Making hand milled soaps is perhaps the next “step” in soap making after you have mastered the art of making basic soaps. Hand milled soaps contain extra additives, additives that are introduced to the soap once the caustic lye is fully combined with the fats in your soap.
This means that any fragrances, dyes, or other ingredients you add will be at full strength and will not be eroded in any way by combining with the lye. With hand milled soaps, you can also use fancy molds to produce beautifully shaped soaps.
“All right,” you might say, “I’m sold on the hand-milled soap concept – how do I do it?” Some variations exist in the ways that hand milled soaps are made, and these variations will be made clear in the hand milled soap recipe you choose.
Another variable is how hard your basic soap should be before you mill it. For instance, some recipes will call for a soft basic soap, while others will require a firmer soap.
Once you have selected soap of the desired consistency, you can follow these general instructions for making hand milled soaps:
Step 1: Once your basic soap has hardened enough cut into chunks and then grate – just be sure to put your gloves on and start cutting! You will want a few chunks of basic soap that will fit comfortably in your hand as you grate them on a common kitchen grater.
Step 2: Grate your basic soap into an airtight container, making sure that the soap does not compress or begin to seep water. If it does so, it will need to be dried for a few more days before grating.
Step 3: Once you have grated your basic soap, you will be ready to melt the soap and water together. Mix 9 ounces of water with 12 ounces of grated basic soap in a small saucepan and heat gradually.
Do not use your soap pot because its larger surface area may cause your soap and water mixture to burn.
Step 4: Stir the soap and water mixture so that it does not boil. If your mixture looks like it will boil, turn the heat down! What you are trying for here is a well-mixed combination, not a soap soup.
You will also need to be careful not to stir your mixture too continuously because it will create suds and bubbles (it is soap after all). A good rule of thumb is to stir only as much as is needed to keep the soap from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Step 5: Once the soap has liquefied completely, remove it from heat, and allow it to cool, stirring it gently as it does so. When the soap reaches between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, it is ready to pour.
Mix in the extra additives you want just before you pour the soap, stirring vigorously to ensure the additives are dispersed evenly throughout the mixture.
Step 6: Prepare your individual molds on a flat surface, and then ladle or pour the cooled soap into them. To prevent air bubbles you should gently tap each mold.
The molds should be filled to the brim, but not to overfilling since this will make it difficult to remove the soap from the mold.
Step 7: Set your molds aside for a time so that the surface can form a skim, which will make the molds easier to move. Then, place the molds in the freezer, which will both harden the soap faster and make it easier to remove from the molds.
Step 8: Freeze the bars of soap solid, which may take up to three or four hours depending on the recipe used. Once they are frozen, remove the bars from their molds, and place them on a surface such as a window screen or white paper.
Step 9: Allow bars to cure for several days or weeks – some soaps especially those in larger molds, will need up to a month to cure completely.
Check your bars periodically to ensure they are not warping; if warping does occur you should turn the affected bar over so that gravity will pull it back into shape. You will be able to tell the bars are fully cured when they are hard to the touch.
Step 10: You should also watch bars that contain special ingredients, such as honey, buttermilk, or other perishables, because these ingredients can grow mold if the soap does not grow quickly enough. To prevent this from happening, make sure you dry your soap bars in a warm and well-ventilated place. It is also a good idea to staple your paper or screen on a kind of frame to allow air to flow underneath the drying bars.
Hand milled soaps are just another way to make your soap even more special!
Go to soap making for additional information and more soap making tips.