You can make many products that you buy often in your own home. This includes furniture DIYs and body scrubs. You might be amazed at what you can create. If your favorite soap bars are out of stock or difficult to find, you might be interested in making your own soap. Although it may seem simple, experts from our Good Housekeeping Institute Health, Beauty, and Sustainability Lab warn that soap making is not an easy task and requires more than basic skills and a few tools.
Two types of ingredients are required to make soap at home: an acid and a basis. These ingredients chemically react in what’s called “saponification”, and create soap with glycerin as the byproduct. These two ingredients are essential for making soap, whether homemade or commercial. While your soap won’t kill germs it will wash away any bar soap you may have.
Is it safe to use lye for soap making at home?
Many DIY soap recipes use lye (also known as sodium hydroxide) for the base. Lye, which is the common name for sodium hydroxide, can be dangerous to use at home. The fumes it creates when it mixes with water are harmful to your eyes. Charmaine Rodriques, a former chemist at the GH Beauty Lab, and currently Regulatory Affairs Manager at ParfumsChristian Dior, says that you need to work in a well-ventilated place.
Rodriques recommends these steps if you make soap with lye. Rodriques has been making soap at home for more than 15 years.
Personal protection gear, such as goggles, and masks, as well as heat-resistant gloves, are “musts”, according to Rodriques.
Rodriques keeps her raw materials in a locked cabinet that she has in her basement. This also doubles up as her soap-making lab.
Making soap with lye
We have a safer and simpler way to make your own soap at home. Our Institute experts recommend that you use “melt-and-pour” soap-making techniques from trusted retailers. These soap-making recipes can be made at home with no difficulty, even with children. You won’t need to worry about the dangers of working in lye and the chemical process of saponification.
Select a recipe and a fragrance
A soap base is the best way to get started if you’re a beginner. It contains soap, glycerin, and some add-ins such as plant butter and extracts that have skin benefits. You can also use these additives to make opaque bars transparent or to give the soap transparency. We recommend purchasing from a trusted website like Bramble Berry Handcraft Provisions. They have a wide range of supplies and multiple recipes to make different types of soap.
Bramble Berry’s beginners’ guide to melt-and-pour soap-making explains each step and gives you complete instructions. Bramble Berry’s translucent base is a better option if you don’t feel like that. Simply melt the base, add your favorite fragrance oil, and mold it.
Tip: When buying perfume oil online, ensure it is cosmetic-grade (or choose one of your favorite fragrances). We love the Made Secure essential oils from Radiance.
Gather your tools
To melt the base, heat-safe containers are recommended. 10055.a.20705805[src It is microwave-safe, heat resistant, and can be used in any other applications. To prevent cross-contamination, don’t use it for food preparation.
Use a stainless steel wire whisk for stirring in your scent.
Use any old pots and pans from food preparation to make soap.
Melt the base
You can melt and pour most ready-made recipes in the microwave or on the stovetop using a double boiler. While both methods work, the stovetop method allows for more control and allows for better visibility of when the base is melting. This prevents overheating and hot spots that can occur when the base melts in the microwave. When handling hot implements, make sure to have pot holders and heat-resistant gloves on hand. Here’s how:
Use a double boiler to heat the water. Place the soap base in a vessel and then place it on top. Place the pot on the stovetop and heat it over medium heat until the water boils gently and the soap base starts melting.
Use a microwave to heat the base. Make sure the base has melted completely. Continue heating the base in short bursts for 20-30 seconds until it’s completely melted. You will need to be careful as microwave ovens are different.
Tip: Do not stir the base while it is melting, as this could trap air bubbles. Let the pieces melt by themselves or gently move any solid parts around in the container.
Mix in the fragrance
It might take some trial and error to determine how much fragrance you should add to your soap if you don’t follow a specific recipe. Add about 1 teaspoon of fragrance to each pound of soap.
This step is crucial to ensure that the base temperature is high enough to melt and mix well, but not too low to cause volatile compounds and other scent notes to evaporate. Here’s how:
After the base has melted, take your pot or container off the stove or microwave. Place it on a heat-resistant surface such as a trivet or table.
Use a wire whisk to quickly, but gently, blend the fragrance
Be sure to evenly distribute the fragrance in the base, but don’t mix in any air bubbles while you are whisking in the fragrance.
Tips: After cooling, the base will begin to solidify in a matter of minutes. You can re-melt the base by placing the container in the microwave or on the stovetop at very low heat for a few minutes and giving it a gentle stir.
Fill the mold
But quickly, carefully pour the molten mixture and fragrance into your mold.
Tip: Fill the molds to the top. After cooling, the soap will not rise or shrink.
Cool and unmold it
Allow your soap-filled mold to cool at room temp on a flat surface. It is best to not touch or disturb it until it has fully solidified.
Once it has hardened, you can simply take it out of its mold and have fun!
Pro Tip: Soap will take between an hour and one hour depending on the size of your mold and your room temperature. Large molds can take up to 24 hours to solidify fully.