Well, this post is for you!
Soapmaking was on my list for so long, but I kept thinking that I had to spend so much time studying it and I just couldn’t find the time. Then one day I decided that I was just going to print out a recipe and do it… Whatever happens, happens.
I discovered that it was really easy to make soap! Obviously, I am not an expert and there are many kinds of soaps I would like to try to make and many recipes and techniques to try, but I now know how to make a basic soap that can be used in many ways; as a hand soap, body soap, and I am also going to use it as shampoo.
If you want to be a bit more self-sufficient, or live a lifestyle that is more natural, or just want to have fun making basic soap, then you are at the right place.
You won’t find complicated formulas here, there won’t be a 1000 words paragraph on the dangers of lye (we will go over how to use it safely)… Just a simple recipe and how to make it so we can all have fun, be more productive and move on to the next homestead project.
This is a cold process soap, meaning we are not going to cook it but rather mix all the ingredients together just as you would when making a batter for a cake. Then we will place it in a mold for a few days and after that, we will cut it into bars and let it cure.
The main difference between cold process and hot process soap is that we are going to need to let the cold process soap cure for 4-6 weeks before we can use it. Hot process soap takes longer to make but you can use it right away and as I understand, it’s texture is a bit different.
I chose the cold process method because of its simplicity. It takes maybe 10 to 20 minutes to make it and you are pretty much done. Each batch will give you ten bars of soap which will last a while so, at the beginning, you will have to wait for a little over a month to use your soap but as long as you can quickly whip up another batch every few weeks you should have soap on hand all the time.
Ok, I think we are ready…
Step 1 – Gather Your Soapmaking Equipment…
Like with every homesteading project, the first step is gathering your equipment. It’s funny to me how so often this step is the step that takes the longest, but once you have everything you need you’ll be able to make many batches of soap.
2 mixing bowls – these can be heavy (heat resistant) plastic or stainless steel (no glass or aluminum). I have this set for a while and I love it.
A pot – we will make a double boiler to heat the oils so make sure one of the bowls can fit onto this pot.
Another small bowl – to measure the lye.
A wooden spoon – for mixing.
An ice tray – we will freeze the milk in the tray.
An immersion blender – I purchased this one from Amazon and it’s fine, but I have this one for cooking and it’s a million times better. So if you can afford it, I recommend going with the better option. You want an immersion blender solely for soap making. Don’t use the same one for cooking and soapmaking. It’s a bit hard to clean those and you don’t want soap in your food.
Soap mold -I was thinking about making my own but then found this one. If I made my own I would have to spend some time on cutting parchment paper in a special way to line it every time I made soap. This mold was just a bit over $10 and came with a silicone mold and its wooden box so I thought it was worth giving it a try. It looks great, made pretty good for the price, and it seems like it will last for a long time so I recommend it.
A ruler and a soap cutter – to cut the block of soap into bars. You can go with a fancy soap cutter or just use a ruler and a soap cutter like this one or a knife.
**If you want to get the mold and cutter as a set, I found this set. It looks good and has good reviews. I ended up not using a cutter mold (you’ll see below) but I think that I will next time. It’s not easy to cut the bars straight, so a cutter mold would really come in handy.
A baking sheet lined with parchment paper – we will place our bars of soap on the sheet to cure. This can also be a tray or a cutting board.
A kitchen scale – we have to measure all of the ingredients so make sure you have an accurate measuring scale on hand (all measurements are by weight).
A thermometer – we will use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oils.
Safety equipment – we don’t want to come in contact with raw soap batter because of the lye (more on this in a minute), so to protect yourself you will need, goggles, a shirt with long sleeves, and kitchen gloves. In addition, make sure you have a well-ventilated area to work in so you don’t breath in the fumes.
I worked in my kitchen, right by an open window with my ceiling fan running at low speed. The best thing will be to mix the soap outside if there is a place there for you to work.
Step 2 – Gather Your Ingredients…
Let me just give credit where credit needs to go. This is not a recipe I came up with, I found it on The Nerdy Farm Wife and changed it just a little bit and added essential oils to it. Jan is amazing at soap making and has a lot of experience so I felt confident in choosing one of her recipes.
If you want to get deeper into soapmaking you can find her Soapmaking Success course here, her Natural Soapmaking ebook Collection here. She also has a free email course for beginner soap makers that I loved. You can find it here.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this soap:
9 oz of milk – you can use any kind of milk for this recipe; coconut milk, almond milk, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, rice milk, or any other kind you can think of.
I chose to use goat’s milk because I have fresh raw milk from my goats and making soap was another great way to use it. If you don’ have a milk animal you can purchase milk from a local farm or at the grocery store.
Use your kitchen scale to weight 9 oz of milk. To do that I placed a small plastic pitcher on the scale, zeroed out the scale and added 9 oz of milk to the pitcher. Then, pour the milk into the ice tray and place in the freezer.
4.3 oz lye – to make soap you must use lye. Lye is not as scary as everyone makes it to be.
There are two kinds of lye; Sodium Hydroxide for making solid bars of soap, and Potassium Hydroxide for making liquid soap.
