Making soap at home was a common practice until 1916. Families made their soap from wood, plant ashes, and leftover animal fats.
German scientists created synthetic detergents during World War I when animal fats were scarce. This was the birth of commercial soap. Slowly, soapmaking became less common.
The soap-making process has been revived by back-to-the-landers and simple-living believers in recent years. But it’s not just for those who move to rural areas or are anti-commercialists. It makes sense to make your soap if you want to live as independently as possible.
Making soap at home is good for the wallet. You can make large batches from scratch for less money than buying bars of soap at your local pharmacy. Plus, you can recycle any leftover soap to make new soap.
It’s good for the body: homemade soap does not contain any potentially harmful chemicals. People with sensitive skin find relief when they make their own soap.
Making your own soap is good for the environment. It doesn’t contain the synthetic chemicals in bar soaps, which eventually build up in our waterways and threaten natural resources.
You can find step-by-step instructions to make soap at home online or in various DIY books.
These five soap-making tips will help you get started making soap at home.
Before you begin, make sure you have everything that you need
Nothing is worse than trying something new, only to realize halfway through that something is missing. This is especially true when you are trying something as complicated as soap making.
You will need these essential tools to make soap.
Protective eyewear such as glasses or goggles, and rubber gloves
Two large mixing bowls made from a material that won’t react with lye. Strong plastic, stainless steel, or glass. Use heavy plastics, aluminum, tin, or wood. A bowl with a lip to pour will work well.
You can also buy a variety of measuring and mixing spoons. At least one stainless steel or heat-resistant plastic spoon is required to stir the lye/water mixture. A second wooden spoon, wire whisk, and rubber spatula can be used for mixing the elements. While not essential, an electric stick blender will help you save time and effort. If you intend to use essential oils or other additives, measuring spoons are a great tool.
Each ingredient must be measured accurately
You will need to adhere to your recipe no matter whether you are making soap from scratch or using scraps to make new bars.
An error in measurement can lead to a soap that is unattractive, foul-smelling, or even ruined.
An accurate scale (measuring to one-tenth of an ounce if possible), an online lye calculator (many of them are online, for example, Bramble Berry calculator), and two thermometers (to verify that the temperatures of the lye/water as well as the fats before they are combined) are three guarantees against mishaps.
To make soap from different oils, you will need to use different amounts of lye. Before you start, be sure to know your saponification indexes. This is a measurement of how much lye it takes to convert the oil to soap.
Learn about the dangers associated with lye, or just avoid it altogether
A caustic substance, such as sodium hydroxide or Lye, is one of the major ingredients in soap.
There have been many years of soap-making at home using lye. However, it is a hazardous substance that requires careful handling.
Lye can be used in any form, grains, flakes, or pellets. It can damage materials, strip paint and weaken textiles.
Wear long sleeves, rubber gloves, and glasses to prevent the latter. Raw soap residue can also be dangerous so make sure you clean up after washing.
Apply vinegar immediately to neutralize the lye on your skin. If the lye has been spilled onto a surface, you can wash it with water and detergent.
Lye fumes can cause burns so make sure you work in an area that is well-ventilated. There are many options for those who want to make soap at home that is simpler and safer.
Melting down soap base blocks and adding essential oils, fragrances, or colors to them in a melt-and-pour process, known as soap casting, is one way to get started with soap making without worrying about using lye.
You can try different methods to make soap at home
Making soap at home is a great way to be in control of what goes into your soap.
There are many options for how to make soap. There are many options for making soap.
A less well-known technique is the hot process. In this method, the lye/water/fat are heated together to boil and then cooked until they become saponified.
It takes less time to cure hot-process soap than cold-process soap and can be made in an oven, crockpot, or microwave.
Are you afraid to use lye? Or just looking for a fun craft idea that your kids will enjoy doing with lye? Melt and pour soap is exactly what it sounds like: melting blocks of soap base, adding any elements, and then pouring it in molds.
Hand-milling or rebatching soap is another option. Soap makers use this method to fix an error in cold-processed batches of soap. However, you can make hand-milled soap using a bar of plain, fragrance-free soap from a store and a few additional ingredients.
The soap is made by grating it and then combining it with a liquid. Once it has melted, you can add your desired additives to it. Finally, pour it into molds.
This is a great way to learn how to make soap. It also allows you to transform a dull bar of soap into something unique.
You can also try felted soap, liquid soap, or the classic soap on the rope if you are looking for more creative soap methods.
Try out different recipes or make your own
You should make soap at home if you want to be able to control the process.
You can make soap from scratch using animal-product oils like beef tallow or vegetable-based oils like sunflower or canola. Also, liquids other than water such as tea, milk, and beer can be used.
There are many options for adding to soap other than the basic ingredients: essential oils like rosemary, bergamot, and lavender; vegetable oils such as coconut oil and olive oil; fragrance oils such as vanilla and rose; natural color from clay, botanicals, and oils; and decorative items such as flower petals.
It is best to start with a basic soap recipe that you like, and then toss it in.
Before you add any additives to your soap, make sure to do some research on them. Some may not work in soap and others could spoil. Essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil (e.g. olive oil) to neutralize their irritating properties.