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Handbook for Caribbean Soapers

a Handbook

for Caribbean Soapers Lisa-Marie Griffith

A Publication by Handmade Caribbean

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information presented is accurate. Since we have no control over the physical conditions, individual skills or chosen tools and products, the publisher disclaims any liability for injuries, losses or any other damages which may result from the use of the information in this book. Thoroughly read the instructions, paying particular attention to Safety and Health considerations. No part of this book may be reproduced for commercial purposes in any form, without permission by the copyright holder. All rights reserved Copyright January 2010


Why a Handbook for Caribbean Soapers you ask? I dare say, such a book is long overdue. Soapers here in the Caribbean have our own peculiar challenges, but more importantly, we have access to a range of indigenous raw materials that remains largely unexplored in the rest of the World. This Book is intended as a guide yes, but it is also hoped that between these pages, you will find great inspiration to stretch yourself to go beyond your the comfort zone. It is hoped that you will use the book as your companion and that it will provide you with the much needed information, all in one place.


Table of Contents

The Cold Process


Oil Profiles


Safety Considerations


Formulate your soaps


Saponification Table


Table of Contents

Step By Step Soaps


Why must Soaps cure?






Blue Soap Goat’s Milk and Honey Soap Chocolate Mint Swirl Cinnamon and Orange Soap Almond and Ginger Caribbean Castile Soap Bay and Lemongrass

Soap Making Soap Making is an Art. There is very little dispute there. The hundreds of websites dedicated to presenting handmade soaps in all shapes, colours and sizes are a testament to that. Soap Making is a science first. An understanding of the science behind the Art is the key to moving from an ordinary soap maker to an outstanding one.


Soap Formation Saponification Soap is formed when Fatty Acids react with Sodium Hydroxide. Simply put : Fats/Oils+ Sodium Hydroxide= Soap+ Glycerin

Any Fat or Oil can be used to make soap. In combination with the right amounts of Sodium Hydroxide and under the right conditions, soap forms. The natural bye product of this reaction is glycerin. Handmade Soaps therefore contain glycerin, a natural humectant. The presence of glycerin in Handmade Soap is one of the reasons that finished bars moisturise rather than dry out the skin.


The Cold Process The Cold Process (CP) method of making Soaps is the traditional Soap Making Method. It is not the only method to make soaps. The Cold Process is so called because no additional, outside sources of heat are used in the saponification process. The combination of Oils/Fats and Sodium Hydroxide generates its own heat and it is more than enough to complete the process of Soap Formation.


What Oils? Although any oil or fat can be used to make soaps, it should be noted that the oils chosen affect the final quality and nature of the finished soap bars. A Soap for example, made with only palm oil or coconut oil (saturated fats) will be extremely hard to touch and also extremely drying to the skin. On the other hand, a soap made only with soft (unsaturated) oils will be soft or spongy and will also be prone to rancidity. A combination of Oils is therefore needed if your final bars are to be hard and durable yet still moisturising and healthy for the skin. 9



Oil Profiles For the recipes in this Book, I have stuck to the Oils and fats which I know are readily available to us here in the Region. The characteristics of each oil indicates why they might be useful for soapmaking and also reveal the limitations of the oil.

Coconut Oil

This oil is invaluable to the Caribbean Soaper. It is now available in both crude and refined forms. Coconut Oil is easily available and relatively inexpensive. In a soap, coconut oil yields a creamy, profuse lather. Too much of it in formulation, however is drying to the skin. 11

Oil Profiles

Cocoa Butter is pressed from the seed of the Cocoa Bean.

Cocoa Butter

High in Vitamin E, Cocoa Butter is an excellent addition to a soap recipe. As a saturated fat, it lends hardness to a finished bar. As a fat high in Vitamin E, it can assist in delaying Oxidation. As an ingredient in Soap, Cocoa Butter is extremely popular for its healing, smoothing properties.


Oil Profiles

Soy Bean Oil has many advantages to the Soap Maker. For one thing, it is quite readily available and inexpensive. Used in limited amounts in a soap recipe, it adds softness and moisturising properties to a finished bar.

