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Aleppo Soap (Castile soap)

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 2 hrs
Yields: approximately 1200 g soap

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Today is World Refugee day and I wanted to raise awareness to the soap makers from Aleppo, Syria. Here’s a BBC report on how the war has threatened the ancient tradition of soap making in Aleppo. And although the report is from 2013, there have been continued attacks on Aleppo.

So what’s so special about Aleppo? Well, Aleppo soap is one of the most ancient soap recipes in the world, and has been around for 2000 years or more. Soap makers in Aleppo still use the traditional methods making this soap, which is said to boast many skin care benefits and helps with skin problems such as dry skin, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and fungal infections. The reason for its skin healing properties is the inclusion of laurel berry oil, which is a powerful antibacterial, anti fungal, astringent and wound healer. Apart from laurel berry oil, Aleppo soap’s only other ingredients are olive oil and lye.

Check out the following video:

I tried to make a soap as true as possible to this ancient method, using a hot process technique and 22.5% of laurel berry oil, which is available from Pure Nature. You will need 250 ml for this recipe. The NaOH SAP value of laurel berry oil is 0.141.

Note Aleppo soaps are cured for over a year to achieve the best quality soap, however, you’ll be able to use these soaps after 4 weeks, if you can’t wait that long.


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

If you have never soap before, I strongly recommend you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first, and make several other easier soaps before continuing. Aleppo soap uses the hot process soap techniques and it is definitely an advantage if you know the basics of soap making.

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ONE: Measure out the caustic soda and the water in separate containers. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (never the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down.

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TWO: Weigh out the olive oil and laurel berry oil directly to the crock pot or rice cooker. Turn it on and set it to the lowest setting. My rice cooker only has two settings: ‘warm’ or ‘boil’, so I used the ‘warm’ setting.

250 ml of laurel berry oil should give you 225 g of oil. Just keep shaking the bottle until you get the last few drops out!

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THREE: Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are (still) wearing protective gear, carefully pour the lye solution to the oils, avoiding any splashes. The reason I cool down the lye is to avoid overheating and potentially have a volcano erupting in my soap (when the soap overheats and starts to expand and literally ‘erupt’ out of the mould).

FOUR:  Use your stick blender to mix until it has emulsified and thickened to a thin trace. Don’t you love the colour of the soap?

You’ll also notice the scent of the laurel berry oil has changed in the soap, kind of medicinal herby but also clean. I think the fragrance is absolutely divine!

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FIVE: After the soap has reached trace, stretch some cling foil over the pot to keep in the moisture, and place the lid on.

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SIX: Keep the soap at the lowest temperature for the next hour or so until the whole soap  has gelled, which you can recognise by the opaque appearance. Make sure you keep an eye on the soap during this time, as it can erupt. If you see the soap expanding, use a spoon or whisk to stir the soap down again. That usually helps.

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SEVEN: Once the soap has completely gelled, it is ready for pouring. Scoop or pour the soap into your soap mold and leave it to harden and set overnight. Don’t worry about covering or insulating the soap as it has already gelled, in other words, completed the saponification process.

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EIGHT: The following day, unmold the soap and cut it into bars or cubes. The bars of soap will need a further 4 weeks to cure before they are ready for use. However, true Aleppo soaps are cured for 6 months or even a year. So if you have patience, put them away somewhere and forget about them for a year. The longer you cure a soap, the harder and better quality bar of soap you will get.

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To support refugees in Syria, our family is participating in the Ration Challenge by Oxfam this week. This means that for one week we will eat the same kind of rations that the refugees receive in one of the refugee camps. We’re on day 4 and have 3 more days to go, and it’s been tough. The challenge has made us appreciate not only that we have sufficient food to eat (and waste!), but also the variety of foods that are available to us and the convenience of having kitchen appliances. I can’t imagine having to live off lentils, beans, chickpeas and rice every day. There’s only so much you can make with such limited ingredients.

If you would like to sponsor us: https://my.rationchallenge.org.nz/famziegler. Your donation will help provide food, medicine and education to the refugees in Syria.

