For the past few months, I have been trying to make a liquid soap from scratch. I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been very successful.
The first batch was based on a recipe I made up myself, with the help of a soap calculator. I doubt I’ll ever know what went wrong with that batch. It thickened quite quickly and I thought I had achieved trace. I cooked it for a long time. However, it was just a grey sludge after all of those hours.
The second batch was an exact replica of the recipe that we used in the Liquid Soap workshop at Soap and More – The Learning Center. However, I let the temperature rise too high and it basically erupted out of the bowl. I probably spent more time cleaning that batch up than making it!
The third batch was anything but charmed. Once again, it thickened nicely, but never formed the beautiful clear amber paste.
As it turned out, batch number four was the lucky one. It worked out differently from the rest. I followed a recipe out of Catherine Failor’s book Liquid Soap. Within 20 minutes of mixing the lye and oils, I achieved trace. About ten minutes after that, it was too thick to stir with the blender. Over the next several hours, I cooked the mixture in my slow cooker and it turned a beautiful transparent amber color. Yippee!! I ended up with a pail of amber soap paste.
I diluted a cup of that paste with two cups of water. I added a bit of citric acid to correct the pH level. Then, I bottled it and let it sit for two weeks. At the end of those two weeks, I tested the pH again to confirm it was OK and put it into a bottle and finally, after many months of painstaking experimentation, I had a bottle of homemade, natural, liquid soap that I made from scratch!
Making liquid soap has been the most challenging natural product to make so far. I’m just ecstatic to have finally made a batch successfully!
September 30, 2011 at 8:27 am
Interesting post. What does it mean “to achieve trace”? I admire your tenacity and perseverance. It paid off!
September 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm
Thank you, Sarah. This was big milestone for me!
“Trace” is the stage at which the liquid is just thick enough that a drop or drops of it will sit on top of the surface for a bit, instead of immediately being incorporated into the whole mixture. The liquid will thicken further after achieving trace.
I tested this by periodically lifting the immersion blender out of the bowl and watching the liquid fall back into the bowl. The first photo above was taken just after I achieved trace. If you look closely, you will see that the liquid is quite thick and is sitting on top of the mixture.
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