Soy Bean Oil

Soy Bean Oil yields a stable lather, but remember that as an unsaturated fat, it is prone to rancidity. Too much Soy Bean Oil in a soap recipe yields a spongy bar. 13

Oil Profiles Sunflower Seed Oil is also readily available here in the Caribbean, but it is imported. Cold Pressed Sunflower Oil is best, however, the supermarket Sunflower oil, though not the best quality works quite well too.

Sunflower oil

Sunflower Oil is high in Vitamin E and for this reason makes a wise addition to a soap blend. Sunflower Oil is relatively slow to saponify and can therefore be used quite successfully when some time is needed in the soapmaking process. It is used in our swirl recipes as inclusion of this oil gives us much needed time to swirl a few colours into the soap mixture


Oil Profiles There are many grades of Olive Oil now available and all can be used to make soap. Many soapmakers like the last press of the olives that is, the Pomace for Soapmaking.

Olive Oil adds a luxurious quality and feel to a soap. It can be used effectively with other Oils or by itself in combination with the alkali to make Castile Soaps.

Olive Oil

Other oils to consider You might want to consider some other oils that might be readily available to you. Be sure to check out the profile of the oils as well as its saponification value before you consider investing. Experiment with the oil in small batches to determine the type of soap that it yields. Keep comprehensive notes from your experiments. Try: Palm Oil Safflower Oil Shea Butter Vegetable Shortening



Safety Considerations

Sodium Hydroxide is the alkali always used to create hard bars of soap. The crystals are used to make a solution before combining it with the oils. Keep in mind that Sodium Hydroxide is caustic and can be dangerous if precautions are not taken into consideration when using it. Protect your hands, your eyes and avoid inhaling the fumes liberated when the crystals are mixed with water.


Safety Considerations

Wear Gloves Use Eye Protection Cover Face with mask Work in a well ventilated area Do not use Aluminum Pots or Utensils. (stainless steel , plastic or glass are more suitable) Separate all soapmaking containers and tools from your household wares.


SoapMaking Tools

One of the wonderful things about creating your own soaps is that no specialised tools are really needed. The key to creating successful batches, is an accurate scale. A spring scale can work, but a Digital scale is best. Also of importance, is a stick blender. Once this is used to combine ingredients, the process can be greatly accelerated. A candy thermometer can also be quite useful if you are handstirring the soap or if you are making large batches. Plastic bowls and spoons are also quite useful. 20

For the Cold Process Method, wooden molds are invaluable and it is best to invest in a couple before beginning your adventures.

Formulate your Soaps

You free yourself from using other people’s recipes if you know how to formulate your own soaps. If you choose not to go through the trouble, recipes are provided in the handbook. Your own formulations allow you to use the fats and oils most readily available to you and you can of course, tweak recipes to suit your own particular needs and preferences.


choose your oils Soaps are made in pound batches. This weight measurement refers to the total weight of the Oils used in the Recipe. It is always nice to start by choosing the combination of Oils which will be used in the Recipe. Use a combination of saturated and unsaturated fat.

1. Choose the Oils I have started by using: 20% 30% 30% 10% 10%

Coconut Oil Sunflower Oil Olive Oil Cocoa Butter Soya Oil 23

Formulate your Soaps This combination of Oils should make a nice hard bar and still have a luxurious feel.

2.. convert percentages to amounts To do this, decide on the size of the batch you would like to make. I am making a 1 pound batch (16 ounces), therefore my percentages can be converted to ounces. Coconut Oil:: 20% of 16 ounces Sunflower Oil:: 30% of 16 ounces Olive Oil:: 30% of 16 ounces Cocoa Butter:: 10% of 16 ounces Soy Oil:: 10% of 16 ounces 24

Formulate your Soaps The Recipe now reads: Coconut Oil : 3 ounces Sunflower Oil: 5 ounces Olive Oil : 5 ounces Cocoa Butter : 2 ounces Soy Bean oil : 1 ounce In a 1 pound batch like this, the total weight of the oils should be 16 ounces.

