Behind The Scenes - The Making Of Hot Process Soap.
I would like to introduce myself – I am Wendi, a part of the Bee Clean Soaps team. I love the language of soap making because it has many references to cooking, and I love food. I create the hot process soaps, I am the only one who dares to – so far.
A quick definition: Hot Process Soap.
The method of making soap where the oils are hot when you mix in the lye and it cooks at heat to fully saponify.
This post is to describe the experience of me making handmade hot process soap. It is a wonderful and exciting challenge, that can turn terrifying at a lot of points!
How are the hot process soaps made at Bee Clean Soaps?
I start by melting the natural oils all together in a slow cooker. To start with, whilst ‘cooking’, the basic batter is quiet and still, a patient time of watching and waiting for me. It begins with a light trace, then gradually thickens into the ‘custard’ phase. I find this a great time to have a cup of tea and treat myself to an iced bun. Meanwhile, slowly and silently, the batter starts to rise. It takes a while to realise what is happening because it happens so slowly. But you realise that it is indeed all rising up the sides ever so steadily, in a creepy, silent surge. Then there is a small bubbly break out. Teeny tiny to start with, but gradually gaining momentum, it gets bigger; it’s a volcano situation! One could panic, but that really does not help the situation. I gather myself as I gently slide in the spatula, and glide it along the edges and into the middle, finishing with figures of 8, rather like the movement of folding flour. It only seems to happen once with the soap batters – the shaving soap one however goes again and again!
So what was once smooth and shiny, has turned into what I can only describe as spot pus grossness. It stays like that for a while, pushing away to itself. Then, you start to see a wateriness forming on top of the lumps, oozing its way out and just sitting on top with the blobby brain looking stuff underneath. It’s rather akin to a peat bog, where the water sits there on top of the solids. It makes me think I’ve done it wrong! Has it separated for good? Should I warm it or cool it?
With a few gentle stirs and breath-holding, you realize that the pus is turning into a texture similar to petroleum jelly. Eventually, the watery stuff soaks back into the blobs and the whole batter looks like jelly that has been set and then stirred up.
At this point, we are nearly ready! The petroleum jelly stuff soaks the rest of the liquid into itself (rather alien-ish) and it continues sitting there. This is a nerve-wracking time, and I do panic a bit here because I have messed up a few times at this point.
I have experimented and discovered a test – I blob a bit of the soap batter onto my cooker top and as it cools, I spread it with the spatula – (in my mind I am throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks ) When it is ready this blob sticks together in a smear of soap rather than little balls that have separated out.
So, it’s a smear of soap now (time for a victory dance) and my daughter holds the jugs and a spatula in thick glove covered hands and I pick up the crockpot steadily and securely and between us, we pour the batter between two huge jugs. Then we breathe easy. Phew! Now I stir and stir and stir and take the temperature and stir and wait and stir and take the temperature…
Eventually, the batter is cool enough to add the other ingredients. The worry is all about whether the additives are going to burn or be okay. So, we will assume our ingredients are all mixed successfully.
The next challenge is that the batter is now cooling to such a degree that it is going to solidify before it is in the moulds. The batter is thick like mashed potato, so having prepared the loaf moulds and other equipment I then within about 3 minutes, blob. layer, blob, bang, blob, layer, bang, blob, bang, layer, bang, stir and swirl very, very, very quickly until it’s all in and swirled. Then edge and shape the top, re-edge and re-shape until it will no more because it is now solid. That is the end – it is done – and I can stretch up, breathe easy, and admire the top of my delightful loaf of soap.
Why do we make hot process soap if it is so challenging?
We use the hot process for these particular recipes because of the natural ingredients that are in them. They cleanse gently and are more in tune with your skin’s needs of vitamin A, E and omega 3 fatty acids. They also have a fabulous creative rustic look that fits in with many looks in bathrooms and kitchens.
Hot processing produces a fabulous hard bar that will last longer. Even though some soapers might use their hot process bars straight away, the longer it is cured, the harder the bar becomes, which means it is long-lasting and so makes the investment well worth it.
Which of the Bee Clean Soaps are made with hot process?
The hot process soaps that we make in Bee Clean Soaps are – Honey and Peppermint Tea, Chamomile and Honey, Lavender and Honey, Lavender and oatmeal, Milk and Honey, Honey and oatmeal. The two unscented soaps Milk and Honey and Honey and Oatmeal are certified as baby safe which demonstrates how mild these hot process bars can be. These two plus our carrot and honey bar are the three soaps in our unscented collection.
Three of our hot process soaps are made entirely with only British ingredients – Honey and Chamomile, Honey and Peppermint tea, and Lavender and oatmeal. So we have popped these all together in our Bee-autifully British Collection.
I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about how we make hot process soaps, why we make them and what a great investment they can be!
All the best,
Busy Bee Wendi