liquefied, turn off the heat and add the olive
oil (Figure C). The temperature of the blended
oils should read 80°F.
5. Combine the liquids.
When both the lye water and oils reach 80°F,
combine the two in the glass jar. The mixture
will abruptly turn cloudy (Figure D).
6. Blend it all together.
Blend the liquid for roughly 15 minutes using
either an electric eggbeater or stick blender
(Figure E). You can also whisk by hand,
though this will take about an hour.
However you approach it, your goal is
saponification, which occurs visibly as the
liquid thickens and turns opaque (Figure F).
To test for it, lift the blender from the liquid
and drizzle the soap across the surface. When
droplets remain on the surface for a moment
before sinking — known as tracing — it’s done.
7. Add scents and scrubs.
If you’re going to add fragrances, essential
oils, or oats, now’s the time. Add and mix —
and do it fast, because the soap may be
thickening more quickly than you realize.
Any additional ingredients must be all-natural to avoid fouling up the delicate
chemistry of the saponification process.
8. Mold it.
Pour the soap into your mold (Figure G).
Paper cartons should be thoroughly cleaned,
and wooden molds should be lined with
parchment paper. Cover the filled mold with
a cutting board or coffee table book and
set it aside for 1–3 days to harden. H
9. Cut, cure, and wash up.
Lift the long soap block from the mold, peel
away the parchment paper, and cut the brick
into roughly 10 bars (Figure H).
Stand each bar on end to allow the most
surface-to-air contact, and set them aside
to cure undisturbed. Three weeks should do
it, at which point the lye’s causticity has fully
neutralized, and your soap is ready.
Congratulations. You can now wash your
hands of the chemicals and toxins used by
the commercial soap-making industry. Learn
Alastair Bland is a freelance travel, food, and news writer in
San Francisco. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, he
wandered through California by bicycle and Baja California
by foot for two years before falling into journalism. Follow his
latest travels at
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