A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

March 22, 2012

Making Natural Glycerin Soap

     I had the most amazing experience this last weekend.  My husband and a friend of ours attended a soap-making class.  I wasn't sure what I would encounter, but it far exceeded my expectations.  It was a more complicated process than I thought, but the results were absolutely heavenly.  We made basic glycerin soap, but were given lots of ideas on how to make artisan soaps.  The following steps will serve to give you an idea of what is involved in the task.  I'm not going to give you step-by-step instructions, but an overall impression of the process.  We made soap using both the hot, cooked soap-making process, and the cold process.  The following photos represent the hot method.

*It is best to premeasure all your ingredients before you start the process.  You will be wearing goggles, masks and safety gloves while handling the lye, and it will make all your steps much easier to accomplish. 

     We started with beef fat, which is preferred over other kinds of fat because it yields firm, solid bars.  You can obviously get this fat from your own cows if you butcher them, or contact a local butcher or meat market to purchase it.  You chop up the fat, slicing off any remaining meat, and dump it in your pot.

     You cook the beef fat over a medium fire until the "cracklings" turn a golden brown.  What you're after is the beautiful liquid which is your tallow.

     The cracklings are strained through cheesecloth into a stainless steel container.  You can begin making soap right away, or store the fresh tallow for future use.

     This is the step that can be a little scary.  As I'm sure you know, lye is a very caustic substance and can burn if spilled on your skin.  It is imperative that you wear your safety gear when working with it;  that's goggles, respirator mask, and rubber gloves.  You gently pour the pre-measured lye into distilled water and stir until the cloudy water becomes clear and the lye has dissolved.

     The next step involves slowly adding the beef tallow to the lye water, being careful not to splash any of the lye water.  Pre-measured amounts of olive oil and melted coconut oil are added in the same way.

     You place your uncovered soap pot over low to medium heat and slowly simmer the mixture, keeping your mask, goggles and gloves on.  You don't want to breath any of the fumes or splash any of the liquid on your skin.  The soap mixture will cook on the stove as you continue to stir, going through 6 distinct stages of "saponification".  This is the chemical bond that occurs when the acidic fats and oils react with the highly alkaline lye and form new molecules, which we call soap.  These six stages are Curdling; White and Foamy; Thick and Creamy; Sheeting (thin sheets of liquid slide off the spoon and hang suspended in the cooler air); Tracing (when a spoonful of soap is trickled over the top of the mixture, and briefly sits on top before it disappears back into the mass); Complete Saponification (thin, hairlike strands form along the bottom edge of the thick soap as it sheets off the spoon.)  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 3 to 5 minutes.  It is at this time you can add essential oils, should you desire. In our class, we added Spearmint to one-half of our batch, and Almond Citrus to the remaining half. 

        Your soap is now ready to pour into your mold.  It takes about 24 hours for the soap to become firm enough to remove from the mold.  This particular mold was custom-made for the class, and the sides just unscrewed and could be separated from the soap (they used a simple plastic garbage bag to line the mold, which allowed the soap to disengage from the mold easily). 

     24 hours later, you can cut your soap into bars, and set aside to dry.  This is a batch of soap that had been pre-made, so we could see the method for cutting it. 

     This is the actual soap that my husband and I made in the class.  I can't describe the aroma of the Spearmint and the Almond Citrus as they dry in our kitchen.  These bars are still "rough around the edges", so to speak.

     Probably the most amazing fact that I learned was this:  It takes 1 day to make the soap, another day for it to become firm enough to cut into bars, and 6 weeks for the process to be completed!  It takes 4 weeks for the bars to cure and the moisture to evaporate from the bars.  Prepare for some shrinkage!  At that time, you can carve the bars, shape the edges and polish them.  They must then sit for another 2 weeks to cure.  At the end of the 6 weeks, the bars are totally neutralized and will have evaporated out most of their excess water content, and they will be ready to use or package. 
     I can't tell you what a satisfying experience it was to make something so beautiful, and so useful!  And we used some of the small shavings when the bars were cut, and washed our hands----I can tell you that no commercial bar ever felt so soft and silky on my skin!  As our instructor said, "Once you make and use natural soaps, you'll never want to buy another store-bought bar."  Amen to that!

Job 17:9     "Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger."    

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to give this a try. I really like using glycerin soap. It really gives yours kin a nice moisture.