Some of my neighbors may have wondered why we were outside on the patio last week mixing a white powder with liquid, then setting it aside with a thermometer to measure its temperature, then periodically coming back outside and saying things like “nope, it’s still 125 degrees! Not ready yet!”
Honestly, we were doing nothing nefarious. We were only making soap. And one of the basic steps involves lye. Roughly, it works like this: you mix the lye with water, then eventually, when all ingredients are the right temperature, you mix it with fats (olive oil and palm oil, with a bit of soy oil, in this case). Then after some stirring, you put it in a mold. The eventual result is what you see in this picture: soap!
The soap pictured here is the soap we made last week. Dark brown is chocolate-orange, light-brown is oatmeal cookie, pink is cherry cola, and the creamy color is unscented, to be used to make hand-milled soap later. The saponification process, when done right, eventually gets rid of the irritating lye. But it takes a while for the soap to cure to the point where it is mild enough. We still need to wait 3-4 more weeks to use this soap. You can handle it just fine at this stage, though, without needing gloves as we did the night we made it.
For the last few years (except last year) a few of us have gotten together to make batches of soap like this, both for Christmas gift giving and for personal use. It’s much nicer than grocery store soap; it’s very mild once it’s cured, and of course, you can use any scent you like. (I like food scents, myself.)
I recommend it; it’s kind of nice to make your own soap. The only thing is, lye has gotten harder to find these days. This time we got it from a soapmaking supplier. I used to buy it at the Red Apple.