Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop




Make Natural Soap At Home - Basic Recipe

Posted 4 May, 2008 at 8:35pm by Tina Jiang
(Filed under: Soap Making)

I started making bar soaps at home from scratch a few months ago and have become somewhat "obsessed" with soaps, so I finally decided to write about it. "What made you decide to make your own soap?" my friends and coworkers ask. It seems like a strange thing to do, especially in this day and age (and I live in Silicon Valley). Well at first I did it out of curiosity more than anything else. But after I started using my handmade soaps and read more about it, I discovered that they have more benefits than I realized. Until a few months ago, Softsoap or Dial liquid hand soaps and Dove or Olay body washes are what you would find in our home, and it has been that way for a long time. During this last winter season (and previous ones), my skin got really dry and itchy and none of the "intensive moisture" body washes I tried helped. Then I started using my handmade soaps, and the itching stopped and the dryness improved significantly. The soaps had nice lather even with our hard water, didn't sting Michael's eyes when he washed his face, and rinsed clean quickly unlike the body washes that left a film on the skin. I gave some to my parents, Michael's parents, coworkers, and friends, and everyone liked them.


The more I read about soap making, the more I realized that simple and natural soaps are much better than commercial soaps. Commercial soaps (liquid and bar) contain chemicals that may be harmful in the long run (some people are out right sensitive to them) and synthetic detergents (e.g. sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate or ammonium lauryl sulfate) that clean too well, leaving skin dry and itchy. Commercial soap manufacturing also takes out the glycerin (moisturizer) from the soap and sells it to cosmetics manufacturers for more profit. Natural soaps retain the glycerin and are generally milder (mine are pH 7), whereas commercial soaps are generally more alkaline (pH 10) with the exception of Dove (pH 7). I don't think I'll ever go back now that I've used handmade natural soaps. There are soaps on the market that are made with wholesome ingredients, e.g. look in the natural beauty section at Longs Drugs, or check out Whole Foods or local health food stores, or go online - there are many soap makers (individuals & families) selling handmade natural soaps.

I learned how to make soap with the "Everything Soapmaking Book" by Alicia Grosso. It's an excellent book for the beginner soap maker. I followed the basic recipe in this book which uses the following ingredients and yields ~2 lbs of soap:

Note: these are weight, not volume measurements
6 oz distilled water
2.25 oz lye (sodium hydroxide)
10 oz olive oil
6 oz coconut oil
1 tbl/0.45oz castor oil

If you are wondering "do i have to use lye," the answer is: No Lye = No Soap. Lye reacts with the oils to form soap and glycerin - there is no lye left in the soap if the recipe is formulated properly. In fact many soap recipes are "superfatted", i.e. include a bit more oil to a) ensure all the lye is neutralized, and b) increase the lathering, moisturizing, or other properties of the soap (depending on the oil added). The castor oil in the above recipe is for superfatting the soap and boosting lather. Lye is not only used in soap making but also in many bath and beauty products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, skin care products, etc. Go to Drugstore.com and do a search for sodium hydroxide, and you'll see a long list of common products that contain this ingredient.

Now that I've made a number of batches of soap, I can tell you that as long as appropriate precautions are taken (explained below), it is safe to work with lye. So where do you get lye? If you have a Lowe's near by, that would be the easiest - find "Roebic 2lb Heavy Duty Drain Opener". Before you freak out on the drain opener part, let me explain that this product is 100% sodium hydroxide and therefore is ok to use in soap making. It comes in tiny little beads of snowy white color. I've read from other soap making sites that Ace Hardware also carries a "Rooto" brand drain opener that is 100% lye as well. If you don't have either of these stores nearby, you can buy lye online - do a search for "buy sodium hydroxide". Please don't use crystal Drano or any other drain opener because they contain additional ingredients such as aluminum bits and/or other chemicals that definitely shouldn't be in your soap!

For olive oil you can use any kind but the color of the soap will vary. Extra virgin olive oil is usually greenish yellow, so the soap will take on that color as well. Extra light olive oil is usually lighter and your soap will be whiter as a result. Coconut oil is a staple ingredient in soap recipes - it contributes lather and hardness to the soap. It can be found in health food stores, Whole Foods, or Walmart (in the cooking oil section), and is usually in solid form below 76 degrees. Castor oil can be found in drug stores and Walmart. You can also use other plant-based oils in soap making, such as soy bean oil (common vegetable oil), canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, sweet almond oil, Crisco, or animal fats such as tallow (beef fat) and lard (pork fat), but the amount of lye required will change depending on the oil. There are lye calculators online so people can make their own recipes, but for first time soap makers it's better to follow the recipe exactly (make no substitutions). I will discuss lye calculation and soap recipe formulations at another time.

The tools you will need are:
- safety goggles to protect your eyes
- thick rubber gloves to protect your hands and arms from the lye (wear long sleeve shirt, long pants, and socks if possible so none of your skin is exposed in case there's a splash/spill)
- a good scale for weighing the water, lye, and oils. it should measure down to 0.25 oz, and preferrably have a "tare" function which allows you to reset the reading to 0 after putting a container on the scale, or after you add each ingredient so you have a clean reading of how much of the next ingredient you are adding
- a instant read digital food thermometer to measure the temperature of the lye water, oils, and the soap mixture
- two heat proof 4 cup/32 oz glass measuring cups (e.g. Pyrex or Anchor brands), one for the lye & water solution, the other for the oils
- plastic, ceramic, or glass bowl for measuring the lye
- plastic or silicone spoon for stirring (wood is not recommended because lye will "eat" it away over time)
- stick/hand blender or stainless steel whisk (if you use the whisk be ready for a good arm work out)
- small cardboard box or plastic container to pour the soap into
- plastic bag, plastic food wrap, or wax/freezer/parchment paper for lining the container so the soap is easy to remove
- knife for cutting the soap after it solidifies

Caution: do NOT use nonstick, aluminum, cast iron, or tin pots/pans, containers, or utensils because they will react badly with lye and ruin both the soap and the tool. Also wood is not recommended for repeated use because over time the wood will eventually break down from coming into prelonged contact with lye.

The instructions for this basic recipe is for cold process soap making, which doesn't require cooking the soap after mixing the oils and lye water together. This method takes less time while making the soap, but requires longer curing time (3-4 weeks minimum) before the soap becomes neutral and mild enough to use. In contrast, the hot process involves cooking the soap mixture in a stock pot or double boiler for a few hours which speeds up the neutralization process but also takes longer to make the batch. I've done both and each has it's pros and cons. I'll discuss hot process at another time.

At a high level, cold process soap making is pretty simple - mix lye with water, mix lye water with oils, pour mixture into container, cut solidified soap, and let cure for a few weeks. Below are the detailed steps:

1. line the container with plastic bag/wrap or wax/freezer/parchment paper
2. put on your protective gear - goggles and gloves
3. weigh the lye - pour 2.25 oz of lye into the bowl
4. weigh the water - pour 6 oz of distilled water into one of the glass measuring cups
5. pour the lye into the water slowly and stir to dissolve - this generates a lot of heat and will give off fumes (just stand back a bit or hold your breath while stirring). Never pour water into lye as this will cause a strong reaction and the splash/eruption can incur serious injuries. Set aside the lye water to cool. You can reduce the amount of cooling time by sitting the measuring cup in a cold water bath in the sink, or by freezing the distilled water into ice cubes beforehand, which also seems to reduce the fumes generated when lye is added.
6. weigh the oils - scoop out 6 oz of coconut oil into the other glass measuring cup, follow with 10 oz of olive oil, and 1 tbl/0.45 oz of castor oil. Melt the oils in the microwave - start with 1 min, then 30 second increments if needed. Avoid overheating the oils because it will take longer for the oil to cool than the lye water.
7. measure the temperature of the lye water and the oils - if they are within 20 degrees (usual range is 90-110 degrees), then it's ok to proceed. For small batches such as this recipe, it’s better to work at the higher end of the temperature range. If the oils have cooled down too much, you can warm it up a bit in the microwave - use 30 second increments and avoid overheating.

8. pour the lye water slowly and carefully into the oil while stirring. measure temperature of the mixture.
9. use the stick blender or the whisk to stir the soap mixture until it reaches a thin pudding or gravy like consistency - when you lift the stick blender/whisk out of the soap mixture, the drippings should leave patterns on the surface of the mixture instead of disappearing completely. Another way to confirm the soap mixture has "traced" is to check it's temperature - if it has risen a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, you are there (this is a great tip from the book "Smart Soapmaking" by Anne L. Watson). The stick blender will take a few minutes if not seconds (depending on the power of the blender), the whisk might take up to an hour if you have weak arms like mine.
10. pour the soap mixture into lined container, cover with plastic wrap. let it sit for 2 days.
11. 2 days later, check the soap with your goggle and gloves on (because the lye is not fully neutralized yet and may cause some skin irritation). if all went well, it should look solid and relatively smooth. take it out of the container and cut into bars with a stainless steel knife. if the lye water separated out of the soap mixture and is floating on top, or if the soap is crumbly or has shiny crusts - something went wrong and it's lye heavy - do not use. I've only read about these issues, since I haven't had a single batch of lye heavy soap having followed the recipe exactly.
12. cure - let dry for 3-4 weeks, turning daily to ensure even drying on all sides.

Store soaps in a ventilated container and use within a year or six months in hot areas. Because this recipe is all natural and doesn't have any preservatives, the soaps will go bad eventually. Hopefully they'll get used up so quickly or given away as gifts that you'll never find out what soap gone bad is like :)!

To clean up after making soap, with your goggles and gloves on (because the soap mixture is not yet neutral), wipe everything down with towel/paper towel then wash with dishwashing liquid and warm water.

There's a lot more I want to share about soap making, e.g. adding scents and color, recipe variations, trouble shooting, etc. But I think my first blog entry is long enough… Let me leave you with a humorous read about "the love of soap" from the Dilbert blog:


I wrote a second article on making soaps in the round with a marble pattern: http://www.orthogonalthought.com/blog/index.php/2008/06/handmade-soap-in-the-round/

and a third article on making soaps in a slow cooker (the soap is usable right away): http://www.orthogonalthought.com/blog/index.php/2008/06/handmade-soap-using-a-slow-cooker-hot-process/

and a FAQ article with the most commonly asked questions about soap making and my answers:

233 comments to Make Natural Soap At Home - Basic Recipe

Corinne, May 7th, 2008 at 7:07 am:

  • This is the coolest thing ever! Trying to become self-sufficient in a world where you can buy EVERYTHING is hard… learning to make things from scratch is awesome, especially when you learn how easy it is!

Maria, May 7th, 2008 at 4:58 pm:

  • My Mom experimented alot with soapmaking when we were younger. The bars really do last forever when you compare them to any other bar on the market, you just end up missing the convenience of liquid soap. My mom would get huge bags of beef tallow from a butcher for pennies a pound and would render it all down. Now THAT will make you a cheap bar of soap! We had so much fun picking different scents and fillers (baby oatmeal was popular)! I will definitely be looking for a follow up blog, you may have just inspired me to get into soapmaking again! I think I've read the book you mention, too. Very informative, if I remember. The most fun books are the ones full of pictures though, they can give you so many creative ideas!

Maria, May 7th, 2008 at 5:05 pm:

  • Oh, one thing I didn't see mentioned (perhaps I missed it) is once a tool is used for soapmaking, or more specifically if it comes into contact with the lye or young soap, it shouldn't be used for any other purpose. That goes for glass and metal as well. Lye is powerful stuff and you really don't want to risk accidentally ingesting traces of it. Thought I should throw that out there for anyone feeling 'soapy'!

Tina Jiang, May 7th, 2008 at 9:00 pm:

  • Corinne,
    It's a lot of fun making soap from scratch, and I get so much satisfaction from using what I made with my own hands and giving it to others to enjoy. I hope you give it a try ;-)!

    I do hope you pick up soapmaking again! Oatmeal soap was very popular with my testers also (I mean friends, family, and coworkers :). I love trying different scents (have a lot of fruity and floral ones waiting to be tested) and experimenting with colors… I'll be writing about that for sure. I haven't made soaps with tallow yet since it's harder for me to get than plant oils (and I'm too lazy to render the fat :-P), but I have promised a couple of friends who are bacon lovers that I'd make bacon soaps for them… LOL.

    I'm still a beginner soap maker, so as I continue to learn and experiment I'll definitely be sharing more info with everyone. I agree pictures are awesome - I can't seem to get tired of looking at beautiful soaps in books or on the internet… that's when I decided I must have developed an obsession :-D!

    Good point on using separate tools for soap making vs. cooking. Safety first always! Thanks for pointing that out!

Dr Bubbles, May 8th, 2008 at 2:49 am:

  • your a nut! spend 50cents on a bar of Ivory. save weeks of dangerous hassles…..ahduhhh!

Jen, May 8th, 2008 at 1:09 pm:

  • I think this will definitely be something to try this summer. I have an organic respirator, so I think I'll wear that instead of holding my breath during the fumes.

Elizabeth, May 10th, 2008 at 3:28 am:

  • I have been making soap for more than 11 years. I love it!!! There is nothing like kitchen chemistry to fill a day with fun and excitement.

    Dr. Bubbles, you have no idea what Ivory does to the skin. If you pay attention to your skin, you will find that ivory soap will leave a film of drying detergent. If you do any research you will find that sodium tallowate — the chemical salt that is created from combining lye with tallow — comes from the old oil that is picked up from places like McDonnald's and other fast food joints. Hmmmm… seems to me I don't want to wear my frechfries.

    Tina, you might want to look online for some lye calculators. They will make your life so much easier. Also, I would suggest branching out to other oils. I have found that a combination of coconut oil, cocoa butter and olive oil make an extremely hard bar of soap as well as fast tracing as well.

    If you are interested in learning to make goat milk soap, feel free to email me :)



raymund, May 10th, 2008 at 3:40 am:

  • wow, its very informative,. i like the way it was done but i need an easy and affordable materials yet it was educational. more power and GOD BLESS!

Joal Heagney, May 10th, 2008 at 4:10 am:

  • In response to Maria's comment about liquid soaps, the early soaps were liquid rather than solid. Instead of using soda lye, households would collect the ash from their cooking fires and soak them in water in order to collect the "pot-ash" lye. (KOH rather than NaOH)

    The soaps made using this alternative lye were often very soft or outright liquid, and were either used as-is, as a liquid cleaner, or were "hardened" by the addition of salt to the recipe, replacing the potassium ions with sodium ions.

    For a really strong (but extremely caustic) cleaner, the potash lye was also used straight onto surfaces. A more moderate modern cleaner is good old baking soda, which is a bicarbonate rather than a hydroxide. It'll still cut through fat though (Excellent on greasy fry pans). Not entirely certain if you could make soap with it however.

deez, May 10th, 2008 at 8:10 am:

  • Very interesting reading, but all this talk about wearing goggles and gloves and long sleeves in order to not get lye on you….and no mention of what to do/what happens if you DO?

    I only know what I recall from that movie "Fight Club" and I think he poured vinegar (an acid) on it to neutralize the strongly alkaline lye.

Michael Chu, May 10th, 2008 at 11:46 am:

  • Elizabeth,

    Although sodium tallowate can be made from waste oils, it's unlikely that a company the size of P&G would do so because of several factors - P&G can negotiate with cattlemen/slaughterhouses to either get raw beef fat or rendered tallow at low rates with reasonable expectations of quality without having to deal with the filtration of waste frying oil. Waste frying oil will also vary drastically in chemical composition depending on how long the oil was used before discarding, what was fried in it, and the original oil composition. When making a commercial product, most corporations aim for consistency and uniformity of product - you don't want to buy Ivory in January and another bar in August to find them of different colors, odor, or texture. It's off-putting to the customer, so companies who can afford to do so, generally use virgin oils and fats to manufacture goods. Quality levels are easier to maintain that way.

Adam Seale, May 10th, 2008 at 9:57 pm:

  • As if it needs repeating (and it does),
    don't mess around with the lye.

