Sunday, 16 July 2017

Tutorial - Hand Made Soap

Ready to make your own hand made soap?  Here is a tutorial I put together.

WARNING: If this is your first cold process soap I recommend you watch the following videos by the Soap Queen:
1. Lye Safety & Ingredients
2. Basic Terms
It is important that safety procedures be strictly followed as sodium hydroxide, if not used correctly, can cause serious injury and death.

For this tutorial I used this recipe which produces a good, hard bar with a soft, luscious lather.

300g olive oil
300g coconut oil
300g sustainable palm oil
100g cocoa butter
330g de-mineralised water
142g sodium hydroxide (also known as caustic soda or lye)

First I suited up - this means wearing long sleeves, socks, apron and gloves so my skin is protected from the caustic soda.  I am also wearing goggles to protect my eyes while I'm handling the caustic soda in case it splashes.  I am close to a sink so I have quick access to cold running water in case of an accident.

I weighed the water in a small plastic jug using a digital scale.

I weighed the sodium hydroxide in a separate small plastic jug.

I turned the exhaust fan above the stove on high while underneath it I poured the sodium hydroxide carefully into the water, then stirred with a stainless-steel spoon until it was dissolved (keeping my face well back so as not to inhale the fumes.)  It heated up and I left it to cool down.  (Note: Leave it somewhere out of the reach of children, pets and/or anyone who might mistake it for something it's not!)

Meanwhile, I weighed the oils and cocoa butter and placed them into a stainless-steel saucepan.  I heated them on gentle heat until melted, then stirred them together and turned off the heat.  The oils were just under 60 degrees celcius and the lye mixture about 65 degrees celcius.  I left both mixtures to cool a bit more while I got everything else ready.

I set out my work space to include:
- a towel over the bench top to protect it
- silicone loaf mould (Can be purchased in the USA here)
- 2 litre Pyrex bowl with spout
- silicone spatula spoon
- small ceramic bowl for essential oil (optional)
- small spatula spoon to get every last drop of essential oil out of the bowl (optional)
- stick blender - plugged in and ready to go
- thermometer
- an extra soap mould in case I have extra batter
- colour and essential oil (optional)

I weighed 35 grams of Lavender 38/40 essential oil into a small ceramic bowl.  TIP: Use a skewer held over the spout of the bottle as your pour which prevents the oil dripping down the bottle.

After 20 minutes of the oils and lye cooling down I felt the side of the lye jug and tested the oil.  They felt like a bath kind of warmth.  I tested with a thermometer and they were both about 45 degrees celcius.  I decided to go ahead and mix them together.

I poured the oils into the Pyrex jug, scraping the pot with the spatula spoon to get every bit.  I inserted the stick blender into the jug and tapped it on the side of the jug a few times to disperse any air bubbles trapped under the blender head.  With my free hand I carefully poured the lye down the shaft of the blender (this prevents too many air bubbles forming in the oils.)

I alternately blended and stirred the batter with the blender until my mixture was fully emulsified.  Then I added some drops of purple liquid dispersion and continued to blend until the mix began to thicken and resembled the consistency of pouring custard.  (I poured a bit much in - I was aiming for a softer colour!)

Then I added my essential oil.  Because my batter was still reasonably thin I blended it in with the blender until the batter thickened up a bit (like a thicker pudding consistency).  If my batter was already thick I would have stirred the essential oil in with a spoon or a whisk to prevent it getting any thicker.

I poured the batter into the silicone mould until full.  I had some batter left over so I scraped this into my spare mould.   I tapped both moulds down a few more times on the bench to dispel any air bubbles caught in the batter.  I left the moulds on the kitchen bench to harden.  (This should take 24-48 hours.)

The darker purple in the middle of the soap is where it is going through the "gel phase" - the soap heats up and becomes soft and gelatinous.  After the saponification process (where the oils turn into soap) the gelled soap will be darker and kind of translucent in colour.  Sometimes the whole soap will go through gel, sometimes just a partial gel will occur.  Whether the soap goes through the gel phase or not is irrelevant - it will still turn into soap.

