How to Make Soap in a Crockpot using Hot Process Method
Learn how to make soap easily using the hot process method. Soap making is a complex process, but certainly not difficult. Through this guide, I will show you step by step with illustrations, how to easily craft your own homemade soaps which you can later customize to meet your own needs.
First – A Bit of Soap making History
Did you know that the “soap” we buy in stores today is not actually soap at all, at least not in the traditional sense? Most products sold in stores are detergents and not soap. In the old days, soap was made by mixing animal fats with wood ash. The wood ash formed a sort of rudimentary type of lye. This soap was typically made without careful measurements and the end result was often lye-heavy soaps that would burn or irritate the skin. When done right, however, soap made in this fashion was not only wonderful for the skin, but very effective at cleaning laundry, pots and pans, and even for household cleaning.
Today, we can make wonderful soaps using old fashioned techniques but with modern equipment and safety gear. Once your lye (sodium hydroxide) is processed properly, it is no longer caustic and becomes glycerin. Today we can superfat and add more lovely skin healthy ingredients as well. Once you experience "real" soap - you'll never go back to store bought.
Personally; I've been making handmade soaps for several years and even had a sideline business for awhile. I enjoyed this very much, but unfortunately with work, school, and a family life got in the way and something had to give. Today, I still make soap for friends and family, and it's a wonderful, relaxing hobby. It has also been a great way for me to deal with sensitive skin. I can use homemade soaps and lotions without any of the drying, flaking, rashes and other issues I experience with most commercial products.
So, hopefully by now you are ready to try your hand at soap making.
Below are the detailed directions which I recommend you read all the way through at least once before trying your first batch. This will ensure you get the feel for the process and know what you are looking for as you prepare your soap.I will be using one of my own recipes for this tutorial which you are welcome to use, however you are also free to use any soap recipe of your choice.
We will be doing this via the hot process (HP) method, but you can use any cold process (CP) recipe you like as well. I will break down the method into several steps – preparation, safety, cooking stages, and pouring and molding.
Gathering soap making ingredients and equipment
Step One: Gathering Your Supplies and Ingredients
A digital or postal scale to ensure accurate measurements – all primary ingredients are measured by weight not volume.
A heavy weight plastic pitcher and spoon for mixing your lye water solution. (never use metal)
An enamel or stainless steel pot or Crockpot for cooking – these should never again be used in the preparation of food and be devoted solely to soap making. Do NOT use aluminum! Use only enamel or stainless steel cookware.
Stick Blender (optional) allows for faster processing
A Mold – a large cardboard box lined with wax paper is great for beginners – no need to invest in expensive wooden molds just yet.
Safety Equipment: paper mask (only for when mixing the initial lye solution), gloves, eye protection, and a jug of white vinegar see step two for safety – it's important!
Sodium Hydroxide (lye) must be 100% pure sodium hydroxide for our recipe you will need 12 oz.
Water 28 oz
Vegetable Shortening my recipe requires one full can of Crisco (48 oz) (or 100% vegetable based shortening)
Coconut Oil – 18 oz
Olive Oil, Soy Oil, Canola or combination for a total of 21 oz.
Shea Butter – 2 – 3 Tbsp
Essential Oil(s) or Fragrance Oil(s) – your choice – must be labeled safe for soap making
~Remember~ All ingredients will be measured by weight and not volume except fragrance or essential oils & superfatting oils.
You have to be careful with lye (Sodium Hydroxide). I use the Essential Depot brand and it's the best I've ever used. It is pure sodium hydroxide and not cut with anything that could be potentially dangerous.
IF you choose to purchase lye from a hardware store you MUST ensure it is 100% pure SH with no fillers or A) your soap may not turn out B) you may end up with soap that burns or irritates the skin.
Step Two: Safety Precautions – Very IMPORTANT
This actually gets its own section in our tutorial because it is extremely important. No matter how experienced you are with soap making, accidents can always happen. For this reason, it is very important to practice good safety measures each and every time you make soap.
Kids and pets should be removed from the area whenever you are making soap to reduce the likelihood of accidents or burns. Wearing gloves and goggles while mixing lye solution is extremely important because even a small drop can cause a very painful burn or damage surfaces. I highly recommend covering your work surfaces with a drop cloth.
Keep a jug of white vinegar handy because it neutralizes lye burns. Although your skin should be fully protected, we are human and if you should happen to get a drop on you the vinegar will stop the burn from progressing.
When you are mixing your lye solution you always add the lye to the water never the other way around– doing this backwards can have explosive results. Add your lye to your water and stir carefully until all lye crystals are fully dissolved. Mix your lye/water solution in a well-ventilated area and take care to not directly breathe the fumes. A paper mask can be worn during this stage to ensure you don't breathe the vapors. Mix your lye water ahead of time to allow it some time to cool before making your soap. Set it aside in a secure place.
Step 3: Preparing Your soap
Refer to the ingredients section above for my specific recipe – or you can follow your own recipe.
add your water to your pitcher (measured by weight!) and then slowly stir in your lye crystals. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.
