The Joy of Making One’s Own Soap

I started learning how to make soap from Soap Cart about a year or more ago. I have always been fascinated by the idea of making soap so I signed up for Soap Cart’s class one day.

When I told Nic that I was going to a soap-making class, he said that soap is so affordable. Why do I need to make my own?

I like making things with my hands. I like learning how to make things. And soap was something that I felt like doing at that time.

And I am stubborn. I never listen to my husband anyway. (This is what happens to girls who are brought up in households with strong mothers. My late mum never bothered much with dad’s opinions. She just went ahead to do what she pleased. I guess I am more similar to my mum than I’d like to believe!)

So I did. I found it incredibly fun to take sodium hydroxide (a caustic alkaline) and mix it with oils and make soap. It was both science and art. And the end result is something I could use.

The basic idea for soaps is to take sodium hydroxide and mix it with either water or milk. Once the sodium crystals have melted, the solution can be added into oils of your choice such as olive oil, palm oil or coconut oil. Then all you have to do is whip the whole thing until it thickens like pudding. Once it comes to ‘trace’ (when you drizzle the batter on the surface of the batter and the strands seem to stick to the surface), your soap is ready to be poured into moulds.

I found a loaf silicone mould from Mr DIY (that’s my kind of store for all types of knick-knacks and useless made-in-China household gadgets but I love going there) and have been using this mould since. It’s actually a mould for cake but silicone is so easy to unmould, compared to the harder plastic moulds. I think I bought it for RM12.

olive oil soap batter in mould
Olive oil soap hardening in the silicone mould. It takes about a day to harden.

When I first started making soap, I was much too nervous. I feared that my soap batter wouldn’t emulsify. I feared that I wasn’t precise enough with my measurements. And I got nervous when my soap wouldn’t unmould properly after a day.

I believe all these are newbie issues. I took soap-making too seriously. I felt that I had to be perfect at every step of the way.

And after many times making soap, I figured out a faster way.

I didn’t have to beat the soap batter continuously. I would now whip it a bit, leave the batter for 15 minutes, come back and whip it a bit and repeat this process over an hour. When I leave the soap batter, it thickens slowly on its own. It was such a refreshing way to learn that some things need time.

And if my soap couldn’t slip out of the mould after a day, I just popped everything into the freezer for 30 minutes. After that, the soap slides out easily! No more pushing and pulling the silicone mould like crazy. Sometimes it’s like life. No point forcing things along. And at times, you need to ‘freeze’ some stuff in life too. Deal with it later.

curing olive oil soap
Sliced up olive oil soap bars. They need to be “cured” for 60 days at least. The longer you cure your soap, the better it is. Curing means letting the water evaporate off from the soap. 

Of course, the soap needs to be sliced and cured.

I am a rather boring soap maker.

I only make 2 types of soaps – pure coconut oil soap which is superb for washing oily hands and pots and pan; and olive oil soap which is an incredibly moisturising soap for the face and body. All without fragrance/essential oils. Just plain Jane soaps. Both soap recipes came from Soap Cart and I’ve stuck to them religiously.

The olive oil soap needs a curing time of 60 days minimum but even the soap sceptic of a husband now raves about the olive oil soap.

It has helped him reduce the oiliness on his face and even moisturises his skin, leaving it supple. The soap contains olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil in different ratios as well as fresh milk.

If you ask me why I make soap when I can easily buy them off the shelves, I say I like knowing what goes into my soaps. I also appreciate the effort that goes into my own soaps and they’re pure and good for me.

Homemade soaps that are cured properly lasts a long time, unlike commercial soaps. They don’t soften or melt that fast in the shower. And when I make a batch of soap, they last me a year!

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