Ask a soapmaker

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Mashed Potatoes
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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:25 pm

kbilly84 wrote:
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?

Ideally you want your lye mixture and your oils to be within about 10 degrees of each other before combining them. 95 to 115 degrees is the ideal temp range you want to be in when adding your lye/liquid mix to your fats. Every batch I make I mix at 110 degrees.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by katieann » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:35 pm

This is an awesome thread. :clap: I love handmade soaps, but it never occurred to me to try to make them myself. I'd want to start with pretty small batches to experiment, I like variety. Some more research is definitely in order here...

Mashed Potatoes, do you sell your bars online anywhere like Etsy?

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Sat Aug 04, 2012 3:33 pm

katieann wrote:This is an awesome thread. :clap: I love handmade soaps, but it never occurred to me to try to make them myself. I'd want to start with pretty small batches to experiment, I like variety. Some more research is definitely in order here...

Mashed Potatoes, do you sell your bars online anywhere like Etsy?
I'm currently in the process of setting up my new site (changed names and design) and it should be up within the next few days. I have 6 local stores in my area that sell my stuff, but on sites like Etsy there is just too much competition and not enough return to justify using it.

As soon as my new site is up, I'll send you a message so you can take a look.

For more research, the Soap Making Forum can't be beat :)

I use the cold process (cp) method, as it is a more pure form of making soap than the melt and pour method

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by doc66 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:43 am

So, does the cheap beer make a difference in the soap? I can't see buying a good seven dollar six pack of beer for making soap, myself, but I can see getting a seven dollar case of crap beer and doing this.
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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Deenie7 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 5:34 am

Mashed Potatoes wrote:
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.
If I'm not mistaken - I think KOH is used in liquid soaps? I have Catherine Failor's "Making Natural Liquid Soaps" and I think that's what she uses. I also have Anne Watson's "Smart Soapmaking"... but have never gotten around to making any. :oops:

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by kbilly84 » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:55 am

Question. I was talking to my Dad about making soap. His grandparents used to make soap when he was a boy. He mentioned rendering the fat as a big part of things, and a very smelly step.

I was under the impression that any of the oils/fats (specifically, I'm thinking about those blocks of lard)I get at a store are good-to-go. Am I correct? Or is there another step or two to prep the lard before mixing with the lye solution?

ETA: Durr, just google it, idiot. :lol:
Seems that lard is the end result of rendering. So that should be GTG.

ETAA: So, next question. My dad also mentioned that the lye soap his grandma made was awful. Meaning it was very harsh. I'm just guessing, but that means too much lye, not enough fat, correct?

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Concray » Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:08 pm

I have a few questions.

1: What would be good ratios for a usable shaving soap?
2: Can soap be used to wash clothes? what would be a good blend for such a soap?
3: How does one go about making/extracting lye in a post civilisation event? What is it made from? Can something else be substituted for it? I have read that early civilisations used ash. is that an entirely different way of making soap, or is there something in ash that has the right properties to replace lye in this process?

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Ad'lan » Tue Aug 21, 2012 2:46 am

Concray wrote: 3: How does one go about making/extracting lye in a post civilisation event? What is it made from? Can something else be substituted for it? I have read that early civilisations used ash. is that an entirely different way of making soap, or is there something in ash that has the right properties to replace lye in this process?
Modern Lye is Sodium Hydroxide, Wood Ash Lye is a mixture of Sodium Hydroxide and mostly Potassium Hydroxide, which I believe was mentioned earlier in the thread:
Mashed Potatoes wrote:
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.
Sodium Hydroxide is a stronger alkali, with greater reactivity. But Potash will do AFAIK.

You start with clean ashes, I seem to recall the ash tree being favoured by the vikings, but I'd have to do a fair bit of research to work out which trees are best. Then you Soak the Ashes for a few days, then filter the liquid off, which will now be lye. You repeat this to make stronger lye.
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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Resolute » Tue Aug 21, 2012 12:07 pm

If I'm not mistaken you can also have a bucket/can with a hole in the bottom and slowly run water through it, right? The lye will be in the water that comes out the bottom.

