Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Make Soap

So you've decided you want to make soap, eh? Well good for you! Not only will it cut costs in the long run, but you'll also impress people with your pioneer-esque skills. Pioneers had crock pots, right?

Of all the skills I've taught myself over the past year, soap making is one of my favorites. Its almost as fun as canning. I get such a sense of accomplishment after slaving away in the kitchen all day (just kidding, it takes less than two hours), and finally slicing that first bar of soap from the loaf. A big 'ole hunk of beautiful, clean satisfaction.

This recipe has been tested by my family and approved. Its difficult for me to find a soap that I like as most of the store bought soaps leave my skin itchy afterward - but not this one! Its a very moisturizing bar, and the only soap I'll ever use.

Soap Ingredients:
9.6 oz. Olive Oil Pomace
9.6 oz. Vegetable Shortening (Crisco)
6.4 oz. Coconut Oil
6.4 oz. Lard
4.46 oz. Lye
12. 16 oz. Distilled Water

Optional Ingredients:
1-2 oz. Fragrance Oil
2-4 Tbsp. Natural Coloring (French Green Clay Powder, Bee Pollen Powder, etc)
2 Tbsp. Herbs (Spearmint Leaves, Rosemary, etc.)

Equipment Needed:
Crock Pot (Designated solely for soap making)
Stick Blender (designated solely for soap making)
Wooden Spoon (designated solely for soap making)
Digital Scale
Nitrite Gloves
Eye Protection
Glass Measuring Cup
Various Plastic Bowls
Plastic Spoon

Caution: Lye is a caustic substance. Its best to keep pets and children away from wherever you intend to work with lye, and out of the kitchen during the soap making process. Always wear gloves, and goggles when working with lye until it tests non-caustic.

Measure out fats: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Vegetable Shortening, and Lard.

Dump in Crock Pot. Set to high, and cook until all the fats are melted to a liquid (20-30 minutes).

Once everything in the crock pot is melted, its time to mix the lye and water. Make sure you're wearing long sleeves, your protective gloves, and have eye protection on. This is critical, as lye can blind you if it gets into your eyes. Don't let that scare you away! Many household cleaners can cause the same damage - just be sure to take necessary precautions.

I take my lye onto the porch to measure and mix it. If you've never used lye before, it comes as tiny beads that have an immense amount of static electricity. The first time I mixed it in my kitchen and the beads went everywhere - bad news if you have children or pets. When mixing lye and water ALWAYS POUR LYE INTO WATER, NEVER WATER INTO LYE. The idea is to dilute the lye when mixing. If you pour water into lye, you'll create a concentrated substance that has the potential to spatter everywhere (i.e. eyes and skin).

Upon pouring and mixing the lye into the water, you'll notice its very cloudy, and gives off a vapor. Do not breath in the vapor, but continue mixing.

After 30-60 seconds, it will clear.

Take lye mixture inside, careful not to spill anywhere, and slowly pour into the crock pot with the melted fats. Using your stick blender, blend contents or about 5 minutes. You'll stop blending when your soap 'traces' - a term used to describe the thickening of the mixture to which a line or 'trace' is visible when the utensil is pulled through the soap. At this point, the mixture should be the consistency of a soft pudding. Place the lid on the crock pot, and cook on LOW. Stay by the crock pot as the soap cooks. The soap will expand and boil over. As it rises, stir it and place the lid back on. Keep a close eye on it.

As the soap cooks, at first it will look similar to apple sauce, then take on more of a waxy appearance. Once it looks like the picture below (about an hour of cooking), its pretty much done.

Test the soaps PH to be sure it is in fact done, and no longer caustic. The strip on the right was my first test, right after combining the materials (obviously I knew it was no where near done but wanted a picture to show for comparison). The strip on the left was taken just before removing the soap from the crock pot and shows that the soap is safe to touch.

Once done, transfer the soap from the crock pot to a plastic bowl. Let sit for a few minutes stirring occasionally. The idea is to cool the soap down as much as you can before it starts to harden. The cooler the soap is before adding the fragrance oil, the more of the scent the soap will retain. Too high of a temp when adding fragrance oil can literally wipe it out entirely leaving no smell.

Add dry additives of your choice. Stir. Add fragrance oil. Stir. Then spoon the soap into the mold of your choice. I like to be as frugal as possible and just use cardboard molds I find around the house. I've also used the bottom portion of cereal boxes with great success. Allow soap to cool at room temperature for at least 8 hours or until completely hardened.

Once it has cooled, slice into bars and its ready to use!

Mistakes I've made when making soap: 
1. Didn't watch the crock pot and the soap boiled over, leaving a gooey, chemical/fat mess all over the counter.
2. After the crock pot boiled over, I had the bright idea to leave the lid off so it wouldn't happen again. Bad idea. The soap dried out before it was able to cook into a neutralized state, and gave off wretched chemical fumes. Had to scrap the whole batch.
3. Didn't mix a dry additive well enough, and once dried the soap bars had clumps of powder in them.  
4. Too many dried herbs in my first batch. A little goes a long way.


  1. Love you sitd esp. Soap in a crock pot! Cannot figure out how to subscribe.

    1. Thank you, Aurelie! I'm glad you like my blog, and I'm glad you brought that to my attention. I've added a 'subscribe by email' section on the right hand side of the page, underneath the blog archive. You should be able to enter your email address and be alerted when I put up a new post. Have you made soap before? I'm still a beginner with it, but I'm addicted! :)

  2. can any thing be substituted for the crisco?
    thank you

    1. Yes, other fats can be substituted but you'll need to check it with the soap calculator. Soap recipes are very sensitive and may not set up if changed without checking substituted ingredients.

  3. Thanks for clarifying how much natural coloring to use. I will be experimenting with Alfalfa Leaf Powder!

  4. Great tutorial on hot process soap. I've made cold process, but like how this one doesn't need to cure for weeks or months. Have you ever made Castile soap (just olive oil) this way?