Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Comes After The Lye?

Remember when we talked about "Saponification"? Saponification means "soap making". The root word, "sapo", is Latin for soap. It is the chemical reaction that occurs when a vegetable oil or animal fat is mixed with a strong alkali, in this case Sodium Hydroxide. The final products of the reaction are soap and glycerin.

From the Chemistry web page this is the chemical structure.

They also comment that in the industrial manufacture of soap once the saponification reaction is done the glycerol is removed.
They remove all the naturally-occurring glycerin so it can be sold separately. Why? Greater profit. An important difference between most commercial soap and my hand made soap is that I leave the glycerin in and it retains its natural moisturizing property.

I use all vegetable oils in my soap. I tried many different formulas over the years until I found one that is mild yet cleansing. I like a soap with a lot of lather, so that is what I make. I do not have to use any lotion when using my soap, and that is saying a lot here in Nevada, dry skin capital of the world.
Vegetable fats and oils are lipid materials derived from plants, extracted primarily from seeds. They are composed of triglycerides. For making soap you want a variety of oils and choose them for the properties they bring to the finished product.

Lauric Acid is also called Dodecanoic Acid.

It is solid at room temperature, has a long shelf live, and is believed to have antimicrobial properties. It is found in human, cows, and goats milk. It is also found in coconut and palm kernel oil and helps to create a hard, cleansing bar of soap with fluffy lather.

Myristic Acid is also called Tetradecanoic Acid CH3(CH2)12COOH and is a common saturated fatty acid.

It is found in nutmeg butter, palm oil, coconut oil, and butter fat. It helps make a hard and cleansing bar of soap also.

Palmitic Acid or Hexadecanoic Acid CH3(CH2)14COOH is one of the most common saturated fats found in plants.

It is found in Palm and Palm Kernel Oil. It helps to create a hard bar of soap with a stable lather.

Steric Acid or Octadecanoic Acid C18H36O2, or CH3(CH2)16COOH is a saturated fatty acid that is found more in animal fat than vegetable fat, except for Shea Butter, which I use, whose fatty acids consist of up to 45% steric acid.

Stearic makes a hard bar of soap with stable lather.

Ricinoleic Acid (12-hydroxy-9-cis-octadecenoic acid)is an unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that naturally occurs in mature Castor Plant Seeds.

It creates a conditioning, fluffy, and stable lather.

Oleic acid or elaidic acid CH3(CH2)7CH=CH(CH2)7COOH is a mono-unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable sources.

Oleic means related to oil or olive. It is Olive Oil and makes a very conditioning soap.

Linoleic Acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid. It is abundant in many vegetable oils found in the lipids of cell membranes, especially in Rice Bran Oil.

Linoleic Acid makes a conditioning bar of soap. Research points to linoleic acid's anti-inflammatory, acne reductive, and moisture retentive properties when applied topically on the skin and has become very popular in the skin care industry.

So that is my soap formula. Easy as pie. I make a soap that is high in conditioning and had soft, creamy bubbles. Oh yes, it also cleanses. Try it, you'll love it and never go back to store bought cleansers again.


  1. sister the chemist....thanks michelle for the info...very interesting..

  2. Yup, that's me, and my shadow, the computer and dictionary.

  3. this may be my favorite post you've done so far!


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