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So, I have two books on soaping and the authors do not share the same methods for making their soap.  One uses uses plastic pitchers to mix, another uses glass.  One refrigerates their freshly poured soap.  The other covers and insulates their soap, perhaps even using a heating pad or warm oven.  I really want to get it right and don’t know which way to go.  I better buy another book!  Enter Soap Maker’s Workshop by Dr.Robert S. and Katherine J. McDaniel.  Dr. McDaniel is a trained chemist… he should know which way is right!  It’s a good book.  Very informative.  But after reading it and finding still more variations in methods, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there are only three absolute rules to making soap:

  1. Wear gloves and goggles.
  2. Pour the lye into the water, not the water into the lye.
  3. Never use aluminum in soap making.

Beyond that, it seems that everything else is a matter of preference.  I did learn something very interesting in Soap Maker’s Workshop about INS values, although the exact meaning of INS unknown:  this is a method of calculating the oils by percentage in a recipe to determine different qualities of the outcome of the batch.  Using certain online soap calculators (I like SoapCalc.net) a soap maker can determine the expected hardness of the bar, conditioning value, creamy and bubbly texture and cleansing effectiveness.  When customizing a soap recipe, if the calculations don’t meet your expectations, then you simply replace oils, add different oils with the needed qualities or change the balance of oils.  And, since SoapCalc lets you enter the oils by percentages of the recipe, then it’s a snap to customize an existing recipe to a smaller or larger batch size.  Well, doesn’t that make life easier!  Now I just have to figure out the rest of these functions of SoapCalc and start planning my first batch.  The lye is on order and should arrive any day now!  It’s February 24, 2013.

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