I un-moulded the two small soaps the following morning.  After 24 hours I un-moulded the large one, but I did pop it in the freezer first for about half an hour as it looked like the corners might stick in the mould.  (Cooling it down first can sometimes help with the un-moulding.)  It came out perfectly.

The dark circle in the middle of some of the soaps (in the photo) is where the centre of the loaf has gone through a hot gel phase.  It is completely normal for this to happen.  Some soapers don't like the look and prefer to soap using cool temperatures and put their soap in the fridge (even freezer) to harden which prevents the gel phase from happening.

And here they are with their sides shaved with a vegetable peeler (makes the first use in the shower a bit more pleasant!) and a soap stamp to set them off.  Aren't they pretty?

NOTES:  This is my general method.  Each soaper has his/her own method/s and these can vary considerably, but the overall process is the same.  Some use the stainless-steel saucepan used to warm the oils as their main bowl and pour the lye directly into this.  Some don't warm the oils, but pour the hot lye straight into the oils so the heat of the lye melts the oils.  Some put their soap in the fridge or freezer to harden, or alternatively keep it really warm under a box and a blanket so it goes through a hotter gel phase.  It's one of those crafts that has many facets to learn about which keeps it so very interesting.

Most importantly - have fun!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Sea Soap or "Stiff Salt Breeze"

I love this scent by Brambleberry, called Salty Mariner.  Australians can purchase it here.  It has a scent which is hard to describe, but BB does it well with the line "the thunder of waves crashing against the shore, the salty air in your face and the soft crunch of seashells beneath your feet". It does remind one of the sea, and especially salt spray. So I have named this soap "Stiff Salt Breeze" - it seems to suit it.

The wave-type swirls were achieved using Sky Blue liquid pigment dispersion and Titanium Dioxide swirled "in the pot".

I used a basic olive, coconut & palm recipe with the inclusion of rice bran oil. Probably a recipe using more fluid oils and less hard ones would suit the accelerating fragrance oil better and make the batter easier to work with. But this worked fine for me and I'm very happy with the swirls, they look very much like a swirling, salty sea.

Recipe for "Stiff Salt Breeze"

WARNING: If this is your first cold process soap you need to learn the basics first as I won't be explaining them in this recipe. Here are two videos on how to make cold process soap by the Soap Queen you should watch first - Lye Safety & Ingredients and Basic Terms. It is important that safety procedures be strictly followed as sodium hydroxide, if not used correctly, can cause serious injury and death.

300g olive oil
300g coconut oil
300g sustainable palm oil
100g rice bran oil
330g de-mineralised water
142g sodium hydroxide
1 tsp Titanium Dioxide powder
1/2 tsp Sky Blue liquid pigment dispersion
50g Brambleberry's Salty Mariner fragrance oil

* Weigh water and use a bit to disperse the titanium dioxide
* Mix remaining water and sodium hydroxide and cool to approx 35-40 degrees celcius
* Meanwhile, melt oils together until about 35-40 degrees celcius
* Blend oils and lye water together until just emulsified
* Pour off half batter into another container
* Add titanium dioxide to one half and the blue liquid dispersion to the other (use the stick blender to combine well, but don't thicken too much)
* Quickly stir the fragrance oil into each half of the batter and do a quick in-the-pot swirl
* Pour batter into mould (I use this one)
* Spray with isopropyl alcohol and leave to saponify and harden (approx 24 hours)
* Slice and cure for 4-6 weeks

Soleseife (Salt Water) Soap

Also known as German Brine Soap, this soap is hard, long lasting and has a silky feel with a mild lather.

I did some research and used ideas from the following websites:

I decided to base my recipe on the Soap Queen's Brine & Rose Clay Soap, although I used Rice Bran oil in lieu of the olive as I'd run out.  Also I used a loaf mould rather than individual moulds and decided to go for a very basic ITP swirl with two colours - green clay with a bit of titanium dioxide, and yellow clay. Any kind of swirl is a seriously courageous thing to do when working with salt soaps - which I temporarily forgot, duh! - as salt can accelerate trace at an alarming rate. Therefore my "swirl" isn't very swirly, which is neither here nor there ... :o)

I've been experimenting on and off for a year or so to try and come up with a beautiful ocean-type essential oil blend.  This one at first smelt fresh and salty and reminiscent of the sea, but as the soap cures it has morphed into something quite lovely but less sea-like.  I think it needs more lemon and I'll dispense with the cinnamon leaf.

