Soap making is a simple process. The only ingredients you have to have are lye and oil. You can use many different kinds of oil to make soap. If it does not have lye in it, it is not soap. You can make bath soap, hand soap, laundry soap, or a shampoo bar. The difference between these is the amount of excess fat in the recipe. This means the amount of fat leftover in the recipe that is not saponified. Most recipes use 5-8% excess fat. This makes the bar moisturizing to the skin. I make my hand and bath soap at 5% excess fat. However when making a laundry bar I do not want any excess oil in the recipe so I make it at 0% excess fat. For shampoo we use 8-10 % excess fat.
Lets get started
- plastic spoon
- stick blender
- eye protection (goggles or glasses)
- long sleeve shirt
- digital scales with a tare button
- 1 or 2 plastic pitchers (make sure it is dishwasher safe) or 1-2 plastic or glass bowls (make sure it is dishwasher safe)
- rubber spatula
- kitchen gloves
- soap mold ( this can be a bread pan or cake pan or even silicone muffin pan or a make or purchased soap mold) here and here and here are some soap molds
- liners for the soap molds or parchment paper
- soap cutters
- lye (also known as Sodium Hydroxide)
- oils or butters -these can be purchased at the links provided in the recipes or at your local grocery store. The tallow or lard I get when I butcher a beef/pig and have the butcher grind the fat which I render into tallow/lard.
- recipe for the type of soap you wish to make
Instructions for basic soap making. We are using a melt and poor method. These are the instructions for all the recipes that follow.
You want to make sure your arms are covered so wear a long sleeve shirt so you won’t burn yourself if lye splashes on you. Gather your gloves and goggles also. These should be worn while working with the lye.
To start with you will measure out the water(use distilled, or well water) into the bowl or pitcher. Do not use hot water.
Put on your kitchen gloves and goggles. In a separate container, measure out the lye.
Add the lye to the water. DO NOT ADD WATER TO THE LYE.
Stir the water lye mixture. It will heat up and become cloudy, keep stirring until it is clear. DO NOT PUT YOU HEAD OVER THE CONTAINER THE FUMES ARE NOT GOOD FOR YOU.
Set the lye mixture aside in a safe place away from children and pets. This can be done outside so the fumes will not bother you. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Measure out your oils and melt if they are solid, over medium heat. Do not over heat the oils, they just need to be melted. Remove from heat and let cool.
now prepare your soap molds. If using a wooden, cardboard, or cake or bread pan, line the pan with parchment paper cut and folded to fit the pan. If using silicone molds no lining is necessary.
Test the temperature of the lye water and the oil by feeling the sides of the bowl or using a thermometer. If cool enough add the oil to the lye water, slowly. Stir with the plastic spoon until it is incorporated. Now mix with the stick blender gently pulsing, then stirring, then pulsing. As the oil and lye mix they will be thin at first, then thicken as you stir and blend them. The lye has a chemical reaction with the oil that will cause it ti thicken. The different stages of thickness are called trace.
Light trace: there will be slight lines in the mixture
Medium trace: There will be a defined line that follows the blender as you mix.
Heavy trace: This will look like pudding.
IF you are adding herbs or essential oil or other ingredients add it at light trace, and stir it in.
Common additives for soap making include:
- Herbs-these should be ground use 1 tsp per pound of soap
- Oatmeal- grind before adding, only 1 tsp per pound. This is great for exfoliating.
- Clay- 1 tsp per pound of soap. When added to shaving bar it helps the hair stand up.
- Poppy seed- also great for exfoliating.
- essential oil- 1/2 to 1 oz per pound of soap.
At heavy trace poor into the molds. Cover with a towel or a piece of cardboard. Let sit for 1-3 days.
After sitting it is ready to remove from the mold.
Remove from the mold. Cut if needed, and sit on a drying rack for 3 weeks. It is now ready for use. You can wrap in tissue paper or put in a box for storage.
Each recipe makes 1 pound of soap. These recipes can be doubled or multiplied for however much you want to make.
Basic hand/ bath soap Recipe
3 oz tallow or lard
3 oz coconut oil
10 oz olive oil
5 oz water
2.21 oz Lye
This soap is a low lather soap , but supper mild. it is great to use for sensitive skin and for babies.
16 oz of Olive oil
5 oz of water
2.06 oz lye
High Lather Shaving Bar
1 oz castor oil
5 oz coconut oil
6.5 oz olive oil
3.5 oz palm oil
5 oz water
2.3 oz lye
at trace add 1 teaspoon of redmond clay
Laundry Soap Bar
this soap is make at 0% excess fat, because you don’t want oil in your clothes. Use the bar to remove stains or make laundry detergent with it.
16 oz tallow
5 oz water
2.25 oz lye
2oz laundry soap bar , grated.
1/2 c. Borax
1/2 c. Washing soda
1/2 c oxyclean
Mix ingredients in a blender and blend until combined and all soap is broken up.
Use 1 Tbs laundry detergent in each laundry load.
Basic Shampoo bar
2.5 oz Castor oil
4.5 oz coconut oil
4.5 oz olive oil
4.5 oz tallow or lard
5 oz water
2.2 oz lye
At trace add 1/2 oz essential oil(optional) I like lavender and peppermint.
Now you can go try soap making by using the recipes and experiment with the oils you love to use. To create your own soap recipe or if you want to change anything in the recipes above you need to put the ingredients into a lye calculator find it here. The calculator will give you a range of lye depending on the amount of excess fat you want in the recipe. Basic soap is usually 5%, laundry recipes use 0%, and shampoo bars are 8-10%.