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Honey, oats and milk soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 6 round soaps

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This is one of my favourite natural soap recipes and despite not adding any fragrance, the soap smells deliciously like porridge, which isn’t surprising as the soap is made of the same ingredients: milk, oats and honey. The milk will add creaminess to your soap. The oats are for the exfoliating effect. And the honey is for fragrance and colour, as well as being a humectant, which means it adds moisture to the bar. The honey also improves the lather, giving this soap a wonderful creamy, smooth lather.

If you have never made cold process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

ONE: First, prepare your lye. Weigh out the caustic soda in a small container. Measure the water in a small pyrex or other heat proof glass jug. Then carefully add the caustic soda to the water and gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Stir one teaspoon of sodium lactate to make the soap harder. Set aside to cool.

TWO: While you are waiting for the lye to cool down, prepare your other ingredients. You will need one tablespoon of milk powder (you can use either cow’s milk or goat’s milk powder), one tablespoon of honey (I used a manuka honey blend), and one to two tablespoons of rolled oats, depending on how exfoliating you would like your soap to be.

THREE: Next it is time to prepare the oils. Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in microwave on high for one minute or until melted.

FOUR: Add the honey to the warm coconut oil and give it a bit of a stir. I like adding the honey to the warm oil, so that it will soften up and become a bit easier to work with.

FIVE: Add the remaining oils to the coconut oil and honey mixture, and wait for the lye to cool down to room temperature.

SIX: Make sure you are still in protective gear (goggles and gloves), carefully pour the lye to the oils, avoiding any splashes. Give it a quick pulse with the stick blender.

SEVEN: Add the milk powder and keep stick blending to mix the powder and the honey thoroughly into the soap mixture.

EIGHT: Add the rolled oats and either stir with a whisk, if you wish the rolled oats to remain in size for a scrubby effect, or stick blend to cut the rolled oats into smaller sizes for a light exfoliating effect.

NINE: The soap can get a bit thick if you leave it too long, so either pour or scoop the soap into your soap molds. As you can see, my soap thickened quite significantly, while I was taking pictures, so I’m really having to pay it down with the spatula. I’m using a mold with small rounds, but you could also use a muffin tray or loaf mold.

TEN: Leave to cure in the mold overnight. The honey in the soap can cause the soap to overheat, so don’t insulate and keep an eye on it. The next day, unmold and leave the soaps to cure for a further 6-8 weeks before using.

Honey, Oats and Milk Soap

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 150 g olive oil
  • 130 g rice bran oil
  • 100 g coconut oil
  • 20 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 120 ml water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon milk powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons rolled oats

Directions

  1. Prepare your lye: carefully add the caustic soda to the water and stir gently until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  2. While you wait for the lye to cool, prepare your other ingredients, so that you’ll have them ready when needed.
  3. Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in the microwave on high for 1 minute or until melted.
  4. Add the honey to the warm coconut oil and stir briefly (it won’t completely melt).
  5. Add the remaining oils to the coconut oil and honey mixture.
  6. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and stick blend briefly.
  7. Add the milk powder and continue to blend with the stick blender to mix the milk powder and honey into the soap.
  8. Add the rolled oats and either stir with a whisk for a more scrubby effect or stick blend if you wish for a finer exfoliation.
  9. Pour or scoop the soap into your soap mold and leave to cure overnight.
  10. The following day, carefully unmold the soap and leave to cure for another 6-8 weeks.

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Feijoa soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 500 g soap

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Feijoas are great to add to your soaps for their exfoliant properties, both from the fruit itself but also from the texture of the flesh and seeds. You don’t have to worry about the fruit going bad in the soap, because the fruit, along with the oils and lye, will go through a saponification process in a high pH environment, and will keep anything from spoiling. However, there are a few things you need to take into account. Adding fruit will also add moisture, therefore to compensate for the extra moisture from the feijoa pulp that is added, you will use less water than usual to prepare you lye. Additionally, the extra sugar content can make your soap go through a hotter than usual gelling phase, so you will need to keep an eye on your soap during the first few hours.

