This is one of those DIY projects that just makes my life a little sweeter. A simple thing that spoils me happy. Not a one of us forget the soap now. Even my children asked to take a bar of this with to camp. As if I’m going to say no.
Wait. A. Minute.
The joke’s on me since it never comes out of their bag once there, does it?
Don’t answer that. Ignorance is bliss.
Well, never mind that now.
What’s important is that a good homemade soap has a high silky lather, is super creamy and extra moisturizing. It softens the skin and most can be used as shampoo. That’s good enough for me, but there is that Goats Milk thing on top of it. The Benefits of Goats Milk include more than 50 nutrients, minerals, acids and enzymes that help nourish and revitalize dehydrated skin. Using it regularly skin will be prone to less liver spots, lines, wrinkles…and it can relieve symptoms of eczema, psoriasis, acne and even help with poison ivy. It just has elements in it that no other milk does.
I am telling you…Goats Rock.
Yes even you Moonie. (She was our first LaMancha, gobbling spring grass before her first summer haircut in this picture.)
The difference between this soap and commercial soap is so vast that I am afraid there is no going back for me now. (And here I thought we wanted dairy goats just for cheese.) Even though there are Dove soap bars under the sink still—left over since last summer I might add, when we are down to just a few bars of the goats milk soap, life as we know it is put on hold, out come the soap making supplies, and the commercial brand stays in the dark, unused.
Unfortunately I am not EVEN close to being an expert at this soap making thing at all. Actually I am not an expert at anything which is a great disappointment at my age, but I like to pretend I know enough to share when I get excited about something. And did I mention how much I love this soap?
To date I have just made half a dozen batches of soap using an equal number of recipes, which I realize is still the beginner stage, and I really want to start experimenting more, but I want you to know…
10 things from what I have learned so far –from all the questions I wanted answered, in case it’s helpful:
1. Yes you do need lye to make soap. No lye? —Only a puddle of oils then.
Ancient cultures found that after cooking meat on the fire, the fat drippings in the ash, mixed with water splashed on to put the dire out, made soap. So yes you can make lye with your own ashes, but that’s a whole ‘nother project! For now I just go to a hardware store to buy my lye. (plumbing section.)
2. Protection from the lye while making soap is also a good idea. Goggles over glasses and surgical masks over nose and mouth don’t go well together. Fog issues. Ya, that was a bit overkill not to mention quite the sight I’m sure. Then add rubber gloves and you pretty much feel incapable of doing anything…but it does work, and okay, apparently I was a bit paranoid about getting burned by that lye, however I quickly nixed the surgical mask and stayed with just my own glasses and chose thin latex gloves.
3. Vinegar. Along with warm soapy water, neutralizes any remnants of lye in case of an accidental splash or just to clean equipment if you wish to use it for other than soap making. (Still hesitant myself on that though). A jug sits next to my creating station.
4. Tallow is fat rendered from Beef, Lard is fat rendered from Swine. I never knew that it was species specific. Hmm. Both have been the backbone of soap making for centuries. (If you are butchering and not rendering the fat yourself, could I try some please?!) and Soybean oil is…Crisco. Shortening. And since soybeans are pretty much all GMO’s here in America, I am avoiding that in my body even via my skin. I’m sure you think I’m crazy, and…you’re are probably right.
5. Two very important measurement tools: a good digital scale is my friend. So is this lye calculator at MMS.
6. What and Where Ingredients: I have been using beautiful thick butters like shea, cocoa, mango, avocado, as well as healthy oils from coconut to sweet almond, grapeseed, jojoba and olive. After I read about delightful qualities in something I want to try adding it in. These ingredients make the soap so rich they are really shampoo bars. It really is all I take with when traveling, for my shampoo, face and body. One soap bar. (More space in that 1-quart ziplock baggy when going through airport security I tell ya)
I have purchased some of these items from the grocery store or Costco (olive, grapeseed, coconut oils) others online; theSage.com, or try NewDirectionsAromatics.com.
7. Soap making in a nutshell: The oils and butters are melted together, and separately the liquid and lye are mixed together. Then the two mixtures are combined and emulsified–blended together until it thickens, turning into soap.
8. The cooler temperature you keep the milk, the lighter the soap color. Honey makes it smell wonderful and adds more healing properties, but it also makes the soap much darker in color, even if you kept your soap cool and a light color up to the point of adding the honey. (It freaked me out the first time I added it, I wasn’t warned. You now are.)
9. Immersion blender is key to saving time. Minutes vs. hours I hear. Try garage sales or a thrift store.
10. Hot Process vs. Cold Process simplified:
Cold process takes half the time to make, but waiting 6 weeks for it to cure (smoother soap results),
Hot process is cooking it one more hour to be able to use it right away (more of a rough/rustic looking soap).
Even though I love the smooth results of cold process soap, I choose hot process…made in an old crock pot, so I can not only make it outside due to the lye fumes, but then I can use the soap that same day if need be.
Equipment supplies are minimal, mostly garage sale finds:
crockpot, blender, bowls, wooden spoon, rubber spatula…I have a thermometer for soap making, but have yet to use it.
Shoe boxes make good molds, safety equipment for yourself and again, a digital scale is necessary.
