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Adventures in Liquid Soapmaking


I have been a soapmaker for more than 12 years mostly via the cold process method. Just
when I thought I couldn't get more passionate about soapmaking, I discovered liquid
soapmaking. Previously intimidated by all mystery, scant literature and complicated
recipes, I kept putting it off. After all, I was pretty comfortable and proficient with the
cold process method and the variety of lovely soaps it allowed me to produce. Finally
conquering the fear and dread, to my surprise, the very first batch turned out to be a
wonderful success. I can tell you, that was not the case with my first attempt with the
cold process method. The only thing I needed was more patience during the process.
With the cold process method the patience comes afterwards--waiting for your soap to
cure. Now I could kick myself for waiting so long. I hope you don't wait. It really is
pretty easy and loads of fun. And best of all--ready to use immediately. So get soaping!
~D.Batiste

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10 Steps to Making Liquid Soap from Scratch

All soap, whether hard bar type or liquid, starts with the chemical reaction of oils and an
alkali. The difference comes in the alkali used to saponify the oils. For bar soaps, it's
sodium hydroxide (NaOH) while liquid soaps, use potassium hydroxide (KOH). Many
variations in both bar and liquid soaps can be achieved using different oils and slight
alterations in techniques to change the final product - from a light liquid hand soap, to
shampoo, or shower gel.

1. Clear your work space and assemble your supplies.

Recipe:
4.5oz. Coconut Oil
8 oz. Corn Oil
5 oz. Distilled Water
2.6 oz. Lye - Potassium Hydroxide (KAOH)

Dilution: 32 oz. Distilled Water

3 oz. (6 T.) Borax dissolved in 6 oz. hot water

You will need:


Basic container(s) for mixing the lye
crock pot (at least 4qt capacity)
Scale
Measuring cups
Stick blender
pH strip testers
Storage container(s) for soap

2. Measure & Melt Oil Solution:


Measure your oils (by weight) and put them in the crock pot on low. The oil
mixture should be around 160 degrees (give or take 10) throughout.
While the oils are heating up, mix your lye-solution.

3. Mix the Lye Solution:


Weigh the amount of distilled water your recipe calls for. Remember in soap
making the water is weighed on the scale (instead of fluid measure). Next use a
separate container to measure the required lye (again on the scale).After you have
weighed both the water and the lye, slowly add the lye to the pitcher of water
being careful not to splash. (You should be wearing your safety goggles and
neoprene gloves). Gently stir the mixture until the lye is completely dissolved.
Continue to stir until the solution is thoroughly mixed.

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Safety Note: ALWAYS add the lye to the water, never the other way around. Adding
the water to the lye can cause an unpredictable violent reaction or splashing.

4. Mix the Oil and Lye Solution:


When the lye-water is completely mixed and clear, slowly add it into your oils.
(No need to wait for it to cool.) Using the stick blender began to blend the oils
and lye together. Initially the mixture may want to separate. Just keep blending.

5. Bring to Trace:
Depending on your mixture of oils, it may take a while to reach trace. Don't give
up...this is the stage for patience and perseverance. Trace appears as a thick
pudding or applesauce like consistency.

6. Cook the Mixture (to saponify):


After it reaches trace, put the lid on the pot, and let the mixture cook (saponify).
Check on the soap about every 15-20 minutes. If there's any separation, just stir it
back in and return the lid. Continue checking on the soap every 20-30 minutes or
so. In 3-4 hours (sometimes longer) the soap should be completely
cooked/saponified. During this time it will change and go through several
"stages."

The saponification stages (loosely defined/described):


Thick applesauce
Cooked custard with small bubbles
Watery mashed potatoes
Stiff taffy
Chunky/creamy vaseline
Translucent vaseline
Keep stirring every 30 minutes or so through each of the stages. It may be
difficult to stir through the taffy stage - do the best you can. Then, just when you
think it's never going to finish, it will start to get creamy and move into the
vaseline stage, getting more translucent. The mixture should remain translucent as
it cools.

