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Monday, April 21, 2014

Making Castile Soap

I never really thought I would make castile soap. I'm not sure why. . .I guess it might be because I only started making soaps at home after I first had kids and the thought of a process that involved lye just wasn't a family friendly project.

But I think I am going to need to change my tune. . .my youngest is now seven and I have an unexpected need for volumes of castile soap, so looks like it's time for a bit of research.
Here's a recipe that I've slightly tweaked:

Castile Soap


  • Thick Rubber Gloves
  • Long-handled Spoons
  • Large Stainless Steel Pot
  • Large Glass Bowl
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Protective Eye wear if you have it
  • Soap Molds or a sturdy wooden box you don't mind getting mucked up
  • No-slip Hot Pad
  • Wire Rack
  • Old Bath Towel
  • ·         20 oz. Pure Olive Oil
  • ·         5 oz. Pure Coconut Oil
  • ·         3 ½ oz. Lye (also known as Sodium Hydroxide)
  • ·         8 oz. Distilled Water
  • ·         Essential Oils (optional)

  • Place glass bowl on the hotpad on a secure surface
  • Add water to the bowl
  • Put rubber gloves and protective eye wear if you have it, on (lye can burn the skin so you want to be protected!)
  • Carefully and slowly add the lye to the water
  • Mix lye and water well (don’t touch the bowl as it will become very hot!)
  • Pour Olive and Coconut oils into the pot
  • Heat over a low setting and stir every once in awhile for even heat distribution
  • Heat just to 75 degrees (checking with the thermometer along the way)
  • When 75 degrees is reached, remove the pot from heat
  • Very slowly and carefully (wearing the gloves and eye wear), add the lye/water mixture to the warmed oils, stirring constantly as you do so
  • Keep stirring and stirring as the necessary chemical takes place. . .it can take an hour or more from this point so have a book ready, a cd playing or the remote control in hand.
  • When the mixture has reached a consistency that is honey-like, check for ‘trace’
  • You do this by dipping a spatula into the mixture and letting a stream fall back into the pot. If the stream takes a second or two to disappear back into the mixture (ie: leaving a ‘trace’), you’ve reached emulsification of the ingredients!
  • You can either start to mold your soap OR you can essential oils for either fragrance or for various health properties
  • Whether you added the essential oils or not, your next step is to pour your soap into any individual molds you have ready, or one big rectangular block to cut up into bars (or other shapes!) later
  • Cover the molded soap with a big old towel and leave, completely undisturbed, for at least 48 hours to harden
  • Don’t skip or shorten this step because, as it hardens, the soap is undergoing another chemical process called saponification (which is what happens when vegetable oils/animal fats meet a strong alkali!)
  • After 48 hours, you can cut your big block into bars or pop your soap out of the molds
  • Place on your wire rack, cover with the towel again and leave for at least two weeks to age
  • After two weeks, your soap is ready to use, though the longer it ages the better it becomes!

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