DIY-Homemade Soap(non-shaving)

Nick the Knife

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Gents,

Just curious if anyone here has tried making their own soap? And by soap I'm talking about all non-shaving specific soaps.

Purely from a personal use perspective I find it quite fascinating and just knocked over several ebooks on the subject. I am leaning towards a pretty basic cold process soap for my first effort - no colourings etc but will put some green clay in it to help it's skin properties.

I'll stick with a smallish batch to start with (even though that goes against all my normal inclinations) - probably very mainstream oils olive/coconut/palm - superfat with some almond. Scent? Dunno but prolly something citrus - I've loads around the house to chose from.

Just need to pick up an old pot and measuring stuff, silicone bakeware from the Op shops etc and will see how it goes.

Welcome feedback or discussion from others who have been down this path or are interested as it does read as very simple, beneficial (compared to commercial 'soaps') and cost-effective (compared to artisan made soaps).
 

Nonick

Sputniks orbit planet face
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I got very interested in soap making last year. I followed a simple recipe from

http://offbeatandinspired.com/2012/09/14/cold-process-soap-making-for-beginners/

I scented it with lime and eucalyptus oil, the EO part is probably the most expensive.

The quantity made me loose interest, even making a small portion of the recipe gave me about 20 bars of soap. What to do with it? I don't know that many people let alone have that many friends to give it to.

It is very nice though using something you've made.

Good fun though I did it with some kids. The four week cure time nearly killed them waiting.
 

Nick the Knife

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Yes, reading these books made me realise why most artisans use the hot method for their shaving soaps. And both reasons you hit on...first, they can essentially ship-sell the product as soon as it is made - no extended waiting time for cure. Plus fragrance-EO added just before pouring out so far less needed. Saves them big money both ways.

Kids and lye solution eh? Sounds like the makings of a fun weekend.
 

Nonick

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Yeah, the most fun part found them huddled 10 meters away while I tried not to inhale. We stuck to ball games after that
 

Nonick

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It was something like $2 a bar. The soap itself is cheap, it's the essential oils that scent it that jack the cost up.

Coconut oil was about $10 the olive oil and canola maybe another $5 and lye from bunnings $4 I think, but the 10ml of lime essential oil was $20 itself.

If you ordered bulk and got litres of everything it would be much cheaper - but what to do with it unless you sell/give it away?
 

Nick the Knife

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Well slowly working my way towards a modest first batch. FWIW did some eon at Coles today and some misc feedback in no particular order is:
  • Coconut oil is $20/L but you should be able to use cooking Colpha, which is same thing but sells for around $11/kg
  • Another smartie tip is tallow/lard which is sold in blocks or tubs in buter section at around $5/kg. Soapers can get a bit wussy and illogical about using in their soaps but we shavers know it brings a lot of benefits...so is a handy option.
  • Caustic soda at 98% is $4.40/500g
  • For scents I think basic choices are often best and most houses will have some eucalyptus or tea tree oil around already. Fancier stuff can be bought online, ebay from OS for good rates once you know your base mix is good, kinda crazy to spend too much on it early on.
Olive ddoesn't matter what grade, so pomace or what you have at home is fine. I have been considering canola, as have loads of it at home and also rice bran but will ned toread up on their traits in soap so the outcome is overall balanced. Will aim to superfat at 5% with some nicer oil, have smaller amounts already of castor, jojoba, apricot, almond and argan....again more research needed.

They say best to have dedicated soap gear e.g pots, bowls, measuring so have some but will hunt OP shops for cheap bits. Again might find suitable old silicone bakeware or just knock up a few basic bar moulds with a few lengths of cheap pine from Bunnings.

Measure twice cut once eh...but seems straight forward enough.
 

Nonick

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As usual you've done your research NtK! Good list.

I had heard though to avoid copha in soaps but you can look into it more
 

Nick the Knife

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Ah well I've just done my first batch of CP (cold process) soap. I've done a LOT of reading up in between the last post and now so in no particular order here's a few things I've done or found out.

