Cold process soap making uses fats, butters, a lye and water solution, and essential oils to create natural soap via saponification. I have to admit that I LOVE soap, and I’m a soap snob. Once you use natural soap you won’t want to use the commercially produced bars that are dry and full of unnatural ingredients. Cold process soap is moisturizing, smells great, and lathers beautifully. It’s such a nice way to treat yourself. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox. Soap joke! Couldn’t help myself.
Soap making is a fun and creative activity but can also be dangerous. Whenever working with lye, make sure to always protect yourself by wearing rubber gloves, eye goggles, and a mask.
I read a couple soap making books, lots of articles, and watched a few online tutorials. It took a while to accumulate all the necessary tools, but most of the gadgets are easily found at the grocery store. Some of the ingredients I ordered online – these included the lye, essential oils, and some of the oils. I had way too much fun researching and thinking about the essential oil combinations I’d use.
For specific directions and steps, please refer to The Soapmaker’s Companion or Natural Soap Making. I’m just going to provide a quick summary here. When making cold process soap, you combine a lye and water solution to melted fats and butters. Then you blend (I used an electric immersion blender) until you reach trace (the mixture begins to thicken, and the oils and lye water have emulsified). Lastly you can add essential oils and exfoliating ingredients like dried herbs, seeds, etc.
After 24 hours, you can remove your soap, but you may have to wait a little bit longer to slice. I’ve waited about 48 hours to cut my bars. The soap can be used at this point but will melt away quickly. It’s best to let the bars harden for about 4 weeks. This way they will last longer.
So far, I’ve made one batch of lavender soap with dried sage and one batch of rosemary mint soap with dried mint. For the lavender soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, and safflower oil, and for the rosemary mint soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil. Both lather up great, so I’m not sure which combination I like best. The dried sage pieces were a little large and next time I’d put in less.
In the future, I plan to make a batch of cedar and pine soap with maybe some juniper and a batch of orange and petigrain (has a woody citrus scent) soap. These additions would complete my seasonal collection: lavender sage for spring, rosemary mint for summer, cedar and pine for fall, and citrus for winter.
Have any favorite scent combinations for soap? Let me know!