Traditional Methods - What is Cold Process Soapmaking?

When I first started making soap a mere four months ago, I assumed it was like cooking. I figured I had a recipe to follow, a few ingredients to put in, some heating and stirring to do and a finished product at the end to enjoy.

I was partially correct, but I discovered there is a lot more to this process than a pinch of this and a pinch of that.  It's a pretty exact science actually. Lucky for me, I had a great teacher.

Anne has been making cold-process soap for over ten years. She has been through everything that soap-making can throw at you, including curdled mixtures, too many air bubbles, chunks of undissolved lye and weirdly coloured bars.

She did not get discouraged by these “challenges” (recognized as such only after the heat of the moment had passed) but instead learned from them and kept trying. She has perfected the art of this method and we consistently (knock wood) produce beautiful bars of soap.

The cold-process method, in a nutshell, involves creating a lye mixture and a fat mixture and combining them.

In our case the lye mixture is made of goat's milk and lye that has been slowly mixed and cooled to temperature of approx. 102 degrees F. The fat mixture is comprised of several different fats or oils, determined by the type of soap we are making. They are measured exactly and heated to the same temperature as the lye mixture. When proper temperatures are achieved, the mixtures are combined.

We often add fragrant essential oils and other goodies at this point too. Really cool chemical reactions start to occur and the mixture becomes soap! Before it can be used, however, it must sit in a mould for 24 hours, be cut into bars and cure for three weeks. At that time, the lye has neutralized, the bar has hardened and the essential oils are at their fragrant best. It is now ready to use.

Soap-makers can choose from several different methods of making their soap, including the hot-process method, hand-milling and casting. We prefer the cold-process way of doing it because it is a simple, back-to-basics approach that gives us excellent results. The goodness of the ingredients remain intact and we get bars with great lather and moisturizing properties. One try of our goat's milk soap and we think you will agree.

- Lori

Savon du Bois
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