by Jennifer Zmurchyk – Prairie Sky Wellness
A few years ago, I made the decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Part of this was changing my diet to exclude all processed foods and switch to a chemical free diet of whole foods. Now I do understand that we can’t completely get away from chemicals in our diet. The aggressive use of agro-chemicals has caused toxins such as glyphosate to enter into our food chain. Unfortunately these have trickled down from agricultural use and are now found in every part of our natural environment. Despite not having the choice to be completely chemical free, switching to a diet void of processed foods has made a significant impact on my mental and physical health.
Part of adopting a chemical free diet was also the decision to stop putting manufactured chemically based beauty products on my skin. The skin is our largest organ and anything we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies. I began tinkering with making my own body creams, soaps, and perfumes from all natural ingredients and soon discovered that the various homemade beauty products that I was able to create myself actually performed far better than anything I could buy in the store. Plus, making my own potions and lotions proved to be very cost effective – even when using high end luxury ingredients.
Today, I will be making a batch of French Lavender/Roman Chamomile cold process (CP) soap. This is only my second attempt at making CP soap because the first time I tried it ended up being a complete failure. The soap did not properly go through the gel phase and I was very upset at the whole thing and was ready to give up on making my own soap. However this failure turned into something great because after doing some soapmaking research online as to why my CP soap failed, I discovered how to make simple hot process (HP) soap.
HP soap is great when first venturing into the world of soapmaking. It is very easy to do and because of the hot processing, the soap is ready to use right after you take it out of the mold. CP soap on the other hand is not ready to use right away and requires curing time before it can be used. This curing time can vary between a few weeks to a few months depending on the types of oil used.
Though I am making CP soap today, I thought I would share my tried and true method of making HP soap. HP soap is very easy to make, doesn’t require any complex tinkering, and any recipe for CP soap can be used in making HP soap.
A note about using lye: The chemical reaction between the lye and oil is what creates the soap when it goes through a process called saponification. I purchase my lye in a hardware store however it is possible to make your own natural lye from wood ashes. The fumes produced when mixing the lye with water can be dangerous if safety precautions aren’t taken.
However don’t let this scare you from making your own amazing soap. All that’s required is eye protection, long rubber gloves (wearing a long sleeved shirt is also advisable), some form of breathing protection for the mouth and nose, and working in a well ventilated area. I have never personally had any problems or issues when working with lye however it needs to be treated with respect as the fumes can cause damage to the lungs and eyes.
- Large Crock Pot (it’s best to use one dedicated for soap making as the lye tends to etch the lining of the crock pot)
- Stick Blender
- Long Rubber Gloves
- Eye Protection (this is required for mixing the lye – I use my swimming goggles)
- Mouth and nose protection for working with the lye (I use an old bandanna that I tie around my face to cover my mouth and nose)
- Large quart sealer, or some other large heat safe jar for mixing the lye
- Stirring utensil for mixing the lye (I use a long stainless steel spoon which is dedicated strictly for soap making)
- Stirring spoon for mixing the lye with the oils (I uses a wooden spoon that I have dedicated for soap making)
- Soap recipe – there are countless soap recipes online ranging from ones with very basic ingredients that can be found at the Dollar Store, to very exotic oils and butters. Here is a very simple one from the Soap Queen. Though it is a recipe for cold process soap, it can be used in the hot process method. I share below my own soap recipe if you wish to try it
- Oils used for the soap
- Containers for measuring out the oils, lye, and water
- Lye (sodium hydroxide)
- Soap mold – a soap mold doesn’t need to be exotic. I use a simple plastic container that I picked up at the Dollar Store and I line with a plastic shopping bag before pouring the soap in. If you are unsure of the size the container needs to be to hold the finished soap, see below for a great recipe calculator found on The Soaping 101 YouTube channel
- Digital kitchen scale for weighing the ingredients
- Distilled water – though regular tap water can be used, I feel that it is best to use distilled water as it is completely pure and free from any chemical treatments such as chlorine and it contains no trace minerals
Making the soap
- Measure out the oils, water, and lye in separate containers beforehand for the recipe you are using. Be sure to weigh the lye and the water separately – do not mix the lye with the water until step 2. When weighing the ingredients make sure that the container is put on the scale first and the weight is zeroed out before putting them in the container to weigh
- Pour the measured water into the quart sealer or heat safe jar. Put on rubber gloves, face/eye protection, and ensure you are wearing a long sleeved shirt. Slowly add the lye to the water and stir until dissolved. I do this with the jar in an empty sink in case the lye/water solution gets knocked over. The lye will heat up to a very high temperature and produce fumes, however the fumes dissipate after a few minutes
- Pour out the measured oils into the crock pot (*note – do not add any essential oils or other additives such as dried herbs in this step as these things are added at the very end of the cooking process).
