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 Post subject: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 9:03 pm 
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Hey everyone, new member here, and I own a natural soap business in which my main ingredient is beer.

Once in a while I come across people that have questions about making soap, and especially during a PAW scenario, it could be a handy skill to have so I figured I would see if anyone had any questions about the ingredients or the process of soap making.

It's actually very simple, and there are countless ingredients available and it's actually a low cost hobby/business :)


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:07 pm 
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The main ingredients I used last time I made soap was rendered fat and lye. I can think of a use for the beer, but wouldn't be putting it into soap. Not only would it be a waste of perfectly good beer, but I'd think it would make for awfully mushy soap too.


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:19 pm 
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Nope, the beer saponifies very well, add in some other oils and it ends up being a truly awesome bar of soap. :clap:


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:31 pm 
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You use the beer instead of fat? Regular saponification with lye, then precipitate it out with salt, like regular soap, or do you use something else? Cold process? I may need to pick up a keg of something domestic and cheap, to try this.


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:14 am 
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I've always wanted to try this. I know how to do it in theory but would love to see a tutorial of your basic process. I realize that since it's your business you'll probably want to keep some secrets but a rundown of making basic soap so that people have a place to start and can then add their own ingredients would be awesome.

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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:42 am 
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cv66er wrote:
You use the beer instead of fat? Regular saponification with lye, then precipitate it out with salt, like regular soap, or do you use something else? Cold process? I may need to pick up a keg of something domestic and cheap, to try this.


Yes, I only do cold process, and I use beer along with other fats (palm oil, coconut oil, and others depending on the type of bar I want). Beer is used in place of water with the sodium hydroxide, and if a creamier bar is preferred, I substitute goat milk instead of the beer.


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:10 am 
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Silent Kube wrote:
I've always wanted to try this. I know how to do it in theory but would love to see a tutorial of your basic process. I realize that since it's your business you'll probably want to keep some secrets but a rundown of making basic soap so that people have a place to start and can then add their own ingredients would be awesome.


Since its almost 1 am, I'll give a quick run down and answer any followup questions in the morning :)

First....what is soap?

Soap is a saponification of a fat and sodium hydroxide. In my case, the fat is a variety of oils most commonly used are: palm, olive, coconut, castor, and others. Each oil has its own quality that it adds to the bar.

For instance, if you want a bar of soap with a heavy lather, you would use a higher percentage of castor oil since it has great lathering properties. Palm oil also adds a nice lather, and it adds to the hardness of the bar, which results in a longer lasting soap, especially if people keep it in the shower.

Animal fats such as tallow can also be used, and throughout history tallow and lard were the most commonly used soap ingredients.

A liquid is also used to get the sodium hydroxide going. Most people use water, I chose beer because it actually has some nice skin conditioning properties. I also use goat milk when a creamy, heavy lather bar is called for. A wide variety of liquids can be used, but since I live in Wisconsin, I chose to use only beers made in WIsconsin (keepin it local yo!)

The most important part of making soap is using the correct amount of each ingredient. Too much fat will retard saponification, and too much sodium hydroxide will result in an extremely alkaline bar (not good under any circumstance)

To determine the exact amount of each ingredient needed for a given batch size, soapmakers use whats called a lye calculator. This is the one I use because it's the most user friendly and I tend to purchase some ingredients from that site as well.

A few extremely important factors when making soap:

-NEVER add your liquid to your lye. If you do, you get a volcano effect and risk a nasty chemical burn. Always add lye to your liquid.

-When you add your lye to your liquid, the temperature will skyrocket instantly from cold liquid to 200+ degrees in a matter of seconds. Safety is a must when making soap.

-Your fats will come in both liquid and solid form, and they must be combined and heated to a pure liquid form. You always want your lye mixture and your oils to be within 10 degrees of each other when adding the lye mix to the fats.

- When you combine them, you must stir and stir and stir (a $10 stick blender saves lots of time and energy!) until the mixture reaches whats called trace. Trace is when it begins to thicken and the saponification process starts. Trace is identified when you can pour a small amount of the mix and it remains on the surface (like a thin pancake batter)

- At trace, its time to get your soap in the mold of your choice (I use pvc pipe because I dig the round "bars" since they are easier to cut ) Anything and everything can be used as a mold.

- Once in the mold, wrap a towel around the mold to insulate it since it will heat up as it saponifies. It will go through whats called a gel phase, which is when the oils begin to harden and other chemical reactions are taking place.

- After about 24 hours, it's time to unmold and stare at your awesome creation. Now comes the hard part.....

- Waiting for the soap to cure. Figure on average 3-4 weeks for the soap to be fully cured, but I've had mine cure in as little as 2 weeks. When you unmold your first batch it's really exciting to see you actually made soap, but it sucks knowing you can't use it for a few weeks.

