Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Make All Sorts of Different Homemade Soaps including Breast Milk Soap

Most people who've been in the "crunchy" aka "natural parenting world for some time have heard about the amazing properties of breast milk, not just in nourishing babies but also for healing all sorts of ailments, from pink eye to ear infections and diaper rashes, because of the antibodies and other disease fighting aspects within. A friend of mine thinks that the reason her daughter survived cancer is because she nursed throughout chemo.

I'd heard about making soap from breast milk; it's meant to be be more beneficial than regular soap, with many of the benefits of breast milk, so very healing. It intrigued me, but I hate pumping so didn't have any to work with. Then someone who I am close with (and trust that her breast milk is safe and disease free) told me that she had pumped and froze milk for her baby who refused to drink milk that had been frozen- the babe wanted only freshly pumped milk, so she didn't know what to do with all the milk she pumped. I said I'd take it for soap making... and then it sat in my freezer for a while until I finally got around to making it yesterday.
Do I know if the milk retains its properties once made into soap? Nope. But even if not, no harm done and its still good soap.

I made soap with milk one time before- to do so you replace some or all of the recipe with the milk. But last time I made a soap with milk- goat's milk- it turned a rusty colored. People told me that it was because the milk burned- its best to keep the milk frozen and add it only after saponification.

I've been reading a lot in a soap making group and gotten inspired by people's artistic and beautiful hand crafted soaps, many times using natural ingredients only so I decided to try and make my breast milk soap beautiful, using only kitchen items.

So this time, I plugged my oils into a soap calculator (670 grams canola oil, 740 grams olive oil, 160 grams palm oil, and 930 grams coconut oil- that's what I had in the house) and it told me that I needed 320 grams caustic soda and 950 grams water (I wanted to make mine extra oily- this is called superfatting- to not dry out skin). But since I had 220 grams of milk, I deducted that from the water amount and used only 730 grams of water. Once saponified, only then did I add the milk. I think it still burned a little, but maybe not.

The instructions for making hold process soap in the crock pot can be found here, but I'll give a rundown exactly what I did here.

You first heat up your oils to melt them together, then let them cool a drop. While they're cooling, you put your lye into your water very carefully so it doesn't splash- I wear disposable gloves while doing this- and mix it, trying not to breathe in the fumes. Once it is fully dissolved, I put it outside- on my window sill with the window closed and let it off-gas and cool off. When cool enough that the container doesn't burn me when I touch the outside, it's time to saponify. At this point, your oils should have cooled enough- if you don't let it cool enough it will erupt out of your crockpot, so let it cool!

I don't let my kids be in the area from when I mix the lye with the water until the lye is outside, and from when I start saponifying until it reaches trace- about 10 minutes. So though I've avoided soap making for years because of kids around I see it isn't such a big deal- just about 15 minutes total that they can't be there.

To saponify, I put the warm oils into the crockpot, making sure its not more than 1/3 of the way full. (This recipe was a little too big for my crockpot.)
I then pour in my lye/water mixture carefully, and mix it with a wooden spoon for a minute or two. Then I use a blender stick and mix all over, being careful not to splash, until the texture of the entire thing changes and it all looks like pudding. That is called reaching trace. Depending on the oils you use and their temperature, this take longer or shorter. It took 7 minutes or so for me. Then I added my frozen milk and blended some more.

Once trace is reached, you turn on your crockpot on low, mixing often, until it cooks through. This neutralizes the rest of the lye. If you don't want to do this part, you need to let the soap cure for a few weeks before it can be used so I hot process.

The way you know the soap finished cooking is that it changes color entirely- from an opaque to a more translucent color.

At this point, you can either put them directly into molds or color them. I put some in molds directly as is, and the rest I mixed with coffee powder to color brown and give scent, and then some of that with cocoa powder to make a darker brown.

I poured it into molds, then used a bent hanger to mix them, giving them a marbled look.

 I left some uncolored and put in heart shaped molds for cuteness.

And then I got so encouraged by this soap coming out nicely, that I decided to make another batch, just plain old soap, no milk or anything weird in it, to offer for sale.

