HOW TO MAKE SOAP – No crock pots! No stove top! No thermometers!
I cant even begin to tell you how many people I have message me each week with soap questions. There are so many folks out there who want to make their own soap, but get overwhelmed by all of the soap tutorials floating around out there. It can be super confusing and overwhelming when you first start to get your toes wet with the world of soaping. I started making soap a few years ago and tried so many tutorials out there! I actually spent the first couple of years only making cold process soap which isnt hard, but can be SUPER time consuming and lets face it – most of us are super busy and dont have time for that! I know I sure dont, but I also dont want to give up my love for soaping. I started making soap with the room temp method about 2 years ago and havent turned back since! The room temp method requites NO STOVE, NO THERMOMETERS AND NO CROCKPOTS! We are going to let the lye do all of the work for us! Which I personally think is highly beneficial when working with botanicals in soap. Heat can kill the medicinal properties of the plants! So by only letting the lye do the warming, we are keeping our heat to a minimium to create a well rounded, quick and easy soap!
So lets get started! **WARNING** I AM A REBEL SOAP MAKER…I HATE GLOVES WHILE MEASURING MY OILS SO YOU WILL SEE MY BARE HANDS BY THE LYE – GASP**
YOU WILL NEED:
-Rubber Gloves (like the kind for dishwashing)
-Stainless Steel Pot – It HAS to be stainless steel. Do not use cast iron, enamel, aluminum, etc…it will react with the lye
-A kitchen scale – you cannot make soap by volume!!
–An immersion stick blender – no other blenders or mixers will work.
-A pitcher and spoon just for lye water
-A small pitcher just for measuring lye and some others for measuring oils – I like THESE.
-Sodium Hydroxide aka LYE – It isnt scary. I promise. And no, you cannot make soap without lye. You can make melt + pour soap without lye, but you arent really making soap. You are just scenting someone elses soap. To make from scratch soap YOU HAVE TO HAVE LYE. Sorry, I get asked this 20x a week. Just making sure we are clear 🙂
-High quality oils and butters depending on your recipe. I will share some basic recipes on this post, but look for other fun recipes that have been a staple in my soap shop for a long time as this blog grows!
To start- make sure you have a recipe and all of your oils and butters on hand. I cant tell you how many times i have started a recipe to find out I was short on oil half way through!
TIP: cover your work space aka kitchen counter with some kind of cloth, paper towels, freezer paper, etc…for easier clean up.
Start measuring your hard butters/oils first. For this recipe, my hard oils are lard, shea butter and coconut oil.
You want to make sure you are measuring in ounces and are measuring it correctly. Try not to go over or under. Soap making is all about balancing the lye and the butters just right to create GLYCERIN. And we want it to be moisturizing with a creamy lather. Too much lye can create a drying and crumbly bar of soap and too much oil can create a soft, flat bar of soap. BALANCE!
Heres all of my hard oils in the stainless steel pot.
Now for the fun part! LYE!
**LYE WILL BURN. DO NOT GET IT ON YOUR SKIN. AND TRY TO MAKE SOAP WHEN YOU WILL NOT HAVE LITTLE KIDS AND PETS IN YOUR KITCHEN. IF YOU ARE NERVOUS ABOUT LYE BURNS THEN JUST TAKE YOUR TIME, WEAR GLOVES, AND HAVE SOME APPLE CIDER VINEGAR ON HAND. LYE BURNS FEEL LIKE ITCHING AND THEN STARTS TO BURN. IF YOU FEEL LIKE SMALL ITCHY SPOTS WHILE MAKING SOAP, DONT FREAK OUT. JUST RINSE THE AREA IN COLD WATER AND ACV.**
Measure your lye first.
Then the liquid in a different container. And then add your lye to your liquid. NEVER – and I mean NEVER – add your liquid to the lye. Doing this will result in a lye volcano in your kitchen. Also, make sure you are adding the lye to cool or room temp water. If it is warm or hot, the lye will heat it up and it will boil over out of your pitcher! Ask me how I know this!!
I also like to write on my lye containers….this way the never get mixed into my normal day to day use kitchen stuff. And no one in my family will mistake it as something to make a drink in.
Now you are going to slowly stir the lye + liquid. We want to dissolve all of the lye chunks. It will start to steam because this stuff gets HOT. DONT BREATHE IT IN.
Now, while it is still hot, pour this hot lye water over your hard oils and give it a little stir.
They will immediately start to melt.
Sit this to the side and start measuring out your liquid oils.
Go ahead and pour them into the pot as you go. It will not cool it down enough to make a huge difference.
Now you can see it is just about all melted – other than this stubborn chunk of shea butter, but I am going to go ahead and start blending. If it is more than this then you will want it to melt down, but we can break this small amount up with the blender.
See? Now just keep blending. I like to pulse for about 20 seconds, break for 10, pulse for 15 or 20, break, pulse and so on and so forth. You will burn up the motor in this thing is you just sit and blend and blend and blend. (Again, ask me how I know this LOL).
We are trying to blend until we reach what is called TRACE. Trace is when the soap gets thick and sits on top of it self like this when you lift the blender out of the pot. This is what I call thin trace and this is when you are going to add anything extra into your soap – essential oils, extra oils, clay, colorants, etc…..If adding essential oils I use the rule of thumb of 1 teaspoon per pound of oils in your recipe.
After you have dumped in your extras, then you are going to keep blending until you reach what is called thick trace and it will look like a thick pudding…like this.
Now you are ready to pour this into your molds!
