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Soap is a waxy substance used for cleaning off oil-based substances. It is traditionally made by a chemical reaction between lye and oils, but now soap like detergents have become more popular.

The chemistry

Water and oil are fundamentally different. For this reason, they do not mix well. Washing something with water alone will remove the water-soluble substances, but leave behind most of the oil-based substances. Within these oily substances can be many toxins and pathogens, as well. Soap molecules are long chains with a curve at one end—one end is water-soluble, the other in oil-soluble. I cannot fulled dissolve in either one for these, but will try to attach to both oil and water molecules. When soap is applied to an oily surface, one end attaches to the oil molecules, but the other does not. When water is run over this surface, the other ends attach to the water, and usually end up flowing away with the water, taking its oil molecule with it. As the soap remove the oil, this reveals all the other pathogens and contaminants which where protected, and these then rinse away in the water.

How To Make Soap

Soap is used every day, but real soap has become hard to find and many crafters have started making their own.

Many soapmaking tools are common kitchen items. To make soap, one needs a one-gallon stainless steel or enamel pot, a large heat proof pitcher, a small bowl, wooden or plastic spoons, two thermometers, and rubber gloves. One should not use any utensils for food preparation after making soap with them. One also needs safety goggles, a plastic container with a lid to use as a mold, (baby wipe containers work very well), and an old bath towel. The final and most expensive piece of equipment is an accurate scale, a digital scale which has a tare feature and measures in ounces is best.

Two pounds of mild castile soap can be made with 1.5 pounds of olive oil, 1 ounce of beeswax pearls, 4 ounces of lye (available at most hardware stores where it is sold as a drain cleaner), 10 ounces of distilled water, a small amount of vegetable shortening, and any scents or colorings. The lye is dangerous, and some recommend keeping a supply of white vinegar on hand to neutralize it should it come in contact with skin.

Making soap with this recipe can be done in a series of steps:

  • Place the ounce of wax in the olive oil and heat them to 120oF.
  • Pour the lye into the pitcher of water and stir to dissolve the crystals. This releases dangerous fumes.
  • Wait until the second mixture cools to 120oF.
  • Grease a soap-bar-shaped contained with vegetable shortening and line it with freezer paper or a plastic garbage bag
  • Mix the lye solution with the oil solution and continue stirring
  • Test this mixture to ensure that when a spoonful of this mixture drips from a spoon, it leaves a small bump on the surface
  • Add scents and colorings
  • Pour the soap into the mold, wrap the mold in a towel, and leave it alone for 18 hours
  • Remove it and allow it to "cure" for a day or two, as it is still caustic, then slice it into bars
  • Keep said bars in a ventilated box for 1–2 weeks