Making your own soap entirely from scratch is a fun, interesting process. Industrial soaps might last longer, but they lack a lot of the moisturizing qualities that soaps should have. Homemade soaps keep their glycerin, making them far gentler on the skin than those sold in stores. Because of this, it will be less firm, and should not be left in water as it will quickly dissolve.
When making soap by hand, choose a well ventilated area (Lye is a bit harsh). Don’t have children around, and be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves.
Lye is a caustic substance and you definitely shouldn’t drink it or take a bath in it. Every fat requires a certain amount of lye to turn it into soap. 500g of olive oil requires 67.7g of lye, whereas 500g of lard requires 70.5g of lye. When you are making soap the idea is to always use more fat than the lye can convert into soap. This prevents the presence of any excess lye in the finished bar, which means it will be a nice, gentle bar, and will not be irritating. (source)
Herbal Soap Recipe
Though the following recipe is for unscented, herbal soap, you can include essential oils for the fragrance. ½ to 2 ounces of the oil should suffice during the trace period. The herbs used are Chamomile, Calendula and Marshmallow to create calming, healing qualities, but you can use other herbs of choice. You can either use more herbs, or eliminate them entirely for a simple soap.
You’ll need the following equipment:
- Large stainless steel pot
- Plastic or glass pitcher (mixing)
- Wooden/plastic/steel spoon
- Plastic spatula
- Soap mold (shoebox, silicone molds, milk carton, etc.)
- Freezer bags
- White vinegar
- 2 thermometers
- Electric immersion stick blender (optional)
- Food wrap (plastic)
- Newspaper and cardboard
Note: NEVER use aluminum utensils or materials. Aluminum will react to lye. Keep special soap-reserved tools (pot, containers, etc.).
Ingredients for this recipe:
- An ounce of shea butter
- 7 ounces of organic coconut oil
- 3 ounces of organic palm kernel oil
- 2 ounces of organic avocado oil
- 16 ounces of organic extra virgin olive oil
- ⅛ Cup of organic Calendula flowers
- A teaspoon of powdered Organic chamomile
- A teaspoon of powdered Organic Calendula
- A teaspoon of powdered Organic Marshmallow root
- 12 ounces of water
- 6 ounces of lye
- Organic chamomile flowers (for decoration)
Use the scale to weigh out each ingredient. Prep your work area by cleaning it all up, gathering materials and placing cardboard and newspapers around the countertops. Keep the white vinegar nearby to neutralize the lye if it splashes or spills. Dress in long sleeves and pants, as well as some shoes.
Method of Preparation
Bring 16 ounces of water to a boil, take from the heat and add the Calendula flowers. Cover and let it cool before straining the flowers. This liquid will be added to the soap recipe (provides healing, soothing properties). Line your mold with freezer bags and move to a well-ventilated area to make your mix. Measure the calendula liquid before pouring into the container. Do the same for the lye, and pour it very slowly while you mix it in. Stir until it is dissolved without breathing in the fumes.
Weigh out your solid oils along with the shea butter in the stainless steel pot and melt it over a low heat. When melted, measure the liquid oils and add them. Watch your temperatures for preps to make sure they reach the same temperature of 90-105 degrees F. Now, you need to start mixing. With the goggles and gloves, slowly ease the lye into the pot of melted oil, stirring as you go. The mix will thicken, and start smelling soapy.
Stir until the “trace” stage, where the soap leaves a faint mark prior to sinking in as you stir. If you stir by hand, you’ll reach this stage 15-60 minutes in. If you use the electric blender, you’ll spend 3-10 minutes. During the trace stage, add in the powdered herbs and stir until they are completely mixed out. This is also when you should add your essential oils. Slowly pour the soap evenly into the mold. Sprinkle the petals and flowers on the top for decoration, and cover it with the food wrap. Keep it in a warm area, and cover with a towel to retain heat. Leave for 24 hours.
Ideally, you should keep the utensils in the stainless steel pot and leave it alone for 2-3 weeks. Trying to clean it with water can cause the lye to react rigorously. After a day, check on the soap. It should be firm yet soft, which is the ideal time to cut it. After you cut out the bars of soap, allow it to cure for 4-6 weeks by exposing all sides to air.
Have you ever made soap? Please share your method with us below.