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Natural Soap

Read on to know more about the history of soap making and a simple recipe to make natural bar soap...
Soap making has been around since the time of the Babylonians, the ancient Sumerians, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians and the Romans etc. The soap that they made was used mostly to wash and clean textiles and clothes. The Egyptians used a soap-like substance for bathing as well.

The Roman Legend about soap says that the name 'soap' was derived from Mount Sapo. Apparently, animals used to be sacrificed there. The rainwater would wash down a mixture of the melted animal fats and wood ashes into the River Tiber. It was discovered that this soapy mixture was quite useful for washing clothes and skin. From that point onwards, soap began to be used in the Roman Baths.

The English began making soap around the 12th Century. However, soap was heavily taxed and was considered a luxury item. When the soap tax was repealed in 1853, the soap trade went into a boom.

Americans considered the time before spring-cleaning to be the best time to make soap. During the winter, ashes and animal and cooking greases were saved along with rainwater. The rainwater was then trickled through the ashes to make lye. The fats and greases were boiled together and then mixed with the lye to make soap.

The process of making soap has now become more refined. You will find a variety of soaps in the market which can serve many different purposes. However, with the regaining interest in natural and herbal products, demand for natural soap products those that are handmade and herbal has increased.

Given below is a simple recipe to make natural bar soap at your home.

However, one needs to be quite careful while making the soap so as to avoid the fumes of the lye. Also, one needs to measure out the ingredients properly else the soap will not come out right. So be prepared to spend some time in a trial and error phase as well. The end results will be totally worth it.

Ingredients

38 Ounces Vegetable Shortening
24 Ounces Coconut Oil
24 Ounces Olive Oil - make sure it's not Extra Virgin Oil

32 Ounces Spring Water or Distilled Water
12 Ounces Sodium Hydroxide

4 Ounces of your favorite fragrance
Dried Ground Herbs - If you want to make herbal soap.

Equipment

A Weighing Scale
A 1 Gallon Kettle - Made of either enamel or stainless steel, not aluminum.
Wide Mouth Pitcher - Made of Glass or Plastic
A Measuring Cup - Made of Glass or Plastic
Stainless Steel Wire Whisk
Wooden Spoons
A Plastic Box - For using as a Soap Mold.
2 Towels that cover the Plastic Box

Glass Thermometer - Should register between 80 - 100 Degrees Fahrenheit

Rubber Gloves
Safety Goggles
A Jar of Vinegar - This is for if you splash lye on your skin.

Method

The first thing to take care of is to wear the gloves and the goggles. The lye which we are going to make first is very caustic. In case you splash some on your skin use the Vinegar because it neutralizes the lye. Be careful that you don't splash lye into your eyes, as it can cause blindness.

Take the 12 Ounces of Sodium Hydroxide in the measuring cup. Take the 32 Ounces of Cold Water in the Wide Mouth Pitcher. Slowly add the Sodium Hydroxide to water while stirring gently. This should be done carefully as the lye will release fumes while heating water. Do not inhale those fumes. In fact, you can do this process outside to avoid the fumes getting caught inside your house.

Set the pitcher aside and let the mixture cool down.

Take the 24 Ounces of Coconut Oil and the 38 Ounces of Vegetable shortening in the kettle. Put the kettle on low heat, allowing the fats to melt. Keep stirring regularly. Once the oils have melted, remove the kettle from the stove, and then add the 24 Ounces of Olive Oil.

Using the thermometer, ensure that the lye mixture and the oil mixture are both at the same temperature, ideally between 95 - 98 Degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly add the lye mixture to the oil mixture. Stir the mixture using the metal whisk.

Approximately 10 minutes later you will see a change in the mixture. Soon, the mixture will begin to look like thin cream. Drops of soap will stand up on the surface of the mixture.

Now add the fragrances and the herbs (if desired) and stir the mixture properly.

Make sure the plastic box mold for the soap is prepared. Use vegetable spray on the inner surface of the box to ensure that the soap releases easily.

Pour your soap mixture into the mold. Cover the box with 2 Towels and set it aside so that it is not disturbed. Let it remain that way for 18 hours. After that, remove the towels and let the mixture sit for 12 more hours.

You can turn the box over on a towel, and the soap will fall out. Then cut the soap into bars. Let the soap bars remain in a cool, dry place for about 4 - 6 weeks before you begin to use them.

Your natural soap is ready!

Note: If the soap has a deep oily film on top of the box after the 12 hours, the soap needs to be discarded as it has separated. This often happens if the ingredients have not been measured out correctly.

So go ahead and try this out at your home and enjoy the natural goodness of herbs and oils in your bath!
By Madhavi Ghare
Published: 10/17/2007
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