How to Make Homemade Soap

Making homemade soap can be a fun and rewarding hobby. With just a few ingredients and some basic equipment, you can create beautiful, nourishing soaps from scratch. Homemade soap makes a lovely handmade gift, and can be customized with scents, colors, and add-ins to suit your personal tastes. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to make cold process soap completely from scratch.

Ingredients and Equipment You’ll Need

Before getting started, gather the following ingredients and equipment:


  • Base oils: Common choices are olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, almond oil, avocado oil, castor oil, etc. Choose 2-4 oils.
  • Lye: Also called sodium hydroxide. Purchase from a soapmaking supplier.
  • Distilled water: Use for mixing the lye solution.
  • Essential oils or fragrance oils (optional): For scent. Use .5-1 ounce per pound of oils.
  • Colorants (optional): Use soap-safe mica powder or liquid dye.
  • Add-ins (optional): Dried flowers, oats, coffee grounds, etc.


  • Digital scale: For accurately weighing out ingredients.
  • Thermometer: For checking lye solution temperature.
  • Goggles and gloves: For safety when working with lye.
  • Mold: Choose wood, silicone, or plastic. Avoid aluminum.
  • Mixing containers: Heat-safe plastic or stainless steel bowls.
  • Mixing utensils: Wood or stainless steel spoon, whisk.
  • Stick blender: For blending soap batter.

Step 1: Prepare the Lye Solution

Making the lye solution involves mixing lye and water. Follow safety precautions and wear goggles and gloves.

  1. Weigh out the distilled water in a heat-safe container. The amount needed will depend on the oils used. A good starting point is a 25% lye solution, meaning the water weight is 25% of the oil weight.
  2. In a well-ventilated area, slowly sprinkle the lye into the water while stirring gently. Never add water to lye. The mixture will immediately heat up.
  3. Stir occasionally until the lye fully dissolves and the solution cools to around 100°F or below. This takes 30-60 minutes.

The lye solution is now ready to mix with oils.

Step 2: Melt and Combine the Oils

While the lye solution cools, prepare the oils.

  1. Weigh out the oils and butters. Run any hard oils or butters through a grater or chop finely to help them melt.
  2. Combine all oils in a stainless steel pot. Gently heat over low heat until completely melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Let the oil mixture cool to around 100-110°F. The temperatures of the lye solution and oils should be within 10°F before mixing.

Step 3: Mix the Lye and Oils to Trace

Once the two mixtures are at the proper temperature range, it’s time to combine them.

  1. When both mixtures are around 100-110°F, slowly pour the lye solution into the oils, stirring constantly. Pour slowly to avoid air bubbles.
  2. Use a stick blender and blend the mixture, stopping to stir occasionally. It will become thicker and creamy.
  3. Continue blending until trace. Trace is when the batter leaves a trail on the surface when drizzled. This takes 2-5 minutes. Do not blend for more than 5 minutes.

The batter is now ready for additions and molding.

Step 4: Customize and Mold the Soap Batter

Once trace is achieved, you can add scents, colors, and stir in any add-ins. Work quickly before the batter starts to set up.

  1. Add any essential oils or fragrance oils and stir in completely.
  2. If coloring, divide the batch and add a different colorant to each portion. Stir to distribute the color evenly.
  3. If adding any dry ingredients like oats or flowers, sprinkle them on top and gently fold in.
  4. Pour the batter into soap molds. Tap the molds to release air bubbles.
  5. Insulate the filled molds by wrapping them in towels or blankets. This helps prevent cracking.

Now the soap must go through saponification before it can be unmolded and used.

Step 5: Allow Soap to Cure

Curing homemade soap is an important final step. Full saponification and cure time takes 4-6 weeks.

  1. Allow soap to sit undisturbed for 24-48 hours. It will become firm to the touch as saponification begins.
  2. Unmold the soap and cut into bars. Wear gloves, as lye can still be active at this point.
  3. Place soap bars on a drying rack in a well-ventilated area. Allow to finish curing for 4-6 weeks. Turn them over periodically.
  4. After curing, wrap bars in paper and store in a dry area. Homemade soap lasts for many months when stored properly.

And that’s it! With a bit of practice, you can create lovely homemade soaps using the cold process method. Experiment with different oils, scents, and designs – the possibilities are endless!

Frequently Asked Questions About Making Homemade Soap

How do I choose which oils to use in my soap recipe?