7. Dilute Soap Paste:


More patience - diluting the paste. Take your remaining 40 oz. of distilled water
and bring it to a boil. Add the water to the soap paste. Stir it in a bit with a
stainless steel spoon or large slotted spatula.
Turn the heat off on the crock pot. Put the lid on and wait. After a while - an hour
or so, stir it some more. The mixture will have softened some but will probably
still be very chunky and gooey. Put the lid back on and wait some more.
You can leave it to sit overnight and dissolve. Or you can keep waiting and
stirring, stirring and waiting.
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8. Neutralize the mixture:


After the soap paste has completely dissolved in the water, it's time to neutralize.
Turn the crock pot back on and bring the mixture back up to 180 degrees or so.

In a glass measuring cup, mix your neutralizing solution. I use a 33% borax (20
Mule Team) solution. Some soapers use a 20% boric acid solution. For the borax,
use 3 oz. borax in 6 oz. of boiling water. For the boric acid, take 8 oz. of boiling
water and add 2 oz. boric acid. It's important to stir this solution extremely well
and keep it very hot for it to completely dissolve. If the mixture cools, the borax
or boric acid will turn gritty and precipitate out of the mixture - and it won't mix
into your soap!

Add about 3/4 oz. of neutralizer for every pound of soap paste (the paste before
you added water) Too much neutralizer will cloud your final product, so it's best
to round down and be conservative.

Slowly pour the neutralizer into the re-heated soap mixture and stir well.

9. Add Fragrance & color (optional):


After you've neutralized the soap, but while it's still hot, to add your fragrance and
color (food grade, water-soluble), if desired.
A good rule of thumb for fragrance is about 2-3%. Add the fragrance to the soap
and stir well. If you will be adding color (remember to take the amber color of the
soap base into account), add a few drops at a time, stirring well. When adding
fragrance to the soap it may cloud the soap., the soap will clear again as it cools.

10. Final Curing Stage:


Let the soap cool then pour it into a large storage container. Put it aside in a cool
place to allow it to rest. This will give any cloudiness time to settle and clear up
the final solution. During this resting phase, any other insoluble particles should
settle to the bottom. When transferring your soap into their final bottles or tubes,
make sure this milky layer is left behind.

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Soapmaking Terminology:

Neutralize to balance the pH. For skin care products a pH of 6-8 is desirable otherwise it
could be too harsh on the skin. At pH 7, the balance is just right. If there are more
positive hydrogen ions, a material is acidic (between 1-7 on the pH scale). If the are
more hydroxyl ions, the substance is alkaline or basic (between 7-14 on the pH scale).

Potassium hydroxide is a caustic base, also known as lye. Also known as caustic
potash, was the alkali used most thoughout history to produce soap. Water steeped
through wood ashes yields this caustic chemical which reacts with fats or oils to form
liquid or soft soaps.

Saponification is a chemical reaction that occurs when fats or oils (fatty acids) are
combined with lye (alkali base.) Saponification literally means "soap making" from the
root word, "sapo", which is Latin for soap. The saponification reaction yields the by-
products of glycerin and soap.

All fats and oils have a “saponification value” or SAP value, which is the amount of lye
needed to completely neutralize them into soap with no lye left over. Each has a different
value, which is why it’s important carefully calculate your recipes. There are many
online lye calculators which can make this task easier.

Soap a mixture of salts of various fatty acids made by an alkali acting on the fatty acids.
Fats or oils mixed with an alkali form one molecule of soap and three molecules of
glycerin.

Sodium hydroxide a strong caustic base, also known as lye or caustic soda. This highly
alkaline chemical combines with fats or oils to form hard soaps.

Trace the point in soapmaking when the soap mixture leaves a line, footprint or trace,
across the top of the mixture before blending back into the mixture.

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