Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lye to me.

The second class I took at Kid ‘N Ewe was Creative Soap Making. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't my favorite. It wasn't really the fault of the class. I was hungry and cold by the time I got there, so not in the most receptive mood. Also, while I had no preconceived ideas about using indigo to dye, Martha Stewart had colored my opinion of soap making. Can't be hard if it's a family project, right? I now know the soap making Martha is talking about is taking soap and adding ingredients, not at all the same as making soap.

Soap is not very complex; to make it you need three things: water, lye and oil. If you want to make soap quickly and efficiently you also need a thermometer, two bowls, two spoons, molds, non-stick cooking spray, a hand blender, and a Crockpot of some sort. Also, you should use eye protection and gloves, and have paper towels and vinegar on hand. The vinegar neutralizes the lye, should you spill it on yourself.

First we heated up our oils. We used a combination of Crisco, olive oil, and coconut oil. You can use the Crisco and olive oil by themselves, but the coconut oil supplies the lather.

I think this is for frying turkeys. If I were to do this at home I'd use a little crockpot.

We went outside and mixed our lye with the water.* This creates an exothermic reaction; the water went from room temperature to in the neighborhood of 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. We poured the oil into a separate bowl and took its temperature. We wanted the oil and the lye/water mixture to be at the same temperature, that way they can cool down at the same rate.** Once both the lye mixture and the oils hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, we poured the lye into the oil and stirred continuously. We were looking for when our soap got to trace.***

In order to get to trace without exhausting ourselves, we used the hand blender and gave it a good pulsing. It’s a fairly thick mixture so we gave it quick pulses, rather than sustained ones, or we'd have burned out the motor. Once we reached trace we poured the soap into molds that had been sprayed with non-stick spray. Then we mixed scent into the soap in the mold.

Our workspace once we were done.
We let the soap sit over night. The teacher was going to cut them into bars in the morning, but they were too soft. So, I took mine home in their containers.
Still fairly caustic.
You want your soap to mellow for at least a week before you use it. Or, if you don’t want to wait, you can heat it in the oven at 250 to get it to mellow faster. I haven’t done the research on that, so I’m just going to wait.

Another way to add scent is to make the soap, let it mellow, then chop it up, melt it, mix in the scent and let it set again. That way the soap is less caustic and won’t break down the lighter fragrances. I’ll see how the soap turns out, but I may be doing this later. This, by the way, is the "soap making" Martha talks about.

Will I be making soap for Christmas? Probably not. The likelihood of me spilling lye all over the house and myself, the time it takes to make, getting the temperature just right, the scents I’d want, all add up to... not this year. Crochet it is.

*There’s no picture because this is the kind of dangerous part and I didn’t want to be distracted. Also, once you’ve got your gloves on, and have lye on them, you don’t want to take them off until you are done.

** You can reheat the oil as often as you want but the lye-water reaction is a one time thing. If it gets too cold before you mix it into the oil you need to toss it out and start again.

***Trace is where when you lift up the spoon out of the mixture and drizzle a line over the top, the line stays visible for a moment on top of the mixture before being reincorporated.


MaryAnne said...

My mom apparently made soap all the time, until one day when my (I think 2yo) older brother dumped a bucket of lye all over himself. She never tried soap making again...

Erin said...

Alternate title: Cruel Lye. (stolen from Piers Anthony)

Erin said...

Actually the title was Crewel Lye, but for some reason I wanted to spell it "Cruel Lye".