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You must be here because you want to learn to make soap.
Maybe you are the homesteader type and you enjoy learning old-fashioned skills, or maybe you’re a prepper and feel like this would be a valuable skill to have when the world ends. Maybe you have a child with eczema or psoriasis and have heard that certain soap ingredients are healing. Or maybe you’re just concerned about your health and worry that all of the dyes, perfumes and other chemicals in commercial soap might be detrimental to it.
I’m sure you know that the skin is your largest organ. Everything it contacts is absorbed by your body. That is why you should always start with the best soaping ingredients you can find. I use organic, non-hydrogenated, preservative/additive free and cold-pressed to preserve the nutritive value. NEVER use vegetable oils other than coconut and olive oil. They are all extremely processed, with additives and preservatives and chemical residues from the processing. Whatever oils you use, your bars will be greatly superior to factory soap, as the factory removes the glycerin to sell as a byproduct, because of its commercial value in other industries. Glycerin is very soothing to your skin and will be retained in your homemade soaps.
Soap making is very simple and fun. You can combine ingredients in so many different ways to create different products, and it’s fun to create them all. I had so much fun making mine, using essential oils to add nourishing properties and natural fragrances, that I had to start giving it away, plus I still have a gigantic bin of it in my basement and several smaller boxes of different soaps in each of my bathrooms. I literally have hundreds of bars of soap.
I don’t know that I will ever, in this lifetime, be able to use all of the soap I have, even with 8 grubby farm children. And yet I keep making more, because I want to try a new oil or a new process. I’m hopelessly addicted!
Enough about my soap addiction, ha, ha! Let’s get down to business.
Always use stainless steel or glass receptacles and utensils, as lye is very corrosive. Some people will tell you that you need separate pots and utensils for soap making, but I just use the same ones I use for cooking with no problem. Just wash them thoroughly afterward.
Use a food scale to accurately measure your ingredients by weight. I just use this cheap digital food scale I purchased from Amazon.
You will also need lye. It is corrosive and you’ll want to be very careful with it and store it out of the reach of your children, but don’t let it worry you unduly. I’ve never had any problem with it. I think I was far more stressed than I needed to be when I first started making soap. This is the lye I use. You want Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), not the other types. They send it well-secured and wrapped.
I buy large quantities of oils to fuel my soap-making addiction, and have found the best prices at Essential Depot (they sell on Amazon so you can get free shipping, too)! The oils are just as great quality as you will buy elsewhere, but the price is lower because you are buying a larger amount of it. They are such great quality, in fact, that I also use them in my kitchen, for cooking and baking, and I’m pretty picky. I linked the products below so you can find them on Amazon.
Here is a great, basic recipe to start with. Then, find your favorite oils, learn their sap values, and invent your own recipes. This recipe is a small batch of soap, and easily managed. Plus, you’ll try this one and certainly want to immediately try another, with a different essential oil, so small batches will probably be right up your alley. When I say small batch, I mean that this recipe is about 8 lbs. of soap, so it will fill a large shoebox, and you’ll cut it into 24 large bars. So you might consider it a large batch, ha, ha!
24 oz olive oil
24 oz coconut oil
38 oz tallow (beef fat)
12 oz lye
32 oz partially frozen goat’s milk. You may use either milk (cow’s milk works great)or water. I use raw goat’s milk because I have it on hand and it imparts extra skin-nourishing minerals to the soap.
We’re making oatmeal, milk & honey soap today, so I will also add 1/4 c. of liquid honey (we use raw honey from our own bees and it solidifies) and 1/2 c. granulated oatmeal (I ‘puree’ rolled oats in the blender for about a minute so the particles are granules). I stir these additions in once the soap is finished and ready to pour into the molds.
1. Measure oils into a large pan and melt them together over low heat.
2. Measure your lye into a large glass jar. I save large jars for this purpose. These are old pickle jars.
3. Add the lye, slowly, to the slushy milk. NEVER add the liquid to the lye, it could explode! Having the milk partially frozen helps the chemical reaction to take place more slowly, which keeps your milk from curdling. The milk will turn yellow as the reaction occurs. See how yellow it is?
4. Get your soap mold ready. I used to just line a shoebox or two with a plastic garbage bag, and staple it into place, which worked great and was practically free. If you go that route, smooth the garbage bag nicely and make tidy hospital corners so your bars will be pretty.
I have since purchased this inexpensive silicone mold, which makes my job easier and my soap much prettier. It only holds 2.5 lbs of soap, though, so you need a couple.
5. Pour the lye/milk mixture very slowly and smoothly (no splashes!) into the oils while your helper gently agitates the oils. Stir gently to expose all of the lye to the oil, allowing saponification to take place. Remember that lye is caustic and be safe.
6. Stir your soap until it “traces.” My immersion blender is my favorite tool for mixing the soap, because it is so fast and thorough. I forgot to take a picture of this step, but it is simple. Occasionally, just lift the utensil out of the soap and let it drip on the top surface. Tracing is when the drips remain visible, instead of just blending back into the mass. Once your soap traces, add several drops of your favorite essential oil, if desired.
Because we are making ‘Goat Milk, Honey and Oatmeal’ soap, I stirred 1/4 c. raw honey (warm it to a runny liquid) and 1/2 c. granulated oatmeal (run it through your food processor or blender until it is granulated) into my soap at this point. But you can add whatever oils you like.
Then pour the soap into your prepared molds and place them in an insulated cooler for three days. You leave the soap in the cooler because the lye takes that long to fully react with all of the oils. It gets hot in that cooler. Don’t check, though, just trust me. The soap will turn out nicer if you let it finish reacting slowly. Leave the heat in and let your soap fully process.
7. After 3 days, dump your soap out of the shoebox mold and cut it up! The smaller bars in the second picture below were made in the silicone soap mold pictured at the bottom. I prefer larger bars, so I now only use that mold for lotion bars. Place the soap in an out-of-the-way place and let it cure for three weeks. The longer it cures, the better it gets. I have some seven-year-old bars that last forever, even through my kids’ soggy baths, because they have cured so long.
I like this silicone mold for making lotion bars, but I don’t like it for soap making. You will definitely want a loaf-shaped mold like this if you are going to buy one.
I love this Goat Milk, Honey and Oatmeal soap, but my brother-in-law says it feels like he’s scrubbing with a brick, ha, ha! The oatmeal is exfoliating, and the goat’s milk and honey make it extra gentle and nourishing. The large amount of tallow is also very nourishing. It has a light lather and a wonderful, baking-type fragrance. And it lasts forever!
Seriously, soap is so simple and fun to make! What are you waiting for? Click the pin below to pin this post so you can refer back to it.