How to make soap

Are you interested in making your own soap at home? This article has plenty of information about how to make soap as well as handmade soap recipes. Read on for more!

Updated 27 June 2019

Rubber gloves laid out on the table ready for a session learning how to make soap

Key Steps:

  1. The traditional way of making soap involves using corrosive chemicals; a safer, alternative method is the ‘melt and pour’ process, as explained in this article.
  2. Always wear protective clothing such as an apron, goggles, and rubber gloves when making soap.
  3. You can add small items, like dried flowers, to your liquid soap when pouring it into the mould. This will achieve a pretty effect, perfect for a gift.

Soap is so easy to buy in stores and pharmacies that you might be wondering why people might attempt to make it themselves. But wouldn’t it be great if you could have soap in your favourite colours and scents, and if you knew exactly what all the ingredients were? Here’s a rundown of various handmade soap recipes that are easy for you to make at home.

Homemade soap can make excellent gifts for friends and family! Remember when making your own soap you should always wear protective clothing such as an apron and gloves.

What is Soap Made of?

The process of making soap – saponification – involves specific chemical reactions. Soap in its purest form is made when fats – whether animal or vegetable – react with a base of lye or potash (potassium hydroxide). Different soap making recipes include different ratios of base and fats, but all result in a soapy solid or liquid that can be used to create suds.

Important Precautions for Handmade Soap Recipes

The traditional bases for soap – lye and potash – are extremely corrosive chemicals that must never come into contact with your skin. Although vinegar helps to neutralize both, these chemicals should not really be stored at home, and never within the reach of children. With traditional soap-making methods (cold process soap making), it’s also important to get the proportions of each component right. The order in which you mix the ingredients is crucial, too – otherwise potentially dangerous reactions can occur.

Safer alternative methods of making soap exist that involve melting down pre-made soap bases to combine with extra ingredients. This method is commonly known as ‘melt and pour’ and is safe to try at home. Nevertheless, you should always be sure to wear protective clothing when using ‘melt and pour’ methods to make soap. Liquid soap is incredibly hot and can easily burn.

How to Make Homemade Soap: The Melt and Pour Method

What You'll need:

  • Soap moulds (or use smooth bottomed household items, like baking tins, cookie cutters lined with plastic wrap, or cups greased with petroleum jelly)
  • Soap base – usually glycerin (available from any craft shop)
  • Food colourings
  • Essential oils (do not use fragrances for oil burners or potpourri, as these are not always safe to be used on your skin)

Instructions:

  1. Break up the soap base and place small pieces in a microwavable bowl.
  2. Melt the soap base in the microwave for a few seconds, stopping and stirring until the soap is liquefied. This should not take more than a few seconds, so be careful not to over-heat.
  3. Add your choice of colouring and scent straight away, before a film appears on the surface. Using a couple of drops of essential oil per average bar of soap is a good guideline.
  4. Pour the liquid into your mould and wait until it has solidified. You can use the fridge for speeding this process up.
  5. Turn the soap out of the mould and it is ready to use.

Tips for Making Homemade Soap

  • For a larger quantity of soap, use a saucepan over heat to melt the soap base, and then follow the same instructions above.
  • Think about adding small items to clear soap for a fun visual effect.
  • Intensely coloured soaps will make strongly-coloured soap suds.
  • Make layered, coloured soaps by pouring liquid soap over small soaps set in moulds of increasing size.
  Homemade soap makes a lovely gift! If you’re looking for more homemade gift inspiration, why not try making your own candles?
 

If the reason you are making your own soap is to be sure the ingredients are suitable for sensitive skin, there are some great alternatives, like Neutral 0% Hand Wash. For more information on the ingredients in products mentioned in this tip, visit What’s in Unilever Products here.

Originally published 19 July 2018