It was a smaller batch, and I colored it with cocoa, coffee, and activated charcoal, again marbled with a hanger, and topped it with green coffee beans that I had lying around.
I think they came out beautifully!

I also made a few with lavender flowers I foraged.

After being in molds for a good 12-24 hours, you remove them from the molds, cut them to size if needed, then let them dry further for up to a few days if desired. They last longer if you let them dry.

I'm so excited by how these came out that I want to make more ASAP! So many ideas in my head for different types of bars! And that I see how it was simple to do even as a stay at home mom with kids...

As for lye being scary- the only precautions I do are what I said already, plus keeping vinegar on hand to pour anywhere in case of lye splashing- to neutralize the strong alkalinity of the lye. Not such a big deal.

Just a note- in terms of coloring- once dried any soap becomes lighter and opaque, so it doesn't look the same color when hot and when hardened and cooled.

Ever make homemade soap before or consider it? Cold or hot process?
Would you ever make breastmilk soap or use it or hell no?
If you make soap, do you naturally color it? If so, with what?
If you use foraged items in your soaps, which ones do you use, how, and for what purpose?


  1. No, No, hell no, no and no ;)

    That said, they are interesting looking and if you're going to sell them, they ought to do well as "guest soaps" particularly the smaller heart shaped ones. You'll probably get some strange looks, but who cares?

    Knowing absolutely nothing about soap making, I'll pass along a cute idea I saw ages ago for clear glycerin soap. If you stick a tiny toy inside the mould (a mini rubber duck, plastic bug, etc.) it encourages children to wash their hands longer so they can eventually get to the toy. No idea if it would work here, but everyone likes a "toy surprise" even if the soap isn't clear enough to tell what it will be.

    Anyway, making soap with lye, milk, and fats has a very long history and I'm sure at some point, someone ran out of sheep's milk and thought, "hmmmm, I wonder if..." they just don't mention it at the living history museums when they demonstrate soap making.

    1. wow is all I can say to you ignorance.. Soaps can be made out of any milk, almost anything really. Breast milk included... All you need is oil, lye and liquid of choice.. and glycerin soap - someone already did that for you so really your not making soap your reshaping it. Please do not comment if you really haven't made soap especially your negative comment.

    2. Thank you for this article. I love your soaps and they are very lovely.. And best part so much better than store bought... Nice to meet you soapy sister..

    3. Just to say that with some woman once ther milk has been frozen it tastes funny when defrosted. Some women have breast milk with too much lipase which ia an enzyme that does this but despite the funny taste it is meant to do baby no harm. My grandchildren also rejected their mum's frozen milk because of the enzyme. See http://babygooroo.com/2011/07/why-does-my-breast-milk-smell-sour/

    4. Don't worry Anonymous, I didn't find your comments offensive. Jody, I don't see what the bee in the bonnet is all about. I wouldn't want to use another woman's breast milk either. I find the idea too intimate, I wouldn't even use my sister's milk. Anyway, nice tip about the toy in the soap, Anonymous. I plan on using milk from my local farm (grass-fed cows and all). and BTW, I'm a 5 year breastfeeding veteran, several kids in, so I'm totally familiar with the wonderful world of breast milk. Thanks for the post, Penny!

  2. I am tickled that you found a use for the baby-rejected breastmilk. My daughter rejected stored milk too. It was sad for all involved. Do pass on any observations you may note if this special soap maintains the benefits of the higher lauric acids and so on.

  3. I have toyed with the idea of making soap for years... We just don't use it that much so it's kinda hard to justify the effort. I have seen recipes for breast milk lotion before, makes sense that people would make soap with it also. Pretty cool!

  4. I've got goats, so we have some milk to make soap with. To prevent burning, I freeze the milk in ice cubes. Then I stir the lye crystals in directly with the milk cubes (I don't use any other liquid in the soap). After the cubes have melted, I add the fats, stir a little more and finish it all off with a stick blender until it reaches "trace". So far I haven't had burning problems using this method.

  5. I really enjoy making soap too. I should make smaller batches. I like variety but we can only use so much soap in a year. I do really like giving it as gifts. Do you have a separate crockpot for soap making?


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