I haven’t talked much about making soap lately. That’s mostly because we hadn’t made any in about a year. We typically make enough soap in winter to last us for a while, then we don’t make it again until our supplies are running low. But winter will soon turn into spring, so it’s time to start making some soap here.
Why winter time, you might ask? Well, for one thing we usually have more free time then, when gardening activities have slowed down. And since we make soap in our kitchen, in winter there is less going on there as well. Also, it’s cooler in winter, when I don’t mind wearing a long sleeve shirt to protect me from the caustic solutions involved.
We’ve had two soap making sessions in the last couple of weeks. The first was a demo, when we invited a few friends over to see how we make cold process soap. It was actually a hands-on demo since they got involved in the process themselves. Making cold process soap is not really difficult, but it can be a little daunting if you’ve never done it before. It was great to share the fun with others, and hopefully they benefited by the event. My wife chronicled the events with her Saturday Soapmaking post. Teresa had actually made soap before, and Carla is promising to make some as soon as she gets her new beehives assembled and painted.
We made two soaps that Saturday, our Peppermint Honey Oatmeal and a new one I created called Tea Tree Lemongrass Avocado. The first soap we have been making for some time now, but I tweaked the recipe a bit this time. It features a base of olive, coconut, palm and castor oils plus shea butter, with finely ground oatmeal added for gentle scrubbing. It is scented with pure peppermint essential oil, and makes for a great eye opening soap in the morning shower! It also has a little honey added, which turns the lye water a deep reddish brown before mellowing to a light tan color in the finished soap. We poured the soaps into wooden molds that I made in my shop.
The second one uses goat’s milk instead of water, and is enriched with avocado oil and avocado butter. I love the scent of both tea tree and lemongrass essential oils, so I decided to put them together and see what happened! This soap also has a little dried ground lemongrass in it. You can find the recipe for it here.
Both these soaps have been cut and are now curing in the basement. We cure our soaps for 4-6 weeks before using them. Curing (or aging) allows the pH in the soap to stabilize, and for the excess water to evaporate, which makes the soap last longer. It also makes the basement smell great, with a potpourri of scents.
This week we made another batch of the Honey Oatmeal soap, scenting this one with a mix of peppermint and eucalyptus EO’s. This one should also be an eye opener. It’s sort of like Vick’s salve crossed with a peppermint stick, in a good way of course! The other soap we made was my wife’s creation, and is an attempt to make a soap without palm oil. She’s calling it Chocolate Almond, and it has cocoa and mango butters in it along with olive, coconut, castor and almond oils. You can find the recipe for it here.
We will be making more soaps in the next few weeks, as we try and get them made before things get crazy here with gardening activities. And in the ‘test lab’, I’m still working on a hand salve recipe that isn’t too oily for me to use during the day. I’m almost there with the formulation, which uses some of our own beeswax. My wife came up with a great one recently for overnight use that has coffee butter in it. It’s a wonderful way to drift off to sleep with the scent of coffee, but without the caffeine!
Please refer to the cold process instructions here if you are new to making soap. Always take the proper safety precautions (we wear rubber gloves and goggles when mixing and making the soap). And for more recipes and information, check out my wife’s Soap Recipe page. I’ll be back Saturday with another Saturday Spotlight on one of my favorite snap bean varieties. Until then, Happy Growing (and soaping) from Happy Acres!
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That is quite a bit of soap. How quickly do you go through it?
I use about 2 bars per month, my wife a bit less than that. But we also give a lot away as gifts.
The soaps look so nice all lined up drying. Could easily be mistaken for a fudge factory!
Chocolate almond soap? You’re killing me! It sounds delicious 😉 I’m really looking forward to making soap this year, especially as we’ll have some goat’s milk from Lotus soon. The only challenge will be finding time at the moment, but hopefully soon! Not sure I should start with chocolate almond though. The oatmeal honey might be safer…I’d be less tempted to want to eat it!
Thank you for stating that you changed the scent but used the same recipe for the honey oatmeal because it sounded really good but couldn’t find the recipe on your wife’s website. I just discovered your site and I am looking forward to using it as a resource for gardening. I still have a lot to learn in that department as well as the soap making department. By the way, can you avoid using castor oil? I am still new to soap making and don’t want to keep buying a bunch of oils. I was also wondering why do you line your soap on what appears to be parchment paper as opposed to cardboard, just the tray or something else. Thanks for the info.
Debora, I know what you mean about buying a lot of oils. It can be expensive for sure. You can certainly make it without the castor oil. But castor oil adds a lot to soaps, giving them a creamy, stable and fluffy lather. Castor oil is also a good moisturizer for your skin. It is recommended to limit castor oil to no more than 6% in a cold process soap recipe.
You could also make it without the almond oil. Sweet almond oil is great for your skin, but it doesn’t add much in the way of lather. It should be limited to no more than 10% of the oils. Castor oil and almond oil cost about the same. Everyone has their own favorite oils, and every one of them adds something different to the soap.
If it were me, I would skip the almond oil and use a base of 40% olive, 30% coconut, 25% palm and 5% castor oil. That would make a great soap using only 4 oils, and could be scented and modified a lot of different ways. You could also skip the honey and oatmeal for that matter. Be sure and run any recipe thru a lye calculator, since it will change the amount of lye needed. Our favorite one is here. Another option is to use our Lavender Basic Bar recipe, which only uses 3 oils (olive,coconut & palm).
We’re sitting the soap on wax paper lined metal trays to cure/dry. It goes on cardboard after it has cured. It could also be cured on cardboard for that matter.
Thanks for stopping by!