Simple and Gentle Soap Projecthttps://www.brambleberry.com/in-the-studio/projects/cold-process/simple-and-gentle-soap-project/PS000211.html
This recipe is made with coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil. They’re commonly used because they complement each other well. Palm oil acts as a secondary lathering agent and hardens the soap, coconut oil is cleansing and produces big bubbles, and olive oil is moisturizing and gives the bars a silky feeling. For more information on common oils, check out this article.
Typically, coconut oil is used at 33%, olive oil at 34%, and palm oil at 33%. We adjusted that to 24% coconut, 44% olive oil, and 32% palm oil to create gentle bars that work well for sensitive skin. The recipe has a 5% superfat, which means 5% of the oils aren't turned into soap. The free-floating oils add a bit of moisture and luxury to the bars. Learn more in Superfatting Soap - An Explanation. We also recommend checking out Formulating Cold Process Soap Recipes and How to Substitute Oil in Cold Process Recipes.
The soap is unscented and uncolored to keep things easy. Once you have a few batches under your belt, you can start experimenting with additives. For the mold, you can use almost any box or container that you have on hand. We used a Medium Flat Rate Box from USPS. You'll just need to line it with freezer paper so the soap doesn't stick.
Before we get started, here are some of the terms we'll be using in the instructions:
Saponification: The chemical reaction that occurs when oil and lye molecules create new soap molecules.
Trace: The point when oils and lye water emulsify and begin to thicken. Once the soap has reached thin trace, it will continue to thicken as it sits. Click here to learn more and to see examples of thin, medium, and thick trace.
Emulsify: When the oils and lye solution mix and don't separate. The term emulsify and trace are often used interchangeably.
Superfat: Any extra oil that's not turned into soap. Learn more in Superfatting Soap - An Explanation.
Gel phase: "Gelling" or "gel phase" refers to when the soap gets warm and gelatinous – up to 180° F. Gel phase results in brighter colors and a shinier, more translucent appearance. Click here to learn more about gel phase.
Soda ash: When unsaponified lye reacts with naturally-occurring carbon dioxide in the air and creates a white ashy film on the bars. It only affects the way the soap looks, not the quality. Learn more in Explaining and Preventing Soda Ash.
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Time to Complete: 1 hour
- Kit Yields: 3 pounds of soap
Simple and Gentle Soap Project
This cold process recipe is designed for beginners. It has simple ingredients and in-depth instructions to ensure your first batch turns out perfectly!
8 oz. Coconut Oil (24%)
15 oz. Olive Oil (44%)
11 oz. Palm Oil (32%)
4.8 oz. Lye
11.2 oz. Distilled Water
MOLD PREP: The box you're using as a mold needs to be lined with freezer paper. Make sure the shiny side is facing up. We like to overlap 2 large pieces of paper - one vertically and one horizontally - and tape it in place. We used a USPS Medium Flat Rate Box. The inside dimensions are 11″ x 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.
SET UP YOUR SPACE: Before making soap, we recommend setting everything up. You need the lined mold, a large heat-safe container, 2 medium heat-safe containers, a spoon, a measuring spoon, a stick blender, and a spatula.
SAFETY FIRST: Suit up for safe handling practices. That means goggles, gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes. Make sure kids, pets, other distractions, and tripping hazards are out of the house or don’t have access to your space. Always make soap in a well-ventilated area.
|Slowly and carefully add 4.8 ounces of lye to 11.2 ounces of distilled water and gently stir until the lye has fully dissolved and the liquid is clear. Set aside to cool. Optional: Add 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate to help the bars harden more quickly.|
Melt and measure 8 ounces of coconut oil, 15 ounces of olive oil, and 11 ounces of palm oil into the large heat-safe container. Allow the lye water and the oils to cool to 130° F or below (and ideally within 10 degrees of each other). For this recipe, both were around 120° F.
Place your stick blender into the bowl. Gently tap it on the bottom several times to release any bubbles that got trapped by the stick blender head. This is called “burping."
Once bubbles no longer rise to the surface, gently pour the lye water into the bowl.
Turn on the stick blender and pulse several times. You'll immediately see the lye and oils come together and create a creamy yellow color. Alternate between pulsing the stick blender and using it to stir. After about 30 seconds, test for trace. Because this recipe contains a large amount of olive oil, it will stay thin longer than recipes with fast-moving oils.
Below, you can see that when the stick blender is pulled out, the drips or "trailings" of soap don't suspend on the top. This soap is still a very thin trace. For some recipes, you may want to stop here. Because this one doesn't need color or fragrance, keep pulsing and stirring with the stick blender.
You may notice the soap starting to lighten in color. It will also get thicker. Below is a good example of medium trace. The soap is thick enough to support the trailings on the surface and the consistency is slightly thinner than pudding. This is perfect for pouring.
Pour the soap into the mold. Scrape the sides of the bowl so you get every last bit!
Firmly tap the box on the counter to pop any air bubbles. Spray the top with 99% isopropyl alcohol to help prevent soda ash.
Allow the soap to sit in the mold for 3-4 days. Unmold by lifting the freezer paper out, cut into bars, and let them cure for 4-6 weeks. Cure the soap in a cool, dry place with plenty of airflow. That allows excess water to evaporate, which makes the bars firmer and last longer in the shower.
Photographer: Amanda Kerzman, Kelsey Bray
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