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Aleppo 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

  • 775 g olive oil
  • 225 g laurel berry oil
  • 129 g caustic soda
  • 260 g water

Directions

  1. Measure out the caustic soda and the water. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (not the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down.
  2. Weigh out the olive oil and laurel berry oil in your crock pot or rice cooker, and turn it on the lowest setting.
  3. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, pour the lye to the oils and, using a stick blender, mix until emulsified.
  4. Put the lid on (optional place a sheet of cling foil underneath first to keep the moisture in).
  5. Leave it to ‘cook’ until the mixture has completely ‘gelled’.
  6. Scoop into the mold and leave to harden overnight.
  7. The next day remove the soap and cut into bars or cubes. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 4 weeks until ready for use, but ideally for 6 months or more according to the original recipe.

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Lemon juice soap

One of the soap groups on Facebook that I belong to does monthly soap challenges and this month they challenged people to make a soap using lemon juice. I thought that was such a fun idea, and something I’d never done either, that I wanted to give it a try myself and show you the process and results, so you can have a go at it yourself.

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One of the problems with using acids, like lemon juice, is that it will neutralise some of the lye in your recipe. The acid in lemons is citric acid, but the amount of citric acid varies between types of lemons as well as between the individual fruits themselves. So unless you’re a chemist with the right equipment, you can’t really know how much of the lye will be neutralised. If it’s too much, you’ll end up with a soft gloopy mixture because of the excess oils that didn’t get saponified (turned to soap). To make sure that doesn’t happen, you need to reduce your superfat or lye discount to a minimum. I reduced my superfat to 2%, and if I replace all the water in the lye solution with lemon juice I will get a soap with a superfat somewhere between 5% and 8%. Here’s the recipe I used:

Lemon juice soap recipe

  • 375 g olive oil
  • 25 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 100 g lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sodium lactate
  • 15 ml lemon essential oil
  • annatto seed colourant

I pressed out three lemons to get 100 g of juice and placed it in the fridge to cool. Lemons not only contain citric acid, but also sugar, and I wanted to prevent the sugars from burning in the lye.

Once the lemon juice was cold, I carefully stirred in the caustic soda one teaspoon at a time, and check out the cool colour display I got! First it turned a bright yellow before going orange. To be on the safe side, I placed the jug in the sink with cold water to keep the lye from going too hot, and luckily it didn’t get any darker than that orange.

I continued normally using the cold process method: oils in one pot, and once the lye had cooled down, adding the lye to the oils and stirring. Because I knew from other soapers that the lemon fragrance from the juice would not come through in the soap, I added lemon essential oil to the soap,

I also decided to have a little fun with colour using annatto seed colourant, which I added to about 1/4 of the soap mixture. I then poured the colours into a bowl, alternating between the yellow and uncoloured soap, like you do in the ‘in-the-pot-swirl’ method. I gave the soap in the pot an extra swirl with my spatula and then poured it into the mold.

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I had no idea what the lemon juice would do to the colour of the soap and to the soap itself. I didn’t insulate it and despite it being in a cavity mold, the soap did go through a gelling phase. So a word of caution: don’t insulate and keep the soap cool! And despite the soap looking rather dark here in the mold and the next day when I unmolded them, they did turn a lovely white and yellow marble effect after a couple of days. And testing it after nearly a week already felt that it was going to be really pleasant mild soap!

For more information and ideas, check out this blog post about adding fresh ingredients to soap!

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5X Sweet Orange Soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars of soap to fit a large loaf mold

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Citrus oils are very volatile and can lose their scent quickly in soaps, especially when they heat up during gelling in cold process. Using a concentrated orange essential oil removes some of these lower boiling components, mainly the terpenes, which intensifies the scent and makes it also longer lasting in soaps, but also removes some of the phytotoxicity. The higher the concentration the stronger the scent will be. Higher concentrated essential oils can also colour your soap, ranging from yellow to orange. Sometimes the colour can fade during curing, but the stronger tints tend to stay.

In this tutorial I am using the ‘5-fold’ orange essential oil from Pure Nature, which has an amazing intense fruity orange fragrance, and I can confirm that the scent is still strong after the obligatory 6 week curing time. This is definitely one of my favourite orange oils!

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

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

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ONE: Measure out the caustic soda and the water in separate containers. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (never the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down.

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TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter, and heat in the microwave or stove top until the oil and butter have melted. This particular recipe will give you a nice solid bar of soap with a creamy lather due to the coconut and shea butter it contains.

