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Beginner's Guide: How to Make Handmade Soap with Simple Steps

Beginner's Guide: How to Make Handmade Soap with Simple Steps

sLooking to craft your handmade soap but don’t know where to start? This practical guide breaks down how to make handmade soap into manageable steps, covering everything from the essentials of saponification to the curing process.

Perfect for beginners, we’ll help you select the right tools and ingredients and walk you through each stage of the soap-making process without any fluff. By the end of this article, you’ll clearly understand how to make soap that’s uniquely yours.

Key Takeaways

  • Soap-making is a versatile craft with different methods; the cold process is recommended for beginners, requiring careful handling of lye (Sodium Hydroxide) for saponification, which turns oils into soap and glycerin.

  • Choosing the right ingredients is crucial; the properties of oils, butter, and essential oils determine the hardness, lather, and skin benefits of the soap, allowing customisation for specific skin types.

  • Detailed steps for making soap include preparing your workspace with necessary safety gear, measuring and mixing ingredients accurately, and pouring and curing, with opportunities to customise soap with natural colourants, exfoliants, and creative packaging if selling.

Understanding the Soap-Making Process

soap, horsetail, salt

Every soap bar results from a chemical reaction. This meticulous process necessitates profound knowledge of the ingredients and their interactions. Versatility adds beauty to the soap-making process. There are several methods of making soap, each offering a unique experience and end product.

Examples of these methods include the cold process, hot process, melt and pour, among others. However, this guide mainly emphasises the cold process method, which is highly recommended for beginners, while hot process soap is another popular option.

Cold process soap-making, an ancient craft, allows you complete control over the ingredients. Envision fabricating your soap with fresh plant material or liquid milk - a feature not typically found in store-bought soaps! Now, we’ll explore the soap-making process more thoroughly, beginning with the key component—lye.

The Role of Lye

Lye, scientifically known as Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), is the backbone of soap-making. It’s a caustic and potentially hazardous substance that needs careful handling, but it’s also the magic ingredient that turns oils into soap.

Saponification is the process by which a chemical reaction results in this transformation. It involves the conversion of fat or oil into soap and alcohol. But what exactly is saponification, and why is lye so crucial to it? Let’s find out.

In the saponification process, every molecule of lye reacts with corresponding molecules of oil to create soap and glycerin. If you’re aiming for liquid soap, Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) is your go-to lye.

Yes, soap-making gives you the freedom to choose between solid and liquid soap! But remember, lye is not your everyday ingredient. It needs to be handled with care, using safety equipment and keeping it away from children and pets.

However, you shouldn’t be intimidated by the chemical nature of lye. Equipped with the right safety gear and responsible handling, you’re ready to observe the enchanting conversion of fats and oils into soap. Next, we’ll delve into the details of this transformation.

Saponification Explained

Saponification, the core of soap-making, transforms oils and lye into soap and glycerol. Consider it the wave of a magic wand that transmutes your raw ingredients into a soothing, cleansing soap bar.

However, this is not an instant process. The saponification process is usually completed within 24 to 48 hours. Indeed, soap-making requires a great deal of patience!

During saponification, an intriguing phenomenon known as ‘trace’ occurs. ‘Trace’ signifies the beginning of saponification, marking the moment when the soap mixture starts to thicken. Once you observe a creamy, pudding-like texture, you know the process is on the right track.

Keep in mind, though, it’s a delicate balance. Neither rushing the process nor slowing down the reaction is desirable.

Voila! Patience and precision yield a solid, cleansing soap bar once saponification is complete. Bear in mind that the ingredients you use, such as pour soap, are just as crucial to the soap-making process as the saponification process itself.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

Various oils and butters used in soap-making

Visualise creating a masterpiece with subpar paints. That’s akin to soap-making without appropriate ingredients. Your choice of oils, butter, and essential oils significantly impacts the properties of your final soap. Factors such as hardness, lather quality, and skin benefits all hinge on your ingredient selection.

So, how does one choose suitable ingredients? The key lies in comprehending their properties. From lard to exotic tropical plant oils, a wide range of fats can be used in soap-making. Each ingredient contributes a unique element.

For example, butter such as shea and cocoa results in a hard bar and stable lather. On the other hand, oils like olive have conditioning properties but generate low lather.

The diversity and uniqueness of your soap can mirror your choice of ingredients. Desire a soap for dry skin? Or perhaps for sensitive skin? Understanding the properties of oils and butter allows you to tailor your soap recipe to cater to specific skin concerns.

Now, let’s further explore the realm of oils, butter, essential oils, and olive oil.

Oils and Butter

In soap-making, oils and butter play a vital role. They imbue your soap with life, determining its texture, lather, and conditioning properties. However, not all oils and butter are alike. Each has unique properties that affect your soap’s quality.

Solid fats such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and animal fats are typically used to produce hard soap bars. They significantly enhance the soap’s firmness.

