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Making soap at home is a fun and satisfying DIY project. And better yet, making soap at home is not difficult. If you can follow directions and measure ingredients, you can make soap. It’s like making cake, except with safety gear.
If making soap is something you’re interested in adding to your skill set, Jan’s book needs to be on your bookshelf.
Jan offered to share a basic soap recipe with my readers and since making soap is something I know a lot of you would like to delve into — as I would — I jumped at the chance to have her share her expertise here.
How to make soap at home
This basic soap recipe will create around eight bars of unscented natural soap with a creamy lather that gently cleanses all skin types.
If you’d like to further enrich your homemade soap with honey, oats or milk powder, be sure to check out the Tips & Substitutions section below.
When making soap, oils, fats and liquids should all be measured by weight and not volume. You need an accurate scale for making soap.
A recipe for making a basic soap bar
Yield: 2.5 lbs/1.13 kg
9 oz (255 g) distilled water
3.95 oz (112 g) sodium hydroxide (lye)
14.5 oz (411 g) olive oil
7.5 oz (213 g) coconut oil
6 oz (170 g) tallow or lard (*or substitute)
Tips & Substitutions
* To replace tallow or lard, try using 4 oz of cocoa (or kokum) butter plus 2 oz of sunflower (or sweet almond) oil. The lye amount will stay within an acceptable amount and won’t need to be changed.
One or more of the following add-ins can be included in the soap recipe, keeping in mind that the natural sugars in honey and milk powder can cause the soap’s final color to darken somewhat.
- ½ tbsp powdered milk (cow, goat, coconut), stir into the oils before adding the cooled lye solution
- 1 tbsp finely ground oats, stirred into the soap before pouring into the mold
- 1 tsp honey diluted with 1 tsp water, stirred into the soap before pouring into the mold
The batch shown uses a repurposed empty milk carton as a soap mold, but a Crafter’s Choice regular silicone loaf mold will also fit the size of this recipe perfectly.
Step 1: Make the Lye Solution
Wearing protective gloves and eyewear, carefully stir the lye (sodium hydroxide) into the distilled until dissolved.
Work in an area with good ventilation and be careful not to breathe in the fumes.
The lye solution will get very hot, so set it aside to cool for about 30 or 40 minutes or until the temperature drops to around 100 to 110°F (38 to 43°C).
Step 2: Prepare the Oils
Gently heat the coconut oil and tallow (or lard) on low heat until melted. When the solid oils are melted, take the pan off the heat and pour into the olive oil.
This helps cool down the melted oil/fat, while warming up the room temperature oil. If you want to add powdered milk to your soap, blend it into the oils at this point.
Related: Non-Toxic Sunscreen
Step 3: Mixing
Pour the cooled lye solution into the warm oils.
Using a combination of hand stirring and an immersion blender, also called a stick blender, stir the soap batter until it thickens and reaches trace.
Trace is when the soap has thickened enough so when you drizzle a small amount of the batter across the surface, it will leave a fleeting, but visible imprint or “trace” before sinking back in.
Trace can take anywhere from 2 to 8 minutes, depending on how warm your ingredients are and how much you stir.
If you plan to add honey and oats, blend them in well at this stage.
Step 4: Pour in Mold
Pour the soap batter into your soap mold.
Cover lightly with wax or freezer paper, then a towel or light blanket for insulation.
Peek at the soap every so often; if it starts developing a crack, uncover and move to a cooler location.
Step 5: Cut & Cure
Keep the soap in the mold for one to two days, or until it’s easy to remove, then slice it into bars when it’s firm enough not to stick to your cutting tool.
Cure on coated cooling racks or sheets of wax paper for about four weeks before using.
The soap is safe to touch without gloves 48 hours after making, but it needs the extra time to allow excess moisture to evaporate out so the bars are harder and longer lasting.
Want to learn more about making soap at home?
This is, as Jan says, a basic recipe for making soap. I love how she spells out each step, making this such a doable project.
If you try this and decide you want to learn more about how to make soap at home, be sure to check out Jan’s new book, Simple & Natural Soapmaking.
It features 50 soap recipes, and is full of detailed tutorials and step-by-step photographs, as well as a guide to natural colorants.