I like to make the tops look pretty so as it thickens, just use anything you have on hand to make the tops look cool. Forks, knives, chop sticks, straws…the skies the limit here.
Now – this is optional – but I really do recommend it. Spray the heck out of the tops of the soaps with rubbing alcohol. You cant spray too much. Try to get it into every nook and cranny. This will prevent what is called soda ash on the soap. Soda ash is harmless and is from the lye + air mixing together, but it just looks ugly so lets prevent it if possible!
Now, this is where some soap makers can get their undies in a wad – so many people say to insulate the soap, but to be honest….I DONT. I just sit it out of my way and forget about for about 24-48 hours or even pop it in the freezer! While it is sitting it will get very HOT. It is going to go through gel phase. To be honest, the only thing I have see gel phase do is enhance colors though some soap makers will argue with me here. So my rule of thumb is if I want my colors to be brighter, then I will let it go through gel phase…if I want them to look the same and a little more matte then I put them in the freezer for 24 hours. If you choose to put the loaves in the freezer then give it an extra day to cut and put them somewhere will you will not mind them sweating. I find a cooling baking rack over a towel makes a great place to let them dry out.
This is the soap after 48 hours. Now Im just going to pop it out and start slicing the bars.
I do wear gloves while cutting – the lye isnt active anymore so you can touch it, but I dont want finger prints all over my bars since I sell them. Priorities, yall 😉
When you have them all cut you will move them to a shelf to cure. I like to use a wire shelf where air can circulate all the way around, but anywhere will do as long as it is a dry area…as in, dont let the soaps cure in your bathroom. Also, make sure you add a note with what is in the soap and the date you sliced it. You will not remember what it is no matter how much you think you will.
Now – clean up!! Cleaning up soap making is the easiest thing to clean up after. So back up to right after you poured your soap into your molds…now you are left with a pot of raw soap residue than can burn you and all of the dishes from measuring oils.
Simply stick this pot out of sight for about 2 days. Then get it out and fill it with hot water. Because it will basically wash it self because its already covered in what is now – SOAP!
Check out that creamy lather already!
Theres a lot of controversy out there on soap blogs about not using the soap for a full 4-6 weeks because of the lye, but from my experience the lye is no longer active after about 48 hours because they lye is now GLYCERIN. I have NEVER – in my life – been burned by a bar of soap once it hardened enough to un mold. I do let them sit to cure for about 4 weeks. Curing lets the bars harden and the harder the bar of soap the longer it will last and I think it has more lather.
I have made HUNDREDS OF gorgeous and high quality soap bars using this process. Just look for yourself 🙂
Your soap cracks on top while in the mold. This means it is too hot! Another reason to NOT insulate your soap. Pop this baby in the fridge to cool it down.
Your soap is climbing out of the mold. Another sign of over heating. WITH GLOVES ON, scoop what you can into another mold. This is also a reaction of too much sugar from additives. I have only had this happen once with pure pumpkin puree and the natural sugars in the pumpkin reacted badly with the lye. NEVER AGAIN.
Theres oil puddles on top of the soap. Dont stress over it if it is a small amount. It should reasorb, but if it is alot then you will have to grab a crockpot to rebatch via hot process method.
The soap seperated in the mold. You reached what is called false trace. No worries, just dump back into the pot and mix again.
SEIZING, INSTANT GEL PHASE, OR HARD POCKETS IN SOAP- These things are mostly caused from use of fragrance oils so there is a simple fix for this…dont use fragrance oils! They are yucky anyway!
CRUMBLY SOAP AFTER UNMOLDING. Too much lye! You can basically turn this into laundry soap…I would never recommend this for the skin.
Heres a couple of recipes to get you started!
The first thing you will see on some recipes is SUPER FAT. So what is Super Fatting soap? This is the percentage of oil that you are not turning into soap. This percentage will be left over in the bar to help nourish and hydrate the skin. Some soap makers super fat up to 10%!! The higher the superfat the less amount of lather (in my experience). I find that 5% super fat is a great medium. I get a nice later and my bars are never drying to the skin.
PLEASE KNOW THAT IF YOU EVER CHANGE ANY THING IN A SOAP RECIPE, YOU HAVE TO RUN IT THROUGH A LYE CALCULATOR FIRST. This is a must!!
I really love this lye calculator for formulating and double checking my recipes: https://www.brambleberry.com/pages/lye-calculator.aspx
I keep all of my recipes PALM FREE <3
BASIC BEGINNER SOAP – 5% Superfat
1 OZ. castor oil
6OZ. coconut oil
26OZ. olive oil
10 oz water
4.4 oz lye
CREAMY PEPPERMINT SHEA SOAP – 5% Superfat
21 oz olive oil
4.5 oz shea butter
2.5oz castor oil
8 oz water
3.55 oz lye
Add in peppermint essential oil at trace – 2 to 2.5 teaspoons
LAVENDER + COCOA BUTTER SOAP – 5% Superfat
12.5 oz olive oil
3.5 oz sweet almond oil
8 oz coconut oil
4 oz cocoa butter
8.5 oz water
3.95 oz lye
lavender essential oil – 2 to 2.5 teaspoons plus optional lavender buds sprinkled on top
***FEEL FREE TO SUB ANY ESSENTIAL OIL IN THESE RECIPES***
Favorite places to buy soap oils, butters and lye?
Bulk Apothecary, Brambleberry, Amazon, and Costco. – Remember, high quality soap needs high quality oils. Buy organic when possible!
Here is the link to my favorite silicone mold!
Questions? I am happy to help!