Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Soapmaking 101

A couple weeks ago, I made some Pearberry scented hand soap. I'm trying to use up all my fragrance oil before I order some new oil. I think this time I will splurge and get essential oil. It's more concentrated,so not as much is needed,but it does cost a bit more.

You will need:

 -24 oz Crisco
-9 oz coconut oil
-10.5 oz canola oil
-14 oz cold water
-6 oz lye crystals
-hand mixer ( I use my old one now just for soapmaking)
-non metallic spoon or spatula (I use cheap wooden spoons that I bought just for soapmaking)
-bowl for lye water
-measuring cup
-digital scale
-soap mold ( I use a silicone 8 x8 baking dish)
-thermometer (I used an old candy thermometer)
-scent/coloring (optional)


1) Zero out your digital scale by placing the measuring cup on it and hitting the "tare/on" button. You can see in the photo below that it is now set at zero. Everything is measured by weight. Pour water into the cup until it reaches 14 oz. Pour the water into a bowl,and wipe out your measuring cup. Place the cup back on the scale,make sure it's zeroed out,and add the lye crystals until it weighs 6 oz.

Before you mix the lye and water,you will want to open some windows to get some ventilation going. Lye is very caustic,and can burn your skin. The fumes smell and can make you sick. Sometimes I also have to put my t-shirt in front of my nose. Sprinkle the lye into the water,and stir gently until the lye crystals have dissolved  You will see fumes/smoke coming out of the bowl. This is the lye reacting. Place the lye off to the side to cool down. I place the bowl in front of the window.

2) Melt your solids. As you measured the lye and water,do the same with the Crisco and coconut oil. Make sure the Crisco measures 24 oz ( I had to do two measurements of 12 oz since my measuring cup isn't that big) and put it into a pan on the stove. Measure the coconut oil to 9 oz and put in the pan with the Crisco. Melt them over low heat,stirring occasionally  Measure the canola oil in the same manner,making sure it weighs 10.5 oz. When the Crisco and coconut oil and melted,add the the canola oil and stir.

Here you see the solid fats being melted........

......and the canola oil being added once the solid fats are melted

3) Now comes the part I always have a hard time with-waiting for the lye water and the oils to cool to the proper temperature. This is where the thermometer comes in. Both the lye water and the melted oils should be cooled down to 80-100 degrees before they are combined.This could take anywhere from 1/2 an hour to an hour.

4)Gently pour the lye water into the oils,mixing as you go.The mixer should be on low to avoid more air bubbles from forming than need be.

5)Mix on low until soap mixture begins to thicken,then move up to medium speed.The soap is ready to pour when it hits trace. Trace is when the soap forms squiggles on the top of the mixture like in the photo below:

6) This is the time to add your scent (it's up to you how much to add)..........

.......and your soap coloring. Again,it's up to you how much add depending on what you want the color to look like. Make sure you mix in the scent completely before you add the color. Mix in the color completely.

Here it is...ready for the mold!!!!!

7) Pour the soap mix into the mold. Smooth it out as best you can.

8) Cover it with a towel and let rest for 8-24 hours.

9) Take the soap out of the mold and place it away from drafts and cold air for 1-7 days.

10)After a few days,it's ready to cut up into bars. Score the soap to help with sizing. Notice how the soap has turned white? That's the lye that has risen up through the block of soap.

Here is a photo for a better comparison. The block on the lower left shows the bottom of the soap block. The upper right the top. There will be some white residue on the sides as well. Don't worry,we're going to cut those off to make pretty soap.

11) Cut off the white areas,and any other areas you need to make square pieces. This recipe fills an 8 x 8 pan,so the blocks are thick. 

A bit blurry,but you see how nice it looks when the white is trimmed off.

12) I cut the blocks in half,so I get more soap for the buck!

See? Two bars for the price of one!

13) You might wonder what to do with all those pieces that got trimmed off- use them! They still work. I bagged them up into a sandwich bag and put them in our bathroom closet.

14) TA-DA! Homemade bar soap. It now needs to cure for 2-4 weeks. 

After the time has passed, enjoy your soap,or wrap it in some pretty paper and give as a gift!

Have a fabulous day on this Fabulous Planet!


  1. What a wonderful tutorial! I have my lye ready I just need to make the time soon to make my own soap. It's another "big" goal I would like to cross off of my list of "to do's". :)

  2. Your soap look wonderful Donna, wrapped up and gifted how lucky could you get. Maybe someday I will still make some soap Seasons Greetings to You and the Family

  3. Great tutorial! I am interested in becoming more self-sufficient for the coming times, and soap making is on my list. I am going to try this recipe, but I have a question. From all I have read, the water needs to be "distilled," as to prevent other chemical reactions, such as with chlorine, as I am on county water. Also, as I am new at this, what amount of scent should I start with? I will be using essential oil. Thnx, Max from Texas