[Baby in the Bath]

"let dry"
...BOY, DID I TRY...
"using veggie oil"
"but as a result, and in the end"
Poem by Sherry Wersing! 

Miller's Homemade Soap Pages

Soapy Success! and FAQ's

Soapmaking Triumphs... er, uhh...Experiences!

In response to the most frequently asked question! This banner was generously and humorously contributed by Chris McClusky and it is so cute, I HAD to use it! :-) For a more detailed explanation, browse through the questions on the "Soapy Success" pages below, or link over to the MOST Frequently Asked Questions page!

Life has become too busy and the Soapy Success pages quite bloated, so I have not added new material for a long time. Most of these posts are old but still pertinent for the most part. Lye is harder to find now than when these emails were first put up and Red Devil is no longer available. There are other brands out there and those are mentioned on the Where to Find Ingredients Page. I encourage people to browse these pages and read the Most Frequently Asked Questions before sending me questions... but I'm still "out there" and answer S.O.S. emails. These messages below are the oldest... the newest ones are on latter pages of Soapy Success. I have stopped listing people's email addresses if their comments are posted... there is just too much SPAM out there and addresses being harvested off of pages like this one. :-( To spare myself tedious one by one removal of old email addresses, they have been doctored as to be useless to spambots.

NOTICE: If you have AOL, please be sure that if you have any sort of filter turned on, that you enter my email address as one that will be accepted before you send me the question. I really want to help and don't want folks to think I'm ignoring them. My hands are tied when there's a block on your account. If you've recently emailed me with questions and never heard back ... this is probably why. They come back as undeliverable.

Because of your wonderful responses to this page it has gotten rather LONG...so I have divided the material by subject and made two connected pages. This page will still contain people's general remarks and miscellaneous tidbits. For the following, go to the appropriate page:

-Kathy Miller



NOTE (September 2005): After receiving a couple of emails, I've finally come to believe that it's true... the company that markets Lewis Red Devil Lye has pulled it from the market and has replaced it with a liquid drain opener that contains no lye. My suspicions are that it's due to its use in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines. This is very sad for the home soaper! :-( I've been buying my lye in bulk for quite awhile now, but for the average person that wants to make one or two batches and has gotten accustomed to buying it locally... this will need to be addressed. Here is a helpful link sent by Nancy M., whose email comment is underneath:


When I bought the two remaining containers from the local Albertsons, I was told it's popular in this community in the production of meth. When I mentioned it to a clerk at the JoAnn's fabric store, where I was fruitlessly trying to find any kind of other soapmaking stuff, I found out she's a soapmaker and that she got her lye at the local Grocery Outlet, in bulk. They don't have it out where anybody can see it, but if you ask and show ID, you can buy it.
Anyway, I'm having fun, that's the point and thanks again for all of your help :-)
Nancy M.
from the dry side, Clarkston, Washington

[No more lye!]

Graphic courtesy of About.com from
Soapmaking article by David Fisher


***Homemade Soaps for Sale... Click Here for Details...***

[Ocean Breeze]
[Rose Fantasy]
[Summer Sorbet]
[Hawaiian Sunset]


It's late and I'm too tired to figure out why some of these are displaying lighter than the others... some code I surely need to strip out! Maybe I'll find it later... time for bed! Kathy M.


Subject: Whipped Cream Soap and Castile Newbie

Date: 10/30/03
From: Amanda

I absolutely love your website, thanks for so much generous information. I am new to soapmaking, and recently made my very first batch - a 100% olive oil Castile soap. However, I made over ten pounds, thinking I would be able to rebatch some of it. Only after visiting your site did I learn how hard it is to rebatch all-vegetable based soaps. Indeed, my two attempts at rebatching have been disastrous. However, I grated some of the same Castile soap into flakes last night, added some shea butter, glycerin, oils and scent, and came up with a lotion that was quite nice. With a little more refining, I will gladly offer this recipe to other site users if that's OK. My question is: Is it possible to make Whipped Cream soap with my 100% Castile Soap flakes? I was wondering what are your thoughts on this particular type of soap? Also, is rebatching really a waste of time, is it overrated? I know you don't like it, but it does seem as though with the CP method the goodness of the EOs are destroyed, and you have to use SO much more of them (we all know how costly most EOs are.)Also, can you achieve success by handmilling with soy milk, instead of goat's milk?

