If you've never made natural soaps at home before, you'll need to make sure you have the equipment and utensils before you start.
1) Two good sized stainless steel or enamelled saucepans.
2) One heat-proof glass measuring jug or plastic jug able to withstand boiling water.
3) Accurate kitchen scales.
4) Utensils for stirring etc. i.e. Wooden or stainless steel spoons, a balloon whisk or rubber/wooden spatular, or similar.
5) Two (preferably) cooking/brewing thermometers (although 1 can be used fairly successfully)
6) A mould to pour the liquid soap into whilst it sets. A wooden or cardboard tray or box lined with grease-proof paper or siliconised baking sheet is great. Silicone cake-baking moulds are also suitable, as are some other forms of plastic moulds such as 'tupperware' containers.
7) Eye and hand protection (safety glasses and rubber gloves).
8) A blanket or large towel.
INGREDIENTS (excluding colour & fragrance)
12 oz (340g) of cold, clean water
125g of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) beads or pearls
1lb (454g) olive oil (preferably pomace grade but virgin or extra virgin will do)
10oz (284g) coconut oil (hard variety)
6oz (170g) shea butter
1/4 tsp Grapefruit seed extract OR vitamin E (optional preservative). Note... Grapefruit seed extract will speed up the time it takes for your soap to 'trace'.
Make sure you have all
the ingredients and equipment listed above BEFORE you start and
weigh them out into suitable containers ready to use.
wear safety goggles/glasses and use protective gloves when soap-making
to avoid injury from spills and splashes.
First choose your mould. Traditionally, soaps are made in wooden
moulds lined with waxed or siliconised 'greaseproof' paper, but
a carboard box lined in a similar way is fine or you can choose
to use a silicone cake-baking mould, as they are usually lye and
heat-resistant. Also, many forms of plastic kitchenware will be
suitable and may also not need lining, such as 'tupperware' type
If choosing a traditional lined wooden mould, make sure the lining
paper is not cut or holed in any way below the top of the mould.
It must be folded into corners etc. to ensure there are no leaks.
Measure out 12 oz (340g)
of cold clean water into a jug. Weigh (accurately) 125g of sodium
hydroxide beads (or pearls) into a suitable container. Carefully
add the sodium hydroxide to the water, stirring all the time with
a spoon or spatular. Be careful not to breathe the vapour that is
initially given off, so hold your breath and stir until all the
sodium hydroxide has dissolved and there are no lumps stuck to the
bottom of the jug. |
The solution (now known as Lye) will heat up to nearly 200oF and
will need to be left to cool. Place one of the thermometers into
the solution and leave to one-side. If you
want to speed the cooling, place the jug in a large bowl of cold
water, being careful not to 'float' it.
Meanwhile, measure out
exactly 10oz (284g) of coconut oil and 6oz (170g) of shea butter into
one of the saucepans (the smaller if there is one) and gently melt
it on the stove. Don't overheat it, just melt it. When there are
tiny pieces of solid oil still left to melt, turn off the heat and
leave until completely liquid. If using a Lake or similar pigment
to colour your soap, add a little to the warm oils now (see guide
Whilst the solid oils
are melting, measure out 1lb (454g) of olive oil (pomace grade is
best) into the other saucepan (this will be the soap-making pan). If adding optional preservative, add it to the olive oil now. |
Once melted, pour the combined coconut oil and shea butter into the olive
oil and mix them all together.
Place the other thermometer
in the pan of oils. You
should end up with a thermometer in each of the lye and oils as
Important... What you now need to do is keep watch on the temperatures of both
the oils and the sodium hydroxide solution (Lye). If you haven't
two thermometers you'll need to move one between containers ensuring
it is cleaned between each. Depending how fast you are working it
may well be beneficial to make use of the hint above about placing
the jug of lye in a large bowl of cold water. This is because it
starts off hotter than the oils and has more cooling to do. Once
both oils and lye are at near similar temperatures they can be combined.
Don't let everything get too cool. As a guide a minimum of around
80oF and a maximum of around 130oF are ideal limits of temperature.
As long as oils and lye are both at similar temperatures between
these limits your soap should turn out just fine
When at the correct temperatures,
slowly and carefully pour the lye into the oils, and start stirring
(preferably with a hand (balloon) whisk to ensure the mixture all
starts to chemically react and combine.. |
You should stir throughout
the mixture fairly briskly. You will notice the solution start to
turn more opaque and as the minutes pass it will start to thicken.
The stage in the process you have to wait for is known as the 'Trace'.
This is when you can drizzle the mixture from the whisk (or spoon/spatular)
onto the surface of the solution and it leaves a visible trace before
sinking back into the rest.
