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So You Want To Try Soap Making....

cold process soap homemade soap how to make soap soap diy soap making

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Ah, soap making, a time-honored tradition that combines science, art, and a little bit of magic. With just a few simple ingredients and a dash of creativity, you can make your own cold process soap at home. But before we dive in, let's get one thing straight: making soap is not for the faint of heart. It's a messy, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous process. But hey, who said life was supposed to be easy?

First things first, let's talk about the ingredients. You'll need some sort of fat or oil (like coconut oil or olive oil), lye (also known as sodium hydroxide), water, and any scents or colors you want to add. 

Here's a basic list of supplies you will need to get started with soap making:

- Lye (Sodium hydroxide)

- Distilled Water

- Coconut oil

- Olive oil

- Castor oil

- Shea Butter 

- Essential oils or fragrance oils ( see below for resources for fragrances)

- Soap-making mold

- Digital Scale  (this is the best one I have found at a reasonable price)

- Safety glasses and gloves

- Face Mask

- Digital Infrared Thermometer

- 2 bowls (stainless steel or #5 plastic - not glass)***

- large spoon or spatula***

- stick blender ***

*** once the bowls, spoon, spatula, blender or anything else is used for soap making it cannot be used for any other purpose ( so don't use your favorite popcorn bowl).


The following recipe uses basic oils for a simple start to soap making. Obviously there are countless combinations of different oils and butters that can be used. If you want to deviate from this recipe it is important that you run your changes through a soap calculator. Each butter and oil has different properties that help make the soap lather, last longer, moisturize, etc and soap calculators are an easy tool to make sure your end product is going to be successful. My favorite one to use is at


21 oz Olive Oil

8 oz Coconut Oil (melted)

2.5 oz Shea Butter (melted)

1.5 oz Castor oil

12.54 oz Distilled Water

4.58 oz Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)

1 oz skin safe fragrance oil

This recipe is calculated to use a basic soap mold such as this one:


Now, here's the thing about lye: it's incredibly caustic and can burn your skin, eyes, and lungs. So, it's important to wear gloves, safety goggles, and a face mask when handling it. Once you've got your safety gear on I recommend covering your work area with a protective barrier ( garbage bag, plastic table cloth, several layers of newspaper, whatever works for you and protects your table or counter tops). Then it is time to start mixing ingredients but pay attention because there is a certain order you need to follow!

Measure and pour your distilled water into a bowl. Slowly begin to add the lye to the water, stirring as you do so. For the love of all that is sudsy, make sure you mix the lye into the water, not the other way around. Trust me on this one. You want to add the lye to the water slowly as the chemical reaction will cause the solution to heat up. This is where the thermometer comes in handy. I prefer to mix the lye solution first because it usually gets hotter than the oils and you're going to want the lye and oils within 10 degrees Fahrenheit of each other when you mix them together.

Next step is to measure and melt the coconut oil and shea butter and place them in a separate bowl from your lye solution.  You will then measure the olive and castor oils and add them to the coconut oil and shea butter.  Give everything a good stir. So to recap, bowl #1 has the lye/water solution and bowl #2 has the oils and butter.

Once the lye has dissolved in the water in bowl #1 and you have all the oils together in bowl #2, you want to monitor the temps of each bowl. Ideally you want both to be below 120 degrees Fahrenheit and within 10 degrees of each other. When they reach the right temps you can slowly start to add your oils to the lye solution and this is where the magic happens. This is also where the stick or immersion blender comes into play. If you don't have a blender you can just use a spoon and old fashioned elbow grease but it will take a while. Whether you use the blender or stir with a spoon, you'll mix and stir and blend until your concoction reaches a stage called "trace" - a fancy word that describes when the mixture has thickened enough to leave a visible trail when you dribble it back into the pot. It's like making a really soupy pudding, but instead of eating it, you're going to turn it into soap. ( Please, please don't even think about eating it!) Here's a picture of a soap at trace ( I have already added some coloring to this soap, hence the pinkish hue)


At this point, you can add any scents or colors you want. Lavender? Sure. Peppermint? Why not. Crushed-up beetles for a nice crimson hue? Um, let's maybe stick with the basics. Different fragrances have different usage rates so it's a good idea to google the IFRA for whatever fragrance you choose. This recipe is calculated at 3% which is pretty standard for skin safe fragrances. Once you've got everything mixed in, it's time to pour your soap into a mold and let it sit for a day or two. I usually store mine in a cooler area in my home. After a couple days the soap should be solid enough to remove from the mold. Put gloves on when doing this to protect your skin. This is also when I slice my soap into individual bars. As the soap cures it will harden and if you wait too long to cut it you may end up with broken pieces.

Once the soap has been removed from the mold and sliced into bars place it on a solid surface such as a covered cookie sheet or drying rack ( again, these should not be used for anything other than soap making after this point).

Now, here's the part where patience comes in. Cold process soap needs time to cure, which basically means it needs to sit around and do its thing for a few weeks. During this time, the lye will react with the oils and create soap, and any excess water will evaporate. So, resist the urge to dig in and start scrubbing with your new creation right away. Usually after 4-6 weeks the soap is good to go and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor

And there you have it, folks. Simple cold process soap making in a nutshell. Of course, there are a million variations and techniques you can try, but this should give you a good starting point. Just remember to be careful with the lye, have fun with the scents and colors, and don't expect perfection on your first try. Because let's be real, nothing in life is perfect. Even if your first attempt comes out smelling  vaguely of patchouli and looks like ia turd, iit's the thought that counts, right?

Happy Soap Making!

Resources for Fragrance oils:

Aztec Candle & Soap Supplies - just make sure you search for skin safe fragrances. They have lots of natural scents and fragrance/essential oil blends. They also have information on whether the scents are phthalate and nitro musk free. Quickly shipping and they usually have a coupon code that makes 1oz fragrances very cheap- perfect for trying a bunch of different scents

Wholesale Supplies Plus - large distributor of all things soap related. High quality fragrances. Free shipping over $25 but there's a $6 handling fee

Etsy- has a lot of different sellers of fragrance oils just make sure they are skin safe. Also a great resource for larger quantities of oils and butters with low shipping costs.

























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