Thanks Kathy.

Thanks for your nice email... I'm glad you have enjoyed the site so much. :-)

I'll try to answer your questions, but I've never tried making the creamy type soap of which you speak.

Rebatching is really a personal choice. I don't prefer it, but it does have the advantages you mentioned. If I were to do it... I'd definitely use a crockpot on the low setting... I rebatched my last disaster that way and liked the end results a bit better... although it's still remelted soap with a different look and feel.

I've never tried soy milk... but it's worth giving it a shot to see what you think. There is always room for experimentation where soapmaking is concerned... as long as you take care with the lye and are not too put off by surprises! (some delightful and others gruesome). ;-)

Good luck! If you come up with a good recipe... please send it along. I just do regular bar soaps... boring. ;-)

Subject: Tips from Shivani on Shampoo Bars (I used to have a couple of her recipes posted before she went into business)
Date: 11/1/03
From: Shivani

I am the one whose shampoo bar recipe used to be on Kathy's site. I asked her to take it down as I got into selling soap and shampoo and didn't want to end up with my competitors selling my own shampoo.

Anyway, it is easy. What makes shampoo shampoo IMHO is the addition of some castor oil. Try fairly equal parts of olive (mostly), coconut and castor oil (least) and play with the proportions and superfatting till you like it.

Even good natural soap makes better shampoo than commercial shampoo. Upon occasion when traveling we run out of shampoo and use my soap.


(If anyone has questions about shampoo bars... I'm not the one to ask since I don't make those. :-) K.M.)

Subject: My Soap Turned Out Great!
Date: 10/21/03
From: Gladys

Hi Kathy, The soap that you helped me with from one of your recipes last month turned out so good. I have now made three batches of soap, I cant believe that I was so scared to work with lye. It is not hard with caution. I have two questions, can I use my cp soaps before the four weeks of curing and how will I know it is ok? Also I have PH strips how do I use them in soap? Thank you - Gladys

Congratulations on the birth of your first successful batches!  :-)

On the curing thing... some batches might pass earlier than four weeks.... mainly if they are loaded with olive oil and went through a nice hot gel stage... but I'd not go any earlier than three weeks. You can try a bar at three weeks and see how it feels on your skin. If it bites a little, has a slimy or irritating feel to the lather... put it away and wait a bit longer. It won't be as hard to wait once you have a few cured batches on hand to use... but waiting for the first couple of batches is really trying of one's patience!  ;-)

I don't use pH strips at all myself, but have an article on my site that was submitted by Ann-Perius Parker. I think I call it the
pH Tome... not sure... but go there and read what she has to say. That should help you know if you want to do that or what numbers to expect from good homemade soap.

Subject: White Soap
Date: 10/14/03
From: LaTruette

I love your site it is really nice to be able to feel the warmth through a website. I felt that in yours. Other sites seem to be so uncaring then I found yours and everything I needed.

I have looked all over for a marble recipe and found your site by accident and found the recipe. Then I was on a message board and referred the site to someone else who was looking for a marble recipe.

I also have a question how do you make your soap so white mine comes out ivory to a light beige. Here is my recipe;

24 oz water
9.25 oz lye
24 oz palm kernel flakes
28 oz soybean oil
18 oz olive oil
2-4 oz f/o or e/o
temperatures around 110* to 120*

Can you give me some advice.



