Updated: May 29, 2020
Greetings, friend! Making soap, be it cold or hot process, is an amazing creative outlet and method of controlling what you are using on your body. In order to make soap, we need to use lye. Knowing that lye is a caustic chemical can seem frightening, I know! Follow basic safety guidelines and you should find that it's not that scary after all. Folks have been making soap with lye for thousands of years! We just want to ensure that you are able to freely and SAFELY wave your soap wand and unveil your magical creations!
For basic safety gear you will need:
Clothing Wear long pants and a shirt with long, tight fighting sleeves. It couldn't hurt to toss on an apron or lab coat if you happen to have one laying around, but that is not mandatory. Always wear foot protection. I personally wear rubber rain boots, but I'm goofy like that. Long hair should be pulled up and out of the way. I've learned the foolish way that brushing loose hair out of your face with raw soap batter on your gloves kind of sucks. Some folks also wear a hat, hair net, snood, silk cap, or similar items.
Gloves I recommend using dish-washing, or similar, gloves which offer forearm protection. If you're wearing that snuggly sleeved shirt I mentioned, you may be able to tuck the sleeves under the gloves. Make sure whichever non-porous gloves you use fit your hands well.
Safety Goggles These are SUPER important! While it is pretty uncommon, soap batter or lye can splash up. Safety goggles help protect your eyes and the surrounding area. Regular glasses do not offer good protection because they do not surround your eyes. If you do wear glasses, make sure whichever goggles you get can fit nicely around your glasses. A face shield is also an option.
Ventilation Caustic fumes occur when lye is mixed with a liquid. Make sure you are working in a room where you have a good source for fresh air. Mixing your lye water outside is a popular option.
Mask This one is more optional, but I never soap without one. A good mask can help keep you from breathing in fumes, and make soaping a more enjoyable experience. You should always wear a mask when working with micas and other fine particles.
Running Water As careful as we are, sometimes lye water or soap batter may get on our skin. In this case, you will need to rinse that area with cool water for a good few minutes. Skipping this step could lead to chemical burns. If the lye water or soap batter somehow gets in your eyes, flush well with water and seek emergency medical help.
Surface Protection It's a good idea to cover your workspace with something like freezer paper or a plastic or vinyl tablecloth. You'll need a place to set down your tools and containers etc. that you won't need to worry about ruining. I usually wrap mine around my equipment after I've finished working and let it sit safely overnight before washing.
White Vinegar Have this on hand to clean surface areas should any lye or batter get on them. When done soaping, you may want to wipe your surface down with some vinegar just to be safe. Do not use vinegar on your skin. I will reiterate that you must use water for you body.