Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Make Goats' Milk Soap

Making Milk Soap at home is easy, but it can be intimidating at first. Here is a recipe for a very basic, small batch to get you started. You need the following things to follow this recipe:

2 pounds Olive Oil
2 pounds Coconut Oil
9.5 oz lye
2 cups milk
2 stainless steel saucepans
thermometer for oils/milk
soap mold(s)
hand blender
rubber gloves
digital scale
Makes 12-20 bars


You start out by melting all four pounds of oils together, and keeping tabs with a candy, cheese, or soap thermometer. You want them melted from solid state (coconut oil is kind of like crisco in texture) and around 100-120 degrees. Set them aside once melted. The saucepan you use to melt these in should be stainless steel, but if it isn't that's not as big of a deal as the pot you use to activate your lye in the milk. You can heat up these oils in a plastic or glass container in your microwave as well.

Now, for the tricky part. ( I do this step outdoors, by the way.) Wear long sleeves, rubber gloves, and glasses if you have them. Take your 2 cups of cold milk and set it in a STAINLESS STEEL saucepan and slowly add you 6 oz of lye as you stir with a wooden or steel spoon. It will start to turn into a bright yellow, and that's okay! As it activates it heats up and fast. After a few moments of stirring I add my steel saucepan to an ice bath in a sink or washtub outside and get it to cool down to bathwater temps (around 100 degrees) before I add my melted oils to it.

Warning: Add lye to water/milk. Do NOT add milk to lye waiting in a steel pot. The reaction is more violent.

When both oil and milk are around 100 degrees add the oils to the milk and stir them together with your spoon if that's all you go, but I suggest using an immersion or some sort of hand blender. You need these two main ingredients well mixed until it starts "tracing" Tracing means that when there's some visible lines across the surface of the soap mixture, like if you ran your spoon through it you would see where it traveled. Kind of like how you know if your kids got into the pudding? Swiped a taste with their finger? That's tracing.

You want your soap the consistency of honey or pudding. Now it is ready to pour into molds! And you can use anything from a shoe box lined with wax paper, to handmade wooden molds, to pre-made soap molds. I bought my soap supplies here in Washington County from Betterbee in Greenwich. They sell gear online, but so does Caprine Supply and many others. Soapmakers out there? Can you leave comments of your favorite soap supply online shops? Some folks may need to order lye online if it is rare in their towns, but call your hardware stores first. They may have it! Hardware, feed stores, and other work-related businesses still carry lye.

Soap needs to set in molds for 24-48 hours and then popped out of the molds, or sliced into bars, and then set on cookie sheets or racks where they can cure for up to 3 weeks. Curing is a natural hardening/evaporating process.

Want to see a video? You can go to this page to see a demo by Brent Ridge, one of the Beekman Boys, and see it all go down, as well as get a detailed recipe. Click Here for that (requires flash)

Now, don't be discouraged if you don't have olive or coconut oils on hand. You can use all sorts of fats - from lard to palm oil to make soap at home. I found this amazing web site that lets you fill in all the parameters of your own supplies, volume, and such and it tells you how much lye to use and prints out a recipe for you. Amazing, this internet thing.

My last words of advice? If the idea of working with scary stuff like lye, or measuring out exact volumes isn't possible since you don't have a digital scale, then find a local soapmaker or mentor to watch and learn from. Or sign up for a class or workshop in your area. Soapmaking isn't violently dangerous but I have watched demonstrations melt pots at Greenhorn events and I myself once DESTROYED an aluminum pot at the farm in a sordid attempt. If you are just going for it, then have fun, but play safe. Use gloves and careful planning when using lye.

16 Comments:

Blogger DJ's Farmette said...

Thanks for the post! I've been researching this and I am nervous about the Lye. "crossing my fingers"

June 12, 2012 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger From the Country Farm said...

White vinegar should be readily available to counteract the caustic nature of lye if it should get on the skin etc. It's a terrible burn otherwise.

June 12, 2012 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Ashling said...

Have to admit, it's scared the heck out of me, but you make it sound a tad less intimidating...

June 12, 2012 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

I received an immersion blender many many years ago as a gift and I've never used it.

Apparently, I was waiting to make soap.

June 12, 2012 at 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Jennie said...

Jenna, Just curious - any eventual opportunity to purchase your goat soap? As an aside, I finished BarnHeart in one sitting, and starting on Made from Scratch.

