Q.--What is lye?
Frequently Asked Questions About Handmade Soaps
A.--Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a very caustic substance commonly used to clear out drains from your sink, bathtub, etc. But it is crucial for making quality soaps, and when used in soapmaking, it disappears! Read on....
Q.--Do you really need to use Lye for soapmaking?
A.--You cannot make true soap without using lye. And here is just one of the magnificent things that happens when the lye mixes with the oils to make soap (this is called saponification). During the soapmaking process, a wonderful change takes place....glycerin is made! And once the saponification process is finished and you have soap, THE LYE NO LONGER EXISTS! This is where glycerin comes from, and just one of the many things that make homemade cold process soap so wonderful. Without the lye, you don't get the glycerin, or true soap.
Q.--Why do most store soaps make me itch and give me dry skin?
A.--A lot of companies will extract the glycerin at a certain stage of the soapmaking process. It is then sold separately or added to other products. They are left with a "soap" that is something akin to detergent. As if that isn't enough, a lot of them will even add harsh additives and fillers. This is usually covered up with heavy perfumes and dyes.
Some of the "soaps" selling out there aren't even real soaps. They are usually called beauty bars or something to that effect. Read the ingredient list on some of their packages next time you are at the store. Or maybe you have some right in your own bathroom that you can look at now.....
Q.--What does "Cold Process" mean?
A.--Basically it means that when you use this method, you don't add any heat to the mixture of lye and oils once you put the two together.....it makes it's own heat once combined.
To make a batch of cold process soap, you must first melt down the fats and oils you are using. You must also mix the lye (sodium hydroxide) with water and that mixture becomes very hot. The temperatures of both mixtures then need to come down. Saponification is begun by merely mixing the lye with the oils. This is when it begins to produce it's own heat. It is still producing heat when it is time to pour into the molds. Once poured into the molds, it is allowed to sit and "rest" for 24 hours to finish turning into soap and become hard enough to cut. It is sometimes still warm to the touch after resting all that time!
Read more on the Soapmaking Instructions page
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