Castile soap is a gentle and popular hard soap made primarily from olive oil. Castile soap has been hand made for thousands of years in areas with an abundance of olive oil, such as Spain and Italy. Homemade soap is a healthy alternative to manufactured soap, which may contain harsh and irritating chemicals. Making soap at home gives you complete control over the ingredients that go into the soap, so it can be considered a green alternative to purchasing soap. This recipe makes approximately 4.5 pounds of Castile soap.
The Soap Making Process
Create an organized workspace and prepare a digital scale to weigh the ingredients.
Put on safety glasses, heavy-duty plastic gloves, a face mask and an apron to make the lye mixture. Lye is a dangerous chemical that can cause severe reactions if exposed to the skin, so this should be avoided at all costs. Make sure that you are in a room that has some ventilation as well. Place 10-12 ounces of distilled water into a glass mixing bowl and slowly add four to five ounces of lye crystals. (Lye crystals are available at most hobby and department stores.) Mix with a wooden spoon until the crystals are dissolved completely, being careful not to splash the mixture. Lye combined with water causes a chemical reaction that will heat up the water, so set aside the mixture until it cools.
Put 40 ounces of olive oil in a pot on the stove. Heat the oil and add two ounces of beeswax pearls. Mix the olive oil and beeswax with another wooden spoon. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil; once it reaches 100 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit it is ready. The pot should only be used for soap making.
Add the lye mixture to the olive oil mixture on the stove in a very gentle and slow manner. Be careful that the lye mixture does not splash. Once it has been added turn the heat off the stove and begin to mix with either one of your wooden spoons. Stir carefully until the mixture begins to thicken and you can see the path of the wooden spoon in the mixture.
Add two ounces of scented essential oil to the mixture and mix together slowly for a few moments. Herbal essential oils such as rosemary and lavender work particularly well in this recipe.
Pour mixture into soap molds or a plastic pan greased with vegetable or olive oil and lined with parchment paper. Cover with parchment paper or a lid, wrap with blankets, and place in an area where it will not be bothered for 18 to 24 hours. After 18 to 24 hours, remove the blankets and allow the soap to continue setting for another 12 hours. After 12 hours the soap may be removed from the soap molds or removed from the pan and cut into rectangles or squares. Place the soap on a drying rack in a cool place, such as a basement, where it will not be disturbed for two weeks or more. This allows the soap to cure, which creates a finer texture and harder bar of soap.
- "Natural Soapmaking"; Marie Browning; 1999
- bars of soap image by Jale Evsen Duran from Fotolia.com