Homestead Hack: All Natural Soap

Change is upon us. We can choose to see it as frightening and incapacitating, or we can embrace the opportunities and move forward with hope towards a more sustainable world ~ Wendy Priesnitz

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Two versions of homemade soap using different types of oil.

The Healthiest Products are Homemade

An important impetus for incorporating more homesteading skills and practices into our lifestyle is the realization of how many harmful and toxic ingredients abound in common household and personal care products. I have been making and using my own homemade deodorant for seven months now, and I could never go back to using the stuff they sell at the store. The quality of the product and its health benefits are so much higher when making it homemadeThe more I thought about, the more important homemade soap became to me. Our skin is the biggest and most absorbent organ, and it is about time that we collectively woke up to the poisonous lathers and lotions that we voluntarily spread on ourselves. Yes, it is easier to buy soap than to make it, but it is a helluva lot more healthy to make soap that you know does not have poisonous chemicals hiding in it.

Soap, toxic?

That can’t be true, soap cleans not corrupts what it comes in contact with, right? Isn’t it kind of sad that we are no longer shocked that poisonous chemicals are routinely added to products that are designed to come in contact with human skin? Similar to the toxic ingredients that are present in deodorant, chemicals found in soaps include:

1. Dioxane:  A known carcinogen. It is a chemical that is also toxic to many human organs, including the brain, the liver, and the kidneys.
2. Antibacterial Cleansers (Triclosan, Bensethonium Chloride): Alters hormone regulation in animals, might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs [and] might be harmful to the immune system. It is also known that triclosan can be absorbed through the skin.
3. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, can often be found in soaps, but so can chemicals that release formaldehyde (such as diazolidinyl urea, monosodium salt, and quaternium-15).
4. Parabens (methylparaben, polyparaben, ethylparaben, etc.): Parabens  increase risk of breast cancer and have also been shown to cause neurological problems.
5. Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS): SLS is perhaps the most common toxic ingredient found in soaps and shower gels. SLS is especially dangerous because of its ability to permeate skin very easily, which in turn makes it easier for other chemicals to permeate your skin.
6. PEG-6 (or PEG-8, or PEG-40, etc.): Used primarily as a detergent and foaming agent, PEG-6 is a very toxic ingredient often used in soaps. Some studies have shown that, like parabens, it can increase your chance of breast cancer. Some studies have also suggested that PEG-6 is also a kidney and skin toxin.

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Simple kitchen appliances and ingredients are all you need to make your own batch of healthy homestead soap.

Recipe for a Healthy Soap

Making homemade soap is not very complicated, but can be a little time intensive. The final product, however, makes the time and clean-up very worth it. Most of the materials that you need to make homestead soap can already be found in your kitchen. A digital scale may be the exception since it is not an everyday item, but it is a worthwhile investment that has many various uses for cooking, farming and homesteading. The ingredients can also be tweaked depending on preference. My first soap was made with 50% coconut oil and 50% olive oil. It resulted in a great bar of soap that resembles a castile soap. My second batch I experimented with incorporating some Shea butter and almond oil and it made the soap a harder white consistency which is also very nice. It is fun to mix up the recipe and try different versions of the healthy homemade soap!

The Materials:
  • A digital scale (important for making a soap that is not too harsh or too oily)
  • Thermometer
  • A crock pot set on low temperature
  • Glass jars and bowls
  • A hand-mixer or stick blender (I prefer the hand-mixer but both are fine)
  • A metal spoon (or 2)
  • Soap molds (These can be almost anything, from decorative molds, to bread pans or even an old cardboard box lined with parchment paper)
  • Gloves, long sleeves, and eye-wear
  • A large bottle of white vinegar for neutralizing the lye mixture on materials and counters.
The Ingredients:
  • 1 pound (16 ounces or 453.6 grams) coconut oil
  • 1 pound (16 ounces or 453.6 grams) olive oil
  • 0.303 pounds Lye (4.844 ounces or 137.339 grams)
  • 0.760 pounds water ( 12.16 ounces or 344.73 grams)
  • Up to 1 ounce of essential oils of choice (optional)
**A Note About Lye:
  • Lye (or Sodium Hydroxide) is extremely dangerous by itself, but is a necessary ingredient in making soap. It can cause skin damage, blindness (with eye contact) and death (if ingested). Lye in its pure form is something that can be very harmful and extreme caution should be used when using it in any way. When making soap, lye is mixed with water and then added to the oils where it causes a chemical reaction, known as saponification, the result of which is soap. After this chemical reaction takes place, the dangerous properties of the lye are neutralized and are no longer harmful.
The Process:

1.  Measure the desired oils in liquid form and pour into crock-pot.

2.  While oils are heating, carefully measure the lye and water separately. Pour the water into a quart size jar.

3.  Carefully take the containers with the water and the lye outside.  With gloves and eye protection, slowly add the lye to the water. DO NOT ADD THE WATER TO THE LYE (this is really important). Stir carefully with a metal spoon, making sure not to let the liquid come in contact with your body directly. As you stir, this will create a cloudy white mixture that gets really hot. Let this mixture set for about 25 minutes to cool. It should become clear and not cloudy when it has cooled.

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4.  When the oils in the crock pot have heated (to about 130 degrees F), slowly pour in the water and lye mixture and stir.

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5.  Quickly rinse the container used for the water and lye mixture out in the sink. I rinse well and then re-rinse with white vinegar to make sure all Lye has been neutralized.

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6.  Use the metal spoon to stir the lye/water mixture into the oil mixture in the crock pot. Once it is evenly mixed, use the hand mixer (or stick blender) to blend for about 10 minutes or until it is opaque and starting to thicken (this is the state referred to as “trace”).

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7.  Cover and keep on low heat to thicken. Set a timer for 15 minutes and check it every 15 minutes until it is ready. It will start to boil and bubble on the sides first. After about 35-55 minutes (depending on crock pot) it will thicken enough that the entire surface is bubbly and the sides have collapsed in.

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8.  At this point, turn the heat off and remove the crock. If you are going to use essential oils for scent, add them now. I added lavender.

9.  Quickly and carefully spoon into molds.

10.  Cover the molds with parchment paper and set in a cool, dry place. To speed this process up you can place in the refrigerator.

11.  After 24 hours, pop the soap out of the molds. It can be used right away, but it is preferable to let it set for a 2-3 weeks before slicing into bars so that the conditioning properties can fully develop. Letting the soap set results in a longer lasting bar of soap.

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The Soap Experiments

Making homemade soap is not only great for your health, it is also a lot of fun! After doing a couple batches, I am excited to experiment further with the recipe. I find myself smelling other natural soaps and trying to discern which oils they used and how they achieved certain scents. After picking sage yesterday, it dawned on me how excellent it would smell in a soap! Everyone has different preferences on style, scent and types of soap, so the best advice is to keep on experimenting!

All of life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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