How Soap is Made
Soap is procuced by blending lye and water with oils or fats thus starting a complicated chemical reaction in which lye (which is also called sodium hydroxide) converts the fats or oils into soap. This process is called saponification. The saponification process always involves lye and without lye there is no soap.
The soapmaking process amazingly converts two substances, neither of which will clean anything, into a thicker and more uniform solution and eventually into a hard bar that we use to clean a wide variety of surfaces. The point at which the lye and oil/fat solution begins to thicken is called the trace stage. This stage is important because any oils/fats or other ingredients added at this point tend to not be converted as much into soap and therefore remain in the soap in their original form. It is at this stage that fragrances and any exotic oils are added. Also, at the trace stage the soap can be poured into molds where it will continue to harden and cure. The chemical reaction will continue for about 3 weeks at which time the soap is cured and ready to be cut and used.
The process hobby soapmakers use is referred to as "cold process soapmaking". Even though it is called a cold process, heat is actually produced during the process allowing for the chain reaction to take place which will in turn convert the oils and fats to soap. This heat is provided by the chemical reaction that occurs when water and lye are combined and introduced into either fats or oils. Stirring the oil/fat/lye mixture helps this process to create a uniform final product.
It should be noted that lye or sodium hydroxide is a dangerous chemical and should be handled with care. Handle it with the same respect that you would show drain cleaner or pool chemicals. When mixing the lye and water make sure to pour the lye into the water and not the other way around. (if you pour water into lye you can get a violent reaction) Also, make sure to stir the lye into the water slowly. There is no need to rush. Wear rubber gloves and goggles. If you take basic safety precautions and keep kids away from your work area you will most likely never have any issues with lye.
How Does Soap Clean
Soap cleans by serving as an agent between dirt and water. Soap allows the water to get to the surface that is being cleaned, thus allowing the water to do its job. In other words the soap is not what cleans, the water is. For example, you have heard the saying, water off a ducks back. Where plain water may run right off of a surface, soapy water tends to soak into the surface being cleaned. This process allows the water to wash away dirt. In addition, soap grabs dirt and attaches it to the water which in turn washes it away. This may be an over simplification of the process but it is accurate. Lastly, soap has the ability to cut through grease and oil making it the ideal cleaner for all types of dirty jobs.
Advantages of Handmade Soap
Handmade Soap does more than just clean surfaces. Soap that is made using this online guide will contain about 25% pure glycerin. Glycerin is a substance that draws moisture to the skin, thus soothing and lubricating it's cells. Most soap sold in stores has had it's glycerin removed and sold back to the consumer in other skin care products. Also, most store soaps are actually petrochemical-based detergents, which are good cleansers but are harsh on the skin.
Lye soap has been around for quite a while for one major reason; it's simple and it works. When properly made it has some wonderful characteristics. There are thousands of free recipes on the internet. We have created some very popular ones that are available free at the link below. You will also find below a link to our soapmaking instruction site.
CLICK HERE FOR OUR INDEX OF FREE SOAP RECIPES
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