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Today, I just thought I’d touch on one of the questions I get asked occasionally at markets: Do I sell soap without lye? Mmmm.. let me think!
There is a saying in the soap making world – No lye, no soap! This is totally true if you’re making real soap, handmade soap, not the cheap chemical infused bars you might buy at the supermarkets (check the ingredients). Soap is made by a process called Saponification, which is the chemical reaction that occurs after the lye solution is mixed into the oils and butters you have chosen to make your soap with. The lye solution is a mixture of your lye (common name: Sodium Hydroxide) and your base liquid ie water, goats milk, coconut milk, coconut water, even beer…yes beer lol! The oils and butters you use will vary depending on your recipe, and these will have an effect on how the soap feels on your skin, the cleanliness, the bubbles, the creaminess and hardness of the bar.
The lye will only saponify a certain amount of oils, which can be calculated using a soap calculator. When designing a soap recipe, I ensure there are more than sufficient oils in the recipe so that after saponification there are free oils. This ensures there is no lye left in my soap. In fact, I usually use 7% more oils than is required…just to be sure. These extra oils are called Superfat and will have a lot to do with how your skin feels after washing. When you make cold process soaps you can’t choose your superfat oil, but with hot process soaps you can. Most soaps made will have a superfat of some percentage (except soap made for washing, as you don’t want extra oils in your washing).
However, there are different soap making processes and one of these can be a bit confusing when it comes to saying the soap is made with or without lye. My soaps are made using the Cold Process Method, and i usually work at room temperature for both lye solution and oils. There are other processes such as Hot Process (done in a crockpot) and Melt & Pour that you can explore. Hot Process is similar to cold process but it is a cooked soap, and the lye is cooked out during the cook.
Melt & Pour however is a different matter. There is no lye solution and you can’t choose your own base oils. You just buy the soap already made and add colour, scent and other additives. So basically yes, there is no lye in the soap when making it, but this process has already been done for you. Originally the soap was made with lye, but you don’t have to handle it. Great for children wanting to make their own soaps.
How soaps are labelled can also contribute to the confusion about lye in soap. I label my soaps with all the ingredients that went into making them, even though there is no lye left in the finished product. However, others may choose to label their soaps with what remains in the soap after saponification. This can be a bit deceiving as it appears the soap was made without lye. But rest assured, if it is real soap, it was made using lye.
I hope you found this an informative read. I enjoyed writing it for you! Check out my Facebook, Instagram or website if you’d like to see my awesome soaps.