Introduction to Soap Making

How Soap is Made

Soap is made by mixing lye and water with fats or oil. Through a complex chemical reaction lye which is also called sodium hydroxide (a base) converts Fats or Oil (an acid) to soap. This process is called saponification. When oil or fats (acid) come into contact with the lye or sodium hydroxide (base) the saponification process begins with the lye turning the oil/fat into a completely new substance that we know as soap. The process changes the two substances into a thicker and more uniform solution. The point at which the solution begins to thicken is called a trace. Any oils/fats or other ingredients added at this point will not be substantially converted and will basically remain in the soap in their original form. At the trace stage the soap can be poured into molds where it will continue to harden. The chemical reaction will continue for about 3 weeks at which time the soap is hard and ready to use.

The process that the home soapmaker will use is referred to as "cold process soapmaking". Even though it is called a cold process, heat is required for the chain reaction to take place. This heat is provided by the chain reaction of the water and the lye and their incorporation into the oil or fat. (You will notice that when the lye is poured into the water it heats up immediately) Stirring the oil/fat/lye mixture helps this process to continue and to be uniform.

How Soap Cleans

Soap cleans by acting as an agent between water and dirt. Soap allows the water to wet the surface that is being cleaned better. For example, you have heard of water off a ducks back. Soapy water tends to soak into the surface being cleaned therefore allowing the water to wash away dirt. In addition, soap grabs dirt and connects it to the water. Soap basically grabs dirt or grease and allow water in to wash it away. This may be an over simplification of the process but it is accurate.

Soap does more than just clean. The soap you make using this online guide will contain at least 25% pure glycerin. Glycerin draws moisture to the skin, soothing and lubricating it's cells. Most soap sold in stores has had it's glycerin removed and sold back to the consumer in other skin care products. Also, most store soaps are actually petrochemical-based detergents, which are good cleansers but are harsh on the skin.

Lye soap has been around for quite a while for one major reason; it's simple and it works. When properly made it has some wonderful characteristics. Here are some of those characteristics as well as some other good reasons to make your own soap :

1. Lye soap is gentle.

2. The quality of soap that is made at home can easily surpass store bought soap for considerably less money.

3. With homemade soap you get exactly what you want. You can scent, color or make the bars all natural if that is your preference.

4. Depending on the ingredients used, home made soap bars can easily outlast their commercial counterparts.

5. Lye soaps have a 'creaminess' that just can't be duplicated by any of the soaps you find in stores. Lye soap is wonderful on your skin. The making of lye soap causes it to produce a large amount of natural glycerin as a by-product. This is stripped off in commercial bar soap production and sold for other commercial uses like lotions, but in homemade soaps the glycerin is left in the soap.

6. Lye soap can be used to clean just about everything. . There's nothing you can't use it on. By the way, ever get engine grease on your hands while working on a car? Give lye soap a try! Saddle soap is simply lye soap, so it's good for leather too.

7. Soapmaking is fun and creative. Bars of custom soap make great gifts for friends and family.

8. If you wish you can produce soap for profit. Soapmaking is a good barterable skill which can easily be turned into a profitable business.

9. Soap making is easy!

Feel free to email me with any questions -
Click here for an introduction to soap making.
Click here for information on safely working with lye.
Click here for information on ingredients and tools you will need.
Click here for information on how to make soap from scratch.
Click here for information on making soap in a blender.
Click here for information on making liquid hand soap in a blender.
Click here for information on rebatching soap.
Click here for information on soapmaking oils and their properties.
Click here to Troubleshoot you Soap problems.
Click here for other great soapmaking links !
Click here for more great Soap Recipes !
Click here to go back to the main page.

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