How To Make Soap At Home 

 Last Update February 4, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

Home / Guides / How To Make Soap At Home

Making homemade soap has become appealing and practical today with an ever-growing emphasis on clean and eco-friendly living. Crafting soap at home allows you to control the ingredients that come into contact with your skin and opens up a world of creative possibilities in scent, texture, and design.

In this comprehensive guide, we will guide you through crafting soap in the comfort of your home. Starting with selecting appropriate ingredients and progressing to mastering the soap-making procedure, we will address every aspect. Whether you're a novice looking to explore the world of DIY soap or a seasoned hobbyist seeking to refine your skills, we'll walk you through the fundamental components, equipment, and techniques required to create your very own homemade soap.

What You Need To Make Soap

When it comes to making soap, meticulous preparation is essential. Assembling the right ingredients and equipment ensures a smooth and safe soap-making journey. Here's a more detailed look at what you'll need to craft your own soap:

Base Oils or Fats

Base oils and fats are the foundational components of soap, playing a pivotal role in determining the soap's texture, cleansing properties, moisturizing abilities, and overall quality. When crafting homemade soap, soap makers carefully select a combination of these base oils and fats to create a balanced and desirable soap recipe. Here's an overview of some commonly used base oils and their respective characteristics:

Olive Oil: Renowned for producing a mild and gentle soap, olive oil is valued for its moisturizing properties. Rich in oleic acid, it contributes to a creamy lather, making it an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin. Olive oil often stars in Castile soap, celebrated for its mildness.

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is known for its capacity to create abundant lather and deliver strong cleansing properties. Packed with lauric acid, it contributes to a bubbly, frothy lather, making it suitable for kitchen or laundry soaps. However, in high concentrations, coconut oil can be drying, so it is often combined with other oils.

Palm Oil: Palm oil is instrumental in yielding a hard soap bar with a stable lather. Rich in palmitic acid, it imparts firmness to soap formulations. It's important to prioritize sustainable palm oil sourcing due to environmental concerns associated with conventional production practices.

Shea Butter: Highly moisturizing and creamy in texture, shea butter is prized for its skin-nourishing properties. It incorporates vitamins and fatty acids that benefit the skin, making it a popular choice in soap recipes focused on skincare.

Cocoa Butter: Solid at room temperature, cocoa butter lends hardness to soap formulations. Its pleasant chocolate-like aroma adds a delightful sensory element to the soap. Cocoa butter is frequently used to create a solid, long-lasting soap bar.

Castor Oil: In small quantities, castor oil enhances lather and elevates the soap's moisturizing properties. It's often included in soap recipes as a lather-boosting ingredient.

Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil results in soap with a creamy lather and mild cleansing properties. Rich in skin-nourishing linoleic acid, it is suitable for soap intended for sensitive or dry skin.

Avocado Oil: Including avocado oil enhances the soap, providing exceptional moisturizing attributes and a lavish sensation. Abundant in vitamins and essential fatty acids, it benefits the skin, making it a preferred ingredient in skincare-focused soap recipes.

Sweet Almond Oil: Sweet almond oil adds mildness and conditioning properties to soap, making it a desirable choice for gentle cleansing. Rich in vitamin E and oleic acid, it benefits the skin and is commonly included in soap recipes.

Jojoba Oil: Highly moisturizing and resembling the skin's natural oils, jojoba oil imparts a silky feel to soap. It is often used in soap recipes for its skin-balancing and conditioning properties.

Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)

Lye is the catalyst that transforms oils into soap through a process known as saponification. It's essential for soap-making but should be handled with extreme care due to its caustic nature. It is crucial always to don protective gear when handling lye.

Distilled Water

Distilled water is employed to dissolve the lye, initiating the saponification process. The use of distilled water guarantees the absence of impurities that could potentially disrupt the chemical reaction.

Fragrance or Essential Oils

Adding fragrance is an optional but delightful step in soap-making. You can choose from an array of fragrance oils or essential oils to infuse your soap with captivating scents. Bear in mind that certain essential oils not only contribute to the fragrance but also provide therapeutic benefits.

Colorants

If you wish to create visually appealing and colorful soap, consider using natural additives like herbs, clays, or cosmetic-grade colorants. These allow you to achieve various shades and patterns in your soap.

