Tracy HouptI thoroughly enjoy making goat milk soap. There’s something satisfying about being involved in the process from start to finish; I milk the goat, freeze the milk, make the soap, package it, and sell it to people who discover, as I have, that goat milk soap (GMS) is one of life’s little-known pleasures. When fully cured, GMS is moisturizing and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth. It’s nice to hear that many people who try it, like it. It’s also gratifying when people who have trouble with other soaps report that it is kind to their skin.

I made my first batch of GMS because I needed to find uses for the daily gift of milk from our dairy goat. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do! Goat milk contains several vitamins, proteins and beneficial acids, and its pH is close to that of human skin. When added to soap, those elements nourish and moisturize.

I’ve tried a few GMS recipes the past few months, and I got lucky with the first one I found. It uses lard, coconut oil and olive oil. For people who are vegetarian, palm oil can be substituted ounce for ounce for lard. I’ve also used a vegetable shortening recipe with success, and it produces a very creamy lather.

This post is not intended to teach anyone how to make soap. There are many books and Internet resources for that, and it’s a great idea to take a class from an experienced soaper, if you can. I took a three-hour class from a local man before I tried my first batch. He didn’t use milk, but watching the basic process first-hand was an invaluable boost to my confidence.

Cold process (CP) soap is made by combining oils with a solution of lye dissolved in liquid, and any desired fragrances, colorants or other ingredients are added. It’s a magical thing to bring together the two mixtures and get such a gentle and useful result. The lye saponifies the oils, thus yielding soap. (That word has been known to impress people.) Properly made, no free-floating lye remains.

In the old days, people made lye by mixing wood ashes with water, and I imagine results were less than consistent. Today, commercial lye and careful weighing of ingredients can yield reliable results. It’s also important to use fresh oils. I used old olive oil from the cupboard in my first batch, and the bars developed “DOS,” which stands for “dreaded orange spots.” Not dangerous, but also not very pretty.

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