Have you ever felt like you were born in the wrong era? My mom and I share a love of antiquities, simple living, and traditional skills and have often discussed what it would be like to live in the olden days.
So, it only makes sense that during a weekend visit, Mom and I channeled our inner Laura Ingalls Wilder and made old fashioned soap with some modern tweaks.
You can do it too! Here’s how.
Make your own soap with this quick and easy recipe made with ingredients you can find at any local grocery store!
- 4 cups Water
- 48 oz Vegetable Shortening
- 32 oz Coconut Oil
- 16 oz Olive Oil
- 12 oz Granular Lye
- 1 cup Oats
- 1 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
See the complete tutorial at https://doitbetteryourself.club/cinnamon-oatmeal-cold-process-soap-recipe/
Fun, Soapy Words:
caustic: adj. that can burn or eat away living tissue by chemical action
saponification: n. chemical conversion of fats into soap
trace: n. the moment of cold process soap making when the soap batter thickens
First, cover your work surface, and make sure kids are safely occupied away from the soap station. We made ours during nap time.
Next, prepare your soap mold. There are a variety of soap molds on the market, but it isn’t necessary to dish out extra money for them if you don’t want to, especially if you’re just trying this out. Instead, you can up-cycle common containers around your house such as yogurt containers, juice cartons, plastic tubs, etc. For me, flat rate boxes are very common (thanks to my fabric addiction).
This entire soap recipe fit into a Medium Flat Rate Box. To prepare our soap mold, we cut open one side of the box, reinforced the sides with packing tape, and put it inside of a garbage bag. Then, we taped the bag in the corners to conform to the box. Freezer paper can also be used to line soap molds.
After the mold is prepped, weigh out the fats/oils. Precisely, weigh out 48 oz. vegetable shortening, 32 oz. coconut oil, and 16 oz. olive oil. Set aside.
TIP: Use a kitchen scale with a tare button. The tare button allows you to cancel or zero-out your container weight before you weigh the ingredients. This eliminates the need to do any math calculations. If your scale does not have a tare feature, weigh the container first and then subtract that amount from the total weight when you add ingredients to the container. Or buy a scale that tares! Seriously, it’s worth it.
Here it is with the bowl being weighed by the scale.
Then we hit the magic tare button to zero it out.
Then off to weighing our oils!
Now, lye is the “scary” part of cold process soap. But, as with any other chemical, a little knowledge and healthy respect make it much less intimidating. Lye is caustic. It also produces very strong fumes. This is the time to don a mask and gloves (do as I say not as I do) and make sure your work area is properly ventilated.
If you have kitchen windows, open them. To be on the safest side, Mom and I worked outside on the porch until the lye was dissolved. Pour 4 cups of water into a stainless steel pot. Weigh 12 oz. of lye and slowly, SLOWLY pour the lye into the water. Stir until the lye is dissolved.
NOTE: The reaction of lye and water causes it to heat up. This is normal and is crucial for the next step.
Once the lye is dissolved, carefully and gradually add each fat/oil to the lye solution, stirring after each addition. While this step seems easy, it is the most time consuming. Because we are relying on the heat of the lye solution, it takes some time for the fats/oils to melt and emulsify completely.
You can stir by hand for hours or to speed up the process, use a stick blender (also called an immersion blender) to mix. My mom had never used a stick blender in all her years of soap making and was amazed at how much it helped. Those are the moments we are especially thankful for the era we live in and the gift of electricity.
Keep stirring the soap batter until it reaches trace. Trace is when the soap is completely emulsified (no streaks of oil) and begins to thicken. This is identified by dripping a spoonful of soap back into the pot. If it leaves a design on the surface, it has reached trace. This picture was taken after we added the extras, but is a good example of trace.
When the soap has reached trace, you could pour into the mold for a basic unscented soap or you can add some extras. There are many options to add coloring, fragrance, designs, and toppings. We kept it pretty simple and used a cup of oats and a tablespoon of cinnamon powder.
Combine completely and pour the soap mixture into the mold. Distribute it evenly throughout the mold and smooth the top of the soap.
Cover the top of the mold. The plastic lid off of my soap-making supply tote was a perfect fit on the flat rate box. A cookie sheet would probably work as well.
Then, cover the moldcompletely with 1 or 2 heavy blankets. Insulating the soap traps the heat, allowing saponification to continue. Insulating is not always necessary, but it will help the soap to harden faster.
You are done for the day! Clean up your station and relax for a minute. Mom and I still had time to enjoy some ice cream before the kids woke up.
TIP: For easy cleanup, run your soap supplies alone through a dishwasher cycle and wipe up any spills with white vinegar.
Let the insulated soap rest for 24 hours. After 24 hours, remove the blankets and lid and cut the soap into bars with a knife or soap cutter. You get to choose the size and shape. Or if you’re like me, you just do your best and get what you get. This is why nobody should ask me to cut the cake at parties!
Once cut, remove the soap from the mold and set on lined cooling racks to cure. Set the racks in a place with good air flow and out of the reach of curious children. Leave the soap to cure or harden for at least 2 weeks.
After curing, package it up as gifts and/or store it for personal use in a clean ventilated container. Store in a cool dry place and join us in believing we could survive if we time traveled to 1870.
Can’t make it now? Pin this image for later!