You can add emolients to soap for their desirable qualities.
Such ingredients include cold cream, lanolin, cocoa butter, or
even powdered oatmeal. Add emolients in appropriate amounts, so
as to not affect the soapmaking process. Also, you should add
most emolients after the soap has saponified while it is still
cooling, Remember to always add fragrances as the very last
You can also add special ingredients to soap, such as aloe vera,
vitamin E, wheat germ oil, jojoba oil, vitamins A and D, and
baking soda. Do not add cornstarch to soap. Cornstarch can
leave a thin film on your skin that might attract bacteria. Do
not put in your soap any ingredients that might be poisonous.
Poisons can be absorbed through the skin.
Some people like to add buttermilk (in liquid or powder form) to
their homemade soaps; others like to add lemon juice. Coconut
oil is a favorite ingredient for people who really like suds.
Do not add any ingredient that you are allergic to unless you do
not plan to use the soap yourself.
There are only three ingredients essential to making soap:
grease (fat), lye and water. Other ingredients are added to give
certain desired qualities to the soap.
Although soap making is fairly simple to do, it is critical that
you follow instructions carefully. Lye is a caustic substance.
If mishandled, it can burn skin or even cause blindness. Add lye
only to COLD WATER. Never add lye to hot water, because it might
cause a violent chemical reaction.
Most commercial lye is either a caustic soda, such as sodium
hydroxide, or a mineral salt known as potassium hydroxide. Hard
soaps are made with sodium hydroxide or caustic soda; soft soaps
are made with potassium hydroxide.
Lye is commercially available with instructions for its use on
the can. You also can make your own lye water by soaking a
bucket of wood ashes overnight. The water that you pour off in
the morning will be lye water. This is the way colonials made
Use only wood ashes. Do not try to make lye water from coal or
coke ashes. Coal ashes contain chemicals that might irritate or
damage the skin.
Some people add salt to help curdle the soap, but it is not
necessary. You can add baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, to
soap. It is an inexpensive ingredient that contributes desirable
qualities, including deodorizing and cleansing.
Most soaps made at home will need to be improved before they are
suitable for personal use. To improve soap, you might wish to
remelt it and add more fats and oils. This process helps to
harden soap and also makes it gentler to the skin. Naturally,
you will need to keep everything in proportion. Too much oil
might create a slushy, ineffective soap. The purpose of soap is
to aid in removing grease and grime, not to leave a layer of
grease on you, although a good soap will have a slightly oily
feel to it.
You must add perfumes only after the soap has started to cool.
Add them before the liquid soap is poured into molds, however, so
that the finished bars have a uniform scent. Of course, you do
not need to add fragrances to your soap if you prefer them to
If you wish to color your soap, you can use a vegetable coloring.
The colors will be more pastel and variable than those produced
by chemical coal-tar dyes. The latter will produce uniform
colors of a brighter hue. If you want bright colors, you can use
food dyes. Be careful to not add so much color that it comes off
as you wash, however.
Your eyes are your most important body organ. Do not risk losing
them. Goggles or hard eyeglasses are a wise investment. Some
eye protection is desirable to protect eyes from lye fumes. It
is better to be safe than sorry, or worse yet, blind! Protect
your eyes before you begin to make soap.
Rubber gloves will offer great protection from any accidental
splashes of lye onto the hands. Lye is extremely caustic and can
burn skin, so be extremely careful when handling it. Once a
chemical reaction called saponification has taken place, the
material will not be as caustic.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt or blouse, long pants, and hard shoes.
Do not make soap in your shorts or bare feet.
After you have equipped yourself with safety gear, you will need
some equipment for the process itself.
A large kettle and a large wooden spoon are critical. Do not
attempt to make soap in a small pan; use a large kettle. A large
wooden spoon will be handy for stirring. Wood is preferable to
metal because the handle will not conduct heat as rapidly. A
metal spoon will quickly become too hot to touch.
Be sure to use a large spoon. A small spoon could easily slip
out of your hand and into the hot mixture. Retrieving it would
be a very risky task. A small spoon also puts your hand much too
close to the hot mixture. A large spoon gives you the
convenience of distance and safety.
A measuring cup is very practical for measuring out the
ingredients. While you do not have to be exact as in a cake
recipe, you still need to have some idea of the proportions that
you are using. A successful recipe requires you to measure
ingredients. "By guess and by golly" could mean a big mess and a
tragic waste of time, money, and materials.
You need not buy special soap molds. Although they are
available, you can use almost any shallow pan for making soap.
Cupcake tins are ideal. They form nice, round cakes of soap that
don't require cutting. Fill them up to half full.