- I went with a DIY wooden mold. I tend to OVERDO most things (somewhat a given as I'm a member here!) but wanted to make rectangular bars of soap. I also was happy to make a lil more effort so that the mold was easy to use, adjustable and durable for the long term. For me soap making will be purely for personal use - but I can envisage the vast majority of it being given away as gifts etc to family/friends.

Anyway read that plywood is much better for molds than straight pine as less prone to warping etc. Ended up stumbling across a great product in the trade/bulk materials section at Bunnings called Formply. Formply is made of a high-density overlay (HDO) of phenolic resin impregnated paper bonded to plywood. It's specially made to have concrete applied to it in building work and was the same price as normal 15mm ply.

Being that it's made to have concrete put on it I'd imagine it's quite alkali resistant. The surface has a hard black coating that might even be able to be used without lining for soaps? If nothing else it should save people having to paint/varnish/oil their wood before use and provide an extra layer of protection against spills etc.

I've never heard of anyone else using it but from my preliminary investigations and it's zero marginal cost I would theorise there's an upside there for it in a soap mold.

I am still in that part of my life where I need to accumulate all my power tools so had to make so with using a handsaw! So cutting it was a handful but I got it done in the end. Cut across the shortest section of the Formply (I got a 1200 x 595 x 15 piece, was about $10). I wanted to make the bars 9cm in length, by 6cm in height, cutting them about an inch in thickness. So the pieces cut were roughly:
- One piece of 595 x 90 for use as the base
- Two pieces of 595 x 100 for use as the long sides
- Two 90 x 80 for use as the ends
- One 595 x 95 for use as the lid

I had been going to leave it all loose pieces and clamp together each time I used BUT that was just going to complicate things so I glued and screwed the sides onto the base, so I had a U shape but with no ends. Also an inch from the end of each of the sides I cut a cutting slot to assist in slicing the soap after it's made (completely optional).

Suffice to say measure twice, cut once and always try pieces together before you start glueing/screwing.

- Anyway whilst I suspect I could possibly have used it unlined I decided to be extra safe so stapled in a layer of builders film (basically thick plastic sheet) as a long term backup lining.

- Each batch of soap I intended to use an additional temporary liner comprising of a doubled up layer of gladwrap/clingfilm that was taped at the top and pushed into the corners so get a pretty decent fit. This proved easy enough to do and should work well.

- The moveable ends seem a great idea as I can vary my batch size from a maximum of around 2.8L (assuming 6cm height bars) to anything below. I was advised to start with a smaller batch at first as obviously it's easy to make mistakes - so essentially went with a 1/2 load only.

- I joined up over at soapmakingforum.com , very helpful bunch and actually a LOT of shaving soap making fanatics there as well.

- I had to use a special spreadsheet to figure out given the set volume of soap mix going into my set mold area (I went with 25 x 9 x 6) how much oil to use. Then from that I was able to use a lye calculator, I used soapcalc.net - to punch my variables in and get the actual recipe.

- I already had a lot of the oils etc on hand but wanted to go with something using tallow - which I feel is excellent for soaps but gets a bum steer due to a lot of folks who are drawn to soap making not liking using animal products etc. I sourced it through Woolies, is their homebrand solidified cooking fat, ~$2.75 per 500g - so very cost effective.

My % breakdown was:
  • Beef tallow 50%
  • Olive oil 20%
  • Coconut oil 15% (ended up using refined coconut oil as Coles had it on half price a few weeks back)
  • Rice bran oil (10%)
  • Castor oil 5%
I added a TBS of green clay powder and used rosemary and lavender EO's to scent it. Superfatted at 5%.

- Making it was very simple. Just a matter of printing out the recipe and being very careful to measure out all the oils etc. Also being careful with the lye mixture. I didn't even bother to wear gloves but did wear some safety goggles (though I did keep a spray bottle of vinegar nearby).

- Achieved 'trace' in under 5mins, poured into the mold that was measured out to give the right internal measurements. Tapped it a bunch of times and put a layer of clingfilm over the top. Put lid on and covered in towels etc to insulate.