Essential Oil Blend

For 1000 grams of oils I used the following essential oils:
10g Rosemary EO
10g Peppermint EO
10g Lemon Myrtle EO
5g Cinnamon Leaf EO

Soleseife Recipe

(Superfatted at 8%)

750g Coconut oil
170g Rice Bran oil
50g Avocado oil
30g Castor oil

82g fine table sea salt
330g De-mineralised water
152g Sodium Hydroxide

Colour: I used approximately 1 tsp each of yellow and green clay, and added a bit of titanium dioxide to the green clay to soften the colour.

WARNING: If this is your first cold process soap you need to learn the basics first as I won't be explaining them in this recipe. Here are two videos on how to make cold process soap by the Soap Queen you should watch first - Lye Safety & Ingredients and Basic Terms. It is important that safety procedures be strictly followed as sodium hydroxide, if not used correctly, can cause serious injury and death.

* Weigh out essential oils
* Weigh water and use a bit to disperse approx 1 tsp each of green and yellow clays, also some titanium dioxide if using powdered
* Mix remaining water and sodium hydroxide
* Add salt and stir to dissolve (some of the salt may not dissolve, this doesn't matter)
* Cool water to approx 35-40 degrees celcius
* Meanwhile, melt oils until just melted and stir to combine
* Blend the oils and lye (water + NaOH) together until emulsified (if desired the water can be strained to remove the salt that hasn't dissolved but I didn't bother)

WORK QUICKLY FROM THIS POINT - or forget colour altogether, which I may do next time!

* Pour off half the batter into another container and whisk in some yellow clay to desired colour
* Do the same with the green clay and titanium dioxide in the other half of the batter
* Stir in the essential oils - half into each batter mixture
* Do a quick In-The-Pot swirl and pour batter into the mould
* Tap mould on benchtop to disperse air bubbles
* Spray with isopropyl alcohol to prevent soda ash and leave for a couple of hours until soap has hardened and has cooled down (doesn't need to be stone cold)
* Un-mould and slice it up at this point or the soap will become too hard and crumbly to cut
* Leave to cure for 4-6 weeks

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

100% Coconut Oil Soap with 20% Superfat OR "Blue Soap - Yay!"

I've heard much about this idea from around the soap-making boards, and had to give it a try.  My main reason for wanting to try a 100% coconut oil soap actually has nothing to do with the properties of the coconut oil at all - after all, coconut oil soap is super-cleansing and can therefore actually be a bit harsh and drying on skin.  My reason has everything to do with it's colour - whitest of whites. Because, you see, I have wanted to make a BLUE soap for so long.  Especially a pale, fresh, icy blue.  And as any soaper knows, this kind of blue is impossible to achieve using most other oils, including the favourite olive.

Now, I still certainly don't want to produce a skin-drying soap, which coconut oil by itself would ordinarily produce.  Apparently the way to counteract this effect is to superfat the soap at 20%, which means only using enough sodium hydroxide to turn 80% of the coconut oil into soap, leaving 20% as "free floating".  After all, raw coconut oil (that hasn't been turned into soap) is extremely moisturising and very good for skin.  It also has a long shelf-life so the soap itself isn't going to suddenly go rancid because of all the free-floating oil.

I found most of this information from these websites then formulated my own recipe:
Candle and Soap
Modern Soap Making
Soap Queen

I wanted a pale, icy blue coloured soap with pieces of clear glycerine embedded in the soap to resemble pieces of ice.  I was pleased with how it turned out, it certainly has an icy look about it.  I used peppermint essential oil to add to its freshness.

My Recipe for Coconut Oil Soap

1000g coconut oil
265g de-mineralised water
142g sodium hydroxide
clear glycerine, chopped into pieces
a wee bit of blue oxide (dispersed in water first)
30g peppermint essential oil

WARNING: If this is your first cold process soap you need to learn the basics first as I won't be explaining them in this recipe. Here are two videos on how to make cold process soap by the Soap Queen you should watch first - Lye Safety & Ingredients and Basic Terms. It is important that safety procedures be strictly followed as sodium hydroxide, if not used properly, can cause serious injury and death.

