In this second part of a three-part series (check out the first part), I have outlined the equipment you need to make your homemade soap. While it seems like a bit of an investment up front, you will soon recoup the costs from the soap you make for your family, gifts or for sale. As with many homesteaders, you will find many of these items already in your kitchen.
Making your own soap at home is one of the best ways you can work toward living a more frugal life. It is not only rewarding financially, once you are all set up for homemade soap making, you will also find that it is a fun and very enjoyable hobby. You can make soap at home to use for yourself and your family, you can make soap to sell at local farmers' markets, craft shows, or on one of the several online craft retailers, or you can make soap to give away as unique, desirable gifts.
No matter what you are planning as the end use for your soap, the first step is to gather all of the necessary equipment. There are several items that you will need for soap making, and you will want to use some of them for only soap making. Here we will go through the list of needed equipment, talk about the purpose of each item in soap making, and offer options, where available, for each of the equipment items. You may have some of these items in your kitchen already, but they are all easy to find at either local or online shopping establishments.
Possibly the most important tool that you will need for your homemade soap making is the scale. This should be digital, and should read ounces, preferably to the 1/10th ounce. The scale will be used to ensure that the chemical balance of your soap is accurate. You will use it to measure everything including your lye, liquids, oils, and additives. You can get a digital scale here.
The Lye Container
When measuring the lye, you will need to have either a clear plastic measuring cup, or bowl, that is used only for the lye, and is clearly marked "lye only." Since lye is a toxic substance in the dry form that you will be measuring, it is imperative that this container is used for nothing else. A large measuring cup that will hold at least 12 ounces, depending on the size of the batches you will be making, or a clear plastic bowl, or container, can be found at most any local store. If you are working toward frugality, a check at your local dollar store would be a great place to start looking for this piece of equipment.
The Mixing Vessel
Mixing your lye and oils together to create your soap requires a stainless steel pot to avoid the chemical reaction that could happen with other metals. One of the best things to use is a stock pot, generally of about an 8-quart size, depending on the size of the batch you are making. Using a stock pot allows you to work down inside the pot to help avoid splashing of the caustic lye substance, prior to saponification. Stainless steel stock pots can be expensive to purchase, but they can be found at a reasonable price at your local mass merchandiser or low price retailer. You can also find them here.
Make sure that you have a pair of safety goggles that cover all around your eyes in case of accidental splashes. The solution is very dangerous prior to saponification and contact with the eyes must be avoided. Safety goggles can be found readily, and inexpensively, at most dollar stores, home improvement stores, or mass merchandisers.
Spoon and Ladle
Mixing, measuring and pouring, can require either a stainless steel spoon, or a stainless steel ladle. Again, you want these items to be stainless steel to avoid any chemical reaction with the metal. Both of these items are easily found at local dollar or mass merchandise stores.
This one item, along with the digital scale, is perhaps the most important piece of equipment for making homemade soap. While the mixture of liquids, lye, and oils, can be stirred by hand, the end product will be smoother, harder, and more professional if a stick blender is used. When mixing the ingredients together the stick blender is used to ensure complete integration of all of the parts to result in a timely trace, and ultimately proper saponification, and beautiful bars, of soap. Stick blenders range in price from fairly inexpensive to unnecessarily pricey. For the purpose of soap making, an inexpensive stick blender, which can be found here, is sufficient.
What you use for a mold for your soap can vary greatly. Everything from dish washing tubs, to plastic storage boxes, to silicone muffin cups, to candy molds can be used. You can also purchase specifically designed soap molds either online or at your local craft store. This is completely up to you, but the recommendation is that you find something that is squared off on the corners rather than rounded to avoid wasting and trimming of your bars. It is also recommended that you find a mold that can either be taken apart to expose the free standing soap, or a mold that is flexible enough to "pop" the soap out upside down. Metal containers should be avoided for this step, with soft plastic, or silicone, being preferable. I have recently had the opportunity to try out some wonderful farm animal molds (my favorite is the sheep mold) from Milky Way Molds. The detail in these molds is wonderful, and I have had fantastic results using their products! If you have never tried detailed molds before I recommend you visit Milky Way Molds and look at their expansive selection. (A huge thank you to Milky Way Molds for providing me products to include in this post.)
The only other things you may need for your homemade soap making project will include paper towels, stainless steel measuring spoons for measuring scents and other additives, and a few small measuring cups or bowls to hold ingredients prior to adding them to the soap mixture. These items may already be in your kitchen, or can be found at any dollar or mass merchandise store.
While it may seem like a long list of items that you need to make soap, remember that these are one time purchases that will allow you to make a life time of unique and creative soap. As with any craft or hobby, the tools you use will determine the quality of the end product. Don't hesitate to set yourself up for success by having the proper soap making equipment.
Part 3 of this series will be our recipe for Simple Soap, "Homemade Lye Soap."
For Part 1 of this series, "The Benefits of Soap Making," click here.