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Homemade Soap - How to Make Soap at Home

Updated on September 27, 2016
Dolores Monet profile image

The simple soaps made by Dolores are popular with friends and coworkers. She has sold her soaps at a local boutique.

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Make Soap at Home With Inexpensive Ingredients

The soap recipe shared below is made with inexpensive ingredients using easy to find, inexpensive equipment. The addition of various coloring agents, herbs, and scents can make this one simple recipe useful to create many different kinds of soap. The recipe will come in handy for vegans as it uses no animal products.

Making your own soap at home is a fun and rewarding skill. Homemade soap is delightful to use on your skin or hair. And, hand made soap makes a wonderful gift for Christmas, birthdays, to offer as a hostess gift, party or shower favor.

The only problem with homemade soap is that once you start using it, you will be hooked forever. I know because I have been using this recipe for years!

Remember, that when you make soap at home, you need to follow all the safety precautions listed below. Pay close attention to the recipe, follow the steps in order, and conform to proportions as a change could result in product failure, dangerous chemical reaction, or burn.

Lye and pH in Homemade Soap

The soap that has the colored spots was made by cutting up glycerine soap into rod shapes and added to the soap mixture just before pouring into the mold.
The soap that has the colored spots was made by cutting up glycerine soap into rod shapes and added to the soap mixture just before pouring into the mold. | Source


If it doesn't have lye in it, it's not soap. Some producers of 'homemade' soap, understanding peoples' aversion to lye, list sodium hydroxide or caustic soda as an ingredient instead of lye. Sodium hydroxide is lye. Caustic soda is lye.

Many commercial soaps do not list lye or sodium hydroxide as an ingredient. That's because the 'cleansing bar' you buy does not contain lye so is not soap - it's detergent. They may add lanolin or other softening agents including glycerin which is a by product of soap making. But without lye, it just ain't soap.When you make soap at home, glycerin is created as a by-product, making the soap wonderfully soothing for the skin.

Lye can be dangerous, yes. But life is fraught with danger. Stoves are dangerous. Crossing the street is dangerous. If you follow the rules and proper handling procedures, you will be fine.

The soap making process creates a chemical reaction called saponification, after which, fat is no longer fat and lye is no longer lye - together, they have become soap!

Soaps and detergents have a slightly alkaline or base pH. To assure yourself, if still in doubt, purchase some pH test strips. Use the strips to test the pH on various bar soaps and personal cleaning products. Then, test your own soap after it has cured. You'll see that the pH levels are similar.

Another method of testing pH is the simple tongue test. Touch the tip of your tongue to the cured soap. If you feel a slight buzzing sensation, the soap is not cured. If you don't feel the buzzing, it is soap. Of course, even when the pH is fine, soap is still not going to be tasty.

Lye can be purchased at grocery stores (Red Devil Lye) or at a plumbing store.



Lye in Homemade Soap - Safe Procedures

  • Never use aluminum in the soap making process
  • Do not touch lye - wear gloves and protect your eyes - wear safety glasses.
  • Do not leave the lye solution unattended. Keep away from children and nosey pets
  • Ventilate the area well. Open a door and window or activate an exhaust fan to avoid inhaling dangerous fumes. I do both.
  • If you get lye on your skin, rinse immediately with cold water for several minutes. Then rinse with vinegar as it counteracts lye because it is an acid. If you don't have vinegar, you can use orange juice.
  • If you spill lye solution on the counter-top, wash immediately with vinegar. It is best to cover counter-tops with plastic for safety and to avoid a big mess.

Always add the lye to the water. (Otherwise can create a dangerous reaction)

Equipment Needed to Make Soap

Use only stainless steel, enamel-ware, glass, Pyrex, or plastic in the soap making process. Never use aluminum

  • Large enamelware or stainless steel pot
  • Large mixing bowl or container made of stainless steel, glass, enamel-ware, or Pyrex for lye solution
  • Scale that weighs in ounces
  • 2 Glass covered thermometers
  • Several large, heavy duty plastic spoons
  • Plastic containers for weighing water, fats, and lye
  • Molds for soap - commercial molds or you can just use plastic food type containers
  • Trash bags to cover counter
  • Stick blender
  • Stove
  • Sink
  • Apron, safety glasses, rags or paper towels



Ingredients for Soap

Here is the Stuff You Need

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  • Water
  • Fats - white, hydrogenated vegetable oil, like Crisco
  • canola oil
  • castor oil - find at health food or ethnic stores
  • coconut oil - at health food or ethnic stores
  • Lye ( found at plumbing supply stores or use Red Devil brand found in many supermarkets)
  • Sugar
  • Coloring agents (if desired) - shredded crayons, commercially available coloring agents, herbs
  • Essential oils - do yourself a favor - don't use fragrance oils as the scent does not last



