DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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27 July 2011

Simple soap - four ingredients

I have been very busy lately making soap, while Hanno has been wrapping it and packaging it up to post all over Australia, the US and UK.  Thanks to everyone who placed an order for soap or something I made. It is helping us with our finances and makes us feel good to be earning money selling what we've made with our own hands. I was very pleased to receive the first re-order from someone who bought the soap and wanted more. It makes me feel good knowing that something that helps us live well here can help others too.


One of the things I needed to do when I started selling the soap was to simplify the process. I needed it to be simpler and quicker without losing the quality I expect and want to pass on to you. I also wanted a recipe that would use a full packet of *copha. I didn't want little pieces of copha floating around in our fridge. So I came up with a new recipe. It has only four ingredients - olive oil, coconut oil, rain water and caustic soda/lye. It took a while to get the mix right because I had to test all of them on myself, so although the simplifying process took a long time, it's easier now to make the soap. I'm trying to make a batch every couple of days.

*copha is solidified coconut oil which works well if you can't find liquid coconut oil, or if it's too expensive. You can buy copha in most Australian supermarkets in the butter section. It's currently $2.66 for the amount you'll need for this recipe.


I am happy to share the new recipe with you. Please be guided by all the warnings I've written about here and the use the same method for making the soap. Click on the link to go to the warnings and the post on how to make soap.

The new recipe is:
  1. 450 mls * rain water 
  2. 172 grams caustic soda/lye 
  3. 1000 grams olive oil 
  4. 250 grams copha or coconut oil 
* If you don't have rain water, collect enough tap water the day before you make the soap and leave it on the bench to sit. That will allow the chlorine in the water to evaporate off.

If you don't operate in mls and grams, there is an online conversion calculator here.

If you've never made soap before, it's a great skill to have and it will give you and your family excellent soap that you can use on everyone from baby to grandpa, including everyone with sensitive skin. I use it to wash my hair too. I've used it for a few years now and my hair is healthy and shiny. No more expensive plastic shampoos for me.  It's either my hand made soap or bicarb from now on.

Put simply, to make soap, you mix ingredients 1 and 2 together, give it a good mix and it will heat up without you putting it on the stove. You have to wait for it to cool down.  While it is doing that, you add ingredients 3 and 4 to a saucepan and heat it up. You wait for 1 and 2 to cool to 50C/112F and you wait for 3 and 4 to heat up to 50c/112F. When both mixtures are at the same temperature, you combine them and mix. I use a stab blender and it comes together nicely. You can also use a mixer or hand stir it. What ever you use has to be able to mix without it splashing everywhere. When you reach "trace", and that is explained in the above link, with a photo, it's done. You pour it into your shapes, cover it so it cools slowly, and leave it. The next day you can take the soap out of the moulds and let them sit to cure and harden. But please, if you intend to make soap, do it when the children are in bed and there are no dogs and cats under foot, and make sure you read the guidelines in the link.

If you've been meaning to give soapmaking a go, if you've been wanting to add another simple string to your bow, this might interest you. If you want feedback on how you're going or if you just want someone to see your soap, take photos and start a thread about it at the forum. I'll make sure I look out for any of those threads and help as much as I can. I'm sure the other soap makers there will as well. 

I wonder if this simplified recipe will encourage some new soap makers.  :- )

PS: I spent yesterday at the neighbourhood centre doing a fermentation workshop. We made up sourdough starter, vinegar and ginger beer and everyone went home fired up and enthusiastic about future fermenting. It was great to see. Oh, and one of the ladies from the last workshop arrived with a huge bag of Seville oranges for me! Sevilles are the traditional orange for marmalade but you can't buy them in the shops here now because people aren't making enough marmalade. That's on my list now.

As usual, I'm running behind a bit so if you're expecting an email from me, or some soap, I'll be back on them again today. Please be patient with me.