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THREE: Add the olive oil and castor oil to the now liquid coconut oil and shea butter. I’m using pomace olive oil here because it makes for a harder bar than the cold pressed olive oil and doesn’t need as long a curing time. I also find that the pomace oil I’m using makes a whiter soap than my other olive oils, but I know that’s not the case with all pomace oils.

FOUR:  Add the ‘5-fold’ orange essential oil and give everything a good stir. As you can see on the bottle the Latin name is Citrus sinensis, which is the same as the normal sweet orange essential oil. The only difference being that is a 5-fold concentration than the normal essential oil.

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FIVE: Make sure you are (still) wearing protective gear, carefully pour the lye solution to the oils, avoiding any splashes.

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SIX: Use your stick blender and alternatively pulse and stir until the mixture has emulsified and thickened to a medium trace.

SEVEN: Pour the soap into your loaf mould and sprinkle some calendula petals over the top for decoration.

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EIGHT: Let the soap cure for a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it harden for another few days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

Note: the soap will have a yellow-golden colour to it in the beginning but this will fade over time, leaving only a light yellow tinge.

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5x Sweet Orange 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

  • 550 g olive oil
  • 300 g coconut oil
  • 100 g shea butter
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 138 g caustic soda
  • 260 g water
  • 50 ml 5x orange essential oil
  • optional: calendula petals

Directions

  1. Measure out the caustic soda and the water. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (not the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down.
  2. Weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter and heat in the microwave or on the stove top until completely melted.
  3. Add the olive oil and castor oil.
  4. Measure out and add the essential oil and give everything a good stir.
  5. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, pour the lye to the oils and, using a stick blender, mix until emulsified and thickened to a medium trace.
  6. Pour the soap into the soap mould. Optional: sprinkle some calendula petals over the surface.
  7. Leave the soap to cure a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it stand for another few days before cutting into bars. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

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Manuka soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars of soap to fit a large loaf mold

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Manuka honey has been on an upward trend the past few years and not without reason. The medicinal properties of honey have been recorded since ancient times, and manuka honey has one of the highest anti-microbial activity, inhibiting growth of over 60 species of bacteria (Mandal & Mandal, 2011). It is used to assist in wound healing, in skin care, prevent and heal infections and stimulate growth of new skin cells. The importance of natural remedies, such as honey, has increased in importance “as resistant pathogens develop and spread, the effectiveness of the antibiotics is diminished”. The quoted paper ‘Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity‘ is a good read and accessible to the public.

Honey soaps, especially soaps containing Manuka honey and essential oil, are particular effective cleansers in that they contain anti-microbial properties yet remain mild and gentle on the skin. However, honey soaps are tricky to make, because the additional sugar can cause the soap to overheat and burn. The higher temperature are difficult to work with, but if you follow a few tricks it is possible to create a beautiful bar of soap with all the benefits that honey will add to it.

TOP SOAPING TIPS WITH HONEY:

 

  1. soap at cool temperatures
  2. do not insulate your soap
  3. do not discount your water
  4. place the soap in the fridge for the first 2 hours after pouring

The Manuka soap that we are making uses Manuka honey, Manuka essential oils and beeswax from Manuka honey, to maximise the benefits of Manuka in the soap. I used the Manuka essential oil from Pure Nature, but alternatively you can use a tea tree oil for a cheaper alternative. The Manuka honey I bought from my local supermarket, and I didn’t go for the most expensive one! The Manuka beeswax I still had left over from a friend, and you can use any beeswax as a substitute, although I would recommend to go for an unbleached and undeodorised beeswax.

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

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

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ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and leave to cool down to room temperature.

TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil and beeswax, and heat in the microwave or stove top until the oil and wax have melted.

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THREE: Add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil to the now liquid coconut oil and beeswax, and give it a quick stir.

FOUR: MAKE SURE YOUR LYE HAS COOLED DOWN TO ROOM TEMPERATURE OR LOWER. Add two tablespoons of Manuka honey to the lye and stir, stir, stir until the honey has completely dissolved. This will take a while, but don’t be tempted to use warm lye because the honey will heat up the lye and you can end up burning the lye if the lye is still warm. Just be patient and keep stirring. You’ll notice the lye turning a reddish colour. That’s fine and how it should be. Let it cool down again.

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FIVE: Check the temperature of your oils. They should be no warmer than 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). Add the Manuka essential oil to the oils and give the oils a good stir.

