Over the past few years I’ve transitioned to making my own versions of all kinds of different essentials, such as homemade shampoo, natural toothpaste, and natural deodorant (just to name a few). I’ve found it’s a really effective way to reduce the amount of unnecessary toxins I come into contact with on a day-to-day basis; from things like chemicals, preservatives, and other additives found in pre-made products. Plus it’s more planet-friendly, as the ingredients are more natural, and I can reuse containers, bottles, etc. to package each homemade product in. This means less landfill and recycling (only a small amount of the things we recycle actually get recycled due to contamination reasons).
Soap was the next homemade product on my agenda. I kept putting off making my own homemade soap for a long time, as the process looked so daunting to me (I felt totally overwhelmed by the recipes online). However, in the end I plucked up the courage and gave it a go.
What I learnt…
It’s actually quite simple once you’ve made it the first time. Lye was one of my biggest concerns when making this recipe, but as long as you’re careful, there’s no need for concern.
What is Lye?
If you’ve ever purchased lye before, you may have noticed it came with its fair share of warnings, and for good reason. Lye is Sodium Hydroxide. It’s able eat holes in fabric and skin, as well as cause severe reactions with other chemicals. When you’re using it in soap, the crystal form of pure Sodium Hydroxide is used (this is important to remember!) and the Lye must be added to water, not the other way around.
While lye is dangerous to work with, after it reacts with the oils in the soap (through a process known as saponification), no lye will remain in your finished homemade soap, making it safe to use on your skin.
This saponification process allows the liquid and oils to mix, creating the soaps’ cleansing properties.
Without lye, you just have a mixture of fatty, chunky oils floating around in water…
Note: You must use the correct amount of lye for the particular type of soap you’re making, as different fats and oils need different ratios of lye.
How to Make Your Own Soap
What’s fun about making your own soap, is you can customise it to change up its colour, scent and texture! You can add different essential oils, natural colour pigments like turmeric, Spirulina, ground coffee and cacao, dried botanicals and herbs like lavender, calendula, marigold, chamomile and rosemary, and even healing clays like bentonite clay and pink clay, or cleansers like activated charcoal.
To get started in making your very own homemade natural soap, here’s what you’ll need:
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 2/3 cup coconut oil – to produce good lather
- 1/4 cup shea butter
- 2/3 cup olive oil – which makes a hard and mild bar
- 2/3 cup almond oil (grapeseed, sunflower or safflower oil will also work)
- 1/4 cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide
- 3/4 cup distilled water
- Digital thermometer
- Silicon soap moulds
- Gloves and sunglasses or eyewear
- A large bottle of white vinegar (for neutralising the Lye mixture if it spills on anything)
- 1/4 tsp clay (mixed with 1 tbsp distilled water)
- 1 tsp essential oils
- Dried flower petals
- Get all your ingredients ready; weigh them out so they’re ready to go. Soap making is a time-sensitive process, and there isn’t time to stop and measure once you’ve started.
- Cover your work area with newspaper. Put your gloves and protective wear on (protective eye wear, apron etc.). Combine the olive and almond oils together in a small bowl, then set aside.
- Melt the coconut oil and shea butter in a glass jar on the stove, in a saucepan filled with water, until just melted. Set aside.
- Now to combine the Lye with the distilled water. Warning: Make sure no pets or children are near by. Slowly pour the Lye into room temperature or cool water (in a glass container), stirring as you go (with a stainless steel spoon). Never add water to lye. Stand back while you stir to avoid the fumes.
- Check the temperature of the lye and oils (using your digital thermometer) to make sure they’ve reached the right temperature (40°C or 105°F) to proceed on to the next step. This is critical. Too low and the soap will come together too quickly, and be coarse and crumbly. If the oils have cooled slightly, you’ll need to heat them back up to the correct temperature again.
- Pour the oils into a mixing bowl and slowly add the lye, stirring until it’s all mixed through. Stir by hand until it saponifies (or reaches “trace“). The soap mixture will lighten in colour and become quite thick. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to blend the soap until it reaches “trace.” Keep mixing or blending until it develops a pudding-like consistency.
- If you want to add essential oils herbs, clays, or any other ingredients, this is the time to do so. Stir thoroughly to combine, then pour the mixture into moulds and and tap a few times to release air bubbles.
- Insulate soap by carefully covering and wrapping moulds in a towel, then place on a baking sheet and leave in a warm but cooled oven (43°C or 110°F) overnight.
- Wait two days then remove soap from the moulds. Allow soap to cure for 4 weeks (or 30 days). Turn it over once a week to expose all the sides to the air.
- When your soap has finished curing, wrap it in wax paper or keep in an airtight container. If left uncovered, the soap will pull in moisture from the air, attracting dust and debris along with it.
Note: When you’ve finished making soap, always clean every piece of equipment that has come into contact with the lye. Here’s where the white vinegar comes in handy. You can neutralise the lye with white vinegar, then wash the equipment well as you normally would (wearing protective gloves all the while). For the rest, let the equipment sit for several days. If you try and wash it straight away, you could burn your hands on the residual lye. By waiting, the leftover lye and oils become soap, and makes it easier to clean; simply soak in hot water.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction to it.
Have you ever made soap before? What were some of your favourite add-ins? Share below.
Lots of love,
Wells, Katie. (January 9, 2019). How to Make Soap (With or Without Lye). Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/60992/how-to-make-soap/
Maslowski, Debra. Learn How to Make Natural Soap For Face and Body. DIY Natural. Retrieved from https://www.diynatural.com/how-to-make-soap/
Osmanski, Stephanie. (Updated: April 6, 2020). How to Make All-Natural Soap. Green Matters. Retrieved from https://www.greenmatters.com/p/how-to-make-all-natural-soap-homemade
Nunez, Kirsten. (January 16, 2020). How to Make Bar Soap Yourself. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-make-soap
Soap Making for Beginners: 3 Easy Soap Recipes. Lovely Greens. Retrieved from https://lovelygreens.com/easy-soap-recipes-beginners/
Natural Soap Making for Beginners: How to make Cold-Process Soap. Lovely Greens. Retrieved from https://lovelygreens.com/natural-soapmaking-for-beginners-make/
Aral, Birnur, Ph.D., Forte, Carolyn. (February 25, 2021). How to Make Homemade Soap. Good Housekeeping. Retrieved from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/a20705805/how-to-make-homemade-soap/