84 comments:

  1. I was just wondering if it had to be rain water. We are in a severe drought where we are at, and I don't know when I'll have another chance to collect rainwater, but would very much like to give this recipe a try. Thanks!

    Blessings,
    sara

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  2. Hi Sara, you can use tap water if that's all you have. Collect enough the day before you make the soap and leave it on the bench to sit. That will allow the chlorine in the water to evaporate off. I hope it goes well for you. :-)

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  3. Thanks for sharing this new soap recipe Rhonda. It's interesting to see your little soap factory there :-)

    I wonder how this new, simpler bar compares with the 'older' one (the one which contains rice bran oil as well as the olive oil and coconut oil) when you use it on your skin.

    Your soap-making tutorials have inspired me to have a go myself!

    Rgds, Anna

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  4. Thanks for this post Rhonda,I have made your recipe from before and we are still using that batch,I am going to give this a go as well,nice and simple with just 4 ingredients.Thankyou

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  5. i also make a simple soap with coconut oil which gives a good lather. my partner uses it as a shaving foam as well, loves it better than any commercial one. we also use it for shampoo. recently visitors left a bottle of shampoo behind and i used some, i could feel chemicals on my face/lips it was actually gross, so back to my lovely soaps. ive made beer and honey soap too which took a long time to cure and makes a hell of a mess with a orangey stain running down the shower wall lol.(nice to use though)

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  6. Good Morning Rhonda,
    I just wanted to say thankyou for sharing your simple soap making recipe.I recently bought two books written by Susan Miller Cavitch, The Natural Soap Book and The Soap Maker's Companion. Both very well written but I started to feel a little overwhelmed as I have never made soap before but would really love to give it a go.Since reading how you make your soap I now feel more confidant and hoping to start in the next few weeks,just one question, what type of scale would you recommend I buy? as I have been looking at the electric type at K-Mart and Big W but wasn't sure which would suite me best.Hope you have a lovely day :-)
    Regards
    Gabriella

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  7. Thanks Rhonda for the simpler recipe, I had been looking and looking for the palm oil in your other recipe and never could find it. I am looking forward to trying this recipe as soon as I get a scale so I can measure the ingredients.

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  8. What a good idea, to do a fermentation workshop in the community centre. I'd go to that if someone would do it around here -- I have tried making ginger beer twice (failed both times) and not succeeded at anything else. Would be so helpful to see it in action. As always, thanks Rhonda Jean!

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  9. What a timely post Rhonda. I have been thinking about making soap using your previous tutorial but I was wondering if it was possible to use just olive oil & coconut oil - both of which are easily available here. I was also wondering about rainwater/tapwater so this post answers all my questions. I can't wait to get started. Many thanks! Anne

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  10. Great post Rhonda...It feels good to finally reach a product that you're satisfied with when experimenting...and the soap you make is lovely....I too use copha, which is much cheaper than coconut oil around here...and easier to source too. love your moulds.

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  11. That's it, I'm giving it a go, thanks for being so generous with your skills and knowledge.

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  12. I made soap last year, just before Christmas from your recipe. After giving lots away as gifts, I still have plenty left. A friend gave some to her daughter who has excema and says her skin has never looked or felt better.

    Anyone who's thinking about it, do have a go, it's really easy and so satisfying. Thanks for sharing your recipe Rhonda
    Nanette

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  13. Hi Rhonda,

    I will respond to your musing "I wonder if this simplified recipe will encourage some new soap makers." with a "yes it will". I haven't been brave enough to try so far, but this sounds very good.
    Thank you for your wonderful blog and bless you and your family.
    Regards, Boonahgirl

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  14. Hello ladies!

    It's good to know that some new people will make the soap. Let us know how you get on.

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  15. Well, I'm still terribly intimidated, as I don't have a scale or know where to find the ingredients....can we add essential oils to add scents?

    I want to do this so bad!

