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Homemade Lye Soap

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You can make your own lye soap at home; it’s really not hard to do. Soap is what you get, when you combine fat with some sort of caustic agent, using water as your catalyst. You won’t need anything exotic to make your own soap; most of the ingredients you need may be as close as your grocery store.

What will you need? For a basic soap, you only need water, lye, and some kind of fat and oil. For a more luxurious soap, you might want to add coloring dyes and scenting oils. You probably have water as close as your kitchen tap; some people prefer to use rainwater or distilled water in their soap.

Homemade Lye SoapWhat is lye, anywhy? Its chemical name is sodium hydroxide; it’s a very strong base, so when you handle it. Make sure that you read the directions on the package of lye carefully, and following them scrupulously. When making soap, you might want to reference a lye calculator that way you know exactly how much lye is suppose to go into your soap; it depends on the kind of oil or fat you plan to use.

The first step is to dissolve the lye in the water. Never pour the water into the lye; instead, pour the lye into the water. If half your water is ice, that’s even better. Stir the lye to dissolve it; and as you stir, watch for the reaction that will take place. The lye can every start the water boiling, and if this happens, stop stirring until the bubbling stops. Then let the lye water cool down to room temperature.

So what about the oil? Just about any fat or oil can be used to make soap, from plant oils and hydrogenated fats to animal fats. If you chose to use an animal fat, make sure it’ is clean, not rancid, has no salt, and is free of solid particles. The advantage of animal fats (like tallow or lard) is that they’ll give you a denser soap. Plant oils such as coconut oils will give a rich lather; and olive oil soap will yield fine, silky bubbles that are soothing to the skin.

Saponification is the technical name for the chemical process between lye and fat. It may take more or less time to trace, but when it does and your batch starts to thicken, that’s the time to add coloring and perfume oils. Pour the traced soap into molds, and let it harden. It will have to ‘cure’ for one to three days, and then dry a bit longer before you can enjoy it.

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