I’ve been asked by several to share a recipe for a basic bar of soap and I’m happy to do so! This recipe and instructions are excerpts from my book “Soap Making Made Simple!”. Making your own soap at home is not hard. Most people are afraid of the lye but if you understand what you are doing, and you are careful, you don’t need to be afraid.
Every recipe you get from a blog post, a book or off the internet needs to be run through something called a lye calculator – yes! even mine! People make mistakes, many people are blogging about something they have never done but have saved to a Pinterest board. Typos happen even to the best!
I recommend this one from the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild. Every oil has a certain saponification value (how much lye it takes to turn that oil from a liquid to a hard bar of soap). You must use that SAP value for every oil in your soap. This will assure you that you are creating a safe, solid bar of soap. Sounds complicated but it is just a matter of filling out the form correctly!
Here is a list of equipment you will need to have on hand:
An old vinyl tablecloth to protect your table.
A stainless steel pot. (Enamel is also usable but avoid aluminum and copper. Those metals can react with the lye.)
Two stainless steel slotted spoons – one for mixing lye and one for mixing oils
Glass measuring cup or bowls (several) – for measuring lye and essential oils.
Glass or stainless steel bowl for mixing lye & water
2 Quick Read thermometers – one for lye and one for oils. These should have a stainless steel shaft and have a range of 70 to 200 degrees F.
Digital scale with a “tare” feature to measure oils, lye and water.
Small grinder for processing herbs (optional)
Stick blender (much quicker than stirring with a wooden spoon!)
Mold for your soap and freezer paper to line the mold
Eye protection (goggles or glasses)
Some old towels, rugs or blankets to insulate your mold
White vinegar (to wash lye off of skin if you spill!)
Before you begin your batch of soap, make sure you have assembled all of your equipment and supplies. Use Stainless steel or glass – no aluminum or copper pots or utensils! Make sure you have a mold to pour your soap into…silicone molds are easy to use. Mine are all wood. There are many options! Wear safety goggles! You do not want to splatter lye water into your eyes! If you get lye in your eyes – flush with cool water and seek medical attention immediately! Wear gloves! Lye can burn your skin – keep vinegar on hand to neutralize the lye/lye water!
Use a scale to measure, by weight, lye and set aside. Use a scale to measure, by weight, water. Take water and lye outside and pour lye into water while slowly stirring. (Never pour the water into the lye.) CAUTION:Do not breathe in the fumes – stand so the wind carries them away from you. When lye becomes clear take back inside and set in safe place out of the reach of children. DO NOT DO THIS INSIDE!!
Line your mold with freezer paper, shiny side towards soap mixture. Use a scale to measure, by weight, solid oils and gently heat. Measure out liquid oils by weight and set aside. Use scale to measure out essential oils if you are using them. Grind and measure herbs if you are using them.
When solid oils are melted, add the liquid oils to the soap pot. I turn the heat off when some of my solid oils are still solid – I call them “floaty bits”. The residual heat will melt the rest. Takes less time to cool the oils down that way.
Bring both lye water and oils to 100º – or within 10º of each other at that temperature. DO NOT heat lye water on the stove. I just use a sink of ice water and cool each pot down to about 100 degrees.
Slowly add lye water to soap pot while stirring gently and continuously. Use a stick blender until you achieve a light trace. What is trace? When you pick up your blender and let it drip onto the surface of the soap in the pot and you can see the drips or lines sitting on the top of the soap in the pot, you have achieved “trace”. See how the drips are sitting on top of the rest of the batch in the pot?Add the herbs/spices. Stir herbs in thoroughly. Add essential oils and continue to stir until thoroughly blended. Make sure essential oil is completely dispersed into soap solution.
Pour into prepared mold. Cover soap with freezer paper (shiny side towards the soap) and insulate. I use a bath towel folded over my molds. Let rest 24 hours. Un-mold and cut into desired size bars. Place in well-ventilated area and let cure for 30 days. DO NOT USE BEFORE 30 DAYS!! Lye evaporates during the saponification process and over the next 30 days. Using your soap too early may mean there is lye still active in your bars. This can do damage to your skin!
As you learn more about the oils you can use in soap making, you will find oils can be drying, moisturizing, softening, have natural anti-oxidants, be a humectant and so much more. Studying the properties of oils, and essential oils, will help you create the perfect bar of soap for YOU!
Soaps can be colored naturally with plants macerated in olive oil, dried herbs, some foods (pumpkins for instance) clays and more. I do not use dyes or minerals. You’ll never see bright red, blue, orange etc. in my soaps because those things are not natural – although there are many who will try to convince you that they are…don’t listen to them!
There are many more things to learn about soap making: learning about percentages and how to use that knowledge to make your bars harder or softer, how to affect the amount of lather you have and much more. It will help you look at a recipe and know what kind of bar it will make before you invest the money into the supplies. It can even help you tweak a recipe to your liking!
You will want to learn about super-fatting your soap, taking a lye discount, absolutes, butters, shelf life of oils, “notes” of essential oils, how to blend essential oils and so much more! Soap making truly is an art and a science but if you love the creative process you will love it!
If you have questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Happy Soap Making y’all!