Scrubbing, Washing, Rinsing

The Making of Soap

The first soap was duck fat with lye and I don’t remember if duck fat smell particularly bad or at all but what I do remember is that it took a long time to start reacting with the lye (over an hour)! While melting it was a pale off white and when reacting it changed to white and the texture was silky smooth.

Second soap, this time a combination of lard or pig fat and lye, I did a quick internet search when deciding on the ingredients for making soaps and lard was reputed to have a pleasant bacon scent when melting. Ha! Not only did it not smell pleasant, it was vile! The lard smelt like burnt, off meat scraps and that smell remained the same the entire time that the soap was being made. While melting it was a pale, creamy yellow and when reacting it was had changed to white. Again the texture was silky and the reaction was slow but it worked.

Third soap a mixture of different oils; palm oil, cotton seed oil, flaxseed oil, wheat germ oil and lye. This soap was the only pleasant scent, faint and sweet, like a distant pine forest scent. While melting it was a rich orange-gold colour, whilst reacting it gradually changed to an almost caramel cream colour. The texture was again silky but while reacting it got bubbly, I think because I was stirring too fast? This was one of two soaps that had to be made twice, the first time it wasn’t mixed long enough for the reaction to be finished. Once in the mould the oils hand sank to the bottom and the lye to the surface, it had separated!

The fourth soap, tallow or cow fat and lye, was the second soap that had to be made twice for the same reason (it wasn’t mixed long enough for the reaction to be finished). The first time it was made the react was taking a long time but the second time the reaction was quick (almost didn’t get it in the mould in time!), the annoying thing is, I couldn’t remember what I’d done differently that improved the results! While melting the tallow was a pale off white, once reacting with the lye it changed to a paper white. The texture was creamy. This soap had two scents to it, one while the fat was melting a foul, burnt meat smell (like the lard) and another while the lye was reacting with the fat, off milk (gross)! Needless to say milk was off my menu.

The fifth and final soap, was made from old farmed emu oil we had lying around the house (hard to say exactly how old, but a few decades at the very least) and lye. Much like the duck fat, emu fat didn’t have much of an unpleasant or of any scent. When melted it was crystal clear and when mixing with the lye, the liquid mixture turned off-white and had a grainy texture to it. Once in the mould, like the oil mixture and the tallow, it looked as though the lye had once more risen to the top but it was only an illusion of the grainy texture of the soap.

I’ve found through trial and error that the best first step in soap making, once you’ve decided on your fat or oil or mixture and weighted the amount(s), you want is to melt it until it is clear. Second step is to measure out the amount of lye or your choice of caustic and mix it with the right amount of water (more water is ok, more caustic not so much (try to remember this, it’s kind of important to not confuse those two)….

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