Safety Gear

Emphasize safety precautions when handling lye. Ensure you wear chemical-resistant gloves, safety goggles, and long-sleeved clothing to shield your skin and eyes from inadvertent splashes.

Heat-Resistant Containers

You'll need suitable containers to mix lye with water and oils. Heat-resistant materials like stainless steel or heat-resistant plastic are ideal choices to prevent damage or deformation. A soap pot or a slow cooker is also essential for crafting hot process soap.

Thermometer

Maintaining accurate temperatures is crucial in soap-making. A reliable thermometer helps you monitor the temperature of your lye solution and oil mixture, ensuring they are within the desired range for successful saponification.

Soap Mold

Soap molds are essential tools in the soap-making process, as they shape and define the final appearance of your soap bars. The best soap mold for you depends on your preferences, the type of soap you're making, and your desired outcome. Here are some popular soap mold options and their characteristics:

Silicone Molds

Silicone molds are flexible, making it easy to unmold soap bars. Available in diverse shapes and sizes, silicone molds featuring intricate designs are both resilient and capable of enduring frequent use. They are also non-reactive, so they won't affect the saponification process. Silicone molds, however, may require additional support, such as a sturdy tray or wooden mold, to maintain their shape when filled with liquid soap batter.

Wooden Molds

Wooden molds provide a classic, rustic look to your soap bars. They are sturdy and can be lined with freezer paper or parchment paper for easy removal. Some wooden molds have built-in dividers for creating multiple soap loaves. However, wooden molds require proper maintenance to prevent warping or mold growth. They may need extra care and occasional sealing to prolong their lifespan.

PVC Pipe Molds

PVC pipe molds are cylindrical and create round soap bars. They are often used for making soap "logs" that are sliced into individual bars. PVC molds are readily available and easy to use. Demolding can be challenging, as you need to push the soap out of the pipe. Some soap makers may struggle to achieve intricate designs with PVC molds.

Plastic Molds

Plastic molds are inexpensive and come in various shapes and sizes. They are typically easy to unmold, and some feature unique designs. These molds are readily available at craft stores. Some plastic molds may not be as durable as silicone or wooden molds and may need replacement over time.

Stirring Utensils

Wooden or stainless-steel spoons are suitable for mixing ingredients. Avoid using aluminum utensils, as they can react with lye.

A Scale

Using a scale, rather than a measuring cup, when making soap at home is critical for precision and safety. Soap recipes require precise measurements of lye and oils to achieve the desired chemical reaction.

Lye, a caustic substance, must be accurately measured by weight to avoid safety hazards. Inaccuracies in ingredient proportions can result in lye-heavy or lye-deficient soap, both unsafe for use.

A scale ensures accurate measurements, consistency in results, and the ability to replicate successful recipes. It also facilitates customization and quality control, allowing soap makers to create safe, reliable, and high-quality soap products.

Immersion Blender

Using a stainless steel shaft immersion blender in homemade soap-making is a game-changer. This versatile tool ensures that the mixture of oils, lye, and additives is thoroughly blended, expediting the process and achieving a smooth, consistent texture. It accelerates the trace stage, where the soap thickens and emulsifies, saving valuable time during soap preparation.

Additionally, an immersion blender minimizes the risk of separation and uneven distribution of ingredients, resulting in a high-quality, well-mixed soap batch. Its precision and efficiency make it an indispensable companion for soap makers, contributing to successful and reliable outcomes in creating luxurious, customized soap bars.

Soap Making Methods

Soap Making Methods

Cold Process Soap Making

The cold process soap-making technique is a conventional method reliant on the chemical interaction between lye (sodium hydroxide) and a mixture of oils and fats. This reaction, known as saponification, transforms these raw ingredients into soap.

Cold process soap method offers unparalleled customization options, allowing soap makers to choose from an array of oils, fats, fragrances, colors, and additives. However, cold process soaps require a curing period, usually ranging from several weeks to several months, during which excess moisture evaporates, resulting in a harder and longer-lasting soap bar. The freedom to craft soap tailored to specific skin types and preferences makes cold-process soap popular among enthusiasts.

Hot Process Soap Making

Hot process soap making shares similarities with the cold process but introduces heat to expedite saponification. This method often yields a soap with a more rustic appearance, characterized by a textured, crumbly texture.

