Here is another great DIY craft to try your hand at — making your own soap. Making soap is not easy at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s addictive!
Basic DIY Soap Making
The beauty of making soap is that you can use ingredients you choose and fragrances you like. Adjustments aren’t difficult, but take some practice.
Note that the one thing you cannot substitute in homemade soap is lye. Always use 100% sodium hydroxide, or lye in crystal form. Don’t substitute liquid lye or drain cleaners (such as Drano). These may cause inaccurate measurements or have bits of metal in them. Lye is also caustic, hence it can eat holes in fabric and burn the skin — take care by using gloves and eye protectors. When you mix the lye with water, it heats up and fumes for about 30 seconds to a minute. It may cause a choking sensation, which passes in a few minutes. Always add lye to water (not water to lye), and stir right away. If allowed to clump at the bottom, it could heat up all at once and explode. Even though lye is a tad dangerous to work with, after it reacts with the oils in your soap (called “saponification” where the base ingredients become soap), no lye will remain in your finished soap.
Use equipment you won’t be using for cooking. While you could clean everything well, don’t take a chance. Stainless steel, tempered glass and enamel are good choices for mixing bowls. Copper or aluminum will react with the lye and some plastics may melt. Use styrene plastic or silicone spoons. You can get soap molds at your local craft store, online, or use silicone baking pans. These are great because you can peel the mold right off. You also need a pint and a quart canning jar, newspaper, a stainless steel thermometer that reads between 90° and 200°, an old towel, and any additions you want to add to the soap.
There are many variations of soap. Here are basic additives:
All herbal material must be dried. Lavender is popular, as well as chamomile, lemongrass and oakmoss. Use about ¼ cup of dried plant material per batch of the size in this recipe.
Essential oils are from the roots, stems, flowers or seeds of plants. Fragrance oils can be blends of essential oils or can be artificially produced. Be sure you know what you have. Most oils can be used at the rate of 15-20 drops or about a teaspoon per batch of this size.
Natural colors are easy. Use cinnamon or cocoa powder for a brown soap, powdered chlorophyll for green, turmeric for yellow, and beet root for orange. Avoid food colors since they don’t hold up well in soap.
You may want to use: Aloe Vera gel, oatmeal, dry milk powder, clays, cornmeal, ground coffee, or salt.
Hand & Body Soap Recipe (Cold Process)
· ⅔ cup coconut oil – to produce good lather
· ⅔ cup olive oil – which makes a hard and mild bar
· ⅔ cup other liquid oil – like almond oil, grapeseed, sunflower or safflower oil
· ¼ cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide
· ¾ cup cool water – use distilled or purified
1. Cover your work area with newspaper. Put gloves and other protective wear on. Measure your water into the quart canning jar. Have a spoon ready. Measure your lye, making sure you have exactly ¼ cup. Pour lye slowly into water, stirring as you go. Stand back while you stir to avoid fumes. When the water starts to clear, allow it to sit while you move to the next step.
2. In the pint jar, add your three oils together. They should just make a pint. Heat in microwave for about 1 minute or heat the jar of oils in a pan of water. Check the temperature of your oils – it should be about 120°. Your lye should have come down by then to about 120°. Wait for both to cool (to between 95°-105°). This is critical for soap making. Too low and it’ll come together quickly, but be coarse and crumbly.
3. When lye and oils are at the right temperature, pour oils into a mixing bowl. Add lye slowly, stirring for 5 minutes until fully mixed. It’s very important to get as much of the lye in contact with as much of the soap as possible. After 5 minutes, keep stirring or use an immersion blender. The soap mix will lighten in color and thicken. When it looks like vanilla pudding it’s at “trace” and you’re good to go.
4. Add herbs, essential oils or other additives. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour mixture into mold(s) and cover with plastic wrap. Set in an old towel and wrap it up to keep residual heat in and start saponification.
5. After 24 hours, check soap. If it’s still warm or soft, allow it to sit another 12-24 hours. When it is cold and firm, turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper or baking rack. If using a loaf pan as your mold, cut into bars. Allow soap to cure for around 4 weeks turning it over once a week to expose all sides to air (not necessary if using a baking rack).
6. When your soap is fully cured, wrap it in wax paper or keep it in an airtight container. Handmade soap creates its own glycerin, which draws moisture from the air. It should be wrapped to keep it from attracting dust and debris with the moisture.
7. Clean equipment that has been exposed to lye by neutralizing it with white vinegar, then wash well as normal. Let other equipment sit for several days, because when you first make soap it’s all fat and lye. You’ll be washing forever and could burn your hands on the residual lye. If you wait, it becomes soap and just takes soaking in hot water to clean.
So, roll up those sleeves and enjoy!