    In the event of a lye spill (or any other strong base), treat it as you would an acid spill in the lab.

Adam Seale, May 10th, 2008 at 10:04 pm:

  • That is to say, yes, vinegar (which contains dilute acetic acid) would be a good choice, immediately preceding a trip to a doctor.

    Anyway, I do like the idea of home soap making. Natural bars seem to be a good step above the average store-bought brands.

    Maybe someone should find a chemical that would have the same effect as raw sodium hydroxide (I'm not sure if it's the simple pOH increase or some reaction involving the NaOH itself that's at work here), but would bond it with some other chemical to make it inert until used.

Michael Chu, May 11th, 2008 at 12:19 am:

  • Adam's right, but anyone who is able to concentrate on a task and be careful shouldn't let the lye part dissuade them from attempting this. If you took high school chemistry, you've probably worked with sodium hydroxide before - just remember that you were careful then, so be careful now. I think a lot of accidents happen to people because they get distracted or aren't really present (mentally) when they're doing things. I see this in the kitchen all the time - people don't have their mis en place, are chopping up veggies while something is already burning on the stove, and changing a baby's diaper at the same time. If you know you're going to be attempting soapmaking in that state of mind, then I think it's not a good idea. Otherwise, understand that lye is a strong base and will produce chemical burns and pay attention when you're working with it. No problem, right?

Heather, May 11th, 2008 at 7:34 pm:

  • That is just awesome we have often talked about making our own soap cant wait for the different smellie ones lol thanks so much

mypraise, May 11th, 2008 at 11:50 pm:

  • It's an interesting article. I would like to try it at my free time.
    you have suggested " safety goggles to protect your eyes and thick rubber gloves to protect your hands and arms from the lye (wear long sleeve shirt, long pants, and socks if possible so none of your skin is exposed in case there’s a splash/spill)" you covered almost everything but you did mention something to cover the nose, mouse and cheecks, isn't it need a mask or something to protect them also?

Jen, May 12th, 2008 at 11:23 am:

  • I just found lye crystals at my local hardware store and the MSDS sheet states the concentration of NaOH is 95 to 100 %. I take this to mean that it's meant to be all sodium hydroxide lye, but there might sometimes be incomplete reactions in the production. Think I should be concerned about that up to 5%?

    For the Canadians, this is "Free Flowing Lye Crystals" sold at Home Hardware, and the MSDS sheet is available through their website, Home Hardware (HH) product # 3226-431. Thought I'd put it out there, since I don't think Roebic and Rooto are sold where I live.

Tina Jiang, May 12th, 2008 at 1:25 pm:

  • Dr Bubbles,
    My husband likes cooking from scratch, and I like making soap from scratch… see any similarities here :)? I'm not saying everyone should make soap, but personally for me it's a lot of fun, and there’s the added benefit of having an usable/practical end product :)!

    You may want to try freezing the distilled water into ice cubes then supplement with additional water to get the right amount of liquid. This is actually the method I prefer since it greatly reduces the amount of fume generated while mixing the lye as well as the time it takes the lye water to cool down. Just make sure to pour the lye into the ice cube/water mixture slowly and stir well, so you don't end up with a lump/crust of lye sitting at the bottom of the container (which takes more work to break up - speaking from experience :).

    With regards to the “Free Flowing Lye Crystals”, I think the safest thing to do is to call the manufacturer and ask them if there’s anything else in it other than lye. I wouldn’t take the chance of having the 5% of unknown ingredient(s) in the soap…

    Nice to meet a veteran soap maker :)! Yes I've been using lye calculators and tried recipes using different oils - in fact this is the topic of my next post (soon I hope:). I made cow milk soap once and people really liked it! I'd love to try making goal milk soap next and will be emailing you for tips and advice :).

    I plan to write about creating your own soap recipes using different oils and using online lye calculators in the next post - stay tuned! In the mean time, please check out this recipe using vegetable shortening which is more economical than olive and coconut oils: http://waltonfeed.com/old/soap/soapgwil.html. The Waltonfeed soap page is a good resource for beginner soapmakers: http://waltonfeed.com/old/soaphome.html. Another good resource is Kathy Miller’s site: http://millersoap.com. For online lye calculator try Majestic Mountain Sage: http://thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php

    I’m not a chemist, but from what I read - soap cannot be made with baking soda. However, for those who are interested :), baking soda does make an effective and very affordable "microdermabrasion" facial scrub. Just mix with a little bit of water and gently message onto skin in circular motions, then rinse off with water. Note: it might sting sensitive or inflamed skin, so use personal judgment and remember to be gentle.

    Deez and mypraise,
    I've seen different advices on what to do if you get lye on the skin - some say pour vinegar over it, while others say it's better to just rinse with cold water. I've made a number of batches of soaps and haven’t had this happen, so (fortunately) I don’t have any personal experiences to share. However I do think it's prudent to seek medical attention immediately if a burn occurs. I know lye seems very scary (if it wasn't for the fear of lye, I would've started soap making a long time ago), but given how many people have done this at home and from my personal experiences, I can tell you that it’s safe to make soap when you take proper precautions.

    Regarding protection of the rest of the face - it is a good idea, but in my opinion it’s not necessary. I wear goggles because I don't want to take chances with my eyes, even though I don’t like it since it fogs up often and is uncomfortable. But for me the inconvenience of wearing a face mask outweighs the benefit of protection in the unlikely event that I get splashed. Wearing gloves is a necessity however, because you definitely don't want your hands to come into contact with lye. Long sleeve shirts, pants, and socks don't add too much inconvenience so it makes sense to wear them as well. I’m not against more protection, just weighing in practicality. I want to also call out that folks should not be working with lye when you are tired, distracted, or in anyway unable to focus on the task at hand. I only make soap when I’m in a good state of mind to focus on what I’m doing, and that’s the only thing I do during that block of time. This is perhaps one of the best ways to protect yourself from accidents (in addition to wearing goggles and gloves, and following instructions :).

Jen, May 13th, 2008 at 7:46 am:

  • thought I'd follow up regarding the Home Hardware lye crystals, manufactured by CP Industries. Email response:

    Thank you for your interest in our product
    The 5% is natural impurities in the lye. This product is used regularly to manufacture soaps at home.
    Please read the msds carefully as it is material that should demand caution and safe handling.

    Thanks again,
    Keith Lucas

Tina Jiang, May 13th, 2008 at 9:20 am:

  • Oh that's great - thanks for sharing this information!

Brandon, May 14th, 2008 at 2:18 pm:

  • OWWWWWW!!!!!!!!! Don't replace sodium hydroxide with hydrochloric acid.

Andrea, May 15th, 2008 at 12:37 am:

  • I've always wanted to try this. It's looks like quite a bit of work but I'm going to give it a go.

michelle, May 16th, 2008 at 1:07 pm:

  • Hello everyone My husband found this page and is wanting to try it out Ive got so experience I'm not sure if you can call it that though the little hobby kits they sell at wal~mart and Michaels. but getting to my quests and remarks I would love to see how to add scents and colors to to the homemade soaps as well as other versions of the recipes(ex cows milk soap). My husband would also like to try this recipe with palm instead of the coconut oil is there any difference in measurements or any different ingredients that should be used? other than that thank you for putting this up finally something me and hubby can do together

Rob, May 19th, 2008 at 4:21 am:

  • Tina my spouse wrote the post right above mine. We tried the recipe yesterday, and boy oh boy…

    First came the running around for the components we did not already have. Walgreens does not carry coconut oil, nor do 3 other shops in my town, but I did find it at GNC, a vitamin and supplement store. Then to Ace hardware for the potentially face melting chemicals. They no longer carry Rooto, but they do carry a product called insta-flow, which is 99% lye with no other active ingredients according to the MDS sheet.

    So to the actual making…
    The lye turned the water black. Not grey, but midnight in a mineshaft black. Coooool.
    I used standard ounces for the coconut oil, and fluid ounces for the olive oil, not that it made much of a difference, as the scale we have appears to have a case of the gremlins, and I ended up kinda eyeballing everything after the lye.

    All in all, I think we may have used too much oil, but the mix did trace and achieve the consistency you mentioned. I currently have it in the mold, where it kinda looks like soap. By Wednesday I should know how it turned out, as that is when I will take it out of the mold. Thank you for the recipe, and if you have any further advice, or suggestions, please let me know.

Jen, May 19th, 2008 at 10:21 am:

  • hey Tina, I was checking my unit conversions and put the recipe as you posted it into the Misty Mountain Sage Lye calculator and it comes out as much more than 4% superfatted… is there some big round off error at some point?

Tina Jiang, May 19th, 2008 at 9:43 pm:

  • Jen,
    I'm glad that you are using the lye calculator to check the recipe. Yes this recipe is ~10% superfatted per the Majestic Mountain Sage lye calculator. Different soapmaking books/sites recommend various superfat (or lye discount, same thing) percentages ranging from 0% to 10%. My guess on why this particular recipe has a higher % of superfat is that the author probably wanted to build in extra buffer since many readers who try this recipe are probably making soap for the firs time, so it's better to error on the side of having excess oil rather than excess lye. You’ll get an extra mild and moisturizing soap, although the higher amount of excess oil will probably cause rancidity to occur faster. The batch I made turned out very nicely and was used up quickly before it even had a chance to go bad :)! I normally go with 5% superfat and have been pretty happy with the results. I do recommend using the lye calculator to check recipes in books and on web sites before you try them, just to make sure they are not lye heavy (due to typos, etc.) and that the amount of superfat is what you want. Happy soaping!

Tina Jiang, May 19th, 2008 at 11:01 pm:

  • Michelle and Rob,
    I’m glad you are trying soapmaking together :)! To answer your questions:

    Scents are usually added at trace before you pour the soap mixture into the mold. Amount of scent needed varies depending on the strength of the scent as well as personal preference. I don’t like very strong fragrances so I usually use 1-2 teaspoons of fragrance oil for a batch of this size or 1 tablespoon for a batch twice this size. Start with less and you can always add more. Make sure to mix the scent well into the soap mixture before pouring into the mold, otherwise you may get pockets of fragrance oil in the finished soap.

    Colors can be added at various times, depending on the type of colorant used. Some can be mixed into the lye water (e.g. titanium dioxide which makes the soap white), melted into the oil at the beginning (e.g. crayons), or added at trace to create a marble/swirl pattern (e.g. pigments mixed with glycerin then added to a portion of the soap). For the first time, the easiest and most affordable option to try may be crayons, however not all colors will come out true so you’ll have to experiment. I made a batch (twice the size of this recipe) with 1 tablespoon of mandarin orange fragrance oil and a piece of orange crayon (Crayola brand) and it turned out beautifully. Just melt the crayon with a little bit of oil first before you add the other oils.

    Substituting oils – you can use palm oil and not coconut oil, but it makes a different soap due to the different properties of the oils. Palm oil makes a hard bar and so does coconut oil, but in addition coconut oil provides fluffy lather that few other oils do, except palm kernel oil which can be used in place of coconut oil. Coconut oil is obtained from the meat of the coconut from the coconut palm tree, while palm oil and palm kernel oil are obtained from the pulp and kernels of the fruit of the oil palm tree. To make a recipe with palm oil and olive oil, use one of the online lye calculators below to figure out how much lye is needed. I usually go with 5% superfat/lye discount.

    Lye water – something is not right here… the lye water should not be black. My guesses are: 1) the other 1% of inactive ingredients in the insta-flow is causing this. I strongly recommend that you contact the manufacturer to find out what’s in the 1% - you don’t want metals or anything toxic to be in your soap (in fact, I don’t think you should use this batch of soap) and 2) the container used to mix lye water reacted with the lye – what kind of container was it? Glass and stainless steel are ok; nonstick, aluminum, cast iron, or tin are not. If this is the case, please don’t use the soap since it would be toxic due to the reaction between the lye and the metal.

    Weighing the oils – if possible please invest in a new scale. It’s hard to get the right proportions of oils and lye without a good weigh, and you risk using lye heavy soap on the skin or having excess oil oozing out of the soap or fast rancidity.

    Here are some additional online resources for soapmaking:
    - Majestic Mountain Sage lye calculator: http://thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php
    - Soapcalc lye calculator: http://www.soapcalc.com
    - Kathy Miller’s soap site: http://millersoap.com
    - Waltonfeed soap page: http://waltonfeed.com/old/soaphome.html
    - Teach soap site: http://teachsoap.com/
    - About.com Soap Making Central: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/soapmakingbasics/Soap_Making.htm

    Happy soaping together :)!

Jen, May 20th, 2008 at 8:34 am:

  • Hi Tina,

    I ended up making it yesterday, adjusting the lye to about 6% super fatted. Although it's looking okay to me right now, I gave up whisking before trace I think (it had been about 2 hours and I was hungry.) Any idea what that'll mean for my soap? Guess who's got weak arms? too bad I can't harness my bicycle legs to do the work.

Tina Jiang, May 20th, 2008 at 10:18 am:

  • Hi Jen,
    When you were mixing did the soap mixture get thicker and more opaque? How does the soap look in the mold right now? Does it look solid or has it separated into layers of oil and lye water? If it's solid it's probably ok… next time try using a stick blender (I never hand whisked again after the first batch :-P).

Jen, May 20th, 2008 at 1:27 pm:

  • yes, it thickened and went opaque, just not as thick as I thought it needed to get. it's looking solid now with no separation, so I guess it's fine.

    considering I have enough lye for some 40 batches, I think I'll get the stick blender :P

Michael Chu, May 20th, 2008 at 2:01 pm:

Tina Jiang, May 20th, 2008 at 4:24 pm:

  • Jen - it does sound like your soap is ok :). My first (and only) hand mixed batch didn't get too thick neither, but turned out nicely. I've been using the Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender which has worked well so far. You can find it online or at Bed Bath and Beyond if there's one near where you live: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=14915265

Betty's Only, May 21st, 2008 at 6:08 pm:

  • I think that your site is very interesting. This will help me to get on the ball for my candle making. I have never made soap, but to my understanding it is very similiar to candle making. I like your pictures and it is hands on. Keep up the good work.

Karrie, May 22nd, 2008 at 8:31 am:

  • Tina~~I've been making soap for a few months also–it's very addicting! The sites and books you've mentioned are great, and are ones that I've also read/researched. A couple more books that are really good, are Soap Naturally, and the Susan Miller Cavitch books. It's interesting to research from several sources because although the basics are the same, each person has their own individual way of making soap, and in turn, you develop your own.
    Great blog~~and I wish you Happy Soaping!

michelle, May 23rd, 2008 at 8:17 am:

  • Tina
    My husbands soap thickened up and changed colors there was no separation of the lye nor the oils its the same color as yours is above the only problem we had was getting it out of the mold my husband used. He decided that pvc was the best mold. Needless to say its not and please anyone that is reading this don't use pvc. I made a batch as well but mine reacted differently then my husbands even though I followed the same steps to a T My batch seemed to set up a lot faster than his it also seemed like my batch produced more heat but I used a microwaveable Tupperware dish for mine instead of the pvc in which he used

michelle, May 23rd, 2008 at 8:23 am:

  • ps Tina the container was a glass measuring cup and a stainless steel whisk to mix. As to the other 1% I'm unsure I know that mine did not turn to black it was like a dark Grey.

Michael Chu, May 23rd, 2008 at 3:57 pm:

  • Every time I've seen Tina make soap, the lye water has been clear… I'm a little concerned about all the grey/dark grey/black comments. The lye crystals themselves are white, but after it's been dissolved into the water it's clear.

Tina Jiang, May 23rd, 2008 at 8:48 pm:

  • Michelle, try putting the pvc pipe in the freezer for an hour then dip it in very warm water for 30 seconds or longer (with the end covered with plastic wrap and rubber band). I've never tried this but some of the soap books I read suggest this method for easier releasing of the soap. I have made soaps in pvc pipes, which were lined with parchment paper I got from Walmart. The paper is longer than the pvc pipe, so after the soap solidified I just grabbed the end of the paper that's sticking out of the pipe and pulled the whole thing out. This seems to work well every time. Some people coat the inside of the pvc pipes with oil first, which also makes it easier to push the soap out later.

