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I totally get it: You’ve never made soap before. You’re not sure if this is for you. You just want to dip your toes in without investing a ton in new equipment and ingredients. This is why I’ve compiled only the absolute essential things that you’ll need for your very first batch of soap.
You don't want to make the same mistake as me and buy materials that you don't end up using.Next week I’ll walk you through step-by-step on how to do it. But for now let’s gather up everything we’ll need.
First things first: Safety gear
I don’t kid around when it comes to handling lye. No it doesn’t have to be as scary as some make it out to be, but safety measures are an absolute must. I suggest you read this post on lye safety.
Here’s what you need:
- Gloves (you can use regular kitchen gloves, I like these I find them easier to work in)
- Long sleeve shirt or lab coat
- Dust Mask (optional)
Important: if you’re using any tools from your kitchen you CAN’T use them again for food prep or eating. Whatever got in touch with lye, soap or essential oils has to become your designated soapy tool, you want to avoid any soap residue seeping into your food.
- Scale: It’s super important to have an accurate scale. You have to be able to measure your ingredients precisely otherwise you might end up with soap that has too much lye in it (not good). I prefer to measure my ingredients in grams, because well I’m European 😉 but also because it’s more accurate that way. If you prefer to measure in ounces make sure your scale has the option to measure in 0.01 Oz increments. Personally I have this big ole scale, but something like this would be totally fine
- Mold: you will need something to pour your soap batter in once it’s all mixed up. This could be as simple as a bunch of empty yogurt containers or a small cardboard box lined with freezer paper. We’ll actually use an empty Pringles can when we make soap next week. Single cavity molds like this one are great for beginners too. They can give you a nice design without having to worry about having to cut bars.
- Containers to measure and mix your lye: You can use an empty yoghurt container to measure your lye. And a plastic take out container for your water and for mixing. You want to avoid aluminum since it will react with the lye. Glass is not recommended either since the water lye solution becomes very hot initially and may cause the glass to crack.
- Another container to mix and melt your oils: I like to melt my oils on the stove top, so I “sacrificed” an old saucepan. You can melt oils in the microwave on 20 second bursts, that’s fine too. For that you will need a heat resistant plastic bowl. I use these very cheap measuring containers I bought at IKEA.
- Stick blender: buy a very basic one, like this one.
You can make soap without a stick blender but it will take hours of constant stirring. Nobody has time for that 😉
- Thermometer: You’ll need a thermometer to check the temperature of your oils and lye solution. I splurged on an infrared thermometer which is easy to use and less messy. But you can easily get away with using a very simple one like this.
As a matter of fact you might find that as you have more experience and get a better feel for trace (different levels of saponification) that you don’t even need to use a thermometer anymore.
- Spatula: to scrape the bottom of your soap pot and texture the top. Use one that's made of plastic/silicone
- Lye: comes in beads or flakes, both ore good to use. Most hardware stores sell lye to drain pipes. Check the expiration date, lye can go bad and won’t work. I buy mine here.
- Oils: I use vegetable oils but you can also use tallow (beef), lard or other animal fats. The more common and least expensive ones are coconut oil, palm oil, rice bran oil, pomace (olive oil) and castor oil. Although you can buy them at your local grocery store, I wouldn’t (except for coconut oil maybe). You run the chance of buying oils that are rancid or past their prime. Buy the smallest amount you can get, you don’t want to end up sitting on a tub of castor oil.
- Distilled water: you can’t use tap water for soap making it contains minerals and impurities that will give you ill results. Most supermarkets carry it.
- Essential Oils or Fragrance Oils (optional)
You can leave your soap unscented if you wish, that’s totally lovely too. It’s super important that you buy from a reputable source. Cheap, low quality essential oils often times are adulterated or diluted. Stay clear of well-known network marketing essential oil distributors, your soap will end up costing you a fortune (for a pound of soap you need about 0.7 oz. of essential oils)
- A sharp knife to cut your soap
- Paper towels for spills and clean up
If you’re following me along for next week’s soap tutorial here is exactly what you’ll need:
- Dust Mask (otional)
- Old long sleeve shirt
- One empty yoghurt cup
- One plastic take out container
- Medium sauce pan or plastic bowl for melting oils
- Stick blender
- One Spatula
- One thermometer
- One empty Pringles Chips box
- Freezer Paper to line
- Lemongrass essential oil
- Olive oil (Pomace)
- Shea butter
- Coconut oil
- Castor oil
- Sharp knife
- Paper towels
- Old newspapers or freezer paper to protect your work area
- Plastic spoon for mixing lye
This is sooo exciting. I can’t wait for you to make your first batch of soap 🙂
Until next time. Happy Tinkering!