Soap Information

What is soap ?

Soap is made from a process called saponification - mixing oils with lye. Lye is a mixture of water and caustic soda (sodium hydroxide - NaOH). When the lye is slowly mixed with the oils a chemical reaction takes place where the sodium (Na) joins up with part of the oil molecule to form a sodium soap. The remaining hydroxide (OH) joins with the oil molecule to form glycerin.
The oils and the lye are mixed when both reach a certain temperature. The mixture is constantly stirred till it thickens (also known as "tracing"). Times for this to occur depend on the oils selected. Once tracing has occurred essential oils, herbs and colouring are added. The mixture is then poured into divided moulds, covered for 24-48 hours, then removed from the moulds, left to cure for approximately 3-4 weeks. The bars are then placed with their labelling card and wrapped in cellophane to retain the fragrance of the essential oils.
I use the cold press method which soap makers have used for centuries. The benefits of this method is that the glycerin that is formed is retained making the soap moisturising and longer lasting. Commercial soap makers sell the glycerin as a by-product and then may add some back in to say that their soap contains glycerin. There is no heat so the nutrients of the vegetable oils and the essential oils are not destroyed. The disadvantage of this method is the process is slow and labour intensive. But worth it !!

Soap Making

Have all the equipment and ingredients on the bench ready to begin. The items needed include the following:
stainless steel saucepan or pot, accurate scales, 2 cooking thermometers, pyrex jug or glass bowl, raw ingredients - (oils, sodium hyroxide, essential oils, herbs etc), mixing spoons - (plastic, stainless steel or wooden only), mixing blender or stick blender, soap recipe and instructions, rubber gloves, safety glasses, soap mould (clean milk carton), old blankets (not required for milk soap - insulation).

Heat oils until there are no chunks in the saucepan. It is then left to cool to no more than 45°C.Slowly add and stir the caustic soda (sodium hyroxide, NOT DRAINO) to the water in a pyrex jug.


The lye (caustic soda + water) which was allowed to cook to room temperature was slowly added to chilled goat's milk. You can see here in the picture to the left that it is a lemon yellow colour. Low temperatures will ensure a lighter yellow coloured soap.

(A milk soap requires low temperatures as it heats up a lot more than a non-milk soap. A low temperature also makes a paler coloured soap).

The mixture is now ready to be poured slowly into the oil mixture. You can see from this picture that it has still retained a lovely pale yellow colour. If it has turned orange, the end result will be a brown coloured soap.

The pot has a mixture of lye and oils. At this stage the mixture is very runny. We have to wait for "trace". Trace is where the mixture has a custard like consistency and if you dribble some mixture from a spoon on the surface it should momentarily hold it. See picture below.

This is a great picture that shows you "trace". This is when I add extras like honey or essential oils, herbs/botanicals and colour.
Now the mixture is ready to pour into moulds.

The moulded soap is ready to cover with plastic and left for 24-48 hours to harden. No blankets are used in milk soaps because the milk creates a high curing temperature, so no insulation is required.
Gloves must still be warn when unmoulding the soap as it will still have a high alkaline pH. I then place the mould in the freezer for a few hours for easier removal.

The soap is now left to cure and harden for 3-4 weeks before retail and wholesale selling. The bars are wrapped in environmentally friendly cellophane bags to retain fragrance and to protect along with a detailed label.

Handmade creamy luxurious soap made for
problem ~ dry ~ acne ~ psoriasis ~ eczema skin types