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  16. This is very timely, just yesterday I decided that it was time for me to introduce something new in my journey. I had already planned to come back to you and have a go at soap, now you have made it even easier for me. I'll get the few things that I need when I'm out and tomorrow when the smalls are at school I'll give it a go.

    thanks

    Cheers Kate

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  17. Gabriella, we use a postal scale here, it's very accurate. You'll need a scale that is accurate and has lots of increments - so it increases in single grams or ounces if possible.

    random, I never add scents but if you do, add it after trace.

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  18. This post came in perfect timing. I've been looking for a simple recipe! I plan to follow your instructions except I will use goat milk instead of rain water. Will let you know how it comes out! THANKS!!!

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  19. I can't wait to give this a go, will definitely ensure there are no little people present when I do:) Thanks again Rhonda, for sharing your pearls of wisdom with us-I wonder how many people have started on the path to a simplified life after reading your blog? I think you would be astounded at how many you inspire:)
    Shelly

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  20. country girl, you can't substitute the water for goat's milk. It will scorch and you'll end up with brown soap. You'll need to find a recipe that starts off using milk.

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  21. Rhonda, how wonderful....Thank you for sharing your 4 ingredient for soap. I have made your other soap for 3 years now. Love it. Rice bran oil is hard to find here and pricy but I always felt it was worth the cost.
    I use your soap and only your soap on body, face and hair, as do all my family members. I send some to my sister too in Chicago, she says it is the only product that helps her sensitive skin.
    Thanks so much, my next batch will be the 4 ingredient
    soap. Let you know how it turns out.

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  22. Thank you Rhonda for the new recipe! My girlfriend Rachel and I have made soap twice. Once successfully, once not so much! We could not easily find rice bran oil, so we had tried out safflower oil in its place. It took forever to get to trace the first time.
    I am thrilled to try out the new recipe. It is so simple! Can't wait to call Rachel and set up a time to make soap for our families!
    Cheers, Amy

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  23. good luck, shelly!

    Thanks Eileen, I appreciate the feedback. I hope the new soap serves you just as well. I love it.

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  24. Thanks Rhonda, I too will take on this challenge. I have never made soap in my life but I can think of nothing more that I would like to do now.

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  25. Hi, I've been looking for simple soap'making recipes for a whilw now and couldn't find any until now... thank you so much for posting it, it's now on my to do list!

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  26. Hi I made goat milk soap with lard instead of oil. I had to use what I had on hand and in a farming community, everyone offered their lard! I was also given some used oil from making fries. One of the ladies at church said I could use that for regular lye soap to use for household cleaning. I'm having trouble buying lye in bulk locally. Another friend, who trades hay for milk, with me is in the cleaning business and he is checking into it with his supplier. It did take me close to three hours to stir the mixture to trace with a wooden spoon. I have all my friends scoping out the mission stores for a stick blender! Christmas gifts this year are hand crocheted wash clothes and a drawstring sack with soap inside!

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  27. oh well done Rhonda...I will be trying this today.

    In the past yr I've made your original recipe 7 times and everybody loves it. Your instructions are so clear and easy to follow and I urge all your readers to "have a go"

    Love, Sue
    xxx

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  28. Found your blog through Natural Suburbia and I have to say I love coming for a visit.

    My friend and I just made soap a few weeks back. You can see what we did here We used tallow made from beef fat we melted down. I love this soap and so does my family.

    Thank you for all that you share. I will be back to visit soon.

    Blessings, Elizabeth

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  29. Thanks Rhonda - I really want to add soap making to my skill set. I guess it is the next small step for us.

    Just wondering where you go looking for lye? Is it a pharmacy product or do you need to order it online:) Thanks

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  30. Rhonda you are a constant inspiration. Keep up the fantastic posts.
    Many thanks,
    Leigh

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  31. provincial homemaker, if you're in Australia, you'll find it in the supermarket, probably in the laundry aisle.

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  32. just another bit, ive made soap with coconut cream instead of water, i chilled it well first and filled the basin with icecubes to help keep the temperature down, it didnt scorch...but did get a little on the yellowish side, but when the soap cured it went white, i also then added dessicated coconut after trace to make a exfoliant soap, it was popular with friends. in nz we can get lye at bunnings which of course is an aussie chain.

