The products we use on our body should be just as safe and clean as the food we put into our bodies. One of the best ways to make sure of this is to make your own bath and body products. Deodorant, sunscreen, skin balm and lotion bars, lip balm, tooth powder, and soap are all simple things that are easy to make at home — so you know exactly what you’re putting on your largest organ, your skin.
When we brought home our first two dairy goats, we also brought home new ideas, dreams, and possibilities. Suddenly, there were new things to try in our homesteading adventure — like making goat’s milk soap! It’s so much fun to make soap and there are so many options! What scent should it be? Do you want to add coloring? How about texture, like coffee grounds or oatmeal? What shape should the bars be — square, round, or something fun using a special soap mold?
The best thing is that making those decisions should be the hardest part of the process. Although lye-based soap making requires some common sense and safety measures, it’s very easy to do!
Benefits of Goat’s Milk Soap
Goat’s milk soap is very gentle and pH balanced, so it’s great for people with dry or sensitive skin, acne, or eczema. If you already have healthy skin, goat’s milk soap will help keep it that way. However, if you don’t have access to goat’s milk, this recipe can be made using an equal amount of water in place of the milk.
Don’t Get Burned!
The basic ingredients of soap are: a liquid mixed with lye, and one or more fats or oils. As you probably know, lye (or sodium hydroxide) is a caustic chemical and can cause severe burns if you aren’t careful with it. So, before you start making soap, make sure you have the following safety equipment.
- Rubber Gloves
- Safety Goggles
- A medical-type face mask
In addition to those items to protect your skin, eyes, and lungs, make sure to pour and stir the lye solution slowly to avoid unnecessary splashing. Work in a well-ventilated area, and educate your family members or friends who may be with you about the dangers associated with lye. Use only plastic, glass, or stainless steel containers and utensils when mixing the lye, and make sure you label them for soap-making use only. Remember to be careful during the entire soap-making process, as the lye is still active until the saponification (the chemical reaction that makes soap) process is complete — which can take up to 24 hours. Don’t be afraid, just be smart!
Gathering Your Supplies
The above picture shows (almost) everything you need to make goat’s milk soap. Here’s a list of what you need. Remember, some things will need to be labeled or dedicated “for soap-making use only” because of the lye. Those items have been marked with an asterisk.
- Frozen goat’s milk
- A container to weigh your lye crystals
- Fats and Oils
- Essential Oils
- Containers or bowls to weigh your oils
- Container to mix goat’s milk and lye in (plastic, glass, or stainless steel only)*
- Spoon to mix goat’s milk and lye (plastic, glass, or stainless steel only)*
- Stainless-steel or enamel-coated pot for melting oils and mixing the lye solution and melted fats and oils together*
- Something to mix the lye solution and melted fats and oils together. (We use an immersion blender. A long-handled whisk works fine, but you will end up with a really tired arm from all that stirring!)*
- Kitchen scale
- Two thermometers* (One is used for measuring the temperature of the lye solution* and should only be used for that purpose, the other is used for measuring the temperature of the fats and oils. As long as you don’t mix them up, you can use your regular kitchen candy/deep fry thermometer for the fats and oils.)
- Rubber Spatula*
- Safety Equipment — rubber gloves, safety goggles, and mask.*
- A knife to cut the soap into bars
If you aren’t sure where to purchase some of these supplies, here are a few suggestions:
This is the brand of lye we use. We get it from our local hardware store, but it can also be purchased online from Sears here. There are other places online to purchase it — just be sure whatever you get is 100% lye!
This eBay store is where we purchase most of our soap-making essential oils. (I do not use the oils for internal or therapeutic use.)
Plastic containers and utensils can be found at yard sales, thrift shops, and dollar stores. I don’t recommend using a plastic pitcher from the dollar store, since it should be a thicker plastic like a Tupperware brand pitcher, but spoons and spatulas from there work just fine.
For a mold, all you really need is a wide, shallow cardboard box lined with a plastic grocery bag. To make round bars, we use a piece of 3-inch PVC pipe lined with parchment paper and put a used canning seal on the bottom. We put that into another plastic container so it’s easy to move. But making different shapes can be fun, too, and you can find many options online and in craft stores.
sa•pon•i•fy: v. -fied, -fy•ing.v.t.
1. to convert (a fat) into soap by treating with an alkali.
In other words, let’s put on those goggles, rubber gloves, and face masks, because it’s time to make some soap!
The following recipe is one that we developed using the SoapCalc website. The end result is a hard, creamy bar of soap with good lather and cleansing properties. All ingredients are measured by weight, not volume. Remember to place your container on the scale and tare it before measuring the ingredients.
