Monday, December 6, 2021

Making soap


Several weeks ago, my friend Mae mentioned she was amazed at how many food items I used in my craft spaces.  She was also interested in my soap making techniques.  

I had made soap twice before, but never had help until my friend Scott wanted to make it back in 2018. Because my birth defect, a form similar to arthritis, has gotten worse over the years, it was not a good time to try to lift the heavy glass and pots needed to make lye soap.

The first thing I did was lay news print on the table.

It took forever, but I arranged everything on the table.  The tools and equipment we would need are in front, while the oils and fat solids are on the right.  Lye and distilled water are on the left, along with vinegar in case we spill the lye on ourselves.  Behind that are extras.

It's easier to see here the "extras" and the additives, such as oats, my herb grinder, instant coffee, cinnamon sticks, and essential oils from this angle.   You can also see what I'll be placing the melted soap in.  Yes, those 1/2 and 1/2 containers are surely good for something.

Some of the essential oils had leaked in the bags, so I had a major clean up to perform before Scott arrived.

In looking over what was needed, I forgot to show the stick blender we would use to shorten the time to trace.  I realize some will disagree with me, but I never EVER use items meant for crafts in food preparation again.

My friend Sally gave me this 2 burner hot plate, and I won't apologize for not cleaning it up.  It's in the same condition in which she gave it to me several years ago.  Since I only use it for soap and paper making, I see no reason to spend hours cleaning it.  At some point it will get too nasty even for me, so I'll pull out the scrubber and clean it to within an inch of its life.

It was time to make soap.  My friend Scott laughed when I gave him the dust mask.  He said it wouldn't help, but he used it anyway.  You can see I didn't need either of my thermometers (one for oil and one for lye), because Scott brought his fancy battery powered thermometer that you can see in blue behind the glass measuring cup.  Remember, this post was created long before anyone had heard of Covid 19, where everyone wore a mask.

I won't go into the details of how we made the soap.  We followed all standard procedures and made three different batches of "plain" soap using shortening, which we then cut into even further batches once they were to trace.  It was at that time we added the essential oils, herbs, etc.  We also made one batch using olive oil, one batch using palm oil, and one batch using canola oil.

After the soaps had been placed in molds, they were covered with both cardboard and towels to keep them warm.   This is an entire batch of peppermint swirl and the final batch we created.  I checked on it late that same day and the entire guest bedroom smelled incredibly wonderful.

This was a large container and we made several different soaps based on the various essential oils we used.  It was time to let them rest and the saponification process to take place.  For those who don't know what saponification is, it is the chemical reaction in which the fats and oils (triglycerides) react with lye to form soap. Saponification literally means "turning into soap" from the root word, sapo, which is Latin for soap. The products of the saponification reaction are glycerin and soap.

The first soap Scott cut was the lavender.  Using my herb grinder, I had ground the lavender into manageable bits.

You can see the cutter he used.  I picked this up years ago in a kitchen boutique.  It gave a nice cut on the soap.

This is all the lavender we made.  It even smells wonderful. 

Most of the cut soap was resting on racks on my kitchen table.

I couldn't stop taking photos of our soaps.

Leftovers and tops were placed here.

If you use milk or 1/2 and 1/2 containers, you will get these extras.  I eventually wrapped them in gossamer bags and threw them in my unmentionables drawers.  I even gave a few away like that, since I didn't need that many to scent my drawers.

Here are all the types of soap we made.  There are eight different types and scents.  Back row left to right: peppermint, lavender, grapefruit swirl.  Middle row: peppermint, orange bergamot squares for Scott's mother, cinnamon.  Bottom row: rose (which set at an angle), Scott's biochar, and coffee.

While I'm busy making Christmas gifts, I hope you enjoyed this look back at soap making, a request made by Mae.

16 thoughtful remarks:

Olde Dame Holly said...

The soap sure came out pretty! Those ridges are practical, too.

Elephant's Child said...

SUPER impressive. Well done the two of you.
How is your back today?

kathyinozarks said...

Hi Elizabeth, I loved seeing your soap making-I have not been brave enough to make "real" soap with lye. Husband says I am an accident waiting to happen haha-which is true-so if I add the lye the wrong way-not good.
I just posted a soap making post too for T with my melt and pour base. and I did buy from a very long time blog friend some of her christmas soap made the old fashioned way with lye-I tried it tonight and I loved it very very creamy.
soap always makes wonderful gifts-thanks for sharing and I am glad you had Scot to help you-hugs

Valerie-Jael said...

Your soap looks fabulous, it must smell great. Have a wonderful day!

craftytrog said...

Your soaps look wonderful Elizabeth! Making soap is something I've always wanted to try. A very interesting and informative post!

magiceye said...


CJ Kennedy said...

I bet your soaps smell wonderful. I used to make melt and pour soaps with my essential oils.

Annie said...

Wow, soap making is quite involved. I had no idea. So I was glad to read your post here on the process of it. It satisfied my curiosity for how it is made as I see all the supplies in the craft stores.

Barbara said...

I made this kind of cold process soap in the past. It’s an involved process. I enjoyed doing it, but decided it’s too much like cooking for me. Haha! It’s also a long and tedious process, so I gave it up. Too much for me at this point in my life, plus I My daughter is an expert cold process soap maker, has sold a lot on Etsy.

Mae Travels said...

Thank you so much for the great post … it’s really nice of you to indulge my request to learn more! My recent reading of the book “Oil Palm” had some history of soap making — palm oil was a cost-effective ingredient two hundred years ago, maybe still is. I would love the beautiful aromas that you chose for this batch of soap, which does look like a lot of work. Using bits of soap as a freshener for bureau drawers is a great idea too (my mother did it!)

best… mae at

My name is Erika. said...

It's fascinating that both you and Kathy talked about soap making, and I have never made soap so I feel like I got quite a lesson. Your bars do look beautiful. It does seem to take quite a bit of work and supplies to make the soap, but I bet the results are fantastic. I'm glad you had Scott to help you, and I bet he learned a lot too. Thanks for taking us on this soap making adventure. Happy start to the new week-hugs-Erika

Nancy said...

It's been so long since I made soap- really enjoyed this post. It is a lot of work and requires special tools/supplies, so I'm impressed at your undertaking. I'm curious how long your soap took for saponification. I kind of remember letting it rest for a few weeks. I'll bet it does smell wonderful!

Cloudia said...

Dang YOU are the busy bee!

da tabbies o trout towne said...

984 pawz UP as da tabbies say, to you and Scott Elizabeth !! I KNOW the scents were wonderful. A friend in Chi-town sent me some handmade soaps a couple of years ago and they were WONDERFUL...and LASTED !!!! :) ♥♥☺☺

Jeanie said...

It's so interesting to see your process and the bars are really beautiful -- I love how you cut them. I can see why dealing with heavy pans could be a little tricky.

Divers and Sundry said...

I spent a year making soap once. It was an enjoyable activity, and the soaps smelled so good and were so pretty :)

You made a lot more than I did!