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The Basics of Goat Milk Soap

By Mary Jane Toth

Goat milk soap is gentle to the skin. The milk delivers calcium to the skin, making it smoother and healthier. Homemade soap also contains glycerin, to help the skin retain its natural moisture.

Glycerin is created naturally during the process of soap making. Commercial soap manufacturers remove this by-product by means of steam extraction. It is used to make ointments and lotions.

While the cleansing action of homemade soap and commercial soap are the same, the homemade soaps do not bubble as well. If you need the bubbles to make you feel clean, you can try adding coconut oil to the recipe.

Coconut oil is used to replace some of the fat called for in a soap recipe. If you add 2 cups of oil, then you must reduce an equal amount of the fat. Coconut oil melts easily, by placing a container full of oil in warm water. Add 1 ounce of oatmeal, ground almonds, or cornmeal to create a natural and gentle scrubbing soap.

Natural homemade soap varies in color from pale yellow to dark tan, depending on the ingredients and type of fat used. Artificial color may be added using natural vegetable dyes, such as beet, spinach or carrots; or food coloring.

Experiment with colors. Add just before the soap is poured into the molds. Wavy strips of color can be achieved by stirring less or in different directions. If a lighter colored soap is desired, add the lye to the proper water amount for the recipe. Allow the lye mixture to cool to about 85ºF before adding the milk. Essential oils are powerful aromatic substances extracted from flowers, herbs and animals. They may be purchased from the drug store or a specialty shop. Add the oil to the soap mixture in small amounts, at the end of the stirring procedure, just before pouring into the molds. Do not add the scent too soon, or the aroma will weaken from the heat of the lye. Popular fragrances are bayberry, rosemary, jasmine, carnation, or musk. Do not add perfumes or toilet waters. The alcohol content may interfere with the saponification process.

Soap molds can be plain or fancy. Experiment with shapes. We have used plastic-lined boxes and plastic storage trays for making square bars. Recycle old shampoo bottles and margarine tubs for round palm-sized bath bars. Place a piece of rope in the mold before pouring and create soap on a rope. I often use a cardboard box. Just be sure to line it with plastic wrap before pouring in the soap. Then you can get the whole block out and cut it into nice rectangular bars.

You can use a potato peeler to smooth and bevel the edges of your bars. Polish with a terry cloth towel to give the soap a glossy shine. Save your soap shavings. They make a great milk bath. We have even used them to wash clothes in. It dissolves best in very hot water.

The basic ingredients in soap are fat, lye and water. The addition of milk or honey adds nutrients for the skin and produces soap with many variations in color. Beef tallow will produce the hardest soap. Combining beef fat and lard will require a different temperature than pure lard. Goat tallow can be rendered and also used for soap making.

Fat To Lye Temperature Chart

Beef tallow = 130ºF Lye = 95ºF
Goat tallow = 95ºF Lye = 85ºF
Pure lard = 85ºF Lye = 75ºF
1/2 beef & 1/2 lard = 110ºF Lye = 85ºF

Soap making requires exact temperatures, constant stirring, and aging or curing that cannot be hurried. Aging takes at least 4-5 weeks. Using homemade soap before it’s properly aged can be harsh on the skin, or cause an allergic reaction.

Use only stainless steel or enamel containers. Chemical reactions will cause aluminum, tin or iron pots to corrode or rust. To stir the soap mixture, use stainless or wooden spoons.

It is a good idea to have a couple of thermometers on hand to test the temperatures of the fat and lye at the same time. The use of pure lye crystals is recommended for our recipes. The chemical compound for lye is sodium hydroxide. Always use pure lye, such as Red Devil Lye® brand. Do not use a crystal drain opener such as Draino®. This type of product will not work. Drain openers have other chemicals added to the lye.

Wear rubber gloves and protective clothing when handling the caustic lye. Be very careful not to splash the lye mixture onto your skin, clothing or work surfaces. If spilled, rinse immediately with cool water. Work in a well-ventilated area. Avoid breathing the fumes from the lye mixture. Always add the lye to the liquid slowly. Never add the liquid to the lye. Serious splash burns may result.

