By Sofía González
If you wanted to buy a good bar of soap, say, a couple of centuries ago, the easiest way was to combine the fats from previous meals plus acid, bases and ash in order to craft a very rudimentary version of a known chemical process: saponification.
Way before you could purchase your favorite bar of soap online, people used to make soap out of all sorts of ingredients: from common items such as coconut oil and olive oil to whale bubbler oil and karité butter.
Soap has always been a trustful ally in keeping your skin clean, moisturized and disease-free. If you're interested in customizing your body care routine to the last item, learning how soap is done is a great option. Why? Because it's always useful to understand how everything around you is made.
The Rainforest Lab also makes gel soaps, which require a slightly different process.
What Is Saponification?
Well, this is not intended to be a sophisticated science lesson. All you need to know is saponification is a reaction created by combining fatty acids with a strong base, which is lye. The result is soap. Now, not all bars are the same because the abilities of each bar depend on the type of ingredients you add.
If everything is done properly, the acidity of the fat and the alkalinity of the lye will balance out into a perfectly neutral bar of soap. How long it takes depends on the nature of the process. Hot process soap takes less time than cold process.
However, makers such as The Rainforest Lab use cold saponification to make their soaps, so we'll focus a bit on how they're made. If you’re interested in the process as a whole, you can click here. Cold saponification is done at room temperature and takes several days to make.
The process of making gel soaps.
What You Need for Your Natural Skin Care Routine
Cold process soap requires long-sleeved gloves, safety goggles (NOT regular glasses), long-sleeved shirt and pants and a face mask. Remember you're dealing with lye, which is a basic (or alkali) chemical that may produce burns on your body.
You'll need tools that aren't used for cooking - because there's no need to have soap-tasting soup! For mixing, use stainless steel or tempered glass and only look for spoons made of styrene plastic or silicone spoons.You'll also need silicone molds, mason jars, towels and a stainless steel thermometer.
Soap requires two mandatory ingredients: fat and lye. There are many types of oil you may use, some a bit more effective than others. For organic soap, make sure the oils you use come from ethically sourced, organic places. Now, when it comes to lye, it’s tricky. There’s no way you can make soap without lye.
Most people are scared of lye, however. Lye is a caustic alkali and can cause skin burns in its pure form. However, lye is the ingredient responsible for turning oils into soap via a reaction we’ve mentioned before: saponification. Even if you tried making soap without lye, it would not work.
The perfect texture for soap.
How Organic Soap Is Done
Without going into specifics, the first step is always to combine lye with water until the liquid is fully clear and cool. Then, the oils are combined: each oil must be fully melted and weighed before adding it to the mixture. Most common soaping recipes specify several types of oils in similar proportions to each other.
Now, when combining each of the ingredients, you first combine the oils with a blender and then, once the oils are fully mixed together and no bubbles are coming out, you add the lye mixture. When the oils and the lye begin to come together, you'll see a change in color. The idea is to continue mixing until the color turns lighter and the soap thickens.
Before adding the soap onto the mold, spray it with alcohol to avoid soda ash from forming. Once you've added the mixture to the mold, allow around three or four days to solidify. That's not the end of the process, though.
You can cut your soap into bars, but that won't help it last long in the shower. Give each bar approximately four weeks so that the water evaporates from the soap, allowing it to have a firmer texture. This is called curation.
The reason why the curing process is so important is because part of the chemical reaction is done at room temperature, without any added heat. This reaction takes a longer time to complete. Cold processed soaps are 100% biodegradable and do not pollute the earth while it's being produced. Hence, they're environmentally friendly and completely ethical.
It all makes sense if it’s on video! You can watch how The Rainforest Lab makes their soap bars here, on their Instagram profile.
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