Free Tips & Easy "How to" Instructions
Soap is essentially a mixture of potassium hydroxide and fat. The potassium hydroxide, also known as lye, is what makes soap such a great cleaning agent. It has great antibacterial properties, and it makes fats and oils stop sticking to human skin. However, potassium hydroxide is much too corrosive to apply to directly to the flesh. That's why, in soap, the potassium hydroxide is mixed with large quantities of hardened lard-fat from which all organic impurities have been removed.
During colonial times, farm families often made their own soaps. They made lye out of ashes, and lard out of cooking greases and slaughtered animals. These days, you don't have to slaughter any animals or collect any ashes to make your own soap. All you have to do is buy some lard from a grocery store and some lye from a hardware store. They are cheap. What's more, there are lots of extras you can now add when you make soap to make your soaps more interesting or luxurious.
The first step to making soap is mixing lye and water. Be careful: the proportions of lye and water have to be very accurate here. You need to have exactly three ounces of water for every ounce of lye. In milliliters the ratio is also simply 3 water to 1 lye. To make lots of little soap bars you can use yourself as well as give away to friends, use 11 ounces (325ml) of lye and 33 ounces (975ml) of water. Get an accurate scale to make sure that your proportions are correct.
Be careful when mixing the lye and water. The mixture will get very hot, and create lots of fumes that are dangerous to breathe. Keep small children and pets away. Be sure to use plastic gloves to protect your hands, and use a utensil made of wood or plastic to mix the lye and water. Don't use a metal spoon or spatula, or, indeed, anything metal.
Once you've poured in all the lye, let the mixture cool down. This should take a couple of hours. Obviously, don't let anyone touch it as it cools.
While the lye is cooling, focus your attention on the lard. If you're using 11 ounces (325ml) of lye and 33 ounces (975ml) of water, you'll need 3 pounds (1.36kg) of the stuff. Put the lard in a cooking pot and heat it up on the stove. If you want to get fancy, you can mix in coconut oil or olive oil, which have a pleasant smell. You can even add bacon grease (for the symbolic value of having "bacon soap").
Wait until the mixture of lard and other oils has melted completely. Then, wait until the lye has cooled (if it hasn't already). Then, pour the lye onto the melted lard. The lard should have a temperature of about 130° Fahrenheit (~54° Celsius). Mix the lye with the lard, using a spoon or stick. Mix long and hard. It should take you about 15 minutes to mix everything. By the end, the mixture should look and feel thick, mushy, and consistent, without any lumps or variations in texture.
Again, if you want a more exciting soap, this is a good time to mix non-fatty additives, such as perfume or dye. Get creative: you can make a soap whose smell reflects your personality. Are you the kind of person who uses soap that smells like sandalwood and happens to be purple? Do you want your soap to be green and smell like anise? Do you want to give your sweetheart rich, red rose-scented soap for Valentine's Day?
Once you're done stirring, pour out the mixture into molds. To find suitable molds, go to a crafts store, a big grocery store, or look online. You can use plain, rectangular molds, or molds with fun shapes. Overnight, the mixture in these molds will harden and turn into individual bars of soap.