Skill of the Month: Soapmaking
A lot of you have been requesting this particular skill, and with the help of soapmaker Karla Moore of Heart of Iowa Soapworks, we’re ready to give this one a try! Here is what we need to know, directly from Karla:
In a survival situation cleanliness really becomes a top priority. Without it, you risk a higher than normal chance of contracting disease or spreading infections. The best defense is to keep everything that you are in contact with as clean and germ free as possible. In a real SHTF scenario there won’t be any grocery stores to go buy soap or supplies. You’ll have to learn to make do with what you have on hand. Learning to make soap by hand is a very good skill to learn, before you actually need to use it!
The following formula is for a very simple basic soap. Just like in my grandmother’s day it can serve many different purposes, everything from washing dishes to washing grimy little kids!
SAFTEY PRECAUTIONS MUST BE FOLLOWED!
Always handle LYE (Sodium Hydroxide) wearing rubber gloves, eye protection & a face mask.
Equipment & Supplies to have on hand:
1. Lye (Sodium Hydroxide), also known as drain cleaner. Purchase DRY product that states on the package that it is 100% Sodium Hydroxide. Regular drain cleaner (Drano) that has flecks of color will not work, nor will the liquid type. Red Devil or Roobo are two brands that are available in hardware stores or some home improvement stores. As long as the Lye is kept in an air tight, moisture tight container it has an almost indefinite shelf-life.
2. Stainless Steel or Plastic equipment is the safest to use. DO NOT USE ANYTHING ALUMINUM! Lye reacts violently when it comes in contact with aluminum, bubbling up and releasing a toxic gas. It will eat through the pan and ruin a whole batch of soap.
3. Rubber gloves, face mask, eye protection — goggles or a full-face mask.
4. Stainless steel stockpot or a heavy 1 gallon plastic bucket
5. Plastic, wooden or stainless steel stirring spoons. Regular & slotted (do not use wooden spoons for food after use)
6. Measuring cups
7. Heavy plastic pitcher to be used to mix lye & water. Do NOT use this for food afterwards.
8. Plastic spatula
9. A mold to pour soap into. Plastic containers such as Gladware or Rubbermaid work very well. A wooden box lined with freezer paper (slick side towards soap). Cleaned out milk cartons or baby wipe containers work very well…plus they are free! This recipe will fill a plastic shoe box over half full.
10. Digital Scale that is accurate to .1 oz. (1/10th)
11. Immersion blender
Ingredients: (All ingredients must be WEIGHED.)
8 oz. Lye
14 oz. Water
42 oz. Meat fat based Shortening (I use the store brand), lard or rendered tallow
16 oz. Coconut oil
2.5 oz. skin & soap safe fragrance or 1.8 oz. essential oils of choice (optional)
Line your mold if needed. Have fragrance measured out and set aside if using.
Place the shortening & coconut oil in a stainless steel or heavy plastic container. Chop up the big chunks to make it easier to melt.
PUT ON YOUR SAFETY EQUIPMENT: rubber gloves, face mask, eye protection, either goggles or a full-face mask.
Make sure that all kids & critters are OUT OF THE ROOM when you are working with lye.
Measure out the Water in a heavy plastic pitcher. I use a Sterilite one from the Dollar Store. Carefully sprinkle the lye into the water. NEVER do it the other way around and pour water onto the lye. You risk having it volcano out of the container….yes, I have had it happen to me!
Stir thoroughly until totally dissolved. Do NOT breathe in the fumes! At this point the lye mixture is VERY HOT and will be at a temperature over 180ºF.
Carefully pour the hot Lye mix over the Fats, trying not to splash.
Mix until the fats are melted and well combined. If using the immersion blender, use it in short bursts to break up the fats. Stir until the soap reaches “Trace”. At this point the oils will start to be “Saponified”, or in other words the chemical reaction is making Soap! At Trace, the mixture will have a consistency of a warm pudding right before you pour it. Add your fragrance( if using) and thoroughly combine, scraping the sides of the pot with a rubber spatula making sure there isn’t any free lye or fragrance floating around.
Pour into a prepared mold. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid, then wrap in an old towel to keep in the heat. Let this set overnight undisturbed. Uncover and let cool. After 24 hours you may unmold the soap and cut into bars. I wear thin rubber gloves. At this point the soap may still be caustic. An old stainless steel drywall knife or cheese cutter works to cut it. Stack the soap in rows on a covered surface, in a well- ventilated area to cure for 3-4 weeks.
Are you ready to give this a try? Like canning, I’m sure this is easier once you’ve gone through the process a couple of times. Post your questions here in the comment section, and I’ll forward them to Karla for answering.
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