Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How-To: Homemade Soap - Recipes

Basic Soaps

Lard Soap- Hand stir method
2 pound recipe

Basic soap

  • 1 ½ cups of melted tallow
  • ½ cup of olive oil (can substitute with extra tallow)
  • 6oz of cold, distilled water
  • 4 Tbs. of lye
  • molds

  • essential oils or fragrance oils- about 1 tsp. per pound of fat
  • preservative of your choice
  • colorant of your choice
  1. Prepare the lye solution by adding 4 Tbs.'s of lye to 6oz of distilled water. Stir it constantly until the granules have completely dissolved. Let it sit until cooled to room temperature.
  2. Melt the fats and oils together in a large glass or stainless steel container. The fats should also be at room temperature when you mix it with the lye solution. (This can be checked by simply feeling the outside edges of the container. Never dip your fingers in to check.)
  3. When both the lye solution and the fats are at room temperature, slowly and carefully pour the lye solution into the fats. Stir immediately and continue to stir for 15 minutes (if you are using grapefruit seed extract as a preservative, this is when you should add it). You can then take a break for 5 minutes, then stir for 5 minutes (the 5-5 method). Do this until the soap mixture traces. This particular soap usually takes an hour. If you are using grapefruit seed extract, the trace time is significantly decreased. Don?t be alarmed, just be ready to pour your soap!
  4. At trace, add your essential oils, herbs, or colorants if you choose and make sure to fully incorporate them into the soap mixture.
  5. Now you are ready to pour your soap into the molds. Be careful while pouring because the mixture has active lye in it. Insulate your molds and leave them covered for at least 24 hours (old towels or blankets will do quite nicely for this purpose).
  6. After 24 hours, unmold you soap and cut into bars if necessary. Store it in a dry place with good ventilation for 2-4 weeks.

Hand Milled Soaps

Lemon Scrubber

This bar is considered to be an abrasive soap and is good for toning the skin and removing dead skin cells. Lemongrass adds a zesty aroma which is uplifting and fresh.

  • 1/8 cup of yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. of Lemongrass essential oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. Water
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

Lavender Scrubber
This bar is an abrasive soap and is good for toning the skin and removing dead skin cells. The lavender in the bar is antiseptic and soothing. The blue cornmeal in this bar gives it a light lavender color.

  • 1/8 cup of blue cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. of Lavender essential oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. Water
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

Pumice Soap

This bar contains pumice and is considered to be abrasive. You should not use this particular bar if you have very sensitive skin due to the risk of scratching. Be sure that the pumice you use is very finely ground.

  • 1 Tbs. pumice
  • 2 tsp. Musk fragrance oil
  • ½ tsp. vitamin E oil
  • 3 oz. water (replace half the water in the recipe with goat milk or milk)
  • 1/3 pd. Grated soap

How-To: Homemade Soap - Required and Optional Supplies


A blender is in the supply list because some of the recipes in this booklet are designed to be made in the BLENDER (there are also "hand stir" recipes given). I know this may sound strange but it can save you hours of work and heartache. The only drawback to using this method is that you are limited to making 1 pound batches or possibly 1 1/2 pounds. As a beginner, it is best to start out with smaller batches anyway and begin your experimenting from that point. The blender that you use should be used only for making soap and you should never use it for edible items after exposing it to lye.


A kitchen scale which measures in ounces is needed to measure the lye. It is not necessary to purchase an expensive scale (I bought mine for $5.00) unless you want to use the exact saponification values and need a scale which reads digitally. The digital scales can usually be purchased for around $60.00 through mail order or at an office supply store.

Rubber or plastic gloves

Rubber or plastic gloves are necessary to protect your delicate hands from the lye. No matter how careful you may be, there is always the possibility of spilling your lye solution or touching the soap which has the active lye in it.

Wooden spoons

Wooden spoons are necessary because you should never expose lye to aluminum. It is safe to use stainless steel but I prefer wooden for their cost. They can usually be purchased in packets with five or more for about a dollar at variety stores. This gives you the piece of mind to throw them away when you feel they have "had it"! I use only two spoons for making soap, so I have a nice supply waiting when I need them.

Measuring cups

A heavy plastic or glass measuring cup is necessary for measuring and mixing the lye solution. I use an 8oz Pyrex cup with a pouring spout. Whatever you decide to use for this purpose, you need to be sure that it pours easily. You will be adding the lye solution to the fats directly from this container and you do not want to chance spilling the solution. To weigh the lye, I simply use an old measuring cup which I place on the scale. I set the scale to zero and begin spooning in lye until I reach the desired amount.


Molds can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Any container that can withstand heat and is semi-flexible will be suitable for holding your soaps. Some suggestions include: microwave containers; candy molds; candle molds; PVC pipe cut into small sections; or small cardboard boxes lined with saran wrap. The possibilities are endless and you will soon find yourself searching for a potential mold everywhere you go.


