Lehman’s Life: How to Make Castile Soap

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Helpful hints from our listserv at Lehman’s Life, a part of Lehman’s Country Store. MGR

Dear Friends, I’m wondering if anyone out there has a recipe for making castile soap. I have a book that tells how to make shampoo, and it calls for castile soap. I’d like to make the whole thing myself, from scratch, but I have no idea how to make castile soap, and the book doesn’t tell. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! Homeschool Mom in VA

Sara – I found this recipe online.
From Castile, or Castilia, a province in Spain, from which it originally came. A kind of fine, hard, white or mottled soap, made with olive oil and soda. Although this soap is slow to lather, a little work yields an abundance of rich, creamy suds mild enough for the most sensitive skin…

Castile soap is so gentle, it’s often used as baby’s first soap.

Makes 2 lbs. Very Easy.

Follow the basic cold process soap making instructions. Soap temperature 100-120°, a bit hotter should be fine since this is a small batch and will loose heat quickly. Cure for 6 weeks for best results.

1. 8 lbs of Pure 100% Olive Oil
1 oz of beeswax pearls (gives this bar a silky texture)

4 ozs of lye (sodium hydroxide)
10 ozs of distilled water

Melt the beeswax in the olive oil until temperatures reach approximately 120°. Add the lye to the water stirring well (follow basic cold process
instructions) and add to the oil/beeswax mixture when it cools to 120°.
Stir until trace and pour into mold.

Optional additional additives: Ground dried chamomile 1/4 cup or less and chamomile fragrance oil (2 ozs.) added at trace.

Nancy – I make soap. It’s a chemical reaction (saponification) between fatty acids (oil) and a basic substance (usually lye). It takes time for the reaction to complete (cure), usually around 4 weeks. It can be tricky, especailly castille. Because of the lye, there are precautions that need to be taken – for sefety – of yourself, any children who may happen by & pets.

The mildest soap will have accurate measurements & all measurements by WEIGHT not volume. Temperature can also determine how quickly/slowly the reaction happens.

You will need proper equipment:
*vinegar-to neutralize spills
*gloves & goggles, long pants & sleeves – uncured soap will burn your skin & eyes
*an accurate gram/oz scale for weighing lye & oil (your local post office, if you can get permission to use it)
*stainless, unchipped enamel, glass or plastic containers that will
resist heat – the reaction heats it all up. Have one for the
lye solution & 1 for the soap making pot.
*stainless or wood spoon for stirring
*mold to pour it in
*airy place to keep it while curing

A blender stick will greatly speed up the saponification process of castile, which could take days with just a spoon.

A very simple recipe would have only olive oil & lye/water solution. For lye, you may use Red Devil brand lye, but DO NOT use Draino because it has metal shavings in it. You should be able to find it in a supermarket or hardware store. You can use tap water, spring water, or distilled water and the olive oil of your choice. The cheapest grade oil is usually recommended.

Be sure not to use a blended oil. Different oils have different saponification (SAP) rates, and that means they use different amounts of lye to saponify (neutralize). Wrong amounts of lye, water, and oil can mean a very harsh and burning soap.

Before you begin, PLEASE educate yourself. It’s a complicated process , but can be very rewarding. Making a single oil soap certainly simplifies things.

I suggest getting a book about soapmaking from your library and reading some. The Natural Soap Book by Susan Miller Cavitch is bible of sorts to many soapmakers. Also do a search on the internet. There is a WEALTH of information out there.

Finally, I recommend visiting the website of Majestic Mountain Sage (MMS), http://www.thesage.com/ a soapmaking supply company for handmade soapmakers. They have a wonderful tool, a lye calculator which will accurately determine the amount of lye for an oil or known mixture of oils, in addition to a wide range supplies for varoius types of soaps.

I prefer a less superfatted soap than Cavitch recommends – she also uses a natural preservative which isn’t necessary if you don’t over superfat. I also prefer a stronger lye solution than MMS recommends. Less superfat & less water means a harder bar. Both are variable within guidelines.

You may also want to search for making liquid soap, which uses a different caustic (base) than lye. I have not made liquid soaps yet, so I cannot give any guidance.

Good luck and have fun!