- Turn the crockpot to high so the oils heat and melt quickly, then turn the crockpot to low once everything has melted. Make sure to turn the crockpot to low. I made the mistake once of not doing this and my soap bubbled over in the crockpot all over my kitchen counter due to the high heat. That was not a fun mess to clean up!
- Wearing the rubber gloves and face/eye protection, carefully add the lye mixture to the oils in the crockpot and avoid splashing of the lye mixture. This is where HP soap differs from CP soap. When making CP soap, the lye needs to be at a certain temperature as well as the oils when mixing them, however HP soap does not require specific temperatures for the ingredients. Everything goes into the crockpot and gets cooked.
- Stir the oils and lye mixture in the crockpot by hand for 5 minutes. I use a wooden spoon that I have dedicated specifically for soap making.
- After hand stirring for 5 minutes, use the stick blender until the mixture reaches a light trace. Light trace means that the mixture will resemble thin pancake batter. This also differs from CP soap, as the ingredients when making CP soap are taken to a medium trace which more resembles thick pudding
- Once light trace is reached with the stick blender, cover the crockpot, check again that the temperature is on low, and leave it to cook for around 40 minutes (this could take longer depending on the recipe used). DO NOT STIR or lift the lid of the crockpot during this time. When cooking, the soap will begin to bubble and turn translucent. Then it will go through a process that is referred to as ‘volcanoing’. This is where the soap will begin rising up on the sides and curling in on itself towards the middle.
- After 40 minutes check to see if the soap is all translucent. If so, turn the heat off. DO NOT STIR THE SOAP DURING THE COOKING PROCESS. If it is not yet translucent, allow to cook another ten minutes. Repeat this until the soap all appears to be translucent
- Add 1/4 cup of distilled water and stir the soap mixture by hand until it is no longer a ropey consistency. Once the soap is a smooth consistency, add any essential oils or dried herbs that are called for in your recipe. If you are unsure as to how much essential oils to add, here is a great calculator that can be found on the Modern Soap Making website
- Pour into the soap mold and cover with parchment paper or wax paper and allow it to sit for 24 hours. This is also where HP soap differs from CP soap. CP soap requires temperature regulation in order for the gel phase to happen. HP soap does not require this as the gel phase has been completed when cooking, and all of the lye has reacted with the oils to produce the soap. CP soap is not safe or ready to use right away as the lye needs time to react with the oils to undergo the chemical process of saponification.
- Remove the soap from the mold and cut it into useable pieces. The soap is ready to use at this point, however you may wish to let it sit in a well ventilated area to cure for an additional week.
Prairie Sky Wellness – Luxury Beauty Bar Soap Recipe
*All weights are measured in grams
|Lye and Liquid||Amount|
|Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)||200.85 g|
|Distilled Water||524.7 g|
|Oils and Fats||Amount|
|Apricot Kernel Oil||50.00 g|
|Raw Beeswax||30.00 g|
|Canola Oil||420.00 g|
|Casor Oil||80.00 g|
|Olive Oil||100.00 g|
|Shea Butter (refined)||80.00 g|
|Shea Butter (unrefined)||70.00 g|
|Total Batch Yield||2315.55 g (approximately 5lbs)|
Do you crochet? Please visit my free crochet patterns page for original patterns designed by me.