Lye can be purchased in most supermarkets or home centers. Simply look where they display the drain openers such as Draino and Liquid Plumber but please do not confuse these with lye. The brand which is most readily available is Red Devil and it is 100% lye. It contains crystals or granules and has a very difficult to open cap. Lye should always be stored where children and pets do not have access to it. There are safety measures you must take when handling it and always use common sense when using chemicals. The following are some general safety precautions to follow while handling lye:

  • Wear your gloves to prevent burns.
  • Try to avoid breathing in fumes from your lye solution. There will be some definite fumes at times depending on the liquid you choose to use for a batch of soap.
  • Some soapmakers may even wear goggles to protect their eyes from the fumes.
  • Carefully pour your lye solution to prevent spillage.
  • Never use your materials for anything other than making soap once they have been exposed to lye.
  • Never use aluminum utensils, pans, bowls, molds, or anything with lye. It will "eat" right through it.
  • Always remember to add the lye to the liquid, never the other way around.
  • Use a mixture of 50/50 water and vinegar to rinse your skin if you happen to spill or splatter lye on your skin.

I always measure the liquid in my Pyrex measuring cup then add the proper amount of lye to it. You must stir until the lye is completely dissolved into the liquid. The solution will become very hot during the initial chemical reaction and will often smoke and sizzle. Do not let this worry you, it is supposed to do that. The solution will soon become clear and *that is when it is ready to pour into the fat or oil (*this applies only to the blender soap method).

Fats and Oils

Animal fats have traditionally been used to make soap but today there are many vegetable source oils available. The saponification chart lists the many different oils which can be used. The process of rendering animal fat can be very time consuming and there are simple instructions given later in the booklet. Since my goal is to keep things simple, the only animal fat in my recipes is lard, which can be purchased easily at the supermarket. The recipes also call for vegetable oils and shortening. There are finer grade, more expensive oils which can be used such as coconut and palm. Feel free to use these oils or wait until you gain some experience and confidence in your soap making ability before spending more money.

The most commonly used fats/oils in soapmaking and their qualities:
Tallow- is the end product of rendering suet or beef fat. It is mild to the skin.
Lard- is the end product of rendering pork fat. It can be easily purchased at the supermarket. Lard based soaps are mild to the skin but they do not always later well.
Palm oil- comes in different grades and colors. It can be located in Middle Eastern, Asian, and African stores or through mail order. Palm oil soaps are very mild and have long lasting suds.
Coconut oil- is hard to the touch at room temperature (similar to shortening) and melts easily when heated. It can be harsh on your skin if used in large quantities in soap.
Vegetable shortening- makes a softer bar of soap but it is a good substitute for animal fats.
Olive oil- comes in many grades which can all be used in soap making. It produces very hard bars of soap which are mild, long lasting, and lather well.
Vegetable oils- come in many different varieties and give good results in soap making. They tend to lather well but they take longer to dry

These supplies are not required to make basic soaps. They are added to soap to give it special qualities and character. As you gain experience, you will probably find yourself experimenting with various fragrances, herbs, and colorants.

Essential Oils

Essential oils add pleasant fragrances which diminish that ?lye soap smell? that can develop in some batches. They also provide Aromatherapy value and can be used for a variety of conditions.

Some commonly used essential oils include:
Lavender- provides a very popular aromatic fragrance. Lavender has antifungal and antibacterial properties. It also helps to calm and relieve the symptoms of stress headaches. Lavender is soothing to the nerves and helps to induce sleep.
Ylang Ylang- is aromatic and is said to have aphrodisiac qualities. It helps to balance oily skin.
Rosemary- is very aromatic and has astringent qualities. A good essential oil to use with lard based soaps (it covers the scent very well).
Peppermint- is aromatic and a good choice for holiday soaps.
Rose- has a sweet fragrance and is very popular. It can usually be found in the form of rose geranium. True ?rose essential oil? is very costly. Rose Geranium vitalizes and regenerates skin cells.
Patchouli- is an earthy, aromatic scent. It helps to regenerate skin cells. Patchouli is also antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial.
Eucalyptus- is very therapeutic for colds and allergies. It is also used as a bactericide (kills bacteria) and insect repellent.
Marjoram- is soothing to the nerves and helps to induce sleep.
Spearmint- is a cool, fresh scent that blends well with other essential oils.
Tea Tree- is very therapeutic for the skin. It helps to relieve irritation and problem skin.
Anise- is a classic fragrance used for soap making.
Lemongrass- is a fresh, clean scent that is said to uplift your spirit.
Citronella- is a distinct aroma which helps to repel insects.
Sandalwood- is an earthy scent which is antiseptic and astringent.
Bergamot- is an earthy scent. It is antiseptic and is also said to help calm nerves.
Clove- is a spicy, distinct scent. It is antiseptic and has analgesic qualities. It is also said to help repel mosquitoes and moths.

Fragrance oils

These oils are synthetic (man made) fragrances which offer an alternative to natural oils and come in a variety of scents not available with essential oils. They do not have the therapeutic value of their natural counterparts but are very useful in soap making.

Some examples of fragrance oil scents are:
Green Apple





Lily of the Valley

Baby Powder


Ocean scent

Pina Colada


Passion fruit
Tutti Fruiti

There are several other fragrance oils to choose from which are also interesting and unique. You can even purchase the oils in designer fragrance scents such as Beautiful, Dune, Opium, Hugo Boss, and Polo.

