The Soap Kitchen name is well-known throughout the UK, Europe and beyond, known for its high quality ingredients but we also make our own products too. Our products are made from our own unique recipes, they are handmade, hand poured, packaged and labelled by hand in house too. Today, our chief manufacturer, Jo is going to list some equipment we use and just couldn’t live without!
So what is in our kitchen?
Apart from us being lucky enough to have a warehouse full of fab ingredients to try out, what’s our essential equipment that might be different to what is in your own kitchen?
Whether you are making soap at home as a hobby or commercially you are still going to need safety equipment. You can’t make cold process soap without Sodium Hydroxide (Lye). Sodium hydroxide is a caustic chemical that if it comes in to direct contact can cause severe skin and eye irritation. So make sure you take care. Have arms (and legs) covered, safety goggles and gloves. The fumes can be pretty strong too, we have loads of space in our kitchen and really high ceilings, so at home make sure the room you are in is well ventilated.
Before I start soap making I make sure I get all the equipment out ready, there is nothing worse than getting half way through the recipe to find your colours have run out or you don’t have enough fragrance.
Accurate Weighing Scale
When following recipes and formulas it is important to measure accurately, especially with the caustic soda for making the lye and the base oils that mix with it. For soap making we always work in weight not volume as it is the only constant. We need to be able to accurately weigh from 1g up to 30kg and have our scales calibrated annually.
We make 5kg of soap in each batch, so we need a big pan to mix it in. A heavy bottomed one is best and stainless steel or enamel. No copper, aluminium or Teflon coated as they will corrode or react with the lye.
Heat Resistant Measuring Jug
We use heavy duty plastic or glass when mixing the caustic soda into water for the lye. You need to make sure the jug is not too thin and flexible, you are going to have hot lye in the jug so need to be able to move it safely. Extended use with lye may weaken certain plastics overtime.
A simple piece of equipment but one I cannot do without. Not only does it help to get every last smear of soap from the pan, and so helping with the washing up, but it can also be a valuable tool when trying different techniques. Make sure you have a sturdy silicone set, wood will eventually deteriorate due to the contact with lye and you will risk getting splinters in your soap.
Okay, so you purists might think that this is cheating, but when you are mixing 5 kg of soap batter by hand, sometimes several times every day, waiting for the perfect trace, this saves my sanity. We don’t have anything fancy, just good quality and solid that is easy to clean. Using the blender also helps with some of the heavier colours too, breaking up the particles and creating a far brighter colour than I can achieve by hand.
Before the invention of stick blenders we always made soap by hand with a balloon whisk and even if I do revert to the ease of a blender sometimes I always start and finish whisking by hand. Everyone has their favourite whisk so really it depends on personal preference. I like a heavy handled stainless steel whisk, but other prefer the lighter silicone option.
The most important piece of equipment really, something to pour that soap mix into. We have our moulds custom made from wood which we then line with silicone paper. Having our moulds made to our own measurements ensures every bar we cut should be the correct finished size and weight, the moulds have a loose bottom to help us unmould the soap.
Because we make so many large batches of soap we have our coconut and palm oils in a large bain marie. This means we can easily measure out the melted oils at the perfect temperature without having to cut up blocks of solid oil and melt them every time. Saving time and washing up an extra saucepan.
We have our soap cutters custom made to fit our blocks of soap and calibrated to the size of our bars. It is all done by hand still though; essentially it is an extra-large cheese wire!
We usually have between 15 and 18 varieties of soap available and make 55 bars per batch. As soap needs to cure for at least 4 weeks we need quite a lot of space. Because our kitchen is within a large warehouse it can get pretty chilly in the evenings and at weekends when the staff have all gone home. Whilst the soap is curing it needs to stay at a nice ambient temperature, so we have made a curing cupboard, which houses 3 small greenhouse heaters to ensure it stays at a nice constant temperature throughout its curing. Kind-of-like a large glass fronted airing cupboard!
Okay, so once the soap is all cured we either hand wrap it in beautiful handmade paper or if a customer has asked for it unwrapped we enclose it in shrink wrap. A handy piece of kit, the plastic wrap fits around the soaps and we then heat seal it into a bag which then goes on to be heat-shrunk until all the air is removed. It ensures that when we pack products they are sealed in a pack and not tumbling around in the box getting damaged.
And that’s it, a basic look into the equipment we have in the kitchen and what we couldn’t live without! If you have any questions about anything we have mentioned today just comment them below and we will answer them or you can email us! You can also click HERE to do a virtual tour of our warehouse.