Hi! Thank you for such a nice email and comments about the website. I'm glad you've enjoyed it and found it helpful. :-)

I've not double checked the quantities in your recipe, but wanted to respond to the question of "white" soap. It's hard to get really WHITE soap like the commercial stuff without using titanium dioxide as a colorant. Other than that... the type of base oils you use makes a difference (by the way... the almond joy picture shown on the site looks more white in the photo than the real soap looked in person). Some oils make really white soap and others lend some color of their own. Oils that would be more white would be coconut, palm kernel, tallow, deodorized cocoa butter, shea butter and lard. I'm sure there are others... but those come to mind first. Olive oil has a fair amount of color.... usually a greenish tinge that it adds and soybean probably makes a warmer color of white. The other thing that makes the soap look whiter or more opaque is whether or not it goes through a gel phase. I much prefer the texture of gelled soap, but soap that never gets hot enough in the mold to gel is usually whiter in a white soap than soap that gelled.

My plain soap with shea butter is fairly white... but not stark white like the commercial stuff. The center has a bit of creaminess to its whiteness when I hold it up against a white piece of printer paper. That recipe is the Soap Classic recipe with 2 oz. of deodorized cocoa butter in for 2 oz. of the olive and a couple of ounces of shea butter (or one... not sure) for same of olive. I use the lightest colored olive oil I can get... the cheaper 100% pure stuff from Costco. Extra virgin is too expensive and quite green in the bottle and pomace oil has loads of green color also.

I hope this helps... glad you have enjoyed the site and best wishes! :-)

Subject: Plastic Spatula?
Date: 9/13/03
From: Mary Faith

I have another question. I have here at home Farberware spatulas... they are rubber like the Rubbermaid brands. Also I have a hard Cuisinart spatula... pure plastic. They have new silicone types that stand up to 425 or more degrees. My thought is not the temperature but the LYE. What is your success with your spatulas?

Thank you, Kathy

Best Regards

Mary Faith F.

As far as lye is concerned... I think any of your spatulas would work and I'd use the cheapest one. :-) Save your really nice one for cooking purposes. I have a Rubbermaid type spatula that I use only for soap because the rubber tends to absorb some of the fragrances. After a weird batch of brownies a couple of years ago from using my soap spatula for mixing... I stopped doing that! :-)

Subject: Suzie in Tobago
Date: 9/13/03
From: Suzie T.

Dear Mrs. Miller,

I don't know if you remember me but I wrote to you several months ago about my soap spotting because, well I wasn't sure as to why and after talking with you we both thought because of the climate I live in perhaps the amount of olive oil I was placing in the soap was causing the problem. Since than I know longer use olive oil and the problem seems to be solved.  I just wanted to let you know in case anyone else living in a jungle needs to know this information. My new soap recipe contains 70 percent cocoa butter and 30 percent coconut oil. Since these are the most popular types of products on our island that's all I use and so far the soap not only sells great but it feels just wonderful. The only reason I'm using so much cocoa butter is because I get it for 90 cents a pound and that's quite reasonable I think. Now Mrs. Miller can too much cocoa butter cause a problem of any kind? If so I haven't found one yet and hopefully I won't. Please advise.

Thanks again,

Suzie T.

Thanks for the feedback.  :-)  I think the proof is in the pudding and if it works well and people like it... that's probably your answer. The only way it would be a problem as near as I can tell is if someone had some kind of particular sensitivity to cocoa butter. That's probably not going to happen very often... so do whatever works where you live. More power to you!  :-)

Subject: Crayons for Colouring Soap
Date: 9/3/03
From: Mona

After reading your page on colouring soap with crayons, I was skeptical about whether or not to try it. But with the stores having back to school sales and finding Crayola brand crayons for under a dollar, I decided it was worth a shot.

On a batch of soap, I tried one red-violet crayon and one carnation pink crayon mixed together. It gave me a bright, almost flamingo pink shade. Quite nice, actually.
I also had to re-batch some soap that just didn't look appealing (the original colour looked like mud). I melted a little over a pound of soap shavings and added one blue-violet crayon. It yielded a beautiful, intense purple colour!

So...by the looks of it, if you re-batch soap, crayons will give you a true colour.


Glad you had good results with the crayons. I think if you rebatch you can use more kinds with success, but with cold process certain ones change color and can be a disappointment. Some folks are very nervous about crayons and candle colorants for soap... but I've never had problems with either so like people to know they have those as an easily obtained option for home use.