You also an use a large rectangular metal pan. Shallow pans are
preferable to deep-dish pans for soap molds. For one thing, the
soap will be easier to remove from a shallow pan. Also, it will
form a shape that is more in keeping with the standard size of
cakes that you are familiar with. You will probably not want
soap in one- or two-pound blocks.
You will want to keep the pans and dishes you use for soap making
separate from your regular cooking pans. If you do decide to use
them in cooking, soak them completely immersed in hot water
several times first. Then apply the "sniff and feel" test to be
sure that there's not even a hint of soap left on them.
HOW SOAP IS MADE
When grease and lye are heated together, a chemical reaction
called saponification occurs. The resulting product is soap. To
put it in simpler terms, soap is made by a boiling process. Cold
water, lye, and grease--your choice of hydrogenated vegetable
oils (like Crisco), tallow, or lard--are heated and boiled.
Liquid vegetable oils also may be used. Once the mixture
thickens to a gravylike texture, it is saponified and needs to be
removed from the heat and cooled.
Saponification is the chemical reaction that takes place in the
boiling process of soap making. What occurs is chemically
complex. Simple fats do not combine with the alkali (lye) to
form soap. First, they decompose (water acts as a solvent base)
into fatty acids and glycerols, which then combine, forming soap.
Pour the hot liquid into the molds before it has completely
cooled. Do not let it cool too long in the pan. Soap hardens as
it cools. If left in the pan, it will completely harden into one
giant glob of soap, something you will not want.
Cut the soap into similarly shaped bars after you have poured it
into a shallow pan. You should use a wire to cut the soap
because it will be able to cut the soap evenly and make
attractive cakes of similar width and length. Do not use a
knife, or you might have bars that are not equal in appearance.
You want people to be impressed by your homemade soaps, not to
laugh at you.
Soap making is easy, but it requires concentration to detail.
Children and pets should not be present when soap is being made.
They are too distracting and likely to be unaware of the serious
hazards involved in making soap. Lock the doors and keep them
out of the room when making soap. If necessary, hire a
babysitter, or drop the kids and pets off with mom and dad.
Be sure that there are no other distractions while you make your
soap. Take the telephone off the hook and turn off the
television and radio. You must give your total attention to the
task at hand. That is the only safe and practical way to make
There are no special skills required to make soap. However, you
must follow instructions for success and for safety's sake.
A SHORTCUT TO SOAP MAKING
If you do not wish to handle lye, do not have wood ashes
available, or do not have the time to make soap from scratch, you
can still make homemade soaps. You can purchase castille
granules at most drugstores. There is no need to mess with lye
when using these granules. Since they are actually granulated
soap, it is easy to make soap from them.
Put the granules into a kettle and add water. Instructions for
use will probably be on the package. If not, use common sense in
adding water. (Don't drown the granules.)
Heat the mixture at low to medium heat and stir it constantly
with a large wooden spoon. The granules will dissolve.
Stir the mixture until it is smooth. Remove it from the heat and
add any other ingredients or emolients that you want. Stir them
in well as the soap cools. Add perfume (if desired) as they very
last ingredient. Blend it in so that the fragrance will be
Pour the mixture into molds, and let harden.
If the soap does not set (that is, if the bars do not get hard)
reheat the mixture, adding more castille granules as necessary.
Before it cools completely, you will need to add more perfume
because reheating the mix will release the volatile floral oils,
thus destroying them.
MAKING SOAP FROM OLD GREASE
Grease, vegetable shortening, oil, lard, or tallow--that is no
longer any good for cooking can still be used to make soap. Even
rancid oils, which you might ordinarily throw away, will make
perfectly good soap. However, you must clean up old grease
before using it to make soap.
To clean old grease, empty the grease into a large kettle. Do
not try to boil grease in a pan that is too small because grease
splatters when hot and can cause severe burns.
Dress appropriately for the occasion--long sleeves, long pants,
leather or hard shoes--and cover hands with rubber gloves. If
you have long hair, pin it up or put it in a hairnet. Protective
eyewear is recommended. Either goggles or hard eyeglasses will
Place the kettle on the stove or electric range and turn to its
highest level of heat.
Boil the grease 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the burner and remove
the kettle from the heat.
Let it cool a few minutes. Sediments will go to the bottom. Dip
out the clan grease with a dipper or long-handled soup ladle. If
the dipper or ladle is made of metal with a metal handle, use a
pot holder when handling it so as to not burn yourself.
Remove as much of the clean grease as possible. Try to not stir
up the sediments from the bottom while removing the clean grease.
The clean grease will be ready for soap making.
Throw away the sediments. Do not put them into the soap.