About Handmade Soap-making

In summary, acid + alkaline = soap
or fat/oil + lye = soap !

Christine shares with you what handmade soap-making is…

Handmade Soap Making (Bar soap)
Acidic oil molecules + Alkaline lye molecules = soap (saponification process)
By product = Glycerin which is attached to oil molecules (triglycerides) is cast off, remains in the soap
Water will be used up through heat and evaporation

The History of Soap
It was said that a soap-like material was found as early as 2800 BC during the excavation of ancient Babylon.
Italy, Spain and France were early centers of soap manufacturing as they could get ready supply of raw materials such as olive oil
The English began soap making during the 12th century
American started its commercial soap making in the 17th century, in year 1608
A major step towards large scale commercial soap making started in 1791 when a French chemist, Nicholas Leblanc patented soda ash made of common salt.
The first synthetic detergent was developed in Germany in 1916, in response to shortages of fats for soap making during World War I.
All purpose laundry detergent was introduced in US in 1946. It contained surfactant, a detergent product basic cleaning detergent.

SAP Value
Saponification value gives us an idea about the molecular weight of fat or oil.
SAP is defined as the number of milligrams of lye required to neutralize the fatty acids obtained by complete hydrolysis of 1g of fat or oil.

Amount of oil x SAP = amount of lye needed to make soap

Example: SAP of Palm oil is 0.139; you want to make a 20 oz of soap. So, how much lye is required?
Answer: 0.139 x 20 = 2.78 oz lye needed

Next, we want 10 oz of coconut oil and 10 oz of palm oil to make soap, how much lye is required?
SAP value of coconut oil is 0.180
10 oz coconut .180 x 10 = 1.8 oz lye
10 oz palm .139 x 10 = 1.39 oz lye
So, add up the total of lye 1.8 oz + 1.39 oz = 3.19 oz needed to make soap with combination of coconut and palm oil.

Lye discount (Superfatting)
– This is to reduce the lye to make soap more moisturizing

Recommended lye discount : 5-8%
So if you want to reduce the lye by 5% for Formula B, simply multiply 3.19 oz x .95 = 3.03 oz lye
or 3.19 oz minus 5% = 3.03oz lye

Now, can you just add the dry lye to neutralize your oil/fat? No! You need a solvent to dissolve the lye.
What type of solvent to use? Answer: Water is the best solvent for lye in soap making

Question: how much water then is required to dissolve your lye?

Ratio of Water to Lye
2.5 to 2 (water) : 1 (lye)

Question: you want 3.19 oz of lye, how much water do you use to dissolve your 3.19oz of lye?
Answer: 2.5 x 3.19 oz = 7.975 oz of water / 2 x 3.19 oz = 6.38 oz water (always round up)
So, you may use water within the range of 6.4 oz to 8 oz.

For beginner, the ratio of 2.5 to 2 parts of water : 1 part of lye is recommended.

Caution: less water get more concentrated lye solution. Concentrated lye solutions cause your soap to trace MUCH FASTER. You may mess up your soap making if you rush yourself unnecessarily in the beginning of your soap making journey!

OK, let’s learn how to make handmade soap 🙂

Safety precaution
Gloves up! Don goggles / Mask / Apron
DO NOT make soap if you have children or pets to attend to!
Always keep some vinegar within your reach (in case of lye spillage on your body part)

• All measurement is based on WEIGHT, not volume. Get a good scale!
• Use stainless steel / glass / heat tolerant plastic utensils (pot, measuring cup, spoon)
• Digital thermometer (NO mercury thermometer!)
• Use recycled tetra pack / shoe box / wooden mould / silicone mould (as mould)

Basic handmade soap making with pictorial step-by-step instruction

– Get ready soap-making *tools / *equipment / *raw materials
*Tools required for DIY soap-making in your home kitchen are:
mould, cooking oil, sodium hydroxide (lye), water, stainless steel or heavy- duty plastic pots, whisk or electrical stick blender, thermometers, weighing scale, measuring jugs, soap additives, towels

– Have soap recipe ready for easy reference. The following recipe uses 750g of oil.
Coconut oil 225g
Palm oil 375g
Sunflower oil 75g
Cocoa butter 75g
Water 285g
Lye 109g

– Measure out water preferably distill or filtered water, 285g (optional: infused herbal tea)
– Note all measurement is in weight, not volume

– Measure lye (sodium hydroxide) 109g
– Avoid splashing the lye everywhere on table-top as it is corrosive

– The solution will get hot and produce fume for the first few minutes, step aside don’t inhale, it may induce coughing/wheezing
– Stir the lye flakes until all dissolve, notice it will change from milky to clear lye solution

– It will take 10-15mins for the solution to be clear as it cools down
– Keeping watch of the temperature in the range of 43-49°C

– In the mean time, measure all the oil required (solid or liquid form)
– Mix coconut oil 225g, palm oil 375g and sunflower oil 75g, cocoa butter 75g in a steel pot
– If necessary, warm up the oil for a few seconds in the micro-wave oven /gas stove to melt the solid fat

– Keep lye solution and oil temperature within 43-49°C

– Next, pour the lye solution gently into the oil. Again, LYE TO OIL, LYE TO OIL, LYE TO OIL

– Start mixing the lye solution-oil manually with a whisk continuously for about 40-60 minutes
– An electrical stick-blender will speed up the soap-making process. Stick-blending the mixture with manual stir in between to avoid over-heating the stick-blender

– Continue manual stirring (40-60mins) or stick-blending (10-15mins) until the soap batter turn into pudding stage – light trace
– Light trace is observed when you lift up and dribble some soap from the whisk/stick-blender and it leaves some lines on the surface

– Optional: add your favourite fragrance oil or essential oil to scent the soap at light trace
– Give a final stir to blend in the fragrance oil or essential oil in the soap batter

– When the soap reaches medium to thick trace, it is ready to be poured into the soap mould
– Take a brisk action to prevent the soap from setting in the pot!
– Cover the mould with a fabric to insulate the soap for 24-48 hours
– Clean up your working counter
– Unmould the soap after 24-48 hours
– Cut into smaller bar soaps and cure them for at least 30 days

– and IT IS DONE! 🙂

Happy soap-making and cheers ++

Process owner,
Christine Yap-Chu


2 thoughts on “About Handmade Soap-making

  1. jane

    May i know to get lye suppliers.. is it easy to find or buy it somewhere e.g pharmacy or hardware store

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