Soap making did not begin today, it’s an ancient tradition that has existed for thousands of years. For example, the West African region of Africa is known for their black soap that’s made with ash while the Mediterranean region is known for their mild oil soaps. Unlike our modern-day detergents, soaps are eco-friendly and biodegradable; they are adaptable and have a wide range of uses.
Soaps can be used to remove dirt and sweat from the skin and for that reason, a lot of people include soap in their personal hygiene routine. You can opt to buy soaps from the local stores close to you or online. But buying commercial soaps comes with its advantages and disadvantages; if you are unlucky you might end up buying a product that doesn’t have a good fragrance or worse doesn’t produce enough lather.
If you are considering making your own soap to cut costs and achieve the best results, then you’ll have to learn how to make soap from scratch. Hence, in this guide, you’ll be learning how to make soap from scratch.
How to make soap from scratch
There are three main methods you can use to make soaps from the comfort of your home. The three main methods are:
Melt and Pour
With this method, you’ll have to first purchase a soap base, melt it down, before adding the ingredients you want or need, and finally, pour the mixture into the mould. Since the saponification process has already happened, you won’t have to bother with handling lye (caustic soda) and the soap made can be used immediately after the soap has cooled.
This method doesn’t require a soap base and it’s used to make soaps from scratch using fat and lye. With this method, no heating is required, but it takes a longer time to prepare the soap since you’ll be needing about 4 to 6 weeks to cure and complete the saponification process.
This is another method you can use to make soap from scratch. Unlike the cold process, heat is involved in soap making and it’s used to speed up the time required for complete saponification. With this method, the soap will be ready in about a week.
However, in this guide, we’ll be using the cold process to make our soap from scratch.
How to make soap from scratch with the cold process
Before you start making the soap using this procedure, make sure to put on protective goggles and gloves; also make sure that the area you are making the soap in is well ventilated and free from distractions.
Ingredients and equipment
- ⅔ cup of coconut oil (helps us produce lather)
- ⅔ cup of olive oil
- ⅔ cup of any other liquid oil you prefer. Such as safflower oil or sunflower, almond oil, or grapeseed.
- ¼ cup of lye (sodium hydroxide or caustic soda)
- ¾ cup of cool water (you can use purified or distilled water)
- Soap moulds
- Quart canning jar
- Pint canning jar
- Gloves and protective goggles
First step: Wear goggles, gloves, and other protective wear on. Also makes sure to cover your work area.
Second step: Measure your water (distilled or purified) into the quart canning jar. Keep a spoon nearby. Measure exactly ¼ cup of lye and slowly pour the measured lye into the water. Stand back and stir to avoid the fumes it emits. Once the water starts to clear, allow it still and generate heat as the chemical reaction takes place.
Third step: Add the three oils you prepared into the pint jar. All three oils added together should make up a pint. Heat the oils in a microwave for about a minute—you can also heat it by placing the jar of oils in a pan of water for it to heat.
Check the temperature of your oils—it’s supposed to be around 120°F (48.9°C). You can either use a soap maker thermometer or the regular meat thermometer, both works fine. By this time, your lye should have cooled down to about 120°F. Allow both the lye and the oils to cool to anything between 95°F and 105°F—it’s important the temperature falls within this range as it is important for soap making. That’s because if it gets too low, the soap will come together quickly, and become coarse and crumbly.
Fourth step: Once the lye and the oils are at the right temperature, pour the oils into a mixing bowl and slowly start adding the lye, stir as you add until both the lye and the oil are all mixed. You can stir using a spatula or spoon that’s heat resistant. After 5 minutes, you can continue stirring or make use of an immersion blender. What happens next is the soap mixture will lighten in colour and become thick. Once the mixture looks like vanilla, it’s ready.
Fifth step: You can start adding your herbs, essential oils, and any other additives you may have. After adding them, stir properly so that they combine properly. Once you are done stirring, pour the mixture into mould(s) and cover it with plastic wrap. You can use an old towel to wrap it all up—this is done to keep the residual heat in and begin the saponification process.
Sixth step: Check the soap after a day. If it’s soft or warm, keep it for another 12 to 24 hours. Once the soap becomes firm, you can now turn it onto a baking rack or a piece of parchment paper. If you used a loaf pan as your mould, you can start cutting the soap into bars at this point.
After cutting, allow the soap to cure for about 4 weeks. During the curing period, make sure to turn over the soap weekly in order to expose all the sides to air. Alternatively, you can put it on a baking rack to circulate air.
Seventh step: Once your soap is fully cured, wrap the soap in wax paper—alternatively, you can keep it in an airtight container. This is done because hand-made soap creates its own glycerin (a humectant), which pulls in moisture from the air. Additionally, you should also wrap it to prevent the soap from attracting debris and dust together with the moisture.
After wrapping the soap, it’s now time to clean the equipment that has been exposed to lye. You can neutralize the lye using white vinegar before washing the equipment as you would normally do.
Making soap from scratch isn’t difficult at all. Anyone can do it provided they know the right steps to follow and follow the steps to the letter. When making soaps, you can also use commercial wax melters to the soap oil rather than heating it—this gives you more over the time of heating and temperature.
Commercial wax melters are primarily used to heat wax melts. You can buy commercial wax melts and also buy wax melts from top online stores worldwide.