Soap SuppliesLet's talk about those first. You can't stir if you don't have a bowl and spoon.
1) Immersion Blender
You need an immersion blender. Well actually, you CAN hand stir this with a whisk. I hand stirred my first two batches of soap. BUT... it took almost 2 hours. It was therapeutic for me, but I don't want to do it again and most of us don't have that much time. Here is the blender I bought. It was $15 and it works fine. However, I can see that I will want a more powerful hand blender in the future - preferably one with a detachable wand for easier cleanup.
2) Soap Molds
You need a mold for your soap. Cardboard box, wooden box, small Pyrex dish... There are many inexpensive options that you likely have around your home. If you use one of these options, you will want to line them with parchment paper. Or you can go with a silicone mold. The great thing about silicone molds is you don't have to line them with parchment paper, they can go into the refrigerator easily if you want to prevent geling (more to come on that) or they can go into the oven if you do want to gel your soap. There are many options on molds on Amazon and other soap supply stores. Find what works for you and make sure you have a large enough mold for the amount of soap you are batching.
3) Pots and Pans and Measuring Cups
You need something to measure your lye and oils into. Glass (may etch over time), plastic (PP or Plastic #5) or stainless steel. I have some glass bowls and then I picked up a few extras for when I soap with friends. The Dollar General has nice large pouring measuring bowls for $2 that are made of polypropylene (plastic #5). Walmart has some smaller plastic measure pitchers also of plastic #5. They were less than $1. If you use plastic, you will want to dedicate these items to soaping only. Glass and stainless steel should clean up safely and be more versatile.
You will need a large stainless steel stock pot or a slow cooker crock to melt your oils in. You can soap right in this container, so choose a larger option even if you are only making a small batch. I use my 7 qt stainless steel stock pot to melt my oils. I then add my lye to that same pot and blend. I have also used my older slowcooker the same way. If you want to try a slow cooker, check your local thrift store. Ours always has several for around $7.
You will want a silicone spatula. You can find those just about anywhere, but Amazon, of course, has them also.
Yes, you definitely need an accurate digital scale. Making soap is NOT the time to guesstimate or adding by the "pinch". The difference between a soap that is excellent and a soap that is almost caustic is all in the amount of lye that you use. Measure accurately. The scale linked above is the scale I have.
5) Digital Scale
6) Lye / Sodium HydroxideYou can't make soap without lye. Make sure you review lye safety before opening the bottle. Follow the safety guidelines and you will be just fine. It's not scary, just something to be respected. You can purchase pure lye from Amazon and many soap supply stores. You can also buy it from your local Ace Hardware type store. That's where I purchase mine because it's very inexpensive there. Here is an Amazon option.
7) Digital ThermometerThe first few times I soap, I used a candy thermometer. It works. It's messy. I absolutely love this temperature gun. I have to hide it from the rest of the family, but it makes cold process soaping much easier.
The next thing you need is a bunch of oil/fat/butters. You need oil + lye in a little liquid to make soap. What kind of oil? That is entirely up to you. There are many, many options. Here is an excellent guideline on how to choose your oils for your soap for those who are interested in customizing their soap. If you would rather just follow a recipe to begin with, then you will want to grab some coconut oil and some olive oil. You can make an excellent, simple soap with those two oils and they are readily available.
Aldi has the cheapest olive oil I could find and Walmart as the cheapest coconut oil. So if you want to test out your first batch and save some money, then you might try those stores. I buy olive oil and organic coconut oil from Costco.
The other fat that I love, love, love adding to my soap is raw cocoa butter. This is the raw cocoa butter that I have been buying from Amazon. It smells so very good and makes a luxurious, long-lasting soap. And it smells wonderful - like chocolate. You can add it or skip it. I have done both.
To make a ~8 bar batch of soap, you will need a 14 ounces of coconut oil and 11 ounces of olive oil. To make the cocoa butter recipe, make sure you have 3 ounces of cocoa butter.
I'm still experimenting with adding in other things. I love using Kaolin Clay and essential oils, though. I *only* use real essential oils. I just don't see the point in making a homemade soap and then adding synthetic perfumes/chemicals. Most soaps, even at farmers markets and such, use inexpensive synthetic scents. You are MUCH better off skipping scent all together. If you use good fats and add 10% cocoa butter to your recipe, you won't need soap. It won't scent your body, but it smells very luxurious on it's own. If you do want to scent, please use a natural, unadultered essential oil.
Which brings me to - why the clay? Not only does kaolin clay have health benefits itself, but you can use it to color your soap naturally AND it will help to hold the essential oil scent into your soap so you don't have to use as much. In a 10 bar batch of soap, I add about 2 mL's of essential oil - which is not very much. The kaolin clay helps to maintain the smell of the essential oil. If you want your soap to stay cream colored, choose a white clay. Activated charcoal can make a dark grey soap, pink clays yield pink soap, green clays make green soap...
Stay tuned for Lye Safety and Putting all this together and makin' soap.
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