Ingredients can be as simple as coconut oil (that’s the lather part), olive oil (that’s the moisturizing part), liquid —goats milk in this case (the moisturizing nourishment for skin), and lye, or as many oils and butters that you want to add for their individual benefits. When I was reminded that our skin is the largest organ in our body, I was excited about adding all these wonderful things in my own soap. If you are like me, the more you read about them, the more you will want to use ingredients in your soap that you can actually pronounce.
It was a great “light bulb moment”, realizing that you can twink (spell check doesn’t like that word) a soap recipe or even make your own, as long as you have two things: a scale, since soap making goes by weights not amounts, AND access a lye calculator to figure your fats and give you an accurate lye ratio and liquid amount to use. My personality needs that freedom.
A simplified recipe may look like this:
GOATS MILK SOAP
•21 oz. Olive oil
•9 ounces Coconut oil
•9 oz. goat milk frozen in ice cube sized chunks. (Water or other milks can be used)
Or something with more dimension to it could be:
LUXURIOUS GOATS MILK SOAP/SHAMPOO BAR
-9 ounces coconut oil
-9 ounces olive oil
-5 ounces castor oil
-3 ounces jojoba oil
-2 ounces shea butter
-2 ounces cocoa butter
-1 ounce beeswax
-12 ounces goats milk frozen, slightly slushy
-4.1-4.5 ounces lye
Substitutions have been made on every soap recipe I have tried since it has to do with what ingredients are stocked in this house…it then gets run through the lye calculator to avoid messing up with the lye amounts. So the next time I made the above recipe I really wanted to add honey, make a bigger batch, and was low on jojoba oil. It changed quite a bit… to this:
This last weeks batch I was out of olive oil so I used grapeseed, coconut and palm oils, three different butters and no beeswax or other additions.
The bottom line is we are not confined to a specific recipe, feel free to experiment. (But use a lye calculator!)
The first step is careful measuring of the oils and butters, melt together in a pot and allow to cool slightly.
This was taken during one of my very first batches. (The little white specks are stearic acid, which I had from lotion making. It is a thickener as is beeswax, which I also used in one soap recipe. Neither are necessary to soap making, I was just trying out different recipes and ingredients.)
Goats milk needs to be frozen; cubes or slushy to start with. The lye heats up the icy goats milk quickly and could burn the milk otherwise. This makes the soap darker and gives it an unpleasant smell. Not as bad as breathing the lye fumes, but…
IF one adds just a couple tablespoons of lye at a time, keeping the bowl on ice (or in the winter, I kept in the snow…much more convenient) you can keep the temperature under 100 degrees to keep the soap from burning the milk. I simply go by the color vs. a thermometer. If it starts to get the least bit “orange” I stir until it’s cooled before adding more lye.
…just a little thicker though. Like pudding. Then any additives such as ground oatmeal, fragrance or essential oils, could be stirred in. I’ve been keeping ours fragrance free, just enjoying natural scents like the cocoa butter or honey if added, but that may change as I experiment more.
You can see how smooth it is. At this point I could pour it into molds as a cold processed soap, and it would need to be covered with thick towels or a blanket to keep it warm as it slowly hardens.
After the soap hardens in the molds, remove it and cut into the size bars you desire. Let it continue to dry on a rack for 6 weeks, turn several times during those weeks. This is necessary for the excess moisture to evaporate and the lye to neutralize…both go together.
When made properly, there is no lye or sodium hydroxide left in a finished bar of soap. The process of saponification (lye into soap) changes the lye and oil into soap and glycerin, with a pH of approx 8.5 to 10 when fully cured. That’s where the 6 weeks come into play.
You can speed this process up by getting the lye neutralized, or the saponification completed by cooking it. I love this step because I can not WAIT!
Continue cooking (still on low). I stir occasionally.
When glycerin is reincorporated in the soap, it actually attracts water out of the air causing it to have unparalleled moisturizing ability and therefore be extremely beneficial to the skin. This is removed from commercial soaps.
The dry mashed potato look is what we’re looking for.
Then it’s time to pour into your molds. This time I used a drawer organizer from Ikea, and a small cardboard box lined with parchment. Both greased with coconut oil. Pour quickly, as it begins to harden right away.
Even though these bars are usable directly, I still let the remainder bars air dry to harden more…a day or two, before I store them in a breathable cardboard shoe box. Well, the word “store” in that sentence is rather ambiguous since we use them up so quickly.
This picture shows just a tiny part of reality at our home. Projects everywhere. But yes the soap leaves the kitchen soon after hitting the drying rack… mainly because we must move our projects off the table so we can EAT. (I take back that ‘not an expert’ thing…I am pretty good at moving piles around, expert at that in fact.)
If you want to try making your own soap, gathering the supplies and equipment is going to be the biggest thing. Once that is accomplished the actual soap making takes about 2 hours for Hot Processed Soap, from measuring to molds. Not bad considering the end result! There are dozens of tutorials on soapmaking on the web to give you more recipes, details, photographs and scientific answers to your questions by those that know more than I. My goal is simply to whet your appetite to either try some goats milk soap out, or even encourage you to give soap making a shot…because you CAN and it’s worth it! Then you will be chanting “Soap, soap, I could never forget my homemade soap.”