Sweet almond oil creates a silky smooth, cold-process soap that suits all skin types. Sweet almond oil has almost no discernible scent and is an emollient-rich mid-weight oil that is used in many natural body care recipes. The following recipe produces a firm bath bar with a rich, creamy lather (thanks to the addition of coconut oil). Discover for yourself why sweet almond oil is a favorite among soap makers.
Things You'll Need
- 24 ounces sweet almond oil
- 7.5 ounces sodium hydroxide (100% lye)
- 24 ounces coconut oil
- 13 ounces cold water
- 4 ounces beeswax pellets or granules
- Pyrex measuring cup
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Stainless steel meat thermometer
- Wooden or plastic spoon
- Protective rubber gloves
- Long-sleeved shirt (optional for protection)
- Stainless steel stockpot
- Clean plastic trash bag or newspapers
- 1 rectangular flexible plastic pan (such as a new kitty litter tray)
- Digital scale
- Stick blender
- Small blanket or towel
Make Sweet Almond Oil Soap
Prepare your workspace by covering your counters with plastic or newspaper to prevent potential damage caused by stray lye particles. A clean plastic trash bag of any size is a quick and convenient way to cover your work area and allows for easy clean-up. Plan to work in a well ventilated area--preferably the kitchen--with easy access to a sink.
Measure out approximately 7 ounces of cold water into a glass Pyrex measuring cup. It is important that you use a container that can withstand rapid temperature changes, as the lye mixture will heat up quickly. Add ice cubes until the water level reaches approximately 13 ounces.
Put on safety gloves and a long-sleeved shirt to protect your hands and arms before you work with the lye. At your covered workspace, carefully weigh lye crystals in a glass or disposable plastic container. Accuracy in weighing the lye is important for successful soap. Measuring lye without an accurate scale will not produce a consistent or reliable bar soap; always rely on a digital scale for best results.
Place the jar of ice water inside your kitchen sink to protect you and your work space from being splashed with lye water as you continue through the next step.
With a wooden (or strong plastic) long-handled spoon, very slowly pour the lye crystals into your measured ice water and stir quickly. Remember to work in a ventilated area near a window, and do not breathe the fumes around the mixture. The temperature of the lye water will rise quickly. Continue to stir until all of the lye crystals are dissolved into the water. Place the Pyrex glass measuring cup near an open window, or in a safe location out of the way, so that the mixture can cool to approximately 105 degrees or lower. Do not leave the measuring glass on a countertop or in any location where it could be mistaken for something else. Lye is a dangerous chemical and must be kept out of reach of children and animals.
You will now begin weighing and melting your oils. At your covered work space weigh out your sweet almond oil, beeswax pellets and coconut oil. Place your stainless steel stockpot on the stove top over medium low heat and add the oils, allowing them to melt together. Stir occasionally. When the oils have melted and the beeswax is dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and allow mixture to cool to 105 degrees. This process can take up to several hours.
Prepare your soap mold. An ideal container is a (new) rectangular plastic cat litter pan, which can be found in any pet supply section at your local store. Spray your mold with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
When the oils reach 105 degrees, pour the cooled lye water slowly into the oil mixture, and use a stick blender to immediately begin pulsing the liquids together. Scrape down the sides often so that the raw soap blends evenly. Continue to pulse the stick blender to keep it from overheating, and process uniformly until you reach trace. You can recognize thick "trace" when the sweet almond oil soap mixture begins to resemble the texture of vanilla pudding. Note: If you want to add fragrant oils or colorants, add them before the soap reaches full trace.
Pour the raw soap into your prepared mold and carefully move it to a draft-free place where it can rest untouched for 12-24 hours. Carefully wrap your soap with a small blanket or towel to protect it from drafts and temperature changes. It works best to sit the mold directly onto the center of the blanket and then fold it gently over the top, padding it around the sides. Leave untouched. No peeking!
When your sweet almond oil soap has hardened overnight and is no longer warm to the touch, remove the soap from the mold onto a covered work surface. Measure your block of soap and calculate your bar sizes according to your preference. (Bars shown above were cut 2 inches by 3 inches.)
Smooth the edges of each soap bar with a potato peeler to create a softer finished look (optional).
Arrange the sweet almond oil soap bars 1/2-inch apart on a shelf lined with brown paper or in a clean cardboard box. Keep your soap away from sunlight and allow the bars to cure in a cool dry place for 3 to 4 weeks before using them.
Tips & Warnings
- Do not wrap or package the soaps until they are finished curing. They will shrink slightly as they dry, and must be free to breathe.
- Soap-making supplies are easy to find online, if supplies are not accessible locally.
- Small local hardware stores generally carry 100% lye.
- Coconut oil can be found in many grocery stores near the shortening and vegetable oils.
- Sweet almond oil is available at most health food stores.
- Remember not to make soap around children or animals. Lye can be very dangerous if not used properly and should never be left out.
- Do not adjust a soap recipe without first running your recipe through a lye calculator.
- Be certain that you use 100% lye (sodium hydroxide). Do not substitute.
- Do not use aluminum, cast iron or enamel pans. Use only stainless steel.
- The Soapmaker's Companion; Susan Miller Cavitch; 1997.
- Photo Credit All photos by Marie Greene (the author). All rights reserved.
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