Making your own homemade soap is becoming a popular pastime and money-saver for those of us with a craft-loving side. It’s also one of the only ways to steer clear of store-bought mass-produced soaps that contain all sorts of unhealthy and unnatural chemicals.
In fact, commonly found factory-made soaps are basically just detergent for your skin, which hardly gives your skin the moisture it needs. These soaps also often contain synthetic dyes and fragrances which may, in some cases, cause cancer.
So How Do You Make Your Own DIY Soap?
The basic formula for making soap involves three things: an alkali base, an acid, and water. Put these three things together, and you have yourself a bar of homemade soap. Don’t worry if this sounds complicated. After reading through our guide, making soap will seem easy.
First, let’s clear up what those three ingredients are. We all know what water is, so check that off your list. But what is an alkali base, and what do we mean by acid? If you think back to your high school chemistry days, you’ll remember that an alkali base is a basic compound and acid is, well, acidic. When these two compounds are combined, they begin the process of saponification. Going through this process is what turns your ingredients into soap.
That wasn’t so complicated, was it? So, let’s start gathering our ingredients. First up is our alkali base, also called “lye”. There are two main bases that are used today, and they are sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. If you’re looking for a softer soap, you’ll want to make a potassium-based soap. And likewise, for harder soap, make it sodium-based. However, most soap-makers just buy a one size fits all bottle of lye without worrying about the specifics.
For our acid compound, we’ll need to gather some oils. Yes, oils are acidic. Being acidic means having a low pH balance. Other ingredients with a low pH balance are alcohol, sodas, egg yolks, and even rice, but for soap making, let’s just focus on oils. You can use any type of oil or fats in your homemade soaps, even olive oil and animal fat. If those don’t sound appealing to you, read our list of other acidic compounds that you can add to your soap recipe.
A List of Some Acidic Compounds You Can Use For Your Homemade Soaps
Don’t feel limited to just one compound. Most homemade soaps contain two or even three!
- Coconut Oil – Makes your soap super cleansing and bubbly. Pairs well with Aloe Vera for a cleansing and moisturizing soap.
- Canola Oil or Castor Oil- Creates a thick, rich, and creamy lather. These are good options if you have a small budget.
- Sesame Oil – This is a great source of calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E and B1… (the list goes on). It creates a moisturizing soap. Be wary of using high amounts of this, as the smell can overtake the bar of soap.
- Palm Oil or Palm Kernel Oil – Creates a harder, more solid bar of soap. It is also a source of vitamin E.
- Sunflower Oil – One of the fattiest of the oils, and produces a rich and creamy lather of soap. (This is a popular one)
- Almond Oil – Creates a moisturizing and creamy bar.
- Any Essential Oils – The oil’s scent will not last through the soap-making process unless you use the Melt and Pour method. (More details below)
Now that you have a good idea of the basic ingredients you’ll need for making your DIY bar of soap, let’s start talking about the methods of home soap making. For bar soaps, there are 4 different methods you can use. Read through them and choose which method is right for you.
The Cold Process Method
In this method, you will be getting your hands dirty, so make sure you have some rubber or plastic gloves handy. This is probably the most popular method for DIY soaps and is perfect if you want to feel like a real scientist as you measure and mix chemicals together to form your beautiful creation.
Here’s a brief step-by-step guide on what the Cold Process Method pertains:
- Gather your ingredients and materials.
- Prepare your bar soap mold. Line it with parchment paper, or freezer paper if you have it.
- Measure out your ingredients. This includes your lye, your water, and your oils/fats.
- Combine the lye and water. Pour the lye into the water, not water into lye. These will react and start heating up fast. Stir this mixture until the lye is dissolved fully, then let it cool to about 90-110 degrees F.
- Heat the oils/fats to around 90-110 degrees F.
- Combine the water/lye mixture and the oils/fats. Then stir.
- Pour into the bar soap mold.
- Let sit for about 36 hours. Don’t touch it or you may disturb the saponification process.