Thanks for the feedback and happy soaping!  ;-)

Subject: Soap Balls
Date: 8/27/03
From: Cathy L.

I love to read your pages and see how and what you used for your recipes. I wish I had a wooden box like you have for your soaps. Anyway I seen a meatball maker for sale on one of my bookmarked pages for sale, Its for bath bombs
http://www.kangarooblue.com/tools.htm   ($6.75). Its made of stainless steel and it looks like a pair of scissors with half balls on the ends. You scoop up the material and it presses it together. Release it and out drops a perfect ball. you might have to dip it in water to help with soap balls dropping out. They are located in Illinois so they are close to me. I use this with bath bombs, COOL HUH!! Maybe someone close to you has this tool in their shop you could get cheaper.

Cathy L.

Thanks! I just use my hands to shape soap balls from shavings (on the rare occasions that I make them... but someone else might want to try this out. :-)

Subject: Rachael's Tried and True
Date: 8/4/03
From: Dottie

I just made my first two batches of soap after a long wait to work up the nerve.  I made a milk soap and Rachel's Tried & True soap from your sight. Both turned out wonderfully!
I've given bars to my family and thought they would all like the milk soap better - it has a sweet kind of smell to it.  Nope. They all like the plain old "Tried & True" soap.  I didn't add any fragrance or color as I wanted to get the "basics" down before moving on to other steps. It's a nice sudsy bar!

Hi! Thanks for the email... I'm glad things worked out so well for you.  :-) Some folks just love the texture of milk soap, but others are kind of squeamish about the idea.  ;-)

Good luck on future batches... maybe scented next time. It really is a lot of fun to make.

Subject: Aluminum under the pot
Date: 7/22/03
From: Lara G.

I haven't started making soap yet, and I know that aluminum reacts with lye. Could I use a stainless steel pot that has an aluminum bottom? Does your pot have aluminum in the base?  

Thanks for taking the time to read my email, hope its not too silly of a question.  
-Lara G.

Glad you like the site... thanks!  :-)

No question if it's honest is silly. Now... if you'd asked me for a recipe for soap without lye, then I might have raised my eyebrows.  ;-)
If your aluminum bottom is on the inside where it will come in contact with the batch of soap... then you should NOT use the pot. If it's on the bottom where it touches the burner but the complete inside of the pot is stainless... then it should be just fine.

Subject: Fragrance Oils
Date: 7/9/03
From: Soapinda

Hello.  I have been making soap for almost two years and I'm able to make most recipes and have them turn out fine to really good.  I generally do a 5-8% discount and 6 oz. water per lb. The problem is fragrances. After all this time and trying many--all from soap supply companies--I have found only a handful of FO's that I would feel happy about in selling soaps to the public.  I use .5 to .7 oz per lb. and good quality lye, yet everyone has to put their nose right up against the bars to smell them. And these companies that sell these fragrances don't give very much information at all about their products, even when you ask or they imply that it's something you did wrong, when you did everything fine.   I should mention I don't do HP but these are fragrances that have supposedly been tested in CP with positive results. All in all, I'm beginning to be reluctant to buy any more of these somewhat pricey products. I'm wondering if other soapmakers have had this problem that you may have had too or heard about and do you have any suggestions?  I would hate to have to be able to make only four or five kinds of soap after all this buying and testing. Please give me any helpful support or advice you can when you have a chance.  I do consult the Soapdish forum and Latherings Review and at least that's kept me from buying ones that seize. Thank you, Kathy.

I'm curious which suppliers you are using and the fragrances you think are too weak. I don't like heavy scent so having soap that is better appreciated up close is more to my preference than having a bar fill up the whole house with smell!  :-) It can be a difference in noses also... if you ask a group of people young and old to smell a bar... do they all think it's weak? Also... if they smell something strong and then a softer scent... their nose might not pick it up. I don't drink coffee, but keep a very small jar of beans near the soaps to help people 'cleanse' their olfactories occasionally if they can't smell something.

