Author Topic: Soap Making  (Read 48434 times)

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Soap Making
« on: April 06, 2009, 08:21:00 AM »
I have looked around here, and noticed no one makes soap, or at least, no one has POSTED about making soap, so I figured I would do so.
See, I have ALWAYS wanted to make soap, but was afraid to try it.  Then an online friend made it for the first time, and a IRL friend was game to try with me, so we did, and it could not be easier.  So now I am on a quest to impart this knowledge to any and every one who will listen.  Soap making is fun, homemade soap is very nice on your skin (it has all of the natural glycerin that commercial soapers take out because they can sell it for more elsewhere), and if you buy it from someone, they usually charge you upwards of $3 a bar that costs .33 to make!  nice markup.  Also, great survival skill and barter item if needed (and if SHTF, it WILL be needed...)
The hardest part is finding lye.  Rumors on the soaping sites claim that it is used in meth production, so those of us who are legal law-abiding citizens are yet again forced to pay for the sins of others.  Not to mention, I fit the profile of a meth user nicely - mommy of young children  ::)  .  Lowe's USED to carry it under the brand name "Roebic Heavy-duty crystal drain cleaner", but I have not been able to find it recently.  You might could look at your local Lowe's, just make sure it is 100% sodium hydroxide.  If you order it online, you have to pay hazardous material shipping insurance.  Luckily for me, there is a soap-making supply store in town, so I can order it there (as long as I order 50# at once and pick it up myself instead of shipping)
Mostly, since I soap for for my own families needs, I stay away from additives.  I have added ground oatmeal for scrubby soap (nice indeed) and some citrus scents from essential oils, but that is it.  So, now that I have given some personal thoughts on soap, I will direct you to my favorite soaping sites.

http://www.homesteadblogger.com/wannabehomesteading/40028/  this is the experience of a first time soaper.  there are great links inbedded there, but I will post them here as well.
www.millersoap.com  this has some very nice recipes.  one of our favorites is the Oatmeal and Honey Soap.... mmmm.  we make it to smell like grapefruit.
http://www.pvsoap.com/recipes.htm   if you pick "Cold process Soap," it will not only give you a good recipe for a beginner - nice and easy, it also gives you a list of equipment needed!  How nice is that?

so, there are my soap-making suggestions.  I am VERY happy to answer any questions for you, or even - if you live in northern Utah - you can come over and I'll show you how one day.  I think I will be soaping in June in SLC with a friend, so let me know!

Offline jetta2337

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2009, 08:27:59 AM »
Great info! The wife wants to start to make soap so I will check out the sites and try to find some lye around this part of the woods.

Offline Mielikki

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2009, 11:21:19 AM »
Actually, you can make your own lye. All you need is some ash, water and a big container or a kettle if you want to boil it down.

Birch ash is best, but I think you can use any hardwood ash. No conifers though, the sap in them seems to ruin the lye. Just build a fire, let it go out and let the ashes cool and use them, or use the ones in your fireplace. Water can be basically any water you have, rainwater, lakewater, wellwater etc. Container should be something which can be in contact with lye, so either plastic or metal (not aluminium). Snout at the bottom is a good thing to have, but not really neccessary. The kettle needs to be big enough to boil the stuff in, and should NOT be used in cooking (not aluminium either).

There are two ways to make lye, one is easier but slower and the other is faster but more bother.

In the easy one, you put cheesecloth or something like that in the snout inside the barrel, so it will act as a filter later on. Then you put your ashes in the container and pour water (hot will make things faster) on them so that they are covered. Let it stand for few days, and ashes will sink. Add more ash so that all of it is covered by water and let those sink too. At this point, some of the ashes have been in the container for about a week. Open the snout and take some liquid into a cup. Dip a feather in, and if it starts to dissolve, your lye is ready. If not, you can take some of the liquid and pour it top of the ashes and wait a few more days. Rinse and repeat. At some point you will have to take the ashes out but this thing can keep providing a supply of lye for a quite a long time.

In the harder one you just boil the lye down from the ashes. Take your ashes and wrap them into cheesecloth. Put them in the kettle and pour boiling water on them. You should use about 1:10 ash:water. Put the kettle on fire and start boiling the water. When it boils again, you can remove the ashes in the cheesecloth or you can keep them in longer if you want to. Just keep boiling until the water evaporates enough and the feather will start to dissolve. This method can also be used to make "dry lye" or "burned lye" (sorry about the terms, I have no clue what those are in english  ???).