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

ONE: First, prepare your lye. Weigh out the caustic soda in a small container. As mentioned before, you are using less water than usual to prepare your lye to compensate for the extra moisture added from the fruit. The water discount in the recipe is 20 ml. Add 80 ml of water in a small pyrex or other heat proof glass jug, and then carefully add the caustic soda to the water and gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

While you are waiting for the lye to cool down, you can prepare your colour and feijoa pulp.

TWO: Scoop out the flesh of one large or two small feijoas, and set aside two tablespoons of pulp.

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THREE: In a small container, weigh out 15 ml of rice bran oil and add one teaspoon of green mica. I used Kelly Green Mica from Brambleberry (USA) here. Using a little whisk, mix the mica into the oil. If there are little clumps of mica at the surface, a spray of isopropyl alcohol will break them up.

Next, it’s time to get the oils ready.

FOUR: Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in microwave on high for one minute or until melted.

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FIVE: Add the remaining rice bran oil, olive oil and castor oil to the now melted coconut oil.

When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, add one teaspoon of sodium lactate to the lye and stir.

SIX: Make sure you are still in protective gear (goggles and gloves), carefully pour the lye to the oils, avoiding any splashes. Give it a quick pulse with the stick blender.

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SEVEN: Add the feijoa pulp and continue stick blending until light trace.

From this point on, you will have to work very quickly as the soap will thicken fast.

EIGHT: Next, pour in the colour/oil mixture and stir it until the colour is evenly dispersed into the soap.

NINE: Add the fragrance and stir using a whisk, rather than a stick blender, to prevent the soap from thickening even further.


TEN: Pour the soap into the mold.

Tap the mold gently on the bench a free times to get rid of any air bubbles.

ELEVEN: Leave to cure in the mold for a few days. Because of the added feijoa pulp, the soap will be softer than usual and need a bit more curing, especially if you have left out the sodium lactate.

TWELVE: When the soap has hardened enough to take out of the mold, cut it into 4 bars and leave them to cure for another 6-8 weeks.

Feijoa Soap

  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 150 g olive oil
  • 130 g rice bran oil
  • 100 g coconut oil
  • 20 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 80 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon sodium lactate
  • 2 tablespoons feijoa pulp
  • 20 ml feijoa fragrance
  • 1 teaspoon green mica

Directions

  1. Prepare your lye: carefully add the caustic soda to the water and stir gently until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  2. While you wait for the lye to cool, scoop out the flesh from 1 large or 2 small feijoa. Set aside 2 tablespoons of fruit.
  3. In a small container, weigh out 15 ml of rice bran oil and add one teaspoon of green mica. Using a little whisk, mix the mica into the oil.
  4. Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in the microwave on high for 1 minute or until melted.
  5. Add the remaining rice bran oil, olive oil and castor oil to the now melted coconut oil.
  6. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, stir in one teaspoon of sodium lactate. Then, carefully add the lye to the oils and stick blend briefly.
  7. Add the feijoa pulp and continue stick blending until light trace. From this point on, you will have to work very quickly as the soap will thicken fast.
  8. Add the colour solution and give it another quick pulse with the stick blender.
  9. Next, add your fragrance, and using a whisk (not stick blender), mix quickly to disperse the fragrance throughout the soap.
  10. Pour the soap into the mold and insulate the soap to ensure a gel phase. However, the soap will warm up quite a bit, so keep an eye on it during the first few hours.
  11. Leave to cure in the mold for a few days before removing it from the mold and cutting into 4 bars.
  12. Let the bars cure for another 6-8 weeks.

 

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Red, yellow and blue

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One of the biggest problems you face when making cold process soaps is colour. The high pH environment of cold process soap making can do some funny things to your colourants. Some colourants, particular natural colourants, will fade to grey. Micas, especially, are a weird bunch. They look beautiful and shiny in their little packet, but once they go into the soap, you never know what’s gonna happen. Some micas turn into the weirdest colours and others will completely fade away into nothing. I’ve had some very disappointing disasters from using micas without previous testing.

The only way you can be certain of a colourant is by doing a colour test beforehand. But that can get expensive. So to make life a little easier for you, I’ll be doing a series of colour tests on micas and other soap colourants available here in New Zealand. And in the end, I’ll put up a handy document for you to download with the different soap colours after curing.

