How is Soap Made?

how is soap made

Soap is made through a process called saponification. Saponification is the blending of oils or fats with an alkali and water to produce a salt of a fatty acid.

Once soap has been made, it is a completely different chemical structure than the sum of its individual ingredients. But have you ever wondered how it's made?

How Soap Is Made:

  1. Oils and fats are melted and heated to around 100-120°F
  2. The sodium hydroxide (lye) is carefully mixed into water and allowed to cool until about 80-100°F.
  3. The lye/water is poured into the bowl with the oils and blended until the liquid begins the first stage of saponification phase called trace.
  4. In this semi-liquid state, the soap maker can choose to add scents, colorants, herbs or clays.
  5. The soap is then poured into a mold and remains undisturbed for 24-48 hours to saponify.
  6. Once the saponification process is complete, the soap is removed from the mold and allowed to air dry or “cure” for 4-8 weeks. The longer the soap cures, the more water evaporates from the bar making it more firm.
  7. Done!

What is Saponification?

According to good-old Wikipedia, saponification occurs when, "the triglyceride fats are first hydrolyzed into free fatty acids, and then these combine with the alkali to form crude soap, an amalgam of various soap salts, excess fat or alkali, water, and liberated glycerol (glycerin)."

The saponification process takes anywhere from 24-48 hours to finish, thus the time frame it must remain undisturbed in the mold. During this process, the soap liquid heats up to extreme temperatures, typically going through what is called “gel-phase”. Once the phase is complete, the soap slowly starts to dissipate heat until totally cooled.

This process is required for every bar of solid bar soap.

Can you make soap without lye?

Nope! Not solid bar soap. Sodium hydroxide (lye) is a required component of the soap making process and is absolutely mandatory. Even the pre-made soap base used by "glycerin" soap makers who do not use lye, has been pre-made using lye. 

How Soap Was Made Back Then

old fashioned soap making

Primitive soap making differed quite a bit from today's traditional soap making. A form of lye (known as potash) was produced by leaching water through layers of wood ash to produce a caustic liquid.

This liquid was then blended with the rendered fat from kitchen trimmings and the suet from butchering the household cow, pig or sheep. This "old school" soap was usually semi-soft and very drying to the skin.

The problem with this method was inconsistency. At times, the lye was too harsh and made soap that could burn the skin. At other times, the lye wasn't strong enough which made soap that was oily and semi-liquid.

The good news is that in today’s market, lye is extremely reliable and produces a consistent solid bar soap every time. Some soap makers, like Nefertem soap makers, use food-grade lye to ensure the highest quality bar of soap on the market.

Typical Ingredients Used to Make Soap

The following list highlights just a few of the main ingredients found in a typical bar of soap:

  1. beef tallow
  2. lard
  3. palm oil
  4. olive oil
  5. corn oil
  6. coconut oil
  7. castor oil
  8. shea butter
  9. essential oil
  10. vitamin e oil
  11. clay
  12. herbs
  13. glycerin
  14. etc...

One last word, it is highly advisable to read the ingredients on the soap package. Many soaps are made with ingredients that can irritate the skin or worse. Choose natural soap made with pure ingredients such as herbs, essential oils and clays. Avoid parabens, synthetic colorants and preservative at all costs.

Nefertem soaps are 100% natural and made with organic ingredients. Herbs color the soaps, essential oils scent the soaps and clays add a silky glide enjoyed by all.

Ditch that old bar and make the switch to Nefertem all natural soaps today! Shop natural soap now

natural bar soaps


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