The Truth About Natural Soaps

February 1, 2017 |

Authentic soaps are produced by combining acids (animal or plant fats) with a base (Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide).  Once an acid is combined with a base, the solution is neutralized. Acids have a PH that is less than 7, while bases are higher than 7. Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) is typically used for making bar soaps, while potassium hydroxide (KOH) is used for making liquid soaps.  The soap-making process is relatively simple nowadays and the ingredients are readily available and easily accessible. Fats in the form of vegetable oils may be purchased locally or online, and sodium hydroxide (Lye), may also be purchased locally or online. In the old days and today, fats could be rendered from animals to make tallow or lard. There is no need for large factory equipment for manufacturing soap.  It can be done in your kitchen, but proper ventilation is crucial, especially when handling the alkali, Sodium Hydroxide. When combined with plain tap water, it heats up immediately and produces a fume that can make you feel dizzy.

The Soapmaking Process in a Nutshell

The soap-making process may involve one of two methods: cold process or hot process. The end results of both versions is a usable product, but one difference lies in the appearance of the final product. The bars produced from the cold process method may be smoother and more refined looking, while the hot process method may process a more rustic looking bar.  Another difference between the cold process and hot process method is time. The cold process method requires more because the soaps is molded during the tracing stage (consistency of cake batter), covered and set aside to go through the various stages of converting to soap (saponification). This process can take up to 3-4 weeks until it's safe to be used and it's determined that there are no traces of Sodium Hydroxide still linger in the soap. Alternately, the hot process method quickly goes through all the stages to saponification within an hour or two. The soaps produced using the hot process method may be used within hours, depending on how quickly it solidifies.