I can honestly say that until about 7 years ago, the thought of making my own soap (especially goat milk soap) never crossed my mind. I didn’t even realize that it was something that “regular” people could make in their homes. When we purchased our first 2 goats, they were both lactating and we were getting a lot of milk that I was looking for ways to use up. On a whim someone suggested goat milk soap and I discovered something new that I could create!
Ingredients in goat milk soap
Soap really is very simple. The two main ingredients in real soap are lye (sodium hydroxide) and fat. When lye is added to fats, saponification takes place and glycerin is formed. Most commercial soap is made of synthetic detergents for your skin and is not really a soap. Don’t let the word lye scare you. When soap is made correctly, the chemical reaction changes the oil and lye into soap, so it is no longer harmful. To make sure that all the lye is changed into soap, you have to use exact ingredients.
A liquid is also needed to dissolve the lye. The liquid in most recipes is water, but in my case I substitute goat milk for the water. I freeze my goat milk into exact quantities for my soap batches. The milk should be frozen or very slushy when the lye is added or it may turn dark and smell scorched. Freezing the milk also gives me time to make the soap when I am ready, not when my does have lots of milk to give. I have been asked how I can call it “fresh” milk when it is actually frozen. My answer is always that it is not canned or dried, just fresh at a different temperature!
I like to use essential oils in most of my recipes for scent, but it’s not necessary if you desire a natural unscented product. Essential oils can be crazy expensive so I limit the scents that I use. Some other additives that I have used are honey, ground oatmeal, coffee grinds, pureed avocado, natural clay, sea salt, and herbs like lavender buds. Goat milk soap has a natural earthy color because of the sugars and protein in the milk. I love the variations of color that I get with my soap so I don’t use colorants. But if you did desire to get color in your soap, that is also an option.
Tools needed for making soap
There are only a few tools that you absolutely need to make goat milk soap. The first and most important is a good kitchen scale. This is the only item that I spent much money on. A scale is absolutely necessary to get your measurements correct since you will use ounces instead of cup measurements for your ingredients.
Next on the list is a mixing bowl and utensils that are used only for soap making. You do not want anything that will be reactive, like aluminum. The mixing bowl is best if it has a spout to pour, so a batter bowl works nice. I also have a large spoon for mixing and a spatula for scraping the bowl. I keep these items are kept separate from my regular kitchen tools since they come in contact directly with the lye mixture. I don’t actually ever wash the bowl and utensils, just wipe them out after use and store them. I am after all, making soap so they are very clean.
There are many very fine molds for sale, from silicon to wood to plastic. I have purchased a couple inexpensive plastic and silicon soap molds to try, but the one that I use for all my everyday soap making is a simple little cardboard box. I line the box with a plastic grocery bag and then parchment paper.
A tool that I highly recommend is a handheld blender. It will make your life easier if you have one of these and make fast work of your soap making. Look for one second-hand and use it only for soap making.
Basic steps for soap making
If you can follow the recipe for mixing up a batch of cookies or other batter, you can do this! The very basic steps are as follows:
- Measure the fats on your scale. Melt them together using a double boiler method.
- Dissolve the lye in the liquid (water, milk, etc)
- Carefully combine the melted fats and dissolved lye.
- Stir or blend until the mixture comes to “trace” meaning it will thicken and when the mixture is drizzled back on itself, a pattern will be traced on the surface.
- Pour into a lined mold to sit and harden (usually overnight).
- Cut into bars, or unmold depending on what type of mold you are using.
- Allow to dry or cure for 3-4 weeks.
That’s it! I will share one of my favorite recipes with you and go through the steps in detail. Making soap for me has been a very satisfying process. Homemade soaps make great gifts for your loved ones! I sell my soap online through Etsy. Hop on over and check it out!