Susan’s ‘Respect the Lye!’ Beeswax Soap

PLAN BEE Susan Brackney

CODE: 220330 RRP: £8.99 Cygnus Price: £3.99 You save: £5.00 (56%)

3 ounces/85.2 grammes grated beeswax
5 ounces/142 grammes coconut oil
4 ounces/113.6 grammes palm oil
2.12 ounces/60.2 grammes lye
5 ounces/142 grammes distilled water

Goggles
Rubber gloves
2 wooden spoons
Plastic measuring spoonsPlastic spatula
Metal pot
2 glass candy/jam thermometers
Ceramic or glass mixing bowls
Glass measuring cup
Kitchen scales that measure very accurately
Petroleum jelly
Plastic or glass soap mould
Vinegar

First, slather petroleum jelly (Vaseline) onto the bottom and sides of the inside of your mould. (I use one of those plastic trays that fits inside a cashbox, but there are all kinds of mould possibilities.) Set your greased mould aside for now.Next, with the precision of a chemist, weigh all your ingredients except for the lye. Seriously, be very exacting here. Put the oils and beeswax together in your metal pot, and set that aside. Fill the glass measuring cup with distilled water. (Again, precision matters.)

On the scale, make sure the weighing bin – or whatever plastic container you’re using to contain the lye flakes or crystals as you measure – is clean and completely dry. Like fire, lye is useful, but its power must be respected, so keep the lye-neutralising vinegar close at hand in case of accidents. Now, put on your goggles and rubber gloves. Using a small, plastic spoon, measure the 2.12 ounces/60.2 grammes of lye, then go outdoors with the water-filled measuring cup, measured lye, wooden spoon, and one of the glass candy/jam thermometers for the next step. Be sure to find a safe place away from the kids and pets.

Now it’s times to mix the lye. Slowly pour the measured lye into the water – never the other way around, because it can splash and burn! Stir gently, and the lye water will heat up and become transparent. Stick the thermometer in, and you’ll be amazed at how hot this stuff gets. Leave it to cool. The target temperature will be 120°F/49°C for both the lye solution and your mixture of beeswax and oils, and getting both to exactly 120°F/49°C at the same time can be tricky.

Go back inside to heat the fats on the stove top, slowly mixing with the other wooden spoon. To melt everything together, the temperature of the wax and oils will go well above 120°F/49°C. When all has melted, gently pour the fatty liquid into a large glass or ceramic bowl, and stick in the other glass candy thermometer. At this point I’ll take the bowl outside and put it next to the lye water to compare temperatures on each. When the fat and the lye fall to 120°F/49°C, then it’s time to pour the lye into the bowl of mixed fats. Stir this with the wooden spoon you originally used for mixing the beeswax and oils. As the lye binds with the fats, the mixture will become thick and creamy like vanilla pudding. It takes me anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes of mixing before the consistency is right. When you can drizzle the mixture off your spoon and into the bowl with the drizzled lines resting on the top for a second or so, you’ve reached the point soap makers call ‘trace.’

At trace, pour the soap-to-be into your mould and smooth the top with spatula as needed. Lightly press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the top of the soap, and let it ‘cure’ or harden in the mould for a few days. You’re almost there…. Turn the soap out of the mould and let it cure a while more before cutting it into bars. You should end up with one pound of pleasing yellow soap. I cut mine into six small bars.

From Plan Bee  © 2009 by Susan Brackney, published in the UK by Hay House.