What is soap? We all wash our hands and our bodies with it, but what is it? How does it work? How is it made?
Soap is the compound or end-product of the chemical reaction known as saponification, that is how soap gets its name. Saponification is the reaction between a strong base with a high pH, also know as lye or caustic soda, natural fats, and water. The soap itself is a combination of a salt and natural glycerin. Soap is a substance known as a surfactant. A surfactant dissolves in both water and fats and holds them both together along with the dirt or bacteria on your skin. When you rinse off the lather, you rinse off the soap along with anything that was on your skin. This is a very simplified version of the “washing with soap” action.
So, how are these three ingredients, lye, fats, and water, combined to make soap? First, the lye must be dissolved in water. In natural soapmaking, other liquids such as goat’s milk, tea, or beer can be used to dissolve the lye.
For vegetable based natural soap, the fats, which could be oils, butters, or a combination, need to be melted. Once the lye is dissolved and the fats melted, these two hot solutions are mixed together using a stick blender. This mixture will thicken, such as when you make a white sauce or cooked pudding. This stage of saponification is known as trace. In the cold process method, the scent, color, and botanicals are then added. The mixture is then poured into a mold and wrapped in an insulating blanket overnight. The next day the soap is cut into bars. The saponification process continues for about 6 weeks until the soap bars are cured. That means that all the lye is used up and no longer present. The soap is then ready to use or sell.
Here at Balsam Rose Soap Co., we do not use the cold process method. We use the hot process method. What is the difference and why do we use the hot process method for our natural soap that so wonderful for your skin? To give a good explanation, let’s go back to the initial steps of all soapmaking.
Saponification takes place when the lye, fats, and water are combined. Most bar soap does contains scent, color and perhaps botanicals such as flowers or roots to enhance the soap’s properties. Essential oils and botanicals can be denatured in the lye solution or evaporated or destroyed in heated solutions that are above certain temperatures. In the cold process method, all the ingredients are combined in the beginning of the process where the lye is active, and the solution is hot.
We believe that it is important for our soap bars to contain natural ingredients as close to how they occur in nature. We use the hot process method to make sure. This means that we cook the soap in a crockpot. We do not add the essential oils or botanicals until the saponification process is complete and there is no lye present. We then cool the soap to a safe temperature. After we test the soap for lye and temperature, we add the essential oils and botanicals to make sure that the aromatherapy scent and the soothing, anti-inflammatory characteristics are available for your skin.
Our batches are transferred to wooden soap molds overnight. The bars could be used the next day, but we choose to wait 1-2 weeks for the bars to harden so they last longer before we sell them.
Our motto is “Quality Matters”. Along with our choices of which high quality of the ingredients to use, the processes and guidelines we follow are also very important to keep these natural ingredients intact. This improves the overall quality of all our natural products for our customers.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of our soapmaking process. Look for future posts that delve deeper into all of our products.
Thanks for reading!