Will unmold and cut into ~1 inch thick bars about 18-24hrs later. Need to cure for around 4-8weeks - which is a PITA but watchagunnado.

I'd attach some pix but it's all bundled up right now. Anyway I recommend others give it a try as I made things much more complicated than needed with making the mold etc but you can use a lot of existing old containers or disposable ones e.g pringles tubes.

I just used stainless steel pots to make the lot in - can be used as normal after you've washed out properly so no need to buy dedicated stuff etc - the only thing I am keeping just for soap is an old plastic spatula - as the EO's etc will get their scent into it.

Anyway we'll see how it goes.
 

filobiblic

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Watch this space...
 

Nick the Knife

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Location
Coffs Harbour, NSW
FWIW ended up doing my 1st batch a few days ago - ended up going with:
Tallow (beef) 50%
CO 15%
OO 20%
Castor 5%
RBO 10%

Total Oils 642g, SF@5%, added 1tbs of French Green Clay powder, ~20g of EO (Rosemary & Lavender @ 4:1)
IMG_0020


Used around 1/2 my mold but must have calculated the volume a lil off as the bars were a tad shorter than desired (~4.5cm rather than 6cm). Emulsified ingredients at around 45C. Trace took under 5mins.

Have wooden lid and put that on mold plus towels etc. Cut it 24hrs later, already quite firm. Is now drying on old plastic coated rack in top of a cupboard.

Looks very standard - which isn't a bad thing given the misfortunes of others on their debut run - plus I've zero interest in swirls and the other BS that the hardcore soapers seem to adore (can appreciate it but see the extra effort as being worth nothing when it comes to making a BETTER bar of soap!). Figure a 4-6week wait to try but will definitely try another batch varying the ingredients before then. That 1/2 batch gave 12 inch thick bars, which while it doesn't last as long as commercial stuff is many months worth of use for us.

Overall the whole process was very easy to do - as long as you stick with a fair balanced recipe, run it through a lye calculator and then measure correctly and apply common sense it's very straight forward.
 

MrT

Commander of Soap
State Rep - NSW
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Nov 24, 2014
Nice work. You are inspiring me!

I'm still nervous about you not wearing gloves though... So much that could go wrong. Haven't you seen Fight Club?!? That was one heck of a burn.
 

Nick the Knife

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I'm still nervous about you not wearing gloves though... So much that could go wrong. Haven't you seen Fight Club?!? That was one heck of a burn.
Ah without the gloves you've a better feel for things so easier to just be careful and not splash stuff - thankfully no kids or pets here so I'd not do it if I doubted myself. That said I kept a spray bottle of vinegar within reach just incase I did have a spill etc.

Thinking I might do another batch tonight.

Interesting thing is that if you search through the shaving soap threads you'll actually find several notable artisan makers who only made their first every efforts a year or so ago. So plenty of interesting stuff even though I'm not looking to make a shaving soap anytime soon - just nice to have good quality soaps with no nasties etc in them as I'm normally the consumer who buys the cheapest, entry level soap at the supermarket.

Had to fight off the desire to buy a bunch of new EO's and more boutique base oils/butters etc - due to their finite lifespan I'm going to use the existing stuff I already have before loading up again. The interesting thing is more expensive oils etc doesn't mean you'll get a better soap and the 'holy trinity' of base oils palm (or tallow/lard) - coconut - olive are all very cost effective.

In hindsight my mold was complete overkill - I'd have made it a lot more rough and ready if I was doing over again - no need to permanently line it as the doubled up clingwrap worked really well. Not pretty enough for commercial makers but did the trick for me.

Have tweaked my recipe a lil to incorporate some palm oil (as I'd bought 1.5kg of it and it's regarded as basically the same as tallow/lard but slightly inferior) - am also going to add around 4% colloidal oatmeal (which is just oats that have been very finely ground etc), scent it with either rosemary and peppermint or cypress and lime EO's.

