Have You Ever Wondered How To Make Your Own Soap?
You know the soap I’m talking about…you pick it up at a Whole Foods, or a craft show, or a farmers market and think about how cool it is, and you think “Can I do that?” Let’s run through some of the basics for DIY soap making.
Making soap is no joke…it’s complicated, it involves a toxic ingredient, and you don’t get the immediate satisfaction that you can get with other crafts.
But man, I’m tellin’ you, when you pull that loaf of soap out of your mold, it is Satisfying (capital S for emphasis). 🙂 BUT, it is totally doable with some DIY soap basics, and we’re going to review safety, process, supplies, the works.
Here is the soap that I made for this tutorial. It’s not fancy, but it’s not not-fancy either. The moment when you take your soap out of the mold is kind of “the reveal”. Either your heart sings, or sinks.
But let’s talk about how we get here.
First Things First. And Safety is First.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that learning how to make soap is something that you can casually try with little equipment. You CAN get away with items from around the house to use for molds, but there is no getting around safety gear. BASIC.
That being said, let me address the gloves in the photo above. Normally, you would want some proper nitrile gloves, but I don’t have any more at the moment and we’re in the middle of a pandemic and gloves are hard to come by. Even if I found some, I’m not sure I’d feel great about buying them knowing we have as shortage of PPE at the moment, but let’s not get too far off-topic, Amanda. So…I got some new dish gloves instead. I’m not nimble, but I’m protected!
You will need some goggles, no question about it.
No, it is not okay to just wear your glasses.
BASICS OF DIY SOAP TIP: You must also get rid of any amount of vanity that you may have had before you started your soaping adventure.
You will look like a crazy person.
And because I no longer have any vanity, I get to show you these pictures. 🙂
Now, I’m purposefully giving you crazy-eyes for this picture of me cradling my bottle of lye, but I do feel like once you get your goggles on, it’s easy to take on an alter ego…and I guess mine is just a little bit nuts.
Bottom line here is put your gloves on, wear your safety goggles, cover any exposed skin, wear closed-toed shoes, and keep the floor clear of any slipping or tripping hazards.
Let's Talk About Lye
You NEED lye to make real soap. And frankly, lye is the reason I didn’t try making soap earlier.
I was afraid.
Lye is the thing that we are working so hard to protect ourselves from. Lye is sodium hydroxide and it’s very very toxic. It will burn you. Even in the video attached I’m too busy talking and took a breath that was a little too deep and felt the hairs inside of my nose start to burn off. The biggest most basic DIY soap tip is to be careful with your lye.
I mean, BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR LYE. If you have any Mr. Yuck stickers hanging around from the 80’s, put them all over your lye container.
If you’re like me, your only previous knowledge of lye is that it’s what people use to dissolve dead bodies in the movies. Incidentally, when I ordered my lye, I accidentally ordered WAY too much…so I’m pretty sure I’m on some Government watch list (for people who might be dissolving bodies? Is that a thing?)
Lye is essential. Soap is, at it’s core, the product of oils/fats and lye. Anything else we do to it (fragrance, skin-loving butters, colorant, flecks of ground up coffee beans…whatever) is the artistry.
Making soap is often described as both an art and a science. Once you get the science part down, that’s when you get to be artistic. You do NOT get to be artistic with your safety equipment or your handling of lye.
You should also make sure all of the bowls and spoons and equipment used for soaping is not shared with any kitchen processes. You need dedicated soaping dishes, and you must never ever use any aluminum spoons or bowls when mixing your soap. The reaction with lye, I’m told, is quite dangerous. I’ve never tried it and I’m certainly not going to for the purpose of this blog post, BUT it’s a good DIY soap basic tip!
Get A Good Soap Recipe
It will come as no surprise to you that there are a number of excellent resources for soap recipes online and in print. My favorite go-to for soap instruction, ingredients, tools, best practices, troubleshooting, and inspiration is Anne-Marie Faiola of Brambleberry.com. Her website is a wealth of information on the basics of DIY soap.
This is going to sound like some kind of sponsored post, but it’s not. She just knows everything and sells everything and has been soaping for 20 years (even though she looks about 30 years old…). I also have her book, Pure Soapmaking, which I find very inspirational. The link to the book IS an affiliate link because I am an Amazon affiliate…so if you buy it, thanks!
It’s fabulous and has more than a dozen solid soap recipes, along with a lot of explanations of what kind of oil and fat combinations work well together and combine well with things like goats milk or coconut milk, or whatever artistic thing you want to do once you’ve mastered the science bits.
Another favorite soaper is Katie Carson of Royalty Soaps. She shares her base soap recipe, but she also does a lot of elaborate soap “frosting”, and I’ve recently joined her soap frosting club, so I’m excited to try my hand at piping soap!
Both of those are my best two pieces of advice for where I go for recipe info that is reliable and informative.
Making Soap: The Process
I have, of course, included a tutorial video for you on how I made this batch of soap, but I will also include some photos below of the highlights of the process. I am still making small batches, but I’d like to graduate to more meaningful batch sizes some day. For now, I’m working on science and artistry, but not volume…
Mix Lye and Water Per the Amounts in Your Recipe
Mix Oils and Fats Per the Amounts in Your Recipe
Incorporate the Lye Water Into the Oils
It is said that every soaper has their own opinion about the correct temperature to cool your lye and oils to. Some soapers prefer to do it hot, at about 130 degrees, others prefer to do it cool, about about 85 degrees. I tend to hover around the middle and I cooled my lye water and oils to about 115 degrees. Whatever your preferred soaping temperature, your lye and oils should be within 10 degrees of one another.
Add Fragrance and Colorants
Pour Into Your Molds and Embellish if Desired!
Spray With Rubbing Alcohol, WAIT, Unmold, and Cut!
Some Final Thoughts On The Remainder of the Process
Once the oils and lye have sat for 1-2 days, they go through a chemical process known as saponification. As the soap is still curing, it’s best to wear your gloves (and if you’re going to be giving it away or selling it, it’s sanitary that way too!), to avoid any irritation to your skin.
I find waiting to unmold the soap to be incredibly hard. I guess I’m used to more instant gratification from my craft projects, but I did feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when I unmolded the loaf and it looked lovely with it’s bumpy layers from the texture we provided with our spatula during the layering of the soap.
So, the process is time consuming, you need a lot of supplies, and you need even more patience. But the idea what you have made your own soap, full of good skin-loving oils and your own design, is very empowering and addictive.
Once you watch a few Brambleberry and Royalty Soaps videos you’ll be hooked, just like me!
I will paste the links to the items used here below. Again, the only affiliate link is the link to the book via Amazon.
Finally, the Link to the Video Tutorial!
Materials used for this project are listed below. Some links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you do, thank you in advance for your support of this blog.