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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Make Your Own Soap!

Make Your Own Soap!

Do you love handmade soaps, with their soothing oils and natural fragrances, but hate how much they cost? Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of having a bar made from your favorite combination of fragrances, but could never find one? The good news is that making your own soaps, in your own custom fragrances, is an easy and affordable hobby.

Making your own soap doesn’t take a lot of time, though it is an exact science that requires careful attention to detail. Once you make a few batches, though, it will begin to come more naturally.

To get started, you will need the following:
– Safety goggles and rubber gloves. Most quality soap recipes call for lye, a corrosive alkaline substance that is dangerous to handle without the proper safety equipment. It is also a good idea to keep vinegar on hand to counteract any spilled lye.
– An accurate scale that measures down to hundredths of an ounce. Exact measurement is key to the success of soap making.
– An accurate quick-reading thermometer.
– A stick blender.
– A pitcher made from heat-resistant plastic or stainless steel with a lid.
– A large stainless steel spoon.
– A stainless steel pot for mixing the soap. This can be anywhere from a few quarts to 12 quarts. The size will depend on how large you want your batches to be.
– A glass or plastic mixing bowl.
– A set of measuring spoons.
– A set of stainless steel measuring cups.
– A whisk.
– A stainless steel or plastic ladle.
– A rubber spatula.

All of these items should be labeled and never used to store or prepare food or beverages.

You will also need some type of molds to hold your soap mixture while it hardens. There are many types of soap molds on the market that you can purchase, from large ones that make logs of soap to small decorative molds. If you’re just making soap for your own use, though, you can just use waxed paper cups and peel them off the soap when it’s ready. Other possibilities include plastic food storage containers, a shoebox lined with plastic wrap, or a few large ice cube trays.

The basic recipe for soap includes lye, a liquid, such as distilled water or milk, base oils, and fragrance (usually from essential oils).

Though some steps may differ in a given soap recipe, the basic steps are to stir the lye into the cold water (or milk) in your pitcher and set it aside, stirring occasionally. It’s important not to breathe in the fumes from the lye mixture. You can wear a surgeon’s mask or tie a handkerchief around your nose and mouth.

Next mix your base oils together in a large pot and warm them to about 130° F.

When lye mixture has cooled to about 130° F, combine it with the oil mixture in the pot. Stir them together with a whisk for 1 minute. Add any essential oils and/or dry ingredients, such as herbs. Agitate the mixture occasionally with a stick blender until it starts to thicken (about 30 minutes).

Pour the thickened mixture into your molds using a ladle. Use a rubber spatula to scrape every drop of the soap mixture out of the pot.

Leave the soap in the molds for at least three days. Store it covered with cardboard and a towel in a warm place. After that, you may freeze it overnight to make it easier to remove from the molds. Once freed from the molds, leave the soap out in the open air for 4-8 weeks to harden.

Here are a few easy recipes for homemade soap. Differences from the basic recipe are noted below the ingredient list. These recipes make 2-3 medium-sized bars. Multiply ingredients for larger batches:

Relaxing Lavender Soap
Ingredients:
5.5 oz. of olive oil
4.5 oz. of coconut oil
4 oz. of palm oil
4.3 oz. distilled water
2 oz. Lye
1/2 tablespoon lavender essential oil
1 teaspoon rosemary essential oil
1 teaspoon dried lavender, finely ground

Directions:
Follow basic directions above.

Healing Oatmeal Soap
Ingredients:
10 oz. palm oil
4 oz. coconut oil
2 oz. olive oil
1/4 cup oatmeal (not instant)
2 oz. lye
8 oz. distilled water
1/4 oz. almond essential oil

Directions:
Reduce oatmeal to powder in a blender or food processor. Pour the lye into the water and cool to approximately 100° F. Melt the palm and coconut oils together and set aside to cool to approximately 120° F. Mix the olive oil and oatmeal in a blender or food processor and set aside. Slowly pour the lye mixture into the oil mixture, stirring constantly for about a minute. Add the oatmeal mixture and almond essential oil and stir until well mixed. Agitate the mixture occasionally with a stick blender until it starts to thicken (about 30 minutes). Pour into molds, set, and remove from molds to harden.

