So far this year, I’ve revealed several soap making secrets. I’ve told you about lye and I’ve explained the different properties of common oils like coconut and olive oil. Now I’d like to explain the secret behind how lye, water and oils become soap. Be ready for your mind to be blown. The secret is…stirring. A lot of stirring. OK, maybe that isn’t exactly mind-blowing but without properly mixing the ingredients, a batch of soap is doomed.
Once the oils are melted and the lye water is cooled, the two are are mixed together and stirred until the batter begins to emulsify and thicken. Depending on the recipe, it can take an hour (or several) of stirring for the soap to fully emulsify.
For millennia, soap makers sported arm muscles like Popeye’s after a spinach binge thanks to hours and hours of stirring soap batter. When the stick blender became a common household product, soap makers quickly figured out how to use the technology to make their jobs easier. A few short bursts of mixing with a stick blender can bring soap batter to the desired consistency within minutes, not hours. The extra time saved means we can make more soap!
There are some precautions that I take every time I make a batch of soap with my stick blender. I always wear rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and goggles to protect myself from any splatter that might happen. When I insert the stick blender into the batter, I tap it several times on the bottom of the bowl. This helps any air bubbles trapped under the blender to escape. Air bubbles can show up in a finished bar of soap as tiny little holes or spots and aesthetically ruin a design. I always unplug my blender before attempting to clean the soap out of it. I really like all of my fingers. I’ve known them my whole life and we’ve become quite close. I would hate to lose any of them because I accidentally hit the power button while wiping soap batter off of the blade.
I credit my aunt for getting me started with soap making. During a visit several years ago, she gave me a stick blender that she no longer used. I was researching how to make soap at the time and I looked at her gift as a sign that I should stop dreaming about making soap and start doing it.
If you are interested in learning more about the soap making process, you can catch up on past installments of soap making secrets here. Once you’re caught up, be sure to stop by the Emmet Street Creations shop on Etsy to try out some of the soaps you read about.