Sharon has been making and selling soaps and personal care products for about five years.
My Goat Milk Soap Disasters
My earliest experiences in attempting goat milk soap were disastrous. I tried making it in my very earliest days of soapmaking, long before I had really mastered making regular soap. I wound up with very ugly, very brown soap that was riddled with pockets of something. . . To make a long story short, the soap overheated, and the milk sugars scorched. After two or three bad experiences, I was afraid to try it again and gave up on the idea for four years, to be exact.
This was unfortunate, because one of my daughters raises dairy goats, and she often has a large surplus of goat milk. She convinced me to give it another try, saying that we would do it together! This is always the winning argument for soapmaking moms, since we all dream of making soap with our daughters. We learned two things:
- The main trick is to start out with frozen goat milk and slowly sprinkle the lye into the milk while stirring until the goat milk has melted. This keeps the goat milk from getting too hot and scorching.
- The other trick is to soap as cold as possible. Oils should be somewhere around 80° F or even slightly colder.
In hopes of interesting my daughter in the nuts and bolts aspect of soapmaking, and thus drawing her into my belief that there is nothing in the world more interesting than soap, I pulled up Soapcalc.net on the computer and walked her through the process of creating a recipe.
How to Analyze Your Soap Recipe
- Go to Soapcalc.net and use their recipe calculator. It takes the guesswork out of creating a near-perfect soap.
- The recipe page shows the recommended numeric ranges for various soap qualities as well as how this particular recipe stacks up in comparison to these soap qualities.
My Goat Milk Soap Recipe
What You'll Need:
- 16 ounces Lard
- 5 ounces Coconut Oil
- 5 ounces Sunflower Oil
- 1 ounce Cocoa Butter
- 1 ounce Mango Butter
- 1 ounce Shea Butter
- 0.5 ounce Flaxseed Oil
- 11.2 ounces Goat Milk
- 4 ounces Lye
- 1.5 ounces sodium lactate (leave this out if you are using a loaf mold)
- 1 ounce Agave Nectar
- 2.5 ounces fragrance oil or essential oil
* I used cavity molds. If you're making this recipe in a loaf mold, omit the sodium lactate.
* For the fragrance, I splurged and used Kuumba-Made Tunisian Opium fragrance oil. Choose your preferred fragrance.
- Freeze goat milk in an ice cube tray. It should make miniature ice cubes.
- Weigh the hard oils (lard, coconut oil, cocoa butter, mango butter, and shea butter) into a stainless steel pan and melt them over low heat. Remove them from heat and allow to this cool to about 80° F.
- Weigh the liquid oils (sunflower oil and flaxseed oil) into a separate container. Do not heat with the hard oils. It's best if liquid oils are never heated since heating them accelerates rancidity.
- After the hard oils have cooled, add the liquid oils to them.
- To this mixture, add sodium lactate, agave nectar, and fragrance. If the oils seem at all warm, put the pan in the refrigerator for a short time.
- Weigh the lye.
- Weigh the frozen goat milk into a plastic bowl and gradually sprinkle the lye over the goat milk, stirring as you add the lye. Stir until all the lye has been added and the goat milk has become liquid.
- Add the goat milk and lye mixture to the oil mixture. There is no need to heat this.
- Stick the blend to about a medium trace and pour it into cavity molds.
- Let the soap sit in the cavity molds at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Put the molds in the freezer for at least three hours.
- After the soap has been frozen in the molds for three hours, remove them from the freezer and warm the molds with your hands to release the soap.
- Let soap cure on racks in an area with good air circulation for 4-6 weeks. The soap is safe to use after about 24 hours, but its quality is greatly improved after curing.
- As with most soaps made in cavity molds, it is essential to make sure the soap has gelled before freezing. Soaps won't release cleanly from cavity molds unless they are fully gelled, even with freezing. For soaps other than goat milk soaps, you often need to give them some heat to get them to gel, and pretty much always in cavity molds. Goat milk soaps usually generate enough heat to gel on their own, even in cavity molds, making heat treatment unnecessary. Soaping cold in the wintertime is quite a bit colder than soaping cold in the summertime.
