The (cold) Process
Each bar of soap is created in small batches, from scratch, with a method called "cold process".
Cold process is the rawest form of soap making that involves no added heat. It is achieved by emulsifying oils and lye water until saponification is reached. Below, I will outline the process of my soap making!
1. The first step is to run my ingredients through a soap calculator. The type and percentage of oils used depends on the desired characteristics (creaminess, cleansing, hardness, etc.). The calculator takes into account the total amount of soap I want to make and calculates the amount of water, NaOH and oils I should use. For accuracy, I make all of my measurements in ounces.
2. Now I gear up in PPE and get the NaOH. NaOH is extremely caustic and should be handled carefully. I measure out the NaOH and water, then mix the NaOH into the water. This will cause a chemical reaction and the container will heat up considerably (literally steaming). The lye water must be at room temperature before mixing with oils. So while that's cooling, I melt my coconut oil and palm oil since they are solids at room temperature. This is the time I use to measure out the fragrance and bloom my mica colors in olive oil. When all my oils are liquid, I mix them in a bowl.
3. EMULSIFY! Here is where the proverbial magic happens. I carefully pour the cooled lye water into my oils and blend with a stick blender. This part takes a lot of patience and attention; a "sweet spot" needs to be achieved. Not mixing enough will leave the caustic lye water behind and mixing too much will harden the soap, making it impossible to pour into the mold. So I emulsify until I reach a light trace.
4. I split the batter into separate containers depending on how many colors I'm using. It's important to work quickly so the batter doesn't harden up. I pour the colors in and mix with a spatula. Then the fragrance is added in equal parts to each container, and mixed by hand.
5. POUR TIME! Now is the fun part. I pour the colored, fragrant batter into the mold to start a design. Let the creativity happen from here....
6. After all the batter is poured, I spray the top of my poured loaf with rubbing alcohol to decrease the possibility of soda ash. Soda ash is not harmful; just not the most aesthetically pleasing. The soap is still liquid and must be covered from the air. I wrap my loaf in towels and leave it undisturbed for 24-48 hours. This time period allows the soap to "saponify" and harden.
7. CUT TIME! Okay so this is the other fun part. I carefully unmold the hardened soap and place it on my cut board. Ever bar is sliced from the loaf, one by one. The soap's done now right? Package it up and sell? NOPE!
8. CURE BABY CURE! I have a dedicated area for soap curing. Each bar of soap needs to cure for a minimum of 4 weeks! During this time, the bar will evaporate off excess water and level out its pH. I turn the bars after 2 weeks to ensure adequate air flow on all sides. Patience...... because 6 weeks from now, the bars ill be ready!
9. When my bars are fully cured, I bevel off the edges and smooth the sides by hand. This is just for aesthetics but it looks and feels awesome! Carefully shrink wrap the bars, ensuring that I don't melt my soap! Put my stickers on and it's finally done!
What a labor of love. No wonder the cold process method is the pinnacle of soap making!