    Also even with the same recipe and steps, every batch is a little different in terms of time to trace, amount of heat generated, etc. I guess the important part is that the soap comes out ok in the end.

    I am concerned about the other 1% ingredient in your lye. I still think you should contact the manufacturer and find out what it is. You don't want to risk using toxic soap on your skin…

michelle, May 24th, 2008 at 5:55 am:

  • Tina

    Robert is going to contact the company about the lye today or tuesday since hes on vacation to see what they say ill let you know what out come is

Rob, May 28th, 2008 at 5:44 am:

  • I just got the word from the folks who make insta-flo. They confirm that there are no metals in the lye, and what caused the water to turn black was just plain old carbon. Funny thing about that is that my batch cured white.

    Keep in mind with MSD sheets they have to list things like metallic powders. I'm no chemist, but I worked with the sheets when I worked in land surveying and also rock crushing facilities. The idea behind those sheets is to save lives, so while product labels may be a bit confusing, the msd sheets pretty much have to tell the truth.

Claire, May 28th, 2008 at 6:09 am:

  • I made a batch and it hasn't gotten completely hard after 2 days. Doe's anyone know anything about rebatching.

Claire, May 28th, 2008 at 6:10 am:

  • I need to know about rebatching. My soap has not hardened after 2 days.

Tina Jiang, May 28th, 2008 at 10:35 am:

  • Rob, I'm glad the lye is ok. It's good to know about the MSD sheets (I've not looked at one before). Enjoy your first batch of soap :)!

    Claire, what consistency is your soap? Is it just soft, or have the oil and lye water separated? If the latter, the soap should not be rebatched and needs to be disposed of. It would be good to know why the soap is not hardening, e.g. excess water/oil, not enough lye, etc..

    Here are some links on rebatching information:

Tina Jiang, May 28th, 2008 at 10:42 am:

Carolyn, May 29th, 2008 at 10:38 pm:

  • I have a three year old and "traced" my way to your site after reading about lye, wondering why on earth would we ever use it in soap products. Anyway, this blog is FANTASTIC, I guess I'll be buying lye after all :) Many thanks to all participants, I hope to share my experiences too soon.

Neerja Singh, June 2nd, 2008 at 1:22 am:

  • Dear Tina,

    Yours is the best, most informative blog I've seen on soap-making, thanks a lot.

    I'll look forward to your future posts because I would love to know how to add exfoliating agents, flowers or ingredients like activated charcoal to make them more interesting and valued as gifts.

sir jorge, June 2nd, 2008 at 3:43 pm:

  • this is nothing like fight club! I've missed out for so long.

Loren, June 4th, 2008 at 7:52 am:

  • Excellent article. I've often toyed with the idea of making my own soap. This post will be a great reference. Thank you!

Six Neat Things » Blog Archive » Hey!, June 8th, 2008 at 5:21 pm:

  • […] how to make hand made soap. Like from scratch, not melt and […]

linda, June 10th, 2008 at 11:29 am:

  • Tina, what can you tell me about making goat milk soap. Would you have a good beginner recipe? I have goats and lots of milk.

Tina Jiang, June 10th, 2008 at 11:46 am:

Jen, June 12th, 2008 at 11:04 am:

  • I came home from vacation Tuesday and used my freshly cured soap for the first time :D

    I also got a cheap (under $9) stick blender. it's not very high powered at 150 Watts, but I figure in soap making, it doesn't have to break up any solids so it ought to do.

Tina Jiang, June 12th, 2008 at 5:12 pm:

  • Awesome! How did you like the soap :)?

Kerri, June 18th, 2008 at 11:08 am:

  • I've made soap for years. I don't and won't use lye. I use the huge slabs of glycerin, add in oatmeal, olive oil, lavendar, etc. I have done a lot of different add-ins, but really love the oatmeal because I really sensitive skin. Thanks for the article. I really love reading about others that go the distance to create a product at home.

Glenn, July 2nd, 2008 at 6:14 pm:

  • Fantastic ! I followed your directions and whamo, have my first batch drying now :) The only problem I have is waiting, do I HAVE to wait 4 whole weeks ? What could happen if I try a stick in 2 weeks ?

Tina Jiang, July 2nd, 2008 at 9:50 pm:

  • Glenn, you can try it after 2 weeks :). It's better if you wait 3-4 weeks, i.e. the soap will become milder and longer lasting, but it is usable after 2 weeks. I've tried various batches after 2 weeks and they worked fine :).

Glenn, July 17th, 2008 at 5:28 pm:

  • Tina, thanks for the info. turns out the soap is great !!
    Well, one thing. Its a little soft. Im almost done with the batch!
    Between my wife and I we go through 2 bars a week :(
    Is there anything to do on the next batch that will firm the soap up ?

Tina Jiang, July 21st, 2008 at 7:25 pm:

  • Glenn, I'm glad to hear that the soap is great :D! To make a harder bar you can substitute a portion (try 4 oz) of the olive oil with another oil that’s solid at room temperature, e.g. palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, lard, or tallow (beef fat), depending on what you can get easily. I don’t recommend increasing the amount of coconut oil since it’s already 38% of the original recipe and too much of it can be drying to the skin. Please use the Majestic Mountain Sage online lye calculator (http://thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php) to get the exact amount of lye needed for each recipe you make. Hope this helps!

Virginia, July 23rd, 2008 at 11:23 am:

  • I didn't notice that this was mentioned but, you can use Rice Bran Oil in place of Olive Oil and also Canola Oil can be used in place of Olive Oil. I have been making soap for about 8 years and have used both oils as they are more inexpensive than Olive Oil. Do any of you make shampoo bars? I have had dry scalp all my life until I made and tried shampoo bars. They are great.

Rev. Kathryn, July 27th, 2008 at 9:18 pm:

  • This was the most interesting read I've had in a long time. I usually get frustrated reading stuff on line and click out of whatever it is I'm reading. For some reason I found your explanations along with the pictures just perfect for keeping my interest. Now I'm sure I can make the kind of soaps I would like to use. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the smell of rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, and sage and would love to make soaps with those herbs in it. I do yearly projects…last year was picking 20 lbs. of blackberries and making freezer jam which I sold. The year before I made natural christmas wreaths, which was fairly lucrative.

    My friend just sent me a juicer…I wonder if I can use it to press oils from my herbs or do I have to get some other contraption that presses oils? Any ideas?

    Why are the last 6 photos missing from your soap making?

    Thanks and many blessings,
    Rev. Kathryn
    Featherstone FMCC

Tina Jiang, July 29th, 2008 at 8:28 pm:

  • Virginia, I recently tried using canola oil in place of olive oil and it worked out well :). In my next blog article I plan to write about making your own recipes using different oils and liquids, using lye calculator, adding colorant and scent, etc.. I've made a batch of shampoo bars using olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, and castor oil - I was surprised by how much lather it had and really liked the solid form. The only problem for me is hard water, so I need to do a lemon or vinegar rinse after shampooing. Overall I like the idea of a natural shampoo bar vs. conventional shampoos that's mostly water and sodium laureth sulfate.

    Rev. Kathryn, thank you for the positive feedback. I think the best way to get oils of herbs is to purchase the essential oils from an online supplier (e.g. http://snowdriftfarm.com/essentialoils.html or http://www.thesage.com/catalog/EssentialOils.html), which is cheaper than buying them from health food stores. I'm not an expert in the process of extracting essential oils, but I don't think it can be done with a juicer. You can use herb tea in place of water in soap making, or add powdered herbs to the soap mixture at trace, but the scent of the herb is unlikely to survive the chemical reaction with lye. Essential or fragrance oils are usually the way to scent soaps. The online suppliers I mentioned earlier have both available for sale.

toodles, September 18th, 2008 at 11:58 am:

  • I have been making soap for 15 or more years and have never had a lye burn. I am careful and do all my work outdoors so that the fumes are not a problem.
    Use a deep container, pour slowly and stir gently and there is no problem.
    I have probably made 200 bars of soap. I use lard and tallow (if I can get it)and lately I have made absolutely wonderful goat milk and oatmeal soap.
    I started making soap because my granddaughter was allergic to commercial soaps and also I had dry skin before I changed to my own handmade soap.
    Follow the recipe, use common caution and enjoy the thrill of creation. Happy soap making to all.
    To Dr. Bubbles..Ivory soap is the worst thing that I can use. It gives me "alligator skin' that itches intensely.

fenay, September 27th, 2008 at 6:31 pm:

  • TINA.

    we're making soap bars for our investigatory project, and my chem teacher refuses to help us unless we know the concentration of lye we need to use. and he likes things in grams, not in ounces.

    can you help me?

Michael Chu, September 27th, 2008 at 11:18 pm:

  • Fenay,

    The lye is in ounces (weight) which you can convert to grams using a calculator (or typing "x ounces in grams" into google). The volume of water you used can also be converted into milliliters/grams in the same way.

Karen, September 30th, 2008 at 8:24 am:

  • I started soap making in Oct 07. It is the only soap we use in my
    house. Huge difference between store and real soap!
    Love it!

Stephanie, October 11th, 2008 at 9:00 pm:

  • I really want to try soap making, just one question, can you still use the bowls for food afterwards, or only a couple of them, or none at all?

Tina Jiang, October 13th, 2008 at 6:45 pm:

  • Stephanie, if you are using stainless steel, glass, or ceramic bowls and wash them well afterwards, you can use them for food again. If you are going to make soap often, I definitely recommend having a separate set of bowls and utensils just for soap making. Not sure if plastic is affected by lye (I don't use it much)… probably depends on the type and quality of the plastic. I don't think wooden utensils should be reused for food after soap making since wood is porous and can be damaged by lye over time. Good luck!

tiff, October 24th, 2008 at 9:53 am:

  • Tina Jiang.
    I've just began to research a more natural website. I didn't have the slightest clue about soap making until your website. I went looking for natural soap- which led me to soap making at home- which led me to this site. I plan to purchase the necessities within the next two weeks and by December I should be able to rid the home of the store boughten soaps. My entire fam (spouse, children and self) have extremely dry skin, see a dermatologist and are constantly scratching. I am really looking forward to the benefits (and fun) of home made soap. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world. You are a great blessing to us all.

Tina Jiang, October 25th, 2008 at 4:05 pm:

  • Tiff, thank you for the kind words :). Since you and your family have very dry skin, you may want to include some shea butter in the recipe for additional moisturization (try the recipe in my hot process soap article). Also you can use plant oils (e.g. olive oil, sweet almond oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, etc.) in place of lotion and apply it directly to the skin after a bath/shower which will help with the dry skin as well. Good luck with soapmaking and let me know if you have any questions!

Erik, November 9th, 2008 at 11:35 pm:

  • Hi Everyone
    I came here by way of google for some info on Insta-Flo. I read thru all the comments and the superb soap "walk-thru". You all seem like such great people, i can't believe it. Never seen such civility and genuiness in a group of posts before. I ' M INSPIRED TO MAKE A BATCH OF SOAP MYSELF. It sounds like so much fun and I'm a natural tinkerer. The idea of producing our own goods really appeals to me. In the pioneer days folks made everything them selves. There was no Walgreen's on the corner.

    We need to start living in A SELF SUSTAINING WAY!!!!!! OIL is not a re-newable resource as we're starting to realize in a big and quick way.
    well, all for now God Bless all a ya.


Erik, November 9th, 2008 at 11:39 pm:

  • PS
    define orthogonal.
    sounds like something i'd like to be into. :)

Michael Chu, November 10th, 2008 at 9:52 pm:

  • Orthogonal means to be at right angles (90°) from in all dimensions.

Crafts I plan on doing « Pagan Homemaking, November 14th, 2008 at 11:10 am:

  • […] Soap. […]

Soda Chanda Suon, November 19th, 2008 at 2:17 am:

  • Your HP is very educational for me because I am interesting in making a transparent soap. I have a question. May be you can help me out since making soap is your specialty. How do you calculate the percentage of Lye (NaOH or KOH) regarding to 100g of oil (Olive oil or tsubaki oil) ? Thank you for your time!!

    Best regards,
    Soda chanda suon

Tina Jiang, November 25th, 2008 at 6:06 pm:

  • Soda chanda suon, you can use an online lye calculator such as the one on the Majestic Mountain sage website: http://www.thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php It's fairly simple to use and you should be able to figure out how much lye is needed for the type and amount of oil you are using. Good luck!

Sara, December 9th, 2008 at 8:07 am:

  • Thank you so much for your detailed instructions! I have a silly question: By lining the box/mold with overlapping wax paper have you ever had a problem with soap leaking through the corners where the edges meet? I was going to make soap for gifts but I'm concerned that it'll leak through & become a mess? Thanks for any advise.

Tina Jiang, December 9th, 2008 at 9:36 am:

  • Sara, it's not a silly question :). You can double line the cardboard box with plastic wrap or a plastic bag first then wax or parchment paper. The plastic wrap/bag protects the seams and you can leave it on the box and just put in new wax/parchment paper every time. Or you can use a plastic storage container or glass baking pan and line it with wax or parchment paper. Good luck!

juan, December 10th, 2008 at 7:38 pm:

  • Hi I was making my second batch of soap making some changes, basically inserting herbal tea addivites that smell really good when I make tea with them. However when I mixed them with with the soap pudding mixture it starts smelling awfull … do you have any idea why this happens?

cristina, December 12th, 2008 at 2:05 am:


Sara, December 24th, 2008 at 10:45 am:

  • Hello. I've been trying to calculate how much soap your recipe shown makes? Thank you :)

Doug, January 8th, 2009 at 9:20 am:

  • Hi Could you tell me when I should add my scent to the soap?I have heard that the lye eats up alot of the scent and should just make a simple plain soap and mill it down then add my scent then remold.

    Thanks Doug

Tina Jiang, January 8th, 2009 at 8:16 pm:

  • Juan, unfortunately herbal tea, flowers, juice, etc. don’t survive the reaction with lye and will smell bad during soapmaking and will not retain their fragrance after the soap is dried. The best way to scent soaps is through fragrance or essential oils. You can purchase these online or in local drug stores or health food stores.

Tina Jiang, January 8th, 2009 at 8:19 pm:

  • Cristina, you can make soap using only coconut oil, lye, and water. To calculate the amount of lye you need, use this online lye calculator by Majestic Mountain Sage: http://thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php. Just enter the amount of coconut oil you are using and it will tell you how much lye and water to use.

Tina Jiang, January 8th, 2009 at 8:24 pm:

  • Sara, this recipe makes about two pounds of soap. I cut it into seven pieces as shown in the picture. As the soap dries and water evaporates, it'll shrink and weigh a bit less over time.

Tina Jiang, January 8th, 2009 at 8:30 pm:

  • Doug, I've tried milling plain soap, add scent, then remold. I personally think it's a lot of work and not worth the effort. You may want to try hot process soapmaking (see my other article about making soap using a slow cooker), which requires less fragrance or essential oil since the soap mixture has been cooked and the lye has been neutralized by the time you add scent. The other benefit of hot process soap is that the soap is usable right after it has cooled down.

Cathy Winsby, January 16th, 2009 at 10:42 am:

Cosmina, January 28th, 2009 at 10:09 am:

  • Can anybody tell me how I can use ashes and water instead of sodium hydroxide? Thanks a bunch!

Cathy Winsby, January 28th, 2009 at 10:54 am:

  • Cosmina,

    Ashes and water are what is used to make potassium hydroxide. Way back when you couldn't just go and get sodium hydroxide, homesteaders would pour water over ashes that sat in a hopper filled with straw. This would leach the lye out with the water and that was used to make a soft soap.

    I honestly wouldn't recommend this method for making soap as it is highly inaccurate and only makes soft soap…unless you add lots of salt to the recipe. I don't know the exact process for this method of soap making and I think that homesteaders didn't actually rely on measurements much either. That is why many people associate 'Grandma's soap' with being an incredibly harsh product for the skin.

