Making Soap for beginners: What they don’t tell you
September 19, 2019
In this post I will go straight to the point! What Youtubers do not tell you about the preparation of soap for beginners with the cold process. In Youtube I saw several tutorials about the production of soap and everyone made it look very simple and suitable for everyone. This is partially correct. Anyone can start making their own soap, buying the suggested ingredients and carrying out the recipe at home. But it is not emphasised much that it is required a chemical product that is highly corrosive, not only if it unfortunately ends up on our body but also if we breathe it, and on this point I will dwell better shortly.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. By clicking through them and making a purchase, I may receive a small commission WITHOUT any additional cost to you.
Making Soap is Chemistry
My scientific studies focused on chemistry have allowed me to work for years in laboratories. Every day I handled products that were not always healthy and safe. For this reason I had to attend seminars every year aimed to remember how much the awareness of the dangerousness of products and the immediate reaction to dangerous situations were among the most important factors for chemists.
Creating your own beauty products at home can be considered a pleasant hobby, but requiring chemical compounds (although of natural origin, they are still chemical products) demands us to pay more attention to every single ingredient that we will use.
With this introduction let’s return to soap.
What they don’t tell you
As I wrote in my previous post on How to make your own soap and basic cold process soap, the soap is nothing more than the result of a chemical reaction. It is one of those educational experiments that are carried out at the university to become aware about the saponification reaction and the theory behind it. Making soap at home is nothing more than performing a chemical reaction in our home without any security.
1. Working environment
We commonly see tutorials on how to make soap at home in kitchens. Wrong! In the kitchen we prepare our food for lunches and dinners, I would never prepare soap in the kitchen. During the preparation, drops of caustic soda solution could end up distractedly on the work table that could remain contaminated if not cleaned up well. Too dangerous! If you choose to produce your own soap at home, do it in a garage or in a room where there is no contact with food.
Thankfully, Youtubers are partially careful to this point. They always recommend wearing protective gloves, laboratory glasses and long-sleeved clothing and closed shoes. But I’ll add another thing. A mask! Wear a mask to protect yourself from any fumes released during the production of the caustic soda solution!!! THIS SHOULD BE MANDATORY! If you are still convinced to produce soap at home wear a protective mask!
3. Aired environment
This point is connected to the first two. Given the production of corrosive fumes from caustic soda, choose a room with large windows and open them throughout the process! If you still want to produce soap, open the windows! It will help to disperse the fumes as soon as possible!
4. Production of corrosive fumes
And here’s the thing! In none of the video tutorials on Youtube or other platforms or heard people mention it. I think it’s so important to point out this aspect of the process because it can be really dangerous! During the production of soap you must prepare a solution of caustic soda. Caustic soda, as the name also says, is extremely corrosive whether it is present as a powder, dispersed in water or in the form of fumes.
When we dissolve soda in water, heat develops and the water from room temperature reaches temperatures up to 80 C (176 F)! At high temperatures, corrosive fumes are generated which are highly harmful to the respiratory tract. For this reason, this phase must be highly controlled to prevent the temperature from rising dramatically.
I also saw some tutorials to remind me the whole process and evaluate the steps. It seemed simple to me and I thought that with my experience as a chemist I would certainly not have any problems. What I didn’t consider was the context. Yes, because I conducted the same reaction thousand times but in the laboratory. There I felt protected because the reaction was conducted behind a protective glass and the fumes were sucked in by a fume-hood. When I started preparing soap at home I realised that I no longer had these protections, finding myself at home handling highly corrosive products. Panic!
However, having optimised the procedure over the last months, trying to limit the risks as much as possible, I decided to share this post to explain what many people do not say but what I think it is essential that you know.
DON’T Do IT
The first mistake was not having a good organisation. I had everything on the work table. Oils, soda, water and many glass/plastic containers of different sizes. I started weighing the oils in a plastic container and once I did, I measured the soda. At this point I made my second mistake. Do not check the temperature of the soda solution. As mentioned above, when soda is dissolved in water (always pour soda into water and NEVER EVER the contrary) heat is released, the temperature of the water rises rapidly and corrosive fumes develop. Pouring the soda I found the solution immediately hot and in a short time I began to cough! Opening the windows helped me but by now I was afraid. To lower the temperature, I put the glass (I was using to melt the soda) in a bath of water and ice. After it, the temperature has decreased and I continued the preparation of the soap.
From this experience I learned that the best way to avoid problems is to try to control the temperature as much as possible. What I do is weigh the water including a few ice cubes. For example: if I need 60 mg (0.002 oz) of water I will weigh 2 ice cubes weighing i.e. 30mg (0.001 oz) and what remains will be distilled water. After pouring the soda, when I notice that the ice cubes are dissolved, I put the glass in a bath of water and ice to keep the solution of soda at a temperature that does not exceed 40C (104F). With this little trick I improved a critical point during the preparation of the soap.
If you intend to produce your own soap at home, follow these steps. Just have fun but with the awareness of what you are handling and mixing. 🙂
Otherwise with a few dollars you can buy it and save yourself all this eheheh (like this one below)