I’m using one of my standard soap recipes, which makes for a nice, solid bar of soap with good lathering qualities. Here’s the recipe:

  • 150 g olive oil
  • 130 g rice bran oil
  • 100 g coconut oil
  • 20 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 120 ml water

I’m not adding any fragrances or other additives.

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For the first colour test I’m using yellow, red and blue granulated soap pigments from Pure Nature. These are available at $12 for 10 g of pigment, and the recommended usage rate is 0.02% of total formulation. This works out to be 0.1 g of pigment per 500 g of soap. Using ratios of 15 cc scoops to 5 ml water, I managed to calculate an amount I could work with.

Pigments are usually water-soluble, so I mixed these in with appropriate amount of water. I then mixed a teaspoon of each colour into the soap, which would give me the exact 0.02% strength I needed.

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And this is how the colours appear after a short curing time:

Keep checking back for more colour testing!

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Which soap molds can I use?

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First off, I know I’m spelling soap molds wrong. I’m spelling it the American way, because I don’t like ‘mould’ in, on, around or to describe any of my products. Mould is icky, which  I try to avoid at all cost. So if I ever do write mould, then you know that I really mean the stuff that is unwanted. In the meantime, mold equates to something good, like soap molds. Yes, I know, I’m weird that way sometimes!

So let’s get back to the soap molds. When you make soap you need to take in account the technique you’re using. For example, raw cold process soap has a high pH and the chemical process can make the soap reach a very hot temperature. Also you need to be able to remove the soap, so the soap needs to be a bit flexible. For these reasons, you need to keep clear of any metal or glass molds when using the cold process technique.

On the other hand, if you are using a melt and pour base, you don’t have to be as careful. Glass is still not recommended, because glass is solid and doesn’t give way, which makes it difficult to remove the soap. Small metal molds, for example the ones they used to use in baking, can be used. Just gently tap the mold on the table and it should slide out. If a soap does get stuck in a mold, you can pop the soap in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes and  it should come out easy after that.

The best molds to use are made of plastic or silicon. In recent years, silicon has seen a popularity boost both cooking and crafts, and they have come down in price considerably. They’re also available in all shapes and sizes and you can find them in shops like the Warehouse, Briscoes, and your supermarket. If you like more specialised molds, check out the soap making suppliers here in New Zealand like Pure Nature and Go Native, or have a look on Trade Me.

You can also make your own wooden soap box for making loaves of soaps, which you can then cut into even bars. Be aware that if you do use wood, you will need to line your box with baking paper, to prevent the soap from sticking to the wood. The advantage of using baking paper, is that you can easily lift the soap out of your box, when it has hardened.

But you don’t need to spend money on molds. You can re-use or recycle containers and pots, such as custard cartons and yoghurt pots. I like using my 500ml Campbell’s Soup cartons (and no the soap does not smell like soup afterwards!). I’ve made some pretty soaps using these cartons.

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Where you can buy soap molds

  • The Warehouse has various silicon muffin and cupcake trays, as well as silicon ice cube trays that can be used.
  • Many supermarkets also have limited stock of silicon muffin trays, but they also have small plastic storage containers, such as those from Gladwrap or Pam’s. I use these in my soap workshops. The 700 ml Gladwrap container will give you 4 well-sized bars of soap.
  • Spotlight has plastic chocolate molds that you can use for soap making.
  • Go Native has a range of special silicon molds for soap making.
  • Aussie Soap Supplies also has large range of soap molds, both heavy duty plastic and silicon. However, they do have a minimum order of AU$100 and charge and extra AU$15 handling fee for international orders.
  • If you are making larger batches of soap, you might want to check out Hawthorn Bay, also located in Australia. They have large soap boxes with reusable liner and acrylic dividers, which can make 42 bars of soap at a time.
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Basic cold process soap tutorial

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hour
Yields: 500 g soap

basic soap making

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

Cold process soap making is one of the most popular soap techniques. Cold process means that there is no heat added to the process of soap making. As opposed to hot process soap making, during which the soap is cooked to speed up the saponification process (turning the oils into soaps). The heat in cold process is created only by the chemical reaction. You can control this heat during the first 12 hours of the curing phase by either insulating or cooling the soap, but this is a rather advanced technique, therefore in this tutorial we will work with our oils and lye at room temperature and leave the soap to cure without heat control.

