I made bar soap today. I'd rendered suet before and froze it. I've not done it for a long while, so I re-skimmed all my soap books to refresh my memory. I've not bought soap, since we like my homemade soap, having made and used it for over twenty years now.
You want the lye mixture and oil mixture to be about the same temperature around 95-98 degrees. I had to set the lye mixture outside to cool down. I put some cold water in the sink to cool the fats down some too, once the lye was down and ready. If the lye cools too much, sometimes just stirring it will raise the temp a bit. I put the pan in the sink (no need for water in the sink) for slowly pouring the lye mixture in. You want the lye water to pour slowly like a pencil width, stirring the fat continually at the same time, using a silicone spatula. Gently keep stirring for the lye and fats to chemically connect and do their thickening thing.
Keep stirring in circles and swirls gently for at least 10 minutes. Then you can occasionally stir it. This time it set up fast (some times it can be an hour or more), thickened enough that when dripped from the spatula it leaves a trace on the surface, leaving a trail a short bit. At this point is when additives like scent and coloring is added. I usually don't add these, liking the creamy color and tallow or palm oil are forever sweet smelling. If lard were used, or a poor quality beef fat, it develops an off smell over time, so scenting masks this. It's best to use essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances. Colorants I've used are things like cinnamon, cocoa, turmuric - this time in one of the soaps I added 5 tsp paprika.
I want to write out the recipe because I know a few people would read this and want to make it - I would. I don't want to overwhelm you, but I do keep these ingredients stocked in a bin in my linen/cleaning equipment closet. I used to order them from a co-op, but now purchase them from a health food store and online. Like, Google soap making, and you'll find many sources. Lye is a major bar soap ingredient. When mixed with coconut, palm, olive, castor, etc oils it saponifies into a rich healthy-for-the-skin soap - non-drying to the skin. Store-bought soaps have the natural by-product of glycerin extracted, for making other stuff, therefore removing the emollient quality.
MOISTURIZING CREAMMelt the solids - I put them in a large glass bowl, and melt using the microwave (Cavitch does it in a saucepan on the stove, which I should do).
SOLIDS - 130-140 grams
100 gms beeswax (I used to grate it, but now found pellets)
20-25 gms each of cocoa butter and shea butter
Make sure the beeswax melts - I've occasionally found tiny bits when using my cream :-D
OILS - 395-400 grams
250 gms Olive Oil
50 gms Almond Oil
20 gms Castor Oil
25 gms Wheat Germ Oil
50 gms Jojoba Oil
The oils can be added to the melting solids. Don't heat above 165 degrees. Remember, you can use whatever you have on hand as long as you keep to the overall proportion. Like this time I didn't have wheat germ oil (it needs to be kept refrigerated, and I must have thought it too old awhile back ... and then didn't write it down on my 'to buy' list ...). Also, when I opened the jojoba oil, knowing it was getting old, I smelled it. I won't use rancid smelling products. So I only used more of the castor and almond oils this time.
WATER - 400 grams
primarily witch hazel and rosewater
then some liquid lanolin and aloe vera gel (I used about 100 grms of each this time)
Then 10 gms of borax
15 gms vegetable glycerin
5-10 gms grapefruit seed extract
Make sure the borax completely dissolves in the water mixture.
I often add vitamin E. I used to add Vitamin A to this mixture too. Vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, is good for the skin, but new studies are finding that it might, with sun exposure, develop skin tumors. It's put in lots of lotions, including sunscreens because it is an antioxidant and slows skin aging, but with sun exposure, is it cancerous? On the subject of sunscreen, I read labels and try to avoid oxybenzone, which is hard, cuz it's in just about everything, including lip balms. It can be allergenic, but primarily it messes with hormones. Sunscreens too are messing with our Vitamin D absorption. I also don't use products that use mineral oil - robs skin of it's own natural moisturizing mechanism - it's used cuz it's cheap!, and don't use petrolatum products (in ChapStick and Vaseline). Europe won't allow usage of these products. Monte wants me to start making two moisturizing creams - one with the Vitamin A, for a night cream.
I've started felting wool over these soaps. I'm posting a picture of some I did this year to go with, matching, some of my knitted washcloths. Think: "Soap in a Sweater"!