One of the main ingredients in soap is lye (sodium hydroxide, NaOH). Lye is extremely caustic even at room temperature, and in this recipe it is heated. Because of this, you need to exercise extreme care when you make soap. You should always wear shoes (not sandals), long pants, a long-sleeved top, and gloves (I use rubber gloves). Also, be sure to wear eye protection. If you get lye on your skin, you can quickly run to the sink and wash it off with LOTS of cold water; if you get lye in your eyes, rinsing it off may involve going to the emergency room. You should make certain that children and pets are somewhere else and will not interrupt you. There is no room for mistakes when dealing with lye.
One long wooden spoon (at least 10 inches). This should be a spoon that you can sacrifice, because the lye will eat away the wood.
You will need a large ceramic or glass bowl. This must be capable of holding all the water, lemon juice, and fat with some room to spare. I use a ceramic tub that is about 6 inches high and 24 inches in diameter. \FIdo not use metal, as it will corrode. Even stainless steel will corrode.
Finally, you will need some glass, ceramic, and/or wooden molds to pour the soap into. I use glass baking dishes; two 8 1/2 x 14-inch glass pans will make bars of soap that are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick Again, DO NOT USE METAL CONTAINERS, as they will corrode.
Where to buy 9 pounds of fat? If you're using an animal fat (beef or pork), you can buy it from your butcher. What I find I have to do is reserve it, because they normally don't keep the fat after they've cut up their cow. Sometimes they will charge you for the fat (I've paid anywhere from 10 to 45 cents a pound); sometimes they won't. I've only ever made soap with beef fat; this makes a hard, mild, slow-lathering soap. The recipe will work equally well with other animal fats to produce a similar result. Coconut oil yields a softer, quick-lathering soap. Olive oil and other vegetable cooking oils yield a very soft soap that never completely hardens. Unfortunately, these oils are sensitive to air and light, and soap made from cooking oils will spoil in a few weeks unless it is refrigerated.
Volatile fragrance oils, also called essential oils, are highly concentrated scent ingredients. You can usually buy them at health-food stores, and you can sometimes find exotic fragrances at specialty food-and-spice shops. The amount that you should use depends on how fragrant you want the soap to be. A few drops of musk oil is enough to scent an entire batch of soap; less-potent fragrances such as a fruit oil might require a teaspoon or two Soap scented with herbs is also popular; herbs like lemon thyme or verbena or lavender work well. To scent with herbs, make an herbal oil by packing a 1/2-cup container with herbs and then filling it with a pleasant-smelling vegetable oil such as almond oil. Let this mixture sit for a few weeks, stirring it every day, then heat in a double boiler for 10 minutes, then cool and strain the oil.
The soap works just fine with no fragrance at all, and many people prefer it that way. I certainly do.
You may run into problems at the stage "Add the fat and stir until it's all melted." I almost always do. What happens is that the water/lye mixture runs out of heat before all the fat melts. What you have to do is add heat somehow. The way I do this is to grab the tub (which now contains all the fat), go into the kitchen, put it on top of a burner, and turn the burner (and the fan) on high. (Make sure the windows are all open too.) When all the fat is melted, I go back outside and continue, adding the lemon juice.
The lemon juice lowers the pH. The finished soap will have a pH of about 9; you can lower this by adding more lemon juice.
Aviva Garrett Santa Cruz, CA Excelan, Inc., San Jose ucbvax!mtxinu!excelan!avivaRecipe last modified: 7 Aug 86
Path: decwrl!recipes From: aviva@excelan (Aviva Garrett) Newsgroups: mod.recipes Subject: RECIPE: Face and body soap Message-ID: <6386@decwrl.DEC.COM> Date: 14 Nov 86 02:07:12 GMT Sender: recipes@decwrl.DEC.COM Organization: Excelan, Inc., San Jose, California Lines: 202 Approved: reid@decwrl.UUCP Copyright (C) 1986 USENET Community Trust Permission to copy without fee all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the USENET copyright notice and the title of the newsgroup and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of the USENET Community Trust or the original contributor.