Before making your own soap you will need to make your own lye. To find out how read How to make soap – part 1. This method is a traditional African method for making soap.
WARNING: Lye is caustic and corrosive. This means is will burn your skin. You MUST wear protective gloves and glasses when working with lye.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
To make soap bars you will need the following equipment:
- A wooden box or metal tin to use as a soap mold
- A pan to heat oils
- A deep stainless steel pan
- A stove or fire to heat your pan
- Something to stir your soap with (should be stainless steel or glass if possible)
You will also need the following ingredients:
- Animal fat or vegetable oils. Coconut oil or shea butter or vegetable oil works well. You can also use a mix of oils.
- Lye. You can either use the unchanged lye you’ve created or lye mixed with some cooking salt. Unchanged lye made from potash will make a soft soap. Lye with cooking salt will create a hard soap bar.
- Salt if you want a hard bar of soap.
- Heat your oils in your pan until it is a warm smooth liquid. Set aside.
- Fill your deep stainless steel pan half full with your lye. Heat until it “simmers”. This means that there are very small bubbles but it is not violently boiling. USE PROTECTIVE GLOVES WHEN WORKING WITH LYE.
- Gradually add your oils to the simmering lye. Continue to add oil and stir until it is thick and creamy. It should be any colour between light brown and nearly black.
- If you want a hard bar of soap you could add cooking salt at this point. Do not add cooking salt if you have already added salt to your lye or if you want a soft soap.
- Continue to stir until you see bits of soap forming on the sides of the pan or spoon.
- Pour your soap into your mold.
- Leave soap to set in a cool dry place.
- Setting can take anything from days to weeks.
You can also add other ingredients to this basic soap recipe to change the smell and texture of the soap. Add these in step 4.
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
- Soap isn’t setting: It might not have been heated long enough. Try reheating the soap mix and putting it back in the mold.
- Oil and water are separating: Your lye probably isn’t strong enough. Make a new batch of lye and make sure it’s strong enough. It is strong enough if it can dissolve (disappear) a chicken feather.
- Soap is liquid or too soft: Try adding some cooking salt in step 4. The homemade lye is a chemical called potassium hydroxide or KOH. Cooking salt is a chemical called sodium chloride or NaCl. By adding NaCl the potassium ions (K+) are replaced by sodium ions (Na+). Sodium ions make the soap harder than potassium ions.
Don’t worry if this method doesn’t work first time. It may take practice to work out which oils and how much of each ingredient works best.
BENEFITS OF USING AFRICAN BLACK SOAP
African black soap has many uses. It can be better than many shop-bought soaps. Uses include:
- Skin. African black soap is very good for your skin. It will help prevent spots. If made with coconut oil or shea butter then it is also moisturising.
- Shampoo. Mixed with some water African black soap is a good shampoo. It will make your hair clean and healthy and shiny.
- Cleaning face and body. African black soap is a gentle soap that is good for your whole body and your face.
Once you’ve made a basic African black soap try different mixes to see what works best for you. You can add different ingredients at step 4 in this method to make soaps with different smells and textures.