What you need to have available before you even think about making soap:
-A good scale that measures to the tenth of an ounce. I do all my weighing for soap by ounces, but you do need the tenth of oz when making other things such as lotion, lip balm, etc. I found a new scale on ebay at a very good price.
-Two stainless steel cooking pots that you will only use for soapmaking from now on – I use a 10 quart and a 12 quart. The smaller one you want to earmark for mixing the lye with liquid, the bigger one is the one you always use for the oils-melting/warming, and then you add the lye mixture to that one to bring soap to trace.
-A soap mold. Something to pour the soap into to harden/firm up. I used to use something very very simple. A shallow cardboard box, such as the kind that 4 six packs of soda cans come in. I lined it with waxed freezer paper before starting anything else. My size of a batch actually made one and a half of these, so I found some smaller cardboard boxes for the half part that a local store owner got her cases of juices in (like the individual sized tropicana bottles). This gave me a nice height for my bar soap-just around 1 ¼ inches. Now, Paul commissioned some guys to make me some wooden molds that hold 24 5 oz bars of soap each. I still have to line them with freezer paper, but I found a way to make it very fast. I found some boxes that fit the width exactly, then cut one of the boxes to where, once put together they were also the exact length of the molds-nesting into the molds with very little room to spare. Now I just take my freezer paper and wrap half of this new box-just like wrapping a package, only you don't tape the freezer paper to the box...you lift it off...turn it over and place into the mold. Voila! Okay, it helps to still tape the freezer paper to the mold itself so it won't shift when you pour the soap into it. But this way gives you nice clean surfaces of liner paper to prevent wrinkles in your soap. The average sized batch I do now makes two of these molds...so I get 48 bars of soap. I also now do shaped molds such as goat heads and monkey bars (Milky Way Molds) so that takes a little figuring out just how many molds your batch will fit into.
-Rubber gloves and goggles
-Vinegar (for neutralizing lye mixture if you should splash some on skin)
-Paper towels/waxed paper
-Long pants, long shirt sleeves, closed toe shoes.
A stainless steel whisk, heat tolerant rubber spatula, heat tolerant long handled spoon, and although optional…a stick blender is absolutely wonderful to bring soap to trace faster and can be bought for around $10-saves your arms and wrists!
How I make Goats Milk Soap
1. First and foremost-I figure out what kind of oils and butters I want to include in my recipe. You should always use a Lye Calculator (several good ones on the internet) to make sure your combination of oils and lye and goats milk will saponify and provide a nice moisturizing product. Each oil has a slightly different property so please research on your oils before deciding what you want to do. I set the calculator at 6 percent superfat, and 35-40 percent liquid (all of my liquid being goats milk).
2. I use the 18 oz Red Devil Lye that I buy at my local Fred’s. (Side note: no longer does Red Devil make or market Lye-so now you have to find a different source-check in your local yellow pages for a Chemical Supply Store and call them-most sell Lye in 50 pound bags. If you don't want to buy that much, then order a smaller amount from a soapers supply website, such as Snowdrift Farm - www.snowdriftfarm.com - )A lot of hardware or building stores sell Lye from companies called Roebic or Rooto..just MAKE SURE the bottle says 100 percent Lye on it! You don't want drain cleaner that has metal pieces in it!
3. Knowing how much milk I’ll need, by weight, I put that much milk into a doubled gallon sized Ziploc freezer bag (the kind that zips all the way across-don’t use the tabbed kind) and freeze the milk laying flat like a pancake. Yes, this takes some planning ahead.
I use anywhere from 65-72 oz of goats milk for one batch.
4.Okay, once you have all your needed resources and recipe, you are ready to make soap, right? Well, first find the right time to make your soap, when you don’t have lots of kids and animals running in and out of the room or getting under foot. I make sure the whole family knows when I’ll be adding the lye and doing the mixing/bringing to trace and they all stay out of the kitchen. I weigh all my oils and add them together first…which is a safe activity for the family to still be coming in and getting into the fridge, but from when I get out the lye bottle to when I’m done pouring the “traced” soap, the kitchen is off limits!
5. Okay, maybe you need help with your recipe, right? Well, my advice to is to have 3 basic ingredients in your soap recipe and these can all be found at your local grocery store: Coconut oil, Olive Oil, and lard (or substitute plain Crisco) in addition to the goats milk and lye. I always add even more oils, but you don’t have to when making your first batch. I do suggest you try some kind of fragrance oil or essential oil to make your soap that much more enjoyable for your family or customers. The Lye Calculator will show you the percentage of your oils and try not to add more than 30 percent of the coconut oil….olive oil is wonderful and you can use closer to 40 percent or even 50 percent of that.
6. Fragrance-there are a lot of places to order your fragrance oils or essential oils from on line-just do a Google search. I hadn’t discovered that yet when I made my very first batch so went down to my local Hobby Lobby craft store and bought some there to try. I honestly feel that the ones you buy online are not only less expensive, even after figuring out the shipping, but of higher quality. So this would be another “plan ahead” item of note.
7. Okay, are we ready to try making soap? I think so.
I do a quick check to make sure I have my molds ready, all my oils at hand, my scale, my pots clean and dry, my recipe, and all my needed utensils to include my beloved stick blender—oh yes, and my safety stuff like my goggles, gloves, and vinegar. I cover the countertops where I’ll be working with paper towels and a couple pieces of waxed paper where I know it might get messy. I make sure both sides of the sink are empty as I will have my two stainless steel pots sitting in each side when I get ready to add them together (the oils and lye/milk mixtures).
