I have been making soap for years now. I prefer to make a basic soap, nothing fancy. It is lovely to use your own handmade soap and know that there is nothing harmful in it.
Soap is a mix of fat: animal or vegetable oil, and lye otherwise known as caustic soda. If mixed in the right proportions they will thicken and then harden over a few days. You must wait 4-6 weeks however for the full chemical reaction or saponification to take place and turn into soap which is no longer caustic.
Many excellent recipes can be found in books and on the internet. I recommend The Handmade Soap Book by Melinda Coss the sunflower and calendula recipe being my favourite with the dream castile (olive oil and goats milk) coming in second. I make strictly vegetarian soap using various types of vegetable oils.
Soap can be made with ingredients and equipment to be found in any kitchen.
When the lye and fat are mixed together they begin to react immediately. Once trace is reached, where the soap mix thickens and looks like custard it is ready to mould.
Metal containers cannot be used as moulds as the soap is still caustic at this stage and will react. Whilst commercial moulds are available plastic containers, chocolate moulds and even milk cartons can be used.
My niece pouring soap into moulds.
Soap curing on racks. I always wait 6 weeks before using the soap to ensure it is completely cured.
Soap can be made in many shapes and colours although I keep it as natural as possible. Here I have used fresh lavender and simple food colurings.