Sunday, January 16, 2011

My First Attempt at Soapmaking

Today I decided to embark on the merry adventure of hot process soap making.  I chose hot process soap because I would have soap ready to go once it was hard and I shouldn't have to worry about the lye that you need to worry about with cold process soaps. 

I decided to try a small batch today with tallow, coconut oil and palm oil.  I chose to do a small batch first, even though I was ready to throw caution to the wind and make a huge batch, but something nagged at me in the middle of the night, and I decided discretion was the better part of valor, and planned on a small 8 to 10 bar batch.  I may go smaller if this doesn't work tonight.

First, the mistakes.  Making your first batch of soap is a bit of a learning curve.  For one thing, there's the oils.  I planned on tallow because it's cheap and easy to come by, makes a reasonably hard bar, and it's the closest thing to venison fat I can find.  Okay, then.  Nobody told me that the tallow I got had meat in it.  LOTS of meat.  When I started melting the tallow, half the weight was in meat.  So, I had to strain the cooked beef from the beef fat.  That was mistake #1.

Mistake #2 was putting the sieve over the smaller container which sat on the scale.  You know what happens when you try to drain oil from meat and the meat plugs up the strainer?  Okay, so I had to clean the scale.  It still works.  The Malamutes licked up what they found on the cabinets and floor.  I ended up having to measure out half as much fat again with all of this.

Mistake #3 Don't put your Kindle anywhere near the soap pot.  Somehow, I got soap and fat dried on it.  It cleaned off okay and the Kindle still works.

Smart Idea #1: (Are you surprised I had smart ideas?)  Do this outside.  Really.  The smell from the lye reaction would kill you if you're indoors.  Those who do this inside are INSANE. 

Smart Idea #2: (That wasn't really needed)  Wore a full face shield and latex gloves for handling the lye.  No, I wasn't that klutzy, but I really could have been.

Smart Idea #3: Hot plates.  Yeah, it worked wonderfully.

General confused notions:

1.  Stirring.  How much and how often?  I seemed to think hot processed soap needed lots of stirring.  Now that I reread the book, I think I stirred too much and things started doing okay all by themselves.

2.  Timing: How long is long enough?  I had no idea how long this was supposed to take.  After a while, applesauce stage, mash potato stage, trace stage, etc seemed to not make much sense.  In the end, after several hours, I figured that if the soap hardened when I poured a bit onto the mold and the lye didn't eat my skin, it was ready.  We'll see about that.

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