in high temperature (microwave is traditional way to do it), add some fragrance - synthetic made compounds with strong and stable scent or some metal oxide colorant, mix it all together and pure in your favorite soap mold.

I never made any of these soaps because they are not very long lasting bars and because of high concentration of glycerine in them, but they are good as highly moisturized soaps and could be used as great and funny homemade gifts. 

it is very safe process for kids workshops because you should not deal with harmful lye solution. Lye is very dangerous chemical and should be cared keeping safety always in a mind. 

Real soap from scratches is always made from lye and oils, these two compounds react together in certain temperature and make soap molecules and glycerine as byproduct of this process. This process is called saponification and could take time from some hours to even several months to compete this reaction.

For bars soaps as lye is used NaOH or caustic soda and for liquid soap KOH or caustic potash is used.

Learning of soap making from oils and lye  starts with following two methods - COLD and HOT processes (CP and HP).

Both of these methods use strong alkaline or lye and oils, nut butters or any other fats. Let's see what is difference between these two methods. 

 

TEMPERATURE is important

What ever temperature you choose to try, just keep in mind oils and lye should be at very close temperature and they difference should not be more than 5° C or 40° F.

 

HOT PROCESS

Hot process soap is made in much higher temperature usually in a range of 93° C (200° F ) and 104° C (220° F).

Soap made with this methods give a little bit different result and it is just a question of taste which method you will like more.

But main benefits of this method is following:

-it gives much more longer lasting soap bars

-soap looks like much more rustic style 

-saponification process happens much more faster because of higher temperature

-soap always goes trough gel phase that gives them much more vivid and brighter colors

-you can take out solid soap from mold - unmold it, in next day, that is much faster than cold process soap

-hot process decreases soap cure time and you can start to use soap much earlier.

-hot process can limit your time to make a nice and decorative soap top and very often soap itself has some hole in it caused by air bubbles left in it. But is is just a esthetic issue and give  some handmade touch to them :)

COLD PROCESS

Cold process soap is made below 54° C or 130° F but not colder than 30° C or 85° F.

In lower temperature you can make a false trace of soap and end up with high lye concentration in your soap and oil separation.

My favorite temperature is up to 38 - 45° C or 100 - 113° F for cold process. If I use hard oils such as cacao butter or shea butter I keep temperature little bit higher to allow these butters react with lye properly and do not become too thin before soap goes in a mold.

Main benefits from cold process soap method is

- you have a more time to work with the soap

-it is much easier to pure this soap in mold

-it gives smooth and solid finish

-time to made a nice decorative soap top

-color has more pastel tone than vivid and bright appearance

-much easier to make soap with different color layers, designs and patterns

-such a soap can miss the complete gel phase of temperature are not increased enough in saponification process

-saponification process is much slower and such a soap takes much more time to become solid for unmolding and need longer cure time before we can use them.

There is some tips and trick how to combine both of these methods by using water discount to achieve best results or what to do something goes wrong - more common trouble shooting and how to avoid than. But it should be topic for next time.

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