Friday, May 21, 2010

Castile soap

I've been wondering for a long time about trying to wash and dry outside if it comes to that. The horse trough would be a good place to start, but what about soap?

I remember that one of the gentlest soaps when I was kid was castile. Lo and behold, it's made out of olive oil! and a little lye and water. You need a stainless steel pot. I have to go find one of those. I have one for cheese making, but can't wrap my mind around making lye soap in it and then cheese? They can be hard to find at a reasonable price.


You need 12 ounces of lye and that has disappeared from our shelves thanks to recreational drug use. I ordered six cans today from The Lye Guy (for real). You need a heavy duty plastic stirer (sp?) so Goodwill here I come. You need 48 ounces of NOT VIRGIN olive oil........ not touching that one, but I think I saw some of that at Canned Foods Warehouse. You need a meat thermometer, rubber gloves, and a soda can box (shallow) lined with plastic wrap.

You GENTLY pour the lye into a glass jar, and set it in an inch of water in the sink. If the lye hits the stainless steel it will ruin the finish. Slowly add 32 ounces of water to the jar (make sure it will hold it all with a little frothing), and stir with the heavy duty PLASTIC spoon you got at the secondhand store. You really should wear rubber gloves the first few times until you see the reaction. Slowly really means slowly. The solution will be HOT. Make sure the room you are working in has ventilation, and don't breathe the fumes.

While the lye solution is cooling off a little, mix the olive oil in the stainless steel pot that you found at a garage sale for a steal. It has to be stainless because aluminum pots will react with the lye. Aluminum is light and stainless is heavy.

Heat the fat until it reaches 98 degrees on a meat thermometer. Keep it there. You need the lye and the fat at about the same temperature so that you have no surprises. When the two mixtures are at about the same temperature you SLOWLY (there's that word again) pour the lye mixture into the fat mixture in the stainless pot, and you stir the whole time. This is where you could really use another set of hands.

You need to continue to stir the mixture for twenty minutes to an hour. The soap will start to set, kind of like strawberry gel when you make a pie. The mixture will have heated up to about 120 degrees because of the chemical reactions. You need to keep the mixture at about that temperature for several hours. You can set it in your oven with the door cracked or out in the sun wrapped up in black plastic.

Now you add the extras if you want them: two ounces of cocoa butter or some essential oil. Melt the cocoa butter first and stir it in well. You have heated up the mixture with the cocoa butter, so stir until it gels again, and then you pour the soap into the box mold, or any other mold you want to use, and let it cool. It needs to cool slowly. Cover and wrap in old towels or blankets. It takes about 24 hours.

It seems like a lot of time, but if you don't give the reaction time to happen, you get lye rising to the surface of your soap and that will burn or irritate your skin. That's the part that gave lye soap a bad name. People tried to hurry the reaction and wouldn't wait for it to finish. The result was lye crystals and a rough texture. If that happens, you have to shave off the "free lye".

Once the mixture is in the box, you need to cut the bar sizes before it cools. The longer it cools the harder the bars. This is the soap you can grate to make anything from laundry soap to shampoo.

You really need to let the bars "air" for about twenty to thirty days, and give it time to cure.

That's what you need for the bar soap part. Laundry soap takes another step.


You grate a bar of soap (your own, Fels Naptha, or even Dial for antibacterial) and put it in a saucepan with about one and a half quarts of water. You heat it until the soap melts. Then you add a half cup of washing soda. That is NOT the same as baking soda. Washing soda is made by Arm and Hammer and is sodium bicarbonate or soda ash. I'm going to try some Oxy Clean because I think it is similar. The purpose is to remove dirt and odors, and I think that OxyClean does a good job of that. You can order it online.

You also add a half cup of borax: Twenty Mule Team is pretty easy to find.

Once it is all dissolved, remove it from the heat and pour a gallon of HOT water into a two gallon bucket. Now add your soap mixture, and any scent you want. 1/2 oz to 1 oz of oil should do the trick. I love Sandalwood, Orange, or Lemongrass. They smell clean. Now add one gallon plus a quart of water and stir. After about 24 hours the mixture should gel; not a solid gel but an "egg soup" gel. If it doesn't it will still work.

You use about 1/2 cup per load.

There are not a lot of sud in this soap which makes it great for septic tanks and rinsing by hand, but it gets clothes clean, and it is inexpensive. About $2.00 for the whole two gallons. That means you get about 64 loads for $2.00, and that works out to about 3 cents a load.

I've been using Purex at $7 a bottle and I get about fifteen loads out of that. That means it costs me 47 cents a load if I don't make my own. That's fifteen times more expensive........


  1. This sounds like an adventure! Make sure that you guys get pictures when you get the lye and actually try it.

  2. I wanna try some castle bar soap.

  3. I found Lye at Lowe's in Roseburg before we moved up here. It wasn't "easily" located, but then you won't have the DEA tracking your purchases :D I bet Jerry's will have it. The bottles were bigger than I had ever gotten before, but that was a plus.

  4. You want your castile soap in the shape of a castle?

  5. Sue you have converted me with the $$$$ breakdown. I'm going to make my own laundry soap.
    I'm a wee bit chicken to try the lye stuff... I fear that I would burn the crud out of myself.
    What do you use for your two gallon bottle/bucket?
    Can you just "double the batch" and use a five gallon bucket? Does it "go bad"? I know, I sound like a city slicker with all these dumb questions but I need a complete 'recipe' so I can get on it. Thanks!!!!

  6. Fred Meyer carries washing soda. Did a demo of the laundry soap for a green cleaning class at church. Works uber well. Not sure about subbing oxyclean for washing soda. Let me know how it goes.
    If you can't find lye, you can make your own. It's a bit complicated. Using wood ash and leaching water through it...

  7. I'm curious about baking soda... D and I were just discussing it's many uses yesterday (after bathing the dogs in it to rid them of poison oak oil which I was SURE would find it's way to me, and though I don't know for sure whether I can catch poison oak because I've never caught it before, I'm not really in the mood to find out) and we were amazed at it's many uses... facial wash, shampoo additive, bath oil, deodorizer, toothpaste... I'll do some studying and see what I can come up with.

    D mentioned yesterday that he'd like to be able to make soaps out of things we already have or can have in bulk, rather than things like Olive Oil (which is expensive and goes rancid) and lye (which is hard to find.) I suppose he has a valid point, smart man. I feel a post coming on!!!

  8. I love homemade soap! It doesnt dry you out and you know exactly what went into it-no scary additives.
    I happen to work at GloryBee and we sell lye in 2# and 50# amounts in our store. We are even offering a class soon on how to make all your own soaps and lotions and such :)