    Sorry but I would recommend getting some Sodium Hyrdoxide from a supplier.

    Try this link for a few locations to purchase sodium hydroxide.

Cosmina, January 29th, 2009 at 3:25 am:

  • Cathy,

    Thank you so much for your quick answer. What I want to do is to create my own dish detergent (I am tired of "toxic" store bought ones)- before I make my soap. I tried baking soda and vinegar and essential oils but… (contrary to what I read) this does not cut the grease. I need to add some soap to do this. The potassium hydroxide soap (shreaded in my solution) would add the "soaping" effect. I am very new to this whole -make yourself process- but it is my New Year resolution to become more self sufficient (for price, eco and fun reasons!).
    Potassium hydroxide sounds appealing to me because is also very "natural" comes from ashes. Any ideas on how to use potassium hydroxide - for any cleaning purposes is very much appreciated.
    Also thank you Tina for your great Web site.


Cathy Winsby, January 29th, 2009 at 7:53 am:

  • Cosmina,

    You'll first need to learn how to make handmade soaps since neither potassium or sodium hydroxide can be used as is. They are both extremely caustic chemicals and will dissolve the flesh from your hands if used that way.

    I suggest at least reading the link I provided in the last post about sodium hydroxide since they are used and handled in the same way.

    You wouldn't be able to shred a soap made from potassium hydroxide either since it would be a softer substance.

    You mentioned using a baking soda, vinegar and essential oil mix for cleaning and that it didn't cut the grease. Have you tried using sweet orange oil? It cuts grease like nothing I've ever seen before.

    Learning how to make Potassium hydroxide isn't something the home crafter does these days so you will have to really do your homework to find out how the process is done. Trying doing a search on colonial soap making.

    What about purchasing a bar of handmade soap at your local craft market and seeing if your idea for the dish detergent will work first as well?

    As for making soap for reducing costs of expenses….in my experience soap making is not cheaper than buying store bought commercial soaps but it does produce a much friendlier product both for the environment and for your body.

    Good luck. If you do get into soap making you'll enjoy it….we all seem to become addicted to making it. :)

Cosmina, January 29th, 2009 at 9:09 am:

  • Thanks again Cathy. Your help is very much appreciated. I know that neither sodium hydroxid nor potassium hydroxid can be used as is. They are highly corrosive. I just thought that potassium hydroxid is easy to make (and as I said friendlier - ashes with water).
    I will try sweet orange essential oil.
    One more concern - really paranoid one :-) - do I need to weight the lye to mg so to make sure it is completely neuralized?
    Also Cathy do you have a good recipe for - baking soda, vinegar and essential oils - dish detergent (I mean proportion of the ingredients)?

    Thanks so much,


Cathy Winsby, January 29th, 2009 at 10:44 am:

  • My concern with using homemade potassium hydroxide is, how can you tell the strength of the lye you have made?

    When you make soap with sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide beads/flakes, you must use a specific amount of lye to the amount of oils you are using to make the soap. This is very important since you could easily end up with a soap that was either caustic or greasy. Accurate measurements is a number one priority when making handmade soaps.

    I honestly don't think making potassium hydroxide is easy for the home crafter….it just uses some simple ingredients.

    As for the dish detergent…no sorry….I do have some other cleaning recipes however.


Cosmina, January 30th, 2009 at 3:42 am:

  • Thank you. Well, one last question. The last couple of days I did more reading on making soap. I came across some recipes that use sodium carbonate (Na2CaO3) aka washing soda (used instead sodium hydroxide NaOH) as lye. Did anybody use this recipe?

christie, February 8th, 2009 at 6:36 pm:

  • hello
    I really want to make soap but really dont want to use lye.
    is there anything else out there?
    an organic alternative?
    is the lye for making the soap hard?
    what's it's purpose?
    I'am very new at this, and hope that this is not a dumb question?
    thank you for your help..

Michael Chu, February 9th, 2009 at 1:04 am:

  • Cosimina, As far as I know, washing soda (sodium carbonate) does a good job breaking down fats (oils, grease stains, etc), but is fairly caustic. I believe it should only be used for washing laundry.

    Christie, Lye is used to break down the oils from triglycerides (a glycerin with three fatty acid chains) into glycerine and free fatty acids that combine with the dissolved Na+ and OH- ions in the lye water. This compound that is formed is soap - so what you end up with (if nothing else is added) is glycerine and soap all suspended in water to form a thick gel. When the water evaporates, you get a cake of soap uniformly mixed with glycerin (with some residual water). We call this entire thing soap (or a bar of soap or hard soap). This is pretty much the only way in the universe to make a hard soap.

    You can make a liquid soap using potash lye (potassium hydroxide), but since you get K+ ions (potassium) binding with the fatty acids, the resulting soap is liquid (like the kind you pump from a bottle).

    There's really no way around it - you need lye or potash lye to make soap. Like Tina said in the article - No lye, no soap.

christie, February 9th, 2009 at 8:08 am:

  • hi
    thank you, michael
    i was just hoping that there was something out there other then lye.
    thank you for your info it really was a great explanation.
    even for me.
    thanks, christie

Cathy Winsby, February 9th, 2009 at 8:18 am:

  • Christie,

    If you still want to make soap, you could always try melt and pour soap making or rebatching. This way you avoid the stage of using the lye (since it has already been done for you) and still get to have the fun of making your own soaps.

    There are many great melt and pour products now that don't contain the dreaded Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) and that are quite affordable.

    Good luck!

Cosmina, February 9th, 2009 at 9:30 am:

  • I feel like a pest myself but I am kind of in the same line as Christie. I do understand No lye= No soap. I went today to a hardware store and bought a bottle of NaOH. The clerk really insisted that I buy protection glasses and a mask for the fumes that I will be exposed to. The mask was very expensive and I did not buy it. This put me off again. My question to the seasoned soap makers is: will I be exposed to a lot of fumes? Is it soooo really dangerous you need a mask? Is it feasible in a small appartment?



Cathy Winsby, February 9th, 2009 at 9:43 am:

  • It's definitely feasible in an apartment. When you mix the lye into the water it creates quite a bit of heat. This heat results in a vapor that will rise from the solution for a few minutes. You don't want to breathe the vapor since it is a lye solution as well.

    If you won't be wearing a mask, at least do it near an open window and hold your breath while you quickly stir. Then walk away for about 5 minutes.

    In all honesty a mask is better. Even a particle mask (the little cheap white ones) is better than nothing at all. Long term repeated exposure to fumes can be damaging to your lungs.

    I confess to being lazy and don't wear one….very bad indeed!


Michael Chu, February 9th, 2009 at 10:32 am:

  • Don't forget to wear rubber gloves and clothing that will cover exposed skin.

GlennH, February 9th, 2009 at 11:47 am:

  • Im not telling anyone not to wear protective equipment, but I have found that if you add the lye very slowly, to very cold water, in a glass that it self is in a lager container with ice/water mix that the lye solution does not gas off at all. If the lye is mixed as it is being added, i have had not one whiff. Now if you add the lye too fast, the out gassing is not good, and windows need to be opened !

    I also like to keep a bottle of vinegar handy, I did once get a little lye solution on my hand, washed it off under cold water for what I thought was long enough. Evidently I didnt do it long enough, and felt the burn a little later, so washed again with the vinegar and all was better.

    Should have just wore the gloves !, I will never do it again without glasses !


Michael Chu, February 9th, 2009 at 10:36 pm:

  • Tina uses the ice cube technique when she makes soap and it effectively reduces the fumes. (See step 5.)

christie, February 12th, 2009 at 2:50 pm:

  • hello
    i am still looking for another option, other then lye.
    i called an organic soap making place, and they said they do not use lye..
    and that the bars are organic.
    can lye be organic?
    i have come across alot of organic soap bars that have the ingredients, and there is no mention of lye or (sodium hydroxide)
    lye really is a hazardous product, and for those that are not wearing masks or gloves, are you wanting to die.. this is a product that is used to get ride of bodies, it turns skin into a goo. i cant imagine what it does to your lungs.
    But i really have a strong yearning to make soap, i have soap molds waiting.
    so if anyone find anything on making soap without lye let me know..
    thank you , christie

Tina Jiang, February 12th, 2009 at 7:44 pm:

  • Christie, what is the name of this organic soap making place? Did they tell you how they make soaps without lye? Non-cosmetics products are not required by law to have ingredient lists so companies don't have to list everything or anything. Lye is a necessary ingredient in soap making, but there's no lye in the end product because it has been neutralized by the oils. Many soap labels don't list water even though water is used in soap making. My point is that just because lye is not listed on the label doesn't mean that lye was not used. As Diane explains in her article on lye and soap making ( http://frontierangelsoap.blogspot.com/2008/10/soap-101-why-lye.html ), ingredients can be listed in several different ways for the same bar of soap:
    Ingredients: Water, Olive Oil, Tallow and Lye
    Ingredients: Saponified Oils of Olive and Tallow
    Ingredients: Sodium Olivate and Sodium Tallowate
    So I really want to know how this organic place is making soap without lye?

Cosmina, February 13th, 2009 at 12:59 am:

  • Christie,

    You should have asked them exactly what they use. I am really interested myself. (I agree with both Tina and you! Lye is not good but also since is neutralized during the soap making process is not written on the label since the soap does NOT have lye in it.). I am also not a fun of the fumes of the lye but I decided to do it ONE time with ice water using only a mask for dust! See how it feels and if I decide to make soap on a regular basis I'll definetely buy and good mask.
    There are also soaps without… "soap" - I guess they are without lye also (usualy for babies that will not give them tears when washing the head). But they have worse ingredients like talc and others. At least the lye - when the soap is properly done - is TOTALLY neutralized (Tina please correct me if I am wrong!).

Robert, February 13th, 2009 at 5:50 am:

  • Christie,

    As far as soap without lye goes, a saying you'll see time and again in your search sums it up best. "No Lye, no soap." That organic place isn't giving you the straight truth. My wife and I used this very recipe in our "size-of-a-tictac-box-apartment" using simple dust masks from 3M to no ill effect.

christie, February 13th, 2009 at 3:43 pm:

  • hello, everyone
    well the company was a organic soap company on ebay.
    i called and asked if they use lye in the soap making. and they were furm that they do not use lye..
    if you ask, just about all the soap making people on ebay say they do not use lye.
    has anyone made a soap recipe with out the lye?
    like just olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, glycerin, bees wax ect.
    i wonder what it would turn out like? i guess not a soap..
    but a cream bar ?
    it just seems like a really touchy topic? if soap makers are really soap makers, then why are they not telling people that they are useing lye?. because lye turns into a very stable none toxic ingrident, unless i'am wrong..
    i just got my book i ordered "the natural soap book" and low and behold there are "NO" recipes that have lye…
    just kidding!! all of them have lye, 1-st ingrident is water then lye.. so i guess my no lye soap is all a lie…
    i will be off to the store to buy the horrific LYE..
    i will be back i am sure, thank you for your help.

Cathy Winsby, February 13th, 2009 at 5:07 pm:

  • Christie,

    It's not actually a touchy subject at all, it's just we get asked this question a lot and when we answer that yes you need lye….people don't believe us….sometimes it's frustrating. :)

    I'm guessing these people are actually using melt and pour soap. So technically 'they' aren't using lye but the manufacturer of the melt and pour soap did.

    Some people who sell soaps do not understand the complete soap making process and think that they can make soap without the lye…it's not that they are telling fibs….they just don't know any better.

    They also think that 'glycerin' is the name for melt and pour soaps when in fact glycerin is a sticky, syrupy clear substance that is a by-product of soap making that commercial manufactures remove before selling the soap.

    Handmade soaps are full of this wonderful stuff.

    Glad your giving soap making a go! I'm sure you will enjoy it. Even though you've got recipes in the book you've bought, don't forget to run the recipe through a lye calculator first. Shame to loose a batch of soap over a miss-print.

    Good luck and have fun.

christie, February 14th, 2009 at 8:11 am:

  • hi, goodmorning

    just wanted to say thank you to everyone that helped, with my questions.
    and everyone was so so great to deal with.
    i will let you all know how the process goes.
    i tryed to buy lye at the ufa in red deer and the man that i asked looked at me like i was crazy, and said "NO".
    what else is lye used for? maybe its called something else?.
    i live in alberta, canada. so if you know of any other names its sold buy let my now.. thank you

Cathy Winsby, February 14th, 2009 at 8:16 am:

  • I've heard that it's used to make 'Meth' or something like that so that may be the reason for the 'crazy' look. Just ask for Sodium Hydroxide (it's actual name) and explain what you are using it for.

    Some hardware stores no longer carry it or have it stored in the back. I've heard as well that here in Canada you can get it a Home Hardware stores. They may even be able to bring it in for you if they don't have it on hand.

cristina, February 16th, 2009 at 4:52 am:

  • dear ms. tina jiang, thanks for the reply.i can't find perfect recipe for coconut oil,water and lye ingredients only. i hope you can share me please. thanks and your website is really interesting!

Tina Jiang, February 16th, 2009 at 10:16 pm:

  • Cristina, are you having trouble using the Majestic Mountain Sage lye calculator (http://thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php)? All you need to do is scroll down the page, enter the amount of coconut oil you want to use in oz (e.g. 16), and click on the "calculate lye" button, then the next page will tell you how much water (4-6 oz) and lye (e.g. 2.80 oz for 5% lye discount) to use. Enter any amount of coconut oil and the lye calculator will give you the appropriate amount of water and lye to use. If the lye calculator is not the issue, then can you elaborate what problems you are having?

Ruby, February 22nd, 2009 at 1:43 pm:

  • Tina Jiang,

    Hi! I made this soap about 3 weeks ago. I made the soap about the same way it was written in your instructions. However, I may have cut them a bit too early (barely a day passed until I got impatient and sliced them to cure). I've noticed that for each of my sliced soap pieces, the center is slightly more translucent than the outer part of the soap. I thought it would go away as it cured but it still remains. Do you know if it's because I didn't allow it to sit long enough until I cut them, or I may have over-traced the soap mix? I'm also worried that it might be unsafe to use. What do you think? Thanks!

Tina Jiang, February 22nd, 2009 at 5:57 pm:

  • Hi Ruby, if you followed the recipe and instructions then the soap should be fine to use. The translucent center is most likely due to "gelling" which happens after the soap mix is poured into the mold and while it's saponifying (oils and lye reacting to make soap), a lot of heat is produced and that causes the soap (especially the center where it's hottest) to have more of a translucent appearance. If you like the translucent look and wants it throughout the soap next time, you can try covering the whole soap mold with kitchen towels after pouring in the soap mixture - this will help retain heat and gelling will more likely reach the edges of the soap block. Hope this helps.

Laurence, February 26th, 2009 at 3:37 am:

  • Hello!!! oh… i followed ur instructions above and it is so easy and exiting to do.. ^-^ but i dont have any trust to use my soap because i think its dangerous to use!! to wash my hands will do.. heheh.. waah!! i done it becos of my project in chemistry.. Chemical reactions!! But i enjoyed it a lot and i want to make many soaps again!!!! tnx.

Jola, March 3rd, 2009 at 1:53 am:

  • As far as the "no lye soap" you can do the melt and pour method to "make" soap. Though, it's more a method of decorating that making. You take soap or soap flakes and melt them down then add the scents and colors desired and pour them into molds or loaves. Christie, you may want to try this. My guess is the lye process has already been done for you and all you're really doing is remelting the soap (though I'm not totally sure of that). I just know that there is no lye involved in the steps you do at home. You can buy the blocks for melting or even kits at craft stores or walmart.

Wed, March 14th, 2009 at 6:22 am:

  • I just feel the urge to comment on the lye issue.

    Lye is not dangerous, unless it is handled wrongly.

    Water is lethal, if you get it in the lungs. Oxygen is toxic if too concentrated. A baseball bat will render you unconcious if applied firmly to the skull.

    Just be aware, and you will be fine.