ETA - does anyone know how to quantify the strength of the lye water when it comes out like this?

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Ad'lan » Tue Aug 21, 2012 4:46 pm

Resolute wrote:If I'm not mistaken you can also have a bucket/can with a hole in the bottom and slowly run water through it, right? The lye will be in the water that comes out the bottom.

ETA - does anyone know how to quantify the strength of the lye water when it comes out like this?
Well, as chemist, I'd just use the NIR Gun, as a student I'd titrate it against a standard solution, as a practical idea without any lab equipment?

I'd see how fast it reacted with something compared to a commercial one of the strength I wanted (due to the differences between KOH and NaOH the impure potash will look different, so Activity is the best measure). I believe the old rule of thumb was dissolving a hen feather.
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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by ZombieGranny » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:19 pm

Several traditional ways to test the lye strength -

http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_ashlye.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Monkey Mancheeks » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:29 pm

Hi all,

This is my first post, but I've been lurking forever.

I just thought I'd throw up a blog post I did a while ago of how we make soap here at our farm.
http://cowbellsinclover.blogspot.com/20 ... -work.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Cheers!

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:40 am

kbilly84 wrote:Question. I was talking to my Dad about making soap. His grandparents used to make soap when he was a boy. He mentioned rendering the fat as a big part of things, and a very smelly step.

I was under the impression that any of the oils/fats (specifically, I'm thinking about those blocks of lard)I get at a store are good-to-go. Am I correct? Or is there another step or two to prep the lard before mixing with the lye solution?

ETA: Durr, just google it, idiot. :lol:
Seems that lard is the end result of rendering. So that should be GTG.

ETAA: So, next question. My dad also mentioned that the lye soap his grandma made was awful. Meaning it was very harsh. I'm just guessing, but that means too much lye, not enough fat, correct?

Yes, using the correct amount of lye is very important. You don't want lye heavy soap, as that can result in some nasty rashes/quasi chemical burns.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:51 am

Concray wrote:I have a few questions.

1: What would be good ratios for a usable shaving soap?
2: Can soap be used to wash clothes? what would be a good blend for such a soap?
3: How does one go about making/extracting lye in a post civilisation event? What is it made from? Can something else be substituted for it? I have read that early civilisations used ash. is that an entirely different way of making soap, or is there something in ash that has the right properties to replace lye in this process?

1. There are a wide variety of shaving soap recipes online, but no matter what recipe you choose, make sure it has decent amounts of Shea butter and cocoa butters for their nutritional properties (lots of stearic acid in them) and a good amount of castor oil for a nice lather.

2. Laundry soap is one area I have not ventured into because it is vastly different from personal soap, so I can't really comment on this one. The extent of my knowledge of natural laundry soap is limited to the point where I know borax is a major ingredient, and thats about it. Sorry.

3. I noticed the post below your question has a rough outline of making your own lye, and it sums it up pretty nicely. Pretty time consuming, and fortunately lye is very cheap ($5-$6 for 2lbs on average) so I make sure I always have a pretty healthy supply at home. Lye lasts quite a while in personal soap making because most recipes only call for a few ounces for an exponentially higher yield.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:54 am

Monkey Mancheeks wrote:Hi all,

This is my first post, but I've been lurking forever.

I just thought I'd throw up a blog post I did a while ago of how we make soap here at our farm.
http://cowbellsinclover.blogspot.com/20 ... -work.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Cheers!

Your soap looks great!

I noticed from reading the post that it seems you hand stir it. Have you tried using a stick blender? They are very cheap ($10) and save lots of time and forearm :)

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Monkey Mancheeks » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:12 pm

Mashed Potatoes wrote:
Monkey Mancheeks wrote:Hi all,

This is my first post, but I've been lurking forever.

