I’ve threatened for YEARS to do two things: write a novel and make goat milk soap. I even got Mabel and her babies with the idea of milking my own goat. But I was always worried about dealing with lye (aka sodium hydroxide or caustic soda). It’s an alkali and when it’s mixed with water, it goes through a chemical reaction and heats up. You have to respect lye and wear protective clothing. I’ve read horror stories about lye volcanos, exploding pots and pans and various injuries.

So I was kind of put off to be honest. No matter what you read, the plain fact is: you can’t make soap without lye. I’ve made melt and pour soap using a soap base and where you don’t have to mess with lye because it’s built into the soap base. But I’ve found melt and pour soaps tend not to last very long. And because you don’t go through the saponification process, I kind of feel you’re not making “real” soap.

I decided to bite the bullet and, back in November last year, I did a soap making course. There were six participants and we all looked a little nervous when it came to the lye part. We survived though and I then went on to make my very first batch of soap, using some moulds I picked up in South Africa a couple of years ago.

I used goat milk and scented the soap with May Chang essential oil and pink colouring. I don’t have a whole range of essential oils yet, so May Chang was it. The whole lye business was easier than I anticipated but I did deck myself out with goggles, gloves, long sleeves and closed shoes. I used coconut oil and olive oil to give the soap a creamy and smooth texture.

Then I put the soap on a wire rack in the laundry to cure for eight weeks. Curing soap needs to be well-aired, turned once a week and preferably left in a dark room (i.e. away from heat or direct sunlight). You can use the soap after three weeks or so, but it won’t last long.

At first, the May Chang scent seemed to disappear but, by week four, I could smell it again. One of the moulds is yellow and the soap picked up a bit of that colour – you can see this in the photo below. I think it’s possible I hadn’t washed that mould since buying it. Oops.

We’ve just started using the soaps and wow….creamy, lather well and they have a very delicate scent. I’m about to purchase some square and rectangular moulds from the States, along with essential oils like lavender and rose geranium. I’ll also buy some carrier oils such as sweet almond, jojoba and sustainable palm oil. My second batch will be lime and coconut – one of my favourite combinations.

When you make your own soaps, you know exactly what goes in them. I love the tinkering around business – planning what scent you want or adding ingredients for an exfoliating bar (such as oatmeal or poppy seeds).

My first batch is (shall we say) rustic-looking and I think they would have looked better if I hadn’t coloured them. But hey, I’ll get better at it as I make more and I might post some recipes this year.

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Yeah, my very first batch of soap using lye!

 

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