Waxing about homemade soap
This is my favorite homemade soap.
Castile soap with beeswax.
Making soap at home can make save you money, and lets you be in control of the ingredients. Much like cooking from scratch. I started out making cold process laundry soap with tallow from our beef, and lard from our pigs. I still make that homesteaders laundry soap, but this Castile soap is what I make for gifts. Some people get tensed out knowing that soap is made from animal fats. I’ve had people tell me I shouldn’t kill a beef so I can make soap – it is hard to explain that really I’m trying to honor that animal, and use every part of it I can in a meaningful way. But that argument is for the “soap” box, so I’ll get down and give you a recipe that isn’t really too green, but makes a great soap, nonetheless. (By green I mean that last time I checked, coconut, palm and olive trees don’t really grow well in my locale, but cows and pigs do, so actually my old tallow and lard soap is actually “greener”)
I use this recipe as a base soap for re-milling into other soaps, such as saddle soap and shaving soap, or it can be remelted and put into fancy molds. Usually though, we just use the rustic bar form. It also makes a great shampoo bar. Just remember real soap is alkaline, so you need an acidic rinse for your hair (apple cider vinegar) to restore the balance. Most commercial shampoos are actually detergents so you need conditioners with those, but not with homemade lye soap which is actually mild after curing, and still contains glycerine.
Ingredients: Olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, beeswax, lye, water.
Traditionally Castile soap is made out of pure olive oil, but it is hard to get the oil to totally incorporate, so adding the other oils and beeswax help it saponify fairly fast, and beeswax lends a light, honey-like scent. The addition of palm oil helps make a luxuriant lather. Remember Palmolive, Palm-olive. I really like love this soap, it never gets rancid, even after years of storage, like some soaps made with other vegetable oils like soy, canola, or sunflower.
Soap making with lye can be daunting at first. But, if you practice a few precautions, it is perfectly safe. Lye is no longer sold in grocery or hardware stores, so it has to be ordered from a soap-making supply house. Make sure you get Sodium Hydroxide, pure lye. When you are making soap make sure to keep the ingredients out of reach of children and pets. Lye is very caustic, and the smells of the fat in the curing soap can be attractive to pets.
Stainless steel or enamel kettle (no chips) for melting oils/fat and making soap.
Plastic pitcher for lye and water solution.
Clip on thermometers (2)
Scale for measuring ingredients.
Plastic container for measuring lye.
Inexpensive Olive oil.
Palm Oil. I had a hard time finding this locally, so this was kind of expensive.
Palm oil and coconut oil is solid at room temperature. I used a knife to cut what I needed.
Most soap recipes go by weight not volume. The easiest way to measure the different ingredients is to reset the scale to zero after each oil is added to the pan.
All oils and beeswax have been weighed, and are now melting at a medium to low temperature. The soap-making process in a nutshell, is that you heat your oils and cool down your lye solution. When they reach the desired temperature (which can vary depending on the recipe) you combine the oils and lye solution, stir and you get soap!
When the oils are almost melted, you can remove them from the heat and they will continue to melt.
While the oils are melting, you can measure out your water in the pitcher, and weigh the lye in a separate container. I combine the lye with the water outside, since it makes fumes. It will also heat up considerably. This is where you should wear your safety glasses and gloves. Pour the lye slowly into the water and and mix. It will be hot and you want it to cool down. Most recipes call for a temperature of around 100*F, this particular recipe calls for a temperature of 130*F.
Pour the lye mixture into the melted oils when both reach approximately 130*F. Stir to mix. I’m still in the dark ages and I stir my soap, you can mix it with a immersion blender or an electric mixer. This batch took about 20 minutes to trace. Which means the oils and lye solution is thoroughly mixed and you will see trailing on top of the soap when you drizzle a spoonful over it.
Soap at trace.
Pour into desired mold. This is a 12 qt plastic container. I can cover this and keep it warm until it is cured enough to un-mold and cut into bars. That takes a few days.
I also put some in decorative molds, just for fun.
Castile Soap from Handmade Soap by Tatyana Hill
5 1/4 oz. beeswax
8 3/4 oz palm oil
8 3/4 oz. coconut oil
2 lb, 12 oz olive oil
9 1/2 oz lye
32 3/4 oz water
Assemble all tools and ingredients beforehand, including your mold(s). When the soap is ready to pour, it needs to be done immediately. Allow several hours uninterrupted for this project.
Measure water and lye, combine in a safe place and allow to cool to 130 degrees F. Measure and melt oils and beeswax. When fats are melted and reach 130 degrees F and lye has cooled down to 130 degrees F, drizzle lye solution slowly into oils while stirring. Stir until the soap has a honey-like consistency, about 20 -30 minutes. When you can drizzle a spoonful of soap on top and visibly see the line it leaves, you have trace. Pour into mold. Cover and wrap with towels or blanket and let cure for a week before cutting into bars.
This recipe makes about 3 1/2 pounds of soap, and would probably take a small shoe box size plastic container for a mold. I doubled the batch and used a 12 qt size.
I also keep a notebook for my soap making adventures. It helps to refer back, and see what additives worked and what didn’t. Keep track of times, ingredients, cost and yield and if you liked the end product or not. Sometimes all this information comes in handy for troubleshooting. I keep a similar book with my canning recipes too, and it really saves time.