Vol.2, No.1

Soap making with olive oil

Even if you have never made soap before, you can make a simple olive oil soap.

Olive oil based castile soap
Photo Credit: Frank Tschakert
Olive oil has been used in soap making for thousands of years. It makes a very mild soap that is quite soothing to the skin. Even if you have never made soap before, you can make a simple olive oil soap.

Before you start making soap, you should gather your supplies. You will need a large pot, at least two gallons in size, made of stainless steel or enamel. Never use an aluminum pot for making soap, as the interaction of the aluminum with the lye used in soap making will cause hazardous fumes. You will also need a large heavy-duty heat-resistant plastic or glass container, holding at least one gallon. Other supplies are rubber gloves, goggles, and an apron, measuring cups and spoons, a hand mixer or stick blender, and a rubber spoon or spatula with which to stir the mixture. For the molds, you will need a glass or plastic dish measuring 13" by 9" by 3" deep, with a lid. You will also need a heavy blanket. If you wish to be more exacting in your soap making, you will also need a thermometer to test the temperature of the mixture and a postal scale to measure your ingredients, although the recipe in this article does not require a scale or thermometer.

Now make sure you have all your ingredients. You will need an 18-ouce can of lye. You may obtain this at any grocery store, or order it online. You may see it listed as Sodium Hydroxide online. You will also need 20 cups of olive oil. Don't use the extra virgin oil. Pure or pomace grade will make a better soap. You will need five cups of distilled water. Do not use tap water, as it has too many impurities.

Pour the water into the heat-resistant container. Stir in the lye very carefully using the rubber spoon. Be sure to wear gloves and goggles for this step. The lye mixture will get hot and will give off fumes. Get away from the container as soon as you have mixed it and leave it to cool. Be sure that no children or pets will be in the area.

After the lye mixture has cooled, pour the olive oil into the stainless steel pot and start to heat it on the stove. Very carefully pour the lye mixture into the pot, making sure not to spill any of it. Blend the lye mixture well, and then start to mix with the stick blender or hand mixer. You can also continue to mix by hand, but it would take a very long time to get the mixture to the right consistency. When the soap starts to have patches of opaqueness, you are at the trace stage. You are aiming for a consistency like pudding.

Once your mixture is to the right consistency, pour it into the mold. Put the lid on and wrap it in the blanket. The soap will heat off, then cool down and harden. After the soap has hardened, turn the soap out of the mold and cut it into bars. The soap should cure for four weeks, in a cool dry place.

You may wish to add essential oils to your soap to give it a pleasant and distinctive aroma. If you do add oils, add them at the trace stage. You may also use olive oil in combination with other ingredients such as coconut oil, palm oil, or soybean oil. Experiment with scents and other ingredients to come up with a distinctive soap of your own. You may find that you have a new favorite hobby.