Homemade Soap Recipe

  • 42 ounces Crisco
  • 5 ounces canola oil
  • 5 ounces castor oil
  • 5 ounces coconut oil
  • 17 ounces water
  • 6 1/2 ounces lye
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces or more of essential oil
  • coloring agents
  • herbs (optional)



How to Make Soap

Weigh the fats

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Add lye to water - you may have to stir

Add lye to water (photo by Dolores Monet)
Add lye to water (photo by Dolores Monet)
Add rest of the fats to the Crisco in pot (photo by Dolores Monet)
Add rest of the fats to the Crisco in pot (photo by Dolores Monet)

Add lye solution to fat when both have reached 110 degrees F

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)


  • Dissolve sugar in a small amount of hot water (set aside and use when you weigh the water)
  • Weigh 42 ounces Crisco (or similar product) into container. Weigh the container first and adjust the scale to zero.
  • Place Crisco in large stainless steel or enamel-ware pot on low heat
  • Weigh 17 ounces of water (including the sugar water). Weigh empty container first and adjust the scale to zero
  • Weigh lye, weighing container first, and pour the lye slowly into the water. Ensure adequate ventilation by opening 2 windows. Cover your nose and mouth. Stand slightly away from the mixture as fumes will rise. Gently stir until crystals have dissolved
  • Measure canola, castor, and coconut oils separately (again, wight the empty container first) Add to the fats in the pot
  • Use a separate container for the lye, the water, and the fats
  • Allow fats and lye solutions to come to the same temperature - about 110 degrees F. this can be tricky. The lye solution takes some time to cool. If one of the mixtures is still warm and the other is near 110 degrees, place the container of the warmer ingredients in a cool water bath in the sink until the mixture cools.
  • When both mixtures have reached 110 F, slowly pour the lye solution int the fats
  • Mix with stick blender until the mixture reaches the trace stage. That is when you drag a spoon through the mixture and it leaves a path. It's kind of like pudding.
  • Add coloring agents and herbs
  • Add essential oils
  • Stir
  • Pour the thickened mixture into a mold that has been greased with olive oil. You can use a large, rectangular Tupperware type container, a long wooden mold, or individual molds.
  • Lay plastic wrap over the top
  • Cover with a towel
  • Set aside for 3 days
  • Remove soap from the container. Slice into bars
  • Store the bars of soap on a rack where they can get good air ventilation. Soap must be cured for 30 days before use. Do not use soap before it is cured.


Homemade Soap at Trace

Trace means that when you drag a spoon through the mixture, it leaves a trail and looks like pudding.

Mix to Trace

Mix with hand blender
Mix with hand blender | Source
The mixture thickens to a pudding like consistency. The mixer leaves a trail (or trace) when its ready to pour into the mold
The mixture thickens to a pudding like consistency. The mixer leaves a trail (or trace) when its ready to pour into the mold | Source

Herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

Coloring Agents

Do not use food color. Uncolored bars are white. Here is a list of some coloring agents

  • turmeric - golden, more makes it orange
  • French clay - green (an astringent)
  • sage - dull green
  • cocoa - brown to very dark brown
  • coffee- brown (good for a super-cleaning bar) add as part of the lye solution
  • powdered commercial or liquid pigments for soap making - the color of your choice, available at some craft stores or online
  • ground calendula petals - yellow
  • paprika - orange - don't use hot paprika
  • cinnamon - reddish brown
  • oxides - inorganic colors, make sure you buy cosmetic grade (they dry darker than when first added)
  • Herbs - produce nice flecks, very pretty - sage, thyme, chamomile flowers, sea kelp granules, dried orange rind, mint leaves, herbal teas (steep 3 tea bags in water, cool, and use as part of the water/lye solution), oatmeal (an exfoliate that soothes dry skin, use about 1/2 cup)

Pour soap in mold - isn't it pretty?

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme soap with herbs, rosemary oil, ground sage and commercial coloring agent  (photo by Dolores Monet)
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme soap with herbs, rosemary oil, ground sage and commercial coloring agent (photo by Dolores Monet)

You can stack the molds

Actually, this is covered with an old tablecloth  (photo by Dolores Monet)
Actually, this is covered with an old tablecloth (photo by Dolores Monet)

How to combine lye and water

© 2009 Dolores Monet

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