Really simple hot process soap

Handmade soap with extract of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) by Malene ThyssenHandmade soap with extract of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) by Malene Thyssen

Hot process soap makers rule!

Made some hot process soap today. Its a long story that began with me looking up baby friendly detergent and leading to me making completely home made soap.

I read just about everywhere that one should be familiar with the cold process soap before getting into hot process. Unfortunately, the directions I read for CP seemed quite daunting and many more things could go wrong. Finally, I decided to go directly for HP and just make it.

Handmade soap with extract of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) by Malene Thyssen

Handmade soap with extract of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) by Malene Thyssen

There were many choices for hot processing as well. Cooking on the stove, oven, double boiler, microwave, crock pot, in the mold… I got a grip on what would happen from the very wonderful details provided by hundreds of sites I researched in the process, but what turned out to be my first and very wonderful experience led me to figure out a new way of Hot Processing soap.

After reading about the many methods, I discarded the idea of Cold Process and In the mold straightaway, knowing that the first needed patience beyond what I had, and the other sounded too tedious. I don’t have a microwave or Crock Pot. I have an oven, but the whole idea of protecting it from spills, made me want to do anything else other than making soap. The Straight Hot process on the stove sounded tempting. The crock pot method (set on low – there is another with it set on high…)

I knew I didn’t want to move the still caustic soap around, so taking it out only when cooked was the plan. I liked the detailed desctiptions of what processes the soap went through, and eventually figured that I could use my milk cooker as a double boiler and not cook it too hard (like the crock pot set on low).

This worked well. The stroke of genius that made this method click for me actually was contributed by Nisarga, my son. Just as I added the lye to the oils, there was this wail from the bedroom. I had been planning to sneak in the soap batch while he slept. He didn’t like the idea I guess. So I switched stove off, took a look at him. Came back, turned it on.

Nisarga is teething. So this happened often. I took about two hours to make the batch in five installments and I realized that I didn’t have to keep the stove on all the time. The hot water in the milk cooker kept the soap hot enough to ‘keep going’. I mostly used heat in bursts, stirred while the stove was on, and went off to my son.

This brings me to this point of sharing the most easy instructions for soap making ever.

  • Use milk cooker: Double boiler should work too, but I found the irritating whistle of the milk cooker as soon as it got hot to be a great nudge toward turning the heat off. I didn’t need to ‘cook’ the soap. Just saponify it.
  • Keep things hot: Don’t go longer than 20 min without turning the heat back on. Perhaps more or less time depending on the batch size.
  • Forget all the intermediate steps: They cause more confusion and performance anxiety. Measure out ingredients accurately, dilute lye in water (CAREFULLY!!! *Please read below.), add lye water to oil (CAREFULLY) and keep stirring things and keeping ’em hot’ till wax like soap is ready. Takes a long time, but you don’t need to sit with your hand in the soap, so to say. Heat it, stir it, switch off when hot, go do something else for a bit. Once you reach the applesauce phase, stay there. Doesn’t take much longer. Heat, stir, heat, stir. Mashed potatoes. Do the additives thing, mix,  pour into molds.

Done. When cool, take it out and go have a bath. You have made soap without making a rocket science out of it. You have saved energy by letting go of the need to constantly heat the thing.

This soap is glycerine soap. The glycerine is not taken out. Its great for your skin and feels like…. I moaned with sheer sensual delight when I washed my hands after making it. After cooling and another day or so to get even more mild, this soap is sheer nirvana.

Oh, I didn’t share my recipe in my joy about this process. Another time. It was a garden variety coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and castor oil thing anyway. Hundreds of ’em floating on the internet.

PS: My soap was really simple. Perhaps the sporadic heating may complicate any tricky batches of soap that need the heat just so. I don’t know.

*Lye is caustic soda CAUSTIC soda. It is not a euphimism. It is used as a drain cleaner because it DISSOLVES all the gunk choking your pipes and even at that, newer drain cleaners are lye free or at least have stuff mixed into it. Get it?

  • Cover every inch of bare skin. Wear goggles.
  • Keep a bottle of vinegar handy.
  • Do this stuff near a source of abundant water (yeah, your sink is good).
  • Don’t get paranoid, but don’t get careless, no matter how experienced you get.
  • Get vinegar on everything you may spill wet or dry caustic soda on.
  • Rinse, rinse, rinse. Never mind the soap for a bit.
  • If you get burned, vinegar, rinse, rinse. Have emergency medical support plans.
  • ALWAYS mix your lye just before adding to oil. Don’t measure, let it hang around, mix, let it hang around, and so on. Get it out of its safe place, measure, put remaining back, mix, add to oil.
  • Mark the lye clearly so that everyone knows not to touch it. If you have kids at home (I do). Store it out of reach, or locked.
  • Be careful, alert. If you’re tired, sleepy, etc. Do it tomorrow.

Read this story of an experienced soaper’s nightmare experience and learn. Her two year old toppled a gallon of lye that she’d kept aside for a minute all over himself. Not everything needs to be learned through personal experience.

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Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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