With so many articles being written about how many chemicals there are in soap and bath products, we have had lots of requests to share our soapmaking recipe so you can do it at home. If you can bake a cake, you can make soap, so here’s our tutorial for a basic bar of lavender soap.
By the way, did you know that because most commercial ‘soaps’ are actually ‘detergent bars’, they can’t put the word soap on the label. True Story! Dove calls themselves ‘Beauty Bars’, Oil of Olay has Body Wash‘, Palmolive has ‘softsoap’, which is almost soap but not quite.
Anywho, back to the tutorial.
1) find a great apron. It will help summon the wisdom of your great grandma, who could tell you a thing or two about making soap.
2) get some dark chocolate and peanut butter. There will be some free time when you are waiting for the temperatures to get to the right point…chocolate & peanut butter is just the thing to pass the time. Trust us!
3) get some soap molds ready to pour soap into. We have collapsible wooden molds, you can use a cardboard box with the sides cut down to size. The most important thing is to remember to line them with freezer paper (shiny side down), saran wrap, or butcher paper.
4) get a recipe. Ashley and I guard our secret soap formula like Coke guards their syrup formula. Except if you babysit my kids and I come back from a date with Hubby drunk off of Coldstone ice cream. Then, I’ll tell you anything. But, until then, check out all these recipes that other people have shared. A good, beginner one to start with is this olive oil soap recipe:
40oz olive oil
10 oz water
5 oz lye
1 oz fragrance
This will make a shoebox size loaf of soap that can be cut into 10-15 bars, depending on how thickly you slice it. We slice our bars into 6 ounces, which is a generous size, and we get 10 bars out of this.
5) Put on safety gear…safety glasses and rubber gloves. Seriously people! Because you are about to handle lye, aka drain cleaner. It’s nasty stuff. Remember the ‘chemical burn’ scene in Fight Club? That will happen to you without protective gear. True Story! Once you are protected, get out the lye (found at any Hardware store, and sometimes the cleaning section of your grocery store) and add it to the water. Stand back when you do this (or, as far as your arm will let you) and don’t breathe in deeply…the fumes are nasty. Always add lye to water, not the other way around.
6) Then measure out the oil in one pan (anything except aluminium!) and the essential oil in the other. It’s important to get the measurements right, so use a digital kitchen scale if possible. Even the littlest mistake makes a big difference in soap making!
7) Now, you wait for the lye/water to get to 110-115 degrees (oh, you’ll also need a digital thermometer. Temperature also makes a big difference, or you’ll make a soap volcano. Happened to The Soapchix a few times. True Story!) This is when you break out the chocolate.
8) Once the temperature is right with the lye/water, heat the oil up to 110-115, then remove from heat and add the lye/water to them. This is when it gets fun! Make sure you have no distractions from this point on, or you’ll end up with a bunch of goopy glop. This is why Ashley and I do most of our soapmaking after the kids go to bed. That, and the dangerously toxic lye.
9) Once you add the lye/water into the oil, then it’s time to mix with a stick blender. What, I didn’t tell you that you needed a stick blender? Well, you do. Or you’ll be mixing it by hand for hours and hours. Actually, that might depend on the size of your batch of soap. We make bigger batches, but maybe if it’s a smaller batch you can get away with mixing it by hand. Although, it’s worth it to get a stick blender, just because they’re fun to have around.
10) You want to mix this mixture until it gets to ‘trace’, which means it’s thickened up and looks a bit like pudding when it starts to thicken:
11) This is the time to add in all the fun stuff! For our simple recipe, we’ll leave it at essential oils for you. When we do our soaps, we use the opportunity to add ground oats, lavender buds, honey, extra oils & butters, loofah, and things like that. Again, this is top secret, so I can’t tell you everything we do, unless you take my kids to the park and I get a 2 hour nap…then I’ll tell you anything you want to know.
Then blend and mix:
Then comes the essential oils; mix and blend:
12) When it gets nice and thick (but not too thick!) and nice and blended, pour it into your mold like this:
See how dark and liquidy it looks? This means it has entered the ‘gel stage’…it’s when the magic happens. They lye is heating up the oils, causing saponification. You want to help this along by covering the top of your mold with a blanket and tucking the sides down around it. Also, sing a little song to the soap while doing this…it makes it happy and extra lathery. True Story!
13) Leave it alone for a day or two, until it looks lighter and feels more solid:
Then, unmold it and cut to your own liking. But don’t use it yet! It’s still a little soft. Find a nice, happy place to leave it for a few weeks (!!! I know! Weeks!!!) to make it a nice, hard bar of soap. Treat it like a plant during this time, and make sure to talk to it a few times a day. Say things like, “Who’s the cutest bar of soap ever? You are! And who smells so good? You do!” Soap really likes it when you encourage it like this.
Ashley even donated her dining room space to make sure she could keep an eye on them:
And there you go! Handmade, cold processed, phthalate free, paraben free, laryl sulfate free, all natural, and totally super bar soap!
If you have any questions, comments, or grammar corrections, you can email us at soapchix (at) gmail (dot) com. And, if you’d rather not make soap in 13 steps, but still want some, take a gander at our soaps at www.serendipitybathco.com.
Recipe (being a true castile soap, this will be less lathering, but don’t let that fool you! We’ve been brainwashed by all the lauryl sulfates out there into thinking that lather = better cleaning. It’s not true, especially in the case of this soap. It’s a lovely, if less lathering, bar.):
40oz olive oil
10 oz water
5 oz lye
1 oz fragrance
Equipment you’ll need:
soap mold, lined.
digital weight scale
non aluminum pots to mix soap in
chocolate & peanut butter