* Weigh water and use a bit to disperse approx 1/4 tsp blue oxide
* Mix remaining water and sodium hydroxide and cool to approx 35-40 degrees celcius
* Meanwhile, melt coconut oil
* Blend coconut oil and lye (water + NaOH) together until trace is reached
* Add colour bit by bit until satisfied, then essential oil, and stir thoroughly to mix
* Pour batter into mould (I use this one)
* Sprinkle glycerine pieces on top of soap then press down into soap (wearing gloves!!)
* Spray with isopropyl alcohol and leave to saponify and harden (approx 24 hours)
* Slice and cure for 4-6 weeks

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Christmas Soaps 2016

I've been getting into the festive spirit and making some glittery and pepperminty Christmas soaps. I love the smell of peppermint and especially love it in soap - it is so refreshing and energising in that morning shower! And, of course, it smells like candy canes.

This one I called MERRY MINT.

I did a drop swirl - poured white batter into the mould then dropped red and green coloured batter into it from varying heights. Each bar is like a little picture.

This one I called PEPPERMINT CHRISTMAS for a lack of imagination.  It's a 3-colour tiger swirl with a red soap ball on top and gold glitter. It, too, smells like candy canes.

And lastly, my favourite. This one is STAR OF WONDER. It has a wonderful spicy essential oil blend of clove bud, lemon myrtle and cinnamon leaf. Activated charcoal gives it the dark night sky colour.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Rainbow Soap Tutorial

 rainbow soap

Who doesn't love a rainbow?  This recipe uses 1000 grams of oils and fits this loaf mould rather nicely. I cut it into 8 slices about 3cm thick.


450g olive oil
330g sustainable palm oil
220g coconut oil
330g de-mineralised water
143g sodium hydroxide
Non-accelerating fragrance oil or essential oil - I used 40g of Brambleberry's Energy fragrance oil.

Remember when using essential oils not to use more than 3.5% of the total weight of oils in your soap. The total oils in this recipe is 1000g so only use up to 35g essential oil.

I used these colours from Aussie Soap Supplies:

cold process soap colours

Please note, for the blue on the very top photo on this page, and the photo at the very bottom, I used this ultramarine blue powder instead of the deep blue liquid pigment.

This is what I did:

WARNING: If this is your first cold process soap you need to learn the basics first as I won't be explaining them in this tutorial. Here are two videos on how to make cold process soap by the Soap Queen you should watch first - Lye Safety & Ingredients and Basic Terms. It is important that safety procedures be strictly followed as sodium hydroxide can cause serious injury and death if not used properly.
  • Dissolve sodium hydroxide in the water - remember to add the chemical to the water, not the other way around.
  • Warm the oils in a saucepan or in the microwave on medium heat. Once all the oils are completely dissolved, transfer the mixture to the container you wish to mix your batter in. A two litre pyrex jug with a spout works well. Stainless steel and heavy duty plastic can also be used. Some soapers use the saucepan they warmed their oils in, but make sure it is stainless steel and not aluminium as sodium hydroxide reacts with aluminium.
  •  I like both my mixtures (lye and oils) to be around 35-40 degrees celcius, but some soapers prefer it cooler. After some experience all soapers work out their own preferences.
  • Add lye to oils and blend to emulsion with a stick blender. (Emulsion is where everything is well mixed but hasn't started to thicken up).
  • Divide the mixture between 6 plastic jugs - there will be approximately 250 ml (1 cup) of soap batter per jug. I use these measuring jugs from Brambleberry. This part can be very messy - I use paper towel to protect the bench top.

Now it gets tricky! You're working with 6 different colours, a fragrance oil (some of which accelerate trace and others that can even thin it), you don't want to contaminate the colours too much with each other, and you want each jug of batter to thicken up at different times so you can layer them one by one into the mould.

