making homemade soap - Mothering Forums
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Arts & Crafts > making homemade soap
KathyS's Avatar KathyS 07:22 PM 12-22-2002
Anyone make their own soaps? I"ve been wanting to do this for sometime...i keep reading up on it and am becoming overwelmed with information. I need a basic recipe and a tips for success the first time out.

Thank you!

JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 10:25 PM 12-22-2002
This is a really great site for soapmaking info.

I have a pretty good basic recipe

14 oz water
6 oz lye
12 oz coconut oil
8 oz palm oil
20 oz olive oil

these measurements are by weight not can use volume for the water though

this link is to a lye calculator so you can make your own recipes..

Which oils do you have??
KathyS's Avatar KathyS 11:26 PM 12-22-2002
I've been doing alot of reading on the ****** does have a lot of great information. I also ordered a couple of books from amazon today. I haven't got any oils yet. Which are good to have when starting out? I'm trying to absorb as much information as possible because I'd like to start gathering supplies and get started after christmas. Our church always has a big winterfest- craft show- and I'd love to be able to donate some hand crafted soap if I can get something going by then. I know that soap needs to cure so I won't have a lot of time to wait after the holidays.

Thanks for the recipe and any other tips you have!!!
JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 11:42 PM 12-22-2002
usually palm, coconut and olive oil are the basic three.

palm adds hardness to a bar and coconut adds lather you have to be careful and not use a whole lot of coconut as it can be drying olive oil is can make soap with just olive oil but it will take forever to trace..

you can use some veggie shortening to lower your cost a little but I would use it in addition to other more moisturizing oils..

Castor oil is good for moisturizing and just adding a little really does a lot for the lather.

The books you got will probably give you lots of info on properties of oils. If you look at the lye calc you will notice there are LOTS of different kinds of oils soapers use..

I get my olive oil at costco just regular cheapo olive oil is fine extra virgin can sometimes make soap greenish or add a bit of an olive oil scent..and there a place here in town I can get palm and coconut

are both good site for stuff..
somemama's Avatar somemama 09:53 AM 12-23-2002
People who actually make soap with lye impress me. Your measurements have to be exact, and lye can be dangerous.

So, I make soap the easy way---using melt and pour. See my thread about it:
cynthia mosher's Avatar cynthia mosher 06:25 PM 12-28-2002
I'm becoming an avid soaper. I do CP which is cold process soap made with sodium hydroxide (lye) and oils. I've made about 12 batches so far but i'm up to 8 lb batches now. I give it all away but am now beiing eencouraged to sell it and a few businesses have expressed interest in carrying my soap so it's something I'm considering.

My advice would be to get yourself a tried a true simple recipe such as that abimommy gave above and take th plunge! Accurate measuring is important as mamajulie says and you should be aware of the caustic nature of lye and have a healthy respect for it as you should all chemicals. I wouldn't make soap with little children around so it's something I do at night after mine have gone to bed or when they are out or napping. Other than that as long as you are careful lye is your saponifying friend.

You will need a decent scale but other than that and the lye you probably have everything you need right in your house or can pick it up at nearby supermarket.

*Keep a bottle of vinegar nearby so if you do get a splash of lye water on you the vinegar can be quickly poured on to neutralize it. Like Kathy ****** I never wear gloves so sometimes I can feel a little sting on my hand or arm when I'm stirring the lye into the water. I usually just wash with water and it does the trick. But anything more than that might nee the vinegar so keep it handy.
*Always pour the lye into the water NOT the water into the lye.
*If you are planning on using a stick blender I would advise you to alternate between it and stirring by hand until you learn to recognize the signs of approaching trace, light trace, and full trace. Soap made with a stick blender traces much more quickly than that stirred by hand.
*Have your mold ready and lined.
*If you're going to add fragrance or other additives have them measured out and ready before you start adding the lye water to the oils. You'll be adding them at trace so they need to be ready and waiting.

Can't think of anything else really important. Insulating the soap for the first 12-24 hours is important too so have your mold cover and blankets ready to wrap it up and keep it warn after pouring.

Let us know how it turns out.
Good luck and happy soaping!
KathyS's Avatar KathyS 06:48 PM 12-28-2002
what do you all use to measure the lye? I have a postal scale..would that work?

