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How To Make Soap

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Tired of paying for shower gels and commercially made soaps? Looking to save some money in these tough economic times? You could make soap bars the way that humans have been doing for thousands of years, by heating animal fat or vegetable oil with lye unitil it thickens and then pour it into a mould.
What you'll need: 
Personal protection kit (very important!) : rubber gloves, boots, apron or lab coat, long trousers, safety goggles
2.5 ounces of caustic soda (also known as sodium hydroxide or lye)
20 fluid ounces of melted lard or liquid vegetable oil
A steel pot (don't use aluminium vessels, they react with lye!)
7.5 fluid ounces of water
Two measuring jugs (one made of glass)
Scales or balance
Mixing stick (wooden)
Heat source (gas or electric ring on cooker)
Moulds
1: 
Put on your personal protection kit!
2: 
Using the scales (not the ones you normally use for cooking food)carefully measure out 2.5 ounces of sodium hydroxide and keep it away from water.
3: 
Measure 7.5 fluid ounces of water using the first (glass) measuring jug
4: 
Carefully add the sodium hydroxide to the water until it is dissolved (do not do this the other way around, ie add water to a pile of sodium hydroxide, the reaction is exothermic (it gives off heat) and the water may boil and splash caustic soda solution onto you).
5: 
If using lard instead of vegetable oil, using a very gentle heat, melt it in the steel pot and confirm that you have 20 fluid ounces, using the second measuring jug.
6: 
With the gas/electric ring switched off, pour the melted fat from the measuring jug back into the steel pot used in step 5 and then carefully pour in the sodium hydroxide solution. (Do not do this while the gas/heat is on and ensure that the fat is not boiling otherwise the sodium hydroxide solution may boil also and splash itself and hot fat all over the kitchen!)
7: 
Turn the gas/electric ring on and using a very low flame and gentle heat, taking care not to splash it, stir the mixture for an hour or until it reaches a porridge like consistency. It should thicken up after heating and stirring but vegetable oil may take longer to reach this stage (running the extractor fan is a good idea during this stirring process)
8: 
After the mixture has reached a porridge like consistency, turn off the heat and pour it into the mould(s).
9: 
If using a large mould, wearing rubber gloves, remove the large soap cake from the mould after an hour or two and cut it into smaller bars. You may have to use a knife to smooth these down. If you leave for longer than one or two hours, the large bar will be much harder to cut into smaller bars.Leave the smaller bars to harden overnight.
10: 
Wearing rubber gloves, wrap the smaller soap bars you cut from the larger bar, in plastic film and seal to keep moisture out. Remove the bars from the smaller moulds if you used this method and seal those in plastic to keep moisture out. Leave the bars for several weeks to 'cure' (finish reacting) before using.
Conclusion: 
Provided you follow the safety advice and use accurate amounts of ingredients, this is a relatively easy and low cost way to make soap bars. The soap produced by this method is unrefined and contains a mixture of soap and glycerol but humans have been making it this way for centuries.
Tips: 
When you unwrap the bars after leaving them to cure for a few weeks, touch them to the end of your nose, if they sting, put them back in the wrapper for a few more weeks
Download the material safety data sheets (MSDS) for Sodium Hydroxide and read them
If you get interrupted while making the soap, say by the phone or someone knocking at the door, you can take the pot off of the gas and then place it back on the gas when you return and continue stirring
You can buy sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) in places like B&Q
The amounts used here are from a recipe that has been tried and tested. The ratios, if you want to make larger amounts are 1 part caustic soda to 8 parts fat or oil
Warnings: 
Do not underestimate the capacity of Sodium Hydroxide to cause burns and serious injury.If you are not confident in your ability to handle it or make soap, then do not attempt to carry out this reaction!
Caustic Soda/Sodium Hydroxide should be handled with great care and personal protection kit should be worn at all times when using it
Do not attempt to make soap while there are children and animals in the house
Do not under any circumstances put sodium hydroxide, fat and oil into an aluminium vessel. Caustic soda reacts with aluminium and will make holes in a cooking pot made from this metal
Do not get sodium hydroxide on your skin, in your eyes or swallow it. Seek immediate medical assistance in this event.

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