Friday, February 10, 2012

Goat Milk Soap Tutorial

Okay, ready to make soap? If you missed my first two posts, be sure to read Preparing To Make Soap: Equipment and Preparing To Make Soap: Recipes, Ingredients, and Suppliers.

The first time I made soap, I was at a friends house and she made it seem so easy. The second time I made soap (in my own home), I invited some friends to join me. We were all "newbies" and it was a lot of fun, but we spent half the time trying to figure out what we were suppose to do. The next time I had a lot more confidence and for the most part, it went smoothly. But by this time I had learned a thing or two that helped make it easier...

• Have all your supplies ready to go (and know what you really need!).
• Make a big sink of soapy water so you can wash as needed; really helpful if you're using just one or two measuring glasses, etc.
• Cover your scale with plastic wrap in advance.
• Pre-line your mold if required. Have towels and a board to cover the molds ready to go. I like to put my molds in an out-of-the-way location where they will remain while they set up - you don't want to move them around! Think... laundry room counter, guest room, etc.
• Know where you'll dissolve your lye in water (outdoors is best!)
• Wear an apron, have some type of protective eye wear, and rubber gloves!

Because soap ingredients are measured by weight (not volume), I wasn't sure the first time around how much I really needed of each item. Making notes in the margin helps for future reference and for ordering more supplies (and to know that you have enough on hand before you begin!). The recipe states the ingredients differently than how companies list things to sell, so knowing both is necessary! I've included some general measurements out to the side of each that may help with this.

Let's start with the recipe...

Goat Milk Soap
from The Natural Soap Book by Susan Miller Cavitch

2 1/2 pounds cold, distilled water (does not need to be refrigerated) (approx. 5 cups)
473 grams sodium hydroxide (just over 1#)
4 pounds olive oil (roughly 8-9 cups)
2 pounds 8 ounces coconut oil (just over 6 cups)
1 pound 8 ounces palm oil (just over 4 cups)
30 grams grapefruit seed extract, optional (just over 1 oz.)
2 2/10 grams tocopherol, optional
1/2 pound cold goat milk (about 1 cup)
45-50 grams pure essential oil (about 15-18 teaspoons or almost 2 oz.)

Note: Cavitch's original recipe states you can add extra nutrients, but for this information, you will need to purchase her book and read Chapter 6. For this post (and my soap), I only am using the basic ingredients. My instructions below will differ in that I have simplified or inserted something that I think will help you along the way. Again, please refer to her book for the original instructions.

1. Set the 2 quart glass container on the scale and add the distilled water; remove and set aside. Place a second container to receive the lye on the scale (I use a large disposable plastic cup). Weigh out the sodium hydroxide.

2. Take the 2 quart glass container with distilled water and the cup of lye outside and carefully add the sodium hydroxide to the distilled water while stirring briskly with your hard plastic spoon or a rubber spatula. AVOID breathing the fumes! Try to stand up wind. Move away and let it off-gas a couple of minutes, then return and stir until the flakes or grains have disolved. Set aside in a safe place, away from children and pets, to cool down to 80 degrees. Since the chemical reaction reaches over 200 degrees, this will take a while. You've got some time, but don't forget it! You need to work with it at 80 degrees!

3. Begin mixing the oils by setting the larger soap making pan on the scale and adding the olive oil. Set aside.

4. Place the smaller soap making pan on the scale and add the coconut and palm oils. (The coconut oil will turn to liquid at 76 degrees. You want it all to be liquid, but not hot! I usually just set my coconut oil container in hot water til it melts, then I pull it out and wipe it off to keep the water from dripping into the oil when I pour it into the pot.) Pour the palm and coconut oils into the olive oil.

5. Add your grapefruit seed extract and tocopherol to the oils if you wish to include these ingredients. Do NOT add the essential oil to scent your soap at this time.

6. Check on your water/lye solution and when it is approaching 80 degrees, gently heat the goat's milk to 80 degrees as well. It won't take much, so be careful not to over do it! You also want your oils to be 80 degrees. {Smile... } Quite a challenge! To me, this is the hardest part; keeping it all at the right temperature! Don't stress too much over this; a degree or two isn't going to cause it to fail (I know there are perfectionists out there, like me!).