Hot process soap is known for its quicker readiness for use compared to cold process soap, thanks to the accelerated saponification during the cooking process. The unique texture of hot process soap appeals to some soap makers, providing an alternative aesthetic to explore. Like cold process, hot process soap allows for customization in terms of ingredients, fragrances, and additives.

Melt and Pour Soap Making

For beginners, melt-and-pour soap-making serves as the perfect starting point. It simplifies the soap-making process by utilizing pre-made soap bases that are melted, customized with colorants, fragrances, and additives, and poured into molds.

Since melt-and-pour soap doesn't require handling lye, it's a safe and straightforward option for novices. Furthermore, the absence of curing time means you can finish soap bars in hours. MP soap bases come in various types, such as clear, white, and goat's milk, providing a broad spectrum of choices for your creative endeavors.

Rebatching (Hand-Milled) Soap Making

Rebatching is a technique that comes to the rescue when soap batches don't turn out as expected. It involves grating or chopping existing soap, melting it down, and incorporating new ingredients. This method is particularly useful for correcting imperfections by adding missing fragrances, colors, or additional oils. Rebatched soap often boasts a unique, textured appearance, featuring chunks of the original soap within the newly created bars.

Liquid Soap Making

Liquid soap making employs potassium hydroxide (potash) instead of sodium hydroxide (lye) to produce a soap paste that can be diluted with water to create liquid soap. This method is commonly applied in creating hand soaps, shower gels, and shampoos, offering versatility in personal care product formulations. Using potash results in a soap that remains in liquid form, setting it apart from solid bar soaps.

Transparent (Glycerin) Soap Making

Transparent soap making entails melting a pre-made glycerin soap base, customizing it with colorants, fragrances, and additives, and then pouring it into molds. This method yields visually appealing translucent soap bars with vibrant colors and often includes embedded objects, making it suitable for decorative or specialty soaps. The transparency and visual allure of glycerin soap are well-recognized characteristics.

Triple-Milled Soap Making

Triple-milled soap is crafted by repeatedly passing soap through a milling machine, ensuring a smooth, uniform texture. This method is often employed to produce high-quality luxury soap bars renowned for their durability, fragrance retention, and refined appearance. The extra milling process removes excess moisture and air, producing a dense, long-lasting soap prized for its quality and longevity.

How To Make Cold Process Method Soap At Home

Ingredients

345 grams Olive Oil

258 grams Coconut Oil

129 grams Shea Butter

43 grams Castor Oil

115 grams Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)

277 grams Distilled Water

14 grams Essential Oil (optional)

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Begin by setting up a dedicated workspace in a well-ventilated area with a sturdy surface. Make sure that the designated area is free from distractions and secure from the presence of children or pets.

Step 2: Safety Precautions

Emphasize safety by donning essential protective gear, including gloves, safety goggles, and long-sleeved clothing. Make sure your work area is free from distractions and that you have access to running water in case of accidental lye contact.

Step 3: Weigh and Prepare Ingredients

Gather and weigh your chosen base oils and fats according to your soap recipe. Typical oils for soap-making include olive, coconut, palm, and others. Calculate the amount of lye required based on the weight of the oils. Measure the required amount of distilled water as well.

Step 4: Mix Lye and Water

Gently stir the premeasured lye into the distilled water in a heat-resistant container. Always remember to add the lye to the water, not the other way around, to prevent dangerous splashes. Stir until the lye is fully dissolved and the solution becomes clear. The lye solution will become extremely hot, so allow it to cool to a temperature range of 100-110°F.

Step 5: Heat and Mix Oils

In another heat-resistant container, combine your chosen oils and fats. Gently heat the oils until they reach a temperature of around 100-110°F. Stir the oils thoroughly to ensure a well-mixed consistency and maintain the desired temperature.

Step 6: Combine Lye Solution and Oils

Wait until both the lye solution and the oil mixture have cooled to a temperature range between 95°F and 105°F. This temperature range is crucial for successful soap-making. If the temperatures are too low, the soap may come together rapidly but result in a coarse and crumbly texture.

Once the mixture has cooled, carefully pour the lye solution into the heated oils while stirring continuously, or use an immersion blender. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperatures of both mixtures, ensuring they are within a few degrees of each other. Continue stirring until the mixture reaches a trace, characterized by a thickened consistency akin to thin pudding. This phase may require some time, so exercise patience.

Step 7: Add Fragrance and Color (Optional)

If desired, enhance your soap mixture by adding fragrance, essential oils, and colorants. Blend them thoroughly to distribute them evenly throughout the soap mixture.

