Monday, July 4, 2011

Soapmaking Part 2

Step 3:
Mix the Lye

Now we come to the somewhat hazardous part of the process: working with the lye.  Lye is an element derived from wood ash.  It will burn you and you do not want to inhale it.

You will need a container to weigh the lye in (glass or stainless steel...if you use any porous material such as plastic or wood, you will need to mark it as for soapmaking only so it doesn't find its way back into your food preparation items.  If you use glass of stainless steel, the lye will rinse off fully and you can again use these items in the kitchen.) 

I use a large beer mug. 

I usually do this part outdoors because of fumes.  Gather the following and head outside:

5 cups very cold water in a medium saucepan
Wooden soapmaking spoon
Container to measure lye
Long dishwashing gloves

First, put the beer mug (or whatever you are using) on the scale empty and either hit tare to zero the scale out or add the weight of your beer mug/container to the 13 oz of lye you need. 

Next, PUT ON YOUR GLOVES.  Some people also use safety glasses, but I think that is a bit overboard. 

Pour the lye into the beer mug/container until the scale reads 13 oz (or the mug weight plus 13 oz if you didn't tare the mug). 

Now slowly pour the lye into the cold water and stir gently.  Avoid inhaling the fumes...I always stand upwind of it as I add and stir.  The mixture will get slightly bubbly and cloudy for awhile.  Stir until fully dissolved.  The temperature of the mixture will shoot up and become quite hot.  After a few minutes, the mixture will turn clear and the fumes will stop.  Take everything back inside.

It is very important that you always add the lye to the water, not the water to the lye. 

Step 4:
Temperature Control

Now, you have your pan of melted fat and your pan of lye.  Here is where your handy thermometer comes into play!  You need to bring the temperatures down before combining them.   You will want the fat to be about 105 degrees F and the lye to be about 83 degrees F. 

To achieve this, you can either wait until they cool or put them in an ice bath for a bit.  The ice baths will bring the temps down fast, so keep an eye on them.

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