Hope this little tut helped, I'm open to any questions anyone may have. :awesome:


Last edited by Mashed Potatoes on Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:20 am 
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Thanks for that. When I asked for a tutorial I didn't mean you had to get on it right away but thank you. You make the process seem fairly simple. I do have a dumb question though. Is sodium hydroxide the scientific name for lye?

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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:47 am 
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Silent Kube wrote:
Thanks for that. When I asked for a tutorial I didn't mean you had to get on it right away but thank you. You make the process seem fairly simple. I do have a dumb question though. Is sodium hydroxide the scientific name for lye?

Yes, NaOH.

Edit: it can also be KOH, Potassium Hydroxide, or AFAIK, a mix of the two, particularly when extracted from ash.

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 Post subject: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:17 am 
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Thanks for the info :clap:
How do you unmould the soap, do you heat the mould slightly?
Also I'm unsure what you meant about pouring a small amount of trace and it remains on the surface. What surface, do you mean the rest of the soap mixture?

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:09 am 
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Ad'lan wrote:
Silent Kube wrote:
Thanks for that. When I asked for a tutorial I didn't mean you had to get on it right away but thank you. You make the process seem fairly simple. I do have a dumb question though. Is sodium hydroxide the scientific name for lye?

Yes, NaOH.

Edit: it can also be KOH, Potassium Hydroxide, or AFAIK, a mix of the two, particularly when extracted from ash.


Very true. Sodium hydroxide produces a much better quality bar of soap than potash, or KOH.


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:11 am 
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This is something I've been interested in for a few years. But living in an apartment, I've been hesitant to try. Would that still be do-able?

Checked that lye calculator. I understand most of it, but what's the "superfatting" bit?


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wee drop o' bush wrote:
Thanks for the info :clap:
How do you unmould the soap, do you heat the mould slightly?
Also I'm unsure what you meant about pouring a small amount of trace and it remains on the surface. What surface, do you mean the rest of the soap mixture?


Depending on the type of mold used, there are numerous ways to unmold it. Since I use PVC pipe, I tried everything I could think of to make unmolding easier, and finally came up with an effective solution:

I ran the pipe down a table saw, creating 2 halves. I duct tape it all together and when its time to unmold, I just pull the duct tape apart, take off the top half, and the soap will usually slide right out. If it doesn't want to come out, I'll stick it in the fridge for 15 minutes and the soap constricts just enough to make it easy to remove.

One of my molds:

Image

As for trace: Oops realize now that I am fully awake that my explanation was a little confusing. Trace can be determined by pulling out your mixing utensil from the mix and shaking some of the excess off and watching what it does on the surface. You can also take a spoonful of mix and drop it right back into your mixing container. If it disappears: keep stirring. If some remains on the surface, you have reached light trace an its time to pour it into the mold soon.

Not my pic, but one that illustrates trace:

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:22 am 
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kbilly84 wrote:
This is something I've been interested in for a few years. But living in an apartment, I've been hesitant to try. Would that still be do-able?

Checked that lye calculator. I understand most of it, but what's the "superfatting" bit?



Oh yea very doable in an apartment. When you add the lye to your liquid it can produce some funky fumes, but I just keep a window open and put a fan blowing through the kitchen where I make my soap and I've never had a problem. Just dont let your face get too close to the mixing container that holds your liquid/lye mixture and there will be nothing to worry about.

As for superfatting....it's basically leaving some extra fats in your soap for enhanced skin conditioning properties. I tend to use a 5% superfat and have found it works out ideally for me.

For an explanation better than what I can type out, this link has some good info on superfatting: How to superfat


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:35 am 
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Mashed Potatoes wrote:
Oh yea very doable in an apartment. When you add the lye to your liquid it can produce some funky fumes, but I just keep a window open and put a fan blowing through the kitchen where I make my soap and I've never had a problem. Just dont let your face get too close to the mixing container that holds your liquid/lye mixture and there will be nothing to worry about.

As for superfatting....it's basically leaving some extra fats in your soap for enhanced skin conditioning properties. I tend to use a 5% superfat and have found it works out ideally for me.

For an explanation better than what I can type out, this link has some good info on superfatting: How to superfat

That makes a ton of sense. Thanks!

For some reason, I'd always figured I needed to cook the stuff as I made it. Now that I know that's not true, I'm gonna have to try it out on my deck this weekend. Figure I'll start with just a small batch. Would the lye and a block of lard I can get at the grocery store work sufficiently for initial experimentation?


Ninja Edit: methinks this thread should be stickied.


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 Post subject: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:41 am 
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Thanks for the answer, it makes sense now :)
Great thread

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:47 am 
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kbilly84 wrote:
Mashed Potatoes wrote:
Oh yea very doable in an apartment. When you add the lye to your liquid it can produce some funky fumes, but I just keep a window open and put a fan blowing through the kitchen where I make my soap and I've never had a problem. Just dont let your face get too close to the mixing container that holds your liquid/lye mixture and there will be nothing to worry about.

