Sorry I’m a day off with this Do-It-Yourself post – I’ve been behind all week but should be caught up tomorrow. Just in time for more snow play time in the snow!
In addition to infused oils and facial toner recipes listed here, I’ve shared my soap recipe on my facebook page. Facebook keeps making things difficult to navigate, so I thought I would put it on my own site and update a few things in the process. I’ve made a lot of Chef’s Soap this past year, and think the finished product is useful year-round. You can find it on the shelves at the East End Food Co-op and a few local markets like Farm To Table and featured in Pittsburgh Magazine’s farm-sourced gifts article for its food-based ingredient list.
As such, the ingredients list is minimal, but the process takes care, patience and attention to detail. Before you start mixing, you’ll need to assemble your materials and dedicate your space to safe practices. Keep the pets and children out of the room, for the entire process. Here’s a handy, printable PDF, too.
- Olive Pomace Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Canola Oil
- Castor Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
- Distilled Water
- Ground Coffee Beans
- Essential Oils (I use Lemongrass, White Thyme, Basil and Clary Sage for this one)
- Stick blender (I’ve tried a few kinds, and the 2-speed Cuisinart seems extremely well-suited for this task)
- Glass measuring cup and/or bowl (4 or 8-cup variety depending on your volume)
- Digital Scale for measuring 1/10 ounce (postal scale works fine)
- Sauce Pot
- Stovetop (gas preferred for fine-tuning temperature)
- Wooden or Silicone Mold
- A couple of spatulas, silicon or plastic
- Gloves and Eye Protection
- *Distilled White Vinegar (for cleanup and in case of emergency)
Getting started: I recommend pulling up a recipe from A Soap Calculator for the volume of soap your mold can fit. For example, I have a long, silicone loaf mold that fits about 32 oz, and a wooden mold that fits 54 oz of oils and when saponified with water yields 74 oz of product – and after curing this leaves me with 15 x 4 oz bars of soap (they’re often more than 4 oz). Print out your recipe and have a pencil handy so you can check off the items you’ve added as you go, or make a note of anything you are inspired to change. Don’t wait until you are done to try to remember!
Put gloves and eye protection on, and perform this procedure in a well-ventilated area away from children or pets. Using your recipe (I recommend soapcalc.net), and your digital scale weigh out water and lye in separate containers, then combine lye slowly into water. **Never pour water into lye – it gets quite hot, so you’ll want to stir it while pouring.**
It will take an hour or two for the lye water to cool, so in the meantime you can prepare the remainder of your ingredients. Liquify your coconut oil in a double boiler. Using your digital scale, weigh out the remainder of the oils in your recipe and bring all to a temperature range of 110-130 degrees F, keeping the essential oils at room temperature.
If using a wooden mold, line it with plastic wrap or a reusable baking liner. Tape edges, folding against your mold to prevent creases in soap.
When the temperatures for lye water and oils are close, you can slowly pour the water into the oils, while blending. It will thicken to a pudding-like “light trace” and you can add essential oils, spirulina and coffee grounds last.
Pour saponified oils into soap mold when the texture becomes thicker. If it remains liquid, you can insulate it a bit anywhere from putting a lid on it or wrapping in a towel and putting in the oven at 200 degrees F for an hour or so.
After putting everything away, I like to spray all my work surfaces down with 50/50 water vinegar and a few drops of EO to balance the pH and keep things safe.
It takes a day or two of curing and water evaporation, at which point you can remove the soap from the mold and liner. Another day or two later, you can cut equal sized bars, trimming as necessary. It should resemble a firm cheese in texture, with a little give when you press your fingertips into it but it will take another couple of weeks to harden to typical soap density. Allowing it to fully cure helps give it is sudsy nature and encourages it to dry completely between uses, extending the life of the soap.
Last but not least, I’m excited to be hosting a soap-making demonstration in person at the Farm To Table conference this year. Registration, exhibitor list and schedule of speakers and demonstrations will be posted soon!