100% organic, 100% natural. Strong stuff, be careful :P

Offline ColdHaven

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2009, 11:27:23 AM »
Could always watch 'Fight Club'.

Sorry I couldn't help myself.  ;D

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2009, 11:39:17 AM »
Actually, you can make your own lye. All you need is some ash, water and a big container or a kettle if you want to boil it down.
...........

Great info!  I knew one could make lye, but I had only read about it in pioneer type info, stirring ashes in a big pot over a large fire, that kind of thing.  This is great info for any soaper - and how to do it at home in small manageable "modern" ways.

Offline Sister Wolf

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2009, 12:06:26 PM »
There is a great article on how to make soap in the new Wilderness Way magazine.  I don't think you'll be disappointed - it's a GREAT magazine.  ;)

Offline cohutt

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2009, 05:30:11 PM »
I decided I'd give making my own cast bullet lube a try and discovered lotion & soap making while looking for some ingredients.

I haven't made any lube yet but i have run a couple of batches of incredible beeswax/lanolin/shea balm.   (Mrs and ladies at my office have tested it on heels, lips and cuticles and approve heartily.)

Two great sites for supplies:

www.thechemistrystore.com
www.soapgoods.com

I'll play around with soaps and lotions too- you can make gallons of "premium" goods for a few dollars. 

Offline NightOwl

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2009, 10:32:09 AM »
I make soap and sell it at craft fairs.  A dollar per ounce is close to the going rate.  True, it's less than a dollar to make the actual soap.  33 to 50 cents for a bar (depending on bar size, it varies from one seller to another) is about right if you use inexpensive oils, no additives, and no fragrances.  Fragrances add another one-third to the cost.  Another dime at least for packaging.  A bit more for some nicer molds if you want every bar to be a consistent size and shape.

My lye came from an industrial supplier in a huge bag.  Had to subdivide it into zip-top bags and store them in sealed buckets with moisture absorbers.  Still comes out cheaper than Red Devil used to be.

The expensive part is labor, the value of your time making and selling it.  On a good day we come close to breaking past minimum wage.  Comparing the cost of homemade soap at a craft fair with a multi-pack from the store is like comparing old fashioned hand-built oak furniture with something made from particle board in a factory.

I figure our real competition isn't Wal-Mart.  It's the sniffy shops in the mall.

But yeah, if you do it yourself, keep the bars pretty plain, and use no fragrances or additives, you can make soap pretty cheap.  Lots of great books and online resources out there.  That's how I learned.

ETA:  Never seen fight club, no real hurry to run out and rent it either...
« Last Edit: April 16, 2009, 10:37:43 AM by Uncle Charlie »

Offline archer

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2009, 10:54:37 AM »
Complete newbie questions here, how long does it take to get up to speed and how long does it take to make a batch?

Offline theaccidentalsurvivor

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2009, 11:19:06 AM »
Great info!  I knew one could make lye, but I had only read about it in pioneer type info, stirring ashes in a big pot over a large fire, that kind of thing.  This is great info for any soaper - and how to do it at home in small manageable "modern" ways.

If you have a way to burn some wood, like in a fireplace or grill, then go that route..... also, you dont have to boil it if you dont mind waiting 3 days or so.......

Get two buckets and cut a hole into the bottom of one.... line the hole with coffee filter or cheesecloth...... suspend this bucket over the other...... pour ashes into the top bucket and cover with just enought water to cover the ashes..... this will drain through into the other bucket..... once it does, take this water and pour it back over the ashes.... if you add more ashes it will speed up the process.... repeat these steps until a chicken feather will dissolve in the water...... or if you float an unboiled egg in the water and it floats just below the surface, then you are good...... if it sinks you need to repeat the steps, if it sits on the surface you need to dilute the water

I got the info off the net, but did it and it works!

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2009, 11:22:09 AM »
Complete newbie questions here, how long does it take to get up to speed and how long does it take to make a batch?

like I said, I soap for my family and for Christmas gifts (neighbors LOVE getting homemade soap....), so I do not do it as much as Uncle Charlie.  I probably make 2-3 batches a year.  From my experience, it takes about 1 hour of actual hands-on time.  And another 3-5 hours of waiting/watching time.  And then 18 hours of leave-it-alone-and forget-about-it time.

