Making Traditional Alata or Black Soap
A recipe for 5 kg of finished soap – Put 1.2 kg of palm kernel oil into a steel drum. Add 3.6 kg of boiled or burned palm oil and stir the mixture. Place mixture on a gentle fire and start towards a slow boil. Slowly add the caustic solution, breaking up the stream in a sieve., or keeping it small like your smallest finger. We used a 50% solution of locally made crystals (potassium carbonate). When adding the caustic solution, stir the oils all the time. Keep at a slow boil for about 2 hours, stirring the mixture all the time, until it begins to solidify. Add essential oils as desired once the soap is finished cooking. Remove from the fire to finish off slowly. Pick the soap to release the air trapped in it from stirring. Take out soap and spread on a flat wooden board to dry in a cool, well-ventilated place overnight.
The quality of the Alata soap will be significantly improved by pressing or pounding the soap into a mold or form. There are many ways to achieve this. In it’s most basic form, freshly made alata soap should be dried 1 – 2 days depending on conditions. It can then placed into a short, thick-walled plastic pipe (PVC drainage pipe works well), 2 ½ – 3” in diameter. A heavy pounding stick of slightly smaller dimension is used to compact the soap, which is then removed and cured (dried) further. More sophisticated pressing devices can be designed and constructed, incorporating a long-handled lever with a short, swinging piston that fits into the tube. Counterweights or springs can be used to lift the lever back up to its original position.

It is not our intent to outline a specific machine or method, but rather to encourage experimentation using available materials.

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