Joan, March 14th, 2009 at 12:22 pm:

  • My ssoap didn't trace but it set up fine….is it safe to use after it cures? The lye still scares me even though I've made soap several times. It didn't trace right last time either but we used it all with no ill effects. Do I need to redo this batch?

Tina Jiang, March 15th, 2009 at 10:44 am:

  • Joan, when I hand stirred my very first batch, it didn't seem to trace much but it turned out ok. I would say if the soap set up fine like you said it's probably alright, assuming the recipe you used has the right amount of lye and you followed the recipe closely. If you see any of the following symptoms then the soap is not ok and you should throw it away: separated layers of lye water and oil, pockets of lye water in the finished soap, or bits of shiny lye crystals in the finished soap. If none of these occurred and you tried the soap on your hands with no ill effects it should be ok. I recommend a stick blender if you are not using one right now… it significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to stir and trace (in my opinion totally worth the extra cost:).

Glenn, March 24th, 2009 at 5:12 pm:

  • I have been making soap for about 6-7 months now, and would never go back, I haven't tried many recipes but would like to venture out. I find the soaps I loved in warmer weather just dry my skin too much in the winter. I hate using over the counter soaps because none of them make me feel clean. Can anyone recommend a moisturizing recipe. I pretty much have used Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Castor oil, coco butter and lye. I also prefer to use the slow cooker for instant gratification

    Looking forward to all replies !

Ruby, March 27th, 2009 at 11:33 pm:

  • Tina,

    Hello again, I have a few more question. I made another batch of the soap and now there apppears to be a white residue on the top of my soap after a day of curing. Is this extra NaOH that hasn't been fully dissolved in the solution before? Should I use this soap?

Johanna, March 31st, 2009 at 10:41 am:

  • I'm so glad I found this article. I'm a massage therapy student and many times the subject of natural items come up so one of our teacher gaev us the ingridiants to make soap but I never knew the right amount. He uses different oils than you but guess it's matter of taste! I'd bought soap from him and the difference it from earth to heaven!! My skin is much softer and silky and I only use a very small amount of lotion in my body as suppoused a lot that I used to.
    Thanks for puting it out there.

Caroline, April 10th, 2009 at 10:48 pm:

  • I'm a passionate soap-making beginner, living in Greece. Finding even the most basic ingredients is very hard here. One of them is vegetable shortening, what can be used instead of it?
    Thank you for your ideas!

Barbara, April 19th, 2009 at 12:34 pm:

  • What do you do if the lye water cools down too much? I used ice and water and by the time the lye was dissolved the temperature was in the 80 degree range. I microwaved it up to 100, but was that the right thing to do? It took 2 hours to trace, even with a stick blender. I used soybean and cocoanut oil, and lard adapted to a 2 lb batch using the lye calculator from the Sage. I've had 2 very successful batches.

Tina Jiang, May 17th, 2009 at 10:16 am:

  • Glenn,
    to make a more moisturizing soap, you can try adding some shea butter. For example, see the recipe in my hot process soap article http://www.orthogonalthought.com/blog/index.php/2008/06/handmade-soap-using-a-slow-cooker-hot-process/. You can experiment with various amounts of shea butter to find the best recipe for your skin. Just make sure to use a lye calculator to figure out the right amount of lye for the specific recipe you are using.

    from what I've read the white residue on top of the soap is not harmful, but you may want to scrap it off just to be safe. I've also had this on some of my soaps and have not had a problem using them.

    you can make soaps with all kinds of oils/fats so you don't have to use vegetable shortening. The recipe in the above article is very simple but works well, and includes only two oils: coconut and olive oil. The coconut oil provides hardness and bubbles, and the olive oil is moisturizing to the skin. You can also add palm oil, or cocoa butter, or shea butter, or tallow, or lard to the recipe. I generally keep the percentage of coconut oil at or below 30% since too much of it may be drying to the skin.

    I generally keep the temperatures of lye water and oils at or above 100 degrees and I find that trace is easier to achieve at these temperatures, especially for smaller batches where less heat is produced during saponification vs. larger batches. I've also warmed up lye water in the microwave before so I think it's fine but I prefer not to do it to avoid boil over or spill. Try using less ice and more water when dissolving the lye. I stir the ice water while pouring lye into it which helps it to dissolve faster (otherwise it often forms a clump at the bottom of the ice water). Also make sure the oil temperature is not too low which can also contribute to long trace times. Hope this helps.

Anonymous, June 23rd, 2009 at 4:11 am:

  • wow

Donna, July 23rd, 2009 at 10:21 pm:

  • We've been making homemade soap for several months now and have just started our own soap company. We are in two local retail outlets with more to come. Like many we started out making it for our own use because of the families dry skin and a way to cut costs of the family budget. But after so many of our other family members and friends wanting our soap we decided we needed to make some money at it to keep the supplies on hand. I have read some of the comments written here and have a few suggestions. If you can't find lye in your local stores you can buy it on-line at http://www.thelyeguy.com. It has been removed from most retail stores due to the illegal drug makers. For those that find the white powder on there soaps during the curring process you can get rid of this buy rinsing your soap and then letting it redry before using it. It is harmless just unsightly. I also use my curred soap to make my own laundry soap. I grate about one half of a bar in a heavy sause pan and add 6 cups hot water. Heat until the soap has desolved then and 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Washing soda. (Not baking soda)Heat until desolved. In a 2 gal bucket put in 4 cups hot water, add the heated mixture and stir well. Then add one gal of hot water and stir again. I then pour this into old laundry soap jugs and let set over night. This will semi-gel it will look like egg drop soup when ready to use. Use 1/2 cup per normal load of laundry more for heavy soiled clothing. It works well as a pretreater as well. This will make about 3-4 laundry jugs full. If your soap has not traced after 3 hours try adding about 10% more warm grease or oil to your soap. I had one batch do this and after adding the extra oil it traced within 30 mins and the batch turned out just fine. I don't like using canola oil in place of lard for my soap. The bars come out kind of rubbery and have a heavy oil oder to them. I prefer a lard coconut oil or lard, coconut oil, veg. shortening recipe. You can also buy coconut oil at Wal-Mart in the oil, shortening isle. Look for the LouAnn brand in a white plastic jar with either a green or blue lid. I hope this helps other soapers.

muniyrah, August 4th, 2009 at 9:59 am:

  • Thank you so much for the information and pictures you shared on making soap. I am very anxious and can't wait to try this. You answered my question right off the bat, which was, do I have to use lye? I appreciate you telling us why lye is necessary and I also appreciate you sharing the books that you found helpful. I also would like to make my soap with a marble pattern and you have a link for that as well. Question: I'd like to add an ingredient to my soap for moisturizing purposes. Is that possible and how do I adjust the other ingredients?

    Thank you,

bev, August 10th, 2009 at 5:23 am:

  • This is for Christie in Alberta, Canada. Looking for lye. Soap and More is in Calgary and they carry a full selection of products for soap making. You can find their store online as well. You last posted in Feb.so maybe we are too late here!

Donna, August 13th, 2009 at 6:00 am:

  • I've been making homemade soap now for several months and am totally addicted to it. So much so that my family has started our own soap company. We have an online website and sell at local farmers/craft markets as well. We have a found a recipe that uses measurements by cups and not by weight that works very well. The basic recipe is 11 parts lard to 2 parts coconut oil. Most of our soaps do not contain dyes or fragances but we have recently added a line of natural colored and scented soaps. There is one piece of information that most websites on soap making doesn't mention and this caused me a bit of confusion at first. Why do most sites never tell you that soap will usually shrink during the curring process. For my first couple of batches I thought I was going nuts when I knew I had cut my bars on what I thought was the large side only to find that after several weeks curring they seemed much smaller then when I cut them. I kind of figured that as the water evaporated from the bar as it curred was the reason the bars ended up smaller but didn't find this mentioned in any of the sites or recipes I read about. After months of making soap I did find one site that mentioned soap shrinking and suggested to cut your bars a bit larger so that the end product would be the size you wanted. I now cut my bars in 2 sizes. One that ends up about 2.5 ozs sold as a single size bar and one that ends up around 4 to 4-1/2 ozs sold as a family sized bar. For those that read this site like Mr. Bubbles he is forgetting one great advantage about making homemade soap. When I and my family first started making soap it was to be a hobby that we could do together and one that we wouldn't want to kill each other over. As it has ended up becoming one that enables my family to spend quality time together creating something that we can be proud of the cost factor pays only a small part in our soap making. But we have found that if done right is so much cheaper then the store boughten soaps and so very much better for your skin. And here is a trick for those odd pieces and broken bars of soap you're not sure what to do with. We turn ours in to laundry powder. We grind them up, add borax and washing soda (NOT BAKING SODA) and package it as laundry powder. My customers love it and refuse to buy store laundry powder anymore.
    It just amazes me that using a product made from grease and oil removes grease and oil from laundry. And by the way, we have found that using our homemade soap for our laundry has caused so very much less fading and wearing of our clothes so they last far longer then washed with store boughten laundry detergents. The colors stay brighter longer and our white clothes come out whiter and brighter then with store boughten laundry detergents.
    I hope this inspires others to either make or buy homemade soaps. Even if making homemade soap isn't something you thing is for you I highly recommend that you check out one of the many, many websites that sell homemade soap and give it a try.
    Red in ND

Muniyrah, August 13th, 2009 at 4:04 pm:

  • Donna,

    Thank you very much for the information provided about the measurements, and additionally sharing what you do with the left overs.

M ichelle, August 14th, 2009 at 8:53 am:

  • Donna

    ty for the info but can you share your recipe or using the sites recipe can as an example can you translate it to cups instead of weight?

Donna, August 19th, 2009 at 7:46 am:

  • Our recipe is in cups instead of weights expect for the lye. You can adjust the recipe to any size you want using the 11 parts lard to 2 parts coconut oil and using 11 ozs lye. So if you use 11 cups lard use 2 cups coconut oil. It's always an 11 to 2 ratio. So just remember 11, 2, 11 and you'll never forget your recipe. Oh I forgot to mention that you use 4 cups of cold water to mix your lye in. If making soap isn't something you want to try I recommend buying homemade soap instead of store boughten soap. Our Website is http://www.thewrightsoapfactory.webs.com/
    Just a bit about the use of lye. Yes it can be dangerous is not given the proper respect. If not careful you will get burnt or mess up your home. This is what we do. We measure out the amount of water into a clean container. Measure out your lye into a disposible container like a plastic 16 oz cup. We then take our water and lye out to our front porch along with a old but clean plastic drink pitcher and a long handled wooden spoon. We pour our water into the pitcher and then very slowly pour in the lye without standing over the pitcher. (KEEP YOUR FACE AWAY FROM THE PITCHER) Stir until the lye in completely disolved. After the fumes have gone it is then safe to take the lye water carefully into the house. We then make our soap in the kitchen. We place our pot of melted lard into a plastic storage tote which we live lined the bottom with an old sheet, slowly add the lye water while stirring and make or soap.
    In doing this we prevent any of the soap mixture from splattering onto any surface in the kitchen while it is being stirred. I have more suggestions which I'll write about in my next statement.

Donna, August 19th, 2009 at 3:30 pm:

  • please excuse the typo's in my last statement I was in a hurry to get it typed. I know I stated that we use a wooden spoon for stirring our lye water and I'm sure there will be some of you that remark that this is a bad idea because lye breaks down the wood. My anwser is that I use a very beefy wooden spoon and have had no problems as yet. I use it because it has a very long handle and keeps my hands away from the lye water and the handle fits my hands.
    What you can do if you don't have a stick blender and don't want to spend hours and hours hand stirring you soap mixture to get it to trace. When we first decided to try our hand at soap making we didn't have a stick blender and money was very tight. We went to the local second hand store and all we could find was one of those old fashions hand cranky egg beaters our grandmothers used to beat egg whites. Well after finding out that it was too short for our stainless steel stock pot we bought to make the soap in and not wanting to throw out all our melted lard and lye mixture my husband came up with the following idea. He went down to his basement workshop and came up with his version of a hand mixer. He took an old heavy uncoated coat hanger and straighten it out and then bent one end into a zig zag pattern. He then put the starighten end into his cordless drill and tightened down the chuck. We then used that to stir our soap mixture. It did take quite awhile for the soap to reach trace but we figured it would have taken much longer to hand stir it to trace. We have used this for some time now as none of the local stores sell stick blenders. We are currently awaiting for the stick blenders we have ordered online to arrive. We read how easy it can be to burn out a stick blender so we didn't want to spend a lot of money on one to only burn it out. My answer to that is we found the http://www.asseenontv.com website and found that they are selling stick blenders for a bogo. You buy one at $9.95 and get one free and only pay $7.95 shipping. So thats less then $20.00 for 2 stick blenders and if you burn one out you have another to replace it with. My husband said that what burns out is the bushings in them and he can go to the local hardware store and buy the bushings cheap and replace them at home. So for those just starting out and don't want to invest a great deal of money until they decide if making homemade soap is what they want to really get into I suggest buying cheaper equipment and if it turns out to be something you really like you can then purchase better supplies. If you decide it's just not your cup of tea you haven't spent more money then you can afford and then having to figure out how to unload your soap making supplies. We have also found a better site to purchase our lye from. We now use http://www.essentialdepot.com This is food grade lye so it is high quality pure lye and at a really good price. Including shipping I got 8lbs of lye for less then $25.00. At the other site I only got 4lbs for the same price. Their phone number is 1-866-840-3495. You can contact them at service@essentialdepot.com They are out of Fl and it took about a week to get the lye delivered by Fedex as I live in a remote area of ND. WE also buy our lard at Wal-Mart in a 25lb bucket for around $28.00 and we have to drive 75 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart. This is where we also buy our coconut oil in the shortening and oil isle.
    We are also awaiting the arrival of our digital scale. We found a table top model at http://www.harborfreight.com for $14.99. The website lists it for $19.99 but the catolog has it on sale until Nov 1st, 2009 for $14.99 so I suggest phoning in an order and reminding them it's on sale. The phone number is 1-800-423-2567 and they take orders 24/7.
    There is one other thing I wanted to discuss and that is what soap is and the differences between homemade soap and conventional store bought soap. Soap is created by a chemical reaction between oils, water and lye. Although lye is used to make soap there is no lye left after saponification is complete. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A BAR OF SOAP THAT WAS MADE WITHOUT LYE. The difference between homemade soap and store bought soap is what is available in the store is not really soap at all but a DETERGENT. Detergents are a petroleum based product like gasoline and kerosene. Another difference is that most mass-marketed soap makers remove the natural glycerin and sell it to other companies. Glycerin absorbs water from the air and draws it to your skin to moisturize it. Store bought soaps usually don't contain any glycerin therefore dry out your skin. Homemade soaps are usually 75% soap and 25% glycerin therefore moisturizing your skin. For me it's a no brainer to use homemade soap instead of store bought soap. And this comes from someone that used to be a beauty consultant for a very large cosmedic company. And think of it this way. Homemade soaps are made from renewable resorces and not from fossil fuels. A great deal of homemade soaps are made from plant oils or from pork and beef fat. As long as we can grow crops whether plant or animal we will always have the ingredients to make soap. Lye is even made from wood ashes and water and not snythic chemicals. So if you can't find store bought lye you can make your own. I hope this answers some questions and inspires others to either make or buy homemade soap.