Add the container of Crisco to your pot or Crockpot (for this demo I am using a Crockpot) and begin to melt it over low heat
Next you will measure your coconut oil and add it to the Crisco
Next your other oils or combination of oils (olive, canola, soy) can be measured out and added. You can do this in whatever proportions you desire so long as the weight is correct.
Once all your solids are melted completely you can slowly and steadily stir your lye water solution into the oils – before you do this ensure all lye crystals have dissolved completely and that you are wearing your safety gear. Slowly pour while stirring constantly. Remember to wear your safety gear - gloves and goggles.
Your soap will go through several stages as it cooks and these are described and illustrated with pictures below.
Stage One: Trace
If you are cooking on the stove top (the Crockpot is easier in my opinion) you will need to keep your heat low and stir almost constantly to prevent your mixture from boiling over. With a Crockpot you don't have to stir quite as much, but regardless you need to be close and keep a careful eye.
The first stage, called Trace happens very quickly with hot process soapmaking, so quick in fact, I wasn't able to capture it on camera when taking the photos for this hub :). You will know this stage when the mixture is thick like a custard.
If you take your spoon and pull up a few drops and dribble it across the top of the mixture; it will sit on top for a second or two before going back down. This is trace and it may happen so fast that it appears to skip right over this stage and that's fine.
Stage 2 - Separation
Stage two is separation AKA yuck! what is this stuff!
The second stage your soap will go through is separation and curdling. During this phase, the soap gets kind of ugly and becomes a semi-gelatinous mess with white curd looking stuff and oil floating around it. If you don't know what you are looking at; you might start to panic, but hold tight because it will quickly pull itself together and start to smell heavenly as it saponifies further.
Separation Stage of Cooking Soap
Stage 3 Champagne Bubbles
Champagne bubbles indicate that saponification is taking place.
The larger bubbles have mostly disappeared, and the mixture looks golden and uniform. Many tiny little bubbles will appear at the surface; making it look like champagne. At this point; you can turn the heat down lower and stop stirring a bit and you'll notice your soap starts to grow – this is where saponification1 really gets under way. Continue to cook and stir as needed until the water around the edges cooks off.
At the end of this stage, immediately before you reach the pouring stage, you add your fragrances and superfatting oils (Shea butter) for our recipe and stir it through. Doing this last prevents the fragrance from burning off due to high heat. The amount of fragrance will vary by what you use. For this recipe a half ounce to one ounce is usually sufficient. If you want stronger smelling soaps you may need to increase this a bit, but don't overdo it as you may seize up your soap. It would be a shame to come this far and ruin the batch.
At this point; you can also stir in some finely ground oatmeal, coffee grounds or herbal powders as well. This is completely optional, but can greatly enhance the quality of your soaps. Coffee makes nice dark brown flecks and is a natural deodorizing agent. Oatmeal is wonderful for dry, itchy skin. You can be as creative as you like and there are many recipes floating around. (For the batch in this tutorial I added coffee grounds which you will see turned it very dark for the pouring stage - it dries a nice medium tan color with brown flecks)
Champagne Bubbles / Saponification
1.Saponification: A really big word that means your lye and fats are having a chemical reaction that turns the sodium hydroxide (lye) into glycerin. It is this process that allows the oils and water to mix and form a solid – soap :).
What Soap Looks like When You "pour" It into Your Mold...
Stage 4: Pouring and Molding
The final stage is the “pouring” stage. I use quotes here, because this is actually a bit misleading. Soap that is ready to mold will not actually pour at all and has to be spooned into the mold. At this point, your soap should be moist looking but not wet. The water should be cooked off from around the edges and have the appearance of very lumpy mashed potatoes. This means you are ready to put the soap into your prepared mold.
Once your soap is at the pouring stage; you need to move quickly. If possible. you may want a second pair of hands to help you. Quickly scoop your soap into your mold, pushing it down firmly and evenly. I do this by placing wax or parchment paper on the top and using a flat board to push it down and remove the air bubbles. Once I have done that I pick the mold up and drop it a couple of times to ensure it is air pocket free. If you don't wish to drop it on your table; you can also tap the mold around the edges with a spoon to remove air bubbles as well.
You will find that if you wait too long to pour, or move to slow, your soap my start to dry out and it will not want to stick to itself. If this happens, put it back in your pot or Crockpot on low heat and add a tbsp or so of oil and mix it through. Even soap that is dry and doesn't mold well will still be useable, so don't worry.
Your soap should stay in the mold until it is hardened all the way through. This time will vary based on the size of your recipe and mold, typically this will be several hours or overnight. Once the soap is hardened and cooled, remove it from your mold and cut into bars. Allow your bars to cure for at least a few days for best results.
To test your soap to make sure it is fully cured; touch a corner of the bar to your tongue. If you feel a tingle at all this means it is still curing and is not ready for use. If not, feel free to start using and enjoying your soap.
Lovely Bars of Handmade Soap
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© 2012 Christin Sander