Simple Soap Recipe

I’ve been making my own soap for about 10 years now. It started out as glycerine soaps, but they melted away so quickly. One of my first dates with Toby was making lye soaps, so it’s been lye every since. I love making a big batch of yummy smelling soap, having enough to last us for a long while, and being able to give some as gifts. It’s so nice to pull one of my own soaps from the closet when I need more.

So, here is my quick and easy soap recipe. I almost always start with this and add to it whatever I’m in the mood for. (I promise to post pictures of these steps the next time I make more soap!)

You will need:
-200 grams of lye (it’s not so easy to find this any more. Recently, I was able to get some at the ACE Hardware store. It may be called ‘Red Devil Lye’)
-19 ounces water
-21 ounces Olive Oil
-14 ounces Palm Oil
-16 ounces Coconut Oil
-cooking thermometer
-rubber gloves, old clothes, glasses
-old rubber mixing spatula
-electric beater/mixer

(this will make ~20 3-ounce or 15 4-ounce soap bars)

The first thing I do is line my soap mould. You can use a bread loaf pan, a rectangular tupperware, anything that is around 6×14 inches, or so… not an exact science (it’s also nice if your mould has a cover or something that will work as a cover). You will want to line this with wax paper, making nice crisp corners and taping everything together. This keeps the soap from coming into contact with the actual mould. (If you are using a flexible tupperware, this isn’t necessary since you can pop the soap out, but I still find it easier to line it.)

Next, measure out the lye into a large glass bowl.

Measure the water into a separate container (I use a quart jar).

Take both of these things outside, wearing your rubber gloves and other protective gear. Slowly pour the lye into the bowl of water and mix with the spatula. It will get hot very fast (up to 200 degrees) and put off nasty fumes. At this stage, it is also caustic and can easily burn the skin. So stay up wind of the bowl and mix carefully until the lye is dissolved in the water. Then wait for the lye/water mix to cool to 80-100 degrees.

While waiting, measure all the oils and warm them in a large ceramic or stainless steel pot until the oils are at 80-100 degrees.

When both the lye solution and the oils are 80-100 degrees, carefully pour the lye mix into the oils. With protective gear on, use the mixer/beater to mix it all together. This is called saponification (when the oils and lye come together and neutralize the lye) . It may take 5 minutes, it may take 20, but at some point you will notice that the mixture gets a little thicker. You will see the mix ‘trace’ or leave a mark of where you have just mixed… Kind of like cake batter, but not that thick.

At this point, you are ready to add any extras. I usually use essential oils and will add 2 Tbsp. of what ever smell or mix of smells I chose. I might also add ground herbs or flower petals, ground oats, clays or poppy seeds (for a good scrub). I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m thinking of adding colors, like a little poke berry juice or turmeric, to see what it looks like.

Blend these all in quickly.

Pour into your mould.

If you want to have swirls in the soap (like the pictures in the post below), you can add your powdered herbs or colorants at this stage and use the spatula or a butter knife to gently cut/mix them in.

Cover your mould and place it in a warm place to rest (I usually wrap mine in a towel to keep the heat in).

Check your soap every day. After one to three days, your soap will be firm enough to cut into soap slices. (I almost always cut it up after a day… this recipe seems to harden pretty quickly.) You can cut it into whatever shape you want. I usually cut them about 1-1.25 inches by 3 inches, or so… again, not an exact science.

Lay the soap out to finish curing for at least 3 weeks. Some people like to cut the tops and edges off to make them look more finished or take the ‘ashy’ look off of them. I leave it all on… it’s not harmful and I like the home made look.

There are so many different ways to make soaps and so many things that can be added… milk, honey, cocoa butter, other oils…. Start with a simple recipe and have fun experimenting. Get a good book, too, so you have good references.

13 thoughts on “Simple Soap Recipe

  1. I have wanted to make my own soap for years, since i saw a story in Country Woman magazine…i love going to the swap meets and flea markets in PA and seeing all those natural soaps with herbs and glycerine chunks in them that glisten like stained glass….maybe this Spring!!!…ps love the pic of the kitties in your other post!

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  4. Hi,
    I have been looking around here for awhile and when I saw this post here and when Kathie from Two Frogs Home mentioned it, I had to take extra notice.

    I have been trying go get up the nerve for some time to try making soap. Your instructions are easy (as promised) and clear to follow along with.

    A question I have:
    When you say to measure out lye into a large glass container. Is a glass 4 cup measure large enough? I think I read some where that the lye will bubble up. What have you found happens when you add the water?

    Would you use the glass measure for making hand lotions in the future? I mean to say use the measure for anything else other than lye?

    Thanks for the inspiration, I’m off to the hardware store this week for some lye.

    ~Karyn

  5. Hey Karyn,

    The glass bowl or measuring container has to be large enough to hold the lye and water comfortably enough while you stir… so a 4 cup measuring container for 19 ounces of water should be just fine. I’ve never had it bubble up on me.

    After I use the glass container, I just wash it well and put it back in the cabinet. I don’t have one that is reserved for soap making only…. made muffins in it yesterday and they were just fine… not a trace of lye :-)

    Let me know how it goes!!

  6. Maria,

    Thank you so much for the information. You didn’t mention if you bought your oils locally or not. I had to order mine off the internet when I made my salve. Do you have any suggestions on this?

    Thanks again for your help!!

    ~Karyn

  7. Unfortunately, none of these oils are made locally where I live…. Lard soaps would be a possibility for me… I’ll have to try that sometime.
    I did find a local seller, though, which helps cut down on shipping charges. His info is http://www.pureandsimpleways.com/

  8. Great! thanks for that information. I will stop in there and have a look around. I personally have been using Oils By Nature (oilsbynature.com) with good results for my salve and hand lotion bars.

    Have a great weekend
    ~Karyn

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  10. I really want to learn to make soap. It has been on my list of projects to attempt for a long time! Thank you for the recipe – your soap looks awesome. And I love your blog – so many inspiring projects that you have been up to! I want chickens too, but I am waiting for the city regulations to change.

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