How is Cold Processed Soap Made?

How is Cold Processed Soap Made?

We use soap since birth. But what is it? How is it made? Soap is made through a process called saponification. Saponification is the chemical reaction that takes place between an acid (usually oil or animal fat) and an alkali base (anything composed of one hydroxide ion such as sodium hydroxide, or lye). For the acid part in cold processed soap making, an oil or animal fat can be used. Examples of common oils used are olive, palm, coconut or even exotic oils such as jojoba and argan. Examples of animal fat are beef or lamb tallow. For the base, sodium hydroxide, or lye, is the most commonly used in cold process soap making. When the lye/water solution is mixed with the oil part, the process of saponification takes place, resulting in a salt, which is the soap itself.


Each individual acid has a unique set of triglycerides, or compounds composed of three fatty acids that are linked to a molecule of glycerol. Therefore, each acid reacts with the lye base in a different way, and the amount of lye required to saponify each acid varies. It is strongly recommended to use a lye calculator based on the saponification value for each oil you use to compute the exact amount of lye required for making your soap. A low amount of lye would result in a softer bar which would not last very long, while an excess amount of lye would result in a lye-heavy bar, and may irritate the skin. The bar is usually crumbly and hard.


Other factors to consider are time and temperature. The oils and lye solution must be about 120 to 130° F (48 to 54° C), and within 10° of each other for saponification to occur correctly. Once the oils and lye solution are mixed thoroughly, trace occurs, which is when the oils have a thick, pudding-like texture. Once this occurs, other ingredients such as essential oil, color oxides and pigments, and herbs can be added. These must be added quickly, since, within a few minutes, trace becomes too thick to work with. Once all of the ingredients have been added, it is time to add the soap to a mold, and left aside for 24 hours to fully complete the saponification process. After demolding and cutting the soap, it is left on a curing rack for four to six weeks to dry out. After the drying period, the soap can finally be used.


This was a very general explanation, and many other different factors must be considered, depending on the ingredients and equipment you use. For any specific questions regarding cold processed soap making, please do not hesitate to contact us, we would be more than happy to try to help!


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