Saturday, 12 September 2015

Learning a new method of soap making

As I mentioned in a previous post about my nettle soap experiment, I recently visited the home of one of our young Simple Living Toowoomba regulars who was demonstrating the process of making soap. Although I have been making soap for a couple of years now I thought I would go along and see how Racheal makes hers as it is always interesting to learn something new.

Racheal (spellcheck doesn't like the spelling of her name) had some of her soaps on display including...

...Comfrey Anise soap and Nettlemint soap. Racheal uses essential oils in some of her soaps as well as coffee grounds in her gardener's soap which makes a lightly exfoliating bar. She also suggests using flowers but first check online to see which ones work best.

She gave us all a cake of soap which is the white one - Coconut Peppermint Soap - in the above photo and notes to take home which I am sure she won't mind me sharing in this post for anyone who is interested in trying out this method. If I was starting off with soap making though I think I would use Rhonda's instructions or similar ones just until you are comfortable with working with the lye. 

So what you need to have on hand for Racheal's soap recipe are:

450ml water (rain water, distilled or filtered water is best)

172g caustic soda/lye which is available at some supermarkets or in 2kg containers at hardware stores

250g coconut oil/Copha (best price Racheal has found on coconut oil in bulk is at Nature Pacific )

1000g olive oil (Racheal buys hers from ALDI in 4 litre drums for best value)

Equipment needed:  

Stock pot or a high walled pot in case of splashing

Digital scales

Soap moulds either silicone ones from the cheap shops or they can be bought from soap suppliers

Handheld stick blender

Rubber gloves, goggles/glasses and an apron and/or long sleeved shirt are a good idea to use when starting off with soap making. 

Racheal suggests washing with water any soap mix with lye in it that you get on your skin but I would also suggest having a bottle of vinegar close by. 


Firstly I would make sure there are no children or pets around.

1. Pour your water into a heat-proof pot. (I use a heat-proof glass bowl for this)

2. Make sure you have a window open or are in a ventilated area and add lye to the water and stir to combine taking care not to inhale the fumes. The mix will become hot.

3. Once lye is dissolved add the coconut oil. The heat of the lye solution is enough to melt your coconut oil if it is solid. (I held my breath at this stage as I had never seen this done before as I bring my oils and lye to the same temperature before adding the lye to the oils very carefully).

4. Pour in your olive oil and give a little stir.

5. Using the stick blender blend the mixture until it reaches 'trace' which is the stage where it starts to thicken and is the consistency of custard. One way to check is to lift the blender out and if it leaves a raised area of mixture where you lifted it out it is ready to pour into the moulds. If you blend for too long it will start to set as you try to pour it out. It usually only takes a couple of minutes to reach trace. 

6. Pour into your moulds and leave the mixture somewhere child-safe and out of the way for about a week (unless you have poured the mixture into a loaf tin in which case you can cut the bars after about 3 days).

7. After this time, remove the soap from the moulds and let cure by resting it somewhere that has adequate exposure to air for at least 5 weeks. The drier the soap is when you start using it the longer it will last. If you use moulds other than silicone like the more expensive ones from the soap suppliers you might need to put them in the freezer for an hour or so before trying to get the soap out of the moulds. I nearly wrecked my expensive moulds which were the first ones I ever bought and thankfully read the instructions properly before that happened. 

So there you have it ...a different method of soap making.

This recipe makes 12-15 bars out of one batch.

Racheal's Gardener's Soap

I will give this a try the next time I make soap but first I have to use up all my...

...and the Violet Soap... well as my last batch which was Nettle Soap.

As you can tell I won't have to make soap for a few months. Let me know if you try this method. I think I will make it outside though as I am still a tad paranoid about the lye ;-)


  1. Hi Nanna :)
    Soap making has always been something that im terrified to do but would love to learn also. My hubby bought me a proper kit a couple of years ago and even though i loved it, all i did was open the box and re-packed it lol I really do have to put my fear aside and try it :)

    1. Karen, I was a bit scared the first time but once you have made your first batch you will become addicted I am sure. Just be careful with the lye and follow the instructions and you will be fine.

  2. This is interesting and would save on so much time waiting for oils and lye to come to proper temps. I wonder if this works doing other recipes by adding the harder/butter type oils first then the liquid oils? Did she offer any advice on when we create our own recipes?
    Thanks for sharing this new method.

    1. No that was the only recipe Racheal had printed out but she mentioned that she did buy the soap making e-book from the Nerdy Farm Wife and also gets recipes from library books. You could run your ingredients through the Soap Calculator which Alison put on the DTE forum recently to get the correct amount of lye. This method certainly would be a bit quicker than warming up the oils first.

  3. I use the hot lye over Copha method now too - have been doing this for a while now with perfect results every single time. No need for a thermometer or having to fiddle around getting temperatures right. I must try leaving in the moulds longer like this version and see if it makes a difference.

    1. Phil, it is worth experimenting. With the method I use I wrap my moulds up and take the soap out the next morning but Racheal doesn't wrap hers up.

  4. Soap making is something I havent tried but probably should. One day......

  5. You must spell so lovely. :) LOL

  6. Beautiful soap!!

    I still haven't tried soap making...I know I really should! I have all the stuff and have had it for ages so I think making soap may be my next adventure :)

    I have a niece named Racheal and spelled the same way :)


    1. It is an unusual way to spell Rachel I must say. Tania do try and make your first batch. You will become addicted like the rest of us.

  7. I love making soap Nanna Chel. It's such an earthy thing and home made soap is so superior to bought. This recipe sounds really lovely, and I'll try it this week. Thanks! Love, Mimi xxx

    1. I will try this method next I think, Mimi. I will do it outside though...just in case :-)

  8. I have been making soap using Rhonda's instructions for about 4 years. Last Saturday I made a batch that was going to become gifts. Don't know what I did wrong but it ended up a rock hard stinking hot mess. I will give this recipe a go and see if I cant manage to make a slightly better mix.

    1. That's strange that you have a dud batch, Jane. I wonder what went wrong. I think the method Racheal and Phil use does make the soap a bit harder so it would last longer. I often use Rice Bran Oil as well so that might make my soap softer. It is worth experimenting.

  9. ooo, i think i like this method too, i have been using rhondas copha recipe mostly, it seems to be a soft soap though i didn't heat the all oils, maybe that had something to do with it, still using it though.
    your soaps look wonderful nanna chel & i agree with lynda, you must smell very pretty :))
    thanx for sharing

  10. My soaps aren't too bad but I do avoid putting them on top of a sink container that contains water like some of the ones you buy for the bathroom. They are okay on the shower rack where they can just dry out after use. When I have used Racheal's though they seem to be a little harder so I will give this method a try as well, Selina.

  11. I've been making soap for some time after initially making Rhonda's recipe, then started using our home rendered beef tallow and pig lard as a portion of the fats content. Always running through the soap calculator first. I'd like to try this method so, can I use the same ratios, as stated in the calculator, by using this method?

  12. Yes Sally. Just use your usual recipes.


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