Can You Make Goat Milk Soap Without Handling Lye?

Options for Soap Making Without Lye

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Rebatched rose patchouli soap. Photo by Melanie Teegarden

The idea of making goat milk soap without handling lye is certainly appealing, but the truth is that somewhere along the line, someone has had to use lye in order to make soap. Soap is a salt of a fatty acid, and that salt is created by the introduction of a strong alkali such as sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. This is true of melt-and-pour bases as well as rebatched (or hand milled) soaps – two common methods of soap making without lye. If you would like to make goat milk soap without handling lye, these are some of your alternatives.

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Learning how to make milk soap can be intimidating. If you have goat milk to use but you prefer soap making without lye, adding milk – no more than one tablespoon per pound of melt and pour base – is simple and easy.  You can also add powdered or condensed goat milk at the same rate – one tablespoon per pound of base. The drawback of using melt-and-pour base with goat milk is that adding too much milk can cause spoilage or lead to orange spots in your soap, a sign of oils going rancid. (Orange-spotted soap is safe to use, although it may be cosmetically flawed.) A three pound loaf of cold process or hot process soap would use up to 13 fluid ounces of goat milk in the recipe. A three pound loaf of melt-and-pour will have about three tablespoons of goat milk. However, the goat milk added to melt-and-pour base will not be altered in the same way as milk added to caustic soap batter. In the end, it really is just personal preference.

One of the benefits of using melt-and-pour base for your goat milk soap is that you can buy base with the goat milk already incorporated into the recipe. If you want to make just one or two bars at a time, or several bars of many different varieties, this is a very simple way to accomplish that goal. There are none of the usual soap making worries about misbehaving fragrance oils or having the soap get too firm before it is in the mold. With melt-and-pour base you can simply pop it back into the microwave or double boiler and it will be liquid again very quickly.

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Melt-and-pour soap, designed by Susan Clark. Photo by Susan Clark.

To use melt-and-pour base to make goat milk soap, either purchase a ready-made goat milk base or melt 1 pound of clear or white base in the microwave (check and stir frequently), in a crockpot on low or in a double boiler. Once the base is liquid, allow it to sit for  a few minutes to allow the temperature to go down. Add your enrichments at this time – goat milk, herbs, flowers, colorants and scents. Regarding fragrances, remember that melt-and-pour soap requires less scent to produce a strong-smelling soap. Start with .35 oz per pound of base, and add more if you feel that it needs it. Pour into the mold and allow to cool and harden. Unlike rebatched, cold process or hot process soaps, melt-and-pour base soaps are ready to use as soon as you pop them out of the mold.

Soap ingredients such as goat milk can also be added to rebatched, or hand-milled, soaps. The usage rate is roughly the same as for melt-and-pour: 1-2 tablespoons of liquid goat milk per pound of shredded soap. The liquid will help the soap to melt down smoothly for the pour, but once cooled it will yield a very dense, firm bar of soap. If you don’t have lye for soap on hand, but you have some handmade soap from a previous batch, It’s easy to grate a few bars and add goat milk, a tablespoon per pound, to enrich it. As with melt-and-pour base, rebatched soaps allow for a quick custom bar or two at a time, or many bars of different varieties at once. Fragrance oils don’t tend to have the same finicky behavior in completely saponified soap as they do in raw soap batter, so this is a good way to use problem fragrances, such as florals and spices.  

To use the rebatch method for making goat milk soap without handling lye, there are several options. You can buy pre-shredded cold process soap online, as it is often sold as a laundry soap base. This will be 0-percent superfat and ready to melt down and add your supplements and enrichments, such as goat milk, herbs, colors or fragrances. If you have some cold or hot process soap on-hand, you can grate it and use it as your base. Remember the basic rule of thumb on additives: 1 tablespoon per pound. Also, you will need far less fragrance than when you are making cold or hot process soap – start with .35 oz per pound of soap, and add more if you think you need it.

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Shredded soap for rebatching. Photo by Melanie Teegarden

Once you have shredded soap ready to use, add it to the crockpot along with 1 tablespoon of liquid (goat milk, water, fruit juice or puree, etc.) per pound of soap. Set the crockpot on “Low” and allow it to cook for several hours, stirring occasionally, until the soap reaches a consistency similar to thick oatmeal or mashed potatoes. Turn off the crockpot and allow the soap to cool for 10-15 minutes. Add your enrichments, and pour into molds. Once the soaps have cooled and hardened, they are safe to use. However, the soaps will be much longer-lasting if you allow them to cure for a few weeks to drive off excess water.

Now that you have some options for soap making without lye, I hope that you will give it a try. It’s an enjoyable way to customize a soap for a specific result, or to create a large variety of soaps one or two at a time. Melt-and-pour base with goat milk saves you a step, and rebatched soap allows you to use one base recipe to create a rainbow of different scents and skin supplements. No matter which method you choose, you can achieve excellent results in making goat milk soap without handling lye.

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