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Monday, July 20, 2009

Soap Making

“Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants.” - William Osler
We have a friend who makes decorative soap for fun and as gifts. The bar she made for us has lasted a surprisingly long time. Prior to 1916 much of the soap used was made at home using fats from cooking and butchering. This changed with World War I which created a national "fat" shortage. Enterprising companies stepped in and developed the first synthetic soaps.

The following information on soap was found at

There are 3 keys to successful soap making:

1. Accurately weighed ingredients.
2. A good formula.
3. Proper technique.

Chemically speaking, soap is a salt. An acid (fats) and a base (Lye) react with one another to form a salt or soap. Natural hand-made soap is not difficult to make; you can make a batch of soap in as little as one hour, depending on the formula.

The oil or fat is heated gently. Lye and water are combined separately. When both ingredients reach the required temperature, they are combined. When the mixture becomes the desired consistency, it is poured into a mould. The bars are removed from the mould after approximately 24 to 48 hours. They are restacked and allowed to “cure” or dry until hard (3 to 8 weeks).

Interestingly, the web site is less enthusiastic about soap making...

There are only two ingredients required to make soap, yet soap making can be a very time consuming and difficult project. In the old days, soap was made a couple of times per year, sometimes once a year. One of the reasons for not making soap more often was because it was a long-drawn out process.
Bottom Line
Check out the web links above for details on soap making. I suspect like many things that soap making is simple in theory but takes skill to do just right. Note the importance of precise measuring, "right" temperature, "right" consistency, etc. Also note that soap making is NOT a craft for children. Lye is a dangerous chemical. It can burn the skin and if inhaled will burn the lungs. If swallowed it can be fatal.


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