- Much depends on the fragrance. With some fragrances, this soap may require a little heat to gel. With others, it may want to overheat and practically flash-gel. You can feel the molds to see if they are slightly warm, which would indicate that sufficient heat is being generated by the saponification process.
- I suggested leaving the soap in the molds for 24 hours before freezing because some fragrances will cause soap to ash if it is unmolded before saponification is complete. I also think goat milk soap may have a little more of a tendency to ash than regular soaps.
- Sadly, how long soap should be left in molds and whether they need a little heat to force gel are judgment calls. An experienced soapmaker makes these decisions based on their familiarity with the behavior of fragrance oils and essential oils. She will decide whether to apply heat to force gel by feeling the molds and thinking, "Hmm, this feels warm enough," or by referring to her notes on the last time she made an identical batch.
- If you do decide to apply a little heat to force gel, I would suggest applying just a little. Goat milk soap is prone to overheating, which, though not likely in cavity molds, is much more likely in loaf molds. If you make this recipe in a loaf mold, you may even need to refrigerate it immediately after pouring into the mold.
My Thoughts About Formulating a Soap Recipe
Here are the factors that went into the making of this soap recipe. Some of them are quirky ideas of my own and should not be considered authoritative. But—if I do say so myself—this recipe makes a darn good bar of soap.
How I Chose the Ingredients/Amounts in This Recipe:
- Keep It Simple: I wanted to keep this recipe simple—at least as simple as possible, given my somewhat finicky ideas about what makes the soap good. I wanted lard because my daughter raises pigs and has large amounts of lard. I was actually shooting for a "lard soap" recipe but found other oils were needed to "round out" the recipe: to provide good lather, conditioning, and a moisturizing "feel." Lard is one of the best soaping oils and makes an excellent soap but, used alone, is deficient in other important soap qualities. After tweaking this recipe, it ended up being 54% lard.
- Make It Fancy: On the other hand, and contrary to the "keep it simple" principle, I felt that butters were essential to a really fine bar of soap, and triple-butter soaps are the best. I went with the cocoa-mango-shea combination I use in my regular soap recipe.
- Low Cleansing Number: A low cleansing number is, in my opinion, an essential feature of a good soap recipe. Mine has a cleansing number of 12.
- High Conditioning Number: This is pretty self-explanatory. My recipe has a conditioning number of 51.
- Sacrifice the Bubbly: I sacrificed a little of the "bubbly" factor in favor of the high conditioning number. You can't have it both ways. So the bubbly number for the lather is 12—lower than Soapcalc's recommended range. This problem can be fixed, as explained below.
- Sweeten the Deal: I add sugar to improve the bubbliness of the lather, which I mentioned is compromised by choosing a high conditioning number. When making regular soap, the sugar is added to the lye water before the lye is mixed in, but you can't do this with goat milk soap. The goat milk must be frozen solid and the lye gradually sprinkled in. I decided to use agave nectar instead of sugar to enhance the lather and to mix it with the oils (before adding the lye to the oils). I think agave nectar enhances lather better than sugar, though I'm not absolutely sure about this. There could be some confirmation bias going on here. This addition may not really be necessary since goat milk contains milk sugars, but it's a nice touch!
- Keep It Creamy: The number for the "creamy" factor of lather is 32, which is plenty high enough.
- Linoleic and Linolenic Acid: It is my perhaps quirky belief that the combined percentage of linoleic and linolenic acid in soap should be pretty high. Most soapmakers feel the combined percentage should be no higher than 15%. I prefer it to be somewhere between 15% and 20%—preferably closer to the latter. The combined linoleic/linolenic in this recipe is 17%. This high percentage was achieved by using sunflower oil (not the high-oleic kind) and a little flaxseed oil.
- Use Sodium Lactate: I use sodium lactate (SL) in all my soaps. I love what it does. It is a humectant that is nearly twice as effective as glycerin, so it makes soap moisturizing. It also hardens soap and helps it release more easily from molds. I find it also somewhat enhances lather. For soaps made in cavity molds, I like to use the maximum recommended percentage, which is 5%. This is too much for loaf molds and causes soap to crumble when you cut them. However, it's wonderful in cavity molds and makes the "feel" of the soap downright divine.