  • Each oil contributes different qualities to the final soap bar. For example, olive oil produces a gentle, moisturizing soap while coconut oil creates a fluffy lather. Use soaping oil calculators to determine the right oil combinations and percentages based on your desired soap qualities. Beginners often start with a simple recipe of olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil.

Can I design my own soap recipes?

  • Yes, once you understand the properties of various oils, you can certainly formulate original recipes. Run any new recipes through a lye calculator to ensure the lye amount and ratios are correct. Stick to established safe usage rates for each oil. Start by tweaking existing recipes before designing your own from scratch.

How do I add milk, honey, or other liquids to soap?

  • First combine these add-ins with the oils before mixing in the lye solution. Freeze milks or heat the honey to incorporate them smoothly. Reduce the water in the lye solution to account for the extra liquid. Add no more than one cup of milk or two tablespoons of honey per pound of oils. Too much extra liquid can prevent the soap from hardening properly.

Why does handmade soap need to cure?

  • Curing allows saponification to complete so all the lye reacts with the oils. This makes the soap milder and ready to use. Curing also allows excess water to evaporate so the bars become firmer and last longer. 4-6 weeks of cure time is recommended, though soap is safe to use after about 2-3 weeks when hardened. The longer the cure, the better the final product.

How long does homemade soap last?

  • With proper curing and storage, handmade soap can last 6 months to a year or longer. Store cured bars in a cool, dark place and avoid excess moisture. Handmade soap lasts longer than commercial soap due to its high oil content and lack of preservatives. Over time, the bars will become drier but still produce lather when used. Signs of spoiled soap include odd colors or textures, excessive oiliness, and unpleasant scents.

How can I make transparent soap?

  • To produce clear see-through soaps, you need to replace some of the oils with solvents like propylene glycol or sucrose octanoate. Follow a specialized transparent soap recipe and avoid milks, cloudy oils, or anything that adds opacity. Work at temperatures around 160°F for complete clarity. Adding sugars like honey or glycerin also helps achieve transparency. Using all natural oils alone will not create transparent bars.

Tips for Making Great Homemade Soap

Making soap from scratch allows for lots of creativity and customization for a truly personal product. Follow these tips for homemade soap success:

  • Always run new recipes through a lye calculator before making the soap to prevent lye heaviness.
  • Stick to the proper lye safety precautions like gloves and goggles when making and pouring the solution.
  • Use distilled water as your lye water to avoid cloudiness from mineral deposits.
  • Allow both the lye solution and oils to cool to the proper temperature range before mixing to avoid overheating.
  • Blend the soap batter well until it reaches a light trace to emulsify the mixture before adding fragrance and colorants.
  • Work quickly but carefully after trace to mix in add-ins before the batter thickens too much.
  • Choose your mold and design ahead of time. Line wood molds with freezer paper for easy release.
  • Insulate filled molds with towels to prevent cracking from temperature changes during gel phase.
  • Wait 24 hours after molding before cutting the soap to allow for firmer bars. Use a non-serrated knife.
  • Allow 4-6 weeks minimum to fully cure the soap before use. Longer cures produce a harder bar that lasts longer.
  • Once cured, store soap in sealed containers or wrap individually to extend shelf life.

With practice, you’ll be handcrafting healthy, beautiful soaps to enjoy and share! Experiment and have fun with different scents, oils, molds, designs, and techniques.

Final Thoughts on Making Your Own Soap

What a rewarding DIY project – you can now make soap completely from scratch! We’ve covered the basic cold process method, from preparing the lye solution to proper curing. With safety measures, the right ingredients, and a bit of creativity, you can whip up wonderful handmade soaps.

The key is taking the time needed for saponification and curing to create a gentle, long-lasting bar. A well-formulated recipe and proper lye measurements also prevent harshness. Be sure to run any untested recipes through a calculator first.

From here, you can expand on your new soapmaking skills. Try hot process soapmaking, layering colors, adding milk, or formulating recipes for different skin types. The possibilities are endless!

Making homemade soap allows you to control the ingredients and customize the shapes, scents, and designs. You can tailor soaps to be completely natural or get creative with colors and molds. Not only is handmade soap beautiful, it also makes a thoughtful handmade gift.

We hope this guide gives you the knowledge and inspiration to dive into the rewarding hobby of soapmaking. Once you master the basics, you can craft gorgeous soaps that pamper, cleanse, and moisturize skin naturally. Let your creativity run wild!