In case you’re wondering, this method for soapmaking is called cold process, and the bars need to cure for 4 to 6 weeks before using. On the other hand, hot process soap (like this) is “cooked” during saponification, speeding up the process so bars can be used more quickly. However, with hot process, you may lose some beneficial properties of essential oils due to adding them to a hot soap mixture. It’s all about what you want from your soap.
- 24.7 oz frozen goat’s milk. The best way to measure this is by freezing the milk in ice cube trays, and then adding the cubes to your container until you reach the correct weight. If you are using water instead of goat’s milk, do not freeze first!
- 6.7 oz lye
- 18 oz coconut oil
- 24 oz lard
- 1 oz castor oil
- 2 oz olive oil
- 2 oz essential oil (optional) – you can use either a single, or any combination of oils, as long as the total is 2 ounces. For this batch, we used 1-1/2 oz vanilla essential oil and 1/2 oz rosemary essential oil.
If necessary, prepare your soap molds by lining them with plastic or wax or parchment paper.
Make sure you are wearing the proper safety equipment and are working in a well-ventilated area.
Weigh out goat’s milk, set aside. You can do this directly in your designated milk/lye mixing container.
Carefully weigh out lye crystals, set aside.
Weigh out your essential oils, set aside.
Weigh out each oil, and combine them all in your pot. Place the pot over low heat until the solid oils have melted completely, then remove from heat and set aside.
If you didn’t use your milk/lye mixing container in the first step, put the frozen milk into it now. Slowly pour the lye into the container.
The milk will start melting right away. Carefully stir the mixture until all the milk is melted.
Once the milk and lye solution is thoroughly combined, it’s time to cool it down a bit. You can do this by placing the container in a bowl of ice water. You also need to to check the temperature of the oils at this time. The lye solution should never be hotter than the oils, but it can be the same temperature or within 10* degrees cooler. We like to have our oil at 100*F, and our lye solution between 90* to 100*F.
Once the lye mixture is cool enough, carefully pour it into the pot with melted oils, stirring as you pour.
Now it is time to stir (and stir and stir!) until the lye solution and oils are completely combined and you reach “trace.” Trace is the point where the oils and lye are completely combined and can no longer separate again. Think of it as emulsification — when you’re making mayonnaise, you need to blend it until the egg and vinegar are completely combined so that it won’t separate again when you put it in the fridge.
To test for trace, periodically lift your blender or whisk and let the mixture drip back onto the surface. When the drip lines stay on the surface for a few seconds before blending back into the mixture, you’ve reached trace. The mixture should be thick like pudding or gravy.
Once you have reached trace, it’s time to add any essential oils, colorings, etc. Pour them in and combine well. Check once more for trace.
Pour the mixture into your soap molds.
Using the rubber spatula, either smooth the top of your soap or use it to create a texture. The soap does not settle as it hardens, so if you want your soap to be smooth on all sides, do that now. Personally, I prefer the textured look.
Move the soap to a cool, dark area and allow it to sit undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours. Remember, the lye can still be active for awhile, so don’t touch the soap with your bare hands until at least 24 hours is up!
Now, take a look at the mess you’ve made! Anything that was only used for milk, oils or fats — the container you used to measure them in, the spoon you used to stir them while melting them, and the thermometer, can be washed now. Anything that was used for the lye solution — the container you used to mix the milk and lye, the spoon you used to stir it, the thermometer, the pot you mixed it in, the stick blender or whisk, and the spatula — place together in one spot and allow them to sit at least 24 hours before washing them. When it’s safe to touch the soap, it’s safe to touch the utensils.
Once the 24 to 48 hours is up, it’s time to unmold and cut your soap into bars so it can finish curing. If you are using a mold, simply pop the bars out and place them in a box, allowing space between each bar for air flow.
If you used a large mold, flip the “cake” out of the mold and peel away the plastic or paper you used to line it. The soap will still be soft enough to cut easily using a knife, fishing line, dental floss, or a crinkle cutter. Once you have it all cut into bars, place in a box as directed above.
The bars of soap need to continue hardening and curing for another 4 to 6 weeks before use. During this time, you will need to flip and rotate the bars every few days so that all sides are exposed to air at some point. Some people prefer to loosely cover the soap with a towel or lid during this time as well.
When your soap is finished hardening and curing, it’s ready to be used! Put a bar by each sink, wrap some up and give it to a friend, or sell it at a local farmers’ market. Enjoy the soft, creamy lather and wonderful scent, along with the satisfaction of a job well done and the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what you’re putting on your skin!