June 12, 2012 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Thanks, Jenna! I didn't see where you said you were going to post the recipe and directions later. Sorry! And I was going to say also to keep some vinegar near by when you are working with the lye in case you get some on your skin.

So you add the EO at trace?

June 12, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Casie said...

Making soap can be very addicting, I started making it a last year. Instead of the Cold Process you described I like the Hot Process Crock Pot method, but that's just personal preference. With the hot process you can use the soap as soon as it's cooled, no need to wait for it to cure which is great for someone who wants instant gratification! I began making soap after reading the tutorials at chickensintheroad.com. Suzanne took the scariness out of handling lye and stepped through the process very carefully.

June 12, 2012 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Jenna, not to be rude or nitpicky, but where did you get the recipe you posted? When I put those values (2 lbs of coconut oil and 2 lbs of olive oil), I'm getting very different amounts of lye and milk than you put. Thesage lye calc says 16-24 oz of milk and 9.7 oz of lye. Soapcalc lye calculator also says 24 oz of liquid and 9.7 oz of lye.

And one tip, always, always, always calculate ingredients based on ounces (by weight, NOT volume) and not cups. This is why you need a digital scale that is accurate to the hundreths (or at the very least tenths) of an ounce. Having exact measurements is VERY important.

Also, if you're using milk to make soap, freezing the milk ahead of time and adding lye to the frozen blocks of milk works better so the sugars in the milk don't heat and burn. This is especially important if you wanted a lighter colored bar of soap.

June 12, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I also wanted to say I really recommend that any beginner reads a book on soap making, or at the very least really research it before diving in. It's really not as intimidating as it sounds, but there are a few basic rules that you really must follow to make soap safely (like never use aluminum anything when making soap). I really like the book Milk Soapmaking by Anne L. Watson. There are a few tricky details you'll need to know when using milk vs. other liquids like water.

June 12, 2012 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

So excited to see your soap posts and workshop. By sheer coincidence I just took a soapmaking class last week and have my first batch curing on a shelf. I am already looking forward to remdering lard and tallow to use in more homemade soaps in the next couple weeks. Your goat mold is awesome!

June 12, 2012 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

We only used 2 cups, so 16 oz of milk with 6.1-6.8 oz was what we used.

June 12, 2012 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Katied, do you think I should up it for this recipe? I can always change it. My own soap here is hardening slowly, maybe it should already be hard from yesterday? I'm new to milk soaps! usually do water/cold process (I call it cold press!)

June 12, 2012 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Jenna, if you want to use that amount of fat (4 lbs total), then put that amount in a lye calculator and the calculator will tell you how many ounces (by weight, not by volume-don't measure in cups or fluid ounces) of fluid and lye you'll need. If you only used 6 oz of lye per 4 lbs of fat, then your soap would probably be too soft since it's way superfatted. It may harden with time though, maybe even longer than the normal amount.

Most lye calculators are set up to superfat the soap, which means it'll contain 5% more fat than will normally react with the lye, just to be extra careful that every bit of lye is reacted so it won't leave any lye left in the soap once it's saponified.

June 12, 2012 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

good advice! I did use the calculator I linked to, Maybe I read the chart wrong?

I'll adjust the recipe, thanks!

June 12, 2012 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger DebH said...

Nice post, and I freeze that milk before to have it frozen when adding the lye slowly. The lye melts it fast but it also allows the lye to not tend to burn or change the color so dark. I always use the frozen milk and replace 2-4 oz of milk with tap water to allow for lye to start the melt process. I also use Goggles, Eye protection. Also, frozen milk adds a little more safety factor on the fumes from lye and liquid. I use Brambleberrys for my soap oils and essential oils. I use the LYE Guy for the lye...he is by far the most reasonable! There are a million different soap recipes out there and I like those with coconut oil as it adds the bubbles. Shea Butter is also a great one to add moisturizing. I have one particular recipe that is my tried and true, but has 4 different oils. I love soap making!

June 13, 2012 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Second alll of Katie's points. Always use a lye calculator or a tested recipe. You can get a digital scale pretty cheaply from Amazon, as well as a cheap stick blender. I get most of my mail order supplies from Brambleberry. Remember too that working with lye is no more dangerous than driving, using sharp knives, shooting a gun, etc. Use caution and follow the rules and you'll be fine!

June 14, 2012 at 11:09 AM  

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