How to make soap

Read on to discover our guide on how to make handmade soap, for yourself or for others.

Updated

colored latex gloves on a table

Key steps:

  1. The traditional way of making soap involves the use of corrosive chemicals. A safer, alternative method for DIY soap making 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 your soap.
  3. You can add small items, like dried flowers, to your liquid soap when pouring it into the mold. This will give you a pretty effect, perfect for a gift or home décor.

Soap is so easy to buy in stores and pharmacies that you may be wondering why people would even attempt to make it themselves. But wouldn’t it be great if you could have soap in your favorite colors and scents? And what 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 right at home.

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

While enjoying your homemade soap, you may notice stubborn soap scum build up around the shower and bath area. Unfortunately, this simply comes with the showering and bathing territory. But the good news is that there are ways to prevent it from accumulating. Learn more about how to remove soap scum from the shower here!

What is soap made of?

First thing’s first: what does the soap making process entail? The process of making soap – saponification – involves specific chemical reactions. Soap in its purest form is made when fats – either 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 in contact with your skin. Although vinegar helps 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, as well as, to avoid potentially dangerous reactions.

Safer soap making alternative methods exist that involve melting down pre-made soap bases to combine with extra ingredients. This method is commonly known as the ‘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, as liquid soap is incredibly hot and can easily burn.

How to make homemade soap: The melt and pour method

Homemade soap ingredients:

  • Soap molds (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 at any craft shop)
  • Food colorings
  • Essential oils (do not use fragrances for oil burners or potpourri, as these are not always safe to be used on your skin)

Instructions for DIY soap:

  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 overheat.
  3. Add your choice of coloring and scent immediately, before a film appears on the surface. Using a couple drops of essential oil per average bar of soap is a good guideline.
  4. Pour the liquid into your mold and wait until it has solidified. You can use the fridge for speeding this process up.
  5. Turn the soap out of the mold and voila! It is ready to use.

Tips for making your homemade soap recipe:

  • 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 colored soaps will make strongly-colored soap suds.
  • Make layered, colored soaps by pouring liquid soap over small soaps set in molds 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?  

Originally published