See, you mix your lye and water and melt your oils - lye water in one container, oils in your stainless steel pot.  About 10 min TOPS.  and then you wait for them both to cool down to between 90-100 degrees.  This takes A LOT longer in July than November (I soap outside).  you have to check the temp frequently during this time, and have to make sure small children and pets are kept away from it.
when they are ready, you pour your lye into the oils and stir.  Some people prefer the old-fashioned way of stirring the pot by hand for 4 hours.  I do not.  I use a stick blender and stir for about 15 before I hit "trace" (which looks like pudding or thick gravy).  When using a stick blender, though, you have to turn it on for 60 seconds, off for 60, on, off so you do not burn your motor.  still doesn't take very long.  Then you pour it into your molds.  Some people like soap molds.  I use either old silicone cookware (my favorite for "fancy" soap bars) or empty pringles cans (my favorite mold ever!  they make 8 even round bars that fit your hand nicely.  They are not, however, reuseable - you have to tear them off your soap.  but that is okay - most people throw away their cans, so if you can find someone who eats expensive chips, you are set!)  insulate your molds and leave it alone for 18 hours.
remove soap from molds and slice into bars (I use my kitchen knife).  put the bars not touching on an old cardboard box bottom,and let it cure for 2-3 weeks. Voila, soap.

Offline theaccidentalsurvivor

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2009, 11:25:24 AM »
like I said, I soap for my family and for Christmas gifts (neighbors LOVE getting homemade soap....), so I do not do it as much as Uncle Charlie.  I probably make 2-3 batches a year.  From my experience, it takes about 1 hour of actual hands-on time.  And another 3-5 hours of waiting/watching time.  And then 18 hours of leave-it-alone-and forget-about-it time.

See, you mix your lye and water and melt your oils - lye water in one container, oils in your stainless steel pot.  About 10 min TOPS.  and then you wait for them both to cool down to between 90-100 degrees.  This takes A LOT longer in July than November (I soap outside).  you have to check the temp frequently during this time, and have to make sure small children and pets are kept away from it.
when they are ready, you pour your lye into the oils and stir.  Some people prefer the old-fashioned way of stirring the pot by hand for 4 hours.  I do not.  I use a stick blender and stir for about 15 before I hit "trace" (which looks like pudding or thick gravy).  When using a stick blender, though, you have to turn it on for 60 seconds, off for 60, on, off so you do not burn your motor.  still doesn't take very long.  Then you pour it into your molds.  Some people like soap molds.  I use either old silicone cookware (my favorite for "fancy" soap bars) or empty pringles cans (my favorite mold ever!  they make 8 even round bars that fit your hand nicely.  They are not, however, reuseable - you have to tear them off your soap.  but that is okay - most people throw away their cans, so if you can find someone who eats expensive chips, you are set!)  insulate your molds and leave it alone for 18 hours.
remove soap from molds and slice into bars (I use my kitchen knife).  put the bars not touching on an old cardboard box bottom,and let it cure for 2-3 weeks. Voila, soap.

Great quick and dirty method! +1

Offline archer

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2009, 11:39:49 AM »
Wow, thanks! +1. I'll have to try that... Does it smell at all??? have to worry about the neighbors...

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2009, 11:54:04 AM »
Wow, thanks! +1. I'll have to try that... Does it smell at all??? have to worry about the neighbors...

are you asking about the lye? cuz I dunno 'bout that....  would like to try making lye, but finding hardwood in Utah, not exactly easy.
as for soaping, no smell.  but I would HIGHLY recommend you do not sit on a busy corner in a hood-ish neighborhood stirring a steaming pot in July.  Especially if you are 2 pregnant women with a total of 4 other children.  that might attract attention.  (ask me how I know...  actually, no one bothered us, but we were slightly worried, since cops are almost always tracking drug deals behind my friend's house on said corner)

Offline Grasshopper2Ant

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2009, 12:00:25 PM »
Great post!  +1

Offline NightOwl

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2009, 12:30:19 PM »
The info from Morning Sunshine is similar to my experience.

Summary:  An hour or two of setup and mixing time, a couple days until cutting, and another 3 weeks of drying out.  Figure a month from start to finish if it's for sale.  6 weeks is better, and the longer it ages the harder and better lathering the soap is.  100% olive oil castile is best after at least 6 months in my opinion.

Unless oxidation of residual oil happens and you get the Dreaded Orange Spots...  But that's another topic.

Your first batch will be a disaster.  After that happens you will buy a decent digital scale.  You'll also burn out stick blenders regularly if you really get into it as a hobby.  Check garage sales for spares to save money.