Donna, August 20th, 2009 at 11:40 am:

  • Hurrayyyyyyyy our stick blenders came in today. We just finished making a batch of soap and I can't believe how fast it came to trace using the blender. In less then 10 mins it was at trace and ready to pour into our wooden molds. The blender did heat up pretty fast and we had to let it cool down a couple of times but the batch was at trace in about seven mins. We colored this batch using the spice Tumeric. It was supposed to make it a golden yellow but it turned out a pumpkin orange. We'll see if it fades during curring. But even if it doesn't we'll have a nice batch ready just in time for Halloween. If this batch turns out as well as it's looking right now I'll never go back to mixing my soap with anything other then the stick blender unless I have too. (like if I burn them out making to many batches of soap). I hope that these blenders last a good long time. We're planning on making another batch later today.
    Red in ND

Donna, August 21st, 2009 at 11:47 am:

  • Well the batch that started out as pumpkin orange turned to a golden yellow with specks of rusty orange spice throughout as it went throught the gel stage. I can't get over how much faster it is to make soap with the stick blender. For me it's the only way to make soap. What used to take at least 3 hours from start to trace now takes only about an hour from the start of mixing the lye water to trace. We do cool down our lye water by placing the pitcher in a sink of cold water to speed up the process. You do have to keep a very close watch on the lye water so that the temp. doesn't cool down too much. We use a candy thermomiter to check the temps on both the melted lard and another one for the lye water. Unless you wash them throughly do not use them to measure the temps of both the melted oils and the lye water. If there is lye water on the therm. when you measure the temp of the oil you'll make bits soap in the oil before you are ready. You could wreck your whole batch before you get started.
    Red in ND

Donna, August 24th, 2009 at 12:05 pm:

  • Hey I just got a monthly e-news letter from the Essential Depot company from where I order my lye. They have a really good special on 16lbs of food grade lye for around $28.00. From what I've checked out on other sites thats pretty cheap. And they have some pretty good deals on soap making oils. Check them out on http://www.essentialdepot.com
    Red in ND

Donna, September 7th, 2009 at 9:08 pm:

  • Can anyone help me to find a natural lavendar or purple dye for my soap. I'm making lavendar scented soap and would like it to look a lavendar or purple color but I don't want harsh chemical dyes.

Hanzel, September 22nd, 2009 at 8:56 pm:

  • Donna,

    I, too, was looking for purple soap dye and found it at Jo-Ann crafts store, and this was like last week. Goodluck and I hope you find what you're looking for! :)

Donna, September 24th, 2009 at 8:22 am:

  • Hanzel
    Thank you for your info on the purple dye. I don't have a Jo-Ann's near me but my daughter does so I'll have her look for me. Can you tell me the name of the dye manufacturer so my daughter will know what to look for.
    Thank you again

Donna, September 24th, 2009 at 8:57 am:

  • I just poured my second batch of goat milk with oatmeal soap into the molds. I have found a trick when making goat milk soap to keep it from curdling or burning. I place my container of partly frozen goat milk in a pan of ice water. I then slowly add the lye a little at a time to the milk while stirring it. This keeps the temp of the milk down to prevent burning but doesn't lower it so much that you have to reheat it.
    I have also found another trick to keep from burning out my stick blenders. I use two blenders when making my soap. I start out with one and when it starts to feel a bit warm I switch to the second blender. I go back and forth with the 2 blenders until my soap reaches trace. By going back and forth with them it gives them time to cool down between mixings to prevent the motors from overheating and burning out. If you go to http://www.asseenontv.com you can get 2 blenders for $9.95 plus $7.95 for shipping. Thats less then $20 for two blenders.
    Here is my recipe for Goat milk with Oatmeal soap.
    11 cups pork lard
    2 cups coconut oil
    1 and 1/2cups of ground oatmeal.
    4 cups of partly frozen goat milk
    12 oz lye (I only use food grade lye)
    I run regular oatmeal through my blender but don't grind it into a flour. Just grind it enough to break it into smaller pieces.
    I melt my lard and coconut oil to about 100 degrees. I use the trick I included earlier for the goat milk and let it cool to 100 degrees also.
    I then add the goat milk lye mixture to my melted lard/oil and mix until it forms a light trace. I then add my oatmeal and mix until well blended or a medium trace. I then pour it into my molds and cover with a piece of plywood and cover that with an old folded sheet. I don't use a blanket as this retains to much heat. After the soap is set up enough to hold it's shape but still soft enough to cut into bars I remove the soap from the molds and cut it into bars. This usually takes 4-5 hours. I don't let my soap sit in the molds for more then the time it takes it to become firm enough to cut as I stated because I find it to hard to cut. The one batch of soap we let sit for 24 hours was so hard we had to use a saw to cut it. This caused the bars to break and created a lot of soap powder. And to me that was a wasted amount of soap until I figured out that I could turn that powder into laundry powder.

Hanzel, September 29th, 2009 at 11:38 am:

  • Hey, Donna. So sorry it took a while for me to respond! You should be able to find the purple dye in either Michael's or Jo-Ann Arts and Crafts store. In both store, you'll be able to find it in the soap making aisle, just ask the staff. There's no brand name really for the dye, but each pack comes in 3 different colors. The purple dye should be listed as lilac. Goodluck to you!

Donna, October 4th, 2009 at 8:01 am:

  • Thanks for the info. I found some dyes at the Hobby Lobby. We're going to try them today. I'm trying to get stocked up for the up coming holiday season. I found some cute Christmas silicone molds there as well. We're planning on working the local Christmas craft fairs that are coming up soon. We contacted our local bakery and now we can get our lard in 50lb blocks for $30.00. We're still getting our coconut oil from Wal-Mart. The websites we have found for coconut oil are a bit pricey on the shipping charges. It really sucks when you don't live near a large city where you can readily get your soap making ingrediants. For us it's either pay the high shipping charges or drive the 75 miles to the nearest city that has a hobby shop.
    Red in ND

Donna, October 4th, 2009 at 1:30 pm:

  • Can anyone recommend a soap dye that stays true to color. I just bought soap dyes from a Hobby Lobby store and used it in my soap today. I'm so disapointed with it that I'll never buy that dye again. My red which was a dark red when I poured it in to the molds has turned to an dull pinkish red, the green has turned to a pink and the beautiful lavendar in the gel stage is turning to a pale pink. So my Christmas stockings will be pink instead of red and my Christmas trees will be pink instead of green. And no I didn't mix the colors. I made my base soap which is pure white, I poured some into a separate bowl and added the red dye. It was a dark red when I poured it into the Christmas stocking mold and is now a pinkish red. I poured some of the white soap base into a clean bowl and added the green dye and poured it into the Christmas tree molds and it's turned pink.
    To the remaining white soap base I added purple dye and lavendar es oil and lavendar flowers and poured it into my bar mold and now as it's coming out of gel stage it's turning a pale pink while the middle in gel stage is a beautiful lavendar color.
    Why would a green dye turn into pink? And why are my reds and purples turning pink when Iam making sure that the dyed soap is darker then the color I want to prevent fading? Since the dyes I'm buying aren't giving me the colors I want I'm thinking of using natural ingred's. to give me colors. Can anyone give me the names of dyes or ingred's and places to buy them that are actually giving you the colors you want. My soaps are turning out but not in the colors I want.
    Red in ND

Catherine, October 22nd, 2009 at 3:38 pm:

  • Tina, I've made the olive soaps and waiting they are cured. Meantime, I would like to try to make shampoo bars. Do you have any recipes for good shampoo bar?

Tina Jiang, October 23rd, 2009 at 9:35 pm:

  • Muniyrah,
    You can certainly add other oils for moisturizing purposes. Just use an online lye calculator to figure out how much lye and water to use. I generally try to keep the coconut oil between 20-30% of the total oils so the soap will produce good lather but not become too drying for the skin. Here's an online lye calculator on the Majestic Mountain sage website: http://www.thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php It’s fairly simple to use and it'll tell you how much lye and water is needed for the types and amounts of oils you are using.

    Here's a web page that explains some of the different types of colorants used in soap making. I personally have tried pigments and they seem to work well in terms of the colors staying relatively true when the soap is cured. The round marble soap in my other article is colored with green oxide (picture here: http://www.orthogonalthought.com/blog/index.php/2008/06/handmade-soap-in-the-round/). I got this colorant from the Oregon Trail Soapers Supply website: http://oregontrailsoaps.com/products.php?cat=11&scat=34 They have other types of colorants as well, in addition to various soap making supplies. The only draw back is that pigments are hard to mix into the soap mixture without lumps, so I usually mix it well with a small amount of glycerin first then mix into the soap and it seems to work well. Give it a try and good luck!

    I made shampoo bars once but since we have hard water it made my hair waxy and I had to do a vinegar rinse to get rid of the residue. Hopefully you don't have a hard water problem! I would love to hear how this shampoo bar recipe works for you:
    5oz Olive Oil
    5oz Coconut Oil
    3oz Palm Oil
    3oz Castor oil
    2.3oz lye
    5oz water

Anonymous, November 9th, 2009 at 4:42 pm:

  • what the heack1

Donna, November 14th, 2009 at 8:39 pm:

  • I'm so confused, why on earth is my green soap dye turning a very pale pink or a brownish pink. I'm making cold process soap and can't seem to get a green colored soap to save my life. Now I'm not going to have any green Christmas tree shaped soap for my Christmas customers. The rest of my soaps are turning out beautiful and I'm selling them as fast as I can make and cure them. I'm selling so many that I can't even keep my stock up enough to work the local craft fairs.
    We're doing so well that we've recently become members of the local Chamber of Commerce and we're even entering a float in the local Christmas Parade. We're now in 3 local retail outlets and have been asked to bring our soaps to a 4th.

Barbara, November 17th, 2009 at 6:28 am:

  • Tell me about PH of soap! At what stage should it be tested? Does it need to fully cure to give an accurate reading? Or is the reading taken after unmolding (2-3 days) an indication? After unmolding, and no shiny crystals or lye spots, the phenol -I can't spell it- solution turned fushia, did I test too early?

Tina Jiang, November 17th, 2009 at 1:31 pm:

  • Donna,
    Glad to hear that your soap business is going well! What type of dye are you using? Some dyes are not suitable for cold process soap making. Here’s a web page that explains some of the different types of colorants used in soap making. I personally have tried pigments and they seem to work well in terms of the colors staying relatively true when the soap is cured. The round marble soap in my other article is colored with green oxide (picture here: http://www.orthogonalthought.com/blog/index.php/2008/06/handmade-soap-in-the-round/). I got this colorant from the Oregon Trail Soapers Supply website: http://oregontrailsoaps.com/products.php?cat=11&scat=34 They have other types of colorants as well, in addition to various soap making supplies. The only draw back is that pigments are hard to mix into the soap mixture without lumps, so I usually mix it well with a small amount of glycerin first then mix into the soap and it seems to work well. Give it a try and good luck!

    I have found that as the soap cures it does get milder. I usually let cold process soaps cure for at least 2 weeks at which time the solution should remain clear. I've seen it turn purple on soap fresh out of the mold then stays clear a few days later. Check your soap again in a week or so… most likely it'll be alright :).

Lindsay, November 19th, 2009 at 5:31 pm:

  • Hi Tina,

    This is wonderful information. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and procedure! I am wondering if it is possible to substitute another oil in place of the castor oil, and if so, what would be appropriate or ideal? I would like the bar to turn out as hard as possible.

    Thanks! Lindsay

Glenna, November 22nd, 2009 at 1:01 pm:

  • I'm wondering if there is a place in Austin that you purchase your lye, or do you order it exclusively online. I'm having trouble finding it.

Diane, November 25th, 2009 at 5:43 pm:

  • Glenna,
    I am also in Austin and found lye at Lowe's. It is called Roebic Crystal Drain Opener. I found it in the Plumbing section.

    Thank you for your very informative blogs. I am giving this a try for the first time this weekend and can't wait to get started! Happy Thanksgiving.


Glenna, November 25th, 2009 at 7:31 pm:

  • Well, I ended up paying too much for lye, but it's food grade at least. Texas Natural Supply http://texasnaturalsupply.com/ is close enough to order and pick up (you can only order online and have shipped or pickup next day). They seem to have quite a decent selection of other items as well.

    Made my first batch of CP soap today. Well, 2 batches, since it's layered. Trying a Vanilla / Lavendar. We'll see how it goes. Smells great at the very least.

    Thanks for your blog! It got me motivated to try something new.

Glenna, November 25th, 2009 at 7:32 pm:

  • The Lowes nearest us (on Brodie) doesn't carry Roebic. Maybe I should have tried another location. Ah well. Maybe once I run out of the container I got yesterday.

Michael Chu, November 26th, 2009 at 9:52 am:

  • Diane, which Lowe's did you go to? We haven't been to too many (Brodie and the one in Kyle) and neither of those had Roebic (which I think Tina used when we were in California).

Diane, November 28th, 2009 at 5:11 am:

  • Glenna & Michael,

    I went to the one on Brodie also. It was at the head of an aisle in the plumbing section - across from the refrigerators toward the back of the store. It was placed on one of the top shelves. Hope this helps!

Tina Jiang, November 30th, 2009 at 1:46 pm:

  • Glenna and Diane, I found this website http://www.aaa-chemicals.com that sells both technical and food grade lye at very reasonable prices - $4.99 for technical grade lye and $6.99 for food grade lye (both 2 lb containers). They also have bulk pricing and other soap making supplies. There will be some shipping costs though. Give it a try if you can't find lye in local stores.

Joy Smith, December 2nd, 2009 at 10:41 pm:

  • Hi,
    Thank you for this article and the blogs. I planned to get started making skin creams. I am now excited to make soap too. The information you shared is great. Thank you.

Donna, December 18th, 2009 at 7:53 pm:

  • The best place I have found lye is to order it from essentialdepot.com I only order the food grade because I want the highest grade for my soap since I sell it in my soap company. We get our lard at a great deal at our local bakery. $30.00 for a 50lb box.
    We're having a hard time finding a good place to order Coconut Oil. With the cost of shipping it's cheaper to buy the Coconut oil sold at Wal-Mart. I can get 2 batches out of the jar from Wal-Mart. We're finding that since most soap products can't be sent through the mail and can only be sent Fedex ground, shipping has gone shy high. LOL
    The cost of shipping is really taking a bite out of our soap profits. I've been so upset that I had to miss a really big selling opp. this week. We had a local crafters fair yesterday but I had to miss it due to this dang H1N1 flu. I've now had it twice. I've been home for the past month and have been to sick to make my soap. I'm afraid I won't have the inventory I need for this coming spring and summer season.
    Hope those of you out there can find the ingreds. you need for your soap making.
    Red in ND

Monica, December 28th, 2009 at 10:56 pm:

  • Have you been able to find a good but plain Jane kind of cocoa butter recipe for soap?!

johans, January 15th, 2010 at 9:55 pm:

  • we can use oven toaster to dry that soap?

Billie Martin, January 17th, 2010 at 1:41 pm:

  • I am very interested in the recipe and instructions for goats milk soap. I have a friend who has difficulty finding it and we just drove 120 miles on Saturday into the Amish country trying to find it.
    I would love to be able to make it for her and other friends as well.

Faylisa, January 31st, 2010 at 12:23 pm:

  • Thank you to the author of this page and to everyone who has added a comment. Everyone has had such wonderful and useful information. I am just starting my soap making journey and I have lots to learn so everyone's input is so helpful. What a wonderful country we live in where people can come together like this and exchange information and ideas. To all, have a blessed day.

Mary, February 15th, 2010 at 8:05 am:

  • Very nice soap page! I have been making soap for a while, and have a hint for those of you (like me)who like to insulate the molds for a day or so before cutting. I use an insulated bag, similar to a tote bag. Sam's Club sells one that can be used on its side like a pizza delivery bag, but many stores have a similar bag. I put the soap in the molds into the bag for 24 hours or so. It seems the extra heat speeds up saponification somewhat, because my soaps are quite mild when I unmold and cut them. I wouldn't use or give away the soap at that point, but it I unmold and cut it without any gloves, and have tried the "tongue" test (put a little lather on the tip of your tongue, if it burns you still have lye)without any sting. I still cure the soap for 3 or 4 weeks before selling or gifting, but my husband and I have used it much earlier than that with good result.

Donna, February 17th, 2010 at 4:53 pm:

  • To Billie. In an earlier comment I gave my recipe for goatmilk soap. Here it is again. I hope you enjoy this soap.