Step 8: Pour into Mold

Transfer the soap mixture to your selected soap mold. You can choose from silicone molds, wooden molds, or even repurposed household items like milk cartons. Eliminate air bubbles and achieve a smooth surface by gently tapping the mold on the counter.

Step 9: Insulate and Cure

Cover the mold with a lid or plastic wrap, then insulate it by wrapping it in towels or blankets. This insulation helps maintain a consistent temperature and promotes even saponification. Allow the soap to cure within the mold for 24-48 hours.

Step 10: Cut and Cure

After the initial curing period, remove the soap from the mold and cut it into bars of your desired size and shape. Allow these cut soap bars to cure on a rack in a cool, dry place for several weeks, ideally between 4-6 weeks. During this curing period, excess moisture will evaporate, leading to harder and milder soap bars.

Step 11: Test and Enjoy

Once your soap has fully cured, it's ready for use. Conduct a small test by using a sample piece of bar soap to ensure it lathers well and is gentle on your skin. Preserve the quality of your homemade soap by storing it in a cool, dry place or wrapping it in wax paper.

How To Make Hot Process Soap

Step 1: Follow Steps One to Six Above

Follow steps one through six in the cold process of soap making.

Step 2: Cooking the Soap

Instead of transferring the mixture into a mold, transfer the soap mixture into a heat-resistant container suitable for cooking, such as a stainless steel or enamel pot. Place it on low heat on a stovetop or use a slow cooker set to low. Heating the soap speeds up the saponification process. Stir periodically to prevent scorching or sticking to the bottom.

As the soap mixture cooks, it will go through various stages, eventually reaching a "mashed potato" or "applesauce" consistency. To test for doneness, add a small amount of the soap and add a lye solution. If it zaps or stings, indicating the presence of free lye, it's not done. Continue cooking until there's no zap and the soap is fully saponified.

Step 3: Add Essential Oil and Color (Optional)

Once the soap has reached the desired consistency and is fully saponified, you can add fragrance or essential oils for scent and colorants for visual appeal. Mix these thoroughly into the soap mixture.

Step 4: Line the Soap Mold

Before pouring the mixture, it's best to line the soap mold with plastic wrap, parchment paper, or freezer paper.

Step 5: Pour into Mold

Pour the hot soap mixture into your chosen lined soap mold. Choose from silicone molds, wooden molds, or other containers to shape your soap. To eliminate air bubbles and achieve a smooth surface, gently tap the mold on the counter.

Step 6: Cool and Cure

Let the soap cool and solidify in the mold for several hours. This cooling period helps the soap maintain its shape and makes it easier to remove from the mold. The soap can typically be removed from the mold within a few hours.

Step 7: Cut and Cure

Once removed from the mold, cut the soap into bars of your desired size and shape. Position the cut soap bars on a rack in a cool, dry environment for approximately 2-4 weeks. Although hot process soap is technically usable immediately, curing enhances its quality. Excess moisture will evaporate during this period, yielding harder and milder soap bars.

Step 8: Test and Enjoy

After the curing period, your hot process soap is ready for use. Perform a small test to ensure the soap lathers well and is gentle on the skin. Store your homemade soap in a cool, dry place or wrap it in wax paper to preserve its quality.

How To Elevate Your Homemade Soap

Add Exfoliants and Botanicals: Incorporate natural exfoliants like oatmeal, poppy seeds, or ground coffee for texture. Enhance the appearance with dried herbs, flower petals, or botanicals.

Experiment with Colors: Use natural colorants such as clays, spirulina, or turmeric for earthy tones. For vibrant colors, explore micas, oxides, and liquid soap dyes.

Add Luxurious Additives: Enhance your soap's qualities with additives like silk peptides, aloe vera, or honey. These can improve lather, moisturization, and the overall feel of the soap.

Master Swirling Techniques: Experiment with swirl designs by using different colors and techniques. The hanger swirl, Taiwan swirl, and mantra swirl are just a few options.

Infuse Oils with Herbs: Enhance your soap with the therapeutic benefits of herbs by infusing oils with dried herbs like lavender, chamomile, or calendula. Simply add the dried herbs to your chosen carrier oil (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil) and allow them to steep for several weeks. Strain the infused oil before using it in your soap recipe.


Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.