- Cut your bars into the shape and size you want, then let sit for 4-6 weeks before use.
The Hot Process Method
This method is quite similar to the Cold Process Method, but this one is better for those of us with less patience, as your soap will be ready to use sooner. This method is also better if you want to utilize the fragrances in essential oils.
Here’s a basic step-by-step guide for making homemade soap with the Hot Process Method:
- Create your water and lye solution, just like in the Cold Process Method. Then let it cool for about 20 minutes or until about 120-150 degrees F.
- Put a pot over your stove on low heat.
- Heat your oils/fats to over 100 degrees F but not above 180 degrees F.
- In your pot, combine the lye solution with your heated oils/fats. Then mix. Keep your pot covered when you can. This will help keep the moisture in your soap.
- Heat until your mixture is translucent. Take it off the flame and mix.
- Wait until the soap has cooled a bit (180 degrees F) to add any fragrance or other additives.
- Pour it into your bar soap molds and wait until cooled and hardened.
- Enjoy your soap right away!
The Milling Method
This method, also called the French Milling Method, is one of the easier soap-making methods. This method is perfect if you already have a bunch of bars of soap and want to enhance them in some way, whether that be with a stronger fragrance or more healing qualities, or maybe you want to mix your bars of soaps together and pour them into a fun mold. If that sounds like a fun project, then the Milling Method may be the method for you.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for making homemade soaps with the Milling Method:
- Gather your bars of soap. With a cheese grater, grate the soap into a bowl.
- Add hot water (½ cup per every 4 ounces of soap) to your shredded soap.
- Heat over the stove until it has a thick consistency.
- Lower the heat, then add in your extra ingredients. This can include honey, milk, exfoliation additives, or herbs, etc. but not essential oils, as they would just evaporate over the heat.
- Stir until cool. Then add in essential oils if desired.
- Put the mixture into your mold and wait 2-4 weeks until hard.
The Melt and Pour Method
This is the most simple homemade soap making method and is popular with soap making beginners. For this method, you’ll need to purchase a melt and pour soap base. This is the base for your soap and will be melted down into a clear soap that you can then get creative with. Like the method’s name says, making soap with this method is basically just melting down a melt and pour base, adding things like oils, herbs, color, etc. then molding it into a solid shape.
Since this is the best method for beginner soap makers, here’s a more in-depth guide to making homemade soap with the Melt and Pour Method:
- Gather your ingredients. For this method, you’ll need a melt and pour soap base, a knife, a microwave-safe bowl or stove-top pot, soap molds, 1 essential oil of your choice, soap dye, 1 exfoliant of your choice (suggestions: ground or chopped dried flower petals, oatmeal, poppy seeds, strawberry seeds tea leaves)
- Measure out your melt and pour soap base. Cut your soap base into 1×1 inch squares, then look at your soap mold and eyeball how much soap base you’ll need.
- Put the squares of soap base into your pot or microwave-safe bowl and heat, stirring every 20-30 seconds until completely melted.
- Add in your dye. Put in a few drops at a time, stirring thoroughly.
- Add in your essential oil. 5-6 drops should be enough.
- Add in a few pinches of your exfoliant and let the mixture sit until exfoliants sink to the bottom before gently stirring.
- Pour mixture into your molds. Pour it in carefully and slowly to avoid any air bubbles. If you see air bubbles, take a toothpick or something sharp, and pop them right away.
- Let the soap sit for a few hours at room temperature, or 1 hour in the refrigerator, until completely solid.
- Enjoy! (Yes, it’s that easy)
Now that you are familiar with the four different homemade soap making methods, you can gather your supplies and start creating. Soap making is a great way to express your artistic and creative side, especially if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. Set aside a few hours one day and get your hands dirty making soap. It’s funny, isn’t it? You’re getting your hands dirty making something to clean your hands with…
So get creative and make your own soaps. It’ll save you money in the long-run and keep your skin away from harmful chemicals found in factory-made soaps. And who knows, maybe soap-making is your undiscovered passion.