I made soap over the weekend -- trying out a new recipe. The last soap I made was Oatmeal and I've really been enjoying it. Feels very nice to the skin. I don't ever want to go back to commercial "soaps" if I can help it. From what I've read they aren't really soap anyway, they're detergents made with petroleum products. Ugh.
[Climbing off my soap box now...]
Sorry for the bad pun, I couldn't help it.
The recipe I made on Saturday is called Nicolle's Basic Soap and I found it on a site called Soapnuts. It contains more varied oils than the oatmeal soap I made last time including castor oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil and palm oil.
Different oils contribute different properties to a soap. Some oils contribute to the softness of the soap, some to rampant lather, some to hardness, etc. From what I read, the trick in devising recipes is to find a combination that results in a soap with the properties you like, along with determining the correct amount of lye to "saponify" the oils. Too much or too little lye is a recipe for disaster.
Saponification is the chemical process which oil & lye undergo to create soap. It's like magic! Who would think these substances would make soap when stirred together under the right conditions?
There are several on-line charts listing the soap making properties of several oils. There are also some "lye calculators" which will calculate the amount of lye needed to saponify a certain amount of a certain type of oil. I imagine these calculators depend on data reaped from centuries of soap making.
I have heard that olive oil takes longer to achieve the state called "trace" than other oils and indeed it took me a while of stirring before I felt ready to pour. Even at that I'd really only reached a faint trace. But it worked. The soap is now unmolded and sitting to cure for the next 4 weeks.
The unmolding was a problem. I put the molded soap in the freezer for 30 minutes thinking that was long enough. Apparently, it wasn't. I had a real hard time getting them to budge from their molds and a few came out with a nick or two. Next time I will know to grease the molds before hand. Live and learn. After struggling too long I decided to put them back in the freezer for a while. That did the trick. They popped right out after that.
I think my future soap making will involve the use of a large rectangular mold to make one large bar which will then be cut into slices. But I'll have to think of a way to spice it up a bit. Rectangular soap is so common! ;)
I divided my batch into three and put lavendar buds in one portion, sweet orange essential oil with some ground up cloves (not enough--I'll learn--eventually) in another, and grapefruit essential oil in the third. About 2 lbs. in all.