Conversely, butter such as shea, cocoa, and mango influence the soap bar’s hardness. Shea butter confers conditioning properties without boosting lather, and mango butter enhances the soap’s overall firmness. Castor oil is your ideal ingredient if you desire soap with prolonged lather.

Essential Oils for Fragrance

Often, the scent of soap is what first catches your attention. The scent draws you in, encouraging further exploration.

Essential oils contribute this sensory experience to your soap. Primarily added for their unique scents, they sometimes also provide colour.

The possibilities for scenting your soap with essential oils are limitless. Here are some options to consider:

  • Woodsy cedarwood

  • Zesty sweet orange

  • Floral ylang ylang

  • Refreshing lemongrass

Based on your preference, adjust the amount of essential oil for a stronger or lighter scent. Keep in mind to use glass containers when measuring out your fragrance oils, as certain essential oils can gradually degrade plastic.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Handmade Soap

Illustration of soap-making workspace setup

Having covered the basics, it’s now time for the exciting part—creating your soap! This section provides a detailed guide to fabricating soap using the cold-process method. This method gives you complete control over ingredients, enabling exploration and experimentation.

The cold-process method resembles a blank canvas. You have endless possibilities, such as adding fresh plant material or liquid milk. During the process, keep the combined oils within a temperature range of 90 to 115 degrees F.

This guarantees a proper combination with the lye solution. Once you reach ‘trace’—when the soap mixture begins to thicken—you may continue with the cold process or transition to the hot process.

Whether it’s preparing your workspace, measuring and mixing ingredients, or pouring and curing your soap, we’ve got all aspects covered. We’ll start by preparing your workspace.

Preparing Your Workspace

Workspace preparation is crucial before beginning the soap-making process. Consider it your soap-making laboratory. Ensure it is tidy, well-organised, and devoid of distractions. After all, as you’re about to conduct a chemical reaction, maximum focus is essential.

Start by protecting your counters with suitable materials and arranging your tools and ingredients for convenient access. Strive for maximum efficiency in your workspace. Opt for stainless steel, glass, or heavy-duty plastic for your equipment.

Remember, safety gear is vital! Always wear goggles and gloves when handling lye. Finally, make sure your workspace is well-ventilated. Inhaling any fumes during the process is undesirable.

Measuring and Mixing Ingredients

Precision is paramount in soap-making. Soap-making involves more than just mixing a bunch of oils and lye and hoping for optimal results. Accurate measurement and proper mixing of ingredients are necessary.

For precise measurements, a digital scale is your best option. Inaccurate volume measurements can impact your soap’s consistency.

Begin by taking the temperature of your lye solution and oils. Ensure they cool to 100 to 110°F (38 to 43°C) before mixing. This will result in a smooth texture. Next, for safety, weigh your water into a heatproof container and add lye to the water (not the other way around).

Ensure to verify your lye amounts with a lye calculator for recipe balance. Finally, use a stick blender to emulsify your oils and lye water. Blend gently to prevent air bubbles and fumes.

Pouring and Curing Soap

After measuring and mixing your ingredients, the next stage involves pouring your soap batter into moulds.

Options for moulds include wooden loaf moulds, silicone moulds, or even sturdy cardboard boxes. To remove any trapped air bubbles, tap the mould on the counter. As desired, you can use a spatula or spoon to texture the top of the melt and pour soap.

Once the soap has been poured and sliced into bars, it needs to be cured for a minimum of 4 weeks.

Curing is necessary for the completion of the saponification process. This final step transmutes your mixture into a firm, cleansing soap bar.

Customising Your Handmade Soap

Natural colorants for handmade soap

Soap-making transcends mere craft; it’s an art form. Like all art forms, it provides a platform for expressing creativity. Whether you’re adding colour or incorporating exfoliants and additives, your soap can be as unique as you. For soap makers, this creative process is both rewarding and fulfilling.

By experimenting with natural colourants, essential oils, and exfoliants, you can create a soap that’s distinctly yours.

For instance, the Tea Time Soap utilises green tea leaves and eucalyptus oil. Alternatively, the Relaxing Spa Day Soap incorporates lavender buds and essential oils.

But what is the method to incorporate these colourants and exfoliants into your soap? Let’s delve into the specifics.

Natural Colorants

Colour addition can enhance your soap’s visual appeal. Why opt for synthetic dyes when natural colourants are an option? Some plant-based sources that can imbue your soap with a spectrum of attractive shades include:

  • Calendula flowers

  • Alkanet

  • Annatto seeds

  • Activated charcoal

You have the option to infuse these colourants in liquid oils or introduce them as powders at trace. The final shade of your soap can be influenced by different amounts and techniques.

For example, incorporating madder roots or clays can impart a tint to your soap mix. But it’s not solely about colour. Clays also can absorb essential oils, thereby extending the fragrance of your soap.

