Making Your Own Soap

Posted on Tuesday 29 April 2008

Please make sure you read the Safety Instructions below as they are very, very important in making a successful soap. Good Luck!

What is Soap?
The production of soap dates back to approx. 3000 years ago and is quite simple to produce. The basic ingredients are caustic soda (lye) dissolved in water and tallow (animal fat) or other oils. When heated and blended together, a chemical reaction takes place (saponification) and creates the soap.To this, essential oils, perfumes, colours and other substances such as honey, glycerin, oatmeal, etc can be added.
Safety Instructions
Caustic soda (lye) is dangerous and must be handled with great care. Here are some points to observe.
• It is essential that you always wear eye protection, rubber gloves and an apron (especially during the pouring stages). Cover your work area with paper.
• Prepare all of your equipment and ingredients in advance.
• Use accurate measuring equipment. If you use too much lye, it will not be completely reacted, resulting in an alkaline soap that is not pH balanced.
• Keep all bare skin covered to avoid any contact with the solution. Should a burn occur, wash thoroughly with cold water, cover with a damp cloth and seek medical advice. When caustic soda touches the skin it gives it a “slippery” feel.
• Do not breathe in the fumes and keep face well away. Always work in a well ventilated area.
• Never make soap while children or pets are present to distract you or get into dangerous mischief.
• Refer to a Lye Calculator if you are making your own recipes – these give you an indication of the amount of Lye you will require for different vegetable oils.
• Always add the Lye to the Water NOT the other way around – unless you would like a volcanic experience in your work area!
Special Tips
• Soap can be melted down to be reused again. So if you are not quite happy with the result, melt it down slowly with a little water and further ingredients.
• Melting and cooling soap a second time will harden the soap.
• Add other ingredients such as perfumes, etc just before pouring into moulds.
• Always use a large wooden spoon for stirring, avoid using aluminium, and use a deep stainless steel pot instead of a shallow pan.
• Have all ingredients, equipment and mould ready at hand before you begin. Grease moulds before you start.
• Soap moulds can be especially bought, or try using small jelly moulds, chocolate and easter egg moulds, cup cake trays, sandwich tins, ice cube trays, milk cartons, margarine and take-away food containers. Pliable plastic is best.
• Use a taught wire to cut bars of soap instead of a knife; the same principle as cutting cheese.
• Herbal teas and infusions can be used in place of water – this may influence the Lye Calculations, so take extra care.
• Colouring can be used but be careful not to add too much; just enough to lightly colour the soap.
• To the best of our knowledge, there are no soap police and there are many different methods of making soap. Experiment with a few different methods and ingredients to find the one that best suits you.
The Most Common Fats and the Characteristics in Soap Production

Oil Colour Consistency Odour Foam Skin Reaction Washing Powder
Coconut Oil White to yellowish Very hard and brittle Almost odourless Quick big bubbles, short lasting Drying Very good, even in cold water
Palm Oil White Very hard and brittle Similar to oil, pleasant Slow small bubles Very mild Very good, even in cold water
Olive Oil Yellow to olive green Hard Weak-oily Fair to good Very mild Good
Soya Bean Oil Light yellow to green Hard Practically odourless Average Mild Average

Lye Table
These are the general recommendations for the amount of Lye used in soap making. Please check with a Lye Calculator if using combinations of oils in your own recipes.

For every 100gm of Vegetable oil

Amount of Lye added to 25 – 40mL Water

Almond Oil Sweet

12.5 – 13.0gm

Apricot Kernel

12.0 – 12.8gm


12.0 – 12.5gm


12.2 – 12.8gm


12.3 – 13.0gm


12.0 – 12.1gm

Cocoa Butter

12.3 – 12.9gm


16.6 – 17.5gm

Evening Primrose

12.2 – 12.8gm


12.0 – 12.5gm


12.4 – 13.0gm


12.4 – 13.0gm


5.9 – 6.2gm

For every 100gm of Vegetable oil

Amount of Lye added to 25 – 40mL Water


12.5 – 13.2gm

Mango Butter

12.1 – 12.5gm


12.2 – 12.8gm

Palm Kernel

15.2 – 16.0gm


12.8 – 13.5gm

Rose Hip

12.0 – 12.7gm


12.2 – 12.8gm


12.4 – 13.0gm

Shea Butter

11.6 – 12.1gm

Soya Bean

12.2 – 12.9gm

Stearic Acid

13.2 – 14.0gm

Wheat Germ

12.0 – 12.7gm

1. Slowly add Lye (Caustic Soda) to water a little at a time stirring carefully. This will produce a reaction that raises the temperature of the water. Allow the caustic soda to dissolve – if it doesn’t dissolve completely, you may need to filter the solution. Leave the water to cool until it is approximately 35°C – 50°C. The cooler the solution the longer the process may take.
2. Warm the oil phase until it is slightly warmer than the Lye solution and pour into a large container.
3. Slowly add Lye solution to the oils (be careful not to splash). Gently stir, using a large wooden spoon until well blended and the mixture has thickened (usually around 15-20 minutes), then stir every 15 minutes for 5 minutes until the mixture begins to trace. Tracing is when the mixture will hold your stir marks for several seconds. (N.B. You could use a blender that has a very low speed (like a Mix Master) for the first 15 minutes if desired, and then manually stir after this time.
4. Add any additional ingredients – essential oils, fragrance, exfoliants, etc. and blend through.
5. Pour your mixture into your soap moulds.
6. Allow to dry/cure in a warm (not hot) airy place. Once the outer layer has firmed (usually around 5-7 days) turn out your soap. Cut into bars or desired shapes and leave to further dry/cure in a place they can “breathe” for at least 4 weeks, turning frequently (Sushi mats make great airers).
While we have made every effort to ensure the information here is accurate, we cannot control differing environmental conditions. We are not responsible for any injuries, losses or other damage that make result from the use of the information herewith.

DRY SKIN: Sweet Almond, Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Castor, Olive, Cocoa Butter, Wheatgerm
OILY SKIN: Sunflower, Safflower, Sesame
ALL SKIN TYPES: Avocado, Apricot, Wheatgerm
NORMAL SKIN: Use any fat or oil, any combination is suitable

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