I just thought I'd throw up a blog post I did a while ago of how we make soap here at our farm.
http://cowbellsinclover.blogspot.com/20 ... -work.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Cheers!

Your soap looks great!

I noticed from reading the post that it seems you hand stir it. Have you tried using a stick blender? They are very cheap ($10) and save lots of time and forearm :)
Thanks for the compliment!

We do use stick blenders, and they are awesome! However after starting four or five batches of soap in a day even the blender starts to get heavy. It would suck to really stir a batch by hand but in a world w/o electricity... you'd have to con a small child to do it.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Ad'lan » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:25 pm

In between hand stirring and power blenders there's hand cranked whisks and other devices. These are great (I use my hand drills a lot, no plugging in, no batteries) and when TSHTF, you'll be glad of them.
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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Dan_Jorgenson » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:55 pm

Has anyone tried to use Sodium Bicarbonate instead of Lye? I've given it a go and it seems to work quite well. I used 1 teaspoon of bicarb soda for 2 tablespoons of water and 4 tablespoons of oil. IMO bicarb soda is better than lye because its cheaper, safer to use, easier to buy and does not have to be removed from the soap as it can be applied to skin with deoderant properties. Just an idea.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Deenie7 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:34 pm

Dan_Jorgenson wrote:Has anyone tried to use Sodium Bicarbonate instead of Lye? I've given it a go and it seems to work quite well. I used 1 teaspoon of bicarb soda for 2 tablespoons of water and 4 tablespoons of oil. IMO bicarb soda is better than lye because its cheaper, safer to use, easier to buy and does not have to be removed from the soap as it can be applied to skin with deoderant properties. Just an idea.
I haven't heard of it being used for soap before, except as a small add-in to make the soap float (as it introduces bubbles, I believe). I have used it with citric acid in making "bath bombs" (fizzies), but does it really saponify in that soap recipes?

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Dan_Jorgenson » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:50 pm

Deenie7 wrote:
Dan_Jorgenson wrote:Has anyone tried to use Sodium Bicarbonate instead of Lye? I've given it a go and it seems to work quite well. I used 1 teaspoon of bicarb soda for 2 tablespoons of water and 4 tablespoons of oil. IMO bicarb soda is better than lye because its cheaper, safer to use, easier to buy and does not have to be removed from the soap as it can be applied to skin with deoderant properties. Just an idea.
I haven't heard of it being used for soap before, except as a small add-in to make the soap float (as it introduces bubbles, I believe). I have used it with citric acid in making "bath bombs" (fizzies), but does it really saponify in that soap recipes?
Well the sample i made is still setting but it appeared to emulsify quite well. The quality of the soap might be questionable so i was looking for any existing information on the use of it for saponification.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:33 pm

Since we are in autumn now, I'll be making some pumpkin soap using Blue Moon Pumpkin Spice later today, stay tuned for pics.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Shaper » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:40 pm

Amazing place to source food grade lye from from along with other soap making supplies...

http://www.essentialdepot.com/servlet/StoreFront" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

They are also on Amazon (for those that would prefer that)

We use their lye in soap and candle making as well in other processes.

Couldn't be happier. :mrgreen:

EDIT: Forgot to mention, since its food grade, you can also use it to make pretzels! *NOM*
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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:02 pm

Made some pumpkin beer soap, took some pics of the process in case anyone was interested:

Main ingredients:
Image

Lye/Blue Moon Pumpkin Spice mix
Image

First mix:
Image

Came out looking just like pumpkin pie mix:
Image

Molds: (found some little silicon muffin trays on sale, figured I would try those for travel size soaps)
Image

On a side note, I just noticed sodium hydroxide has went up over 100%! on Amazon. Don't know if there is a supply shortage or what, but what I used to buy for $5.89 is now $12.75.

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Re: Ask a soapmaker

Post by Mashed Potatoes » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:28 am

I had to let the pumpkin beer soap cure for an extra day due to the addition of canned pumpkin, so here is some of the final product. The little travel soaps came out awesome.

Image

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