As for superfatting....it's basically leaving some extra fats in your soap for enhanced skin conditioning properties. I tend to use a 5% superfat and have found it works out ideally for me.

For an explanation better than what I can type out, this link has some good info on superfatting: How to superfat

That makes a ton of sense. Thanks!

For some reason, I'd always figured I needed to cook the stuff as I made it. Now that I know that's not true, I'm gonna have to try it out on my deck this weekend. Figure I'll start with just a small batch. Would the lye and a block of lard I can get at the grocery store work sufficiently for initial experimentation?


Ninja Edit: methinks this thread should be stickied.



Oh yea, those 2 would make a very basic bar of soap that has been used for centuries. The problem is that lye is very hard to find locally anywhere now, so I have always ordered mine from Amazon. This is what I use:Red Hot Devil Lye . It's cheap and lasts a very long time. Always use food grade 100% sodium hydroxide, not any of those drain cleaning blends that has other stuff in it found at most hardware stores.

You can also find other great soaping oils at the grocery store as well. At my local walmart, I've picked up coconut (use 76 degree coconut oil), hazlenut oil, sunflower, olive, grapeseed, and castor oils. All of those add great properties to the soap when used in the correct percentages.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message.

You in WI as well?


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:53 am 
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For anyone curious, here is what the finished product looks like.

Just cut these 2 batches a few days ago.

The bar on the left is made with New Glarus Spotted Cow (a beer only available in Wisconsin) and oatmeal, and the bar on the right is made with Leinenkugels BerryWeiss and ground up flax seeds.

Image

This soap is healthy and doesnt contain any nasty chemicals like your normal store bought soaps do.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 9:24 am 
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Mashed Potatoes wrote:
Oh yea, those 2 would make a very basic bar of soap that has been used for centuries. The problem is that lye is very hard to find locally anywhere now, so I have always ordered mine from Amazon. This is what I use:Red Hot Devil Lye . It's cheap and lasts a very long time. Always use food grade 100% sodium hydroxide, not any of those drain cleaning blends that has other stuff in it found at most hardware stores.

You can also find other great soaping oils at the grocery store as well. At my local walmart, I've picked up coconut (use 76 degree coconut oil), hazlenut oil, sunflower, olive, grapeseed, and castor oils. All of those add great properties to the soap when used in the correct percentages.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message.

You in WI as well?

MN, Twin Cities. I know what you mean about Lye not being available anymore. We had it at the grocery store I worked at in high school (maybe because it's a small town), but I haven't really seen it sense. I'll have to look at Fleet Farm on my way home tonight. They usually have the oddball stuff like that.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 9:24 am 
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Very nice :)

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 9:40 am 
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kbilly84 wrote:
Mashed Potatoes wrote:
Oh yea, those 2 would make a very basic bar of soap that has been used for centuries. The problem is that lye is very hard to find locally anywhere now, so I have always ordered mine from Amazon. This is what I use:Red Hot Devil Lye . It's cheap and lasts a very long time. Always use food grade 100% sodium hydroxide, not any of those drain cleaning blends that has other stuff in it found at most hardware stores.

You can also find other great soaping oils at the grocery store as well. At my local walmart, I've picked up coconut (use 76 degree coconut oil), hazlenut oil, sunflower, olive, grapeseed, and castor oils. All of those add great properties to the soap when used in the correct percentages.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message.

You in WI as well?

MN, Twin Cities. I know what you mean about Lye not being available anymore. We had it at the grocery store I worked at in high school (maybe because it's a small town), but I haven't really seen it sense. I'll have to look at Fleet Farm on my way home tonight. They usually have the oddball stuff like that.


If it's a Blaines Farm and Fleet like we have here in Wisconsin, they told me the company made a decision to stop carrying lye altogether since a few used it for retarded purposes. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:30 pm 
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Important safety note: don't use aluminum pans/pots/untensils in this process. The lye reacts quite quickly with aluminum. Enameled or glass containers are much safer.
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Blast wrote:
Important safety note: don't use aluminum pans/pots/untensils in this process. The lye reacts quite quickly with aluminum. Enameled or glass containers are much safer.
-Blast

Thanks for that heads up. Not something I'd have thought to consider. I did see a recommendation elsewhere to use a wooden spoon and not plastic. Are steel or cast iron types okay? Titanium?

On another note, one site I read mentioned using a thermometer to make sure the temps of the lye solution and the oils/fats are the same before mixing. Is this a crucial thing, or is "to the touch" a valid measurement technique?


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 Post subject: Re: Ask a soapmaker
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:23 pm 
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Blast wrote:
Important safety note: don't use aluminum pans/pots/untensils in this process. The lye reacts quite quickly with aluminum. Enameled or glass containers are much safer.
-Blast


Actually glass is a little iffy too. There can be microscopic cracks or chips in the glass and that definitely will not end will once your lye mixture heats up.

I use high quality plastic pitchers for my mixing.


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