2.. hOW MUCH LYE? How much Sodium Hydroxide is required to turn this oil combination to soap? Use the saponification chart provided on page 30 to work this out. If you look at the chart, you will observe that there is a decimal value next to each oil on the chart. Multiply this decimal value by the amount of that oil required in the recipe.


Formulate your Soaps hOW MUCH LYE? This means: Coconut Oil:: Sunflower Oil:: Olive Oil:: Cocoa Butter Soy Bean Oil

3 5 5 2 1


0.19 = 0.136= 0.133= 0.137= 0.136=

0.57 0.68 0.665 0.274 0.136

3. Add to total lye figures 0.57 0.68 0.665 0.274 0.136


2.325 This figure means that this oil combination requires 2.3 ounces of lye crystals to turn it to soap.


Formulate your Soaps hOW MUCH water? Lye crystals must be dissolved in distilled water to make a solution before combining it with the oils. As a rule, multiply the weight of the lye crystals by 3 to calculate the water measurement.

4. Multiply lye by 3 This means: 2.325 X 3 = 6.975 ounces The water in this recipe should weigh 6.975 ounces. It can be rounded off to 7 ounces


Formulate your Soaps The Recipe now reads: 3 5 5 2 1

ounces ounces ounces ounces ounce

Coconut Oil Sunflower Oil Olive Oil Cocoa Butter Soy Bean Oil

2.3 ounces Sodium Hydroxide 7 ounces Water

Additives For a more interesting bar, additives can be included. Additives are ingredients that are not saponified. These include Essential Oils, Fragrance Oils, Exfoliants and Dyes.



Saponification Table This is a simplified version of the saponification table, relevant for hard bars only. To use the table, look up the decimal value next to the relevant oil, then multiply this decimal by the weight of the oil in the recipe. The resultant figure is the lye amount needed to turn that oil to soap. Fats


Acai Berry Sweet Almond Aloe Vera Oil Apricot Kernel Avocado Butter Canola Oil Corn Cotton Seed Oil Olive Oil Palm Oil Olive Oil Safflower Sesame Oil Shea Butter Soy Bean Sunflower Seed Oil Walnut Oil Wheat Germ Oil

0.136 0.137 0.135 0.134 0.132 0.123 0.135 0.137 0.133 0.139 0.133 0.133 0.135 0.126 0.134 0.134 0.136 0.135 30

Step by step This method is general one that can be used for any recipe. Read the method thoroughly and ensure you understand each step before beginning. Prepare your area and ensure that all ingredients called for in the recipe are available and ready.

Remember All ingredients including liquid ingredients are weighed Work in a well ventilated area. Observe all Health and Safety Requirements


Step by step


Prepare the Lye Solution: Weigh the lye crystals. Weigh the distilled water Pour the crystals carefully into the water and stir. Set this solution aside.

Weigh the Oils Weigh all the Oils according to the recipe.


Heat the Oils Slightly


You can heat the oils to match the temperature of the lye, however this is unnecessary if your batches are small (1 lb -3 lbs) and if you are using a stick blender. Small batches can be mixed quite effectively with a stick blender at room temperature. 33

Step by step


Combine both sets of ingredients: In a plastic container, combine all the oils/fats if you haven’t already done so. Pour the lye solution into the fats. Mix with the stick blender.

Look for “trace”. Keep blending the mixture. You will notice that it will start to thicken up. The mixture looks off white and creamy.


As you continue to mix the soap, it will thicken up to the point that it starts to look as thick as pancake batter. 34

Step by step


Are we at Trace yet? All soap makers look for “trace� the point at which all other additives can be included in the soap mixture. If you drag your spoon through the mixture and it leaves a visible path or trace behind it, the soap has traced.

Include Additives After trace has been reached, it is time to add colour if so desired, fragrance and exfoliants.