Thank you Cynthia for the tips!
cynthia mosher's Avatar cynthia mosher 06:34 AM 12-29-2002
I have a digital kitchen scale. I think a postal scale would be okay as long as it's accurate. I place a glass pyrex measuring cup on my scale, set it to zero, then pour the lye into the cup. For the water I use a large rubbermaid pitcher. I set it on the scale, set the scale to zero, then pour in my water. After all is measured I put the pitcher in the kitchen sink and slowly pour the lye crystals into it stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Then I set the lye aside to cool to the desired temperature, stirring occcasionally to make sure any lye settled at the bottom gets dissolved.

You're welcome!
KathyS's Avatar KathyS 03:45 PM 01-10-2003
Okay- I've been gathering my supplies and I can't find sodium hydroxide anywhere! I thought about ordering it online but its so costly to have it shipped. Where does everyone get their's? there any places beside online to find palm & coconut oils?

KakuChan's Avatar KakuChan 08:24 PM 01-12-2003
It's not lab grade, but I've had good success with plain old Red Devil lye. You can buy it in the supermarket near the drain cleaners. Just weigh it carefully, and if you live someplace humid, open the canister just before you're going to weigh. You can order it from chemistry companies, and it is much higher quality, but it costs more.

As for coconut and palm oils, our local natural foods store carries it. You can sometimes find coconut oil in the drugstore, too, near the hair stuff.

Another site with good recipes and prices is Majestic Mountain Sage:
JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 07:46 AM 01-17-2003
Red Devil lye can be found by the drano at the grocery store. Only use the red devil, the other brands are not pure lye and have icky chemicals in them. The red devil works fine, thats what I use...

the site I mentioned should have the might also try some ethnic markets in your area, some carry palm oil..I have heard tales of people finding coconut oil at a cash and carry (place that sales restraunt supplies to the public) but we dont have one in my area except sams or costco...

coconut and other oils are going to be REALLY expensive at health food stores so I would try somewhere else first...

I was fortunate to find a bee keeping supply place in my area that has oils, sometimes it can be hard to find a supplier, try looking up several things in your phone book the bee place near me was under "arts and crafts" try candlemaking suppliers, they sometimes have soaping stuff too...
JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 07:57 AM 01-17-2003
did a quick check on a soaping site..

here are some SF suppliers..

Juniper Tree
lavander lane is in sacramento as well as,

you might just call ahead before you go to make sure they have a store front some places just have onlice stores..

lavender lane has a minimum of like $100 before you can order online..I am not certain about if you go there in person...

this site has a listing by state
chichimama's Avatar chichimama 10:50 PM 01-17-2003
and try to make lye soap in a big aluminum pot. I ended up making something toxic, with toxic smoke blowing out of it, and the mixture was expanding at an alarming rate. I had to call the fire department (I was making about 8 gallons of soap in a HUGE aluminum pot) and they sent out two big firetrucks and several firemen in hazmat suits. It took me about 8 years to try it again, and it worked just fine in a stainless steel pot!!!
cynthia mosher's Avatar cynthia mosher 06:38 AM 01-18-2003
Now that's a good soapmaking tip if I ever heard one!!
JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 01:48 AM 01-19-2003
Yes, NO ALUMINUM!! it reacts with the lye in very bad ways...
LaLa's Avatar LaLa 02:07 AM 01-19-2003
I just make small blender sized batches because I am afraid that my pots may be alluminum and I don't know if they are or not?!

So I make a blender full...about 8 bars at a time...although thanks to Abimommy, I won't have to make soap for about a YEAR!
She send me 20 bars of AMAZING soaps!!!

I have made and tried a LOT of homemade soaps, and I don't know how she gets such amazing color fastness, scent stability, texture and suds!
Her soaps ROCK!!!

Mine are so plain and the scents NEVER stay...(I use essential oils) and they dissolve in no time at all.

KathyS's Avatar KathyS 11:35 AM 01-19-2003
My pots are Farberware and I think stainless steel. Is there a way to know for sure?

Also..would you believe that NONE of the grocery stores around me carry Red devil Lye or anyother brand for that matter. I'm going to the "big" cities this next week and will check out the grocery stores there for LYE- may even call ahead to find out if anyone carrys it. If not- I will have to order online.

