Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Making our first Soap

Soap Making

Jim joined us today from The Caurnie Soaperie, to take us through the process of making soap.

Vegetable Oil + Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) = Releases Glycerine Soap

There are two processes used to make soap:

Cold Process: Keeps all the essential fatty parts of the soap - it makes the final soap more moisturising, and leads to no waste.

Boiling Process: This removes the glycerine water - called the Sweet Waters. These are then used in the arms/explosive industry to make nitro-glycerin.

The basic process is, the fatty acid chains must be neutralised, which seperates them from the glycerine backbone - this is an exothermic reaction (meaning it gives off heat), this, essentially, creates the soap.

The Process of Making Soap

The first step of the process is to melt 200g of Coconut Oil. This can be done by emptying the Coconut Oil into a beaker and applying direct heat (it is best if the beaker is pyrex).

While the Coconut Oil is melting, measure out 800g of Olive Oil.

The next stage is to make your Lye Solution - which is basically NaOH (Sodium hydroxide) dissolved in water. There is a slight hazard when dealing with this alkali and so safety precautions (such as wearing gloves, goggles and protecting your skin is advised). Pour the alkali into water - do not add the water to the alkali as this could lead a "volcano" effect, as the alkali heats the water exceptionally fast, whereas if the alkali is added to the water, the volume of cold water will keep the alkali more stable. Mix until dissolved - you will notice the exothermic reaction.

Collect together your three base ingredients, and find a large bucket or container to mix them in.

Add the Olive Oil first.

Follow this by adding the, now liquid, Coconut Oil.

While stirring continuously, slowly dribble in the Lye Solution - this is called Saponification.

Keep hand-stirring the mixture.

After the initial stirring you can bring in some speed, using a hand-held blender. You will notice the colour and viscosity change in the liquid. We are now looking for the moment when the mixture reaches trace.

"Trace" is the moment when the mixture is viscous enough that when the blender is removed from the mixture it leaves a mark i.e. it leaves almost an "imprint" of where it was removed from the mixture.

Once the mixture has reached trace, 30g of essential oil (in this case Lavender) is added to the mixture and blended thoroughly, before it is poured into a mould.
On the left you see a soap that has been poured into the mould and been decorated with dried heather and lavender buds. 

Once the soap has been poured into the mould, for aesthetics you can decorate the soap as you wish.

Our two soaps.
Left: Lavender scented soap, decorated with dried Heather and Lavender Buds.
Right: "Ode to Spring" - a Lavender scented soap, containing a Chickweed tincture and dried Oats, decorated with Daphne, Viburnum and Witchhazel blossoms as an Ode to the Spring.

The Lavender and Heather soap, due to the botanicals it contains, will had a sedative-like effect, which in turn is calming to the mind. The Lavender also treats insect bites and burns nicely, soothing them. Whilst the Heather, is antiseptic, gently astringent and helps treat rheumatism and eczema.

"Ode to Spring" contains the Lavender essential oil also, which is calming, as mentioned above. It also contains a Chickweed tincture, which is mildly astringent, carminative, vulnerary and a skin soother, whilst also helping to treat rheumatism and arthritis. We mixed dried Oats through the soap to give it an exfoliant effect which will help soften and smooth skin. The soap was then decorated with Daphne, Viburnum and Witchhazel blossoms, all which lend a sweet Spring fragrance and look to the soap.

"Ode to Spring"

Our soaps - to now be left for a week to set, then removed from their moulds and sliced with a straight-blade knife.

The process it seems is quite simple. It will become more complex when you want to start adding different elements, also changing the base oil being used, i.e. instead of Olive Oil using Seabuckthorn Oil, will alter the volume of alkali solution that is required - there are online calculators that can work this out for you.

The last thing to add is, "Ode to Spring" won the prize for the "best" soap of the day. However all the soaps were excellent, good thing as will be taking a lot of soap home next week!

If you want to look up The Caurnie Soaperie their details are below:

Tel: 0141 776 1218

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