Ground Herbs, Spices, and Food Additives

Ground herbs add bulk and texture to soap while also providing therapeutic qualities. You can purchase these in the finely ground form or prepare them yourself using a small coffee grinder. Another option is to use the contents of herbal tea bags. Most herbs can be purchased in bulk form from your local health food store or through mail order. Perhaps you grow your own herbs? Well, this is yet another way for you to use those precious plants in your garden.

Food additives are also very useful in soap making. They provide their own therapeutic qualities.

Some commonly used herbs, food additives, and spices for soap include:
Lavender- Once again, this herb can be used in the dried flower form in your soap. It will add color, scent, and texture.
Chamomile- will add texture and skin soothing properties. I suggest that you use tea bags unless you can very finely grind the flowers. The dried flowers have small stems which may scratch your skin. Chamomile has a distinct apple like fragrance.
Rosemary- adds color and an extra ?punch? to the soap?s scent. It can be used fresh or dried.
Oatmeal- adds skin soothing properties to the soap. It is a very good selection for irritated skin.
Elder flower- is good for skin cleansing and soothing. Make sure you finely grind the flowers because they can scratch the skin.
Clove- in the ground form is an excellent, aromatic addition to lard based soaps. It also adds a little color to the batch.
Cornmeal- is another food item which can be successfully added to soaps. It adds an abrasive action which cleanses the skin. It also gives the soap a light yellow color.
Kelp- is a sea vegetable that can be added to soaps for cleansing problem skin. It gives the soap an earthy green color.
Clay- adds bulk to your soap while providing soothing qualities. It also helps to draw out excess oils from the skin.
Goat milk- is very soothing to the skin. It gives your soaps a creamy natural color.
Milk- adds emollient qualities to your soap. Use milk in the dry powder form.
Honey- is antiseptic and helps with problem skin.
Aloe Vera- is an ancient plant which has been used medicinally for centuries. It is soothing to irritated skin. Use it in pulp, gel, liquid, or powder form.
Ginger- is aromatic and helps to draw toxins out through the skin.
Pumice- is ground volcanic rock and should only be used if it is very finely ground. It is abrasive and helps to remove dead skin cells.
Barley grass- is rich in nutrients and gives your soap a creamy green color.
Carrot crystals- are rich in vitamin A, the ?skin vitamin?. They will give your soap an orange glow.
Dried beets- are rich in nutrients for your skin and give your soap a rosy color.
Cinnamon- is a very aromatic spice which gives your soap a speckled brown color. It will always remind you of Christmas.
Calendula- is well known for its skin soothing properties. Use it in dried or fresh form. There are also Calendula infused oils which you can add to your soaps.
Floral essence waters- come in a variety of scents. The most common are: Rose; Lavender; and Jasmine.


Colorants should be used at the soapmaker's discretion. I use them only when I know I will not like the natural color of a batch or for special occasions requiring colored soaps.

Some commonly used colorants include:
Liquid fabric dyes- can be found in most supermarkets along with your other supplies. These dyes are sodium based and should not be used by people who are sensitive to or react to sodium. You should only use a small amount, usually 1/2 teaspoon to each 3/4 pound of soap. I usually use 1/2 teaspoon or less per pound, just to be safe. These dyes work better when used during rebatching because they are not exposed to lye.
Food dyes- can be used with inconsistent results. They do not hold up well over time and you cannot depend on the color. I once added green food color drops to a batch and it turned a lovely peach color. You may have better luck if you use a cake decorating color gel rather than liquid drops. These dyes work better when used during rebatching because they are not exposed to lye.
Pigments- are natural coloring agents that are usually used for pottery. To prepare the dye, it should be mixed with a small amount of water and then added to your soap mixture. If you choose to color your soaps with pigments, refrain from using them on infants.
Natural colors-Paprika = peach, Turmeric = yellow, Cornmeal = yellow, Cinnamon = brown,
Clove = brown, Kelp = green, Barley grass = green, Goat milk = ivory, Carrot crystals = orange, Dried beets = rose
Clay- green clay, red clay, or pink clay will add color to your soap in muted tones.
Color crystals- are commonly used in candle making. Some supply houses carry crystals which can be used for coloring soap.

If you decide to use colorants in your soap, make sure you test your first batches. The suds should be white. If the suds happen to match the color of the soap it is okay to use it but you are risking staining your towels and skin! Just remember to use less color the next time.


Vitamin E oil, Lemon Rind powder, Benzion, and Grapefruit seed extract can be used to help preserve the shelf life of your soap. The question about whether or not to use preservatives is controversial. Some soap makers claim that it is unnecessary, some would never make a batch without it. So, the decision is up to you. I use vitamin E oil which is in a base of wheat germ oil for the majority of my soaps. These products can be purchased at your local health food store or through mail order.


Fixatives help to retain the scent in soap. They include benzoin, vetiver, myrrh, and castor oil.

Super fatting oils

Superfatting is a term used for adding extra oil to soap after saponification. Most soaps can be super fatted with castor oil, mineral oil, sweet almond oil, vegetable glycerin, and coco butter.