A reader’s (simple) homemade soap recipe

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Tiny Squirrel
Kathy C. wrote to me recently telling me that the recipe I had posted for soap was too tricky for people starting out. She’s right. So I asked her to share her experience and recipes. Which she very kindly did. Give them a try and please, report back with photos and comments. And remember, homemade soap is a great hostess gift at this time of partying!

“Here are two recipes for soap. One is for a two pound batch and one for a one pound batch. The equipment and procedures are the same for both, except for the size of the mold. I have soap making equipment set aside in one place to make it easy to gather when I get ready to make a batch or two.”

Equipment needed:

Rubber gloves
Stainless steel or enamel pot
Wooden or stainless steel spoons (two will do and use large ones)
Plastic pitchers (two, in half gallon size) Get these at dollar store or yard sale
Cheap silicone or plastic spatulas (2)
Plastic containers for weighing oils, butters etc. I use old sour cream containers
Scale that weighs in ounces
stainless steel thermometers (2)
Stick blender (optional)
Photo: Pixabay, Silvertablet, CC0
Photo: Pixabay, Silvertablet, CC0

Molds
There are all sorts of things that can be used as soap molds. I have two kinds I prefer. I have a small, 10″ x 3″x 3″ for a one pound batch. It is a silicone mold and I bought it on Amazon. I also use a plastic container that had 5 oz of salad greens from the grocery store. It also works for a one pound batch. For a two pound batch I use an 8″x  8″ or an 8″ x 10″ Tupperware container I bought at a yard sale.

I like the flexible molds because it makes it easier to remove the soap.

To prepare the molds, I spray with cooking oil or grease with shortening.

Put on the gloves

Measure the lye in one plastic pitcher. All measurements are by weight. Be sure to calculate the weight of the container.
Measure the water in the other plastic pitcher.

This is the part where you have to be particularly careful. I always do this outside, as fumes from lye are dangerous.

Pour the water into the lye, stirring to dissolve. Stand back and don’t breath in the fumes. Once the lye is dissolved, set aside to cool. This mixture is HOT so it may take a few hours, or you may set the pitcher into cool water to hurry the process along. Put the lid on the pitcher to guard against an accidental spill.

You are going to cool the lye to around 95 degrees.

Melt the oils together in the pot and maintain at around 95 degrees.

When both oil and lye are at 95 degrees, slowly pour the lye into the oils and mix either with a stick blender or a spoon. The blender is much faster.

If you use the blender, you will fairly quickly see “trace” which is the mixture thickening. It is at this point you would add any colorings or ingredients such as oatmeal.

Next, add essential oils and blend. Some oils will cause the mixture to begin thickening rapidly. Pour your soap into the mold while it is still the consistency of pudding.

Set it aside in a warm place and leave for 24 to 48 hours. At this point you should be able to turn the soap out onto clean cardboard, butcher paper or something similar for cutting.

Cut into bars and set aside for a couple of weeks to cure. The longer they sit, the harder they will be. But go ahead and try one after a week or so.

So that is the procedure. Now for a couple of recipes. You may use additives or not as you please with both recipes. For the Bastile soap, I have not included any additives. But I will list options.

Bastile Soap – 2 lbs.

Castor oil -2oz
Coconut oil (76 degree) 8 oz.
Olive oil -22 oz.
Sodium Hydroxide (lye) 4.4 oz.
Water 10.5 oz

Follow above directions.

Options for additives, ground oatmeal, ground chamomile flowers about 2 tbs.
Essential oil 1 oz.

This next recipe is one I created.

Palm Kernel oil-.80 oz
Olive oil-4.8 oz
Shea Butter-5.6 oz
Coconut oil (76 degree) 4.8 oz
Water-6.08 oz
Lye-2.25 oz
Peppermint essential oil-.25 oz
Rosemary essential oil-.25 oz
Coloring if desired.

Follow above directions

You can find a variety of soap colorings from suppliers of soap making equipment. I use oxide colorings.

“These are two recipes I really like, but I make others and keep experimenting. In the future, I shall include very basic recipes for when we might not have the luxury of experimenting with other ingredients.”

  • Sheila

    First, lye should be mixed into the water. It helps to dilute the lye. Second, Misty Prepped on YouTube has an even easier way. By placing the oils into the hot lye water mix, it melts the oils and cools the lye water mix.

  • charkee

    My grandmother was still making lye soap into the 1960s. I just threw out the last of it 2 years ago because it all turned rancid. It smelled awful, but it still worked as soap.

    That’s 50 year old lye soap!

  • AdminandModerator

    Wow! That’s amazing. What did it look like?

  • AdminandModerator

    I’ll have to try that. It makes sense. Thanks for sharing.

  • charkee

    It had turned from white to a tan color and had softened into something like vegetable shortening. It was packed into a few cardboard boxes that were grease soaked through to the outside. I feared they’d fall apart, but they survived being carefully handled on the way to the trash can. It smelled rancid, but not like something dead and rotting.

  • JJM123

    Prompted me to search for ‘how to make lye’. If I am to make soap, want to know how to do so with items on the homestead, nothing purchased such as ‘coconut oil’.

  • kathycasey

    You caught an error I made. The lye is poured into the water. I did not even notice I wrote it the wrong way. I have never tried putting the oils into the hot lye. Every book or recipe I have read says the oil and lye are to be at the same temp when they are mixed.

  • kathycasey

    I have the instructions for making lye. It doesn’t sound particularly difficult to make, but it is just guessing the strength of it for soap making. I keep the instructions, but bought enough lye to make soap for many years. I thought it would be easier. Also, I have recipes for soap making that use lard and beef tallow. I know you can follow recipes like that and even use bacon grease. I try to get suet and pig fat for making lard from a butcher.

  • JJM123

    Still need to clean out the fireplace so will practice making some lye. The egg or potato float test sounds simple enough. Drying/evaporating to obtain crystals might be a long, potentially dangerous, step.

  • jecsl

    is the water supposed to be hot when you mix it with the lye? or does the lye heat the water?

  • Michelle Harrison

    You really should correct that error! Someone could have a lye volcano and have terrible injuries or even die by reading what you put…”water into the lye”. Please please correct that!!!

  • glynnis bugati

    No. Use cold water. The heat is released as the lye goes into solution. It can boil suddenly and violently if you are not careful.

    Always add the lye to the water. SLOWLY

  • glynnis bugati

    If you have to buy the ingredients, why not just buy the soap and avoid this messy process??

  • kathycasey

    For many reasons. It is fun. I make absolutely everything that I possible can myself rather than buy it. Most “soaps” you buy are actually detergents and contain stuff I don’t like. Most soaps have scents that I am allergic to and I can put any or no scent in my own. A very simple soap can be made without buying much of anything. If you buy everything you need from stores, you are dependent on them. I am dependent on me.

  • kathycasey

    Let me know how it goes with making lye. We heat with wood, so I always have plenty of wood ash.

  • meyati

    I make my own bread by hand, and I’ve been making candles since the 1940s, but I don’t have a safe place to make soap–interesting, but I won’t do it— Also, if I didn’t read the comments. I wouldn’t know these instructions are wrong for mixing the lye and water. Dangerous and should be pulled from this site.