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How to Hand Make Your Own Soap?

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

There are so many options when buying soap in a supermarket and online but it is so easy to make soap at home. Making a mild soap can be very cost-effective and is a great gift for friends and family.

Interested in giving it a try? Read on for tips to make homemade soap and a recipe to get you started.

What is soap?

“Soap by definition, is fat or oil mised with an alkali. The oil comes from animal or plant while the alkali is a chemical called lye. In bar-soap making the lye is sodium hydroxide. Liquid soap requires potassium hydroxide.”

When you combine all of the ingredients and heat the oil and lye, soap is your end result! The chemical reaction is called saponification and without lye, saponification is not possible.

An important fact about lye.

Lye on its own is a highly corrosive substance that can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. However, when done properly, saponification turns lye into soap and no lye will remain in the final product.

Soap-making supplies and tools.

  • slow cooker

  • plastic, glass, or stainless steel container (for measuring lye)

  • digital kitchen scale

  • immersion blender with stainless steel shaft

  • heavy duty plastic, glass, or stainless steel container (for mixing lye and water)

  • silicone spatulas (not to be used when cooking)

  • candy thermometer (only to be used for soap making)

  • silicone loaf mold or individual molds

  • soap cutter


Aluminum and tin should be avoided at all costs when handling lye, as this can be unsafe.

Soap-making safety equipment

  • safety goggles

  • rubber or latex gloves

  • oven mitt

  • apron

  • well-ventilated work areas

Ingredients for Soap

  • 590ml coconut oil

  • 295ml olive oil

  • 266ml of distilled water

  • 140ml 100% pure lye

  • 20-40 drops of essential oils if desired

  • colorants (if desired)

  • dried herbs and flowers (if desired)

Calculating fat to lye ratios

These measurements can be adjusted to make smaller or larger batches, however, it is really important to calculate the correct amount of lye to maintain safety. The amount of lye needed depends on the amount of oil you use.

To ensure you operate safely, always calculate the amount of lye using the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild's lye calculator.

Bar soap for beginners

There are two methods when making bar soap from scratch:

  1. Hot process. In the hot process of soap making, external heat accelerates saponification. It's ideal to wait 1 week after making hot soap as the soap bar will set hard. You can, however, use it the next day. This method has a rustic homemade appearance. If you want a more refined look, try the cold process method.

  2. Cold process. In the cold process, internal heat is produced naturally during saponification. But the bars will harden in 4-6 weeks.

We decided to show you the hot process as it's a fast turnaround for your end product, and the process is beginner friendly.


Makes approx 7-10 bars of custom soap.

  1. Put your safety gear on.

  2. Measure your ingredients and set the slow cooker to low.

  3. Add the coconut oil to the slow cooker. As it melts, prepare the lye solution. Slowly add the lye to the water. (DO NOT ADD WATER TO LYE - THIS CAN CAUSE A DANGEROUS CHEMICAL REACTION)

  4. With a spatula, carefully stir the solution as you add the lye. It will become hot and release fumes. This is ok.

  5. Set aside the lye solution and let it cool for 15-20 minutes

  6. Check the oils. If the coconut oil has melted, add the olive oil and stir well.

  7. Check the temperature of the oils using the candy thermometer. Place the immersion blender on the side of the slow cooker, once the oils have reached 49-54°C.

  8. Gently pour the lye in to avoid splashing. Stir slowly.

  9. Set the blender to low. Stire the mixture, moving in circles. (Hint - keep the blender immersed to avoid air bubbles)

  10. Continue blending and stirring for 10-15 min or until the soap has reached "trace". (This is when the oils and lye solution have thickened and look like pudding.)

  11. Cover the slow cooker. Cook on low for 50 min. If the mixture bubbles - stir it gently.

  12. Turn off the slow cooker. Let it cool until the mixture drops below 82° C. Add essential oils and colorants if using and mix well.

  13. Pur the mixture into the soap mold. Smooth the top with a spatula. Tap the mold onto a work surface to eliminate air bubbles. Top with dried herbs if using.

Setting and molding the soap

A standard bar of soap is between 100gm-115gm. This recipe makes approx 850gm.

  1. After pouring the soap into the mold let it set for 24 hours.

  2. Once cool, carefully remove the soap mold

  3. Cut into bars with the soap cutter or knife. If you are using single molds just pop them out.

  4. You can use your soap at this point, but you may want to let it dry for another week and the hardness will improve.

Hints and tips for DIY soap making.

  • If you don't want to work with lye or want to get the kids involved, use a melt-and-pour soap base that you can find online.

  • Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work out the first time. It takes time and practice. The more you experiment the better your soap will be.

  • Work slowly and safely. Read the instructions carefully BEFORE starting the process.

  • Crumbley soap may mean you've used too much lye.

  • Use different oils to get a different feel for each soap.

  • It's recommended to use distilled water, however, tea, coffee, beer, goat milk, and coconut milk have all been used to make soap too.

  • When using fragrance make sure you choose a skin safe option

  • Have fun!

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