Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Making of a Bar of Soap and a Contest!

Have you ever wondered how soap is made? Well follow along while I make a batch and quench your curiosity.

Soap is the result of a chemical reaction between lye and oils. The combination of oils is what predominantly determines the soap characteristics. Additives enhance the final product. For this soap I wanted to make a luxurious, all natural soap. I'll be using my Shea Butter Bar recipe with tussah silk fibres.

First up is the lye/water solution. Everything is carefully weighed and the lye is dissolved in the very cold water.
Once the lye is dissolved in the water I add tussah silk fibres. The silk will contribute a slippery, silky feel to the soap and it's lather. It takes a bit for the silk to dissolve.
The tempurature of the lye water is at 150 degrees F. I like to soap at about 90 degrees, so this needs to cool. While it's cooling it's time to prepare the oils.

Solid oils are weighed first. Here I have coconut oil, palm kernel oil and shea butter. Once these are melted the liquid oils are added; I'll be adding olive oil, high oleic sunflower oil and castor oil.

The oils are melted and combined and the tempurature of the oils and lye water are almost right. It's time to prepare the additives.
I want this bar to be as natural as possible so for colour I am using olive oil that's been infused with alkanet powder (for lavender) and olive oil that's been infused with paprika (for orange). I'm also using essential oils - lavender and 5-fold orange with just a smidge of litsea cubeba to help hold the orange scent.
I've already altered my recipe to allow for the additional olive oil. The essential oils are added to the infused colouring oils.
Back to the oils and lye water. I've just poured the lye/silk/water into the oils through a strainer. Straining the water removes any bits of silk fibre that hasn't dissolved.
Stick blending brings the mixture together. The soap is just about at trace here - it's starting to thicken up and the additives will need to be added soon.
Weighing the soap (minus the weight of the pail) allows me to separate the batch exactly in half. The colourants and essential oils are added.
 Mixing it all in. I love watching the colour change. It smells soooo good. Orange 5-fold essential oil has a sweet citrus smell much like the peel of an orange; lavender essential oil has a strong floral scent. Together they form a fresh, clean, uplifting scent.
Here I'm just randomly pouring while alternating the colours. After getting every last bit out of the pails I'll swirl the top with a chop stick.

Over the next 12 - 24 hours saponification will take place - the chemical reaction that turns the oils into soap. During this process, according to Kevin Dunn, chemistry professor and author of Scientific Soapmaking "Three moles of alkali react with each mole of oil to produce three moles of soap and one mole of glycerol." And so we wait.
 It's been a few days, the soap is ready to cut.
I'm cutting my soap with my new soap cutter that I bought from Randi at Creations from Eden in Edmonton. Her dad makes them, and I love it!
The cut bars.
I like to trim and smooth the edges of my soap bars a day or so after cutting. With that done I can take some nicer pictures of the finished soap. This picture was taken outside where the lighting is so much better. It's time to put these babies on the curing rack where they will sit for 5-6 weeks. During this time the water will evaporate causing the bar to harden.

So there you have it. One problem yet remains - naming the soap. I am not good at naming soap.

 Enter the
Simple Pleasures Handmade Soap Naming Contest.

Are you up for it? All you have to do is suggest a name for this soap in the comment section below or on my facebook page. I will send one of these bars to the person whose name suggestion I go with. In the event that more than one person suggests the same winning name the person who suggested it first will win the bar.

Let the soap naming begin!


  1. The first I came up with was autumn (or fall) sunset.

  2. I like that Kirppu, it's certainly in the running. I checked out you blog, where are you from? I can't read the text but I can certainly admire the pictures! and I do admire them!!!

    1. Thanks :) I´m from Finland. You can try google translator?

    2. Ah, yes, I think I did try that a few months ago, but then I forgot how. I'm going to go try that now since I have time.

  3. Regardless, thank you for discussing this blog post. Had a wonderful time!
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