Part four of a Series on Soap. Part One, On the Quest for Soap. Part Two, What is Soap? Part Three, On the Quest for Lye are linked if you’re interested.
I hate searching for a new recipe, finding something that looks nice, and getting a 2,000-word-count blog about the meaning behind the recipe, how the meal tastes, or the detailed cooking process. No, I don’t need to hear how much better a Dutch oven is (what even is that?) and why I shouldn’t just use a glass baking dish. That’s all we have and that’s what I’m going to use! I know why they do this — word count, keywords, photographs, etc. — but I’m still a guy looking for a recipe and only a recipe. Where is it? Usually at the bottom of the page past all the paragraphs, photographs, and advertisements. Ignore the text, scrollscrollscroll until I see the list, screencap that shit and scurry back to Reddit for a few days before I actually try to cook the recipe.
So I won’t do that here and here’s a quick and basic soap recipe. It’s nothing fancy, nothing that’ll make your mother-in-law finally impressed with you, nothing to quit your job over, nothing to justify your lack of a real career over, but it’s soap. I’m keeping it simple and basic for a few reasons: I don’t know what I’m doing anyways, trying something new should be kept simple (and cheap), and to give anyone trying this ample room to get creative. Add your own scents! Try to mold it into animals or Christmas trees! Add color. Make it look like a cheesecake. Whatever. The fun with these projects is experimenting.
So finally, my Very Basic Soap Ver. 2.2.1 Recipe:
300 grams (about 1.5ish cups) of canola oil
36 grams of lye (sodium hydroxide, NaOH, drain cleaner from the hardware store, check the label)
3/8 cups of cold water
It’s all pretty easy to do. Dissolve the lye in some cold water (The water will heat up when adding lye so make sure you start with cold water and add the lye slowly!) and add that to your oil. Grab a blender and blend the shit out of it. It should cloud up quickly and you want to mix long enough until the oil/soap/lye doesn’t separate. This mix usually does it pretty quickly, after a few minutes. It’ll still be fairly liquid and won’t look at all like a solid bar of soap, but will have a slight ‘soapy’ smell. I’ve been letting it sit for about ten or twenty minutes to make sure it’s mixed well and doesn’t separate, and if this doesn’t happen you’re basically done.
(Note about lye: Lye is corrosive. Lye will eat your skin. Lye reacts with a bunch of stuff. Be safe with it. It won’t kill you and it’s not really dangerous as long as you’re careful. If you get some on you, just wash it off. If you don’t you’ll notice a red mark and it’ll itch. No big deal, just be aware that it’s called ‘caustic soda’ for a reason.
Also, do not use metal for your mixing bowl or mold! Lye reacts with aluminum to form hydrogen gas, and while flammable probably won’t be a fire risk, but if the lye in your soap starts reacting furiously with your container it will certainly fuck your soap up. You want all the lye to react with the oil and reacting a bunch of it with aluminum will ruin everything.
I found this out by buying those single-use aluminum baking dishes to use as cheap soap mold. I knew Al and NaOH reacted but somehow forgot about this until I poured the soap into them. It started bubbling. Instantly I recalled the Al + NaOH reaction and dumped the soap into a ceramic dish/mold. I put the aluminum, along with the soap residue, outside for the night. Most of it was gone the next day.)
Add scents or coloring if you want, mix that all together, and pour it into a mold or whatever you have laying around. Hell, just leave it in the container you mixed it in if you like. Over the course of a few days it’ll harden up and you can remove it from the mold to further dry.
Apparently this soap needs to sit a long time to properly finish, but can be used a few days after you make it. It’ll be soft and will quickly dissolve once water gets involved, but it will work. Just try to be patient and wait for it to properly cure before you get too excited to use your creation.
As for how I got these numbers, namely the amount of lye required, I’ll make another post about that. I already have it written — it was supposed to be part of this post — but it’s a totally different topic that doesn’t fit. Part Five later on today perhaps?
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