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  33. Hello again Rhonda,
    Thankyou for letting me know what type of scale I need and about adding scents.I guess I can start scale shopping now :-),hope your having a lovely afternoon.
    Regards
    Gabriella

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  34. Thank you Gabriella. I'm helping my editor tidy up the final stages of the book and making cakes. It's been lovely so far.

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  35. Thanks Rhonda.
    I made the apple cider vinegar back in June and am still stirring it while leaving it in the hot water cupboard.How do I know when it is vinegar?
    Is the recipe for sour dough starter somewhere as I have wanted one for a while?
    Regards,
    Maree from New Zealand.

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  36. Maree, you have to taste it. If it tastes like vinegar, it's vinegar. I hope it hasn't been too hot in there. Do you know what the temp is in the cupboard?

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  37. Thank you so very much for this post! I have quite a few things for making soap but have never gone for it. Today I was thinking how amazing it would be if I could figure it out and finally do it.

    I even have books about it but just never gone through with anything...

    We are also really strapped for money which was another reason it came to mind. If I could make something worth selling and actually make some extra money for us, that would make me so happy!

    I think I am finally going to try! At least as soon as I can afford all the right ingredients.

    Thank you so much again!

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  38. Just what the soap maker in me ordered. Thank you :)

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  39. So, you've been bad busy, haven't you? I knew you'd have soap on backorder. Hope you enjoy the fire out of it. Best to you.

    brenda from arkansas

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  40. Thanks Rhonda.
    As it has been cold I don't think the hot water cupboard is too hot.It is not quite like vinegar-nearly.I thought it was supposed to be in a warm place?
    Is there a recipe for a sourdough starter anywhere?
    Maree.

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  41. I have made a batch today and found it even simpler with only one oil to weigh...and for the first time I realized I could set the saucepan on my scales and press "tare" which brought it back to zero grams. It was so easy just to pour in the 1,000 gms of olive oil and then add the copha and warm it up. I made it too warm so very carefully put the pan into a large sink of cold water to quickly reduce the heat...just take care not to get any extra water in the pan.

    Can't wait to cut the soap tomorrow and thanks again.
    Hugs

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  42. I am keen to give this a go now I have tried the soap. Unfortunately I dropped and broke my scales last week. I will get there.

    Donna

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  43. Rhonda... I've wanted to try soap for years and you've encouraged me but I live in the US and don't know how to convert your measurements. Do you?

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  44. I too am embarking on making a few things for sale to help offset the cost of livestock feed. I'm so glad things are going well for you on your new adventure.

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  45. Thank you Rhonda for putting the recipe in grams and not in cups. It's soooo much easier for me now. I am washing my clothes with your liquid soap and it's working very well!!!I gave the recipe to my french neighbor and she wants to try it too.
    Thank you so much, Gerry

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  46. I have made my own soap for years and love it! Your's looks lovely!

    Soap making is very addictive!

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  47. Thank you Rhonda for the new soap recipe, should it read 1000mls of olive oil, isnt liquid measure in mls.

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  48. I am planning on trying your recipe for this soap soon Rhonda, it's something I've always wanted to make, and your method seems quite simple.
    I was surprised to read about the copha! I have only ever used copha to make chocolate crackles or chocolate cherry ripe slice!!
    I'm very keen to give this ago now. I knew there was a reason why I kept an extra packet of this in the fridge! :)
    Glad your soap business is doing well. The roses are very pretty, they would make great gifts!

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  49. I was wondering about the measurement with the olive oil as well. I would have thought it easier with mls?

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  50. Robyn, measuring the ingredients for soap must be accurate. You might not get the right result if you don't weigh your ingredients. Water has a specific gravity of 1, which means that one gram of water is the same as one millilitre of water. However, oils are heavier than water and if you measured one litre of oil it would not be the same as 1000 grams of oil.

