Is It Soap Yet?

We made our first batch of soap here 3 weeks ago, and now we are waiting for it to be ready. And waiting. And waiting…you get the picture. We are waiting for our cold process soap to cure, which takes about 4-6 weeks.

This first batch was a pretty basic recipe, using coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, lye water, and a little grapeseed oil for preservative. To me, the whole process is more like a chemistry experiment than it is cooking. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it, since I always liked chemistry in school. Accurate measurements are essential, so we used a digital kitchen scale to read the weight of ingredients to the nearest gram.

After the soap was all mixed up we blended it with an old immersion blender until it reached “trace”, which is the point at which the mixture starts to thicken. At this point, the ingredients will not separate back into their original state (lye water and oils). Fortunately my wife served as Head Researcher on this project, something she worked on for months before we ever actually made our first batch. That made it easy for me!

As soon as the soap reached trace, we hurried to pour it in our soap mold. We bought this mold, which is sized to hold our small batch recipe that makes 10 bars of soap. We lined it with some waxed paper before pouring the soup, then covered with some plastic wrap.

soap in mold

We wrapped the mold in a towel to retain heat, and let it sit for 24 hours. While we waited. Then it was time to unmold it and cut it into bars.

unmolding our first batch of soap

cutting the soap into bars

After cutting the soap into bars, we put it on a paper sack and left it to cure. During the curing process the ph stabilizes, and some of the water evaporates, which makes for a harder, longer lasting soap. This is the hard part – the waiting!

soap bars ready for curing

They say patience is a virtue, but it’s never been one of my strong suits. Neither is restraint – so we decided to make our second batch last week, this time adding a few more ingredients (shea butter and oatmeal) plus some peppermint oil for scent. Yes, we made a second batch before we really know how the first batch did!

The anticipation is getting to me – I had to take a peek at how the first batch was doing.

soap curing on paper sack

Looks like we have another week or two to wait. And wait. Prompting me to ask my wife, Is it soap yet?!?!?

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9 Responses to Is It Soap Yet?

  1. Liza says:

    That reminds me of making soap when we were kids. Only instead of 4-6 weeks of waiting, back then it was like, a jillion years. We would wait all that time, breathlessly, then when it was ready, it would hit us that Mom wanted us to actually use it. Oh, the horrors! Lol! Mom was clever!

    • Villager says:

      Liza, it’s so neat that your Mom made soap! And that you actually couldn’t wait to use it. When we first started talking about it, I had visions of the Clampetts making it out in their back yard, with Granny stirring a big pot over an open fire. Instead we’re doing it indoors wearing our rubber gloves and goggles and stirring it with an immersion blender!!!

  2. LynnS says:

    Anticipation is part of the fun! Be patient!! lol

    You are way way ahead of us!! We can’t get past the lye-making process. We have almost driven ourselves crazy (and wasting eggs) with the leeched ash-water, trying to make our own lye. Something is really not working for us. My only guess is that the wood stove’s catalytic converter is burning the wood too well, not leaving us with enough residue in our ashes. (These converters burn so clean that there is no need for the flue to be cleaned.) We burn oak, mostly, so it’s not the wood. The water is soft water (rainwater from our barrels). It doesn’t leave many variables to check, but this weekend, we may just burn a pile of sticks outside to get a different batch of ashes. Crazy, huh?

    In the meantime, I will continue to admire your soap trials and all of those nice looking bars you’ve made. Doncha love the ragged edges?!

    Good job!!

    • Villager says:

      Well, we took the easy way out on the lye and bought it, but it’s pretty neat that you’re trying to make it yourself. We’re having a lot of fun with the soap-making, and I think we’ve about decided on a 3rd batch to try. It will be fun to try and incorporate some herbs and flowers into the mix, as well as an excuse to grow a few more things. I’ve got some Clary Sage started already that might be nice for soap.

  3. I’m very impressed. I’ve never made soap, but have been noticing that home-made and artisan soaps are becoming all the rage. It would be fun to try to make our own, and maybe incorporate fragrances from the garden like lavender or citrus. I had no idea soap took that long to cure, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait!

  4. How interesting….I remember making soap in my college chemistry class along with nylon and aspirin.

  5. Hello, just found your blog via Sue’s Balcony Garden and can’t wait to come back and have more of a look around! Handmade soaps seem to be very popular here at the moment too. I would never have guessed that they would be so technical to make! Looking forward to hearing the final verdict when they have finished curing 🙂

  6. meemsnyc says:

    This is soooo cool! Where did you buy a soap mold?

  7. meemsnyc says:

    Where do you buy the ingredients for soaps? Is it easy to find?

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