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
-rubber gloves, old clothes, glasses
-old rubber mixing spatula
(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.