SIX: Add the lye to the oils, and use your whisk or stick blender to mix the lye/oil blend until it has emulsified to a medium trace. Pour the soap into the mould.

For the swirly surface, I used a chopstick in a looping figure 8 pattern along the length of the soap.

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SEVEN: PLACE THE SOAP IN THE FRIDGE FOR THE FIRST TWO HOURS! This is important. The sugars will heat up the soap during the chemical reaction, and placing it in a cold environment will both prevent the soap from heating up too much and will help keep the colour of the soap a nice cream colour rather than the usual caramel-brown colour of honey soaps.

After two hours (approximately), take the soap out and place it somewhere cool to cure. I put mine in the laundry, which is the coolest room in our house. Don’t insulate or cover your soap!

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EIGHT: Let the soap cure for a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it harden for another few days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

Note: honey is a humectant, meaning it will draw moisture to the product and honey soaps are prone to DOS (dreaded orange spot), which are harmless but don’t look pretty. Make sure to store the soaps in a dry area to prevent DOS and moisture forming on the soap.

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Manuka

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

Ingredients

  • 400 g olive oil
  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 270 g sunflower oil
  • 30 g beeswax
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 135 g caustic soda
  • 270 g water
  • 2 tablespoons Manuka honey
  • 30 ml Manuka essential oil

Directions

  1. Measure out the caustic soda and the water. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (not the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down.
  2. Weigh out the coconut oil and beeswax and heat in the microwave or on the stove top until completely melted.
  3. Add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil and give it a quick stir.
  4. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, add 2 tablespoons of Manuka honey and stir until dissolved.
  5. Check the temperature of the oils. They should be no warmer than 32 C (90 F).
  6. Add the Manuka essential oil to the oils and give everything a good stir.
  7. Carefully pour the lye to the oils and, using a stick blender, mix until emulsified to a medium trace.
  8. Pour the soap into the soap mould and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
  9. Remove from fridge, and place it in a cool spot to cure.
  10. Leave the soap to cure a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it stand for another few days before cutting into bars. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

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Coconut rose body scrub

Difficulty: Beginners
Time: 15 min
Yields: 2 pots of about 125 ml each

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Not to toot my own horn, but I love, love, love this scrub! The combination of the Himalayan pink salt, coconut oil and rose petals leaves my skin feeling so smooth and clean, and yet also extremely soft and moisturised. And I love that I can use this and not have to worry about having to moisturise afterwards. Like most mums, I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the bathroom! I’m really amazed (and grateful) at how effective scrubs are and how simple and quick they are to make. I never used to use scrubs until I made the coffee scrub earlier this year, and now I can’t live shower without them!

Salt scrubs work by exfoliate your skin by removing the dead skin cells from the outer layer. This leaves your skin smooth, but without added oils, your skin would also feel tight and dry. Think of after swimming in the sea. The salt draws the moisture out of your skin. The coconut oil in the scrub will moisturise your skin, while the salt exfoliates, and the combination of the two is why your skin will feel so soft after using.

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ONE: Combine the Himalayan pink salt, one tablespoon of glycerin, and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a bowl and mix well. If the coconut oil is hard, melt it for a couple of seconds in the microwave. The glycerin is added to help emulsify the scrub when you rub it on your skin and make it more effective.

TWO: Add 5 drops of your favourite rose fragrance or essential oil and give it another good stir. I used Rose Anatolia oil, which smells absolutely divine!

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THREE: Sprinkle through some rose petals for decoration and fragrance. Both the salt and the glycerin will help preserve the colour, so unlike in soap, where the rose petals turn brown, these will keep their colour!

Scoop the mixture in a nice decorative pot and place the lid on. Because it will be used in the shower, look for a plastic or glass pot without a metal lid, or something that will not rust.

Regarding preservatives or the lack of it, both the salt and the glycerin are considered preservatives and will prevent mould and fungi, despite water coming in contact with it.

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Coconut rose scrub

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • one cup of fine Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 tablespoon of glycerin
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 5 drops of rose oil
  • rose petals
  • 2 pots approx. 125 ml volume each

Directions

  1. Combine the salt, glycerin, coconut oil in a bowl and mix well. If the coconut oil is hard, melt it for a few seconds in the microwave before adding.
  2. Add 5 drops of rose oil and give it another good stir.
  3. Sprinkle through some rose petals and then scoop into pots. Enjoy!