Exfoliants and Additives

The texture and therapeutic properties of your soap can be enhanced by exfoliants and additives. Envision a soap that serves dual purposes - cleansing and exfoliating your skin. Common exfoliants like:

  • oatmeal

  • coffee grounds

  • fruit seeds

  • cornmeal

Adding natural exfoliants to your bar soap can lend a scrubby texture to your soap.

Botanicals such as:

  • calendula petals

  • ground lavender buds

  • eucalyptus leaves

  • rose hips

  • rose petals

can also be added to your soap. These not only boost the visual appeal of your soap but also offer mild exfoliation. For a splash of colour, consider petals like sunflower and beetroot.

Storing and Caring for Your Handmade Soap

Proper storage of handmade soap

After investing hard work, patience, and creativity into your soap, maintaining its quality is paramount. To maintain the longevity and quality of your handmade soap, proper storage and care are essential.

It’s best to store handmade soap in open air, as opposed to sealed containers. This precaution prevents moisture trapping due to glycerin attraction. Your soap should be kept in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

During curing, arrange bars spaciously on racks lined with greaseproof paper to ensure even airflow. Remember not to package your soap before it’s completely cured.

Simplify Your Soap-Making Journey with Our Handcrafted Soaps

Feeling Limited by Soap-Making?

If the world of saponification, precise measurements, and waiting for the perfect cure feels too restrictive, fear not. Our expansive selection of bath and body products offers you the freedom to indulge in a world of organic oils, body scrubs, and luxurious body oils without the hassle of DIY soap-making.

Uncover a World of Premade Bath & Body Treasures

Venture into our handpicked assortment of premade bath and body delights, where each product is infused with the same dedication and care as a handcrafted soap. We've meticulously selected the highest quality natural ingredients to ensure a premium experience.

From invigorating body scrubs that exfoliate to rich, nourishing body oils that hydrate, our collection caters to every aspect of your body care routine.

Personalised Body Care Without the Complexity

Longing for personalised body care but intimidated by the process of creating it yourself? Our range extends beyond soaps to include custom-blended organic oils, therapeutic essential oils, rejuvenating face masks, and more.

Select your favourite elements to craft a personalized care package that reflects your unique preferences, leaving the complexities of production to us. Dive into the luxury of tailored body care with ease.


And there you have it—a comprehensive guide to soap-making. From understanding the soap-making process to choosing the right ingredients, making your soap, and even selling it. We’ve covered it all.

Soap-making is more than just a craft. It’s a journey of creativity, patience, and infinite possibilities. So, roll up your sleeves, let your creativity flow, and embark on this exciting journey of soap-making. Happy soap-making!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is needed to make homemade soap?

To embark on the journey of making homemade soap, you'll need a few essential ingredients and tools. The cornerstone of soap-making is lye, scientifically known as sodium hydroxide. Additionally, a variety of oils and butters are necessary to create the soap's texture and moisturising properties. Additives such as essential oils can be incorporated for a natural scent, and for those who desire, fragrance oils and colourants can add another layer of customisation. It's also worth mentioning that animal fats or vegetable oils, along with distilled water, are part of the traditional soap-making recipe. Remember, safety is paramount when working with lye, so ensure you have the appropriate safety gear and work in a well-ventilated area.

What are the three ingredients to make soap?

At its core, soap-making can be surprisingly simple. The fundamental trio of ingredients includes coconut oil, lye, and distilled water. With just these three components, you can create hard, moisturising bars that produce a rich and satisfying lather. This minimalist approach is a great way to start your soap-making adventure, offering a straightforward pathway to crafting effective and natural soap at home.

What is the role of lye in soap-making?

Lye, or Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), plays an indispensable role in the art of soap-making. It's the chemical agent responsible for saponification, the process that transforms oils and fats into the cleansing and glycerin-rich product we know as soap. While lye is a caustic substance that must be handled with care, it is the catalyst that makes the alchemy of soap-making possible, turning simple ingredients into something extraordinary.

How important is the selection of oils and butter in soap-making?

The selection of oils and butter in soap-making cannot be overstated; it is akin to choosing the finest ingredients for a gourmet meal. The unique properties of each oil and butter will influence the hardness, lather quality, and skin-nourishing benefits of the final product. Whether you're aiming for a soap that's luxuriously moisturising, refreshingly cleansing, or a balance of both, understanding the characteristics of your chosen fats is key to creating a soap that's perfectly tailored to your needs.

How do I incorporate essential oils in my soap?

Incorporating essential oils into your soap is an art in itself, allowing you to infuse each bar with a signature scent that can elevate the soap-using experience. To achieve the desired fragrance intensity, it's important to adjust the amount of essential oil based on your preference. These aromatic oils are primarily added for their distinctive scents, but they can also contribute therapeutic properties and a touch of colour depending on the oil chosen. Always use glass containers when handling essential oils, as some can react with plastic, and introduce the oils at the right time in the soap-making process to preserve their essence.