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Author Topic: making soap in africa  (Read 484 times)
Tom MacAulay
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« on: July 30, 2013, 02:09:39 AM »

 I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Nile Region, Uganda, Africa. That's way up in the northwest corner, bordering DRC and the Sudan. Short and long...poverty and limited access to any kind of supplies. I work with a group of women who are all HIV/AIDS, and as a project they would like to make bar soap for multi-purpose use. They use palm oil because it's available cheaply from the Congo. I tried it a couple times (palm oil, water, NaOH) and it came out ok, but kind of gross. My questions:
1. Is there a generic ratio for making soap from oil? It seems like the recipes I've seen for basic soap have a ratio pattern of 7 parts oil; 3 parts water; 1 part lye.
2. Since palm oil has a dark tint, what would be the best ingredient to use to change it from it's orangish color?
3. Since palm oil smells gross, any ideas on fragrance to mask it?
Thanks, appreciate any feedback keeping in mind that this is all very low budget in order to be sustainable.
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2013, 08:17:41 AM »

Welcome to the forum !

I commend you for your service to the people of Uganda and everything you are doing to help them with their soap making venture.
Please add your steps in making soap. did you use a soap calculator to give you the needed amount of water and lye to make your soap? what soap process are you using ...cold process or hot process. what size batch do you try to make at a time ? do you have any other food grade oils available to you ?
what type of fragrances do you have access to?
these are just some of the things that would be nice to know to better help you to the fullest possible means  //  plus what type of botanical herbs and spices are in the area . you can use them both for coloring and also add properties to the soap that is good for the skin .

again , welcome to the forum
Tom MacAulay
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« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2013, 12:28:23 AM »

thanks for the response and interest Janeau!!

Appreciate the questions you ask. The palm oil is there- it's available and cheapest. Sunflower (they call it cooking oil) is also there as is olive (in the small stores typically run by Indian merchants), but both tend to be more expensive. I don't know about lard and tallow, but they would be available somehow, the limiting condition being the cost of getting it here. Bottom line in all this is cost for the inputs since the women doing this are poor. The soap will be used for everything from personal use, to doing the dishes to washing clothes- think "all purpose".

I use a local chemical supply shop to obtain the NAOH from Kampala, the capital, a 1 day bus trip away, and would like to make this as sustainable as possible by keeping all the other inputs needed available locally at a low cost. The lye is the one thing that will have to be imported, but if I can teach the process using everything else obtained locally, I think it could work and become a sustainable activity even after I leave.

We tried making a small batch of palm oil soap using about 16 oz. 100% palm (7 parts), water (3 parts) and lye (1 part). That was before I found soap calc but I think the ratios are about right. We don't have a scale so ratios, using marked containers, seems the best way. Do these ratios sound ok? The women said it was ok soap, but it was orangy lather and the smell was gross.

Fragrances? Again, would have to be shipped in at higher cost. What are some other options? I was thinking of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. which are available as are any number of other herbs and spices. We could also grow our own. What herbs and spices are best to use for scent as well as coloring?

My comments are probably all over the place. What I would really like to know is, using palm as a base and maybe cutting it with up to 25% of another kind of oil to make it a little more lather/lotion qualities, what would be good for fragrance and color?

Again, thanks for any thoughts.

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« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2013, 05:19:47 AM »

I can't help but think you must have some animals there, where you could render the fat to mix with the palm oil. I've rendered lard a couple of times, easy & my dogs were very happy to have the non lard leftovers, LOL

I just took my digital scale & measured out 8oz water in the measuring cup, on the scale it was also 8oz
Did the same with palm oil & it weighed 7.8oz on the scale

I'm sure the measure by parts would be close, since you want a all purpose soap, any "lye" heavy you ended up with could be used for the laundry, cleaning.

Are you cooking the soap? I don't know for sure which local herbs & spices would help your soap but it would be worth it to divide up your next batch into very small sizes and add the different herbs & spices you have handy there to the small sizes and see which ones can help with the odor & color.
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