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Making Herbal Soap From Scratch; DIY Instruction Series

Updated on January 17, 2020

Olive Oil for Castile Soap

Pure Olive Oil
Pure Olive Oil

What is Castile Soap?

Castile soap is soap made with olive, water, and lye. Castile soap gets its name from the Castile region of Spain, which became famous for its soaps as far back as the 13th century. Castile soap is mild with a creamy lather and high glycerin content. It cleans extremely well.

Grade B olive oil is better for soap making than Grade A, which is better for eating. Grade B olive oil has more fat in it.

The word "castile" to mean soap has been overused and abused by modern soap companies and soap makers. Some say that "castile" means olive oil and other vegetable based oils, some say "castile" means some amount of olive oil in the recipe, and any other fats can be used. Everybody wants to use the term "castile" to describe their soap because the word connotes quality.

True castile soap is made with olive oil, water, and sodium hydroxide. Nothing else.

Is Lye Necessary?

The short answer is: Yes. Caustic soda, sodium hydroxide, and lye are different names for the same thing.

Sopanification is the chemical reaction that occurs when fats and oils, water, and lye are mixed. After sopanification, the lye, fats, and water have become a different substance: soap. 

Soap does not contain lye. (If it did, it would burn skin.) Lye is necessary to make soap.

Rebatching / Hand Milling Soap

The technique of hand milling soap (also called "rebatching") gives the soap maker the opportunity to add ingredients to the soap after the lye is gone. Some soap makers use recipes that call for all ingredients to be mixed together before sopanification. Hand milling is a preferred method among those who wish to preserve the qualities of delicate ingredients.

Hand milling also tends to make soap harder, such as "French milled" soaps.

Hand milling means to grate the soap, melt it down with water, add ingredients and pour into molds.

Herbs and Flowers for Soap

Wild Lavender Flowers
Wild Lavender Flowers
Wild Chamomile Flowers
Wild Chamomile Flowers

Lavender and Chamomile Soap

Lavender has been used in soap for centuries. Its aroma is considered quite soothing and is also used by aromatherapists.

In addition, lavender oil may soothe minor skin irritations, especially dermatitis and eczema. In soap, lavender is soothing to dry skin.

Chamomile is another herb that is considered calming and soothing for the soul. Topically, it may be antibacterial.

Both of these flowers make nice additions in hand milled soaps.

Further Reading

My Favorite Hand Made Soap Tips, Tricks, and Recipes
My Favorite Hand Made Soap Tips, Tricks, and Recipes
Lovely ebook for Kindle from Amazon. Recipes include information about the qualities and benefits of various soap additives. A great reference for beginner's and experienced soap makers. Tons of information at a great price -- buy it today.

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