It helps to lick a bar before using any from that batch.  No, really...  If it stings your tongue and it's been aged at least a month, then something went wrong - throw it all out.  If it merely tastes foul, it just means you put some kind of fragrance in it.  Scent your soap with cinnamon and clove essential oils if you plan to do a lot of cussing.  Yum yum yum.  ;D

Offline archer

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2009, 12:38:18 PM »
LOL!! Hmm, I've not tasted soap since I.. um.. never mind... +1!

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2009, 07:02:06 PM »
OK... this is probably obvious to everyone except me... "stick-blender"??? Is that a hand-held blender or some other tool especially for soap-making?

Offline NightOwl

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2009, 07:41:25 PM »
A "stick blender" is a hand-held wand type blender.  Has a spinning sharp thing at one end and a power cord at the other.  Comes apart in the middle so the business end can go in the dishwasher.

Offline cohutt

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2009, 07:45:12 PM »
Yes, an immersion blender

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immersion_blender


edit:  damn i swear that post wasn't there when i typed my reply......

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #20 on: August 06, 2009, 09:07:36 PM »
And... how do you "insulate your molds"?

Offline 2Caffeinated

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2009, 09:47:04 PM »
does home made soap lather up as well as store bought?

also, does it leave film in the shower?

My wife hates cleaning the shower and likes us to use the liquid soap.  Does anyone know how to make liquid soap that won't leave a film in the shower, or is it just made from a bunch of chemicals?

Offline NightOwl

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #22 on: August 06, 2009, 09:59:02 PM »
I insulate my molds by using molds made out of plastic lumber and then adding a sturdy plastic cutting board on top.  Wrapping the mold in towels helps too.  Usually it's not worth worrying about unless the weather is cold.

Sometimes we don't want the soap to get so warm that it goes through the gel phase.  Milk-based soaps, for example.  In that case the idea is to keep the mold close to room temperature.  But that's sort of an advanced topic.

My soap lathers better than most store-bought, because I fine tuned the oil blend for lathering ability.  Among other things.

Not sure how to deal with shower film.  Personally, I'd rather have good soap and deal with a little haze than have clear glass and itchy skin.  Someone once suggested wiping the shower with a mild acid, like a weak vinegar & water solution.  I'll have to try that sometime.

It is possible to make liquid soap from scratch.  I've done it -- it turns out a lot like Dr Bronner's, thin and watery yet concentrated at the same time.  Awesome in foaming dispensers.  It's a lot of work, and it involves using potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide.  But it's worth knowing how to do.  I don't know what its residue is like, though my guess is that it's probably not much due to being based mostly on coconut oil.  Coconut soap is a powerful cleaner and easily dissolves in water.

Chemically speaking, normal "shower gel" has very little to do with soap.  But it'll get ya clean.

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2009, 06:44:18 AM »
Uncle Charlie,

Thanks for all the information... more questions... do you use all the special clothing, etc. when you do your soapmaking? goggles, hair covering, rubber gloves, all skin covered up? I saw one website (from an Australian lady) who said that was essential. I think she was doing her soap-making inside.

Also, are the utensils used in soap-making rendered no longer good for cooking once you've done this? It seems like one of the top comments about mixing the lye had a comment about it... in other words, should the soap-making equipment be completely separate from the rest of the kitchen utensils?

50# of lye seems like an awful lot to purchase... how did you first buy lye when you were starting out? is there a way to buy smaller quantities?

At some point in the coming future, I fully plan to get on board with soap-making... I really appreciate all the information.


Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #24 on: August 07, 2009, 08:58:34 AM »
And... how do you "insulate your molds"?

I place all my pringles cans together in a box, and then wrap that with an old blanket for about 18-24 hours.  When I taught a class for hte ladies from church, I had them all bring a cardboard OJ-concentrate container and an old towel.  they wrapped their soap in the towel and took it home to finish at home.


does home made soap lather up as well as store bought?
depends on the oils used.  there is a great site that kind of defines what different oils do.  Coconut, for example, lathers; olive is gentle; neem has slight anti-bacterial properties.  but olive makes a soft, almost dissolve in your hands soap

http://www.millersoap.com/soapdesign.html

Quote
also, does it leave film in the shower?
I cannot tell - the hard water stains are all that I see on my shower walls!  :P

