25.11.10

The Chemistry of Soap Making Class at Wellesley College


I recently taught a soap making class at Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA) on "The Chemistry of Soap Making" for Professor Didem Vardar-Ulu, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Her class is made up mostly of juniors and seniors.


The Science Center (pictured above) at Wellesley is quite impressive. It stands out on campus as a massive structure. For a unique look at inside it, visit Wellesley's website.

We began Professor Vardar-Ulu's class with an overview of organic chemistry and how it pertains to soap making and how to choose plant oils for various skin types before students made their own batch of soap from start to finish. We also discussed how to choose fatty acids for soapmaking. See our previous blog post on the properties of fatty acids (lauric, myristic, palmitic, stearic, ricinoleic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic).


Above, students lower their lye water temperatures. Once in the desired temperature range, they combine the lye water with the melted oils.


Success! Students transfer their soap into molds for easy transport home. Once soaps cure, students will test their moisturizing effects on the skin.

Want to try the Totally Groovy Hemp and Almond Soap we made in class?

Yields: 2 lbs.
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 27%
Water Discount: 38%
Saturated: Unsaturated Ratio: 49:51


2.875 oz. (81.497 grams) Lye
7.6 oz. Water
6 oz. Coconut oil
6 oz. Palm oil
3 oz. Sweet almond oil
2 oz. Hempseed oil
0.625-1.2 oz. fragrance (students used a rosemary/peppermint essential oil blend)

Please use necessary safety procedures when making cold process soap. Wear protective eyewear (goggles), mask and gloves. No children, pregnant women, nor animals around. Remember to add the lye to water. Then the lye water to oils.
Want to learn how to make soap? Check out our soap making DVDs or come join us for a cold process soapmaking class in Boston or New York City.

(Marla is contributing writer for The Saponifier Magazine, a moderator on Indie Beauty Network, and a speaker at the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild Conference in 2009, 2010 and is scheduled to speak again in 2011 in Miami. She teaches natural skincare and business classes throughout the U.S. and overseas. She is available to teach intensive workshops and can be reached at marla@backporchsoap.com.)
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