Beneficial and Delightful Soap for Skin, Senses & Spirit

Saturday, January 21, 2012

An Abbreviated Tutorial

Yesterday, I made a double batch of Vata Shea Ayurvedic soap (one of my best sellers).

I thought that I would also whip up a pure castile, which is one of the world's true luxury soaps - nothing but virgin olive oil, distilled water and sodium hydroxide.

The Vata went beautifully! It was a good soaping day! The Vata takes a little longer to trace and a bit more time to cure than soaps that do not have as many rich oils and butters. Vata has raw shea butter, jojoba, avocado, almond oils plus other goodies that make it so skin-loving.

Well - the Vata was nothing compared to the castile. 45 minutes to trace - and one year to fully cure.

Good, true soap making is a lot like wine .... it requires a chemist's mind, an artist's creativity and a perfumer's nose. Oh, yes, and patience.

For those of you who do not fully understand some of the soap terms (and why would you?) - here is a quick, no frills tutorial for cold process soap making:

Fats, oils and butters are carefully selected and weighed with precision according to your recipe. This mixture is heated to a specific temperature.

Sodium Hydroxide and cold distilled water are also weighed, then combined. This mixture of lye water heats up and then cools. When the lye water approximately reaches the same temp as the oils, both are combined, beat (stirred) continuously until the batter reaches "trace". 

"Trace" is a state of emulsification (or saponification). The common term 'trace' comes from the batter leaving marks, or "traces".

Colors, additives and fragrances may be added along the way. (You can see this can be tricky)

The lot gets poured into molds, covered and/or insulated (or maybe not!). 

Typically, after 24-48 hours, the soap can be unmolded, sliced and left to air dry for about 4 weeks (minimum). During this "curing" period, the water evaporates from the soap and the ph values change. This period cannot be rushed!

I love soap making because of the changes that naturally occur. Soap making always surprises me! 

And, yes, I have had to use the trash can for more than one spoiled batch! Seems that these bad soaping days occur mainly in summer.

Please do not try this at home unless you have help or know what you are doing! 


  1. What a great review of terms. Thansk for taking the time to do. We all get so busy soaping we forget the newbies of which I am sorta with only 15 months of soaping behind me. Nice job

  2. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Donna!

  3. Teresa, this is so soon as I opened your blog, I could smell beautiful incense! :-))

  4. Awww .... thank you, Swati!! How sweet! xox