Soap is great at removing dirt and sweat from your skin’s surface, and it’s a common item people use as part of their cleansing routine. There are a lot of options for bars and liquid soap on the shop shelves, but if you’re interested in how to make soap at home yourself, it’s not that difficult to accomplish.
If you choose to make your own soap at home, then you’ll also get to decide what ingredients to include in your recipe based on your own needs and preferences. Mild soaps don’t have to be expensive either - and you may have fun in the process!
We take a look at a basic cleansing soap recipe filled with natural ingredients if you want to try it out at home.
Making soap at home
So, first things first, how to make soap with all natural ingredients - and what does that mean anyway? When we’re discussing natural soap, it means all ingredients are derived from plants, and no animal byproducts or oil. Some soap makers choose to follow recipes that include beeswax or goat’s milk, and therefore, are not included as natural soap.
Now, how to make natural soap at home - let’s start with an easy method. First, there will be some items which you’ll need, and some are probably already in your home.
- Stainless steel or enamelled saucepans
- A plastic jug, or heat-proof glass jug, which is safe to use with boiling water
- Kitchen scales
- A silicone/wooden spatula or wooden or stainless steel spoons
- A thermometer
- A moultdto pour the soap into (these can be bought from online marketplaces, or you could use a cardboard or wooden tray, or even 'tupperware' containers with grease-proof paper)
- Safety glasses
- Rubber gloves
- A large towel
- A stick blender
You will need to choose your liquid oils and solid oils which you melt down to blend together. Each oil has its own purpose, some choose to use palm oil to help harden the soap - but there are alternatives. For example, natural shea butter has the same effect.
The most common oils are coconut oil (refined) and shea butter for hard oils, and olive oil and either castor oil or sweet almond oil for liquid oils. Once you measure the right amount of oils you need for the recipe, to transform them into soap you must mix it with lye. Any extra oil can be added for skincare benefits - but remember, if you add too much then it will affect how oily the recipe is and will be present after saponification. You will need sodium hydroxide, or NaOH/lye, as well as distilled water. Water at home is fine to use as well, but distilled is better.Soap making recipe at home:
20 oz coconut oil
10 oz olive oil
9 oz distilled water
1.78 oz lye
Mixing the soap recipe: Step-by-step guide
- Firstly, mix your coconut and olive oil together. As coconut oil is solid at room temperature you may need to warm the mixture up in the microwave or through a double-boiler method on the cooker hob. Ensure the oil doesn’t get too hot, but warm enough where the oils combine together. Set it to one side.
- Secondly, you’re going to slowly mix the lye and water together. Ensure you are wearing protective items and no pets or children are present. It’s also best practice to work in a well-ventilated environment and to wear a face mask. Carefully add the lye into the water, slowly and slowly stir the mixture. Your thermometer will show how the chemical reaction will raise the temperature of the mixture, so set it aside after mixing well to let it cool.
- Never add water to the lye, as it can cause the reaction to take place too quickly and the lye may expand or come out of the container.
- Once the two mixtures are of a similar temperature, between 120-130F (54C) - some soap makers work as low as 100F (37C) - you can mix them together. As the soap cools and begins to harden it may be harder to work with as it becomes closer to room temperature, so we advise not mixing as low as 100F your first few times.
- Slowly add the lye into the oils, into a big container where you have room to use a stick blender to mix the two solutions together. Place the blender into the container and tap the bottom to displace any air bubbles which may be in the mixture.
- Slowly blend in short bursts - avoid over blending the mixture, as it could begin to harden before you’re ready to pour the soap into a mould or container. You’re looking out for the mixture to slowly thicken and appear lighter in colour than the oil mixture. If your soap is beginning to look like rice pudding, or have tiny grains on the surface, it needs a few more bursts of the blender as the mixture is attempting to separate.
- But you want it to stay as a pourable mixture so you can transform the soap into the container.
Now, it’s up to you on whether you want to add any essential oils, fragrance or colours. There are lots of places which sell natural colourants to create your own soap design. For essential oils, the common range is to add 1 to 3% of fragrance - adding too much can cause skin irritation. After adding any colour or fragrance, you can stir the mixture by hand with a spatula or spoon to ensure it’s fully incorporated.
Once done, slowly pour the mixture into your chosen container and set aside for at least 48 hours. Check your soap to see if it’s still warm or soft, and if it is, check it every 12 hours or so. When it’s cold and firm, you can unmould it and cut it into bars. Then soap is set aside to cure between 4-6 weeks to allow the rest of the saponification process to complete. Even when the soap is hard and cool, you cannot use it for at least a month as it’s still saponifying and lye will still be present.
Then wrap it up and enjoy!
Looking for handmade vegan soap bars with no hassle? Try our range of gentle cleansers with no palm oil, SLS or parabens.
What is natural soap made out of?
Cold process soap is made by mixing fat or oil with an alkali. In most cases, the oil either comes from an animal or a plant. The chemical part of the soap-making process is usually lye, or sodium hydroxide. Whereas, if you’re looking into making liquid soap, it requires potassium hydroxide.
When these counterparts are combined, it produces soap. The chemical process which takes place is called saponification. If we take lye out of the equation, then saponification doesn’t happen, so lye is needed when creating traditional soap.
Although lye on its own is a dangerous substance when not handled correctly, no lye actually remains in the final soap bar after you’ve made it. As when saponification starts to take place, it transforms the lye into soap when it mixes with the oil or animal product. However, if you choose to work with lye, you must follow all safety precautions, protecting yourself, environment, and others.
- MORE: Why not read how to make DIY handmade lip scrubs at home next?
How to make natural soap without lye
One way to make a natural soap at home without using lye, is to instead use a melt and pour soap base - a soap base which is already gone through saponification, and you add colours, additives and fragrance yourself. As these soap bases have already saponified, they no longer contain any lye and are safe to use.
If you want to try this step instead, you can purchase a melt and pour soap from online marketplaces which usually offer a range of different types. Some have animal fats, others have extra benefits added in, say aloe vera.
The melt and pour can be cut up into small squares and melted down in either a microwave or on the stove top with a double-boiler method. Melt the soap in 30-second intervals, or shorter if you’re making a small batch, because the soap can easily overheat and bubble. If the soap base starts to bubble during the melting process, it can cause the soap to have a gloopy texture and will be hard to mix in colours or fragrances.
Once it’s a smooth liquid, you can add in any additives you like - herbs, dried flowers, essential and fragrance oils and colourants. Mix it well. Again, 3% is a standard amount of essential or fragrance oil the mixture can hold. Adding more may mean it isn’t absorbed and will only go to waste or irritate the skin - more doesn’t mean it will smell better!
Pour the soap into a mould or container, and let it harden. Depending on the size of the mould, this soap base tends to harden in 8 hours or overnight. Melt and pour soaps can be used straight away - there is no cure time like cold process soap!
Buying natural soap colorants
There are great ways to colour your soap including natural colourants. Whether you are using oxides, or food items like chocolate (coca powder) or coffee, or using certain additives which have a strong shade of colour, say, Activated Charcoal, which will turn it black, it's up to you what you mix in.
Some use carrot or pumpkin puree or juice, although this will be a light and pastel shade, or even turmeric and Matcha.
Micas or powders bought from reputable suppliers for natural soap colorants are also safe to use on the skin.
Shop our range of vegan soap bars that pack a punch, like our zesty lemongrass and persian lime bar with natural exfoliating apricot powder.