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  51. Just made a batch. Will unmould it tomorrow and see how it goes, compared to the usual recipe.

    Thanks very much for sharing your easier recipe!

    Angela

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  52. I tried to make olive oil soap and it was not a success, so I will try your recipe;
    I checked on internet and I can but the Copha in France, but it says it is in 'solid form with Lecithin added as an emulsifier.'
    Is this Ok to use?
    Sue

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  53. 50, yes, that is the one I use. You can also use 250grams of liquid coconut oil if you have that closer to you.

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  54. Hello, I've been lurking for a while and love your blog... I'd love to make my own soap at some point, but have problems using nut and coconut oils, so I was wondering whether/how feasible it would be to use *only* olive oil - could I substitute the amounts directly from your simplified recipe in this post, do you think, or would this affect the consistency?

    No rush on answering - I rarely have enough toddler-free time to attempt such things at present; I'm just storing up plans for when they start preschool in the autumn!

    Many thanks!

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  55. Rhonda, being new to soapmaking, I have been doing a lot of research of recipes and found one thing missing in all the information I have read! How to determine the size of the molds to use. Yesterday I came across a recipe that used cups as measurements and since I didn't yet have a scale and was anxious to try soapmaking, I made the recipe. It called for 1 cup olive oil, 1 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup lye and 1 cup rainwater. I figured I would need a mold that would hold a bit more than 3 cups and used a Tupperware container for the mold. The container held 4 cups and so the soaps came out a little thinner than I would have liked, but they are ok for my first try. I am just wondering if you could address how to determine what size your mold should be. I am having a hard time adjusting to using grams and mls, I just can't picture how much that is (I am in the USA). I did go get a scale today, so maybe once I start measuring things it will make more sense to me.

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  56. Terry, there is a conversion calculator in my post. Convert from grams to ounces. Can you please give me the link to that soap recipe. I'd like to check it out as it looks way off to me.

    Findiing suitable containers is part of the process. There are so many different types and sizes, it's up to you to choose what you want to use, make the soap and if you have any left over, use another small container. Next time you'll know how much it makes.

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  57. Rhonda I don't know where I got that recipe! I forgot to keep the link, I just wrote down the ingredients:) When I compared it to yours I see there is quite a lot more coconut oil than you used. But it set up nicely and I am curing it now. I did take a tiny sliver when I cut the bars and used it and it lathered very nice. I am wondering how hard it will become as it ages. Here is a picture of my bars at http://terrycorum.com/2011/07/first-attempt-at-soap/
    It didn't use much in the way of supplies so I figured I wouldn't loose much if it didn't work out.

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  58. M, many people make pure olive oil soap. You'll have to find a recipe and run it through a calculator to make sure it's correct, then go for it. Make sure you measure your ingredients. Soap making does not work using cup measurements.

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  59. Rhonda, you say copha is just solidified coconut oil. I've never seen or bought coconut oil that wasn't solid. I just bought a jar yesterday and it, too, is solid. I was under the impression that coconut oil is naturally a solid at room temperature and needs a little heat to melt. Is what I have (and have been using) "copha"? It just says "coconut oil" on the label. Can I use it the same way in this recipe that you are using copha?

    Tracy

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  60. I would really love to give this a go but every other site that i have looked at or video that i've watched, made things more confusing, until i found your site. thank you so much.

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  61. i have just tried but not sure it is going to work our the soap mixture has like foamed up... what did i do wrong

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  62. Hi
    How much soap does this recipe yield?

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  63. I made this soap twice and it turned out beautifully. the directions are so good that even a beginner like me had no trouble.

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  64. wow!!!!!! what a help!! ive been looking for a recipie like this for ages!! thanks a million

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  65. That's lovely!

    However, although lye (caustic soda) is used to make soap, once the soap has cured, there is no lye remaining, so it's not technically correct to say that cp soaps "contain" lye - it's only used to create the reaction that gives us the soap in the end product.