    First I freeze my goatmilk until it's kind of slushy but not completely frozen. My recipe calls for 4 cups of goat milk. I only use fresh goatmilk not the stuff in a can.
    In a stainless steel stock pot I slowly melt 11 cups of pork lard and 2 cups of coconut oil to about 98 to 110 degrees. While this is melting I place the goat milk in an old heavy plastic drink pitcher and then I place this in a large pot of ice and water to keep the goat milk cool. I slowly add 12oz's of food grade lye stirring until it is disolved. I do this out side until the fumes are gone. I find that if I don't place the pitcher of goatmilk in a pan of ice water the temp rises to high and to fast when the lye is added and it burns the goatmilk rendering it unuseable. It can get as high as 150 degrees.
    When the goatmilk and lye have cooled to 98 to 110 degrees. (If your lard is 98 degrees your goatmilk and lye mixture needs to be 98 degrees.) I bring in the goatmilk lye mixture. I like to place a heavy folded towel under my pot of melted lard. I then slowly pour in the goatmilk mixture into the melted lard while blending with a stick blender. Blend until it reaches a light trace. Then add about 1 cup of lightly ground oatmeal. Blend until it reaches a med. trace. Pour into molds, cover with a piece of ply wood and cover with a heavy folded blanket. I leave my soap in the molds until it has finished the gel stage and is firm enough to cut into bars. This takes about 5-8 hours. The soap may still be quite warm but cool enough to handle. I prefer to cut my bars at this stage and then I place them in an old beer or soda flat standing up and not touching each other. I then place another flat over them and let it sit in a warm dry and dark space until they have cured. About 3-6 weeks. For personal use you can use the bars at about 2 weeks but I don't gift or sell them until at least 4-6 weeks. I use reg. oatmeal that I run through my food blender on the pulse setting until the oatmeal is in small pieces but not ground into a powder. If you grind the oatmeal to fine it only makes a glopy mess when mixed with the soap. I order my lye through essentialdepot.com and I purchase my coconut oil at Wal-Mart in the oil and shortening isle. And I get my lard through my local bakery. I also get pork fat from local farmers when they butcher their hogs. I then grind the fat and render it into lard. I only use food grade ingredients in my soap. If you don't mind the work of rendering fat into lard you can ask you local grocery store's meat dept for the fat trimmings. Many will give this away instead of throwing it out. I don't mix pork with beef.
    I hope this helps and you enjoy.
    Red in ND

Donna, February 17th, 2010 at 4:57 pm:

  • to Billie.
    If you and your friend don't want to try making the goatmilk soap you can purchase it through my website at http://www.thewrightsoapfactory.webs.com It's $4.00 a bar plus tax and shipping.

Lynwood S, February 28th, 2010 at 5:27 am:

  • Thanks a bunchI really liked reading this. It makes me want to create my own weblog! Just what subject though? I am a dentist by profession but cannot imagine most people wishing to read about the dental profession? Maybe I am wrong! Lynwood S

Stacy P.Crandall, March 15th, 2010 at 4:41 am:

  • I have liquid lye but my recipes call for dry/powder lye plus water ex.Red Devil. How do I use the liquid lye in my soaps?

jerico, March 15th, 2010 at 6:49 pm:

  • if you knoe about the ash soap making process, please help me in presenting it in our investigatory project by giving me the related studies, related literature and definition of terms, hehe:-p,tnx guys,!! solido bente-ne-uno

Tran, March 19th, 2010 at 5:54 am:

  • Hi Tina,
    My daughter and I are planning to make soap for her science project.
    We are so glad we found your article on making soap. It is so wonderful! We've just finished getting equipment and materials ready for the soap. Would it be safe to use the stick blender on food again after using it for making soap? Thank you so much for sharing the experience.

abubakr abbas, March 22nd, 2010 at 8:27 pm:

  • hi Tina,
    thank you very much for this article.
    if I need to add goat milk to the soap, how to do that? do you think there is any benifit to add goat milk?

    abubakr abbas

LeJoi, April 9th, 2010 at 5:13 pm:

  • My friend and I are making soap for a chemistry project and need some help. Neither one of us have done this before and need the simplest and most effective way to make the soap. I've read a lot of the comments and they been very helpful. I just need some more in depth help. Thanks.

Donna, April 24th, 2010 at 1:07 pm:

  • Hello LeJoi; in previous postings I give my recipe for making soap. I use a recipe for using cups of ingred. instead of oz'z except for the lye. You really need to measure it out on a good scale in oz's.
    I just made a batch of lavendar scented goatmilk soap.
    Here again is the basic recipe for cold process soap.
    11 cups of pork lard
    2 cups of coconut oil
    4 cups of very cold water (if making goatmilk soap sub goatmilk for the water)
    12 oz of lye. never use drano

    Melt lard in a stainless steel stock pot only to its melting point. ( about 98*)
    in a well ventilated area. ( I do this out side) slowly add a little at a time of the lye to the water while stirring until all lye is added and desolved. This solution can heat up to about 150* F. It must cool to around 98* When your melted lard and lye solution have both cooled to 98* you can slowly pour the lye water into the melted lard while blending with an electric stick blender. Blend this until
    it reaches trace. Trace is when you lift the blender out just above the mixture and it leaves a trail on top and does not melt back into the soap mixture. It should kind of look like honey. When your soap reaches trace you then pour it into your molds. You can make a mold using empty Velveta cheese boxes. For this recipe you'll need about 3 boxes lined with freezer paper. Line the boxes with the plactic side up facing the soap. If you don't line the boxes the soap will stick and you won't be able to get it out of the boxes.
    Cover these filled molds with a piece of ply wood and cover all with a heavy blanket. Let set until the soap is firm enough to cut into bars. Some let it set over night. I let mine set until it has gone through what is called the gel stage. While the soap is setting up it will look like a box of gel. It will change color from the outside edges towards the middle. When all the gel has changed to a solid mass and it's hard enough to remove from the box without melting but is still just soft enough to cut is when I cut it into bars using a very sharp straight edged knife. I cut the bars into about an inch and I half thick. Place them in a dark dustfree place standing them on edge but not touching each other. Let set for at least 2 weeks before using but letting them set for at least 6 weeks is best.
    I hope this helps.
    Donna (aka Red in ND)

Ale, May 13th, 2010 at 8:32 pm:

  • Hi!
    I loved this blog! It's almost the best I have found on the web about home-making soap!! I'm just getting into it and making some research first. I'm from Costa Rica and I don't practice english that much so excuse me if I make any mistake here…. The thing is we don't have any Lowe's neither any of the other stores or brands you mentioned here… also can't buy online those things…… (yes it's a very different but beatiful country!!!) LOL!!!
    So I'm doing my best to find the things I need to get started!! I did find a drain opener that might work but of course I want to be 100% sure about it… and I don't want to experiment on anybody's…. So it says it is "caustic soda" or "potassium hydroxide" wich is KOH but "sodium hydroxide" is NaOH… are they supposedly the same thing?? Is this going to work????

    Thank you all for the posts and to the author of this blog for all the info, it's been great and still getting replies 2 years later!!!

Michael Chu, May 14th, 2010 at 11:08 am:

  • Potassium hydroxide is not the same as Sodium hydroxide and will not work the same. I've heard that KOH is used in the production of liquid soaps, but I don't know if the procedure / ratios change (I suspect they do).

Donna, July 2nd, 2010 at 7:56 am:

  • Boy I sure found out how bad lye can be on the skin yesterday. While at Menards to pick up some lye I reached up on the top shelf to grab a jar and knocked off a plastic jar of another brand of drain cleaner. It fell to the floor and the burst open spraying lye everywhere. About a half hour later while at another store the top of my left foot began to tingle. The tingling soon became stinging and then burning. Right in the middle of the store I tore off my tennis shoe and my sock. The top of my white sock had turned to yellow and I had a very painful black burn on the top of my foot. I didn't know it but when the lye jar broke it sprayed lye on to my shoes and some got caught between the tongue of my shoe and my sock where it then reacted with the heat and moisture of my foot and burned me. The funny thing was that it didn't melt the sock like I thought it might have, it just soaked through. I went out to my car where I had a bottle of water and flushed my foot but then couldn't get my shoe back on. I had to go back into the store with a bare foot and purchase a pair of flip flops to finish my shopping as I was 75 miles from home.

Bob Kindelan, July 4th, 2010 at 9:26 am:

  • You're quite wonderful. If the world had more people like you, I think we'd be on the road to environmental and mental recovery. Such a broad brush to something that may seem insignificant essentially is missing the point. The butterfly effect lives!, that is, the quilt makers, pottery makers, soap makers, kindnesses from within and not for show, etc., is on the rise, and the energy spreads throughout the world. We have to be self-sufficient, sharing and caring and every aspect of your website says that. Thank you. I'm going to make soap, I'm male and have led a life so caustic and harsh perhaps natural soothing soap resonates with me. The only thing I will add is lard, the animal fat thing appeals to me especially since I do make my own lard from leaf lard. I'll let you know how it comes out. My skin is in awful shape from no soap, harsh soap, and other attempts to solve my skin problems. So, my journey begins, and I noted there are others who use lard and they must make their own since they don't sell it in stores that I know of, not Whole Foods, or any alternative outlet and mainstream markets would not understand the question and probably point to hydrogenated vegetable shortening.
    Thank you for your generosity and clear instructions, the photos and text make it easy for even guys like me.

Michael Chu, July 4th, 2010 at 7:48 pm:

  • Whole Foods currently does not sell lard, but your regular grocery store chain as well as Hispanic groceries should sell it. Amour is a popular brand (as is Farmer John) but both contain some amount of partially hydrogenated lard. I get my leaf lard from a local butcher who renders it from local pastured pork kidney fat, but at $10 a pound it's a little expensive to use for soap making (in my opinion).

Donna, July 6th, 2010 at 4:26 am:

  • If you can't find lard try asking at your local bakery if they can order it for you. Mines gets it for me at $30 for a 50lb box. Some Wal-marts sell lard in the shortening and oil sections. You might also try a local creamery where they sell milk and butcher hogs. Some farmers that butcher throw away the fat and will give it away for free. Check at the meat counter of your local grocery store. Some will give away the weeks fat trimmings for free to get rid of it. Just remember to make sure it's pork lard and not beef tallow. You can use beef tallow but the soap will be a softer bar and I don't recomment mixing the two. To render pork lard I find the easist way to do it is to first grind it but you don't have to, then place it in a large roaster pan and put it in the oven at 250* and slowly let it melt. Stir it about every 15-20 mins and pour off the lard through a few layers of cheese cloth or through a new clean cotton dish towel. ( the old fashion flour sack type is the best)Throw out the cracklins or you can use them in other cooking. My cats love these mixed with their canned cat food.

mirela, August 9th, 2010 at 9:25 am:

  • e super sapunul.din aceleasi ingrediente am facut si eu!

Gary Bright, August 10th, 2010 at 7:43 am:

  • Thanks, I've always wanted to try making my own soap. I just have one question, I want to use lavender oil, so would I omit the Castor oil or just add it to the rest of the ingredients?

Tina, August 14th, 2010 at 11:54 pm:

  • Hi

    I've always loved the rich, thick lather and the soothing scent of homdemade soap. I love them even more now since my son has realy dry skin that itches him a lot. The ingredients found in commercially made soap are certainly not good for the environment nor my skin.

    I want to try making homemade soap especially the ones made from milk and lavender (my favourite scent) and if possible those made natural colours. If you have any recipes or further information about soapmaking that you are willing to share, I would greatly appreciate you knowledge.

    Thank you

THE FORTUNA, CA. JAM LADY, August 16th, 2010 at 11:41 am:


Donna, August 17th, 2010 at 9:50 am:

  • to Gary Bright. don't omit any of the oils in your recipe. just add the lavender oil when your soap reachs trace just before you pour it into your moulds. Add enough oil (drop by drop) to your soap until it has the fragrance strength you like. I make mine just a bit stronger then I'd like it because it can fade a bit during the curring process.

Nyssa, August 25th, 2010 at 12:18 pm:

  • Hello, I am new to soap making. And same as you, I am SO EXCITED about making my own soap, and give to all my friends :)

    I'd like to put a link of your page on my site, just so people can link to your site when they are reading my blog (mainly friends now :P)

    Thank you, and Love your blog!

Donna, August 27th, 2010 at 3:29 am:

  • Well we are now up to making 9 differant kinds of soaps. We now make an all natural using no dyes or fragances, a plain goats milk, goats milk with oatmeal, a lavender scented goats milk, sweet pea, cucumber melon, a lavender, coconut milk scented and a Georgia Peach.

anny, August 28th, 2010 at 2:47 am:

  • Hey,

    I dont have sodium hydroxide in pallet form but i have sodium hydroxide in liquid form with 0.1N…for the first recipe, how much of sodium hydroxide shall I use? also, I'm unable to find food thermometer near my place, but my oils are in liquid form, do i still need to measure the temperature?

trish, August 30th, 2010 at 3:51 am:

  • hi Tina and Donna,
    have you tried alkanet for a purple colour and is it safe for the skin? I want to use all natural colours and keep the product organic if possible.
    Tina, I have my first batch of your recipe curing in my airing cupboard and it's looking good! thank you and thank you for this great page.

Michael Chu, August 30th, 2010 at 3:32 pm:

  • Anny,

    It's been a while since I took high school chemistry, but I'm pretty sure you can't make soap with sodium hydroxide diluted to 0.1N. It looks like Tina's recipe calls for a 0.375N aqueous solution of NaOH, so unless you pour 640 mL of your 0.1N solution into a container and somehow evaporate off or distill 460 mL to increase the concentration, this recipe won't work. I also don't recommend trying to do this unless you know an experienced chemist/chemistry professor who is willing to help.

    Also, food thermometers can be ordered online through amazon.com or bedbathandbeyond.com.


Donna, September 6th, 2010 at 4:36 am:

  • If you can't find powdered lye in your area try ordering it from http://www.essentialdepot.com. I only order the food grade lye.
    Hope this helps.
    Red in ND

Prírodné mydlá… « anitraM, September 25th, 2010 at 8:53 am:

  • […] Olivové mydlo nevarené stránka je prekladaná z angličtiny na google […]

Allison, October 1st, 2010 at 12:28 pm:

  • This is exactly what I've been looking for <3

kay, October 10th, 2010 at 5:28 am:

  • thx

Tracy, December 12th, 2010 at 1:41 pm:

  • I have been tested for food sensitivities and can't have coconut oil, as well as olive oil or lard. I'm hoping to substitute something for the coconut. I appreciate any help!

terry, December 28th, 2010 at 4:06 pm:

  • can you double this recipe????
    I just made the soap for the first time and wanted to make more at one time……so let me know if this recipe could be doubled or even

terry, December 28th, 2010 at 4:24 pm:

  • tt

Radha, December 30th, 2010 at 10:33 am:

  • Thanks for the detailed instructions. My soap traced within a couple of mins and I could pour it out. I added peppermint and rosemary essential oils at the end before the tracing. The oils have not separated so far. I just made the soap last night.

Chaunta Mero, January 17th, 2011 at 7:27 am:

  • My I have your web address

Marcia Shaver, January 25th, 2011 at 8:36 am:

  • I am going to make my very first batch of cold process soap the end of the week. What do I purchase to make it colored soap and to add a fragerance? When do I add it to the soap? I would think it would be while I am blending it, right? Thank you, Marcia

Michael Chu, January 26th, 2011 at 8:22 am:

  • Tina provides a good example of colored, scented cold-process soap making in her follow up article: Make Soap In The Round With Marble Pattern. Be sure to skim the comments there; there is a brief discussion on using crayons as a low cost way to color soap.