The soapcalc.net lye calculator is genius to use - makes tweaking recipes much easier - and it also gives you an idea of what several key aspects of your soap will be like e.g hardness, moisturising etc. I've managed to improve several key areas without diminishing the others (which is kinda hard as it's generally a this goes up so that goes down thing unless you change the ingredients used). Anyway we'll see how it goes.
 

Nonick

Sputniks orbit planet face
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Thats a great first effort NtK - all that research you do pays off.

You'll be able to go commercial soon.

"Aussie Armpit Accoutrements"


Just a suggestion
 

Nick the Knife

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Coffs Harbour, NSW
Oh man I tell you what it's 'interesting' to post on a female dominated forum instead of the male oriented ones I've traditionally frequented (IT, Sport, Shaving oriented etc).

Whilst I'm happy to put up with my own lady acting moronic from time to time (she has the reciprocal arrangement with my antics) it's drawing the bow a tad far when you get some hormonal, medded up, frustrated 'Soccer Mom' from Tuscon, AZ chucking a temper tanty in your thread because you didn't fawn/grovel at her suggestion and instead chose to tell the Emperor he had no duds on.

Just spent the best part of an hour cleaning up the crap from this moron who decided to tell me for some random bloody reason that if I ever did make a shaving soap to put clay in it (despite me saying I had NO DESIRE to make a shaving soap but go pharking figure!) So then amongst a completely benign reply I said,
FWIW I know a lot of home soap makers will tend to put bentonite clay in their shaving soaps but it's very rare for the better artisan shaving soap makers to do so.
And the moron then usurped my thread into her being insulted, hurt etc by that comment! I kid you freaking not.

Anyway I cursed at my screen but bit my lip and clarified I meant no offence by the remark and was sorry she took it that way - but that wasn't good enough so despite several other senior members saying I'd clearly said nothing offensive and that she needed to grow a thicker skin if she ever wanted to sell soaps (as every other member there seems to think they're the next Soap Queen at their local markets!) but she still carried on.

So I had no other recourse than to channel a lil (mixed 1 part per million as thats strong stuff!) of my inner @Drubbing towards her as you reap what you sow.

Anyway I have to say whilst there's great info there (and a surprisingly high number of guys) but it's nice to get back to a low-estrogen zone where common sense and logic carry a tad more sway - well atleast 51% of the time.
 

Nick the Knife

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Coffs Harbour, NSW



Just tell her to put the Retarder in her soaps instead of drinking it
Haha you're looking to get me booted from over there aren't you? Honestly it's kinda crazy as now a bunch of folks were looking at her all melodramatically upset and instead of being vaguely sane about it and saying 'Why are you acting like a twit!' (though a few did this) - but the blow ins to the thread are now just seeing the ridiculous aftermath and saying 'Hmm maybe you should be more nice instead" - and it's all I can do to say,"Yup, well thats an idea but rather than me doing that she could instead act like a %#*%ing adult and not my 18mth old nephew who bawls when the wind changes direction!!!"

The retarder remark would be a genuine 'zinger' but prolly over at the painting forums as I don't believe it's used in soaps at all.

--------------

Here's a curious sidenote as well - and I'd be interested on other guys thoughts on this. I'm VERY function over form - and so the idea of making a relatively mediocre performing soap that LOOKS beautiful does NOT interest me one iota.

So I'm telling my wife this and she remarks,"Well you'd never have any chance of selling any soap to women then!" Now I found this really curious and said back,"Don't you think thats kind of insulting to women to imply that unless something is garish or fancy looking that they wouldn't even consider buying it?" And she said no, she didn't think so.

Now as I said earlier I have NO DESIRE to sell soap, let alone to the female buyer segment. But whilst I can see that if something LOOKS NICE, thats a feature and 'nice' but surely amongst the dozen or so criteria that the average consumer would judge a soap by 'aesthetics' would be pretty low in priority compared to stuff like lathering ability, moisurising/post-use feel, economy/lasting ability, attractiveness of ingredients (some are seen as sexy despite marginal benefit e.g exotic butters), etc etc.

Is it just me or is it a male vs female view on things?
 
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