I resigned myself to spending between 4-6$ a bar for high quality, palm oil-free, handmade soap. And then she stopped making soap.
While I frantically scoured the farmer's markets and crafter's fairs for palm-oil free, quality, affordable handmade soap, a few high school friends in my childhood village started making their own. After my friend Amy gifted me a few bars one Yulemas I realized they were as amazingly wonderful as my long lost soapmaker's.
To my complete disbelief, Amy claimed it was EASY as pie to make soap.
Three weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and armed with a few supplies, a recipe and friends, I realized she was right. Making soap by hand IS and should be easy.
(This is vanilla orange, or creamsicle!)Here's how we did it:
Steph, Heather and I spent a few weeks gathering supplies. (Steph also took many of the fabulous photos!). We used a basic recipe provided for by Amy and supplemented it with a few DIY how-to's found on The Nerdy Farmwife. She has a Soap Making 101 post which is informative, if a bit overwhelming (it really isn't that complicated) and a Customizing Soap post that is very helpful.
(the chai soap! the beautiful colour came from the tea)
(the cedar soap box handmade by Amy's dad!)
What you need to source or purchase ONLY for soap making
(cuz of the lye, they shouldn't be used for food):
- wooden boxes
- a handmixer (Heather donated a cheap one she had never used)
- two bowls (I have a small plastic bowl for lye & medium stainless steel for oils)
- a mixing thingy (spoon, spatula, whatever)
- a bucket (to mix lye and water)
- gloves, masks and eye protection (for the lye)
- parchment paper
(you also need a digital scale if you don't already have one. You can get them for super cheap)
Ingredients (makes 12 bars or one batch):
Lye: 4.8 oz
(in Halifax the ONLY place to purchase lye is at Home Hardware... trust me, we checked)
coconut oil: 10.5 oz (unrefined is best)
castor oil: 2 tbsp
olive oil: 21 oz (1 lb 5 oz)
essential oil(s) of choice: 4 tbsp (not measuring, real spoons)
water: 12 oz (with tea steeped overnight for extra scent and colour)
(steeped tea for our citrus-licorice soap. This is David's tea that had a lot of chamomile, I'm hoping some of the healing properties will have transfered in the steeped water)
(we added two vanilla bean bits to our third batch)
(If you want to replace some oils, please check out this handy lye calculator)
(Lining with parchment paper, I cut then guesstimated and folded the edges)
2. Digitally weigh out your coconut oil and in a double oiler, melt. In a large ceramic bowl, add the digitally weighed olive oil, coconut oil and bit of castor oil.
3. Digitally weigh out your water. A trick we learned- steeping the water in tea overnight adds scent and colour.. for us it was chai. Add the water to the bucket.
(Mixing the lye, really much less "Breaking Bad" than it looks)
(see the trace?)
6. Pour mixture into the box and place in the oven at 170 degrees for 1.5 hrs. Afterwards, remove, wrap in a towel for 24 hours (or the following evening).
Up until this point, after the initial first time, should only take an hour of prep and then 1.5hrs of waiting, so easily one evening of minimal effort. If you had two boxes like we do, while the soap is cooking in the oven you can quickly wash out your utensils and whip up another, different scented, batch.
(wrapped and ready for 24 hour warming)
(First cut, by Andrew since I'm terrible at it, of our licorice-lime soap!)
(the curing place. Be prepared for your space to smell like whatever scent you chose. As the soap cures, though, the scent does fade)
This weekend I tried the chai soap for the first time. It is perfection! I'm already scheming on what to do for my next batch of soap (oils to replace, scents to try) and have found the cheapest essential oils are in Yarmouth... most likely due to all the soap making.
So gather a few peeps together, split the cost and making a soap making weekend- you'll be surprised just how easy and fun it can be!