Basics of Soap Making – Recipe for Beginners
Before attempting to make your own soap, you should make sure you have collected all the necessary supplies. See: Soap Making Tools & Supplies
NOTE: You will want to avoid using tap water in your soap recipes (especially if you are using public water) as it can contain chlorine and other unwanted chemicals. Purchase distilled water if you do not have access to a clean/safe water supply.
- 4 ounces (112 grams) of solid coconut oil
- 4 ounces (112 grams) of olive oil
- 4 ounces (112 grams) of safflower oil
- 3 ounces (84 grams) of canola oil
- 5 ounces (140 grams) of distilled water
- 2 ounces (56 grams) of lye
Mixing the Lye Solution
After putting on your safety gear and assembling all of your tools and ingredients you can start mixing the lye solution!
- Place a small container onto your scale and measure 5 ounces of room temperature distilled water into the container.
- Place another container (make sure it is dry!) onto the scale and measure 2 ounces of lye.
- Slowly pour the lye into the container of water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY AROUND) and be careful not to splash. This will cause a fowl odor and fumes, so make sure you are working in a ventilated area.
- Immediately begin to stir the solution slowly, until the lye has completely dissolved, and set the mixture aside to cool. You will want a temperature of approx. 100 F before mixing the solution into your oils.
Preparing the Oils
Immediately after mixing your lye, you should begin to measure each of your oils into separate containers. After measuring the coconut oil, you will need to heat it in the microwave until it becomes liquid (do this in 20 second spurts until it is fully melted so you don’t overheat it).
Once all of your oils are measured (and your coconut oil is melted), you can mix them all together into a large mixing bowl.
- Add your coconut oil to a large mixing bowl (making sure to scrape out as much as possible for the most precise measurement)
- Pour the olive oil into the coconut oil (making sure to scrape out as much as possible for the most precise measurement)
- Repeat the process with the canola oil
- Finally add the safflower oil in the same manner
- Gently stir the oils together until you are satisfied they are thoroughly mixed
Mixing the Soap
When the lye is ready it should begin to look clear, and measure a temperature of about 100F.
- Start by slowly pouring the lye mixture into the oils and gently stir with a spoon or spatula
- The mix should start to look opaque, and at this stage you can choose to use an immersion blender, or continue by hand. Be careful to keep the mixture from splashing.
- If using the blender, do so in spurts of 30 seconds with breaks so you can closely watch the thickness of the mixture.
- It should become thicker and even more opaque after several minutes (this can take twice as long stirring by hand). As it thickens, it will drip off of your blender (or spoon) more slowly.
- To determine when your soap has begun “tracing” you should pull out your mixer every 10 seconds or so, to check how quickly it drips. Soap has begun “tracing” when you can see a visible trail from the drip in the mixture (and it looks somewhat like unset pudding).
- It can be difficult to estimate the time it takes for trace to occur because of variations in recipes and mixing methods, so this step can take some practice.
- After your soap has started to trace, pour it into your chosen mold (a 3 1/2″ x 6″ x 2 1/2″ plastic container should be the perfect size for this recipe).
After pouring your soap into the mold, you will want to make sure the container is tightly sealed. Wrap the mold in several layers of towels or blankets to keep as much heat in the soap as possible while it saponifies.
Leave the soap undisturbed for 24 hours before opening the mold. The soap should start to darken and reach a gel-like stage.
If the soap looks powdery or white, it probably has not saponified properly and may need to be pitched. This can happen because the soap did not stay warm enough, because the lye was too cold or hot when it was added to the oils, or when the oils are colder than room temperature.
It’s best to let all of your tools sit for the same 24-hour period before washing them. After 24 hours, the lye should become safe to handle, so cleanup is easier.
Cutting & Drying The Soap
After 24 hours, the soap is safe to handle. It’s now time to remove the soap from your mold and begin cutting it into individual bars.
- Place the soap log on a cutting surface and cut into 1″ thick bars (1 inch is considered a good-sized bar of soap).
- As you are cutting the bars, line them up (leaving air space between) on your drying surface (make sure this surface is out of direct sunlight and in a location with low humidity).
- If you want a smoother-more finished look, use your vegetable peeler to shave off the corners and lumps in the bars.
- Your soap will need to air dry for at least a month (the longer a bar of soap dries, the longer it will last when it is used).
- The finished soap can then be placed in a box or tray for storage (make sure this is also a dry place where the soap will receive airflow).