The first time I made soap, it was a badge requirement for my American Heritage Girls troop. I invited 6 giggling girls over and we followed an internet recipe for lye soap. I didn’t expect the soap to be so lovely. It was creamy and cleansing, with a great lather to boot.
Since then, I have practiced more and more to come up with the perfect blend of oils for my family. I even use this soap to cleanse my face regularly, and I am pleased with the results: it’s not too oily and not at all drying.
Many people dispute the idea of using lye in soap because it is a toxic chemical. I agree. Let’s not put that on our bodies. But during the process of making soap, the lye undergoes a chemical reaction and is completely transformed. That means that there is no lye in the final product.
Let’s Make Some Soap
First, a few tips
- This is a chemical reaction, people! The lye to oils ratio is very critical. If your ratios are not balanced, you will either end up with a soap that is too oily or, worse yet, one that burns and dries your skin.
- If you don’t have the oils in my recipe on hand, feel free to adapt and substitute. However, each oil has a unique profile and they cannot merely be exchanged 1 for 1. If you want to modify the recipe, do a google search for a soap calculator. Put in the oils you want to use, and it will help you figure out the ratio of lye to oils.
- Use a kitchen scale. Don’t measure with a measuring cup, and don’t eyeball it.
- Only use glass or stainless steel utensils with lye. Do not use plastic, wood, or silicone until you combine the oils with the lye mixture.
- If you want to add essential oils to your soap, you absolutely can do so. It will take a lot of oils for a whole batch of soap (around 3-5 mL). I personally prefer my soap unscented because it gets washed off. The fragrance of the oil makes for a nice smelling shower, but it does not stay on your skin. I like the clean, fresh fragrance of the unscented soap and apply my oils after my shower.
- I started out using a cold process method and learned about the hot process method about a year ago. Hot process results in soap that is ready to use in just a few hours. If you don’t mind waiting 6 weeks for your soap to cure, this recipe works equally well with cold processing.
- The process is a bit tedious, but I suggest you follow it exactly.
- kitchen scale
- large glass measuring cup
- stainless steel spoon
- stainless steel pot
- silicone spatula
- immersion blender
- silicone soap molds
- cookie scoop (optional)
- slow cooker
6.01 oz. lye
13.51 oz. purified water
5 oz. organic beeswax
2 oz. organic cocoa butter
12 oz. organic virgin coconut oil
10 oz. organic palm kernel oil
1.95 oz. organic grapeseed oil
Melting the Oils
- Gather all your supplies before beginning.
- Place your stainless steel pot on the digital thermometer, and tare the scale to zero. Add each of the solid oils and beeswax into the pot, taring after each addition.
- Place the pot on the stove, and gently warm over medium heat until melted. Turn off heat and remove from stove. Add remaining liquid oils and stir to combine.
- Meanwhile, place the glass measuring cup on the scale and tare to zero. Measure water into the measuring cup.
Mix the Lye
- Re-tare the scale and measure lye into the cup with the water. (Be sure not to touch it, as it can burn your skin. If it does get on your skin, wash off immediately with soap and water.) Immediately take this mixture outside or near an open window. As the lye dissolves, it will produce fumes that can burn eyes and always make me cough. Once outside, gently stir with a stainless steel spoon, and leave outside.
- Once lye is dissolved, you can bring it back inside. Use caution, as the mixture will now be hot (almost boiling) due to the chemical reaction.
- Wait for both the oil mixture and the lye mixture to cool to about 110°F. You may put them in an ice bath to speed up the process.
- Once both mixtures are cooled to 110°F, carefully pour them into the slow cooker.
- Use your immersion blender to start blending. Be careful to keep the blender submerged so as not to splash or incorporate too much air into the mixture.
- Blend for about 5 minutes, or until you start to see a cloudy “trace” on the surface of the soap. It will also thicken during this process. The final product looks like creamy, yellow pudding.
- Turn the slow cooker on low and put the lid on. Cook for about 1 hour.
- After an hour, remove about 1/2 teaspoon of the soap, allow it to cool to touch, and try washing your hands with it. If it is done processing, it will produce a nice lather. If it is not done processing, it may feel greasy or even sting a little (don’t worry, it’s very minor stinging). Continue cooking until it produces a lather.
- Once it is done processing, use a silicone spatula to stir and incorporate any dry parts.
- If you want to add essential oils, oatmeal, coffee, dried flowers, etc., do so now.
Pour into Molds
- Begin filling silicone molds. Work quickly, as the soap dries and hardens almost immediately. I like to use a cookie scoop for this. Each mold will hold 2 heaping scoops. After scooping or spooning soap into molds, use the silicone spatula to smooth the top. Continue filling molds until all soap is used.
- My soap is always a little bumpy on top. If you want it to be smooth, you can dip your spatula in water and smooth the top of each bar while it is still warm.
- Once dried, pop the soap out of the molds and it is ready to use! The recipe above makes about 18 bars of soap.
Shout out to my friend Amy, who taught me about hot processing and gave me tips for perfecting my soap-making skills. Check out her book, Anyone Can DIY with Essential Oils for more soap recipes and tons of other DIY creations!