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    Replies
    1. I agree, saponification changes the lye. But lye is one of the ingredients of soap, there is no getting around that.

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  66. "copha is solidified coconut oil which works well if you can't find liquid coconut oil..."

    I'd never use copha in cp soaps - it's a hydrogenated form of coconut oil - and hydrogenation makes an oil one step away from transforming into plastic - a nasty process that uses nasty chemicals.

    As for "liquid coconut oil" - it's always going to be solid at temperatures below 25C - one only has to warm it up in a hot water bath.

    It's not expensive if you purchase directly from the manufacturer, like Nature Pacific (in Aus) - not sure of any others - but that's where I buy mine.

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    Replies
    1. Many soapmakers use copha in their soaps. When coconut oil is hydrogenated, it turns into a trans fat. I agree, unhealthy to eat. But we're not eating this and I doubt it causes any harm. If you have a link to disprove that please post it, I'd like to read it.

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  67. Can we only make half the soap by halfing the ingredients in the recipe ?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it's fine to halve the ingredients.

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  68. Thanks for that. There's an interesting soap making calculator here -

    http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp

    It suggests 475ml water and 172g lye - so pretty damn close!

    It's also interesting to see the 'quality', for eg it is a bit low in 'creaminess' and 'bubliness'. You can play around with it and adjust things. eg adding 200g of stearic and lauric acid would raise the values to within a good range. I think it's great.

    Thanks for the recipe.

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  69. Thank you so much! I have been searching for a soap recipe that I feel like trying, and I am glad that I came across yours. I will let you know how my first batch turns out.

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  70. Hi there,

    I recently tried your recipe, the process was really simple. i ensured the soda and oils were at 50*c before combining, however, the finished soap seems to have chrystallised shards throughout. could you please share any troubleshooting advice?

    Cheers, S

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    Replies
    1. I've never had this happen when I made this recipe up. Go over to the forum and ask there. There are a lot of soapmakers there and I'm sure one of them will know.

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    2. Hi S, it sounds like you have not mixed well enough to start with. The caustic soda must be stirred in until it is compelled dissolved and then slowly add your oils mixing really well. Hope this helps,

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  71. Hi Rhonda, this recipe is very similar to the one I have used for years.....and I too use copha. I had been selling to friends and co workers & am looking into selling it online, but have come across Aust regulations requiring insurance which seems very highly priced......apparently it all comes under cosmetics or something.......so I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on that before I go spending money on setting things up only to find govt problems??

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sharmayne, there are a few regulations regarding making soap to sell in Australia, it's not only insurance. You must be registered as a soap maker with the Aust. government. They register you as a chemist. That costs $400 a year, on top of that there is public liability insurance. It makes it difficult because you have to make about $700 to pay those costs, then the cost of your materials, advertising etc. before you start making a profit. And these costs are payable every year. A friend of mine who is a soap maker told me they do check at markets and shops to make sure the makers are registered. I wish I had better news, Sharmayne.

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  72. Hello! I just made my first batch of soap today! As it's cooling in the form I'm noticing a discoloration in the center, it appears to be browning in the center a little. I used no colorings or scents and I'm wondering what may be causing that? Thanks so much!

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    Replies
    1. It's gelling, Mandy, it's part of the process. It will disappear slowly. Nothing to worry about.

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  73. I am wondering if I made this and let it set, could I then use it like you would pour and melt?
    I am asking this as we have out school fair in November (I know it is a long way off, but I like to be organised!). My class has said that they would like to make soap (might I add that I work with special needs students). I thought that if I made this myself ahead of time, that we could then melt it and made smaller soaps and add colours and essential oils etc. Do you know how this would go?

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    Replies
    1. I've never done melt and put soap Ruby Red so I don't know. Go onto the forum and ask there. We have a lot of soap makers who I'm sure would give you the right info.

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    2. Thanks Rhonda, I will try that.

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