The low-down on cold process soap

My foray into cold-processed soap creation has been fascinating.  There have been flops and successes, and now that I have the hang of it, I can see that I will be enjoying the creative outlet of soapmaking for years to come.

what is cold-processed soap?

All soap is the result of a chemical reaction called saponification that occurs between lye and a fat or oil (eg olive oil or coconut oil).  Cold-processed soap allows the lye to be neutralised without any outside sources of heat.  This is called “curing” and is quite a time-consuming process that allows for gradual saponification.  It can take 4-6 weeks for soap to become, well, soap. The lack of heat keeps the essential oils intact and in perfect condition to lather you in therapeutic goodness. It takes patience, but is well worth it.

Cold-processed soap is made by mixing sodium hydroxide (lye) with water and blending it with fatty oils.  Other goodies can be added such as essential oils, colorants, clays, herbs. They are then poured into moulds and sit for 24 hours to saponify (become soap). Once removed from the mould, they dry for an additional 24 hours before being cut into individual bars. This is when the real action begins.  Over the next 4-6 weeks all of the lye is used up to break down the oils into their cleansing chains, and water is slowly evaporated, leaving a gentle, firm bar of soap. 

What is a cleansing chain?

When you cold-process soap, the fatty acids of the oils are broken down by the lye. They then form a chain which, on one end loves water, and on another end, loves oil. You can see these chains in action while you’re lathering up. The oil-loving end grabs on to the dirt and grime, and the water-loving end hangs on to the water that rinses it all away.

On top of the oils necessary for soapmaking, I also plump up my soaps with extra butters and oils.  This is called “superfatting” and the surplus fats remain intact, providing lovely moisturising qualities along with cleansing. 

Pop a bar in your next order, I’d love to know what you think!

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