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How to Make Soap

Need to save money? Like to be creative? Want a skill you could use if the economy does collapse and stores close? Most of what you need for making soap is usually already in your house and you can choose your own fragrances, colors and shapes.


*Because lye is caustic, equipment used needs to be resistant to burning

Basic Ingredients Equipment
Lye Mixing bowl (stainless steel, tempered glass or enamel)
Essential Oils Spoons (styrene plastic or silicone)
Distilled or purified water Soap mold from store or silicone baking pan
Soap coloring from a craft store or natural coloring such as paprika, turmeric, powdered chlorophyll, cinnamon or saffron pint and quart-sized canning jars

Optional items to your tastes:
stainless steel thermometer that reads between 90° and 200°
aloe vera gel, coconut oil, honey, etc. Gloves and protective gear to protect against the causticness of lye (eye covering, apron)
oatmeal, coffee, clays, corn meal Newspaper for covering area
lavender, rose petals, gardenia Wax paper or air tight container
mint, thyme, rosemary, sage A drying rack



Things to keep in mind for all soap-making projects that use lye





1.  Cover your work area with newspaper.

2.   Put your gloves and other protective wear on.

3.   Measure your water into the quart canning jar. Have a spoon ready.

4.   Measure your lye, making sure you have exactly ¼ cup.

5.  Slowly pour the lye into the water, stirring as you go. Stand back while you stir to avoid the fumes.

6.  When the water starts to clear, you can allow it to sit while you move to the next step.

7.   In the pint jar, add your three oils together. They should just make a pint.

8.  Heat in a microwave for about a minute, or place the jar of oils in a pan of water to heat. Check the temperature of your oils – it should be about 120° or so.

9.   Your lye should have come down by then to about 120°.

10. Wait for both to cool somewhere between 95° and 105°. This is critical for soap making. Too low and it’ll come together quickly, but be coarse and crumbly. When both the lye and oils are at the right temperature, pour the oils into a mixing bowl.

11. Slowly add the lye, stirring until it’s all mixed. Stir by hand for a full 5 minutes. It’s very important to get as much of the lye in contact with as much of the soap as possible. After about 5 minutes, you can keep stirring or you can use an immersion blender.

12. The soap mixture will lighten in color and become thick. When it looks like vanilla pudding it’s at “trace” and you’re good to go.

13. Add your herbs, essential oils or other additions at this point. Stir thoroughly to combine.

14. Pour the mixture into mold(s) and cover with plastic wrap. Set in an old towel and wrap it up. This will keep the residual heat in and start the saponification process. Saponification is the process of the base ingredients becoming soap.

15. After 24 hours, check your soap. If it’s still warm or soft, allow it to sit another 12-24 hours. When it’s 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 at this point.

16. Allow soap to cure for 4 weeks or so. Be sure to turn it over once a week to expose all the sides to air (which is not necessary if using a baking rack).

17. When your soap is fully cured, wrap it in wax paper or keep it in an airtight container. Hand made soap creates its own glycerin, which is a humectant, pulling moisture from the air. It should be wrapped to keep it from attracting dust and debris with the moisture.






  • 16 oz distilled or purified water
  • 6 oz lye
  • 16 oz olive oil
  • 8 oz coconut oil
  • 17 1/2 oz shortening



1. Mix the water and the lye in a large glass bowl or stainless steel pot.

2. Heat the oils and the shortening over a low heat, stirring often. Heat to about 95°F. This will take about 30 - 40 minutes.

3. Check the temperature of both the lye water and the oil mixture as both should reach about 95°F at the same time. If one is hotter than the other, place in a sink of cold water to get the temperature down to match the other.

4. Once the temperatures are even then add the lye to the oils, stirring constantly.

5. Once tracing has been reached, this is the time to add any herbs, plants or essential oils to your soap

6. Pour your soap into suitable plastic molds, cover with lids and wrap in a heavy blanket for 24 hours.

7. Once the soaps have hardened they should leave the the molds very easily. If you have trouble, in the future you can use a thin coating of Vaseline on your mold to help with the un-molding process. You can cut your soap into smaller bars at this stage and leave on a wire rack for 3 - 4 weeks to air dry and harden.





Handmill soap is a way of avoiding the caustic lye. You can buy already made fragrance-free soap or collect and save scraps of soap from your soap dishes to use as the base. Like with making lye-based soap from scratch, you can use your imagination for creating colors and fragrances.



1. Grate 2 cups of your chosen store-bought white soap or saved soap scraps

2. Place grated soap in a heat-resistant glass bowl

3. Add 1/4 cup of water

4. Take a pot of water simmer over a low heat.

5. Place bowl over the pot of simmering water and heat gently until melted. Do not stir as it would create bubbles.

6. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of your chosen dried herb

7. Fold in carefully to mix in ingredients without adding bubbles.

8. Get your soap mold, which as been pre-smeared in a thin coating of petroleum jelly to ensure that your soap will be released easily.

9. Pour your soap into the mold and place in fridge to set.

10. Once set, remove from fridge and release from mold.

11. Place on drying rack for 3 weeks to dry completely.

12. Once your soap is dry, cut up..

Making Shampoo

Here is a link from WikiHow for instructions to make shampo:

Like with making soaps, of course, you can add some of your own fragrance. You can substitute part of the water in the soap recipe with tea you made with the distilled or purified water (after it cools and sits for about 24 hours).

Here are some ideas for different hair colors.

For dry skin: Use a tea made from acacia or clover

For oily skin: Use a tea made from roses or cucumber

For blondes: Use a tea made from chamomile or marigolds

For brunettes: Use a tea made from raspberry leaves or rosemary

For putting the red back into black hair use a tea made from stinging nettles.



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