7. Now add the goat milk to the lye solution, drizzling it SLOWLY. You do not want it to curdle the milk. Cavitch does this reverse, pouring the lye into the goat milk, but I need it all in the 2 quart measuring glass so I can pour it into the oils. It's much easier for me, but if you wish, you can do it her way. The photo below was from my second soap batch and I did it in the pot instead of the large glass measuring cup; not nearly as easy to pour.

8. Slowly drizzle the lye/goat milk solution into the oils, stirring briskly as you pour. Continue to stir, circling the pan and cutting through the middle of the pan so as to keep as much of the solution in motion as possible. Do not scrape any residue off the sides of the pan. Cavitch recommends not whipping or beating the solution either. HOWEVER, I have found that this recipe takes a long time to trace and I used an immersion blender with much success and I recommend using one as long as you keep moving it around, trying not to touch it directly on the bottom. WARNING: Do not lift it out of the solution while it is on!! This soap typically can take anywhere from 10-40 minutes to trace, but without an immersion blender, I've had it take even longer.

Note about TRACING: Tracing is when the oils and lyes will no longer separate back into oils and lye. You will notice as you're stirring that it is changing into a smoother, more homogenous product (and it may be a bit thicker). To test for tracing, you need to drizzle some of the mixture across the surface of the batch and when it leaves a clearly defined trace line, you know you have a saponified product ready to pour into molds. I've tried to capture this in a photo, but you'll have to look closely to see the lines. It was actually more defined than it looks here:

9. Now is the time to add any essential oils you may wish to use, but it is not necessary. After you add the essential oil, stir briskly for 20-30 seconds to fully incorporate it into the entire batch.

10. Quickly pour the soap into the molds without scraping the residue off the sides of the pan. Do not pour any oily/watery substance at the bottom of the pan in the molds either. You only want the saponified liquid. Better to waste a tad at the bottom of the pan than to ruin your batch of soap! Also,  if it is getting thick and you must use a spatula to spread it out to the corners, don't worry. You can trim the soap later to look nice.

11. Cover the molds with a board or piece of plywood or even a heavy piece of cardboard. Next, cover with a blanket. Leave undisturbed for 18-24 hours. You want the molds to be well insulated so the soap can heat up and complete the soapmaking process (I nearly blew this on my last batch by only using a couple of towels - use a blanket!).

12. After 18-24 hours, uncover the frame and set away from cold drafts and temperatures for 1-7 days. As soon as the soap is firm enough to work with and remove from the molds, do so and cut them into the sizes you desire. Do not wait until they get so hard you can't cut them! If your molds are lined, you can use the excess lining like a handle to lift it out of the mold. If you have molds like mine, just unscrew and pull the sides away carefully. Note: just because it's firm on top, does not mean it is firm down in the mold, so go slow and test it carefully.

13. Lay the soaps in a single layer on a plain brown paper grocery bag (not on the ink side or the bars could absorb the ink coloring). You could also use cardboard. Some use old plastic crate trays. You will leave the soaps to cure for 4-6 weeks in a well ventilated, dry room where the temperature remains fairly constant. Half way through, be sure to turn your soaps so the portion touching the bottom has a chance to be exposed to air. Over time, the soap will become harder and more mild.

And then you can enjoy your wonderful, homemade, goat milk soap!

My next soap is going to be a shampoo bar! But that's for another day.


  1. Again, another very good informative post!

  2. I made soap with a friend and she used a gallon glass jug, like from organic apple juice, to dissolve the lye in. Pour in all ingredients for dissolving the lye. Slowly swirl the jug around to "stir" until lye is dissolved and the narrow opening at the top helps to keep it all confined where it can't splash out and makes it easy to pour as well.

    We now have 3 does in milk and will soon be able to start separating babies. I'm excited to perfect our soap making recipes and skills. Thanks for the incentive!

  3. That looks wonderful. I would really like to try it, but I'm a bit afraid to use thinks like sodium hydroxide . I think I will just have to try it. Maybe it is an idea to make space in the shed and make it there. I can open the window at the workspace in order to ventilate.
    Thank you so much for the recipe. Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. New to soap making. Need a good, accurate scales for weighing the lye (it needs to be accurate on the low/light end). We are frugal, so it can't be an expensive model. Would like your opinion and the opinions of your readers.

