Stroll through the soap aisle at your local store and you’ll see plenty of products to get your body clean. Colorful boxes of beauty bars line the shelves next to convenient bottles of hand cleansers and body wash. But the truth is, those aren’t soap. They are, for the most part, petroleum-based detergent cleansers chock full of chemicals to make them smell good.
Soap used to be soap. Made with ingredients the average person could recognize. At Farmasoapia, that’s what I do – make real soap for real people. Here’s a peek into my process.
This is cold process soap making – like the pioneers used to do (although they often used animal fats, I only use plant-based oils). I start with a blend of oils and butters carefully selected for their qualities. Coconut oil, for instance, adds a lot of bubbles and makes a hard bar of soap. But using too much in a recipe can make the soap drying to the skin – and that’s not a good thing!
The oils and butters are melted together in a large pot and then set aside to cool back to room temperature. While the oils are cooling, I carefully measure distilled water and lye and combine them. The lye/water solution becomes very hot (an exothermic reaction that creates a dramatic increase in temperature) and so it is also set aside to cool.
When the melted oils and the lye/water solution are both at room temperature, I combine them together and that’s when the magic – er, science – happens. This magic is called saponification. Which is a fancy way of saying the lye and the oils get together and transform into soap. When the saponification process is complete, none of the original ingredients exist anymore – all the lye gets “used up”. The end result is just good, clean soap.
Once the soap batter is completely blended and begins to thicken, I pour it into the prepared molds. The soap will complete the saponification process in the molds for one to two days.
Now we have soap! Giant 10 pound blocks of soap – kind of hard to shower with, though. The blocks are unmolded and then cut with my bar cutter, ensuring each bar of soap is consistent.
Each bar of soap is then placed to cure on the racks for at least six weeks. This ensures a nice hard bar of soap. When the soap is done with its cure, it will get packaged and then be ready to be sent to you.
If you have any questions about soap making, please feel free to ask! I’m always happy to share my nerdy side :)