There is something exciting about making your own household products: you know what’s in it, and you will feel a new sense of appreciation about craft and self-production. Natural products such as soaps are also milder and better for your skin than the store-bought ones. Here’s a guide on making handmade, natural bar soaps.
Recipe: Debra Malowski
- ⅔ cup coconut oil
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- ⅔ cup other liquid oil – like almond oil, grapeseed, sunflower or safflower oil
- ¼ cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide
- ¾ cup cool water – distilled or purified
- Cover your work area with newspaper. Put your gloves and other protective wear on. Measure your water into the quart canning jar. Have a spoon ready. Measure your lye, making sure you have exactly ¼ cup. Slowly pour the lye into the water, stirring as you go. Stand back while you stir to avoid the fumes. When the water starts to clear, you can allow it to sit while you move to the next step.
- In the pint jar, add your three oils together. Heat in a microwave for about a minute, or place the jar of oils in a pan of water to heat. Check the temperature of your oils – it should be about 120° or so. Your lye should have come down by then to about 120°. Wait for both to cool somewhere between 95° and 105°. This is critical for soap making. Too low and it’ll come together quickly, but be coarse and crumbly.
- When both the lye and oils are at the right temperature, pour the oils into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the lye, stirring until it’s all mixed. Stir by hand for a full 5 minutes. It’s very important to get as much of the lye in contact with as much of the soap as possible. After about 5 minutes, you can keep stirring. The soap mixture will lighten in color and become thick. When it looks like vanilla pudding, it’s at “trace” and good to go for the next step.
- Add your herbs, essential oils or other additions at this point. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour the mixture into mold(s) and cover with plastic wrap. Set in an old towel and wrap it up. This will keep the residual heat in and ensure the base ingredient start becoming soap.
- After 24 hours, check your soap. If it’s still warm or soft, allow it to sit another 12-24 hours. When it’s cold and firm, turn it out and cut into bars. Allow soap to cure for 4 weeks or so. Make sure to turn it over once a week to expose all the sides to air.
- When your soap is fully cured, wrap it in wax paper or keep it in an airtight container.
- Do not use equipment that you will use for cooking to make the soap.
- Use gloves and other protections when making the soap if needed, as lye is caustic and could cause burn.
- Use only silicone or styrene plastic spoons. Spoons made from other materials will react to the lye.
- Clean all the equipment that have been in contact with lye immediately afterwards.