Mix the additives in by hand. Some stick blenders cannot effectively combine additional oils into the soap mixture after it has traced. 35

Step by step


Pour Soap Into Molds Quickly pour the soap into molds. Wooden Soap molds for cold Processed Soaps are best, but they can be poured into plastic soap molds also.

Allow the Soap to harden The Soap mixture may be warm when it is poured into the molds.


The newly poured soap should be placed in a fairly warm area of the house. A soap mixture that cools too rapidly may separate or curdle. Leave the soap in the molds for at least 24 hours


Step by step


Remove Soaps from the Mold After 24 - 48 hours, the soaps will be hard enough to come out of the molds. Cut soaps into bars. Set soap bars aside to cure.


Why must soaps cure? Cold Processed Soaps require a 3 6 week curing period. During this time, the Sodium Hydroxide continues to react with the fats, turning all of it into soap. The water too, continues to evaporate, allowing the bars to become harder. During curing, air should be allowed to circulate around the bars. If this is not possible and the soaps are resting on a flat surface, turn them every 5 days. Sometimes, a white powder forms on the soap bars during the curing phase. The formation of this Soda Ash is quite normal and harmless. Soda Ash can be washed off the cured bars. 38

Why must soaps cure? Once soaps have been allowed to cure for the required time, they are safe to use. After curing, all the Sodium Hydroxide has been turned to soap, so these now finished bars are finally safe for the skin.


Troubleshooting Aren’t challenges inevitable? Nobody starts off as an expert and there is no substitute for experience. Along the way, here are some of the bumps you may face. Awareness may decrease or even eliminate the possibility of experiencing the pain of spoilt batches. In many cases, it may be possible to fix problems experienced, or as a last resort, set soaps aside for re-batching. Ensure that your measurements are as accurate as possible and that all raw materials are weighed.


Troubleshooting Challenge One: Soap does not trace This is almost always the result of inaccurate measurement. If Trace does not occur with a stick blender within a 45 minute period, you can be sure that: The oils are in excess or there is too little lye. Try pouring the mixture into the molds and wait to see what happens over the next few days. If the Soap does not form up over this time, discard and start again. Challenge Two: Soap separates If the mixture separates into layers or has a curdled appearance, the soap has cooled too rapidly after pouring into the molds. Try mixing it back together and insulating the soap with a blanket. 41

Troubleshooting Challenge Three: Soap is brittle Probably the result of using hard (tap) water instead of distilled water in the lye solution. Calcium from the tap water has deposited in the soap making it white and crumbly. Still safe for use. Challenge Four: Soap is turning yellow and smells funny.

Soaps are of course, high in oils and yellowing is the result of these oils oxidising, or reacting with the oxygen in the air. (commonly called rancidity). Keep in mind, that Vitamin E slows down rancidity and your soaps, especially if they are high in unsaturated fats will be prone to oxidation. Always include some Vitamin E in your soap recipe. Rancid soaps can be re-batched. 42

Challenge FIVE: Fading Fragrance Fragrances and Essential Oils are available in a variety of grades and often after curing, there is noticeable fading of fragrance. Of course, soaps are still perfectly safe for use. Some essential oils, especially Orange simply cannot survive the rigours of an encounter with Sodium Hydroxide. Some fragrances are not recommended for use when making Cold Process Soaps. Check the details before you begin. A fixative can also be used. Orris Root Powder is a natural, effective fixative. Mix the Essential Oils/ Fragrance Oils with it to form a paste, then add as usual to the soap mixture after it traces.



blue Soap 3lb batch: 24 ounces Coconut Oil 10 ounces Sunflower Seed Oil 7 ounces Canola Oil 5 ounces Olive Oil 2 ounces Cocoa Butter 7.7 ounces granular lye 23 ounces Distilled Water After Trace: Few drops Vitamin E Oil 4 tablespoons lavender flowers 6 tsp lavender essential oil 2 tsp blue soap dye Notes: For a three pound batch and larger, heat oils to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When the lye solution is at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, add it to the heated oils...


