On our Bali honeymoon trip where we had a walk around Monkey Forest Street and found this handmade soap shop has inspired me to make my own soap bar. I personally prefer soap bar to soap gel/liquid and I used to use Dove, I think it smells so good especially during winter time and it claims to leave the skin soft, which I can’t attest because I used body lotion after shower. Soap bar also lasts a lot longer that soap liquid, hence the savings that I can allocate to other stuffs on my shopping list 😀 It is also a good practice that is environmental friendly (still proud however small my contribution is). Since I started my research on handmade soap bar, I became more conscious of long list of chemical substances put into a store-bought soap bar and that I actually rub them on my skin. Although they have never irritated me so far or as I aware of, it still kind of puts me off buying them.
Disclaimer: I am by all means not an expert of soap making, all the information I shared in here is mostly from my understanding from my research.
I started my research by google search “how to handmade soap” and it came up with over 2 millions results. I then started working my way from few of the first page results, read through the websites and just to get an overall process of soap making. Basically there are three methods of soap making: melt&pour, cold process and hot process. Melt & pour can be said as the simplest way to make your own soap, it is literally melt a batch of pre-made base, add in colorants or essential oils and pour into mold to let it harden and voila your own soap 🙂 Because we use a pre-made batch, you cannot control what oil is being used for the base.
Cold process soap has few extra more steps, is made by mixing fatty acids with sodium hydroxide (lye) which results in saponification reaction. With cold process you have absolute control over what oil to be used in your soap, but because of the lye substance being used in the process it will take longest curing time (about 4 to 6 weeks), also as warned by some soap making artists not every colorants and essential oils will survive in this process. This is actually the method I have been trialing twice and pretty happy with the result. Maybe once I am over this process, i will research more and advance to the hot process.
Hot process as the name suggests is mixing fatty acids and lye then add extra heat (usually by using a crock pot) to jump-start the saponification process. This process is more gentle on fragile essential oils/fragrance oils because they don’t come in contact with the lye. On top of that, it is also faster to cure, so your soap is ready to be used sooner.
If you’d like to attempt on soap making, please ensure you have done enough research especially on safety ways working with lye, equip yourself with safety gears, have a digital weight that goes to at least one decimal point for accuracy as this is very essential, make sure you follow the recipe to the dots, and just have fun throughout the process.
I have learned so much from this website. Please go to her website and make sure you know what you are doing before starting your own project.
I am not sure why but I decided to make coffee soap bar as my first trial (might be because ground coffee can help with fighting cellulite). Here is the recipe:
Caffeine Soap – makes 1 pound – 5% superfat
- Olive oil 5.5 ounces
- Palm kernel oil 5.5 ounces
- Coconut oil 4.0 ounces
- Castor oil 1.0 ounce
- Espresso shot 5.9 ounces –> frozen in ice-cube tray
- Lye 2.4 ounces
- Finely ground coffee 1 teaspoon
- Coffee bean and peppermint essential oils
Place frozen espresso shots into a heat-proof container, add lye a little at a time while keep mixing. Once the lye is all dissolved, set aside to cool down. Mix all the oil in another container, I then warm it up a bit in the microwave for about 45 seconds. When the temperature difference of the oil and lye mixture are within 10C of each other, pour in the lye solutions slowly into the oil container. Use a stick blender, blend them over few short pulses and it will become cloudy and thicken a little. Once the batter is like pudding consistency and there are trail lines on the surface, you’ve got trace. At this stage, you can add in the ground coffee and essential oils and just mix using a spatula quickly, then it is ready to be poured in to a mold (I used clean soy milk carton). I left a bit of the soap batter and add in dash of titanium dioxide and mix well to achieve lighter color. This mixture is then poured on top of the mixture on mold. And let it sit for about a day before unmold and cut into pieces and let them cure again for next 6 weeks before start using it.
Verdict: It is not as hard and lathery as store-bought soaps, which from my research it may be because I did not use palm oil due to environmental concerns. I might not have added enough essential oils, the scent is very faint after curing time. The ground coffee acts like soft scrubs, likes it! Overall, I am very happy with the result considering it is a first attempt and I used them all up with no problems at all. Would I want to make this soap again? I would definitely, but I’d like to explore with other ingredients.