How to Make Soap
Homemade soap making is my number one passion, so if I have a day to do nothing, I’ll just make it all day.
People always ask me how to make soap,
so today I show you how I do it!
Master Soap Maker for 20+ Years
In 1994 I came across a book on soap making and thought, “Well, gee, it can’t be too hard.” I remembered my great grandmother from Sweden had made it, and so had my mother when I was much younger.
So I gathered my ingredients and set forth to make soap.
The First Batch of Homemade Soap
The first batch turned out great, then the next, but the next after that was a dismal failure. So what did I do wrong? I wasn’t sure, so I decided to take a class. I contacted the local adult education center and found the instructor had left the area. Would I be interested in teaching? I got talked into it and started the following January. I taught people how to make soap for a total of 11 years in Minnesota.
When I came to North Carolina in 2004, I had to hunt around a bit to find a venue, but ended up at a local college in 2007 and have been there ever since. I now teach classes on how to make soap, along with several other natural products. I also sell my soaps and other products online, at local tailgate markets, and at the state fair each year.
Soap Making: The Basics
Soap making can be very simple or you can make it as complicated as you like.
First, the beauty of making your own is that you can make it with the ingredients that you choose and the fragrances that you like. And adjustments aren’t hard but do take some practice. Further, most homemade soap recipes use ounces or grams and ingredients must be weighed to get good results. But I’ve found a way to simplify the process by converting the ingredients to cups and portions of cups. Consequently, it’s much easier and you get the same results time after time.
Lye Solutions in Homemade Soap
The one thing in homemade soap you can’t substitute is lye. You should always use 100% sodium hydroxide, or lye in crystal form. Don’t substitute liquid lye or drain cleaners such as Drano. These may cause inaccurate measurements or have bits of metal in them. You don’t want either.
Lye is caustic. It can eat holes in fabrics and cause burns on your skin. Always be extra careful when using lye. Use gloves and eye protection and a mask if desired. When you mix the lye with water, it will heat up and fume for about 30 seconds to a minute. It may cause a choking sensation in your throat. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent and will go away after a few minutes. Always add lye to the water (not water to lye), and start stirring right away. If allowed to clump on the bottom, it could heat up all at once and cause an explosion.
There is No Lye in Finished Soap
Even though lye is caustic and dangerous to work with, after it reacts with the oils in your soap (through a process called saponification),no lye will remain in the finished product.
Homemade Soapmaking Equipment
When learning how to make soap, remember to use equipment that will not be used for cooking. While you could clean everything really well, it’s best not to take a chance.
Stainless steel, tempered glass, and enamel are all good choices for mixing bowls. Don’t use copper or aluminum, they will react with the lye. Some plastics may melt, so don’t use plastic bowls.
For spoons, use styrene plastic or silicone. For molds, you can get soap molds at your local craft store or online here, or use silicone baking pans (like this). These are great because you can peel the mold right off. Other things you want to have are a pint and a quart canning jar, newspaper, a stainless steel thermometer that reads between 90° and 200° (find it here), an old towel, and any additions you want to add to the soap.
How to Make Bar Soap: The Additives
- Essential Oils
- Aloe, Nut Butters, and Other Items