Chocolate/ Coffee Exfoliating Soap A yummy smelling soap that exfoliates with the use of coffee granules. 13 ounces Coconut Oil 6 ounces Cocoa Butter 10 ounces Sunflower Seed Oil 3 ounces Coffee Bean Butter 5 ounces granular lye 15 ounces distilled water After Trace: 2 2 1 2

tbs tbs tsp tsp

Cocoa Powder (optional) ground coffee (not instant) chocolate Fragrance Oil coffee Fragrance Oil

Note that chocolate and coffee fragrance may darken the soap, but in this case, it works.


Goa t’s Milk and honeySoap A skin softening soap with lots of lather.

24 12 5 2 5

ounces ounces ounces ounces ounces

Coconut Oil Sunflower Seed Oil Shea Butter castor Oil Olive Oil

7.7 ounces granular lye 21 ounces water After Trace: 2 1 2

ounces Goat’s Milk tbs honey tbs Oatmeal, Milk and Honey Fragrance


Chocolate Mint Swirl Soap A small batch as the swirling here may take some practice. 5 3 3 3

ounces ounces ounces ounces

Coconut Oil Olive Oil Sunflower Seed Oil Soya Oil

2.4 ounces lye 7 ounces distilled water 2 tbs Cocoa Powder 2 tsp Peppermint oil 1 tsp Chocolate Fragrance oil Additional Directions for your swirls. After the soap has traced, very quickly take 1/2 cup of the mixture and add the cocoa powder, blending well. Add the Chocolate Fragrance Oil to this mixture. Add the Peppermint Essential Oil to the rest of the mixture.


Now quickly make the swirls. Drop the chocolate mixture by tablespoonful sizes in a random fashion into the main peppermint soap mixture. Make swirls by dragging a knife through the mixture, creating swirls as you do so.


Cinnamon and Orange soap 20 ounces Coconut Oil 19 ounces Sunflower Seed Oil 5 ounces Shea Butter 4 ounces Soya Oil 7 .5 ounces granular lye 21 ounces distilled water After Trace: 1 1 2

tsp powdered cinnamon tsp cinnamon essential oil tsp orange fragrance oil few drops Vitamin E Oil

Orange Fragrance Oil was suggested to combat the problem of fading fragrance associated with Orange Essential Oil in Cold Process Soap.

almond and ginger soap 19 ounces coconut oil 14 ounces sunflower seed oil 10 ounces almond oil 5 ounces cocoa butter 7.5 ounces granular lye 21 ounces distilled water After Trace: 4 ounces crushed almonds 1/2 tsp ginger 3 tsp toasted almond fragrance oil few drops vitamin E Oil



caribbean Castile Soap 34 ounces Olive Oil 14 ounces Coconut Oil 7 ounces granular lye 21 ounces distilled water After Trace: 3 1

tbs Olive Blossom Fragrance Oil tsp Vitamin E Oil.

Traditionally, Castile soaps are made with 100% Olive Oil, however I’ve included 30% coconut oil for hardness and lather.


Bay and lemongrass Soap

29 ounces Coconut Oil 10 ounces Olive Oil Pomace 5 ounces Sunflower Seed Oil 4 ounces Shea Butter 8 ounces granular lye 24 ounces distilled water After Trace 1 tsp Bay Essential Oil 2 tsp Lemongrass Essential Oil few drops Vitamin E Oil



SoapMaking Supplies Fragrance Oils Sodium Hydroxide Project Sheets Workshops Scents of Tobago Website: Telephone: 868 313-1145 Like us On Facebook: Soap Molds Essential Oils Shea Butter Mango Butter Soap dyes Rodco Home Essentials Telephone: 868 775-0365

a Handbook for Caribbean Soapers Learn to make soaps from scratch using the step by step method presented. Easy to follow instructions Easy recipes for making beautiful, luxurious soaps at home.

Published by Handmade Caribbean All rights reserved Copyright 2010

Profile for Lisa-Marie Griffith

A handbook for Caribbean Soapers  

A comprehensive guide to making soaps from scratch

A handbook for Caribbean Soapers  

A comprehensive guide to making soaps from scratch