I won't pretend it's easy, and I did have some problems, but this is what I did:
  • Weigh out your fragrance oil and have it ready.
  • Have two stick blenders on hand if possible.
  • Start with the first colour to be layered in the bottom of the mould - Magenta Violet. I admit I did not measure out my colours, I prefer sometimes to add colour until it looks right then hope for the best. Squirt some into one jug of batter and whisk with a wire whisk, adding more colour if needed. You may need to use the blender if the colour isn't mixing well or the batter isn't thickening at all.
  • When you're satisfied with the colour pour approximately 1/6 of the fragrance oil in (there is no need to be precise here.) Whisk.
  • Before you pour this into the mould you want it to be thick enough to be able to pour another colour on top of it without it breaking through. A thick custard-like consistency is good. If the batter doesn't thicken up by whisking, then use the stick blender to help it along. You need to be working quickly as the batter in the other jugs will start to thicken up too much if left too long.

                        rainbow soap
  • Pour the purple batter evenly into the mould and thump the mould down on the bench top a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.
  • Now follow the same procedure for the blue layer. When the batter is thick enough, pour it over the purple using the back of a spatula to ensure it sits on top of the purple layer without breaking through. Give the mould a bit of a thump.
  • Continue with this procedure for each of the colours in this order - after the blue then green, yellow, orange and red on the top. You may want to use a second clean blender once you get to the lighter colours to avoid the colours contaminating each other. Alternatively a quick wipe with some paper towel between colours may suffice but TURN THE POWER OFF FIRST!
  • Sometimes (okay, many times!) things don't go according to plan. I over-blended my soap batter initially and it started to thicken up too fast. By the time I got to the orange it was very hard to pour and I was plopping it on top and trying to spread it out to the edges of the mould. This kind of thing doesn't bother me because I'm a great believer in the beauty of the imperfections of a hand made product. I know my rainbow soap is not going to look "perfect".

rainbow soaprainbow soaprainbow soap

                                    rainbow soaprainbow soaprainbow soap

rainbow soap
  • Clean up the sides of the mould with some paper towel and spritz the top of the soap with isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol helps to prevent soda ash.
  • I cover the mould with a cardboard box, then cover the box with a blanket, which helps the soap to go into gel phase. This is optional, but I do like the way the colours "pop" or stand out after going through gel.
  • The soap (if gelled) should be ready to unmould after 24 to 48 hours. Then it should be sliced and cured for about 6 weeks.
  • Once un-moulded I chose to brush the top of my soap with red mica to give it a bit of sparkle.

rainbow soap

rainbow soap

rainbow soap

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Australian Bush Soap

Here are three soaps I recently created using Australian essential oils of Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Lemon Myrtle. The aim was to create soaps with fragrances reminiscent of leisurely hikes through the Aussie bush.

This one is a mix of all three of our favourite bushy essential oils (above) which I've named "Aussie Bush Soap". I used Australian Pink Clay as one of the colourants and went with an in-the-pot swirl (swirling different coloured soap batters together in the soap pot then pouring into a mould.)

aussie bush soap

This "Aussie Gumtree Soap", as you would expect, is eucalyptus scented. I also included a small amount of peppermint oil to soften the eucalyptus scent just a tad. I created a natural swirly look by dividing the batter into halves, colouring with yellow and green clay, and doing an in-the-pot swirl before pouring into the mould.

Aussie Gumtree Soap

My husband really wanted a tea tree scented soap but, after much experimenting with it, I came to the conclusion that the saponification process (the chemical reaction which turns oils into soap) is not kind to the smell of tea tree on its own. To rectify this I made a handmilled soap which involves making a plain soap first then grating it up, melting it down and adding the essential oils last. This ensures the essential oil retains all of its properties and scent in the soap. I was very happy with the outcome. Like the "Aussie Gumtree Soap", I also added some peppermint oil to soften the scent of the tea tree and found that the two blend beautifully.

Tea Tree and Peppermint Soap


Aussie Bush Soap

40% Olive oil
25% Coconut oil
15% Palm oil
10% Cocoa Butter
5% Avocado oil
5% Castor oil

1% Eucalyptus Blue essential oil
1% Tea Tree essential oil
0.5% Lemon Myrtle essential oil

Run recipe through a lye calculator to find water and sodium hydroxide amounts.
Divide batter equally into 3 jugs, colour one with Aussie pink clay and the other with dark green liquid dispersion. Leave the third one plain.
Do an in-the-pot swirl and pour into a silicone 10 inch mould which can also be found here.

