This has allowed me to reduce the amount of unnecessary toxins I come into contact with on a daily basis; from things like chemicals, preservatives, and 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 (as only a small amount of the things we recycle actually gets recycled, due to contamination reasons).
Soap was the next homemade product on my agenda.
I put it off for a long time as the process looked so daunting to me (I felt totally overwhelmed by the recipes online). But, in the end I plucked up the courage and gave it a red hot go.
It’s actually quite simple once you’ve made it the first time.
Lye was the reason I was so apprehensive about making my own soap, but as long as you’re careful, there’s no need to be worried.
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 can eat holes in fabric and skin, as well as cause severe reactions with other chemicals.
In soap making, 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 skin.
This saponification process allows the liquid and oils to mix, giving the soap its 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
When you make your own soap, you get to customise it how you like, changing up the colour, scent and texture!
Some add-ins include:
- Essential oils
- Natural colour pigments like turmeric, Spirulina, ground coffee and cacao
- Dried botanicals and herbs like lavender, calendula, marigold, chamomile and rosemary
- Healing clays like bentonite clay and pink clay, or cleansers like activated charcoal.
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
- 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 oil and almond oil together in a small bowl, then set aside.
- Melt the coconut oil and shea butter in a glass jar placed in a saucepan filled with water on the stove top, and heat until just melted. Set aside.
- Now to combine the Lye with the distilled water. Warning: Make sure no pets or children are around. Slowly pour the Lye into the distilled water sitting in a glass container, stirring as you go. The water should be room temperature or cooler. 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 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, clay, or other ingredient(s) of choice, this is the time to do so. Stir thoroughly to combine, then pour the mixture into the moulds and tap them down on the table a few times to release any air bubbles.
- Insulate the soap by carefully covering and wrapping the moulds in a towel, then place them on a baking tray and leave in a warm but cooled oven (43°C or 110°F) overnight.
- Wait two days before removing the soap from their moulds. Allow the soap to cure for 4 weeks (or 30 days). Turn them over once a week to expose all the sides to the air.
- When your soap has finished curing, wrap them in wax paper or keep them 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.
This is where the white vinegar comes in handy. You can neutralise the lye with white vinegar, then wash the equipment 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 this 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. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Have you made soap bars before? How did it go? 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/