There are an uncountable amount of recipes for goat milk soap all over the internet. This article is an effort to give a more simplified version of the process and to impart some of the knowledge that I have gleaned from many a tearful batch of “soap gone wrong.” But as any soap maker will tell you, there is only so far the instructions will take you until you must engage in a little trial and error.
Soap Making Equipment
Listed in order of importance
- Stainless steel or glass bowl, and stainless steel whisk, for the lye
- Mask and gloves to use while you are blending the lye and milk (this will protect you from the toxic fumes from the lye; but, you also should be in a well ventilated area)
- Digital scale
- Stick blender
- Soap molds (silicone, not plastic)
- Soap knife
Lye gets very hot and is corrosive, so you must use a stainless or glass bowl. I don’t use my lye bowl for anything but soap making. Soap ingredients must be measured carefully hence the digital scale. I started off hand-blending my soap with a whisk to save electricity. Save yourself the potential for elbow and shoulder damage and get the stick blender; they are very handy for many things.
You can make your own soap molds keeping in mind that whatever you use will have to withstand some heat, not leech metals or rust into your soap, and be pliable enough to extract the soap. Soap molds are fairly inexpensive online and will make the whole process much more enjoyable. The silicone molds are much more functional when extracting the soap; do not waste money on cheap plastic molds. A soap knife is very handy; but, I cut my soap with a kitchen knife for years.
Goat's Milk Soap Recipe
- 10 ounces of frozen goat milk
- 4.2 ounces of lye (sodium hydroxide)
- 20 ounces of olive oil
- 7 ounces of coconut oil
- 6 ounces of shea butter
- 15-30 drops of essential oils
Frozen goat's milk is easier to use, because it reduces the risk of your lye getting too hot. If you are going to market your soap through a local farmer’s market be sure to read up on the guidelines for your area. For our markets my soap must have milk from our farm in it. Make sure the lye you use is “sodium hydroxide,” there are other types out there. Olive oil is the main oil because it gives the right amount of heat.
I purchase all of my oils in bulk wherever it is good quality and the least expensive. If you decide to use essential oils I recommend that you use therapeutic grade oils. They are more expensive; however, you will have a much more healthy product for your body and it is an excellent selling point for customers looking for the “real deal.” Some soap makers use all kinds of dyes and trinkets in their soap. I prefer a pure product. Ultimately what you put in your soap should be whatever gives you joy. It is easier to purchase soap; the purpose of making it yourself is that it is fun!
Directions for Homemade Soap
1. Measure your oils and heat them until they are all melted in a saucepan. When they are around 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, begin Step 2.
2. Put on your safety mask and gloves. The lye will burn your skin and will set off toxic fumes when you mix it. Measure the lye in your bowl and put the frozen goat milk in the lye. You will have to mix it until the milk is liquid and the lye is blended in.
3. When the temperature of the oils and the lye are both around 100 to 90 degrees you can slowly pour the oil into the lye while you use the stick blender to mix. Keep pulsing the blender and hand stirring until the oils stay blended; this is called “trace.” At this point, you can add essential oils if you choose. Do not mix your batch much more because it will start to set up and will not pour in the mold effectively.
4. Pour your soap in the mold. Let it sit for two days and remove it to cut.
5. Measure the width you want your soap. I like to cut mine one inch. Cut slow and and even. Remember that this soap is not a factory product and will look homemade because it is.
Curing Homemade Soap
Your soap must cure out for 6 weeks. Goat milk soap is a moist product so it will need more time to cure than other soaps. Also the lye needs time to cure for the soap to be safe to use on your skin. You will need to lay out your bars so the air can flow around them. I put mine on cardboard that I intend on recycling to get one more use out of it. Be sure to not put it on anything that has ink on it; your soap will absorb the ink.
The curing area needs to be cool, dry, and as dust free as possible. I cover my curing soaps loosely with white paper towels to keep dust off. After the 6 weeks, you can store your soap for use in a cool, dry location. If your first batch fails; keep at it!
Every soap maker has funny stories of the batch that got away. A few years ago, I made a batch of Castile soap that boiled over in a volcanic fashion in my front room. Now looking back on it, that was the cleanest floor in the whole house for weeks. Know that whatever kind of mess you make with this recipe — it will at least be a clean mess.
Holly Chiantaretto is an organic farmer and goat breeder in Kentucky where she also raises cattle, pigs, and chickens and preserves the harvests from her garden. Connect with Holly at Hallow Springs Farm and on Facebook. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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