Lala- have you had that baby yet?
LaLa's Avatar LaLa 11:55 AM 01-19-2003
LOL...big city baby yet....
Bestbirths's Avatar Bestbirths 04:51 PM 01-22-2003
Anyone have any soap reciepes for the severely allergic and chemically sensitive? We've tried every soap at the healthfood store, and they have reactions to all of them.
cynthia mosher's Avatar cynthia mosher 05:41 PM 01-22-2003
Hi Bestbirths!

I'd think your best bet would be a soap made from organic oil with no scent or fragrance. You can make a castile soap from all olive oil but if you want some decent lather you'll need coconut oil or castor oil in the recipe.

Assuming you know the basic steps for making cold processed soap here's a recipe for an all olive oil bar a.k.a. Castile :

3 lbs olive oil
6.25 oz lye sodium hydroxide (lye)
18 oz distilled water

If you want coconut oil in the bar:
40 oz olive
8 oz coconut
6.5 oz sodium hydroxide
18 oz distilled water

and if you prefer castor

40 oz. olive oil
8 oz castor oil
6.12 oz sodium hydroxide
18 oz distilled water

Olive oil alone makes a fine soap though it may take some time to bring it to trace if you don't use a stick blender and it will have a weak lather. But it is very nice and cleans just as well. And is a great conditioning bar!
Bestbirths's Avatar Bestbirths 03:06 AM 01-23-2003
I am just learning about soap making from the web links on this board. I have never made soap before, but I have made jam, it sounds similar. Thanks to chichimama, I will BE SURE not to use aluminum pans!! I like the olive/coconut/lye reciepe. I don't think my people could handle the smell of lye for even one second in the house. I am considering making the soap outside at a local park that is secluded. There is a grill there where I have built fires before. I could do the mixing/measuring of lye into distilled water at the nearby picnic table or drag the table over closer to the grill. I could bring my long extension cord that plugs into this plugin thing that is in my car, for the hand blender...The grill is maybe 50 ft. from the parking lot...don't know if my extension cord is that long...hmmm. While waiting for whatever...from what I read there is some waiting involved....I'm crossing my fingers that I could do that waiting in my heated van. I would love some more specific instructions for making the soap. Do you have a link for that?

just need some good excuses to give if the park rangers or police come by and want to know what I am doing....UHH...hello officer?? Would you care for a sample of my open fire soap blend?
Bestbirths's Avatar Bestbirths 03:13 AM 01-23-2003
may be a hot plate plugged in out on the back patio. Easier to control the heat that way.
cynthia mosher's Avatar cynthia mosher 07:06 AM 01-24-2003
Kath ******'s site is praised by soapmakers all over the world -

Good soaping luck!!
JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 10:37 AM 01-27-2003
Ok this might drive everyone insane but if you are using liquid oils you dont actually have to heat the oils..just mix the lye into the water and put it in your oils...

people call it the "room temperature" might be on the ****** site...

I *have not* tried that method. If you use something like coconut or cocobutter you still have to melt those down and I think palm as well..I havent' tried it cause well..I tend to not be crafty so I am afraid if I switch methods something bad will happen..LOL

A hot plate by the door would work great..

Oh Lala, you are so sweet.. I use beezwax in my recipes..I have a bee keeping shop near me and I cannot stop using beezwax in everything!! really seems to work fantastic for the texture and really seems to add creaminess and makes them last soaps have turned out MUCH better since I have been using beezwax

I get my soap colors from them too.. the scents are from brambleberry. But FOs seem to stick a little more than Eos..dunno know why..

But the sandlewood soap you had sent smelled yummy for a long time till I used it all.. mmmmmmmm

Lala, if your pots were aluminum and had made soap in them they would have foamed toxic gas insane chemical reaction everywhere..I think you would have noticed..

Bestbirths, if you have problems with your skin I vote for the castor oil recipe. castor might taste like the bowels of hell but in soap it is ssooo lovely!! It adds lather and is an emoliant. but keep it under 20% probably as it makes the bar softer. Coconut oil can be a little drying so dont use more than 20% on delicate skin!

You can use several different oils if you want..coconut, olive and castor would be good cause the coconut would help with the bar softness caused by the castor..coconut and castor both add to the lather...

