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There's something satisfying about taking a bar of your own homemade soap into the bath or shower with you. If you’ve never tried a bar of real natural handmade soap, you’re in for a treat. Cold Process: The most common method of making soap from scratch with oils and lye.
Table of contents



A glass or plastic wide-mouth pitcher, to hold the water and lye. A two-cup plastic or glass measuring cup. Plastic or wooden spoons. A stick blender, also called an immersion blender.

This isn't absolutely necessary, but it reduces stirring time by about an hour. Two glass thermometers that register between degrees F. Candy thermometers work well for this purpose. Plastic molds that are suitable for cold process soapmaking, or shoe box, or a wooden mold. If you use a shoebox or wooden mold, line it with parchment paper. Multiple towels for cleanup. Read up on how to work with lye safely. Before you start the soap-making process, read the safety warnings that came on your box of lye.

Keep the following in mind as you handle lye or raw soap, before it has been cured: Lye should never touch your skin, as it will burn you. Wear safety goggles and glove at all times while handling lye and raw soap. Work with lye outside or in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in fumes. Measure 12 ounces of lye. Make sure that all of your ingredients are exactly the measurement that it is supposed to be, especially on smaller batches. Use the scale to make sure the measurement is exact, and pour the lye into the two-cup measuring cup.

Measure 32 ounces of cold water. Use the scale to make sure the measurement is exact, and pour the water into a large, non-aluminum container, such as a stainless steel pot or glass bowl. Add the lye to the water. Place the container of water under your stove's running exhaust fan, or make sure the windows are open and the room is well-ventilated.

How to Make Soap

Add the lye to the water slowly, stirring gently with a spoon until the lye is completely dissolved. It is very important to add the lye to the water and not the other way around; if you add the water to the lye, the reaction between the two substances is too quick, and may be dangerous. As you add the lye to the water, it will heat the water and release fumes.

Keep your face turned away to avoid inhaling the fumes. Set the mixture aside. Allow it to cool and let the fumes dissipate. Use the scale to weigh out 24 ounces of coconut oil, 38 ounces of vegetable shortening, and 24 ounces of olive oil. Set a large stainless steel pot on the stove on low-medium heat. Add the coconut oil and vegetable shortening and stir frequently until melted.

Add the olive oil and stir until all are completely melted and combined, then remove the pot from heat. Measure the temperature of the lye and oils.

How To Make Soap: Homemade Natural Hand and Body Bar Soap Recipe

Use different thermometers for the lye and oils, and continue to monitor their temperatures until the lye reaches degrees Fahrenheit degrees Celsius and the oils are at the same or lower temperature. Add the lye to the oils. When the two substances have reached the proper temperatures, add the lye in a slow, steady stream to the oils. Stir with a wooden or heat-resistent spoon; do not use metal. You may instead use a stick blender to stir the lye and oils. Continue to mix for about minutes until "tracing" occurs; you'll see your spoon leave a visible trace behind it, like one you'd see when making pudding.

If you're using a stick blender, this should occur within about 5 minutes. If you don't seen tracing within 15 minutes, let the mixture sit for minutes before continuing to mix again. Add 4 ounces of essential oil once tracing occurs.

How to Make Soap at Home - 4 Ways

Some fragrances and essential oils cinnamon, for example , will cause soap to set quickly, so be ready to pour the soap into molds as soon as you stir in the essential oil. Pour the soap into your mold. If you are using a shoebox or wooden mold, make sure it is lined with parchment paper. Use an old plastic spatula to scrape out the last bits of soap from the pot to the mold. Be sure you are still wearing gloves and safety goggles during this step, since raw soap is caustic and can burn skin.

Carefully hold the mold an inch or two above the table and drop it. Do this a few times to work out any air bubbles inside the raw soap. If you're using a shoebox as a mold, put the lid on it and cover with several towels. If you're using a soap mold, tape a piece of cardboard over the top before adding towels. The towels help insulate the soap to allow saponification to occur. Leave the soap covered, undisturbed, and out of air drafts including the air-conditioner for 24 hours. The soap will go through a gel stage and a heat process during the 24 hours. Uncover the soap and let it sit for another 12 hours, then see what the results are.

If you measured accurately and followed the directions, the soap may have a light layer of a white ash-like substance on the top.

Free Beginner’s Guide to Soapmaking: Cold Process

This is basically harmless and can be scraped away with the edge of an old ruler or metal spatula. If the soap has a deep oily film on top, it cannot be used, because it has separated. This will occur if your measurements were not accurate, you did not stir long enough, or if there is a drastic difference in the temperatures of the lye and oils when they are mixed.