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The equipment you need for making cold process soap

  • a heat proof polypropylene (PP) jug or container, or a tempered glass jug, like a Pyrex jug for your lye (roughly 500 ml capacity)
  • a microwave proof jug or bowl to mix your soap in
  • stick blender
  • digital scales at 1g increments
  • a 1 litre empty milk/custard/soup carton (I’m using a 1L Campbell’s soup carton)
    or a silicon soap or cake mold with approximate 500 ml volume
  • silicon spatula and whisk

You can buy your material from The Warehouse or Briscoes if you’re in New Zealand, or Big W, Kmart and Target in Australia.

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Ingredients you need to make for this basic soap recipe

  • 150g olive oil
  • 125g coconut oil
  • 100g rice bran oil
  • 53g caustic soda (sodium hydroxide, NaOH)
  • 120 ml water
  • 15 ml essential oil or fragrance

This recipe is comprised of olive oil, coconut oil, rice bran oil, and castor oil. All the recipes featured here on In My Soap Pot are palm free. This recipe is an alternative formulation to the usual coconut/palm/olive trio in soap making, but will still produce a nice solid bar of soap with a rich creamy lather. These oils all offer something different to the soap. Coconut oil will give the soap firmness as well as a fluffy lather. Olive oil adds mildness to the soap. Rice bran oil is added for its skin conditioning properties, which prevents the soap from becoming too drying out to the skin.

If you are using fragrance, make sure it is a fragrance that is skin-safe. Candle fragrances are usually not suitable, unless specified that they are safe to use on skin. Similar when using essential oils: stick to the ‘safe’ essential oils like sweet orange, lemon, peppermint, lavender, rose geranium, cedarwood, lemongrass and stay clear of the more problematic and skin irritating essential oils like cinnamon, wintergreen, etc.

This recipe contains a 5% superfat, which means that 5% of the oils will not be turned into soap and are “free floating” in the soap. Superfatting will make your handmade soap less drying to your skin than commercial soaps, but will also act as a safeguard against caustic soap.

Caustic soda is used for drain cleaning, which is why you’ll probably find it in the cleaning section at your hardware store. Make sure you buy a caustic soda that contains at least 98% pure caustic soda. The other 2% are an additive that prevents the caustic soda from clumping together. A bit like the tapioca starch in icing sugar. Both caustic soda brands pictured above actually tell you that it’s ‘perfect for making soap’, which me wonder if they are bought more often for making soap than for actual drain cleaning!

In New Zealand, you can buy caustic soda from Bunnings Warehouse. Mitre 10 has stopped stocking pure caustic soda a few years ago.

Alternatively, if you live in or near West Auckland, you can also buy your caustic soda directly from Pure Nature, but because it is classed as a chemical hazard material, you have to pick it up from their warehouse in Henderson (no shipping!)


Cold process soap making

  1. Prepare your lye
  2. Prepare your oils and fats
  3. Make soap

There are three main steps in soap making. First, you need to prepare your lye solution. Then, you need to weigh out your oils. And lastly, you pour the lye into your oils and stick blend it to soap. Soap making isn’t complicated, but it does require you to work accurately and safely.

And although this might seem like a simple soap recipe, it will actually teach you the necessary skills to continue on to more advanced techniques. Many beginner soap makers become discouraged because they immediately attempt a difficult and advanced soap technique, rather than starting with he basics. Make a simple batch or two first. (As a little side note, my favourite soaps are just plain simple white, single fragrance soaps!)


SAFETY FIRST: If you haven’t done so already, please read this post about safety and precautions when handling lye and caustic soda. Always wear safety goggles and gloves to protect your eyes and skin!


PREPARE: Before you start, it is helpful to have your material and ingredients set out. You don’t want to be running around looking for batteries for your scales or realising you’ve run out of olive oil!

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ONE: Fill a propylene (PP) container or jug or a tempered glass jug with the required amount of water from your tap. If you are in a hard water area (bore or ground water) use distilled water. If you are using rain water or reservoir water, you can use the water straight from the tap. For more information about water and soap making, check out this article!

