Tallow + Lye + Water = Soap. Anyone who knows a bit about soap making would be aware of this combination. But not all know the details and nuances involved. Only a few understand that making soap demands patience and skill. From the ancient times, fat, ash and water are the key ingredients used in the preparation of soaps.
A legend has it that soap was actually “discovered” after heavy rain saturated in the slopes of Mount Sapo, an ancient site of many animal sacrifices, where rain, ash and fat had mixed to form soap. It is said that the soap thus formed drained down from the slopes on the banks of the Tiber river where washerwomen were laundering clothes. The mixture that flowed cleaned the clothes immediately much to the surprise of the women. Then was born, the cleansing agent call soap.
Soap making precautions: Soap making is not as easy as it sounds. You can lose track of the process or hurt yourself if you are not careful of what is to be done. This is especially true when it comes to making soaps by mixing tallow and lye. The following precautions may help if you are new to soap making:
1. Read instructions for the soap recipe to make sure you have the required ingredients. Get ready with all the gear you require.
2. Arrange in order of use the ingredients and the equipments you require. You would definitely need the following – two heavy plastic pitchers, one big stainless steel container or pot, safety goggles, neoprene or rubber gloves, heavy apron, stick blender (to blend the mixture), soap molds, gallons of water, heating or cooling equipment, wooden spoon, weighing scales, tallow, lye crystals and fragrances or other fats (if required).
3. Read all the safety precautions and familiarize yourself with the tallow soap recipe before you start anything. This would avoid wasting precious time in looking up for instructions over and over again.
Soap making process: You need to prepare soap with the utmost precaution. This is because the lye used in soap making has caustic properties which can damage your skin or your house. Here’s a step-by-step procedure of how to make soap:
4. Use diet scales to weight both the empty pitchers. Then, add water in one of the pitchers and weigh it. Make sure your water is very cold, because mixing it with lye may cause a sudden rise in temperature. This can be avoided if the water is cold.
5. Put on your rubber gloves and goggles and weigh the lye using the diet scales. Then, go out of the house and slowly pour the lye into the water pitcher. While doing so, stir the water to keep the lye from solidifying. Cover yourself completely during this step as lye can be harmful. You can use a wooden spoon to mix lye with water. Don’t pour everything all of a sudden. Pour gradually, as spilling may cause serious effects in the place around.
6. Take tallow and weigh it with diet scales. Heat it to get the desired temperature. When both the lye water and the tallow are in the desired temperature, pour the lye into melted tallow.
7. Continue to stir to avoid splashing. To ensure total absorption of the lye into the fat, you should keep stirring and for about 15 to 20 minutes non-stop. As the mixture thickens and becomes opaque, you can see “traces” of the saponification process. However, there can also be a false trace sometimes. It may even take hours to find real traces, depending upon the ingredients you use. Wait with patience for your soap to form.
8. Once the soap reaches the trace stage, you can slowly add fragrance or other fats if required. Colorings, if needed, should be added at this stage. Allow the mixture to cool and then, later cut them into bars for use.