Aussie Gumtree Soap

40% Olive oil
25% Coconut oil
25% Palm oil
10% Cocoa Butter

2.5% Eucalyptus essential oil
1% Peppermint oil

Run recipe through a lye calculator to find water and sodium hydroxide amounts.
I coloured one half of the soap batter with Brazilian yellow clay and the other half with French green clay, did an in-the-pot swirl then poured into a silicone 10 inch mould.

Handmilled Tea Tree & Peppermint

Make a plain soap using the following ingredients and pour into a silicone 10 inch mould.

44% Olive oil
33% Coconut oil
23% Palm oil
(Run recipe through a lye calculator to find water and sodium hydroxide amounts.)

After 1-2 days, grate soap and melt down in a crock pot with a little bit of de-mineralised water (approximately 50 grams or so). Stir occasionally. 
When soap has melted and there are no large lumps in the batter and soap can be easily mixed with a wooden spoon, blend soap with an electric stick blender until smooth. 
Add a little bit of liquid titanium dioxide to lighten batter (optional). 
Add essential oils (or fragrance oils) and blend until fully incorporated. I used the following:
     - 1.5% Tea Tree essential oil
     - 1.5% Peppermint essential oil
Working as quickly as possible pour (plop!) mixture into a silicone 10 inch mould
Cover with plastic wrap and press down with hands to get batter right down into the mould. Give it a good thump on the work bench also. 
Leave to harden overnight, then slice up and cure as usual. (I leave these ones for a minimum of 10 weeks to ensure maximum evaporation of water and a harder soap.)

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Elegant Crowned Crane - SMF Soap Challenge (Interpretation, not Imitation)

I am joining the challenge on this Soap Makers Forum for May 2016 titled Interpretation, not Imitation. Hosted by the lovely "newbie", she has provided us with a group of bird pictures from which we must choose one and create a soap inspired by our choice.

It is not about re-creating a picture, but about how we interpret what we see in the photo and express that in soap.

We must choose at least 4 colours from the picture to include in the soap, and we cannot use any colour that is not in the picture. We may use any mould and any technique and may include embeds.

Wahoo! Here we go .........

I chose this beautiful creature - a Grey Crowned Crane from South Africa. How gorgeous is she?

She puts me in mind of an elegant woman in a stylish gown and a sassy plumed hat. 

I love the soft, muted colours with the grey tones - I have chosen to include in my soap the green of the grass, the brown/purple of her tail feathers and two of the grey shades on her body.

What I'm aiming to convey in my soap is the quietness and feeling of peacefulness I get from the picture, but also the elegance and sassy-ness of the bird.

Recipe: Sweet Almond & Shea

This one has mostly light coloured oils which should make it easier to mix the right colours. Also it stays quite fluid long enough to do most swirls.

300g Sustainable Palm oil
300g Coconut oil
150g Olive oil
150g Sweet Almond oil
100g Shea Butter

360g de-mineralised water
143g sodium hydroxide

I'm using a 28% lye concentration and CPOPing to encourage a full gel.


I'll use a 10" silicone bar mould with dividers for 4 colours and attempt a "feathery" type swirl through the whole soap.

Here goes ... Add the lye solution and blend to emulsion (just blended).

Pour mixture evenly into 6 jugs and add colourants. I used liquid dispersions from Aussie Soap Supplies. I mixed in with a whisk first then gave it a bit of a stick blend before I poured it into the mould.  Add fragrance oil - check out this nifty trick of pouring down a skewer, it prevents the oil dripping down the bottle.

I poured into the mould in the order: green, purple, dark grey, light grey - keeping to the order of colours in the photograph.

These things are tricky to pull out - I needed pliers. I forgot to work out exactly how to execute a clean removal before I started and made a bit of a mess of the lines!

Not to worry - I'm sure I can make something of this ...


I've put it in a slow oven and turned the oven off (Cold-Process-Oven-Process - or CPOP).

Tomorrow will tell ...

Final Result:

Unfortunately the purple colour has morphed into something that isn't in the picture so my soap can't be entered into the competition, but it has been a fun challenge and learning experience anyway.