Bulk Soap Making at Home
Space and logistics are two things you will surely need when you go into bulk soap making at home. But before anything else, let’s take a detailed look the process itself of soap making.
There is an entire gamut of variations in this craft. They range from the ‘melt and pour’ shortcut to more self-reliant and traditional methods that include making your own lye.
Choice of which approaches to adopt will of course depend upon inclination and intentions of the maker, as well as availability of ingredients and equipment.
Soap is basically fatty acid salt, the outcome of mixing fat or oil with a caustic, alkaline base, using water as a catalyst. Lye, which is derived from wooden ash or soda, frequently serves as the base. So, the three basic ingredients needed when making soap are: 1) Lye or some other alkali, 2) animal fat or plant oil, and 3) water.
Bulk Soap Making Materials
Soap-making may be simply summed up as the boiling of a mixture of fat and lye. If lye is not ready-made, it is produced by the soap maker from wood ash. This caustic chemical compound, also knows as sodium hydroxide, is very strong stuff that should be handled with caution. It should be kept away from the reach of children at all times.
Basic equipment necessary for soap making would include vessels for holding and boiling liquid, an implement for stirring or mixing, some mold or receptacle for setting the freshly made soap, and cloths for filtering out impurities from the mix and for cleaning up. Our rough list of apparatus should look something like this:
- Mixing bowl, bucket, jar or pot
- Cast iron or stainless steel boiling pot
- Wooden spoons or sticks for stirring
- Molding trays
- Clean cloths or rags
You’ll be needing larger-sized and more heavy-duty ware for bulk soap making, and perhaps more than one of each kind. You can’t settle for just a couple of molding trays if you intend to make three hundred bars a day.
Don’t use tin and aluminum utensils as they easily corrode when they get into contact with lye. Enameled or granite ware will do for small quantity production, but for larger batches, an iron or stainless steel pot boiler should be used. Other items related to safety and the taking of measurements may also be needed in bulk soap making, such as eye protection gear, mitts or pot holders, clocks or timers, and measuring cups or spoons.
Rain or spring water is good for bulk soap making, but distilled or de-mineralized water will do as well. For purifying your tap water at home, the reverse osmosis type of filtration is recommended.
Tallow and lard, in that order, are best for soap making, but if you are a vegetarian, or are after some of the qualities of plant oil, you may want to use olive oil or coconut oil, both of which are “bubbly” in their own ways. Temperature of the fat or oil to be mixed should be a little over its melting point, which is 130˚ F for beef tallow, and 85˚ for pork lard and vegetable oil.
Successful Mixing in Bulk Soap Making
The trick for successful mixing is in the lye water-to-fat ratio. The rule of thumb is: 0.38 parts of lye water to one of fat, measured by weight. That would be equivalent to 16 ounces of fat for every 6 ounces of lye water. The maker may deviate from this ratio, depending on use intended for the soap. In general, more lye makes harder soap bars.
There is a proper sequence to adding ingredients in soap making. Generally speaking, the mix of fats or oil should be completed before adding lye water. Enhancement elements such as coloring, scents, superfatting oil, vitamin E, and abrasives should be mixed in right after “tracing,” or the consistency at which liquid soap is ready to pour into molds. At this point saponification (the process of becoming soap) is about 90% complete.
Hardening of the soap after pouring onto setting trays takes anywhere from a few hours to three days. Total time for curing is around two to four weeks.
Bulk Soap Making: Work and Storage Spaces
As mentioned earlier, you’ll be needing space to accommodate your growing bulk soap making enterprise. What started as a hobby you played around with inside the kitchen has to move out now to the yard or some outdoor area of your house. Keep in mind that large amounts of animal fat can make a mess of your surroundings.
And while your end product may be dainty and fragrant, its beginnings are not. Rancid fat, lye spills, and smoking pots are but some of the things you may have to put up with in bulk soap making. You’ll have your hands full maintaining cleanliness. Any semblance of orderliness will also be of great help to your inventory keeping.
Where to let your soaps harden and where to store them when they are finally wrapped are things you also have to consider. The storage space should be dry and not prone to moist conditions, as homemade soaps tend to attract moisture. You also ought to have ample room for storing your supplies. Lye should be stocked securely, away from the reach of children.