If adding colour with
ultramarines, oxides or food-safe water soluble powders etc., make
them up in a little water and add them now (just before or at the
If adding essential oil/s,
add them at 'the trace' after any colour and stir in well. |
Once everything is added
and the mixture traces simply pour it into your lined mould.
Cover the mould with something like a cardboard sheet to prevent
anything touching the surface of the soap whilst it's setting.
Insulate with old towels
or a blanket and leave at room temperature until the soap has solidified.
With a small batch like this example, this should be no more than
24 hours. Larger batches can take longer. |
Once set and cool, remove the soap from the mould and remove any
lining paper from the soap. At this stage it will be a soft solid
and can be easily cut into bars or smaller blocks if desired. If
it appears too soft to handle, leave it for 2-3 days and try again.
Leave your soap 'curing' at room temperature for typically at least
3-4 weeks, preferably on a sheet of uncoloured absorbant paper allowing
air to circulate around each bar or block. Curing will allow the
soap to loose excess moisture and become harder.
Important... Do not store your soap in a cold place. Soap will 'sweat' if cured
or kept in a cold or cool place and then moved to a warmer one.
Avoid 'sweating' by keeping your soap at a constant room temperature.
Tip... If packaging your
soap, avoid absorbant paper or card coming into contact with your
soap directly as any 'sweating' of the soap once packed will spoil
the packaging. If you must use paper or card, wrap your soap first
in something like waxed or siliconised paper or plastic film.
Note... If using
higher grades of olive oil it will usually take longer to reach
a trace. Pomace grade is ideal for soap making.
Tip... If adding fragrance use pure essential oil/s (20ml in this recipe
size). Avoid fragrance oils until you're more experienced. See information
Tip... Suitable and simple-to-use colourants... Ultramarines: Oxides: Insoluble pigments which are used to colour the oils: Food-safe
dyes (sold as water soluble powders)...e.g. Tartrazine yellow: Sunset
yellow (orange): Amaranth red: many types of ground spices i.e.
Turmeric: Paprika: Cinnamon.
Information... If you're
using this recipe as a base for a soap you're adding your own colours
and fragrances to, take a note that in your early attempts at natural
soap-making it is far easier to fragrance a soap using pure essential
oils. Avoid most fragrance oils as they are almost all alcohol based (something
like dipropylene glycol) and virtually all forms of alcohol can cause
'siezing' in a soap mixture. This is when the mixture starts to set solid
very rapidly, before you have a chance to pour it, ruining all your efforts.
Also, bear in mind that many 'pretty' additions to a soap such as dried
flower heads etc. will very possibly turn brown and discolour the soap
if added to the mixture whilst it is a liquid. This is because of the
high water content and caustic nature at that stage. Additions that work
well are dried pulses, spices and dried herbs. Some spices achieve good
colour as well. Turmeric (yellow) and paprika (salmon-like) are two examples.
Petals etc. (like dried lavender) can be successfully 'pressed' onto the
surface of the soap after pouring, before covering and insulating, although
keep your gloves on when doing this as the mixture is still caustic at
that stage. Generally food-safe colours are not suitable for natural soap-making
(there are some exceptions). There are colours that work well and are
simple to use (see tip above). Procedure as follows...
and oxides require mixing with a little water and can be added at any
stage after all ingredients are in the soapmaking pan together, up to
Some types of pigments (known as insoluble
pigments) are NOT water soluble and give colour to soaps best in warm oils. Add
the powder or dispersion to melted coconut/palm oil and whisk in very thoroughly
to avoid any 'spotting'.
are basically in 2 varieties. Those that will add colour to the oils (Turmeric
and Paprika) which can be added to the warm oils similar to Lakes and
those that simply add colour by suspension (i.e. gound cinnamon) which
are best added near the trace in a little olive oil as a runny paste.
With ALL colours/pigments,
the depth of colour will vary with the amount added. Keep colours subtle
to avoid bleeding of colour into the lather when using the soaps. Mix
up enough in a little water (except insoluble pigments) and add a bit at a time until
the depth of colour you want is apparent. Guide for this size recipe...
All ultramarines/oxides max 1 tsp (5ml). Most food-safe water soluble
powders max 1/4 tsp (1.25ml). Lakes max 1/4 tsp (1.25ml). These are a
If you want to
enrich your soap with specific oils for their properties (maybe hempseed
or wheatgerm etc.) use aprox 1 Tbsb (15ml) at trace. Honey, also aprox
1 Tbsb (15ml) at trace. Exfolients, i.e. oatmeal or similar, up to 1/4
cup (60ml). at or before trace. Take care to ensure your soap is thick
enough to 'support' any exfolient additions before pouring or they may
sink or float (depends what they are).