Let the Soapmaking Begin!

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I know, I look super cute wearing those goggles

This weekend I finally tried my hand at cold-process soap making!  It was both exciting and nerve wracking.  I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest as I poured the lye into the goats milk…it was the point of no return!  Working with lye was really the most stressful part of the process.  I had to be super careful not to spill it while wearing bulky clothing, super attractive scientist goggles and while gloved.  Theoretically, the lye should be neutralized in the process, but during clean up I was so paranoid that I might burn myself or miss a spot and later burn myself (or worse, my family!).  I definitely went over everything with vinegar to neutralize the lye.

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batch #1 unmolded

I will confess, it was a challenge making the soap.  During my first attempt, I had to keep referring to my book, which is now greatly oil stained–it would have been great to have had someone telling me what to do step by step rather than reading while working.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I missed a very important step because I was jumping back and forth throughout the book, and it’s very likely that I’ll have to toss this first batch.  However! That’s okay!  I prepared myself to accept a mess-up during my first tries.  I definitely won’t make the same mistake again!

I’ve unmolded the first batch.  The soap is still soft but should hopefully harden over time.  Currently, the pH readings have been inconclusive.  I’ll give it another day or so before deciding if it’s too caustic to keep (I’m leaning towards “absolutely throw it away!”).   I just finished my second batch and I’m feeling a lot more confident that I’ll have a good outcome.

Using a stick blender to mix the oils, milk, & lye

Using a stick blender to mix the oils, milk, & lye

The second process was 100% different.  The milk turned bright orange and the mixture thickened noticeably (it clearly reached “trace”) as the oils underwent saponification.  During my first attempt there was no color change, but I don’t think that matters.  However, the mixture never got very thick and, when poured, was too much for my one mold.  I had to improvise quickly to find extra containers to act as molds to accompany the leftover soap.  With my second batch, the soap fit perfectly into my one mold, which I had expected in the first place.  I’m feeling pretty stoked!

The soap has to cure for 4-6 weeks before I can try it.  It will get milder and harder over time. If the second batch is successful, I’m going to try adding essential oils to my next attempt!  Good smelling soap is definitely in my top ten favorites list!

A special thanks to my darling husband for watching our Bug and being my gopher during my very first attempt.  I appreciate the positive support he provided and for coming running with poo covered hands (finishing a diaper change!) to re-glove me when I poked a hole in my glove (I was just a little bit panicked).

Thank you to my sweet mother for taking a couple of hours out of her busy weekend to babysit while I attempted batch #2.  I needed to get another batch under my belt to boost my confidence, so I truly appreciate the help!

This weekend marks a start of something big, folks.  I couldn’t be more excited to start on this adventure!

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8 thoughts on “Let the Soapmaking Begin!

  1. Awesome, Maggie!! When you get around to adding essential oils, I want one with lavender! Do you think you can actually add some lavender to the soap, as well? If so, I think that would be super awesome. Lavender is, by far, my favorite fragrance. It makes me feel at home, for some reason. Odd, since I don’t remember my mom every having anything lavender. I wondered if Granny, or my Gramma, used lavender fragrances.

    • Absolutely! I’ll try adding flowers at some point but probably after I nail down the soapmaking first. I know that cooking in the lye can cause the way the flowers look to change so I’ll have to try it and see how pretty the final product is =P

  2. Some advice: if you are going to make goat milk soap, freeze the milk into ice cubes first, then weigh out the cubes (the milk weighs the same frozen or not). Then add the lye very slowly and be careful not to splash! That will keep your milk from scalding and turning orange (and will keep the stink down). Also, you can use the soap pretty soon after unmolding it. It just won’t be as mild and will melt in the shower a lot faster. If it doesn’t stink or have weird oily pockets or anything, it is probably not lye heavy. The best way to test your soap is (and I swear I’m not kidding), to lick it. If it is lye heavy, you will get an immediate zap on your tongue, the same as if you ever licked a 9v battery as a kid. If it’s not, it’ll just leave a soapy nasty taste in your mouth. As long as you ran your soap recipe through a lye calculator, stirred to trace and didn’t forget any oils, it’s probably fine!

    Good luck with your second batch!

    • Thanks for the advice! I had my milk partially frozen for the second batch (totally frozen for the first) but it was more slushy than solid. Does it affect the integrity of the soap if the milk turned orange? It’s so funny that you mentioned licking the soap! I just got off the phone with a friend who recalled hearing the same thing. That’s crazy! It doesn’t burn your tongue?

      • It shouldn’t affect the integrity if the milk turns orange. The big thing is to keep stirring and make sure all the lye is dissolved. You could also try adding the lye slower, so the milk doesn’t heat up as fast.

        If your soap looks pretty normal (no obvious oily lye pockets), even if it is lye heavy, it probably won’t burn your tongue. The pH strips aren’t super accurate, but what I usually do is test with those in a few spots, and then, as long as it’s not testing at a 10 or 12, I do the zap test. Soap shouldn’t be completely neutral. I have yet to burn my tongue, but the occasions my soap has been lye heavy or separated from overheating or something of the like, it is usually pretty obvious. I also recommend checking out soapmakingforum.com. They always have great advice and chances are someone has already asked your question and the answer is there if you just search the forum! Hope this helps!

      • Very helpful! Thank you! I’ve been following Anne Watson’s book “Milk Soapmaking” and she suggested that beginners at least check the range of the pH, saying anywhere from 7 to 10 is safe but if it remains higher, the soap is probably lye heavy or didn’t dissolve. I felt confident about my second batch that the lye was totally dissolved but wasn’t so sure about the first batch. However, it’s pH has dropped and my husband licked it for me last night =P No zap! My second batch was beautiful but I waited too long to unmold and cut (had a sick baby) and it got too hard and split every which way when I tried to cut it. Oh well!

        Thank you so much for the advice! I appreciate it. I’m super excited to get soapin’ again!

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