If the soap did not set at all, or has white or clear pockets in it, this means it is caustic and cannot be used. This is caused by under-stirring during the soap-making process. Turn the box or mold over and allow the soap to fall on a towel or clean surface. You can make soap using only coconut oil! We actually have a great blog post about making coconut oil soap! I have a dilemma with gel or not gel.

Learn to Make All-Natural Soap For Face and Body

I like my soaps creamy look. I would prefer do not gel. I have been soaping in low temp. But then I get soda ash on the top of my soaps. I have read if I cover my soap and insulate and spray with alcohol I can avoid soda ash I just start to make bigger batch of soaps and I have found partial gel in my soaps.

Can I let my soap without insulating at all, soaping between F. Wether or not you choose to gel your soaps is totally up to you. We often gel our soaps because it not only helps prevent soda ash, but results in brighter colors. My suggestion would be to slightly soap hotter by about 10 degrees. If you tend to soap at cooler temperatures, achieve a thicker trace before pouring to lessen soda ash formation. If soda ash does appear on your soap, you can steam it off or simply clean your soap using cold water and a paper towel.

Here is a helpful post explaining how to prevent soda ash and what to do when it appears: I made quite a few batches of soap with this, and have used them too.. Are the batches of soap which i prepared safe to use? When making soap and working with lye, you want to avoid aluminum because lye reacts with aluminum.

We have always found our stick blenders to work really well! Perfect Pink Stick Blender: The soap that you already made is fine: Thanks for the quick reply. I shall change my blender and buy a new one which is completely stainless steel. I do not see any discoloration in the soap batches which i had already prepared, using my old blender.

Can i use those soaps? Is it safe to use? I would double check your soaps using the zap-test. It will be a zap like sticking your tongue on a 9 volt battery! This would mean your soap is lye heavy. I have some vegetable glycerin soap that now has a white substance on it. This was a store purchased soap that someone gave me as a gift. I left it in the plastic container and now it has this white substance on it. Any idea what it is? Is the soap ok or do I have to toss it? Any help would be appreciated. Hi Paula, Hmm, how strange! My first thought is that it could glycerin dew.

Glycerin is a humectant, which means it draws moisture from the air and sometimes that means the moisture can pool on the surface of the soap. Check out this blog post to see pictures of what I mean: Does the white substance look anything like that? Let me know and I can help troubleshoot further! My white substance looks more like a white powder.

If I rub it with my dry finger when the soap is dry, some of the white is on my finger. By the way, the soap was in the shape of a snow globe. There is liquid inside and a plastic figure. The liquid inside is pretty low. Maybe that was seeping through the soap? Hi Paula, Do you have a little more info about this, or maybe a photo? We would love to hear from you at info at brambleberry dot com. The more we know, the more we can help!

Thanks so much for your tutorial and willingness to share your knowledge! Almond Oil — 3. I got to a hard trace VERY quickly. When I mixed in the fragrance oils 1 oz , the soap seems to curdle. I kept on mixing, and the soap got harder and harder, and it got very difficult to put in the molds silicone. I ended up spooning and trying to mush it in there. So where did I go wrong? We are so sorry to hear that you are having a frustrating time with your soap batch. Could you tell us more about your fragrance oil? It sounds like it might have been one that accelerated trace. The more we know about it, the more we can help troubleshoot!

I would like to add some charcoal to it. What is the rule of thumb as far as amounts go for this ingredient or any other dry ingredient like ground oatmeal or dried camomile flowers for instance? Should they be added after trace? Should I separate some of the traced mixture and add the amount I need and then add it to the rest of the batch or should it be added to the oils before mixing with the lye mixture?

Thanks for your help and love your videos. I can tell that you are a very patient lady. Typically, dried ingredients like powders and botanicals can be added in at trace. With the colorants like the Activated Charcoal , you would add about 1 teaspoon per pound of soap to start out with and then experiment to find a usage rate that works for the rest for you! If you are finding that your colorants are clumping, we suggest adding them to a bit of fixed oil like Sweet Almond Oil beforehand and mixing the colorant in and then adding it to your batch at trace.

Talk It Out Tuesday: I just made my first soap and am very happy but I noticed I added my oils to the lye and not the other way around. Will this soap be safe to use. We always suggest adding your lye water to the oils for safety reasons, but your soap should be just fine. If you want to double-check after it has hardened, we suggest doing the zap test. The zap test is where you lick the soap after it has hardened like a 9-volt battery. I hope that this helps! If you have any more questions, let us know. Be sure to coat the cavities of your molds with a bit of Cylocmethicone to help them pop right out.

You will probably lose a bit of weight after it has cured, but there is not exact formula to figure out how much. I would suggest taking a look at the recipe you are working with and weighing it once it has hardened versus once it has cured. You will then know how much that particular recipe will weigh once cured.

