Thinking about making soap from scratch? How exciting! Soapmaking is a wonderful hobby that is great for your soul and your wallet. But if it's your first time, here's the hard truth: your first attempt probably won't work out.
It's not that we don't believe in you! It's just how it goes!
Remember the first time you tried to cook your grandma’s meatloaf recipe? Or the first time you played tennis or baseball with a friend? Probably didn't go so great. Soapmaking is kind of like that. You have to fail first before you get things right.
Any experienced soapmaker will tell you that it takes a while to get it right. But don't give up. After a couple of bad batches, you will start to learn the ins and outs of the process. And eventually, you will figure out what works and doesn't work for you.
Until you get the hang of things, we’ve compiled a short list of tips to help you out with your first batch. Hopefully, with just a little help, you can get “sud-smart” and avoid some of the common speed bumps of soapmaking.
Soapmaking requires a long list of ingredients and plenty of measuring tools. Don't get discouraged! If you're not sure how much lye you need for the oils that you have, the internet's got your back. You can find dozens of lye calculators online to help you with your batch. Here’s one that we like. This can help you figure out the right amount of lye you need to make for the oils that you are using.
Lye is a key ingredient in cold process soapmaking. With the right amount of lye, you craft a wonderful array of unique soaps. But some people forget that lye is a caustic chemical that can be dangerous if not handled correctly.
When working with lye, remember to 1) wear protective gloves and 2) add the lye to the water, not the other way around. And before you get your hands dirty, pour some vinegar on a cloth and keep it nearby, just in case a few lye pellets touch your skin.
Wondering why is lye so important to the cold soapmaking process? Lye (a base) reacts with the fats and oils (the acids) to create a solid mixture. Fats and oils by themselves do not mix with water and wouldn’t hold together otherwise. Without lye and its ability to create sodium salts, you’d just have a lumpy, fatty liquid. And no one wants that.
More isn't always better, but it is when it comes to soapmaking. Instead of getting the bare minimum number of ingredients at the store, grab two of everything. If you make a mistake the first time, you’ll want to go back and try again without cleaning up and starting from scratch. While you're at the store, grab a new cutting board that you can use for soapmaking specifically. This way you won't get soap in your onions or the other way around.