How REAL Soap is Made

August 15, 2012 8 Comments

How REAL Soap is Made

Lately I've been getting the question, "Is there such a thing as lye free soap?" The answer? Nope. All soap is made with the chemical reaction between a base and alkali. Now, you might say, "I don't want to wash with anything that has lye in it!" Well, me either. That's why I don't. That's why I would never expect my customers to. 

When the soap is cured, the base and alkali turns into a salt leaving no trace of lye (or sodium hydroxide) in the final bar. When someone says "Here is a recipe for lye-free soap..." the recipe calls for already made soap (such as glycerine soap) which has been made using lye.

Confused? Here is a fun, informative illustration about how REAL soap is made:


THE CAST OF CHARACTERS:

how real soap is made an illustration 1

Let's say you have a great big grassy field. On one side of the field

are lurking a bunch of hungry wolves. The middle of the field is filled

with soft, fluffy bunnies, and of course, the hungry wolves want to eat them.

 

So the wolves run into the field and start eating bunnies.

 

But an interesting thing happens. Every time a wolf eats five bunnies -

*Pop!* - he changes into an energetic busy Border Collie and some

peaceful, soothing sheep! So, if there had been 500 bunnies in the field to

begin with, and 100 hungry wolves, all the wolves would eat all the

bunnies and you'd be left with a field full of busy Border Collies and

soothing sheep but no more bunnies or wolves!

 

 

This is what happens when you pour the lye solution into the oils - the

 

lye "consumes" the oils and the resulting transformation produces

 

saponified oils (soap) and glycerine. This is the process called

"Saponification".

 

how real soap is made an illustration 2

 

 

And what if there had been only 450 bunnies in the field to begin with?

 

Well, then the 100 hungry wolves would have eaten all the bunnies and most

of them would be transformed into useful Border Collies and soothing Sheep.

But there would still also be 10 hungry wolves left over with no bunnies

left to eat, and you'd probably get bitten. Not good!

 

how real soap is made an illustration 3

 

 

This is why it is so important to make sure you have always calculated

 

and measured your recipe carefully. You don't want to end up with any

"leftover lye" when you're finished!

 

 

On the other hand, maybe you really like having a few soft, fluffy

 

bunnies around. So you make sure that there are five hundred

AND FIVE bunnies in the field before you let the 100 hungry wolves

in. NOW after all the wolves have eaten their share of bunnies

and been transformed into useful Border Collies and soothing Sheep

you will still have five soft, fluffy bunnies left over and NO hungry wolves.

 

 

This is "Superfatting". Superfatting is when you deliberately add more oil to

 

your recipe than the lye can consume. In addition to saponified oils and

 

glycerine, a superfatted soap will also contain some oils which have been

 

left unchanged by the saponification process and still have their original

properties.

 

So having leftover bunnies is a good thing, right? And if 5 leftover

bunnies is a good thing, then 10 leftover bunnies would be even better,

right? Or 15 leftover bunnies? Or more? The more leftover bunnies

the better, right?

 

how real soap is made an illustration 4

 

 

Well, maybe, and maybe not. If you have too MANY leftover bunnies,

 

they'll get in the way of the Border Collies who are trying to do their

 

job and distract them. Or the bunnies might eat all the grass in the

field and then the field is no good for sheep or anything else. So while

having leftover bunnies is certainly better than having leftover wolves,

you still need to know just how many leftover bunnies you can have

before you start getting too much of a good thing!

 

 

Remember this when you decide to superfat a soap recipe. A

 

superfatted recipe can give you a nice mild soap with the added bonus

of insurance against having any leftover lye. But if you have too much

"leftover oil", then your soap won't be a very useful soap any more!

 

What it all comes down to is you gotta know your bunnies!

 

how real soap is made an illustration 5

 Adapted from:

http://www.canis-art.com/soaping.htm

Text and Images ©2008 Canis Art - All Rights Reserved



8 Responses

Sonnal
Sonnal

July 29, 2019

This explanation is awesome :) Thanks so much for making it so simple and fun in learning!!

Marie Nadeau
Marie Nadeau

July 29, 2019

This is so, so, so, so fun. Thank you so much. I’m speak French and I was wondering if you accept that I translate this to put on my page and put a link to your page for credentials. Thank you so much for this fun comparison!!!! Marie

Marie Nadeau
Marie Nadeau

July 29, 2019

This is so, so, so, so fun. Thank you so much. I’m speak French and I was wondering if you accept that I translate this to put on my page and put a link to your page for credentials. Thank you so much for this fun comparison!!!! Marie

Khulthum Russell
Khulthum Russell

September 15, 2017

I’m all smiles after reading your illustration about your lurking lye hungry wolves and your soft, fluffy, super fat bunnies. I’ve been soaping for years (well, it feels like ages), and I’ve never come across such a delightful explanation of what goes on in soap. I would have appreciated this immensely when I first started soaping. Thank you for a wonderful read. I would be lovely if a lot of people shared and linked to this page.

WilliamHoff
WilliamHoff

May 19, 2016

Really appreciate you sharing this post.Really looking forward to read more. Cadoff

Lana
Lana

August 26, 2015

this is one of the best explanations I have ever seen. I am asking your permission to use this,giving you (of course) the credit,on my website? I fully understand if you say no, but it never hurts to ask. Thank you so much, Lana

JoAnne
JoAnne

March 09, 2015

Great “saponification” explanation.

Carolyn
Carolyn

September 19, 2014

Awesome illustration. Thank you !

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.