The type of soap Grandma made is called “Cold Process” soap (commonly referred to as “CP” soap). It is made by combining fatty acids and sodium hydroxide (lye) together. Fatty acids can be almost any oil – from beef tallow to olive oil to hemp oil. The combinations for making your own personal recipe are endless.
Cold process soapmaking is a combinations of an art and science. The condensed version of this type of soapmaking is that there is a certain proportion of lye (sodium hydroxide) and water to fatty acids that forms a chemical reaction called “saponifaction.” During saponification, the oils and lye mix and become soap – the process takes approximately six weeks to fully complete.
Cold process soapmaking requires the use of lye and the use of safety equipment, such as goggles and gloves. Please do not attempt to make cold process soap without researching the method thoroughly. Cold process soap is known for its hard, long lasting quality. Depending on the oils used, the bar can have great lather (coconut oil has excellent lathering properties), be incredibly mild (olive oil is renowned for its gentle qualities) or be very moisturizing (with the addition of oils, such as shea and cocoa butter or hemp oil).