The other thing that can happen if you have soaps curing in the house, is that your own nose will not really smell them anymore... you get adjusted to them. Take a bar outside and after a minute or two... smell it out there. It all sounds silly... but noses are really complicated!  :-)

Subject: Mixing Soaps
Date: 6/10/03
From: MK Hanson

I've enjoyed your website so much, and have a suggestion to add:

After nearly burning out the motor of my second stick blender, I bought a paint-mixing attachment for my cordless drill. The stainless steel ones are available at bigceramicstore.com (other places sell aluminum ones).

It doesn't mix as well or as thoroughly as a stick blender, but its great to have on hand, for slow-to-trace soaps, to alternate with the stick blender, for quick-tracing soaps, to buy me a little extra time, and it's fantastic for huge batches, too--they sell them in all sizes.

MK Hanson
Fickle Hill Naturals

Subject: Big Batch (Tip on Rice Oil)
Date: 6/2/03
From: Vicki

thank you for this web page. i found it when i first started making soap. i guess its been about 4 years now. i never used any of the recipes, but i found the designing your own soap very helpful.

i currently make soap for gifts, so i usually don't make that much soap in one batch. since you sell your soap, i figure you probably experimented with making larger size batches. what is the largest batch of soap that you have made without having any problems? of course, dealing with larger amounts of lye is an issue, but i figure there could be issues of making sure the whole batch is mixed thoroughly. a friend of mine mentioned something about giving out soap as wedding favors. i'm not sure how serious he was, but i figured i should look into it just in case. it sounds like he was planning on inviting a lot of people.

i don't have a recipe to share, but i do have a tip. i found rice bran oil at a local restaurant supply store, 35 lbs for $19.99. that's cheaper than olive oil at Costco. i've been using the rice oil and i love it. the soaps make great shampoo bars too. i was surprised to see how expensive the rice bran oil was to get online.



Hi! I'm glad you've enjoyed the web page. You found it not longer after I got it on the Internet! :-)

I'm actually a small scale soap producer and make batches the size of the recipes that I post... 28 bars per batch. I've not tried larger ones so am not a good person to ask about that. I'd recommend you post your question on a soapmaking forum like Latherings or the Soap Science one. I have them both listed in the "general" section of my soapmaking links page (URL below). I know that people typically start with lower temps in a large batch because a large chunk of poured soap will retain and produce more heat after it's poured. This would not matter if the molds were the same size as I use now, but people who make larger batches typically pour in larger chunks.

I'm grossly behind on updating, but will save your email tip for when I get some changes made! Thanks for sharing it. :-)

Happy soaping!

Subject: What a Success!
Date: 5/11/03
From: Anna

I wanted to tell you about a batch I made yesterday. My neighbour wanted me to show her how to make homemade soap. We used lard instead of tallow, used essential oil and halved recipe.  I chanced it and put essential oil with oil/fats instead of at trace.  I read a few recipes where people actually did this. My neighbour had a hand mixer, which took forever to get soap to trace - 1 hr (she insisted we used instead of my stick blender.) We were very disappointed with results from blender, so we switched to hand blender and within five minutes the soap was tracing and ready for moulds. Was a great lesson that hand blenders are best used, but she JUST had to see how beaters worked.  

This morning we cut and the soap and it looks great.  I believe having a digital scale is the BEST INVESTMENT. We used the lye calculator and used #5 (5% - 8% excess fat) and all recipes are turning out so wonderful.  I told my neighbour, Sue, all about how helpful you have been to me and always returning my e-mails. Don't be surprised if you start hearing from her. She is hooked on the soap and is extremely excited to making more.

Hope you have a great Mother's Day too!!!


Subject: Thank You
Date: 4/22/03
From: Todd and Pat C.

I wanted to write and Thank You for such a fun site! I noticed some of the posts are quite old, so I hope this will still get to you. My husband and I have started making soap together. It is a great way to spend some time together. We have made 4 batches so far: Favorite Castile, All Veg/No Palm, No Coconut, Sherry's Fantastic and Canolive II. They have all turned out beautifully.
I don't know why, but I didn't care for the Castile. Next time I will try another recipe. We added 1 cup of powdered oatmeal to the All Veg...everyone LOVES it. We did use the salt suggested in the recipe. Sherry's Fantastic is...well, fantastic! We haven't used the Canolive II yet. It just finished drying.

