I am experimenting with different varieties of handmade soap and I recently made some citrus soap bars. They turned out great, so I want to share this variation using a base of gentle olive oil soap with beeswax. I call it Beeswax Citrus Soap. Beeswax softens and protects skin from environmental elements and is naturally nourishing, antibacterial, and anti-allergenic. The addition of orange peel adds exfoliant properties for a thoroughly satisfying bar.
I love handmade soap, preferring it to the commercially overly scented variety, picking it up at local craft fairs and boutique stores. The cost was adding up, plunking down $5 or $6 for a small bar, and I looked into making it at home. I have always hesitated to make soap due to the use of caustic lye in creating the chemical of making soap, which is called saponification.
Lye is 100% sodium hydroxide, NaOH. I got mine at Lowes in the plumbing aisle called Crystal Drain Opener. It can be hard to find as it is used in the illegal manufacture of meth and it has been pulled from drugstore shelves. I also wanted to use my accumulated hoard of beeswax in my soap so I started looking for soap recipes which included beeswax.
I recommend making soap in your kitchen or basement laundry tub where curious kids and pets cannot get into it. A caustic substance, lye has to be handled very carefully. If you use common sense and pay attention to directions, you will be fine. Keep a bottle of white vinegar handy, if you spill any caustic lye on your skin.
Assemble all your ingredients and equipment in advance and put on old clothes and an apron, though I have never damaged any of my clothes in the process. Put on your safety goggles and rubber gloves and you are ready to go. The following is your basic procedure and ingredients. The final step is adding your flavoring/scent and you can add any scent at all that you like.
- Immersion blender
- Digital cooking thermometer
- Kitchen scale
- Variety of containers and cook pots that you will only use for soap making; a heavy saucepan, plastic 2-quart beverage container, and wooden spoon
- Soap mold-You can use a small kitty litter pan; I used a milk container for my soap
- Old clothes and apron
- Rubber Gloves
- 36 ounces olive oil
- 6 ounces coconut oil
- 3 ounces castor oil
- 2 ounces of grated beeswax
- 12 ounces distilled water
- 6 ounces lye
- 2 ounces essential oil of your choice (I used Vitamin E and orange oil, but the possibilities are endless)
- Measure 12 ounces of water into the plastic pitcher. Your kitchen scale should subtract the weight of the pitcher from the weight of the water. Everything has to be measured precisely. Set your pitcher of water in the sink.
- Weigh out 6 ounces of lye. I used a plastic disposable cup.
- Pour the lye from the cup into the water in the pitcher. Gently stir it in with the wooden spoon. A thermal reaction will occur and the solution will get very hot and give off some fumes. It stinks!! At this point, I set the pitcher outside to cool off.
- Weigh your oils and beeswax and put them into the wide saucepan and heat on a low heat until everything dissolves. Remove from the heat to cool slightly. You will be measuring the temperature of this mixture to be around 98 to 110 degrees F.
- Test the heat of the lye solution by touching the outside of the pitcher to see if it is cooling down a bit. It should feel tepid to the touch, not hot.
- Take the temperature with your digital thermometer of both the oil solution and the lye solution, making sure that you wipe off the probe with a paper towel between each use. The trick is to get the two solutions around the same temperature, around 98 degrees to 110 F which is called equalizing. This is the most difficult part of the whole process. The lye solution will take about an hour to come down from a high of around 160 degrees to the lower temperature that you need. The following is a useful video on how to do this:
- Plug in your immersion blender so it is ready to use.
- Combine the two solutions once they have reached the right temperatures (see above), pouring the lye solution into the pan of oils and stirring with the wooden spoon a couple of times.
- Without turning on the blender, immerse it into the mixture down to the bottom of the pan. Make sure that your gloves and goggles are on because you could get splattered a bit. I also like to put the saucepan in the sink for this step. You can do this by hand without a blender, but it will take much longer with a lot of stirring!
- Turn on the blender and slowly circulate it around the circumference of the pan. Keep blending, watching the consistency. Within a few minutes, the mixture will start turning opaque and thicken. Keep blending until the mixture starts forming a ‘trace’, which is just part of the mix leaving a visible swirl on top. The mixture should be the consistency of runny pudding.
- Add your essential oils (I used 1/4 ounce each of lemon and orange oil). Grate 2 oranges to get about 1/4 cup of grated skin and add to mixture. I also sprinkled some turmeric on top to increase the intensity of the orange color. This is for color only, not for any flavor. Mix in and I liked the swirls of turmeric so didn’t mix that in completely.
- Pour your soap into your mold.
- Wrap the container in an old towel and set aside for 24 hours.
- The next day, the soap is still soft enough to be cut into blocks with a sharp knife. I peel off the container and chop it up with a warmed knife.
Out of this one batch, I made 20 blocks of soap which should last me a long time for my personal use and lots of gifts.
You have to let the soap age about a month before using as it will retain some of its caustic nature immediately after you make it. I leave it out in a sunny window to age it for a few months before using or giving it as gifts.
For a similar soap recipe, check out our Castile Soap Recipe.