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The first time I made soap, I was terrified. I knew that sodium hydroxide (lye) was a first cousin to Drano, a product that has always made me nervous, and I had mental pictures of ending the session minus the tips of my fingers.
Anyhow, I waited until my husband was gone, put the cats outside, and donned plastic raincoat, rubber gloves, and one of those masks that stop dust and fumes. Then I spread quantities of newspaper all over my kitchen, just in case, and began the recipe.
The oils were no problem, but I was scared of that lye! Lye crystals added to water fizz vigorously and create a lot of heat and fumes, so this needs to be done in a well ventilated area, but they didn't eat the jug and escape, so I began to feel more confident.
The next step was to bring oils and lye water to the same temperature - then to pour the lye water very carefully into the oils without splashing. After that, it was just a question of beating with a stick blender until it began to 'trace' or thicken, pouring into moulds (I used recycled, one litre milk cartons) and snuggling it into blankets in a warm place so that it could saponify. This is the somewhat magical process by which oils and lye become lovely, rich soap.
After all my worries, this was a landmark experience. I now treat lye with respect, but I no longer wear full battle dress to make my soap. If you would like to try this yourself, I would suggest that you first watch
someone who has done it before. That way you will avoid the trauma of waiting for something to go wrong, and you will learn all kinds of tips and short cuts.
You may wonder why it is worth making your own soap when the stuff is so cheap and readily available. One reason is glycerine. Glycerine is a rich emollient that forms during the saponification process. It is valuable stuff, worth more than the soap that contains it, so that most large commercial manufacturers extract it during the process, add detergent instead, and sell the glycerine separately. Since the mid 1940's, commercial soap has been manufactured by the 'continuous process' method, preferred by the industry to the old 'kettle' method, because of speed, flexibility and costs.
Because soap is licenced under a different system from most cosmetics, the manufacturers are not required to disclose their ingredients, but most bars of soap on store shelves actually contain synthetic surfactants (detergents).
Your own homemade soap, on the other hand, contains natural glycerine, making it a kinder, more gentle creation. This is a very rewarding craft - primitive but elegant!


   Safe homemade soap is now possible for anyone who owns a blender. No more messing with thermometers to get the exact temperature, no more special pots, and it requires only minutes to make.   Because you are making your soap in smaller batches, you are free to experiment with different ingredients, and won’t be stuck with four or five pounds of soap that you are not too crazy about. This is a family-size recipe and you can be as versatile as you like.  
    However, the first time, you had better follow the instructions to a T. 
 2 ozs. Olive Oil (use the cheapest pommace you can find, not extra-virgin)
14 ozs. Solid vegetable shortening
7 ozs. Water (soft or distilled water is best – rain or melted snow is perfect)
2.2 ozs. Lye (sodium hydroxide)
1 teaspoon of your favourite essential oil (or you may prefer fragrance-free) 
A blender
A stainless steel or glass pot
A plastic or glass jug to process the lye
A plastic or wooden spoon
A clean 1 litre milk carton
A rubber scraper
Old newspapers
Rubber gloves
A bath towel
A friend to share with if possible 
1]. Wear rubber gloves. Measure lye carefully. Working in a well ventilated spot, away from cats or kids, add to frozen milk in a plastic jug and stir. The mix will get hot. Leave until it cools to about 100 degrees C. This mix is very alkaline, so if you splash some on your hands, run under cold water and neutralize with a dab of vinegar.
2]. Heat the oils just until the shortening melts and pour into your blender – it should be about 100 degrees, the same as the lye mix. Carefully pour milk/lye mix into oil in blender. Try not to splash it.        
 3]. Make sure that the blender is securely locked into position, put the cover on firmly, and cover with a big towel in case of accidental spills or spits.
 4]. Now process at the lowest speed on your blender. After about twenty seconds (count to twenty slowly), stop the blender, wait until the mixture finishes burping, and check to see if it has started to thicken. This is called tracing, because, when it is ready, you can give it a stir with your wooden spoon and there will be a little trail left in the mix. If it is not ready, keep processing (count to twelve/check) at short intervals until it reaches trace (the consistency of thin custard).If you wish to add essential oil or other ingredients, do it now and blend briefly. 
5]. Have your oven pre-heated to a very low temperature, about 100 degrees C. Pour the traced mix from your blender into a clean stainless steel or glass pot and place in the center of the oven. The mix should not fill more than a third of your pot, as it may expand. 
6]. Close the oven door but keep a close eye on your soap through the glass window. If it gets too hot it may decide to expand suddenly. Too small a pot can mean that it will come up like a tidal wave and flood your oven. Any obvious expansion means that you should reduce the heat even further. 
7]. After ten minutes with no problems, turn off the heat and let the soap sit quietly for an hour.The ‘cooked’ soap should be somewhat transparent with the consistency of apple sauce. Take it out of the oven and drop a small amount into cold water. If it sets with an opaque look, it is ready for the final stage. If not, put it back in the oven at the original temperature and retest after a few minutes. 
8]. Finally, give the mixture a thorough stirring to ensure that it is evenly blended  If you wish to add essential oil, stir it in as fast as you can at this point, as the soap will be starting to firm up. Pour the completed mix into a cardboard milk carton (I usually cut off the top part) and leave it to harden overnight. 
9]. Cut block into slices and dry for a few days.