I think the weighing before and after curing method will be my best bet. Hello, I have question about colorants. I am trying out oxides to color my soap. I used a red and I guess I used too much because the suds are red. Do I have to trash the batch? What can be negative issues for soap with too much colorants and colored suds. I imagine it would be fun for kids to have colored suds, but will it stain things skin, tub, sink, clothes ect? Also, so this does not happen again, how do I know how much to use in he future?

Any help would be wonderful. You are just going to have colored suds that may get on you and the washcloth. If that is too much colorant for you, you can always rebatch your soap and not add any extra colorants. Rebatch — Double Boiler Method: Soap Queen TV Presents: How to Make Rebatch Soap: The amount of colorant you use actually depends on what kind of soap you are making and the colorant you are using.

For an easy guide reference, here is a post that Anne-Marie wrote a few years ago that I use every time I am soaping. Once I left it in silicone mold for 2 days and it was impossible to get it out in one piece. Did I fail patience test? It seems to me that too short and too long curing in silicone mold is bad. You should be able to pop your soaps right out of the silicone molds without them breaking. Next time you use your silicone mold, try leaving it in there a couple more days to see if that helps out!

Just to let You know — I have put soaps together with silicone molds for a few hours in freezer and the poped out perfectly: Hi, In reference to one of your earlier comments, I am using a large slab mould with my CP recipe and I want to ensure I force gelling all the way through. Previously I got a partial gel. I left the heated blanket switched on all night on a low setting to help -but still a partial gel.

The best way that we have found for our batches to go through a full gel is to make sure they are on a heating blanket as well as being fully insulated with a towel. To do this, cover the top of your mold with a piece of cardboard and wrap the entire mold in a towel to insulate it. This should help to force your soap to go through a full gel! I hope this helps. I am actually going to do some soapy research on your question and get back to you on it!

I hope that is okay. I was able to do a bit of research on the question that you asked and I have an answer. You can soap as low as you would like, but 80 degrees Fahrenheit is as low as we would recommend going as Coconut Oil which is in most recipes , hardens at 76 F. We suggest insulating with a towel and applying heat through a heating blanket. But, if you are soaping at low temperatures, even putting a heating blanket on it will not guarantee gel phase.

We suggest soaping around , insulating and even adding a heating blanket on low if you want your cold process batches to go through gel phase. What ones do they use at Brambleberry? If you are interested in getting a face mask, I would check your local hardware store to see what they have available. Hi I was wondering what steps are taken to prep all of your tools to keep them sanitary to be used.

Do you use alcohol or a bleach solution to sanitize everything? How far in advance would you take these steps. I have my cp kit ready to go but want to make sure to have the cleanest and most sanitary tools possible. After you are done using them, be sure to clean them well with a oil-cutting dish soap like dawn. Just made my first cold process soap!

A Bit of My Soapy History

Mine seemed to almost solidify, I was able to pour it as one sort of gelatinous glop. Definitely not the pudding like trace I thought I had reached! Thanks for any advice. I used ocean rain, about 1. I used the soap recipe that comes with your beginners cold process kit. I took it out of the mold and cut the soap down yesterday, it seems fine. I wondered about the fragrance oil too, as it seemed at the appropriate trace stage right before I added the fragrance. Thanks for your help, looking forward to my next batch! Did you add any extra colorants or additives? The smell is fabulous!

I did not add any other colorants or additives, just the fragrance at the end. Is it possible to over mix? Maybe I stick blended for too long prior to adding fragrance? Despite the rapid thickening from this batch, all seems good. You can over-mix your soap batter if you go past heavy trace. How long did you stick blend it for before you added your fragrance in? I am so glad to hear that your soap turned out so well! I will try to shorten that some next time and see if that makes a difference. Thanks for your help! I would try pulsing your stick blender instead of a full-on blend to see if that would help for your minutes.

I would also suggest checking out this blog post that takes about trace and emulsion, there are some great tips in it! I made a batch today and it worked out much better! Pulsing helped, and after adding fragrance it seemed to reach an ideal consistency. Looking forward to checking it out tomorrow! We are so happy to hear that it worked out better for you on this second batch.

Be sure to keep us updated on how the final result turns out. I have read in books that molds need to be insulated with towels or blankets. Do I need to insulate my silicone molds? Thank you for your response. Insulating soap after molding will promote gel phase in your batch. Gel phase is a temperature phase during the soapmaking process and can actually give your soap a shinier, slightly translucent look.

