Soap is something that we can use to add a touch of luxury to our everyday rituals. The scents can transport you to another land in an instant, and the texture can leave your skin feeling fabulous. No wonder beautifully crafted bars make such great gifts.
Have you ever wondered where the humble bar of soap originates or how far it dates back? Well let me tell you.
The History Of Soap
The earliest evidence of soap dates back to ancient Babylon in 2800BC. In 2200BC a formula for soap was written on Babylonian clay tablets, consisting of water, alkali and cassia oil. Ancient Egyptians were discovered to have bathed regularly using soaps consisting of animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts. In the second half of the 15th century, France had begun a semi-industrialised process of manufacturing soaps, supplying them throughout the country. And finally, in the 18th century, a campaign advertising awareness of the relationship between cleanliness and health was promoted in Europe and America – they had finally caught on!
I’m one of those people who actually love gifts around Christmas and birthdays that involve soaps, lotions, face masks and shower gels. I love being clean and smelling great! Even more exciting is the new prospect of being able to make my very own soap exactly how I want it. You will find that lye is a key ingredient in all soaps. While this is basically sodium hydroxide and is considered a dangerous ingredient to be washing yourself with, it is important to understand that if handled correctly (with protective gear) the lye actually reacts with the other ingredients involved in soap-making and converts into a new form altogether. When combined and allowed to cure, these basic ingredients turn into soap. It is no longer oil or lye as its composition transforms entirely.
That being said, here are a few easy recipes to try in making your very own, handmade-homemade soap.
1. Plain Soap
You can really get creative with your soap-making by creating your own interesting combinations of scents and flavours. You can even add flowers or herbs to create a little bit of extra texture and colour to your product if you are using a scentless recipe like this one.
- 28 ounces of coconut oil
- 24 ounces of olive oil (lightest in color)
- 30 ounces of vegetable shortening
- 12 ounces of lye
- 32 ounces cold water (4 cups)
Measure out all the ingredients. It is important to ensure that they are all the exact measurements required.
- Empty the oil into a large pot. Make sure you get all of it out!
- Add the vegetable shortening and olive oil to the pot.
- Melt these ingredients down on medium heat on the stove.
- Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool to 105°F
- Before handling lye, ensure that you are wearing protective gear such as a long sleeved shirt, apron, goggles and gloves. Pets and children should leave the room.
- Measure the lye and in a well ventilated room (preferably outdoors) slowly add the lye to the water while mixing with a plastic spoon. Stir until the lye is dissolved. Allow the solution to cool to 100°F.
- While waiting for this to cool, prepare your mold by lining it with parchment / freezer paper.
- Stir the lye water into your oil mixture.
- Blend and stir the mixture until it begins to “trace”. Trace is when the soap has been mixed enough. It will get a satin look to the surface. This process could take up to 15 minutes to complete.
- Pour this mixture into your mold, and cover with towels to keep it warm. Leave it like this, undisturbed, for 24 hours.
- Cut the soap into desired shape and size.