Soap Making Process: An Overview

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the basic of soap making

Did you know that in soap making, the process of mixing lye solution and oil is technically called "saponification"? During this process, soap and glycerol are produced. Soap can actually be made using the boiled, semi-boiled or cold process; but of these three processes, the simplest method is the cold process. Just to give us an idea, let's take a look at these processes:

  • Boiled Process - since animal fat or tallow is in solid form, boiled process is used so that the high temperature will melt the fat in order to produce a perfect soap. The finished product called the "neat soap" is produced by removing glycerol through the application of salt. Unfortunately, only the multi-nationals and big companies have the capacity to use this method because of the huge capital requirement for this technology.
  • Semi-Boiled Process - under this method, temperature is kept moderate and glycerol is not removed. This is the method normally used in producing commercial or ordinary soaps, including transparent soaps.
  • Cold Process - this is the process used in making herbal bath soaps wherein the lye solution and oil are mixed continuously at room temperature to produce the desired texture. And just like in the semi-boiled process, glycerol is also incorporated in the soap. As I have already told you, this is the simplest method among the three processes of saponification and requirement for the equipment are also minimal.
After going through the different methods of saponification, let us now go over the 5 major steps involved in soap making:

  1. Lye Preparation - it has been said that the solution is the most crucial part in soap preparation and it is prepared by mixing 1kg. of caustic soda to 2.5kg. of water or 1:2.5 proportion. Be really careful with caustic soda because exceeding the required amount would definitely cause itchiness when using the soap. Lack of caustic soda, on the other hand, may result in very oily soap product. Hence, following the recommended proportion and mastering its preparation is of great importance in obtaining a good quality lye solution. (No need to worry because preparation of the lye solution will be discussed in detail in my succeeding post.)
  2. Soap Mixing - this involves the mixing of the fat blend, lye solution and additives. During this process, constant stirring is required, either manually or through the use of an electric mixer, to obtain the right texture.
  3. Cutting - the hardened soap may now be cut into bars or into whatever shape you desire.
  4. Cleaning - unnecessary curves and rough edges of soap bars has to be removed using a sharp knife or a cutter.
  5. Packaging - finished products now has to be packed and be made ready for the marketing.
At this point, let us look at the basic equipment and utensils needed in soap making:

  • Weighing Scale/Beam Balance - used to weigh the ingredients and raw materials
  • Hydrometer - used to check or determine the specific density of the lye solution to be prepared or used.
  • Mixer (electric/manual)
  • Molder or soap tray - this is where the soap mixture is poured and allowed to harden
  • Pails/Plastic Containers - used as receptacles for the raw materials or used as mixing tanks
  • Cutter - used to cut the hardened soap into desired sizes
Soap making looks quite simple, huh? *wink*

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