Have you ever wanted to make your own soap at home? Or have you ever wondered “What do I need to start soap making?” Here is a breakdown of everything you need to make your own homemade cold process soap in the comfort of your own home. The basic ingredients you need to make your own soap is oil, lye and distilled water. Before I get into the recipe I’m going to go through all the basic ingredients you need to make soap and discuss the equipment and supplies you can use.
There are many oils you can pick up at your local grocery store. Food grade oils are good for cosmetic use as well. Common oils include:
You can purchase Pure Lye Crystals at any home hardware. Look for either the small container, or purchase a 3 gallon container of Pure Lye Crystals if you plan to continue making soap.
Make sure the water you use is distilled water. You will get better and more predictable results with distilled water. In more advanced recipes, you can substitute water for other liquids or even purees. Beer, milk, juice, and pureed fruit, can also be used in the soap making process, however these recipes will require precision in the timing and temperatures of these ingredients.
For this starter recipe, we’re going to use distilled water, a nourishing blend of carrier oils for a luxury body wash soap bar, and your choice of essential oils.
I have a kit of oils and butters available to make 1 soap loaf, but I also have links available if you want to purchase your own products online in larger quantities. These are the best quality to price supplies and ingredients I found on Amazon. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I will only endorse quality products that I would purchase myself and use in my own soap making process.
These oils are relatively economical in price and are easily sourced, but they are also a perfect blend for a face and body soap. It has a relatively high concentration of shea butter, giving it a creamy texture and moisturizing properties, but is also perfectly balanced with soft oils and hard oils making it solid and long lasting.
74g Avocado Oil
92g Canola Oil
46g Castor Oil
294g Coconut Oil
166g Olive Oil
156g Shea Butter
92g Sunflower Oil
The equipment you use in soap making is very important to making great soap. Not just in terms of quality, there are some materials that are not compatible with lye and soap making and should be avoided at all costs. This includes CHROME and GLASS.
Chrome will react with lye, and will even react with soap batter!
I once dropped a small amount of soap batter on a chrome electronic device. The spot where it landed was forever stained from the lye in the soap!
Glass is also unsafe because of the high temperatures you are working with. Even tempered glass or Pyrex should not be used. They should only be used for baking purposes. A lye reaction can reach very high temperatures. And shattered glass on top of spilt lye is a huge semi-dangerous mess. Lye is incredibly corrosive, and it’s still corrosive when you first saponify your oils.
When choosing equipment, opt for BPA-free plastic, heat proof silicone, and stainless steel.
Important soap making essentials for your kit
Food Thermometer (It’s best to have 2 – 1 for oil, one for lye)
Other Useful Supplies and Materials
Alcohol (You can get this at your local pharmacy. Has very useful applications in soap making including sterilization and reducing soda ash on soap)
Vegetable Peeler (This is for beveling the edges of soap bars! This is entirely necessary and involves shaving the edges of the soap for a smoother edge. It’s more of a retail choice for me, and I love how smooth the soap looks when I do it).
Specialty Paper (For labels)
Nitrile Gloves – Unfortunately vinyl gloves are extremely difficult to come by these days. I’m sorry if this link expires by the time you read it, but suppliers have been selling out fast due to the glove demand during Covid-19.
Rubber Gloves – You can also use rubber gloves for soap making as well! They are just not as dexterous as nitrile gloves, but they will do the job and keep your hands safe. Just make sure to get the right size for your hands. It will make all the difference!
Goggles – You’ll need these when you’re mixing lye. It will create a rising vapor that you shouldn’t breathe in or allow in your eyes. Lye must be mixed in a well ventilated area, like outdoors!
Mask – Like gloves, it is also very difficult to get dust masks, but any face covering that will help to avoid breathing lye fumes will help.
Now that you have all the equipment and ingredients you need to make soap at home, it’s time to get on with the recipe but first, some important precautions need to be followed for safety. Remember that lye is a corrosive material and can injure a human or animal if it is used in an unsafe or neglectful manner.
Don’t mix your lye and water around pets or children. If you spill anything on the floor and a pet or child steps on it, or worse puts something in their mouth, they can become very hurt as a result! Lye will corrode skin and it eats through some materials! Mix your lye and water outside, away from children and pets, and complete your soap making in an area they cannot reach for their protection.
Always wear gloves when handling lye throughout the entire soap making process including cleanup. You should even wear gloves while you pour lye into a container. Pouring the crystals can cause some dust to rise up and if it gets on you hand or even your wrist if you’re wearing shirtsleeves, it will cause irritation, redness, and some itching. If this does happen, run the affected skin under cool water for a few minutes to thoroughly wash it away. I’ve definitely made the mistake of making soap with short sleeves, and I got a little bit of soap batter on my wrist above my glove, and it definitely caused some short term irritation.
Remember that it takes 4 weeks for soap to cure and fully remove the lye from the soap. Until it is fully cured, soap should not be used on the skin, and it can be very irritating if it’s used too early. After only 4 weeks the soap should be fully safe and is now an incredibly cleansing and nourishing bar of creamy sudsy soap. I like to wait 6-8 weeks before I put my soap on the shelf. This helps the soap reach a harder state so that it lasts longer when it’s used.
The soap recipe needs to be followed exactly! Don’t make substitutions unless you’re using a soap calculator and balancing the properties of the soap oils so you get the soap the way you want. If you don’t fully understand the science of saponification and start substituting oils, you can easily reck a whole batch of soap. The balance of hard vs soft oils need to be such that the soap cures solid and has specific properties that make it a good face/body/hand soap. You can create your own recipes once you understand the balance between the properties of each oil when they saponify from the lye. It’s a very interesting craft, and there’s so much room for creativity, but specific rules need to be followed for soap to come together. We are creating a chemical reaction between oils and lye (aka sodium hydroxide), and we want to chemical reaction to turn out a specific way so we can get the perfect loaf of soap out of it!
And now on to the soap recipe. This recipe makes 1 loaf of soap, or 2 lbs / 10 bars, 120g each bar. They make beautiful unique gifts and this recipe base can be used to make a huge variety of soaps. I will make my own recipes available here as well. The essential oils and herbal additions can be customized to your preferences. The only thing that shouldn’t change is the base.
*Includes choice of 2 essential oils 5g each
*Makes 1 large loaf / 10 soap bars each weighing 140g.
Has all the ingredients you need to make soap except the water and lye.
304g Distilled Water
129g Lye – You can also get it on Amazon here