When you go to craft shows, or fancy boutiquey stores, do you pine for the all natural ingredients and beautiful scents of artisanal soaps? I do. I want to try them all! The best way to do that, I decided, is to learn to make cold-press soap myself!
I watched some YouTube videos and read some blogs about how to make cold-press soap, so I wasn’t going in completely ignorant. One thing that was repeated over and over and over again was safety – you MUST wear protective gear when making soap. I’m the worst for not putting on gloves or safety glasses, but with this project one tiny splash of the lye (sodium hydroxide) can quite literally make you blind or severely burn you.
Protective glasses (goggles) with sides to completely protect your eyes. Long-sleeve shirt, long pants and rubber gloves up to your elbow if possible. I fell a little short here with the t-shirt, but I won’t make that mistake again.
I went over to the local soap making distributor in my area (Candora Soaps) and picked up everything I’d need for a very basic recipe.
Soap Queen ingredients: (for quantities, please see her post)
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Palm oil
- Lye (sodium hydroxide)
- Distilled water
The flower petals and fragrance oil are not necessary, but I couldn’t resist.
You can get some of these ingredients cheaper through other stores and distributors, but for a first-go I wanted everything I needed in one stop.
The recipe by the Soap Queen – Simple and gentle cold process soap is the recipe I used.
On top of the ingredients themselves, you will also need the below to make cold-press soap:
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- some kind of mold – millions of silicon options, or you can build one out of wood and line it with freezer paper
- silicon spatula that shouldn’t be used for anything but soap-making after this
- pyrex measuring glasses, or glassware that can handle immediate heat
- a kitchen scale
- immersion blender – again, shouldn’t be used for anything other than soap after this.
- after the soap has hardened, you’ll want a soap cutter and a drying rack.
I followed Soap Queen’s recipe to the gram – turns out soap making is a bit of a chemistry project in that any deviations in ingredients will affect suds, hardness, scent, saponification etc. Please read Soap Queen’s article before beginning.
We started by putting the largest pyrex dish on the scale and zeroing it with the glass on. Then we poured in the distilled water until reaching the exact amount needed.
In a separate pyrex, also zero’d out, we measured out the sodium hydroxide (lye).
This is VERY IMPORTANT – pour the lye into the water mixture – not the other way around or it could bubble up and sort of explode.
The Soap Queen had a saying – snow falling on the lake or something – to help remember the order.
Gently stir with the silicon spatula.
Look at this:
Within a couple of SECONDS, the room-temperature lye and water reacted and the temperature skyrocketed!
Set this dish aside to cool to 90°F, 32°C.
While that is cooling, measure and melt your oils together. We did it in a pot, but it really should have been in a heat-proof glass container. I read later than aluminum and other metals can react with the lye. If you are adding fragrance oils or essential oils to your recipe, Brambleberry has a calculator to tell you how much to add.
We did put the melted mixture back into the pyrex before adding in the lye mixture.
Once the lye mixture and oil mixture have reached roughly the same temperature (90°/32°), pour the lye into the oils and mix with an immersion (hand) blender.
To make cold-press soap, you want to blend the two together until “trace”; when you lift the blender out of the mixture and it leaves the mark of the blender on the surface. It took a matter of seconds before we hit trace, so I didn’t have time to photograph (sorry)
Pour your soap batter into your prepared mold.
I have tried this recipe twice now and I will give you a heads up that if you want to add flowers when making cold-press soap – add them to the top. We mixed them right into my second batch and they all went brown and look gross.
Leave your soap to saponify and harden for 2-3 days before removing from the mold.
There are all kinds of different soap cutters out there, but I whipped up this little cutie from some scrap wood and used a dough cutter.
It’s not accurate to the oz/gram or 1/8th of an inch – but for my first batch, it did make cutting 1″ slabs easier.
Based on articles I’d read, I learned that the best method for cutting cold-press soap was to put the flowers on the bottom; that way the cheese knife, or dough cutter, won’t drag little flowers and seeds through your soap and leave scratches in your finished bars.
What do you think guys? My first time ever learning to make cold-press soap and it’s BEAUTIFUL!!
I used Japanese Cherry Blossom as my fragrance oil and these smell amazing!
you shouldn’t use your soaps until they have completed saponification – so for roughly 4-6 weeks. By then they should have released almost all of the water, and the bars will be hard enough to last.
I had a small sliver of soap left over after cutting, so I did try it right away (you can, it just melts very quickly), and it was perfect. Suds, smell, lather… I’m so happy!
I built a drying rack – building plans coming soon – to dry my bars on. They need to have as much air flow around them as possible without being in direct sunlight or over a vent.
I am 100% going to try to make cold-press soap with coloured swirls, and a eucalyptus scent for winter colds, and a shampoo bar, and a conditioner bar, a man-scented recipe, some with charcoal, maybe some with aloe for sunburns… this is going to become a problem I think. lol
For now, my 3lb loaf made ten 1″ thick bars – a perfect amount to give as gifts to hostesses or for Christmas.
Now to come up with cute wrappers. 🤔
Have a great one!