Additional Craft Information:
Soap is a product we take for granted these days, and use in large quantities. Handmade soap on the other hand, is something that we have more or less forgotten about. An interesting practise that enthusiasts of homemade soap are now re-learning. So, let's have a brief look at the history of soap and how it is actually manufactured. Maybe you'll discover that it could make for and interesting hobby or small business for yourself.
DIY Craft Essential #1: Washi tape
DIY Craft Essential #2: Needle nose pliers
Like all things that have thousands of years of history, the true origins of soap making is shrouded in mystery and legends. There are countless stories of how fat dripping down in ash was discovered suitable for washing purposes, and how that over the years developed into the well known beauty product we know of today. It is believed that the basic process was discovered by the Babylonians almost 5000 years ago. But the credit for actually writing down the recipe usually is credited to the Romans.
Many European countries such as France, Italy and United Kindom have a long history of making handmade soap, eventually developing into several famous brands present to this day, such as Lush. The French brand Savon de Marseilles (literally soap from Marseilles) has been manufactured since 1370.
DIY Craft Essential #3: X-acto knife
DIY Craft Essential #4: Spray paint
The basics of making handmade soap is rather straightforward, but can become rather elaborate depending on which method you use. Due to chemicals involved there is also an element of danger involved.
All soap, hard soap you get in the form of a bar that is, is made by mixing fats with lye. Commercially it might be made from animal fats but most makers of the handmade variety will use vegetable fats such as olive oil. Through the process called saponification you get soap.
There is a choice between a hot and a cold method. As the name implies, the first mentioned one involves heating the mixture. This has the benefits of producing a soap that is ready to use more quickly and you may not need to measure out the amount of lye as exactly before getting started. Most homemade soap is made with the cold method however, as the hot method has other difficulties. For example, you need to be careful to add the lye to the fat – never the other way around – and stir carefully. Otherwise you may have something looking like a small explosion at your hands!
The hot method has generally been used by commercial makers of soap. Although today most larger manufacturers will make use of a method involving high pressure as well.
How to get started making your own
So as you see, handmade soap has a very rich history and you could very well make it in the comfort of your own home. However, as lye is indeed a dangerous chemical, you need to use the appropriate tools and safety gear such as rubber gloves and protective eye wear. Also, you need carefully study the entire process beforehand and follow the recipe you are using to a T. The reward can be truly magnificent soap that will be beneficial for the skin of your entire family.