Annilita (annilita) wrote in soap_making,

Total n00b

So, this friend of mine has a friend who has a soap-making business. And one day, this friend-of-a-friend decides to marry a guy and move to Texas. In the process of moving, she gives a bunch of her soap-making supplies to my friend, who, not having the time or inclination and knowing of my desire to adopt a back-to-basics lifestyle and make as many things as I can from scratch, gives all the supplies to me.

And when I say supplies, I mean it couldn't all fit in my roomy sedan and I have to go back tomorrow for the last few boxes. A lot of that is containers, but there is a HECK of a lot of supplies, and a lot of those supplies have price tags over $20 on them, so I'm feeling like a very lucky camper right now.

Thing is, I've never made soap before. So, yeah. Newbie. A book and a stack of recipes came along with the goods, and I've been googling around tonight, but I do have a few questions.

The first is whether there a source for 100% lye that I can find in a regular store or not? I found a link that said that the Roebic 2 Lbs. Heavy Duty Crystal Drain Opener from Lowes is 100% lye, and then I found a link saying that wasn't quite true. I'd really like to be able to find some lye locally, because it seems silly to buy it online for $7 and then pay $20 to have it shipped to me.

Second question is that amung all the supplies was about a gallon of shower gel that apparently never had any fragrance added. It's at least several months old. Can I add fragrance to it now? Should I heat it in a crock pot and then add some fragrance? The only website I could find about making liquid soap had you add the fragrance before the shower gel sequestered, so I'm worried that it's too late and I'll just have all this unscented shower gel. Really, not the end of the world, but it seems like a shame when I have so many fragrance oils and several of them are about to expire. It'd be nice to be able to throw some in the gel to use them up and scent the gel. Two birds, one stone and all. I'm pretty frugal with my shower gel, so a gallon of the stuff would probably last me a year, and I'd be sad to be fragrance-less for that long!

Thanks for any help you can offer!
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i've never made liquid soap, so i can't help you there, but i think there are still some places that sell red devil lye - hardware or drug stores mainly.
i order mine from texas natural supply online. they send you a form to fill out, but as long as you do that and send it back to them you're in good shape.
I have found some sources online for it, but I don't know if it's because it's a toxic substance or what, but the shipping is over three times the cost of the product. Kind of discouraging, but I will go that route if I have to.
I believe lye was taken off most shelves due to a law passed because people were using it to distill meth.

If you want to buy small quantities try, again you will have to fill out a form promising not to make bad things with the lye, and fax it back, but it's no biggie.

I've searched Home Depot, and they don't sell lye anymore. Red Devil makes another drain cleaner that isn't lye now, and is no good for soaping.

PS. I'm similar to you in a desire to get back to the basics. very cool.
If you have an older store like Ace Hardware, you can get drain-cleaning lye there,'s not guaranteed to be 100% pure lye. Online might be the way to go, silly shipping fees or not.
Red Devil 100% lye was impossible for me to find at Home Depot or Lowes. I did find the Roebic brand 100% lye crystals in the drain cleaner aisle of Lowes. The packaging actually says that it's 100% lye with no other ingredients, so I have no reason to believe that it isn't lye.

Perhaps the issue is that they can't actually come out and say that it's 100% pure lye because it's an industrial/cleaning grade product and not a cosmetic-grade product. My guess is that it's probably pure lye for all intents and purposes, but they either process it in a plant with other chemicals or they do not want to take on the liability of encouraging soap (or meth) makers by guaranteeing that their product is pure.
You could be right. I did find one website in the end where someone used the Roebic to make her soap, and that was good enough for me. I just wanted to make sure people did really use it for that.

Our Lowe's had it, so I got 2 bottles of it. $15 for 4 pounds didn't seem too bad. I picked up some gloves and safety goggles while I was there, too. Figured I had better play it on the safe side!

I'm about to go gather my ingredients. I'm going to wait until the kids are in bed to give it a go, though.
Use stainless steel bowls if you can. I started out using Pyrex and had no problems with it, but other soapmakers have advised me that Pyrex could weaken over time and then crack if used for making soap.

Also, if you have a stick blender, that will save your arm from falling off while you mix. When the mixture seems to be thickening, look for a trace. You don't want to mix too hard or long beyond that point, or the batch will seize up solid.
I have an old plastic bowl I was planning on using. Like a knock-off tupperware. Would that be ok? I do have some stainless bowls, but I kind of want to keep my food stuff and my soap stuff seperate.

I totally got a stick blender. I can't stand to make whipped cream with a wisk, and I figured soap would be much tougher. :)
There are so many different kinds of plastic. Some are more heat tolerant than others. Some are less vulnerable to chemical changes than others. You will probably be fine with your plastic bowls. I just recommend that you wear those gloves and eye protection you got and maybe lay down a dropcloth or one of those cheap foil roasting pans underneath the bowl the first time you use it for soapmaking. Then if the bowl turns out to be a dud, you don't get hurt and you don't make a mess.