Cold Process Soap Tutorial : Do THIS For Pure Natural Looking Soap!
Alright – now we are on to the process of cold process soap! If you prefer the “rustic” natural look of handmade soap, without funky colors, then cold process may be for you. Once you master the skills, you’ll be well on your way to producing a wholesome product that you can enjoy or share with others!
Plus, since we are using all natural ingredients, you can reap the benefits that come with handmade soap. So it’s a winning combination! Before we get started, you may be asking why “cold pressed”…Let’s answer that now.
What Are the Main Benefits of Cold Process Soap?
Cold process soap takes its sweet time to fully cure – sometimes over a month! However, the trade-off is that you have more leeway to customize your mixture with scents, oils and other awesome add-in’s. Because it gets very thick in the process, it is easier to suspend different additives.
You can also manipulate the “trace” ( the stage at which the ingredients emulsify together) into frosting like shapes to get unique looks for the surface.
To be honest, it’s very similar to the procedure for making hot process soap…biggest difference is that we’re not going to be using a tool like a slow cooker/stovetop. It will end up continuing to saponify after you have poured the mixture into the molds.
As it has a rather opaque appearance, if you mix in color dyes, they may not show up very distinctly. If you prefer handmade soap with a more natural appearance, the cold-process may be right up your alley! 😃)
Cold Process Soap Supplies List
Before you begin, you’re going to need some lye (sodium hydroxide) It’s not always easy to find at the usual venues. It needs to be 100% pure lye…no exceptions (in other words don’t just grab a can of Drano!)
I also encourage the use of a 2-liter pitcher for the mixing of lye and water that has a top on it, kind of like those you might use to make lemonade or one of those powdered drinks kids like. Be sure you “designate” said pitcher with something like “Hazardous” on the front so you always remember.
Have distilled (demineralized) water on hand as well, to mix the lye in. Grocery stores carry it, it usually has a green label on the front.
Also, a kitchen measuring scale will also be helpful to weight your mixture before transferring it later. Very important, we want to focus on the weight, not the volume, when it comes to handcrafted soap!
A cooking thermometer – Use to check the temperature of the mixtures
Stick or immersion blender – Mixing together your oils,what with a much longer curing time, is a little bit of a lengthy process….the stirring part can be made less laborious with the use of a stick blender.
Common oils: They can include olive oil, coconut, or almond, just like the kind you may already use for cooking.
Last but not least, molds….You have more choices than you’ll realize when it comes to molds. You can use ordinary hollow objects such as Pringles cans, plastic containers, even shoeboxes can work if you line them with freezer paper.
Silicone molds work great as it’s very heat resistant, and it’s easy to release the bars after curing. The one on the left also includes bonus scraper tools which can assist you in making interesting designs on the surface of your uncured soap mixture which is a lot of fun to do with cold process!
⚠️ Important Safety Procedures!
Remember that sodium hydroxide (lye) is caustic so it has the potential to cause serious injury. Be sure your workspace is well ventilated.
Here are some more important guidelines to follow as you work:
· Make sure you wear long rubber gloves, like the kind that reach your elbows
· Use protective eyewear such as goggles
· Avoid inhaling the fumes as much as possible (consider using one of these masks)
· Mix lye/water in a plastic pitcher…metal/aluminum could cause a chemical reaction!
· Pitchers, spoons etc. should be used exclusively for soap making and never re-used for any other purpose because of possible contamination.
Melt The Oils First
Before tackling the lye/water part, begin by melting your chosen oils on the stovetop. Keep your cooking thermometer nearby as we’re going to check it momentarily.
Mixing the Lye and Water
Measure out your lye and water amounts – The ideal ratio we’re going for is about 4.5 oz of lye to 9 oz of water. Use your scale to be sure the amounts are accurate.
This free lye calculator tool will assist you in staying in the right range – and it will come in handy when you start branching out into different soap recipes.
Combine the lye and distilled water and start stirring quickly. This early in the game something scary like a volcano-like eruption could happen so stir, stir, stir! You will notice some heat coming off the mixture which is normal.
If you can take this procedure outside, by all means do so, but if you can’t just be sure your area is well ventilated (open windows, stovetop ventilation fan, etc.)
Mixing the Oils with the Lye Solution
After you have combined the lye and water together, now’s the time to check your oils on the stovetop. Use a cooking thermometer to keep track of the temp. When it reaches about 100 degrees, add your lye and water mixture.
Use your stick blender to mix the ingredients together. Try to “pulse” it in short bursts so you don’t put too much stress on the motor.
Image credit: Image courtesy of SoapQueen
Test For “Trace”
After you have been stirring the pot for awhile and tracking the progress, now you want to do the “trace test” …What does this mean exactly?
After you have been stirring the mixture for some time, when you can take a spatula, dip it into the mixture, and dribble it a little back into the pot and it leaves a little trace behind – hence the name.
When this happens, and the mixture reaches a certain thickness and mashed-potato like consistency, it is ready to pour into your mold of choice.
Curing Your Cold Process Soap
Pour the mixture into your mold and cover with something that will fit on top, like a box lid. It needs about a whole day -24 hours – and you can remove it from the mold and start slicing it.
As I mentioned previously, cold-process soap takes the longest amount of time to fully cure; it can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to become fully usable (or giftable -depending on your intention) Spread the slices/bars out (leave a little space between each bar) and leave in a safe area to continue curing undisturbed.
As it does, the saponification process is still going on. Didn’t realize how much science went into this huh?
After the 6 weeks is up….Now at last you can act on your plans for your soap, whether gifting or indulging yourself with.
Yay, you did it! Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of a handmade soap batch!