Only heard about soap making from the movie Fight Club? Then my month of blogs will help. If Brad Pitt and Edward Norton can do it, so can you!
How did people make soap long ago?
Lye (sodium hydroxide AKA caustic soda) wasn't around "back in the day" but other caustic alkalis were: potash — leached from wood ashes — even ashes from seaweed and other plants. In the 1700s, Nicholas Le Blanc figured out how to turn common salt (sodium chloride) into soda ash!
Why add lye to water and NOT water to lye?
Dry sodium hydroxide is highly reactive. A bead of it can burn through layers of skin (remember Fight Club?). In solution — mixing sodium hydroxide with water — a lot of heat is generated, upwards of 90 C! Adding sodium hydroxide to a large volume of water (i.e., lye to water) evokes a less intense and safer reaction.
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Why 27 C to process?
Processing temperature affects the length of time it takes soap to saponify. Processing soaps made with vegetable oils at higher temperatures makes bars more vulnerable to rancidity. I've never had a problem when I stick close to 27 C. And I've read that a higher temperature, like 38 C, can increase five to eight minutes of processing time to ten to 30 minutes.
How long do I cure bars?
My experience is that four to six weeks of curing bars is perfect. Voyageur Soap says that bars are safe to use right away, but curing evaporates water. The longer bars cure, the harder they become and the longer they last in the shower! (That's why some uncured homemade soaps melt quickly!)
What is soda ash?
When sodium hydroxide is exposed to air, it forms sodium carbonate. That's the white powder on top of curing bars. Soda ash isn't as harsh as sodium hydroxide but it's poor quality and can be drying and irritating. I find it's a problem on bar ends, so I slice it off for other household jobs like laundry!
Enter to win a deluxe soap making kit donated by Voyageur Soap & Candle Company Ltd. ($79.95 value)!
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green
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(Draw closes April 14, 2014.)