How to Make Homemade Soap Bars for Beginners
by Krystal Brown
Making your own soap is an enjoyable and useful activity. Homemade soaps are also better for the skin because they contain glycerin. Glycerin is a natural product of the soap making process. But, with many commercial soaps, the glycerin is removed and used to make lotions and other cosmetics.
With self-made soaps, the glycerin is not removed and you will benefit from its soothing and moisturizing effects.
When you are just starting out making soap, it is not good to use a complicated recipe with expensive ingredients. You do not want to get overwhelmed. You also do not want to waste money on fancy imported oils and 50 different types of milk and additives when you are not yet confident with your craft.
When starting out, it is better to keep things simple and low cost. I am going to teach you how to make an uncomplicated soap using just four ingredients.
Those ingredients include Crisco, orange essential oil (which is optional), lye and olive oil. You don’t have to use any essential oils if you want a fragrance free soap. Usually making soap from scratch involves a “cure” time of 4-6 weeks. During this time, the soap becomes milder and harder.
However, I am going to also teach you a simple oven processing technique that can make your soap safe to use within a couple of days.
- Goggles: This is to protect your eyes from the “fumes” generated by the lye water. I have used my old swimming goggles and they worked just fine. You can also get goggles from the Dollar Tree.
- White Vinegar: This is used to neutralize the lye if any of lye water splashes on you.
- Rubber Gloves: These protect your hands and can also be obtained from most dollar stores.
- Stick Blender: I purchased mine for less than $10 from a local discount store.
- Silicone Cake Molds: I got some from Dollar Tree. I used 5 small silicone cake molds for my soaps. You can also use a regular pan lined with lightly oiled wax paper so that the soap will not stick to the pan.
- Candy Thermometer: The first time I ever made soap, I didn’t have one of these and it made things harder. Get a candy thermometer. I purchased one for a couple of dollars on eBay.
- Lye: I use “Instant Power Crystal Lye Drain Opener” from Walmart. It costs $5.16 and I still have plenty of lye left over to make more batches of soap. Your lye must be 100% pure lye…not Drano or anything like that. You can also purchase lye from eBay, Amazon or various online soap making shops. I have heard of people buying the 100% pure lye from Lowe’s as well. You will need ¾ cup of lye for this recipe.
- Crisco: You will need 3 pounds of this. I got 3 containers of Crisco from Dollar General. Each container was a pound. You can use generic Crisco as well but it must be 100% vegetable shortening.
- Olive Oil: You will need 1 tablespoon of this. I purchased mine from Dollar General. It must be 100% pure olive oil, not the “olive oil” blend sold at Dollar Tree which is mainly just soybean oil. The olive oil hardens the soap.
- Orange Essential Oil: I used about ½ of an ounce. It smells heavenly. You can get essential oils on eBay, Amazon and at drugstores such as Rite Aid.
- Kitchen Scale: This is optional for this recipe (in my opinion). It will make things more precise, but I did not use a scale because I did not have one at the time. I just measured things out carefully using measuring cups and I had no problems.
The 12 Easy Steps
- Measure out your lye. If you have a scale, measure out 220 grams of lye. If not, very very carefully measure out ¾ cup of lye and pour the crystals into a non-metal container.
- Measure out 330 grams (or 1 and ½ cup) of distilled or filtered water. Very carefully pour the lye crystals into the water. There will be fumes. Stir with a spoon (again no metals are allowed…use plastic or wooden spoons). It is good to place the lye water under the stove exhaust fan if you can. If not, open the windows for adequate ventilation.
- Melt your Crisco and add your olive oil.
- After the oils are melted together, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the stove. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oils. The oils should be about 120 degrees.
- Check the temperature of your lye water. It will be about 175 degrees.
- You must get the lye water and the oils to a similar temperature. So, place your lye water container in a sink full of ice water until it has cooled down to 97-100 degrees. While you are waiting for this to happen, your oils will be cooling down naturally.
- When both the oils and the lye water are between 97-100 degrees, mix them together. Pour the lye water into the oils. Use your stick blender to blend the mixture until it looks like pudding. When the mixture reaches this stage, it is said to be at trace.
- When your mixture reaches trace, add your essential oils to the mixture. Blend well and quickly pour your mixture into your cake pans. Certain essential oils will sometimes cause the mixture to “seize” so work quickly once you add your fragrance oil.
- Place your soap in the oven at 170 degrees (or on the lowest setting your oven has available. If your oven has a “warming” feature, you can use that). Let the soap stay in the oven for about 2 hours. However, check on the soap every 20 minutes or so to make sure that it does not “bubble over”. The heat from the oven is forcing the saponification process. If you didn’t use the oven method, it would take 4-6 weeks after you pour your soaps before you could be able to use them.
- Let your soap rest for a few hours and then cut it into soap bars.
- Let the soap rest for another day so the excess water will evaporate and the soap will become milder and harder.
- Enjoy your homemade soap!
This bar cleans very well and has a medium amount of lather. Many people (myself included) love lots of lather. But, the amount of lather a soap produces does not measure its cleaning ability. My Orange Crisco Soap is not extremely moisturizing like a Dove beauty bar, but it does not strip the skin either.
Your entire family can use it or you can even sell the soap at flea markets or online. The ingredients are cheap and readily available which make it perfect for a novice soap maker. I showered with my soap 2 days after making it. I have a whole box of soap from this one batch. It’s easy, economical and fun. Please try it!