Today we're going to take you through OUR soaping process. We want you to know as much about our ingredients and methods as possible so that you can make an informed choice about our stuff as well as what you might see in your big-box stores. We're not worried about giving away any big secrets because general soap-making techniques are available EVERYWHERE online. We didn't have to join a secret cult and take a blood oath to learn how to make awesome natural soap, we just had to sift through all the information out there and find out what worked best for us!
Soap is comprised of two basic ingredients: A fat, and lye. Virtually ANY fat will turn into soap, which is why there are so many options out there from vegetable oils to beef tallow! We use a blend of coconut, olive, grape seed, and soybean oils. While you CAN use any single fat (oil) to make soap all on its own, we use a blend for a few different reasons. First off, our bars are 25% coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of the most cleansing oils out there, so much so that if we were to use it as our ONLY oil, it would dry your skin out like crazy! Olive oil is very mild. It's not a very cleansing oil, but It balances out the coconut oil. Grape seed oil is very dark and rich in nutrients, but very soft once it cures into bar soap. A little in our blend provides skin-loving nutrients, but if we were to only use grape seed oil, our bars would be like taffy! Soybean oil is the workhorse of our soap and makes up 50% of our blend. It's a great all-purpose oil that plays well with others and produces a really hard (meaning long-lasting) bar of soap.
And let's not forget the bubbles! While the production of lather in soap has NOTHING to do with its cleansing ability, the idea of "bubbles = clean" is so ingrained in people that we took it into account when selecting our oils. Coconut oil produces big,, fluffy bubbles, Olive oil and grape seed oil produce teensy but creamy looking bubbles, and soy is right in the middle!
Now for the lye: It's pretty straightforward. We use a food-grade lye from a fantastic facility that
makes it on-site in CT. The scientific name is Sodium Hydroxide. You CANNOT make soap without lye. Some folks get scared off by "lye soap" thinking it's going to be a harsh and painful experience, but it's just not true. 85% of the lye in our soap is spent converting oil into soap within the first 24 hours of mixing the two. The last 15% is converted over the course of the next month as the soap cures, with also serves to evaporate the water out of the bars that the lye was dissolved in.
Now that we have our ingredients, onto the fun! We start out with big stainless steel pots. Soap HAS to be made in stainless steel. Lye and aluminum create a chemical gas that is at best nauseating and at worst deadly. Glass is also a no-go, as the lye will penetrate any microscopic cracks in it and cause the vessel to shatter. It HAS to be stainless steel!
Into the pot go the oils. The coconut oil in solid at room temperature, so it has to be melted into the rest of our blend. While the oil is doing its thing, we mix our lye and distilled water. It's very important to use distilled water, as any other water will contain minerals and who knows what else that can do weird things when mixed with lye. We want a sterile water! Mixing the lye and water is the most dangerous part of this entire process as lye is extremely caustic. After the lye mixture has cooled a bit, we add a dash of sodium lactate. Sodium Lactate is a fancy word for the salt derived from fermenting beet sugar, so it's totally natural and we use it to help harden the finished bars of soap to make them last longer.
Once the lye-water mixture and the oils are within 10 degrees of one another, we carefully mix them together. After about 5 minutes of stick blending, the clear oils have mixed with the lye and turn into a thin, whitish pudding called "Trace".
When we hit this stage we know the lye has been mixed thoroughly and is already starting to do its thing.