  5. Hi. Just wanted to let you know Goggle is going away at the end of this month. To keep our follower and not lose our favorite blogs .We will have to join the Linky Party. Heidi has one on her site.
    I don't want to lose any of my blogs,I enjoy visiting you guys to much. I hope you will join. Oh and follow me. Almost forgot that part.

    1. Michelle,
      I need to look into it. Thanks for the info! I'll probably add Linky Party but there are several other ways to follow Homestead Revival in case anyone is worried: Networked Blogs, RSS feed, Email, Twitter, etc.

  6. I have several gallons of goat's milk I've been saving for making soap. Maybe one of these days I'll get time, lol! We didn't normally get enough milk from our doe to supply our family with milk, AND make soap, but I saved the milk I had to withdraw due to worming. Even though we use a natural de-wormer, it contains wormwood in it, which is not safe for a pregnant or breastfeeding woman to drink. So, I froze it for soap :) Thanks for the recipe!! I'll have to bookmark it :)

  7. This is such a great tutorial. I can't wait to try this and make soap. Hopefully sometime this summer.

  8. Amy,

    this is a really nice tutorial. It's easy to understand, too. Another safety precaution when making soap (I learned this on the Down to Earth blog) is to have some distilled white vinegar on hand, in case you spill any of the lye on your skin while mixing it into the water (outside of course because of the fumes :), it helps to keep it from burning your skin...or something like that ;) :)

    What kind of thermometer did you use to measure the temperature of your oils etc? Forgive me if I missed this. I just have a regular candy thermometer. Would that work?

    Your soap looks really nice :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

    1. Thanks for the info on the vinegar, Heather. A candy thermometer will work. I don't know what you call mine, but it's big! I actually bought it for making yogurt, but I'll probably try to buy another one so I can keep from having cross contamination. I'm a little fussy about this!

    2. don't quote me on this, but if I rememer right, you're supposed to pour the vinegar on your skin if it comes in contact with the lye. I'd research that first, though...since I don't remember exactly.

      Oh, I was wrong about it being a candy thermometer. It's a long and skinny thermometer..the same one I used to take the tempearture on my turkey for Thanksgiving.

      Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  9. I awarded you the versatile blogger award! Congratulations. Visit my blog to accept!

    1. Thank you, Clint! Always an honor to be awarded!

  10. Thank you for the wonderful soap making series! I love your blog!

  11. You make it look so easy!! It must be very satisfying to look at all of that soap and know that it is safe for your family.

  12. I just love your blog, too! Thank you so much for this tutorial! I am really wanting to make my own soap, so this is a wonderful resource. Thank you!



  13. Amy, have you done a cost analysis on homemade soap? What is your going price per bar? Best wishes!

    1. Just counting ingredients, not equipment, in the past I think I came up with $1.50 per bar. BUT, I think I may have made an error and counted some ingredients more than I should have. It may be lower.

  14. I'm interested to try the soap using this method. We made soap last weekend, but added the lye directly to the cold milk. It seems to have worked out, but the milk turned a fairly dark orange color which left us with a tan colored soap. I think the reaction with the sodium hydroxide is so exothermic that it cooked the milk to a carmel color.

  15. I can't wait to make this! I have been looking for a home made soap recipe for a while... I found lots but wanted one that didn't involve buying a soap to grate up and re-mix. Thank you!

  16. When adding lye to goat milk you need to freeze the goat milk first otherwise the milk turns dark orange...too much heat. I make goat milk soap without the distilled water. I use about six cups of frozen goat milk and you add the lye super slow. Because the milk has fat in it there will be some saponification occurring as you add the lye to the milk it's ok. Making soap takes practice. If you do screw up and it gets too hard, you can grate it and use it in your homemade laundry detergent.

  17. Where did you buy the lye?

  18. About how many bars of soap (& approximate size) does this recipe make? I am really interested in trying this, but my husband thinks it won't be cost-effective if you have to use 8-9 cups of olive oil.


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