Invigorating Goat Milk Soap
Ingredients:
3.75 oz. olive oil
1. 5 oz. coconut oil
1. 5 oz. shea butter
.75 oz. palm oil
.15 oz. eucalyptus essential oil
.25 oz. spearmint essential oil
3 oz. goat’s milk
2.4 oz. lye

Directions:
Freeze goat’s milk overnight in a Ziploc bag or ice cube tray. Remove goat’s milk from the freezer and allow it to melt into a cold slush. Set out a large, shallow bowl of ice water and set the bowl of goat’s milk into the ice bath. Pour a small amount of the lye, about 1/10 of the full amount required, into the goat’s milk and stir it in. Take a temperature reading of the goat’s milk mixture. If the temperature is below 100 ° F, you can mix in another small portion of lye. If it is above 100° F, allow the milk to cool before adding more. Repeat these steps until all of your lye is mixed into the goat’s milk. Keeping the goat’s milk below 100° F will ensure that it does not spoil and begin to smell unpleasant. Remove the lye mixture from the ice bath and set aside, still keeping a careful eye on the temperature.

Mix the oils as directed above and cool them to about 90° F. You can use the ice bath to cool them faster. Slowly pour your goat’s milk/lye mixture into the oil mixture, stirring with a whisk for about a minute. Add the essential oils and stir until well mixed. Agitate the mixture occasionally with a stick blender until it starts to thicken (about 30 minutes). Pour into molds, set, and remove from molds to harden.

10 comments

1 Susan Higgins { 08.15.14 at 9:09 am }

Thank you, we appreciate your feedback!

2 See More Tips { 08.15.14 at 7:40 am }

Magnificent website. Plenty of useful info here. I am sending it to a few pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.

And obviously, thank you on your effort!

3 Jody Boda-Ford { 05.04.13 at 10:36 am }

Jamie is describing the cold batch method. Methods that don’t use lye are melt and pour, where premade soap is melted down and the desired ingredients are added, and then the final product is poured into molds. In the cold batch method, a lye molecule hooks up with a fat molecule, saponification occurs and the result is soap, a new substance with its own properties that is no longer caustic. The amount of lye to use depends on the SAP number of the oil. Different oils and fats have different SAP numbers which are plugged in to a formula which tells you how much lye to use for that oil or fat. Too much oil results in your soap not setting right, too much lye leaves a soap that still has left over lye in it, resulting in a soap that is caustic. SAP charts are readily available on the internet.

4 Jaime McLeod { 11.26.12 at 3:25 pm }

Susan,
What Linda said. Lye is essential to breaking down the fats in the oils into actual soap.

5 Jaime McLeod { 11.26.12 at 3:23 pm }

Linda – Yes, it can be pricey. The idea is that making your own saves money over buying premium handmade soaps from someone else, not over storebought soap.

6 Jaime McLeod { 11.26.12 at 3:18 pm }

Devlin, Yes. As long as the oil to lye to water ratio is the same, you can experiment with whatever kind of oil you want.

7 Devlin Selman { 11.24.12 at 2:39 pm }

Can Palm oil be substituted for another oil? Palm oil plantations are ruining the rain forests and displacing wildlife! Thanks.

8 Linda Owens { 11.22.12 at 12:06 am }

Susan, I’m curious about how your daughter is *making* soap with ingredients that are additives. Melt and Pour methods? M&P is just melting already made soap and adding ingredients to change the scent, and molds to change the shape. Using lye is indeed, “making soap” from natural raw ingredients.
What this article doesn’t say is how expensive those essential oils and other additives can be. Soap making, although rewarding, can be an expenisve hobby.

9 Susan Morrison { 11.21.12 at 10:09 am }

Jamie, I have a question. What is the purpose of using lye? My daughter has been making soap for months just using glycerin, oils, herbs, frangrances & other various additives depending on the customer’s wishes. I’m curious about the lye. Thank you!

10 Evelyn { 11.19.12 at 4:26 am }

Thanks Jamie. I am going to try my hand at making some. My grand mother made lye soap . She always won the Blue Ribbon in the Parish Fair each year for her entry. Lived to be 106 years old. Will update on completion.

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