Solid natural vegan soap making in your own home
We treat soap as an obvious commodity.
This is indeed an important commodity as it impacts out hygiene health and daily well-being. If it ever becomes in short supply, you might want to make it yourself. You might also want to get soap tailored made to your body and preferred smells. You can buy it from special soap makers, or make them yourself as this article shows.
Why creating your own soap?
Before WWI all the soaps were based on animal fat and caustic soda. Because of a lack of animal fat, they had to switch to synthetic fat as SLS and since then it became the standard for soap manufacturing. The problem with SLS based soap is that its ingredients are absorbed by the body and cause skin problems, respiration problems, etc.
In certain “survival” situations soap might not be available and know how to make it will be an important asset.
By making your soap you know that it contains your own nutritional ingredients you put into it. Nutritional ingredients that are absorbed by your skin and enrich your body. This way you can create tailor-made soaps with Therapeutic herbs that your body likes.
Like baking cakes, some people like to create their soaps with special recipes / formulas / ingredients and decorating it with a special topping.
On the other hand, commercial detergent deteriorates slowly and put heavy “footprint” on our planet. Detergents are harmful to the environment (useless made especially “bio-degradable”) and they are very hard to be pulled out from recycled water.
In this post, I will cover the basic formula. You can add aromatic oils, natural pigments, etc. to the basic formula and experience it as you like. Some websites give many recipes for soaps of all kinds.
How soap works
Normally, fat and oil can’t be dissolved in water. So, washing oily surface like the skin will not remove oil and oily dirt from it.
Soap is an “interface” between water and fat. It surrounds the fat and allows it to be dispersed in water. The soap has two ends: “Hydrophilic” which means “love water”. This end allows the particle it surrounds to be covered by water and form an emulsion. The other end “Hydrophobic” (fear from water) is the part that adheres to fat/oil and covers it all. This interface allows oil and fat to be dispersed in water and be carried away.
The basic soap formula is the mixing of PH basic material with fat or vegan oil. It produces the soap material as described above. The Basic end is the “hydrophilic” part of the soap while the fat/oil forms the “Hydrophobic” end.
Modern soap is generated as a chemical reaction between fat/oil acid and caustic soda. The result of the reaction is a salt which is the soap. This process is called “Saponification” and can be done in the kitchen (with some precaution measures).
In “survival” situation one can revert to the ancient soap-making technique – using wood ash as the basic material. You can see a YouTube video about it here.
Creating the soap
- Gloves to protect your hands.
- Protective glasses to protect your vision.
- Apron to protect your clothes.
- Recommended is the infrared thermometer that can make a remote measurement.
- Stainless steel pot – does not react with the caustic soda.
- Vinegar to neutralization any caustic soda spills on your body.
- Well ventilated place, outside the reach of children at the time of soap making.
- Safe storing cabinet outside the reach of other people.
- Silicon spoon to stir the soap.
- Molds to shape the soap.
We need to use oil/fat as one ingredient. I suggest using olive oil, “Shea butter” or cocoa butter as these are easily obtained and may already be in your kitchen.
The second ingredient is caustic soda. Working with caustic soda is dangerous as it is a strong basic material. Use gloves, protective glasses, and silicon cup. Keep vinegar on hand to neutralize any caustic soda spills on your body. Always pour caustic soda into water and not the other way around. Pour the caustic soda gradually and avoid breathing the fume emitted. When caustic soda dissolves in water excessive heat is emitted. To reduce the temperature generated my teacher uses ice cubes.
There are tables on the internet showing the ratio between the oil and the caustic soda. This ratio is the optimal reaction between the oil and the caustic soda. You can and should increase the oil amount to have some oil residue (“Superfat”) in the soap for two reasons:
- It will make sure that all the caustic soda has been saturated.
- It will nourish your skin. You can also add some aromatic oils to give the soap a nice smell.
The following table shows the weight ratio between the oil and the Caustic soda. Multiply the value by the weight of the oil/butter to get the weight of the caustic soda. So, if we use 100 grams of olive oil, we should use 13.4 grams of caustic soda.
|Oil||Caustic soda (NaOH)||Wood ash (KOH)|
Prepare the ingredients and mix the caustic soda into water. Let it cool down to about 36-38 centigrade Celsius. Mix in the oils/fat. You might want to heat the oil/fat to 36-38 centigrade Celsius to dissolve any solid fat. Pour in any herbal extracts you might want to use and mix it.
When the oil mix and the soda caustic have reached 36-38 centigrade pour the soda caustic into the oil mix (and not the other way around!) and steer it with the silicone spoon. After using the cup you can use a mixer to mix the compound. There is a chemical reaction between the soda caustic and the oil/fat/butter. This reaction is called “trace”. The liquids start to become solidified. Check the thickness of the compound by lifting the mixer letting some drops to fall. If the drop sinks immediately then it indicated that you need to steer it further. When the drops are on the surface for about 10 seconds before sinking then you have reached the “trace” condition and you can pour the compound into the molds. Put the molds with the soap in them in a warm place for 24-36 hours. This lets the chemical reaction to finish (some heat is still generated by the soap). In the wintertime, cover it to keep it warm.
After 24-36 hours, you can take the soap out of the mold and cut it if needed. Put it in a ventilated area for 3-6 weeks to let any excess water out. After that time you can use the soap.
Calculating the weight of the needed ingredients
Lucky for us, there are many soap calculators online and as applications. One simple calculator can be found here. As an example, here is traditional soap made in ancient times:
Making soap in “survival” times
If you need to create soap without the use of caustic soda at hand, you can make it with the “traditional” soap making way.
For strong basics, we should use wood ash. You need to accumulate barrel size of wood ash. Fill the barrel with wood ash and fill it with water. Let the barrel “sit” for 9 days so the water will extract the KOH out of the ash. Filter and liquid from the barrel and you have the basic water you need for the Saponification. To see how it is done, you can see some videos on YouTube.
Take some oil/liquid fat and pour the basic water into it. Mix it thoroughly. The soap should float above the water. Filter the soap out and add some oil in to make sure all the basic water will be saturated. Continue to mix it and when it is thick, pour it into molds. Let it cure for 24-36 hours in the mold. After that, take the soap out of the mold, cut it into bars and let it cure for further 3-6 weeks before use.
After that time, you can use the soap or even sell it to others.