Lye is an ingredient that makes soap, well, soap! Lye is what transforms all of those skin-loving ingredients into soap through the saponification process. Is it because they are old recipes and no one wants to take the time to recalulate them using a different oil? It seems so unethical to keep promoting this product when there has to be other options. Thank you so much for stopping by! We always appreciate it when our customers take the time to let us know how they feel about these important issues.

If choose not to use Palm Oil in your soaps, it is totally up to you and there are many great soapmaking alternatives to using Palm Oil in your soaps. Anne-Marie actually wrote a great post about this very issue, and I find myself referring to it often. Here is a link: Palm Free Vertical Twist Tutorial: Sea Clay Avocado Facial Bar: I am still super confused about the percentages. What is this a percentage of?? A percentage of the total weight of oils? How do I know the total weight of oil? And why is it done in percentages, anyway?

Why not just weight or volume? We give the percentages so this recipe can be adapted for any size mold — think of them as ratios! Then it will ask you how much the oils will weigh in the finished product. So if the total yield of the soap is 80 oz. Here is the math I did so you know exactly where these numbers are coming from — 80 x. When I click calculate, here is what I get: Coconut Oil 76 Degrees — I hope that helps!

So my question is — how necessary is all of this measurement precison? Would my soap making be greatly improved by purchasing a digital scale? Personally, I would love a recipe as follows: The precision measurement is important to soaping, because you need a specific amount of lye depending on the weight of your oils. If your oil weight is off, you could end up with too little or too much lye in your soap and it would be lye heavy and not usable.

We always like to go by weight, because it is easily repeatable and any of our readers will be able to make the same exact soap by following our recipes. Always good posts — thank you. This should allow trace faster and not so long in the mold. For Brenda — soap can only be made with lye. If there is no lye then it is a synthetic detergent and that is more drying for the skin. Glycerine is a by product of soap making and in china they make huge batches of soap just to extract the glycerine for use in cosmetics.

All natural soaps are glycerine soaps. Please I would love if you could give a recipe on homemade acne fash wash or acne bar soap. There are a lot of things you can add, Judie. I use calendula, lavender, tea tree and vitamin E. Calendula can help too heal and reduce redness, lavender and tea tree can be healing and vitamin E can help to reduce scarring. I have made two batches of homemade soap. I have issues with reaching trace.


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The first batch I ever made I was really excited and decided I would just mix it by hand. After 45mins of not reaching the consistency of trace, my tired arm just gave up and poured into my molds. I knew it would finish reacting eventually so I let it sit in the molds for a long time. I thought the handblender would be enough. I got bored after a half hour of waiting and just poured into molds. It works and makes fine soap, but I just question the process. Mixing by hand will usually take an hour or so, depending on the oils used. Consider it an investment.

I absolutely love when your blog pops up in my email! I need some help though. Does the lye and water solution heat up by chemical reaction? What am I missing? I love all tutorials and remedies I get from you. But I never want to use lye in my soapmaking. Olive oil makes a hard bar in cold process, but adding it to melt and pour soap will make it softer and diminish the lather.

Remember that melt and pour soap started out as cold process, then got cooked down with alcohol and sugar to refine it into a clear soap. What you start out with for the oils will be similar in the end result. Thanks for the article! If you want to use ground oatmeal as an additive, how much would you suggest adding? Also, how many bars of soap does one batch make?

This batch will make about five 3. I use the left over to make samples. Thanks again for a wonderful tutorial on soap making. This recipe seems incredible easy. Matt and Betsy always have a wonderful surprise for their subscribers. I have made soap using the hot and cold methods, but would like to try making it the old fashioned way, with animal fat and lye from ash. I know this will be more complicated and time consuming, and I may only do it the once it will take me years to use up all the soap I have made so far anyway: Has anyonw tried this?

Do you have suggestions for websites, resources I should consult before I start? Thanks for the info!! I have a freezer full of raw goat milk from milking two lamancha goats all summer so I made my first batch of goat milk soap with coconut oil and olive oil! It turned out great! I am eager to try new recipes!

I just got some pygmy goats milk from my manager at work. I take a little extra precaution and mix my NaOH with my liquid in my garage with the door open since fumes are released initially. It is especially good for my dry type of skin. Other oils and butters that I find favorable are castor, sweet almond, grapeseed, cocoa butter and Shea butter. I thought they always recommend that you weigh out your ingredients? We make all our soap using variations of this exact recipe.

Soap comes out exceptional every time. If you want to measure by weight use 5. Matt is right here. Always measure your fats in a liquid state. You may need to melt them before measuring. Thank you for this simplifying tutorial. I have been wanting to try to make cold-process soaps for a long time, especially since we raise milk goats. Thanks for making the decision a little easier. I had the same problem when I started Bethany. I hope it goes really well for you! Instructions 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. 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. They should just make a pint.