When you mix lye and oils a chemical reaction occurs that changes both substances and the product is soap. This chemical reaction gives off fumes and heat and can hurt your skin and eyes, so you want to make sure you are protected by using the safety gear mentioned above.
If you would like to learn more about lye, here is a great article.
This is the lye I used in this recipe. Place your bowl on the scale and zero the scale. Then, add 4.3 oz of lye to the bowl.
8 oz coconut oil – I bought mine from a local grocery store.
22 oz olive oil – I also purchased this from a local grocery store. Make sure you get a good brand of high-quality olive oil.
1 oz cator oil – I purchased this from Amazon.
Essential oils – I only use doTERRA oils. doTERRA is a company that sells 100% pure and potent oils through Wellness Advocates like me. If you are interested in purchasing doTERRA oils, contact me and I’ll be happy to help you get started.
I used a teaspoon of lemongrass oil simply because it’s one of my favorite oils. You can download a free chart of the best essential oils for soap making that includes measurements here.
So now we have all of the equipment we need and all of the ingredients. Let’s mix all of this together!
Step 3 – Measure and Heat Your Oils…
Place your bowl on the kitchen scale and zero the scale…
Add one oz castor oil and zero the scale. Add 22 oz oilve oil, then zero the scale again and add 8 oz coconut oil.
This is how I do it but you can also measure each oil separately and add them to one bowl.
Fill your pot with a couple of inches of water and set your bowl of oils onto the pot to create a double boiler.
Turn the heat on and let the oils melt. Use your thermometer to check the temperature. You don’t want the oils too hot; they should be around 90 – 100 F. Once the coconut oil melted, place the bowl aside.
Remove your milk ice cubes from the tray and add them to a second bowl.
Now, we are going to add the lye, remember the reaction with the lye produces fumes and heat, this is why we are starting with milk that is in a form of ice (so things don’t get too hot and create a little volcano), and this is why you might want to do the next part outside or at least by an open window. Also, remember to put on your protective gear before you start mixing the lye.
Start adding a few tablespoons of lye at the time while mixing.
It will take a few minutes, but you’ll see how the reaction with the lye start to cause the icy milk to melt.
Add all of your lye and mix, and mix, and mix…
Until all the ice is melted and you have this yellow liquid.
Next, add the lye/milk mixture to the oils (oils should be around 90 – 100 F, if they are warmer, stir them a bit and give them a couple of extra minutes to cool).
Now we are going to use the immersion blender to bring the mixture to what you call in soapmaking language “trace”.
This also will take a few minutes. Keep blending, make sure you keep the blender under the surface of the batter so it doesn’t splash on you.
You can see how it’s starting to get thicker and thicker…
Keep on blending…
You are done when the batter reaches “trace”, in other words, when it has the consistency of a pudding. It also has the color of banana pudding so don’t leave it alone on the counter. You don’t want your kids eating this by mistake…
Use your wooden spoon or a spatula to help you transfer the batter into the mold…
Make sure it spreads evenly all over in the mold and now you have two options…
Option one is to leave the mold at room temperature for 24 hours and option two is to place it in the fridge or freezer for 24 hours.
When you make soap without milk, you’ll leave it at room temperature for 24 hours, this will activate “gel phase” which means the soap batter will heat in the mold and bring out colorants.
If you do this with milk soap, the soap will get a darker, brown color. If you want to avoid gel phase so your soap stays more creamy color you place it in the freezer to keep the batter cool.
I chose this route so I placed my mold in the freezer for 24 hours. After 24 hours, take the mold out and leave it at room temperature for another 24 -48 hours.
Once that step is done, you will remove the block of soap from the mold.
It’s still soft at this point, so go slowly…
I ended up placing parchment paper on my cutting board and slowly releasing the soap from the mold.
It was so beautiful, I had to just stand there a moment and look at it…
After a few moments of appreciation, it’s cutting time…
I used a ruler and my soap cutter to mark the bars. Each one of them is just a tiny bit larger than one inch thick…
After marking, start cutting the block of soap into bars trying to keep the cutter straight all the way to the bottom of the block.
That’s it! Our soap is ready for curing. Place parchment paper on a tray or a cutting board and place your bars on the parchment paper. Keep the bars out of the way somewhere. They will have to cure for 4 to 6 weeks before you can use them. During this time, make sure to flip them a few times so they can cure well from all sides.
You’ll notice that as time goes by they will harden, this is especially a characteristic of soap that has a lot of olive oil it, it gets really hard.
This was a very fun project. It took me some time to get everything together but once I was ready I was so surprised how easy it was to make soap.
I think this will be serving us very well. It will be used as a hand soap by the sink, and as both body soap and shampoo in the shower, so I won’t need to buy those at the store anymore. I already have olive oil, coconut oil, goat milk, and essential oils on hand for other things and I can get enough lye and castor oil to last for many batches.
If you felt that soap making was a little bit intimidating I hope this post helped you feel more comfortable giving it a try.
My next step as far as soapmaking will be to find a recipe for goat milk soap that uses animal fat like lard for example. This will lower the cost of the soap drastically since olive oil, even though it’s really healthy for your skin, is costly.
If you know such a recipe, please share it in the comments below. I would also love to hear what your thoughts are about soap making and if you have any experience making soap, so share below if you have a moment!