HOMEGROWN 101: How To Make Cold-Process Lye Soap

| 7/22/2011 10:01:16 AM

By Caroline, HOMEGROWN Flock-tender

At first glance, the art of soapmaking seems that it should be left to the chemists in a lab. By chemical definition, soap is the salt of a fatty acid, a triglyceride, which are three molecules of fatty acids attached to a single molecule of glycerol (glycerin). The bars we use for cleaning are simply animal or vegetable oils treated with a strong alkaline solution called lye (sodium hydroxide). Lye catalyzes the saponification process, the hydrolysis of fats into free fatty acids, which then combine with alkali to form crude soap. The liberated glycerin by-product is either left in the soap or collected, depending on which soap-making process is used.


(Photo by Type F)

Have I lost you yet? Because I’m a bit confused myself … Let’s break down the soap-making process and start scrubbin’ with homemade bars!

There are three basic batch processes that can be used in soap-making at home: the cold-process, the semi-boiled process and the fully boiled process. Each process is defined at the temperature in which the saponification reaction occurs.  Soap can also be made through the melt-and-pour and rebatching processes, where pre-made glycerin bars are melted down, colors and additives are added, and they are then molded

7/27/2011 10:37:05 AM

NEVER, EVER, EVER use aluminum pans for making lye soap, and I speak from experience here. I was with friends at a homesteading demonstration who decided to use aluminum, rather than their usual glass, pans. The lye combines with the aluminum and you get Aluminum hydroxide - it doesn't make soap - It remained liquid and when they tried to dispose of it got it on their hands. All I had close by was a can of Coca-Cola, but I poured it over their hands and it was enough to get them to a full washing area and keep the burns from getting too bad.

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