When I first started making soap, somewhere in the back of my mind was the question: how can I speed up the curing process? Normally in cold process soap making, it takes 4-6 weeks for soap to cure fully. I’ve had a few batches that were ready in 2-3 weeks, but always seems to take longer…until I found out about crock pot soap.
To start a good batch of crock pot soap, you don’t need to do anything special. That’s right, you can use any recipe for cold process soap. Crock pot soap is sometimes called hot process, different from cold process in that it is heated and cooked for a while. If you want to use my basic recipe, there are no adjustments that need to be made. Start with the same ingredients. In case you missed it, here it is:
- ¾ cup cool water – use distilled or filtered water (find the best water purification systems here)
- ¼ cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide (find it here or at local hardware stores)
- ⅔ cup olive oil (find a good value on olive oil here)
- ⅔ cup coconut oil (buy it in bulk for soap making here)
- ⅔ cup other liquid oil such as grapeseed, almond, sunflower, or safflower oil (find them here)
- Pour the water into a quart canning jar. Slowly add the lye and stir until dissolved. Remember to use gloves and a mask if you like. The fumes that come from the lye will stop in a minute or so.
- Next, measure your oils and place them in the crock pot. Be sure to measure them at a liquid state, not solid. Many crock pots only have heating elements on the sides and not on the bottom, so you may need to double or triple this recipe to fill the slow cooker a little more. When the oils are hot (you can start on high to get it going, but then switch to low) you can add the lye. That’s right, I didn’t tell you what temperature they should be, because it really doesn’t matter with this process. If the oils are hot, the lye will be too and you’re going to cook it anyway.
- Once you get the lye and oil mixed together, stir by hand for 5 minutes. I honestly believe that this is very important as it brings all of the lye in contact with all of the oil. After 5 minutes, then use a stick blender to bring it to a light trace. Remember, when you make cold process soap, you want to bring it to a medium trace, looking much like thick vanilla pudding. A light trace is more like pancake batter. Thick, but not like pudding.
- Once it gets to a light trace, cover it and walk away. DON’T stir it! This was just about the hardest thing for me since I worry about it sticking. It won’t. After about 20 minutes, sometimes sooner, you’ll see some bubbling on the sides. Then it will start to boil (sort of) and turn translucent, almost like petroleum jelly. After approximately another 20 minutes, it will expand more and start to curl in on itself. You still don’t want to stir it yet. When it’s all translucent and has folded in enough to fill in the middle, then it’s done for now.
This is the point where most instructions on the subject tell you to add your herbs and oils and pour it, but you can’t, because it’s all ropy and hard and chunky. This is where my secret comes in.
- At this point, turn the heat off. Then add about ¼ cup water and mix it in. It’ll take some doing, but it’ll start to smooth out. (If you want to add powdered goat’s milk, mix about 2-3 tablespoons with about 2 tablespoons of oil [yes, oil, not water – water makes it lumpy] and add it before the water. The soap will probably turn orange or yellow and get really pasty, but adding the water after that will loosen it up.) You can add up to ½ cup water per batch and still have it come out ok. If you add more than that, it will be easy to pour, but then your soap will be spongy and won’t set up properly.
- After it gets smoothed out, then you can add dried herbs and essential oils to make it what you want. Pour it into molds, cover with wax paper and let it sit for 24 hours. Don’t worry about retaining the heat. You just cooked it all out!
- After 24 hours, take it out of the molds. Set it on some parchment or wax paper to cure for a week or so and that’s it. The 4-6 weeks have been reduced to a week by cooking the lye out and speeding up the oxidization process. Sometimes it takes another week, but most of the time the soap is ready within a week.
Just one more note: Be sure to use an old crock pot. The lye will eventually etch the ceramic and it can break after a few years. Of course, I use mine a lot, so most should last longer. And for clean up, let everything cool and then add hot water and let it soak overnight. I use this water for my dishes or laundry. Rinse it and it’s good to go.
Have you ever made crock pot soap? If so, how did it go?
photo credit to heart hands home