Do a search on google for oils properties in soap (I think it is on the ****** site anyways) and you'll find what each kind of oil does for soap..very facinating I spend way too much time doing that..heh has a fun recipe calculator and well as just plug in how much you want to use of each oil and it spits out how much lye you need! they both have like a billion oils to choose is fun!!
JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 10:59 AM 01-27-2003
I wouldn't do it at the park heat your oils..let them cool a bit then add the lye. Depending on what oils and other things the soap can either trace SUPER FAST or reeaaallyyy sssllooowww. But if it traces really fast you have to be like "GAH!! " and dump it in the mold really fast...

you need to act a little quickly sometimes so that may not work out very well..and having water or vinegar handy is necessary in case you accidently spill a bit on can burn!!
bestjob's Avatar bestjob 11:27 PM 01-28-2003
This is a great thread! I've been inspired and I've collected all the ingredients and a book with a recipe for castile soap. Dh will be in charge of anyone who wakes up on Thursday night while I stir, stir, stir...

Around here, pure lye is sold as Gillet's Lye and it is available at the hardware store.
Bestbirths's Avatar Bestbirths 01:29 AM 01-29-2003
The soap universe is fascinating! I have been reading the ****** site and learning a lot. One thing it did mention is that the soap is sensitive to drafts and cold. I was wondering how this would work out, especially if I tried to make the soap in the winter outside. The no heat method sounds neat too.

To explain about the allergies, my family has multiple chemical sensitivity, it is not their skin that breaks out and is sensitive, as much as their nose smells something. This smell triggers something in the brain which leads to nausea, headaches, aches, pains, weakness, passing out, you name the bizarre symptom too, because the list is long. I need the soap to be unscented, and that includes any natural thing that has a strong smell. For ex: my dh is allergic to callendula and echinachea, basically because smells to the brain like a dried weed, from what I am gather. They are also allergic to natural fragrances. I am racking my brain as to what is in Kiss my Face's Olive and Aloe soap that is bothering them, but if you have ever smelled the soap, it does reak of something. So, I guess the answer I am looking for is to get the very mildest smelling soap imaginable. They are men, I don't think they are too concerned with lather or how soft their skin is! They don't care about marbled coloring or flakes of steel cut oats to help with exfoliation. (We do have five ladies in the house too, but that's a whole different batch of soap we'll have to do for us!!)

The beeswax idea sounds good, I've had a block of organic beeswax in my craft closet since 1991, just waiting for a project . Beeswax seems like it would be harmless. Another oil that I know has worked for them when I give massages, is just plain unscented emu oil. What I can't understand is that when we used unscented aura glow, which ingriedients list Peanut oil, olive oil, lanolin oil, and vitamin e oil, that made them sick! So, I really have my work cut out for me finding the right ingredients for my soap! If it does lather, I wonder if they could use it for shampoo too?

I also thought it was interesting that the older a soap gets, the more it loses its theoretically I could make my soap and let it sit in the kind of box described on the website for six months or so, and then it would be as odorless as humanly possible!

what will the neighbors think? Outside on the deck making soap...they'll probably want some.
cynthia mosher's Avatar cynthia mosher 02:41 AM 01-29-2003
A clip of that Kiss My Face soap's ingredients:

Olive & Aloe Soap Bar
Ingredients: Saponified Olive Oil, Water, Aloe Vera, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid (a natural pH balancer) and Fragrance.
Does not Contain: Animal Ingredients, Artificial Colors, Unnecessary Chemicals Or Animal Testing.

Note the "Does not Contain....Unnecessary Chemicals"

It doesn't have to contain any at all.
It's possible the irritant is the Fragrance. A common irritant in people with sensitive skin.
JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 02:51 PM 01-29-2003
I bet it is either the peanut oil or the lanolin. Lanolin bothers people with wool allergies and a lot of people can have problems with peanut oil...

If you want to make shampoo I have heard adding jojoba works well for a good shampoo bar...

Essential oils don't tend to be as irritating as fragrence oils for allergy sufferers. But you don't have to use scent at all if you don't wish...I have made some without scent in the past and it doesn't stink or anything..
Bestbirths's Avatar Bestbirths 05:14 PM 01-29-2003
I wonder if the neccessary chemical they are talking about is the lye? Did you see the big banner on the website that said "No Lye, no soap! You cannot make soap without lye"
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