How We Make Natural Soap
Have you ever wondered how we make natural soaps and shampoo bars without using any artificial fragrances, artificial colors, or detergents like sulfates?
Chagrin Valley Natural Soaps and Shampoo Bars are handcrafted in small batches using the old-fashioned Cold Process Method, which means that the soap batter is not heated by any external means.
Real soap is the result of a natural chemical process called saponification, in which an acid (the oils and butters) and a base or alkaline (sodium hydroxide--which is lye) dissolved in a liquid, are brought together to form a salt (soap).
The words "saponified oils" actually mean that the oils are mixed with a lye liquid solution. The naturally occurring glycerin that helps moisturize your skin, is a by-product of the saponification process.
I know you are asking…is there lye in my soap? The answer is NO!
Real soap cannot be made without lye (sodium hydroxide), but when the lye is mixed with vegetable oils and liquid during the initial soap-making stage, saponification begins. At the end of saponification, all of the lye has reacted with the oils to make soap.
There is NO lye left in a bar of Chagrin Valley Handcrafted Soap. (See our explanation of the chemical reaction needed to make real soap.)
Any soap or shampoo is only as good as the ingredients used to make it!
We begin with fresh, nutrient-rich organic plant oils and butters gently warmed.
The warmed oils are slowly mixed with the alkaline lye/liquid solution.
Since the ratio of the amount of oils used -- to the amount of lye solution used, is critical to creating a mild and gentle soap, we superfat all of our soap and shampoo bars.
- Superfatting is the process of adding extra fats (oils or butters) when formulating a soap recipe, so there is more fat in the mixture than the lye can react with during the chemical reaction.
- Superfatting leaves a portion of unincorporated oils in the finished soap, which ensures that Chagrin Valley natural soaps and shampoo bars have superior moisturizing and emollient qualities.
- Our soap bars are superfatted at a higher level than shampoo bars (Read our Blog: "What is the Difference Between Soap Bars & Shampoo Bars?"
- We superfat at a higher rate than most soapmakers. Although it makes the bars a bit softer, we think it is well worth it!
The warmed oils are slowly mixed with an alkaline solution.
The liquid mixed with lye in our handcrafted natural soap may be water, herbal tea, fruit or vegetable juice, goat’s milk, buttermilk, cream, coconut milk, yogurt, beer, or even brewed coffee.
The mixture is stirred until it thickens.
Then, depending on the soap, we add pure essential oils, responsibly harvested wildcrafted and organic botanicals, organic spices, purifying clays, bamboo charcoal, chocolate, and other beneficial ingredients.
The natural soap mixture is poured into molds and allowed to set for 2 to 3 days.
Finally, the soap is cut into bars and allowed to naturally air cure for 8-12 weeks.
Each batch is carefully tested to make sure that the saponification process is complete.
The Scents & Colors
Some of our soaps have no scent added—these soaps have distinct natural aromas due to honey, grains, flowers, spices, herbs, or herbal-infused oils.
Scented soaps have all-natural plant essential oils added--NOT fragrance oils or "nature identical" oils. See "Why We Use Only Real Plant Essential Oils."
Soap colors come from natural juices, teas, spices, botanicals, or clays--NOT synthetic micas or other colorants.
Why Do Handmade Natural Soaps Need To Cure?
Once the oils and alkali (base) have been mixed, we do not add additional heat to hurry the chemical reaction along--we allow the natural process to take its course over time. This is why it is called "cold-processed" soap.
The liquid soap batter that is poured into the molds has only partially saponified. The molds are covered with towels and after a 2-4 day insulation period, most of the saponification process, about 95%, is complete. The remaining 5% needs a bit more time.
The curing time for each type of cold-process soap is dependent on the oils and water content of the recipe.
The freshly cut bars are soft. During the 8 to 12 week curing time, excess moisture in the bars evaporates.
While some soapmakers use a 4-week cure, we believe our longer, slower curing time ensures a milder, harder, longer-lasting bar, with a very rich lather.
A bar of handmade soap is safe to use after just a few weeks, but it will melt more quickly when exposed to water. Although as our soaps sit waiting for a new home they will continue to shrink in size, this longer curing time results in a bar of soap with exceptional mildness and luxurious lather.
Our Chagrin Valley Natural Soaps & Shampoo Bars
The result of our painstaking, meticulous process is a mild, rich, moisturizing soap that feels creamy in your hands, offers a magnificent long-lasting lather, and leaves your skin clean, soft, silky, and radiantly healthy.
Our natural soap and shampoo bars are made without synthetic surfactants (detergents), sulfates, silicones, or parabens, using ingredients that are Certified Organic, non-GMO, cruelty-free, sustainably produced, and ethically traded.
The primary organic base oils used in most of our soaps are organic extra virgin olive oil, organic sunflower oil, organic coconut oil, organic sustainable palm oil, and organic castor oil.
Each oil is chosen for the special properties it gives to the soap. For example:
- organic olive and sunflower oils are gentle and moisturizing
- organic coconut oil provides natural cleansing and bubbly, fluffy lather
- organic sustainable palm oil creates a hard bar with creamy and conditioning lather
- organic castor oil creates a dense and creamy lather that conditions and moisturizes
Our soap and shampoo bars contain no alcohol, animal fats, detergents, synthetic fragrances, synthetic colors, or preservatives