We all seem to have special skin needs and have bought homemade soap on and off for years. Several years ago I surfed your site and read the info, but felt too intimidated. Then a few weeks ago while going through some stuff, I found a few forgotten bars of handmade soap and thought now is the time to try making own. My sister-in-law is so impressed that she wants us to make her Christmas presents.

Thank you for your time and soap-making knowledge. We are hooked! As a matter of fact....it is time to go make another batch.


Todd and Pat

Thank you for your nice email! I'm still here... just don't seem to have time to get the site updated! it's been about a year since I've added posts to the Soapy Success pages I think... but they are repeating themselves a lot. On the Castile soap... I loved the texture of the finished bars when I first made that... but they tend to absorb a lot of moisture in use and can get kind of icky! I really like the Soap Classic recipe at this point and when I do it for sale, I substitute a couple of ounces of cocoa butter for a couple of the olive, I believe. That gives the bars a bit more hardness. If you get the deodorized cocoa butter you won't have to work around the scent... but the regular stuff is nice if you're scenting with foody smells like almond or chocolate.  :-) Just did one of those today... the almond joy soap.

Glad you and your husband are having fun with this and that your family and friends get to benefit. It's kind of nice to have a place for the soaps since it gives you an excuse to make more!  ;-)

Thanks again for your nice note and happy soaping!  :-)

Subject: Soap with Apple Juice
Date: 4/7/03
From: Katja W.

Hello Kathy,

You've got a very nice homepage, but I think you know that already. I have just read a question asked by someone at www.naturseife.com (Austria) concerning soaps with apple juice, but apparently nobody knows the answer. Do you think it is possible to use apple juice for making soaps or could it harm the saponification process because of the fruit acid? And if so, do you have to use more NaOH? Although it wasn't my idea to make a soap with apple juice, it would be quite interesting to know if it's possible.

Many regards from Cologne in Germany.

Katja Wieczorek

Hello! :-) I don't have experience with this but suppose it would be the same idea as adding lemon juice to soap. With concern about adding acids before the saponification process has been fairly completed... I'm wondering if a person could make their soap with a slight water reduction (but normal procedure) and then stir in a bit of apple juice concentrate (we can buy that here in the freezer case) at light trace. That would give you the benefits of apple juice without too much extra water and after a good portion of the saponification has happened in the soap.

If you did this I don't think I'd add more than about 4 oz. of concentrate for the batch size that I make... but I suppose more would only add more liquid to the recipe which would evaporate off. If a can was just larger than that... I'd use the whole thing (after thawing it and bringing it to room temp at least) because I hate waste. :-)

Good luck!

Subject: Evening Primrose Oil (precautions)
Date: 3/2/03
From: Fiona

Hello, Kathy - hope your holiday season was wonderful. I have noticed that evening primrose oil is becoming popular for making soaps which will help control eczema and other skin conditions, but have recently learned that it is not safe for people who take anti-seizure medication. (Thank heaven I ignored that pushy boy at the health food store who wanted me to buy it for hot flashes!) I don't imagine that handling it would cause much to be absorbed into the skin and that only direct ingestion is definitely contraindicated, but I think that people should be aware of the possible risks for that limited group of users... and your site is the place to gain the widest audience, for sure! Thank you for providing such a great service for wannabee soap queens everywhere. Cheers, Fiona

Subject: Cold Process Soap vs. Full Boiled (I thought I posted this already... but I'd rather duplicate than omit!)
Date: 2/16/03
From: Bob Walker

Thanks for responding to my Enote. You are probably right about my using the cold process for the little soap I will make. I will give it more thought.

Didn't mean to pull any new terms on you. To explain: in the full boiled process, the neet soap that rises to the top, after we have salted out and finished the batch, has about 30% moisture in it, some of which must be removed before we can press a hard milled bar of soap of about 12% moisture. Our method of doing this was to pump the hot, liquid , neet soap through steam jacketed pipes and spray it on to water chilled steel rollers that had the effect of vaporizing the moisture that was exhausted out of the building.

