How to Cook Soap

Hot Process Double Boiler Method
You know, I have found that most people do not want to divulge all their secrets, especially if their methods have evolved over years of learning and trial and error - also known as, "Research and Development" .  You can't blame them really, but cooking soap is quite simple even though there are a number of different ways to go about it.
What they all have in common is they all start out the same way.  If you've made cold process soap before, you've already done the hardest and most complicated part!   Hot process is the exact same as cold process soap only it involves an additional set of steps. 
Some of the methods used to make hot process soap are;  Double-Boiler, Crock Pot or Oven methods.  They all work and each method has it's own pros and cons, so which one you adopt is up to you.  I prefer the double-boiler method since I don't appreciate the extra cleanup involved with crock pots or their size limitations.  I don't do the oven process because I'm the sort that likes to see the soap go through all it's changes and I can play with it as much as I want.  With all methods, you can't be unattentive or your soap is liable to boil over and it makes an awful mess!  
Here's what you can expect:  make your cold-process soap and bring it to trace.
  • Depending on what base oils you're using time will vary - with ingredients I use my soap traces in about 10 minutes
  • Let it stay in the pot, in another ten minutes or so, it will look the same on top but when you go to stir it, you'll have to cut it into jelly-like clumps to stir it.
  • Keep an eye on it, this is when your soap is most liable to 'volcano'.  It will be thicker on top but starting to liquify underneath... the liquid can get too warm there and start pushing the thicker soap up to the top trying to release steam.  The remedy?  Stir it often and never leave it unattended.
  • Pretty soon, you'll see more and more clear liquid as it enters the 'cottage cheese' stage.
  • Once there, I start to stick blend again.  I stop when it starts getting too thick and I don't want to stress my stick blender out too much.
  • With a long-handled wooden or stainless steel spoon, I stir it and 'fold' it until it starts turning more 'matte' or losing it's shine quicker after stirring.
  • This is tasting time, a touch to the tongue is all that's necessary.  No spark, you're done.  It's ready for the mold unless you want to add anything.  In this case, remove the inner pot and let it sit (this is a good time to add your colour), folding every couple of minutes to cool it enough for fragrance or essential oil.   
  • Start to finish, the whole process takes me approximately two and a half hours.
The only equipment I need is an enamel canning pot with some water in it, and a stainless steel stockpot which sits in the water in the canning pot.  I try to keep the water at the same level as the soap in the stainless steel pot, and keep the tempurature even.  It should be at a steady simmer, on my electric stove I have it set to five or slightly higher.  This never changes so once it's set, you can forget about it.
So go ahead and get your molds ready, mix your lye, measure out your fats and watch my video and you'll see how easy it really is...

YouTube Video

The video shows what happens AFTER your cold process soap has traced and entered the 'cottage cheese' stage.  We're just going to speed up the saponification process by cooking it so it is safe to use the soap right away, and doesn't need as long to harden. 
Some tips:
  • Like any soap, the longer it cures, the harder it gets so cure it as long or short as you like.
  • I mention 'tasting' my soap in the video and I should explain that.  When the soap has gone through the stages and looks more or less done, I touch a little cooled soap to my tongue.  If it zaps me or feels like a little 'prickle', I need to cook it a little longer and test it  again in another 5-10 minutes.  I've been doing it that way for years and I haven't once had to douse my tongue in vinegar!.. (that would be sooo funny...) but I guess it wouldn't hurt to have it handy.  Just don't try to taste it too soon is all.
  • You will want to do your finishing touches once the soap is done, just don't put your fragrance or essential oil in too soon or it will flash off and that would be wasteful.  Let your soap cool to at least 130 degrees or so.  If you let it cool too long, your soap will get kind of crumbly and not mold well.  If it's your first time, use a thermometer until you get to know when it's ok.
  • Some colorants don't behave in hot process soaps the way you might like them to.  Personally, I don't use them.  Some herbs change color too as you'll see in the video.  As long as you know what to expect, you can use this to your advantage as demonstrated on the video.  Yes, you can easily and safely color your soap lavender using herbs.
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