Weigh out your caustic soda in a separate cup or container.

Then slowly and carefully add the caustic soda to the water. Gently stir, avoiding any splashes, until the caustic soda has fully dissolved and the liquid is clear.

This is now called lye (water + caustic soda). Place the container with the lye solution in the sink and leave it to cool down to room temperature.

You will notice that the lye will get very hot and give off fumes. Make sure you don’t breathe in the caustic fumes!

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TWO: Weigh out your coconut oil in the big heat proof bowl/jug/container and place the jug in the microwave for approximately 60 seconds on high, or until the coconut oil has melted.

Weigh out the other oils and combine with the coconut oil. 

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THREE: Check if the lye solution has cooled down to room temperature (around 25 degrees C). If the outside of the jug feel cool to touch, it will be at approximately the right temperature.

Carefully pour the lye into jug containing the oils.

Place your stick blender into the oil/lye mixture and start pulsing (turn on the stick blender for about 5-10 seconds and stop, stir the mixture with the stick blender turned off, and then turn it on again for another 5-10 seconds, and so on).

When the mixture has turned a runny custard-like colour and consistency, and you can see no oil streaks in the mixture, your soap mixture is ready and in soap making terms is called ‘at trace’. This is when all the oils and lye have been blended together and emulsified, starting the saponification process (turning the lye/oil mixture into soap).

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FOUR: Add your essential oil or fragrance. If you are using fragrance, make sure it is skin-safe (candle fragrances are usually not safe for use in cosmetics). If in doubt ask your supplier!

Give the soap mixture another quick pulse to mix in the fragrance completely. 

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FIVE: Pour the soap into the mold and then gently tap the mold on the bench a few times to remove any bubbles that are in the soap. The tapping will help the bubbles come to the surface. 

Let the soap sit in the mold for a few days, before unmolding.

Once the soap is hard enough, remove it from the mold and cut into bars. If the soap is still a bit soft, let it set for a few more days before cutting.

Allow the soap to cure for another 6-8 weeks to completely finish the saponification process (turning the oils into soap) and for all the water contained in the soap to evaporate. The longer you leave a soap to cure, the harder and longer lasting it will become. You can tell when a soap hasn’t been cured long enough because the soap gets mushy in the soap tray!

Basic Cold Process Soap

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 125 g Coconut Oil
  • 100 g Olive Oil
  • 100 g rice bran Oil
  • 25 g castor oil
  • 50 g sodium hydroxide NaOH (caustic soda)
  • 120 ml water (distilled if you have hard water)
  • 10 ml fragrance or essential oil of your preference
  • heat proof jugs or containers
  • stick blender
  • digital scales at 1g increments
  • a 1 litre empty milk/custard/soup carton (i.e. Campbell’s Soup) or a soap mould (500 ml capacity)
  • silicon spatula and whisk

Directions

  1. Measure out the water in the smaller heat proof jug (i.e. Pyrex) and weigh out the caustic soda in a separate small container.
  2. Slowly and carefully add the caustic soda to the water and gently stir until all the granules have fully dissolved and the liquid is clear. Set in the sink to cool.
  3. Weigh out the coconut oil in a microwave proof jug or bowl and heat on high in the microwave for 60 seconds or until the coconut oil has completely melted.
  4. Weigh out the other oils and combine with the coconut oil.
  5. Once the lye and the oils have cooled to room temperature, carefully add the lye to the oils and stick blend in 10 second pulses until all streaks of oils have disappeared and the mixture has emulsified.
  6. Add the fragrance and stir to blend the fragrance throughout the soap.
  7. Carefully pour the soap into your mold. Keep the soap in the mold for 3-4 days before cutting, and then cure for a further 6-8 weeks.

Where to buy your ingredients and material

  • Pyrex jug, scales, stick blender, whisks and spatulas can be bought from Briscoes or the Warehouse
  • Disposable gloves are available at most supermarkets
  • Your local hardware store (i.e. Bunnings Warehouse) stocks caustic soda as well as protective eye goggles
  • You can buy olive oil, coconut oil, and rice bran oil from your supermarket
  • If you are located in or near West Auckland you can buy your caustic soda from Pure Nature, as well as all your other oils and essential oils for this project