A year or so ago, I stumbled onto some information about sodium laurel sulfates while I was researching homemade laundry detergent. The history of the products we use every day that are sitting on the store shelves, in our laundry rooms, kitchens and bathrooms never ceases to baffle me. This information changed the whole way I look at soap.
Soap is such a simple thing. It is a reaction between a fatty acid (oil) and an alkali, metal hydroxide (potassium or sodium hydroxide). When loosened with water, soap attracts dirt and allows it to be washed away. The earliest use of soap that has been discovered dates back to 2800 BC in the days of Babylon. In those days, animal fats were mixed with wood ash to obtain saponification (i.e. make soap). This soap was a little more harsh, but did the job. Later on, vegetable fats were substituted in for the animal fats, and so began the production of what we call castile soap.
Pure castile soap, usually made with olive oil, was used by the masses until it was discovered that the glycerin could be extracted from soap to produce more lucrative products like dynamite and body lotions. Glycerin is the "moisturizer" in soap. Yes, you just read that right...they take the moisturizer out, so the soap dries out your skin, and, then, they sell you another product that they put the moisturizer back into so that you can get rid of the dry skin. Funny, huh??
Even better...glycerin is more lucrative if sold to industries outside the cosmetics industry, so they figured out that they can use mineral oil instead of the glycerin as a moisturizer. Mineral oil is derived from petroleum and the World Health Organization classifies it as a Group 1 carcinogen to humans.
In addition to mineral oils, commercial soaps use chemicals called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) to increase the sudsing in their products. These chemicals were introduced in 1942, right around the time that more households started using city water. These additives (degreasers) helped diminish oils that were left over from this new castile soap and treated water combination resulting in a "cleaner" feel. This "cleaner feel" was marketed to be related to the sudsing. That is why we feel the need to see lots of suds to think we're getting clean--it was all a marketing ploy put in place by commercial soap producers that has now stuck with us.
SLES, SLS, ALS are proven skin irritants. They are produced with carcingenic chemicals like nitrate. They are used widely by science as a penetration enhancer, i.e. their molecules are so small, they are able to pass through your cells taking other toxins with them. Their manufacturing process is highly polluting emitting cancerous fumes into the air. They are toxic to fish and other marine animals while they pollute our water systems....shall I go on??
This, my friends is why I am that crazy lady that makes her own soap...plus, it's fun! I could buy it, but I'm cheap, so I make it myself. Do I like it?? Yes, yes, yes! My dry skin has improved tremendously and those occasional adult acne breakouts have almost completely stopped. Crazy!
So, on this dreary, rainy day, what better fun to have than whipping up a quick batch of soap!
BASIC CASTILE SOAP RECIPE
19 oz distilled water
7.1 oz sodium hydroxide
25.5 oz palm oil
25.5 oz coconut oil
7 tsp essential oils (optional)
IMPORTANT: Sodium hydroxide is dangerous if handled incorrectly. Wear gloves and goggles when making soap to avoid burns. Once saponified, it is no longer hazardous.
You will need a soap mold. I just use a wood box the hubby put together for me. It needs to be 15" x 7" and at least 5" high. Line your mold with wax paper (I used saran wrap here...not highly suggested, but didn't have wax paper)
Weigh out sodium hydroxide. Set Aside.
Weigh out water. SLOWLY add sodium hydroxide to the water. Mix well.
The fumes may get a little strong, so step out of the room if you need to and come back to finish mixing. The reaction between the water and sodium hydroxide creates heat, so set the bowl aside to let it cool.
While wating for the the sodium hydroxide mixture to cool. Weigh out your oils. Heat them until they become liquid. Allow them to cool as well.
Both the oils and the sodium hydroxide should cool to 80-100 degrees.
When they both reach tempature, while stirring, SLOWLY pour the sodium hydroxide into the oils. I use my kitchen stand mixer with the paddle attachment for this. Start on the slowest speed. Let it mix, as it thickens, increase the speed.
The soap will reach what they call a "trace". This is when you can drizzle some of the mixture over itself and it leaves a trail. Kind of a cake mix batter consistency. When you get to this point (this could take 30 minutes or more of mixing), you can stop mixing. Add any smelly goods here (7 teaspoons of essential oils maximum). Mix it in for another 30 seconds.
Note: I don't get all fancy with my soap...it's just for my family. Don't stress yourself out trying to make it smell or look perfect.
Now, pour the soap into the mold. Cover the mold to keep the soap from being exposed to the air. I just through a small piece of plywood over it. Let that cure for 24 hours. Pop the soap out, cut it into bars. Now, put the bars in a cool, dry place to finish curing for minimum 2 weeks.
Easy as pie! Easier to me, because I can not bake a pie the right way to save my life!! :)
Happy Soap Making!!!