Welcome to Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soap located in Tucson, Arizona. I'm happy to see you here!
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I make soap, that's what I do. And I love doing it! Whether it's a simple, unscented batch, or a time consuming 5 layered scented soap, I love making soap!
My recipes are formulated for mildness, and are suitable to be used on face, hands, and body. If you have never used handmade soap before, and are not sure how to choose a soap for you, I wrote this blog article with some helpful hints.
How to Choose Handmade Soap
Now I want to explain a little about how I make my soap, and I want to do it without scaring you. Why might it be scary? Because I use lye when I make soap, Yes, yes, I use lye. That nasty, caustic, scary stuff!
First, I want to introduce you to the term "saponification".
From the FreeDictionary.com -
saponification /sa·pon·i·fi·ca·tion/ (sah-pon″ĭ-fĭ-ka´shun) conversion of an oil or fat into a soap by combination with an alkali.
Lye (or sodium hydroxide) is the alkali that is used to combine with the oils to produce soap. This is the ONLY way to produce soap. No lye, no soap. Now, years ago the exact ratio of oils/fat to lye that was needed to change the chemical properties of lye so it was no longer caustic was not known, it was guessed at. This sometimes produced a very harsh bar of soap. But now, we know exactly what the ratio is for each different kind of oil/fat, and we plan our recipes accordingly. In all of my recipes, I add between 5 and 7 percent MORE oils then is required to meet that ratio, thus ensuring all lye is physically changed to .. SOAP! With a bit of oils left over to produce a mild bar of soap.
Cold Process Method
I use the cold process method of making soap. Once I mix the oils and lye, and add whatever scents, colors, and any other additives, I pour the soap into log molds. The chemical reaction of the lye and oils create heat, and the soap goes into what is called the gel phase. Some soapers like to keep their soap from gelling, which they do by keeping it cool. I like my soaps to go into a full fledge gel. Most times, I don't have to do anything other than cover the soap with a piece of cardboard to keep the heat in. For some recipes, I need to wrap a towel around it to insulate it. Below are two pictures of soap in the molds. The picture on the left is right after I poured the soaps. The picture on the right is of these same soaps gelling. Hot!
The following day the soap is firm enough to take out of the molds and cut into bars. And after they are cut into bars, they are whisked away to the soap room where they are placed on racks that allow plenty of air flow. I cure my soaps for about 4 weeks, letting some of the liquid evaporate, and letting the bar harden up. So by the time I offer them to my customers, they are good to go, mild and hardened.