At Shepherd's Harvest, we believe the key to living a sustainable life is health--physical, mental, and spiritual. The purpose of this blog is to introduce the reader to the sustainable life through organic recipes, gardening tips, cleaning and organizing methods, Spiritual help, and anything else which may encourage you in your journey to wholeness--body, soul, and spirit!
As a daughter, granddaughter (still...at my age!), wife, mom, grammy, lover of God and life, it has become my mission in life to encourage others. The purpose of this blog is to introduce the reader to the sustainable life through organic recipes, gardening tips, cleaning and organizing methods, Spiritual help, and anything else which may encourage you in your journey to wholeness--body, soul, and spirit.
Finished soap with the soap mold, hand made by a friend.
A while back, I started getting together with an artist
friend and making goat’s milk soap. She
has goats, and I had been wanting to make soap for a while, and it was a
wonderful learning experience! Since I
picked up the last of our soap, and some molds so I can make more, it reminded
me that it is a great process to familiarize oneself with, so I wanted to tell
you about it.
We used a process which is centuries old, called “cold
process” to make the soap. It sounded a
little scary at first, because it involves a chemical called sodium hydroxide,
also known as lye. Lye causes severe
burns if it comes in contact with skin…definitely NOT nice stuff! BUT…necessary for a process called
saponification…that is they process by which soap hardens into a substance
which lathers when you rub it on your skin or a washcloth with water. Lye originated when folks noticed a yellowish
substance which formed when ash came into contact with water, it sudsed and hardened
a bit when dry. Old-fashioned soap-making
methods used water and a lot of ash to make lye, but the amount of sodium
hydroxide was imprecise and sometimes the soap burned the skin or would not
saponify properly. Now, pure lye is
available, so it can be measured very precisely and the exact amount needed can
be used. This prevents burning of the
skin, and ensures exactly the amount needed is used for saponification.
OK, now that we have spoken a bit about the chemistry of
soap, what else is used? Oil, oil, and
more oil! Oils which are solid at room
temperature are melted and mixed, and other oils are liquid at room
temperature. Different oils contain
properties which have varying effects on the skin and soap properties. Olive oil and shea butter are great skin
softeners, palm oil helps soap last longer (makes it harder), and a small
amount of tea tree oil can help with healing from skin conditions and ward off
mosquitoes. Other oils have different
properties for softening or conditioning skin, hardening or softening soap, and
treating various skin conditioners…the right blend is a matter of economics
(some are expensive), practicality (what is available), and personal needs and
Two more ingredients remain for cold process soap—liquid and
The liquid is used to dissolve the lye, and it is absolutely
critical that it be right—otherwise there can be an explosion and chemical
burns. Powdered or chunk lye is added to
liquid—not the other way around.
Ever. The liquid can be water,
but we use goat’s milk. Often goat’s
milk soap is dark brown—ours is sort of a light caramel color…this is because
we keep the goat’s milk nearly frozen so that it does not burn when the lye is
added. The chemical reaction heats the
liquid—so gloves, goggles, and long sleeves are used.
Next, the mixed and measured oils are added to the lye
mixture and mixed…and mixed…and mixed…until the whole thing looks like pudding.
Then fragrance is added…my favorite part! We have found some wonderful (and strange)
fragrances for soaps! Sage Lemongrass
and Christmas Spice are my favorites.
Once we were sent a “rice” scent as a free sample…it was weird! Flowery scents are not my favorites, but some
folks like them, and I just found a scent called “energy” that I love!
Finally, the soap mixture is poured into a mold, covered,
and left until it is just hard enough to slice into bars. Once it is sliced, it must cure for at
approximately two weeks.
Some soap with our original packaging, at Christmas time!
Interested in making soap?
Later today or tomorrow I will post further information, with recipes
and suppliers…stay tuned!