8. I do my weighing of the “solid at room temp” oils (for instance the coconut and lard) first and put them in the biggest stainless steel pot to melt them-usually over medium heat-but always keep a close eye on the pot. I then start weighing my liquid oils (for instance the olive oil, safflower oil, almond oil, etc) and adding them too. Once all your solid oils have become liquid, remove the pot from heat and put in the sink. If I'm adding Shea, Mango, or Cocoa butter, I save those for last and take the oil off the heat just before they are melted all the way...they will continue to melt in the hot oil by the time you are ready to add the milk/lye solution.
9. At this point is when I make sure I have on my long pants, long sleeves, and shoes. I then go to the freezer and get my frozen goats milk. I slam the flat bag down on concrete several times till the milk is broken into a bunch of pieces. (Don’t get carried away working out any aggressions as you don’t want to break open the bag and get the milk chunks dirty.) I carefully remove all the milk chunks from the Ziploc bag and dump it into the smaller stainless steel pot.
10. At this point I put on my "nitrile" gloves and protective goggles, making sure the gloves go over my sleeves of my shirt. I also inform the family that I’m about ready to add the Lye, so they now know the kitchen is off limits until I tell them otherwise. I usually make sure that I have the ceiling fan on to circulate air and I open the kitchen window above the sink. I keep my Lye in a plastic pitcher-the kind with a nice sealing lid that has a pour spout in it. I place my pot with frozen milk onto my scale, tare the scale (which accounts for the weight of the container), then carefully begin to pour the lye in over my milk till I've poured in the amount of lye I need. I put the pot in my sink. I then take my whisk and start to carefully push the milk chunks around the pot in a circular motion-slowly. This just keeps it moving so you don’t form any hot spots where the milk might melt and then burn from the lye. It takes about 12-15 minutes before there are no longer any chunks of frozen milk (the lye has melted it) and you have a white thick solution that kind of resembles a pina colada that is starting to melt.
11. Very carefully, I add the lye/milk solution to my oils with the bigger pot still sitting in the sink, being sure not to let it splash ( I did have something splash up one time and felt something hit my cheek, just below the goggles…I quickly grabbed some paper towel and soaked it in vinegar and put it to the spot, dabbed it, then held it there for about 30 seconds-nothing showed up later). I immediately start stirring briskly but carefully with my whisk while pouring some vinegar into the now empty “lye” pot and then adding cold water to fill the pot which I’ve put back into the sink. I keep stirring while the pot is filling up, then about the time I need to turn the water off, I take the big pot out of the sink and put it on the counter where I then start using my stick blender. I will blend for one minute, then use the whisk for a minute, then blend for a minute….off and on (this insures I don’t burn the motor out on the stick blender). What you are waiting for is to start seeing your solution thicken to where you can see some kind of pattern when you stir…like a wake that remains after the whisk has already gone by. You don’t want to wait till it’s too thick, because once it’s at trace, you don’t have too much time (but this really depends on what oils you use and what additives you might be adding at this point, such as the fragrance oils, essential oils, coloring, etc-some will accelerate the process). for those who have made gravy before...you start seeing...and feeling as you stir...when it is starting to thicken...and it's pretty quick.
With my recipes, I usually use the stick blender only 3-4 times and I’m there.
12. Now is the time to add anything you want to add like coloring, fragrance, oatmeal, etc. Depending on my desires, I may feel the need to separate out some of the soap so that I can make two different versions of soap-such as 2 different fragrances. This is where a nice big glass or stainless steel bowl comes in handy-something that can withstand heat. I also use my heat resistant spatula to scrape the bowl after pouring. Once you’ve added what you want to add, you pour the soap into the molds and then let them sit about 30 minutes. You will see them starting to solidify. I usually put a sheet of saran wrap carefully over the soap surface to where it sticks to it and this protects the surface somewhat against the white stuff called soda ash that is a reaction from the air touching it…but it washes off just fine later if you do get it.
13. I put my soap downstairs in our basement on a flat surface, uncovered (goats milk creates too much heat already so you don’t need any insulation) where it won’t be disturbed. I let it sit there at least 24 hours, sometimes 48, before I take it out of the mold by lifting out the lining and I cut it into bars with a big knife (that I only use for cutting soap now). I wear my gloves for this since the soap still isn’t cured and you could possible burn or irritate your skin. (I’m seen others do it with their bare hands, but I choose not to risk it.)You want to cut the soap when it won’t stick to the knife and be mushy, so 48 hours usually gives me a better consistency of soap that slices clean (no pun intended), kind of like cold butter-but not as brittle.
14. Once the bars are cut into the size I want, I put them in a box just like the one I used for the mold, lined with clean waxed paper or you can use more of the freezer paper, and I stand them up on their small end leaving space around each bar so that there is lots of air circulating around the bars. I line them up like little soldiers and fill the box (again, leaving space between each bar). Now, the soap goes into my walk in closet up on a shelf where they stay for about 4 weeks to cure. For some reason, my closet has vents so it’s temperature controlled as well…I think that helps the air circulation. My closet always smells sooo good! Once the soap is cured, I wrap them and sell them, or use them for the family.
15. I hope this information has helped. Please feel free to email me with any questions. Teresa@Monkeyboyproducts.com