How to Make French Soap

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Make French Soap
Make French Soap (Image: www.sxc.hu)

The difference between making a batch of basic soap and a batch of French soap is that French soap is milled. This means that the soap is put through a two-part cooking process, which creates a soap that is richer and more moisturizing than basic soap. French soap may take a little longer to create, but your skin will thank you.

Things You'll Need

  • 6 cups refrigerated water
  • 2 large pots
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • 14 oz. lye
  • 2 candy thermometers
  • 42 oz. olive oil
  • 64 oz. palm oil
  • 3 oz. cocoa butter
  • Wooden or plastic spoon
  • Rubber spatula
  • Soap tray
  • Cheese cloth
  • Butcher's paper
  • Vegetable grater
  • 7 oz. water
  • Small saucepan
  • 1 oz. cocoa butter
  • 1 oz. glycerin
  • 1 oz. jojoba oil
  • 1 oz. essential oil of lavender
  • Soap molds

Refrigerate 6 cups of water for 24 hours. If the water is very cold, it will prevent the lye from splashing back at you when you add it. Measure 41 oz. of the cold water and pour it into a large pot.

Put on your gloves and goggles. Very slowly and carefully, add 14 oz. of lye to the cold water. Using a wooden or plastic spoon, stir it gently until the lye is completely dissolved. The lye will cause the water to heat up very quickly. Place a candy thermometer on the pot and set it aside to cool. When the lye mixture reaches approximately 105 degrees F, begin to heat up your oils.

Combine 42 oz. olive oil, 64 oz. palm oil and 3 oz. cocoa butter in a large pot over low to medium heat. Place a candy thermometer on the pot. Stir the mixture with a wooden or plastic spoon as it melts. When the mixture reaches 100 degrees F, remove it from the heat and place the pot in the sink.

Put on your gloves and goggles. Slowly and carefully, pour the lye mixture into the oil mixture, constantly stirring with a wooden or plastic spoon. Continue to stir gently for 15 to 20 minutes.

Test for tracing. Run a rubber spatula over your mixture. If the indentation holds for a few seconds, then your soap is ready. If not, continue to stir for 15 more minutes, then test for tracing again. This could take up to 1 hour.

Pour the soap into a soap tray, cover it with a cheese cloth and allow it to set for 12 to 24 hours. Pop the soap out of the tray, wrap it in butcher's paper and allow it to cure for 2 to 4 weeks or until the soap has hardened enough to grate and go through the second cooking process.

Cover your work surface with butcher's paper. Break off chunks of your cured soap and grate it with a vegetable grater over the butcher's paper. If the soap still has moisture in it, wear your gloves to protect your skin from the lye.

Place the grated soap into a large pot. Add 7 oz. of water and stir to combine. Place the pot on the stove over low heat, stirring slowly and gently as the soap melts. If bubbles form stop stirring for a moment until they disappear. Melting the soap could take up to 1 hour.

Melt 1 oz. of cocoa butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add 1 oz. each of glycerin, jojoba oil and essential oil of lavender. Stir well until thoroughly and evenly combined.

Add the cocoa butter mixture to the melted soap. Stir gently until thoroughly and evenly combined.

Carefully pour your soap into soap molds. Run a rubber spatula over the top to even out the soap and remove spillage. When the soap has formed a "skin" on top, place the molds in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Invert your molds over butcher's paper to remove the soaps. Gently tap or twist the molds if the soaps won't come out, but be careful--the soaps will still be soft. Place the soaps in a cool, dark place and allow them to cure for 2 to 4 weeks, turning them once weekly. The soaps will be ready when you can press them with your finger and not leave an impression.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can find everything you need for soap making at your local craft store or on the Internet.
  • Be creative. Experiment with different scents and colors. Add them when the final batch of soap is completely melted.
  • Be patient. Your soap may not come out perfectly the first time. Just keep working at it.
  • When handling and using lye: Always wear gloves and goggles; do not breathe the fumes; do not allow the lye to make contact with your skin; do not use pots and utensils that you use to cook food--set aside special supplies for soap making; protect your countertops with newspapers.
  • Never use molds made out of untempered glass, plastic, china or any type of metal. It is safest to use molds specifically designed for soap making.

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