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Sneak Peek at a Soaping Session

Posted on 07 July 2015

by Carrie

How long does it take to make a batch of soap?  People usually ask me this question in reference to bath soaps and it's a simple question, with a not-so-precise answer:  It depends.  What size is the batch?  Is it solid-colored or a multi-color design?  How many batches will be done during the session?  Is it a standard bar or a specialty recipe?  And are they curious about the timing for the entire process (start to finish) or  just the actual "oils-and-lye-blending-to-make-soap" part?                                                                           This soap was not made today, but I really love these swirls.

While it's hard to pin down an actual time frame for how many minutes goes into a batch of soap, each soaping session tends to follow a fairly regular and predictable series of steps.  And since I just so happened to make a few batches of soap this afternoon, I thought it might be a good time to snap a few behind-the-scenes shots to share.  (Huge kudos to the hubby to whisking the kiddos away for a few hours so I had a safe, quiet space to work....ALONE!)

A typical soaping session (for bath soap) looks something like this:

  1. Decide what soaps we need, how much of each to make, and which molds are needed.  This usually happens in the soap shop, as Darren and I check the shelves to see which soaps we're low on and formulate a plan of attack.                                 
  2. Print Recipes.  I use a great program called SoapMaker 3 to access our stored recipes/files/notes for each soap and resize them according to what's on that day's agenda.  (Side Note:  This program is one of my top recommendations for anyone who makes soap!)
  3. Line Molds.  Freezer paper, tape, and scissors are my friends for this step.                             
  4. Prep the Work Space.  I work in my kitchen (for now), so there usually needs to be kitchen clean-up before I get started with soaping. (Double kudos to my hubby to taking care of all the dishes and making sure I had a clear countertop before heading out with the crew.)  I use plastic to protect the countertop and make the later clean-up easier.
  5. Gather ingredients, containers, and equipment.  Since we don't (yet) have a dedicated soaping area, this step involves a little "shopping" from different areas of the house....oils/butter are already in the kitchen, buckets/containers are in another section, colorants and fragrances are in the soap shop, and utensils and stick blenders have a home on a shelf.  
  6. Weigh out each ingredient into soaping containers.  Pretty self-explanatory step, just have to be certain to keep each container-recipe combo straight.
  7. Make the soap.  Now we get to the fun part (finally!).   This is where the magic happens, when the oils/butter dance with the lye water to become soap "batter" that gets colored, fragranced, and put into molds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Respect soap was unusually messy today!
  8. Put it to bed.  Technically, it's referred to as insulating the soap, but around here we put it to bed under a pile of Grandmother Seibert's handmade blankets  They'll sleep there for about a day while the soap gets really hot and goes through the gel phase.     
  9. Clean Up.  The least fun part of the deal, but it does at least signal the "end" of the soaping session (and I can mark "Make Soap" off that day's list).

So what did that translate to for today?  I spent about 4-5 hours from start to finish and made 5 batches of soap.  Two of those were specialty soaps, while the other 3 were for our core, standard line.  Altogether, it was a total of about 40 pounds of soap, which we'll unmold and cut either tomorrow or the following day.

If you had the opportunity to make a batch of soap, what would it look/smell like? 

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