Getting Started

Use the recipe on page 104 to become familiar with the procedures and techniques of cold-process soapmaking. The recipe is an excellent blend of basic soapmaking oils. For your first cold-process batch, here is a 1-pound recipe. This is an unscented, uncolored soap recipe. You should become familiar with this process before moving on to the scented and colored soaps presented later in this book. You will notice that the total weight comes to 24 ounces. It is called a 1-pound recipe because you are using 1 pound of oil. Additives such as color, scent, and herbs are calculated depending on the amount of oils.

Soapmakers usually talk in terms of the weight of the oils because the amounts of additives are determined by the quantity of oils, not the total weight of the batch. A 4-pound batch will actually weigh about 6 pounds with the lye and water. An 8-pound batch will weigh about 12 pounds.

For this batch, use two 4-cup glass measuring cups to make the lye solution, heat the oils, and blend the soap. Note that even when you're using measuring cups for mixing, you must always weigh your ingredients. You'll use the first for the lye solution, and the second for the oil mixture.

Remember this very important note: In soapmaking, all of the liquids are weighed on a scale, not measured in a liquid measure!

This is your first batch of cold-processed lye soap! Congratulations! When you take it to the tub or shower, observe the smell, texture, lather, and rinsability. Although every bath with your own soap is a learning experience, be sure to take time for taking simple delight in what you've created!

Basic Cold-Process Soap, 1-Pound Batch

Yields approximately 24 ounces

6 ounces water

2.25 ounces lye

10 ounces olive oil

6 ounces coconut oil

1 tablespoon castor oil

  • Put on all protective gear, including goggles, gloves, and long sleeves.

  • Place the water in a heatproof glass 4-cup measure. Sprinkle the lye slowly and carefully into the water. Stir until dissolved. Set the lye solution aside to cool.

  • Combine the olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil in a second heatproof glass 4-cup measure. Melt in microwave or over boiling water. Coconut oil has a low melting point, so it will melt quickly from an opaque white solid to a clear liquid. As each setup is different, be sure to watch your microwave or double boiler closely, and make note of how long it takes. (Do not overheat, as oils take longer to cool than the lye solution.) Set the oils aside to cool.

  • When both mixtures are at 110°F, pour the lye solution in a thin stream into the oils. Stir constantly until the mixture traces, about 10 to 20 minutes. (If using an immersion blender, take care not to whip air into the mixture.)

  • When the soap batter traces, pour it into the mold, taking care to scrape all the traced soap out of the cup.

  • Cover the mold with plastic wrap, then wrap the mold in a towel for warmth and let it sit for 2 days.

  • Wearing your goggles and gloves, try unmolding the soap by pulling out the sides and turning the mold upside down on a brown paper bag or paper towel on the work surface. Push on the bottom of the mold. If the soap does not release readily, place the mold in the freezer for 1 hour. Try again to remove it. It should release easily this time.

  • Using a stainless steel knife, cut the soap log into bars. Place them on a brown paper bag to dry. Turn them daily to be sure they dry evenly.

  • In 4 weeks, your soap will be mild and quite firm and ready to use.

  • Store soap in a ventilated container.

Make sure to add your observations to your soapmaking journal. The more notes you take, the more your learning process will be reinforced. Be sure to write your notes right away so you don't forget!

Just combined in small container

It is very likely that you'll want to make more soap as soon as possible. Make more of the 1-pound batches from the book to start out with. It is tempting to dive right in and go for larger batches, but resist that temptation. Try your mettle on a few smaller batches, then wallow in happiness when they're all cured and ready to use.

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  3. The Cold-Process Technique
  4. Getting Started
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