Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Soap-making Adventure Post 2: The First Batch
Goat's Milk Soap Batch #1 is curing in the cupboard, and this is what I learned.
First, I apparently can’t read a scale.
Second, I should have purchased a respirator mask and goggles that fit together.
Third, I need to know the weight of the containers before starting to measure…for when the scale randomly shuts off.
When Max came home from his buddy’s picnic last Saturday, I was ready to suit up for round two of soap-making.
“Will you take pictures?” I asked him, adjusting my goggles. It had become obvious earlier that afternoon that I couldn’t do so myself mid-process wearing latex gloves greasy with shea butter and oils.
He took my cell phone. “What am I taking pictures of?”
A moment later, he proudly showed me a picture of our laundry room steps.
“So what did you do wrong last time?” he asked while I prepared my work station.
I had read the tenths of ounces place on the scale as ounces. For example, instead of measuring 6 ounces of an ingredient, I had measured 0.6 ounces. (I'm extremely right-brained, and numbers under any circumstance can cause me problems!) As a result, I had made a teeny, tiny batch of what may or may not be usable soap. I’m hoping for the best. Even though the goat's milk had been pre-measured for a regular-sized batch, having an over-abundance of fat in a soap recipe might not be terrible. Adding a little extra fat is called “super-fatting,” and it’s ideal. Otherwise, the soap is not very moisturizing. (*More on this later!)
Fat simply makes the soap softer. Therefore, the mistake-soap might just be extra, extra, super soft. Or, the ingredients might have been so far out of balance that something icky will happen. We'll see.
After the bars of the mistake-soap solidified, they began to exude oils, caustic oils that soaked through the wax paper they were sitting on and left marks on the counter. Upon further investigation, however, it seems the marks will vanish with extra elbow grease.
Meanwhile, round two commenced.
As Max took pictures, I zipped through the recipe. Everything is always smoother the second time.
Here are some photos of the real "steps"...
(The basic soap-making steps are: Pour lye into liquid (in this case, frozen milk) and stir. Set aside. While that is cooling, measure fats and oils in another container and stir. Pour lye solution into oils. Use stick blender to bring to trace. Pour into mold. *There are several safety measures for soap-making, so be sure to do research first!)
But about halfway through measuring the oils into their container, the scale suddenly shut off! We knew what our oil measurements were, but we had no idea how much the container itself weighted, since we had set the tare to 0 after first placing the empty container on the scale. Luckily, the container was identical to the one I had mixed the milk and lye in, so we were able to find out the container's weight and keep going.
I guess some kitchen scales shut off after some time of disuse, or when the battery is getting low. Something for me to keep in mind!
The new batch reached trace a lot faster than the mistake-soap batch did. Perhaps because the mistake-soap had so much extra milk? Supposedly, when working with cooler temperatures, like I was, batches of soap might show a false trace before true trace occurs. This means the oils and butters are simply returning to their solid forms due to the cold, but the mixture has not yet fully emulsified (or, reached "trace"). However, my “trace” was not false! It went from thin, skipped medium, and became thick almost instantly. (I might need more experience recognizing it sooner.) By the time I was pouring the mixture into my mold, it was more like pudding inching its way out.
As suggested in my research, I put my mold into the refrigerator to maintain the cool temperature and skip the gel phase. The goal for this was to create the lightest-colored soap possible.
Also as suggested, I waited 24 hours before washing my pots and utensils – the time it takes for the mixtures to saponify (become soap). That way, when washing, there is nothing caustic. It’s all just soap!
After a day had passed, I removed the soap from the refrigerator, awkwardly popped it from the mold, and commenced cutting it into bars, which was remarkably easier than I expected. It’s was like cutting into a block of Velveeta cheese, but the soap didn't stick to the blade as badly. Therefore, it’s not very difficult to make straight cuts free-hand.
As of today, the bars (and the oval bars of the mistake-soap) have been curing in the laundry room closet for four days. I hesitate to take them down to the basement even though it is much cooler, because I don’t know if they would absorb a musty smell. This is all just a test run, so we’ll see how it goes!
At one point, Max decided to smell the soap bars but immediately scrunched his nose. “Ew!”
“What do they smell like?” I asked.
They do. But you can't really smell them at all unless you deeply inhale like he did. One day, I intend to try infusing our own grown lavender into the olive oil that goes into the soap, but I may need to include essential oils if I want a strong-smelling soap. However, I noticed that the goat milk soap we have left over from Lancaster smells like putty now, too, even though I know they add essential oils to their recipe. Perhaps the smell dwindles in time? I will have to decide what to do later.
There is no way of truly knowing how this first batch of soap will turn out until three weeks from now, but I’m happy with the results! i didn't experience any hangups except for not reading the scale properly. So far, there are no signs of the common soap-making issues highlighted in Jan Berry's troubleshooting section of her book. I think my research paid off, and unless I’m mistaken, this will be good batch of soap. I will strive to perfect the recipe, but I think everything has gone according to plan. I can’t wait to share it with my family, and especially Jazper!
I also didn’t have any problems with the lye. I took every precaution I could, from respirator mask, to open window, to goggles – even over my own glasses! But to wear the mask properly pushed the goggles up. To wear the goggles properly shoved the masked down, constricting my breathing. Finally, I just opted to lose the mask. I am glad I used the goggles and remembered to wear a long-sleeve shirt, because there was some splashing.
If you desire to learn how to make your own soap, I recommend beginning your research with Simple & Natural Soapmaking by The Nerdy Farm Wife, Jan Berry.
*I’ll create my own step-by-step guide once I have learned the art myself. I like simplifying how-to’s for others the way I would have wanted it to be for me.
If you're local to Uniontown, PA and interested in finding out if goat's milk is for you, contact Tara, 724-984-3403. (See Series Post 1)
Meg Grimm is a writer and folklorist who loves Jesus, tea time, history and fairy tales. In the real world, she works in a castle - at least some people think so. She is married to Max, and they have a cat-dog named Bill. One day, you'll find her living in a cottage deep in the woods writing your next favorite book.