Making your own soap is actually simple and can save you money. With a few kitchen tools, some oils, butters and lye (or pre-made melt-and-pour soap if you don’t want to handle lye yourself), you can make and customize your own soap.
The butters and oils you’ll want to have on hand for making your own soap can be combined in different ways to create the soap you want. Here are a few you will want to have on hand:
Kitchen tools come in handy as well.
- A digital scale (to help you weight the perfect amount of each ingredient so your soap isn’t too harsh or too oil)
- Glass jars and bowls
- A stick blender
- A metal spoon
- A wooden spoon
- A spatula
- Gloves and sunglasses or eyewear
- Soap molds, or a cardboard box lined with parchment paper
- Plastic cups
- A large bottle of white vinegar for neutralizing the lye mixture if it spills on anything
You can also customize your soap with ad-ins to make it aromatic, colored or textured.
- Essential oils
- Dried herbs and flowers such as lavender, chamomile or calendula
- Texture ad-ins like freshly ground coffee, charcoal, clays, salts and oatmeal
- Natural colorant made from spices or plant materials like turmeric, cocoa, ground coffee, hibiscus and beet root
The most important step in making your own soap is to make sure that you use the correct amount of lye (sodium hydroxide) for the saponification process. If you don’t use lye in your soaps, you’ll just have a bunch of oils floating in your water. You’ll want to use a soap calculator to help you figure out how much of each ingredient you’ll need if you aren’t using a tested recipe.
Be sure to always add your lye to your water and not the other way around. Lye can be dangerous if handled incorrectly. Make sure to always wear gloves and eye protection when handling lye and to keep a bottle of white vinegar on hand for neutralizing lye or the lye mixture if it spills. If you don’t want to worry about handling lye, you can buy pre-made melt-and-pour soaps and then customize with ad-ins.
When making your own soaps, there are two processes you can chose from: hot process and cold process. They are just as the names suggest; one process uses heat and the other does not. In cold processing, the water/lye mixture is mixed with the oil mixture and then poured into insulated molds. Hot processing adds an additional step of “cooking” the mixture which speeds up the saponification process, making the soap ready to use in a matter of days instead of weeks.
Here is one hot process recipe you can make in your slow cooker to get you started.
- 1 pound (16 oz.) coconut oil
- 1 pound (16 oz.) olive oil
- 0.303 pounds (4.844 oz.) lye
- 0.760 pounds (12.16 oz.) water
- Up to 1 ounce essential oils of choice (optional)
- Prep your work area and gather all your tools. Make sure you are working in a well ventilated area and that no children are around as lye is caustic until mixed with water and oils.
- Measure out the oils in liquid form and pour them into your slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker on to high. When the oils have heated up, reduce the temperature to low heat.
- While the oils are heating, carefully measure your lye and water. Tip: measure them out into their own plastic cups, one labeled lye and one labeled water. Since they don’t really weigh anything, it makes it easy to weigh your ingredients on the scale and you can reuse the cups!
- Carefully take your cups labeled water and lye outside or into a well ventilated area. Pour the water into a quart size or larger glass jar. Using gloves and eye protection, slowly add the lye to the water. (Do not add the water to the lye.) Stir carefully with a metal spoon, making sure to not let any liquid come into contact with skin. As you stir, the liquid will become cloudy and hot. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to cool. After it has cooled and is ready to use, it will return to clear.
- When the oils in the crockpot have heated up to about 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit, slowly pour the water and lye mixture in and stir with a metal or wooden spoon.
- Quickly rinse out the container used for the water and lye mixture in the sink and then add white vinegar to make sure that all they lye has been neutralized in the jar.
- Continue to stir the oils and water and lye mixture until they are evenly mixed. Then, use the stick blender for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until the soap mixture is opaque and has started to thicken.
- Cover and keep on low heat to thicken. Check your soap every 15 minutes until it is ready. It will begin to boil and bubble on the sides first, but after about half an hour to 45 minutes, it should thicken enough that the entire surface is bubbly and the sides have collapsed in.
- Turn off the heat and remove the crock. If you want to use essential oils, add them now.
- Carefully and quickly spoon the soap mixture into your molds or box lines with parchment paper. Cover with parchment paper and set in a cool dry place.
- After 24 hours, pop the soap out of your molds. Depending on your own personal preference, you can use it right away or let it set up for a few more days so that the soap hardens a bit more and lasts longer.
Cleanup is much easier if you have separate tools for soap making that are not used for food. To clean your crock, soak it for 8 or more hours to dissolve the residue. Make sure to clean all tools carefully with dishwashing soap and water. Rinse with vinegar just to be sure all lye has been neutralized.
Making your own soap may seem daunting at first, but it really is quite simple. Not only does it save you money, but you can customize it to your liking and enjoy a rich lather that soothes and moisturizes your skin. It’s perfect for cleaning up after a hard day’s work in the garden or on the farm!