The soap film that stuck to the rollers had a blade against the roller that scraped off this thin layer of soap on a continuous basis that then fell on a conveyor belt in the form of soap flakes. Hence, in making a bar of hard milled soap (often referred to as French milled) you start with a soap flake that has about 12% moisture.

When I first went into business ( with partners that owned 6 major hotels on Miami Beach) we just purchased truck loads of 80 tallow/20 coco white soap flakes. 100 lbs of these soap flakes were put into an amalgamator (mixer) where we added any other ingredients that would be in the finished bar of soap such as color, perfume, etc. After a few minutes of mixing the batch was dumped into a screw conveyor that carried it up to a 5 roll water cooled steel roll mill. The soap spread out on these rolls ( about 16" diameter x 50" wide) rolling in a flat sheet where at the top roll a blade scraped it off on a continuous basis as before and fell in long thin ribbons into a pre plodder ( much like a meat grinder) that extruded the soap through a plate with many small holes much like meat coming out of a meat grinder ( the milling and pre plodding assured the bar being the same in the core as it was on its surface) . The extrusion plate has a cutter going around the surface of the plate that cuts the soap into something like round noodles about 1/4" dia. x 1/4" long. A screw conveyor carries these up and drops then into a finishing plodder somewhat like the preplodder only with a more tapered head and a smaller plate at the end with only one hole in the plate so that the soap is now extruded out in one long continuous bar (theoretically this bar of soap could go around the world as one long continuous bar but, instead, it went into a continuous belt of cutters that cut it into the length desired. ( the size hole at the finishing plodder that the soap is extruded through + the space between the cutters will give you the desired weight and size of the soap cake that will now continue on its way by a conveyor belt into a soap press that will press the soap into the desired shape and either emboss or deboss its name depending on the soap die used. The finished cake of soap was either packed unwrapped at this point for institutions or was conveyed on along into soap wrappers. All of this, of course, was a continuous process. We had 3 finishing lines and produced about 50,000 bars of soap per 8 hour day - mostly 3/4 oz, 1 oz, 1 3/4 oz and 3 oz bars. We had 2 soap kettles and made about 10,000 lbs of soap at a time in each one. In the full boiled process it takes about 3 days to make a batch of soap. Most of the major soap companies have converted to a continuous process developed by the Italians in recent years that uses fatty acids from animal and vegetable oils that have already been split and processed that allows the continuous saponification of soap.

Incidentally, I noticed that a couple of your hobbyist soap makers speculated about the use of salt in soap on your web site. After 3 days of boiling the soap when we thought it was ready some what like you use the term "trace" we salted it out while it was still boiling. This helped to separate the pure neet soap from the remaining lye water in the soap with the result that after sitting over night the separated lye water (often called sweet water) would be at the bottom of the kettle and the pure soap would be at the top of the kettle. We then drained the lye water from the bottom of the tank and skimmed the soap from the top with a 6" dia. pipe. that was as long as the diameter of the kettle with its bottom going through the bottom of the kettle and its other end lowered gradually so as to skim the hot, liquid soap from the descending top of the soap as it was pumped out of the kettle. The kettle is never pumped empty as the closer you get to the bottom the less pure the soap becomes. We just start another batch on top of what ever we left remaining in the bottom of the kettle.

This is the basic difference between cold process and full boiled process soap: You have to measure your ingredients very carefully in the cold process because EVERY THING YOU PUT INTO YOUR SOAP IN THE SAPONIFICATION PROCESS STAYS IN THE SOAP - it cant be removed before pouring into your forms. In the full boiled process we control the liquid caustic soda and the oils going into the soap batch very roughly on the initial filling and add more here and there over a one to two day period without measuring at all. We depend mostly on the looks and feel of the boiling soap ( experience is, of course, important here) because the impurities in the soap will settle to the bottom in the salting out process.