Quote
My wife hates cleaning the shower and likes us to use the liquid soap.  Does anyone know how to make liquid soap that won't leave a film in the shower, or is it just made from a bunch of chemicals?
it is very chemically altered.  I have been meaning to experiment in this area, but have not gotten around to it.  get her a nice smelling bar of homecrafted soap from the farmers market as a special gift, and let her see how nice a bar of real soap is on her skin.   ;)

Thanks for all the information... more questions... do you use all the special clothing, etc. when you do your soapmaking? goggles, hair covering, rubber gloves, all skin covered up? I saw one website (from an Australian lady) who said that was essential. I think she was doing her soap-making inside.
my husband would like me to.  I wear an apron to protect my clothes because lye can fray a hole in jeans in about 3 minutes.  I also wear cheap plastic gloves while I am working with the raw lye while pouring it into the water.  and also when mixing the oils and lye-water.  and pouring the molds so I can touch the soap if I need to.  sometimes I will wear goggles.  not often.  but it makes hubby feel better.
The main thing I do is keep a bottle of white vinegar at hand with some cottonballs ready for dabbing on the lye-burn site.  it stops the burn.  which is interesting in itself for chemical reasons.  I wish I understood what that chemical process is, but chemistry is not my forte.  :-\

Quote
Also, are the utensils used in soap-making rendered no longer good for cooking once you've done this? It seems like one of the top comments about mixing the lye had a comment about it... in other words, should the soap-making equipment be completely separate from the rest of the kitchen utensils?
I have separate soaping utensils, pots etc.  But you would not need it.  my soaping pot still looks brand-spanking new.  someone said she used to use her stick blender for carrot soup, and it was stained orange.  when she started soaping, it turned white again. :)
the main thing would be to get all the soap off before you cooked in it.  the lye in the soap, whether in the pot or in the shower, looses its potency, for lack of a better term.  if you left the pot unwashed for 18 hours while your soap was insulated, and then again for the 4-6 weeks while it cured, the soap in the pot would be soap and you could use it on your body without a problem.  so basically, once the lye goes through the soaping process, it is not lye, but soap.  does that make sense?  I have 2 thermometers for my soap - one is a dedicated lye thermometer.  only used in lye.  the other is for the oils, but it is used in my kitchen for food all of the time.

Quote
50# of lye seems like an awful lot to purchase... how did you first buy lye when you were starting out? is there a way to buy smaller quantities?
50# of lye would last you about, well, 12 oz to a standard batch. so you get 8 batches from every 6 pounds, giving you a bit over 66 batches in a 50# bag.  I make 1-2 batches a year for the needs of my family and gifts.  Like I said earlier, lye used to be sold at Lowe's in 2# bottles.  if you cannot find it, ask at your farmers market - there is probably a soaper there who can point you in the right direction for purchasing it, or even might be willing to sell you a bit so you can try it.  most soapers I have met are very willing to share this knowledge with others, so ask!

Quote
At some point in the coming future, I fully plan to get on board with soap-making... I really appreciate all the information.
this is something I had always wanted to do, but took me  long time to start.  I love soaping now.  and I love sharing this knowledge!  good luck with your attempts, and let us know if you have any questions - there are at least 3 of us here who soap!

edit to include links  :D
« Last Edit: August 07, 2009, 09:08:13 AM by Morning Sunshine »

Offline NightOwl

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #25 on: August 07, 2009, 10:09:22 AM »
I use separate dishes for soaping.  Just because I got complaints from the family about how everything served out of one particular container smelled and tasted like rose fragrance for months.

Protective gear:  Gloves, safety glasses, old long-sleeve clothes, a plastic drop sheet on the floor underneath, and a decontaminating shower when done.

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #26 on: November 22, 2009, 06:47:11 AM »
since there seems to be a good deal of interest in soap, I thought I would bump this up.

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #27 on: December 02, 2009, 07:30:11 AM »
I make goats milk soap from scratch - a little trickier than regular cold process because you have to be careful not to burn the milk with the lye - if anyone has any questions - ask away!! :D

Offline NightOwl

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #28 on: December 02, 2009, 07:45:21 AM »
Yeah I've made milk soap.  Beer soap too.  Both of them have potential to either get scorched or go volcanic if you don't do it right.  Luckily it's not that bad with a little practice.

mousemommy

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Re: Soap Making
« Reply #29 on: December 02, 2009, 08:38:56 AM »
I love using beer in shampoo bars - works great in your hair unless you have really hard water.