Reno, January 28th, 2011 at 3:07 am:

  • very informative, helpful & to start a soap business as a small scale occupation

Donna, February 26th, 2011 at 9:01 pm:

  • I haven't been on here for some time. I had a stroke on 12/26/2010. With the help of my family I made my first batch of soap since my stroke. I'm hoping it turns out. I would not use crayons to color any soap. They are not safe for the skin as far as I know and since you can order the proper colorants from Brambleberry or other soap supply companies. I'd rather use a good quality colorant then to use some cheap crayon that may not be safe to use on skin.
    I have posted my recipe for goatmilk soap if anyone wants to use it. I can also post it in oz's if you want to weigh out the ingreds. I use 74 oz's pork lard. 6.65 oz's of palm kernel flakes. I melt these to 100* F. I use 4 cups of fresh goatmilk and 12 oz's lye.
    I freeze my goat milk until it is nearly frozen but not rock hard. In a heavy plastic container I place my goatmilk. I then place this in a larger container of ice water. This is to keep the goatmilk from getting to hot to fast and burning the milk when I add the lye. When adding the lye do so slowly and only a little at a time. Let it slowly melt the goatmilk. This should keep it from burning. When both the goatmilk lye solutiion and the melted pork fat & palm kernel
    are both at 100* slowly pour the lye solution into the melted fat. Blending with a stick blender until you reach trace. If you want to add color or fragrance do so when it reaches a light trace. If you wait until it reaches full trace it will be hard to blend in the color and not have it set up to fast. One batch I made I waited to long to add the color and before I could get all the color blended in it sieged up on me and was no good.
    Hope this helps and who ever uses this recipe enjoys making soap.

lissa, March 30th, 2011 at 11:12 am:

  • Hi I've read through most of these posts. Very good info here. Just wanted to say that I am about to do my first trial of soap making using the basic recipe here. I understand what some of you are saying about the cost though. I spent about $50 just on the tools. I did find a fair price on Olive oil though at Walmart. Got a 68 oz bottle for just under $14. Since I cook with Olive oil aslo this will not go to waste if I don't continue to use if for soap making. Since I like Olive oil so much I want to use it in my soap. Anyway, I have a question. The basic recipe doesn't say anything about adding essential oil for fragrance. Can I use something for fragrance and when do I put it in the mix?

Donna, April 18th, 2011 at 7:35 am:

  • I always add my essential oil at a light trace that way I have time to blend it in before the trace gets to heavy and seiges up the soap. For those that want to sub the coconut oil try usig palm kerrnel flakes instead. But be sure to check a good lye calulator before so you get the correct lye solution.

Armin, April 21st, 2011 at 7:06 am:

  • Hello Tina,
    Yesterday we made your recipe! I talked my wife into making homemade soap and she was so curious about it… Recently we switched completely on organic and natural products, everything is better and we are still adjusting to the new life style… Finding supplies and budgeting is the hardest thing ever…
    So back to soap making… I went out there and got the lye, glass measuring cups, everything I needed… We followed your recipe and I guess everything turned out fine, the soap looks nice today we replaced the castor oil with organic sunflower oil… after running it through a calculator we started to mix the ingredients…. boy, was fun! Except the hand mixer part when I was afraid my powerful hand mixer will splash around… We were protected by gloves and goggles but the skin and face…. However everything turned out great and we are still alive… Now the thing is we used those soap molds we bought at Michaels… Is that a good thing or we shouldn't do it? The soap look soft to me but we only made it 10 hours ago…. it is still in the molds and covered with plastic wrap. Can you please tell me if I should let it more than 2 days in the molds to harden more before trying to pop it out? We never made soap before so I don't know what approach should we take now…
    Thanks for any help…

recipe for making soap, May 20th, 2011 at 2:08 am:

  • […] Make Natural Soap At Home – Basic Recipe | Orthogonal Thought May 4, 2008 … How to make soap at home using oils, lye, and water. Step by step instructions with detailed … […]

amit, May 24th, 2011 at 5:42 am:

  • you guys are amazing. look at how many factory made things you used to make soap at home. and this matters. what if we try and see if we can make soap with the least amount of 'things'.

    happy lathering

maryam, June 8th, 2011 at 3:52 am:

  • wwooowww!!! i tried to make my own soap and i made that it is really nice.after using handmade soap my skin is very soft and smooth and attractive….

Melissa Jenkins, June 25th, 2011 at 7:50 pm:

  • wow what an amazing and informative post. Bookmarked, tweeted, stumbled it all. thank you

Natural soaps: MyFashionHall | MyFashionHall, July 6th, 2011 at 10:55 pm:

  • […] Make your own soap : Canola Oil Coconut Oil Palm Oil Lye (5% super-fatted) – PLEASE CHECK THE SAFETY INFORMATION BEFORE PROCEEDING Water […]

funwithsoap, July 29th, 2011 at 6:12 pm:

  • help! the lye and water never got hot or released fumes!!!!! i am making the soap right now (at the mixing stage) and the mixture is not becoming "pudding like" i keep heating it up. is this the right thing to do? whats wrong with it? what do i do?

deepesh jain, August 11th, 2011 at 3:49 am:

  • hi
    can u tell me how to make a liquid soap and other new things u try u plz inform on my mail

Project 31: Oops « 50firstcrafts, August 19th, 2011 at 7:55 am:

  • […] post the whole process as soon as it is done. You can follow along with me by reading this instructional post at orthogonalthought.com. See you […]

Project 31: Making soap « 50firstcrafts, August 20th, 2011 at 4:02 pm:

  • […] Next we headed inside and I measured out the oils. I used 6 oz coconut oil, 10 oz olive oil, and .5 oz castor oil. I'm told that the castor oil helps the soap be more lathery, but I included it because it was in the recipe. […]

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sooooooooExcited!! :D, October 4th, 2011 at 2:53 pm:

  • kk… first off…..LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS SITE!!!

    OK…wandering how , where at which temperture to store bulk butters and oils or any of the perishable supplies for this craft.

Vicki Boryca, November 2nd, 2011 at 8:32 am:

  • I have been researching soaps on the internet before I make soap as it has definitely got me "OCD'd". But, I want to make sure that I do it safely and correctly. Your blog is the most detailed, informative and inspiring of anything I have found. I really appreciate the time and effort that you took to make it so.
    Thank you so much,
    PS I don't usually follow bloggers, but, yours is so well written, so, am going to read your other ones now, too. Thanks again.

Silvia, November 13th, 2011 at 5:13 pm:

  • Dear Tina:
    Love you blog. Just started soapmaking weeks ago (my first batch is still curing), and I am already obsessed! I really like all the information u gave and your instructions are so clear.
    Thank you for the info!!!!

galmhealvance, November 24th, 2011 at 8:28 am:

  • My question is going to be relatively long seeing as I have three things that I want to know about how to take care of my skin. But first, I just want you to know that I wear absolutely no makeup at all. As in, the closest I get to makeup is lip balm and Olay face cream (I hardly put the face cream on because I get too lazy, haha). And just in case this has any relevance, I'm Indian so… if that has any effect in what treatments I should use, then I would like to know.
    Anyways, so my first question about skin care is for acne (and maybe blackheads, but mostly acne) and acne scars. I'm about to turn 17 in three months (I doubt that's actually relevant but you might as well know) and I've had my acne issue for the past 2-3 years. Before highschool I had very clear skin (and I really miss those days…) but then I got the 'bright idea' to wear a hairstyle where the hair was covering half my face (worst decision!) and my acne issue started - I don't wear that kind of hairstyle anymore. My acne isn't so severe that my face is completely covered in red bumps and my face isn't oily (in fact, it's relatively dry). But, I do get a lot of annoying red pimples/zits and on top of that I have scars from previous pimples. The scars are most likely a result of me picking at some of the pimples but most of them I haven't picked at. I want to somehow get rid of these scars and pimples or at least reduce the visibility of them (and perhaps the probability of getting them). I use some facial cleansers but I only use it because I already bought it so might as well finish it.Sometimes I almost get convinced that Proactiv does work but for the most part I can never believe their commercials because the 'After' photo shows the person with loads of makeup on and those types of things can always even be photo shopped. Also, my parents don't like to spend so much money for those kinds of things and I can understand why. I want to know a good, healthy and inexpensive way to heal acne scars and pimples. Also, I'm the type of person that, when I'm sitting down and doing something on a desk of some sort, I lean on my hand. Apparently that makes acne worse and I want to know if that's true.
    My second question (don't worry, this'll be short) is about chicken pox scars. I had chicken pox at the age of 13 which is extremely late compared to other people. I don't know if the age that I had chicken pox has an effect on chicken pox scars or not, but the scars (from the few that I apparently picked at, even though I don't remember doing that…) from those days haven't gone away and I was just wondering if they was any inexpensive way to treat them? Just to reduce visibility.
    My last question is about my back (that sounds strange, haha). I have weird, small bumps on my back that are like pimples in terms of size but not actually pimples. I just want to know what exactly they are and if there's any way for me to get rid of them.
    Sorry for making people read my essay of a question :) I would really like to know (and would extremely appreciate) the answers for all of these questions - although not necessarily from one person.Also, I would accept any inexpensive home remedy and if you do think that things like Proactiv and other things like that work, I want to know about personal experiences, not just that 'doctors and dermatologists guarantee it'. I would also appreciate if help would come from people who experienced my type of acne or even worse and how they dealt with it, not just people who only have pimples rarely. But I do appreciate answers from anyone. Well, I guess I'm going to stop boring you with my constant babbling (this is what my friends have to deal with, haha) so this is where I'll stop.
    Thank you to anyone who has any advice.
    P.S. I might have left some info out but I don't think anyone will mind that seeing as I talked a lot already. Thank you!

loretta, March 15th, 2012 at 9:06 am:

  • hi i was reading your story cause i am insterst in making soap so i will give it a try and get on back to you soon your sincerenly Trinindad &Tobago

Lissa, March 21st, 2012 at 1:44 pm:

  • Hi galmhealvance,
    I'm no expert but I have had some experience with acne so I will try to answer your questions based on my experience.
    First, acne on your face can be caused by a few different factors but touching your face or leaning on your hand is one of them. Because our hands carry lots of dirt and stuff that can get into our pores. More importantly, you mentioned you started seeing acne when your hair was more on your face, this is not a surprise if you use conditioner or commercial shampoos on your hair. I have had the same problems as you have with acne and with the issue on your back. I had to stop using conditioner and the problem got better but still persisted. Finally I had to stop using commercial shampoos all together and started using my own homemade soap. Those problems all cleared up except for the occasional clogged pore for other reasons.

    As for scars; a lot of people use pure shea butter to clear up all kinds of scars. I can't say if it would work on acne scars and I wouldn't use it on my face if I already have oily skin because it may cause some clogging of pores which will cause pimples, but I know people who use this on other areas of their body with much success.
    Hope this helps a little.

Danielle, March 29th, 2012 at 4:20 pm:

  • Hello, I am going to attempt making soap tomorrow and have all my supplies and ingredients, I would like to add lavender oil and crushed lavender buds. Would you recommend adding the buds into the soap or sprinkling them on the top? I was also wanting to do the same with a vanilla soap with coffee beans?

Emily, May 27th, 2012 at 9:45 pm:

  • I too make soap and find it very relaxing and it rewarding.I am glad you enjoy it:)

Hasnah, September 23rd, 2012 at 12:06 am:

  • Dear Tina,

    It's been sometime now since the last comment on your blog. I hope I'll get a reply on the following Qs:
    1)If I want to make oat and honey soap and the lye calculator says to use 10 oz of liquid, does that amount of liquid include the honey?
    2) If I use silicone container, can I pour the soap straight into it or do I need to line the container with paper?


Tina Jiang, September 23rd, 2012 at 5:06 pm:

  • Hi Hasnah, I haven't tried using honey in my recipe yet (only oatmeal and honey fragrance oil) so I can't speak from experience. But I would think that you want to add the honey separately instead of replacing some of the water with it, since lye won't dissolve properly in honey. I did a Google search on how to add honey to cold process soap recipes and came across this article: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/tipstricks/a/honeyinfo.htm

    Hope this helps. Also, I pour soap mixture straight into the silicone molds - no paper needed. Since silicone is flexible, you should be able to push the soaps out easily. Good luck!

Hasnah, September 26th, 2012 at 11:13 am:

  • Hi! Thank you for your reply and the Google search. So sweet of you!

Debi, October 16th, 2012 at 8:36 pm:

  • I've been using lye soap (that we buy at the farmer's market) for a few years so I decided to try to make my own. I actually made a batch of this recipe the other day and used an old 1 litre milk carton as a mold. I bought lavender oil to add to it but decided not to because lavender oil is expensive and if the soap failed, I would have wasted a lot of money! it is a bit soft (that's not a problem is it??) and a different colour to yours but I think that's because I used EV olive oil (which I realise now was a bit silly!) and cold-pressed organic coconut oil because that's what I had (not copha or refined coconut oil). I'm hoping in 6-8 weeks I'll have lovely, moisturizing bars of soap to use and give away (and just in time for Christmas! hmmm!).

    I also just read the question on acne, and this is to anyone still wondering about the best way to get rid of acne. the best thing you can do for curing acne is to wean yourself off commercial facial cleansers as they strip your oils and cause your skin to overproduce. sebum (skin oil) cleans your skin and it regulates itself when you let it. When I started buying lye soap, I used it on my face instead of commercial cleansers which made the transition easier. Now I hardly ever need to wash my face with anything but hot water and I have virtually no acne (I'm 23 years old). But I also don't wear make up or hair products and often have my hair pulled back in a bun (for work). What you eat also makes a huge difference (less sugar, refined carbs and meat, more whole grains, fruits and veg, and water). Water is particularly important because it carries away and disposes of toxins in your body (through your pee!). The less water you drink, the more your body must rely on disposing of toxins through your skin, causing acne. hope this helps someone!

Debi, October 17th, 2012 at 3:42 am:

  • I thought I should throw it out there that if you do wear makeup but you don't want to use commercial cleansers, the oil cleansing method would probably be the best way to wash makeup off your face (even waterproof makeup because you're using oil!) because I'm not sure how well lye soap would wash it all off. but again I don't wear makeup so I don't know! (I do know the oil cleansing method works though!)

Angelina, November 9th, 2012 at 4:43 am:

  • My grandmother used to make soap in her village when I was a kid,she was making raw soap without fragrance or modern utilities. Today I also want to follow her in her steps, I have very sensitive skin and among commercial soaps I hardly ever find something that does not irritates my skin. Where I live I can not find coconut oil, so what can I use as a substitute? Olive, sunflower, soya oil are available and maybe some others but the choice is not too wide. Please for an advice. Good luck, your site is very helpful.
    Regards, Angelina

shanna, November 20th, 2012 at 1:01 am:

  • a few years ago my sister made goat milk soap with oats and with coffee, it really helped with my skin condition. ihave been wanting to make it my self but cant find someone to do it with, I am afraid of messing up and i learn best by doing, so far i have not found any classes near me. I wish I could get with my sister for a few days.

Alex, January 26th, 2013 at 9:31 am:

  • OK, we spent the last 4-5 days obsessed with this process. We used the exact recipe x 4 (24 oz of coconut oil, 40 oz of olive oil, 9 oz of lye, etc. - all dry weight measurements), and it took about 3-4 hours to finally achieve trace. I spent over an hour stirring with a regular hand blender, then had to leave it as I went to the store to buy a crock pot (I was about to abandon the cold process) and a stick blender. I used the stick blender (with whisk attachment) a little bit after it achieved a slight trace. It didn't really do much. I see no difference between a stick blender and a hand blender. In fact, the the stick blender has lower RPM… I think what took so long for us to get trace was the TYPE of oil we used. Apparently, based on our research, EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil is NOTORIOUS for dramatically extending the amount of time it takes to achieve trace. But all is well, after 2 days in the mold, it was nice and firm. We cut it with a knife, and now it is drying. Do note, as far as we can tell, the soap is completely saponified after only 2 days. My wife has hyper sensitive skin, and we both took a bar of the raw soap on day 2 and rubbed it vigorously on our forearms. No irritation whatsoever. So no need to worry about lye in the soap after 72 hours or so (just to be safe). This will make it ALOT easier to flip the soap as it dries over the next several weeks. We are still letting it cure for some time, in hopes that the soap gets harder. Right now it's firm, but still too soft for our preference. THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE!

Grace Buchanan, March 10th, 2014 at 5:30 pm:

  • Can you add rose petals to the soap? My grandma used to make soap, and I have roses that have very fragrant blooms. I'd like to try to make her soap and use the rose petals. I'm assuming that I would add the dried petals right before pouring into the molds.