I have enjoyed reviewing the soap making process - from what I have read on your web site about your soap making activities and your willingness to share it with others - I suspect you have enjoyed reading about the full boiled process. I am sure you make a good bar of soap with the cold process - but from the above, I am sure you will glean that it is much more dependent upon the purity of the products you put into it than is the full boiled process.

Bob Walker/Sebring, Fl

Wow... I enjoyed reading about this involved commercial process... thanks for taking the time to explain it. I have a feeling you enjoyed reviewing the process yourself... it must have been satisfying producing all that soap. :-)

[If anyone has questions on the material above... I am NOT the person to ask! ;-) ]

Subject: Great Grandma's Recipe
Date: 2/9/03
From: Peggy

I just found my great-grandmother's soap recipe. She rendered and cleaned fat from the bacon fried at her son's malt shop (1944) and used that as her only oil.

Her recipe reads:

1 cup lye dissolved and cooled in 1 1/2 quarts water. Add 1 cup ammonia, 1 or 2 cups borax. Slowly add 5 pounds melted grease. You can also use 1/2 cup kerosene instead of 1/2 cup of the ammonia if desired.

KEROSENE???? AMMONIA!?!??! I never heard of these ingredients in modern soapmaking. Were they included because of the bacon grease, or are you more familiar with these ingredients than I?

All I can think when reading her recipe is ---- OW!


Yes... some of those recipes called for stuff like this. I think this was probably intended to be used for laundry... not skin. If you ran the ingredients through a lye calculator... I'm not sure how lye heavy it would be... would be interesting to check. Would eat the dirt right out of the clothes, maybe! :-) For laundry soap, you don't want extra fat... probably a 0% is good... but you don't want it lye heavy either.

Kerosene might have some value as a cleaner... but i'm not really sure what they had in mind by adding those to the soap. Maybe some old pioneer reference would tell you that.

Thanks for sharing! :-)

Subject: Vegetable Soap Question
Date: 1/31/03
From: Rhea B.

Good Morning,

I have been making soap (and experimenting with my own recipes) now for about 6 months. I used olive, coconut and palm oils and sometimes substitute a little shea butter and castor oils for superfatting.

My question:

1.) How do I get A LOT OF LATHER?

I really like the fact that a lot of the commercial soaps that I used to use had such a rich and wonderful lather. Castor oil give a thick,creamy lather and so does the shea, but do you think I need to up the coconut oil amount.

I've been using the recipes from "The Soapmakers Companion" (the Soap Essentials Bar". It was fine, but how do I get more lather (this is what my family is asking, but I don't want to mess up.

Any help would be great.


Rhea B.

Hi! Bottom line is the base oils that you use and I think another point is to keep the superfatting down to low or midrange. Too much extra fat in soap is bound to inhibit the lathering a bit... kind of like putting grease into your fresh dishwater (although that's detergent... I think the analogy still works). Coconut and palm make great lather (straight coconut oil soap will lather in salt water)... and palm kernel also. I like the Soap Classic recipe and it lathers really well. I like to keep my superfatting down closer to 4 to 6%. Susan Miller Cavitch started with her recipes massively superfatted in her first book and dropped them down some in the second book because the soap would not store very long without rancidity issues.

Having alot of lather is nice, but if you get too carried away, you can make soap that leaves you with too much squeak, which can feel drying. A happy medium is what I like.

I hope this helps. :-) Having soft water makes a difference also.

I'd like to read some more...take me to PAGE 2!

This page last updated 15 November 2003.
Baby in tub photo courtesy of Print Artist 4.0 Platinum by Sierra Home.
If you still have questions, please read through the information on the Troubleshooting Help page, MOST Frequently Asked Questions, Design Your Own Recipe and Modern Procedures. More can also be learned through the Botched Batches and Soapy Success pages. Many common problems have already been addressed on the site and it's difficult for me to keep up with emails these days and get anything else done. If your question involves my looking up information that you can also research, or going over numbers and recipe calculations, I might not respond if in the middle of a project around our home and garden. I apologize for this, since I've enjoyed my correspondence with people and don't like to ignore emails of any kind. Thanks! :-)