Use soft or distilled water to dissolve the lye crystals, before adding the milk. The water/lye mixture will heat up quickly to a very hot temperature. Let mixture cool before adding milk. When the goat milk is added to the diluted lye, it will turn a bright yellow or orange. Sometimes the milk will curdle in the diluted lye. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal. The mixture will blend back together when the warmed lard or fat is added. Always add the melted fat to the cooled lye mixture. In a thin stream, slowly pour the fat into the lye, while stirring in one direction. Slowly stir in one direction for 15-30 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken. If you stir too fast, the mixture may curdle or refuse to gel. If the mixture does not thicken within a half hour, and there is a greasy film on the top, the mixture is too warm. Set the container in cool water and stir from the sides and bottom. If the mixture is lumpy, it is too cold. Set the container in warm water and stir until the lumps disappear.

When the soap mixture has reached the consistency of honey, pour into molds. Place the filled molds in an out of the way place and allow the soap to cure for 24-48 hours.

Remove from molds and cut into bars or desired shapes. Separate bars and allow the soap to air-dry and cure for 4-5 weeks. Curing lets the lye mellow out, making the soap safe to use on even the most delicate skin. When cutting, use a long knife or fishing line. Try to cut in long firm strokes, not a sawing motion, or the soap may crumble or break. If your soap is crumbly after curing, it can be reclaimed.

Reclaiming Soap

Cut the soap into fine pieces. Add water, approximately 1 cup per bar or just enough to cover the soap pieces. Dissolve over low heat, stirring occasionally.

When the soap lumps disappear, increase the heat and boil until mixture begins to thicken. Pour back into molds and let harden for 24-48 hours. Cut into bars and air dry again.

Basic Goat Milk Soap

3 cups cool distilled water
12 oz. lye
2 cups goat milk
12 cups lard or rendered fat

Place water into a large stainless steel or enamel container. Carefully, stir the lye into water. Allow the diluted lye to cool to 85ºF. Add milk and stir 5 minutes.

Wear rubber gloves and long sleeves while stirring. The mixture will get very, very hot. Allow lye mixture to cool down to 75ºF. This may take an hour or more.

When the lye mixture has cooled to the proper temperature, warm the lard to 85ºF. In a slow steady stream, pour the warmed lard into the cooled lye. Stir constantly while pouring. Be careful not to add the warm lard too fast. Continue stirring until the soap mixture reaches the consistency of thick honey. This will take 20-30 minutes.

When thick, pour into prepared molds. Cover with plastic wrap. Place several layers of newspapers or old blankets over the top, to insulate. The raw soap needs to retain its own heat, so that the saponification process can take place.

Use the Basic Soap Instructions to make these soap variations:

Castile Soap

3¼ cups olive oil
7½ cups beef tallow or fat
3 cups goat milk
12 oz. lye
1 cup cool distilled water

Follow basic soap directions. Cool lye mixture to 85ºF. Warm fat to 110ºF. Add warmed fat to lye mixture. Stir until thickened. Pour into molds. Cure for 4-6 weeks.

Dry Skin Bar

9 oz. castor oil
2¾ cups coconut oil
4 cups lard
12 oz. lye
2¾ cups olive oil
1 cup cool distilled water
3 cups goat milk

Follow basic soap directions. Cool lye mixture to 75ºF. Mix and warm oils to 85ºF. Add oils to lye mixture. Stir until thickened. Pour into molds. Cure 4-6 weeks.

Goat Milk & Honey Soap

12 cups lard or rendered fat
4 cups goat milk
½ cup honey
12 oz. lye
1 cups hot water

Follow basic soap directions. Dissolve honey in 1 cup hot water. Add milk. Stir well to mix. Slowly add lye crystals. Stir well to mix. Cool lye mixture to 75ºF. Warm the lard to 85ºF. Add oil to lye mixture. Stir until thickened. Pour into molds. Cure for 4-6 weeks.

Luxury Soap

2 cups shortening
3 tablespoons scented oil
1 cup olive oil
1 cup goat milk
1 cup peanut oil
1/3 cup cool distilled water
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons lye

Follow basic soap directions. Cool lye mixture to 90ºF. Mix and warm oils to 90ºF. Add oil to lye mixture. Stir until thickened. Add scented oil just before pouring into molds. Cure for 4-6 weeks.

Oatmeal & Honey Soap

4 cups lard
1 cup cool distilled water
5 cups goat milk
12 oz. lye
½ cup honey
2 cups dry oatmeal, refined

Follow basic soap directions. Cool lye mixture to 85ºF. Stir in the refined oatmeal and honey, mix well. Warm the lard to 85ºF. Add oil to lye mixture. Stir to mix.

Using an electric mixer, mix on high speed for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Mix again for 5 minutes. Watch closely, the soap will thicken suddenly. Pour into molds. Cure for 4-6 weeks.

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