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Cold process soapmaking method (CP)
Details: (1) preparing to mix soap

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My personal preference is to work at medium to low starting temperatures, and to measure by weight all ingredients, including water, and only excluding the essential oils, which I measure in milliliters. Also, I use a stick blender, which cuts down enormously on stirring times. In detail, here is what I suggest you do:

  1. After choosing the recipe and calculating the amounts of the ingredients (oils/fats, caustic soda, water, fillers and fragrance), prepare your working space - i.e., put away things that might become contaminated and cover the surface with a layer of old newspaper.
  2. Collect all the equipment, the ingredients, and the containers and tools you will need for this batch of soap.
  3. Find a few old towels, or a blanket, or some heavy rags for insulating the moulds. If you're planning to fill the moulds to the brim, you'll also need a roll of baking paper (or plastic film, or some heavy duty plastic).
  4. Prepare the lye solution: measure the required amount of cold water in a heat resistant container. I use a heavy plastic (HDPE) jug, which has a fitting lid.
  5. Place this container in the sink, and fill the sink with enough water to reach the level of the water in your container or more. Just make sure the container doesn't float too much (it will get heavier when you add the caustic, anyway).
  6. Wear your protective clothing (gloves, mask etc.)
  7. Measure the required amount of caustic soda in a clean, dry container.
  8. Add the caustic soda to the water a little bit at a time, but not too slowly, and stirring continually with a long handled tool (I use a paint stirrer).
  9. Avoid breathing in the fumes. If you can, I suggest you mix your lye solution outside (wind at your back, if any ;-). Make sure there is a water tap close by, in case of accidents.
  10. Cover the container with the lye solution.
  11. Measure your oils or fats directly in your soap pot. I start with the solid oils/butters to avoid splashes.
  12. Place the soap pot on medium heat.
  13. While the oils/fats are melting and the lye is cooling down, assemble, measure and organise your extra ingredients.
  14. Line the mould (if you're using a log, slab or divider mold), or otherwise prepare your moulds (some types of plastic tray molds require greasing)
  15. Determine where to place the moulds, and place a towel or thick layer of newspaper under the moulds. Remember you will not move the moulds for the first 12 to 24 hours - so choose a spot where the soap can be left undisturbed!
  16. When the solid oils/fats are melted, turn the heat off under the soap pot and measure the temperature.
  17. As I mentioned, I like working at medium to low starting temperatures. I suggest you start getting ready to mix your soap when the oils are around 45º C / 110º F.
  18. If the fats/oils are warmer than this, just go and do something else while you wait - or you can place the soap pot in a sinkful of cold water to speed up the process.
  19. When the oils are at the desired temperature, check the temperature of the lye solution. Typically, this will be lower than the temperature of the oils - which is perfect!
  20. If the lye solution is still much warmer than the oils, I suggest you try and cool it down by adding more cold water to the sink.

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last update 24 sep 2011