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Do-It-Yourself Experiment #7: Homemade Soap

My sister has been making homemade soap for a number of months, so she inspired me to add it to my list of Do-It-Yourself Experiments to try this year. And she graciously came over to help me make it, because I’m pretty positive I would have ruined the whole batch without her experienced help.

You first have to get the water really cold. We used ice to accomplish this.

Then we added in the lye crystals slowly while mixing. We did this outside with gloves on as you have to be very careful when working with lye crystals. The mixture gets very hot very quickly.

While the lye mixture was cooling, we melted the fats in a big pot on the stove over low heat.

Once we got the lye mixture to the right temperature, we slowly mixed it into the melted fats and then used a stick blender get it to trace. This took us around 10 minutes, but I also didn’t have a clue what I was doing and my sister had to coach me a lot on what it meant for the mixture to “trace”.

We finally got it, and then we added in the essential oils, oatmeal, and lavender and poured it into the soap mold to cure (the mold was a cardboard box with a plastic trash sack in it!). I left it on the kitchen table with a piece of wood and a blanket over it for two days and then cut it up tonight. It needs to cure for a few more weeks and then it will be ready for use.

I cannot tell you then sense of accomplishment I felt from cutting up the bars of soap tonight! It’s hard to describe, but there’s just such a deep feeling of fulfillment from putting forth the effort to make items from scratch. And I can’t wait to actually use the soap once it’s ready!

In case you missed it, here’s the list of the 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Try in 2011:

January: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea

February: Make

March: Make

April: Make

May: Make

June: Make Homemade Hummus

July: Make Strawberry Freezer Jam

August: Make Homemade Soap

September: Sew a

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter

November: Make

December: Make

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  • says:

    How lovely! I make hot process – you ‘cook’ it in a crock pot, and you can use it the next day, but the texture is different. Nice, just different.

    I have some lavender buds, and I bet I have some lemon essential oil (I know I have lavender. I may have to copy your lovely combination! 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Do you have a link for the hot process you use? I’d love to check it out!

      • says:

        I get my info from a book (I have a personal policy that I only use soap recipes and canning recipes from tested sources in books). The book is Handcrafted Soap by Delores Boone. I think it’s out of print (because the price on amazon is crazy), but many libraries have it. 🙂

        • Crystal says:

          You should post the recipe with photos–especially if the book is out of print! Thanks for the info!

          • says:

            Honestly, I’m concerned about personal liability if I were to leave out some safety detail or if someone were to somehow injure themselves because they didn’t understand a step in the process. So I don’t ever post soapmaking or canning recipes or tutorials. 🙂

      • Jan says:

        If you google “make soap in crock pot”, you will get lots of results on how to do it.

  • says:

    Okay, Crystal. I gave up at lye and rubber gloves in the backyard. LOL!

    Glad you feel accomplished and Congrats on your soap success!

  • says:

    Looks amazing! Great job. Just curious, does your olive oil have to be fresh for soap making? I’ve got some that has begun to smell a little funky & I was wondering if I could use it for this.

    • says:

      You can use it for soapmaking Green Goddess. 🙂

    • says:

      I don’t think using old olive oil is a good idea. There are lots of issues about rancid fats causing health issues that can lead to cancer – I have read a lot about this on the internet. It’s hard to throw something away, but a lot of things soak into our skin and I don’t think you want that.

    • says:

      If you use rancid oil then your soap with take on the rancid smell. I made that mistake once by using some old Crisco.

      • zaksmama says:

        I’ve used Crisco that was slightly past its prime, but not outright nasty. The resulting soap was fine, but I also used coconut oil and olive oil, so any nastiness was probably diluted and then covered up by the tangerine + vanilla oils.

  • Emmie says:

    I made soaps years ago, but I paid so much money for the ingredients. This is common household items. I am in awe of this. Oh man I am thinking of how this must smell amazing! Thanks to you both for this recipe I will have to try this one out!

    You should have a sense of accomplishment anything you make is a sense of pride. Way to go! 😀

  • says:

    I’m so excited about this! I would LOVE to make my own soap – I’m allergic to so many things that I only wash my face with a castor oil-almond oil mixture and moisturize with coconut oil. I would love to control what goes into the soap I use. I’ll be trying this soon!

    • Jennifer Latham says:

      I, too, have a great number of allergies. Can you please share more about the castor/almond oil mixture?

      • says:

        It’s really simple. I actually found it on a blog. I tend to have oily skin, so I use 25% castor oil and 75% almond oil. The recipe I found usually calls for sunflower seed oil, but I couldn’t find it and almond oil works just as well. I keep my mixture in a 99cent travel bottle from target.

        After you wet your face, you pour about a quarter sized amount into your hand and slowly massage it in your face. Wet a washcloth with water as hot as you can stand it and lay it over your face for the steam treatment.

        Read more about it here:

      • says:

        Check out this website for a full list of reasons to oil wash. I have oily skin, so my personal mixture is about 25% castor oil and 75% sweet almond oil, kept in a 99cent travel container from Target. My face has cleared up WONDERFULLY since switching to this method,

        • Shirley says:

          I am curious how often do you do this and what do you use on the days that you don’t? It says to do regularly but not too frequently.

          • says:

            I do use this every day, since this is the only face wash I use and I wear a mineral makeup. It’s been really hot here, so if I sweat during the day I tend to just wash my face with water and pat with coconut oil or pure shea butter.

        • Heather says:

          I am going to have my daughter try this. She has sensitive skin so we make everything she uses from laundry saop to body soap but now that she is getting to the tennage years we have had a hard time finding anything that will clear her face. She brakes out form the sensitive stuff they sell at the store. Where can you find the ingredients of you live in a tiny town.

          • says:

            The best part about these oils is they are both commonly found at grocery stores! Castor oil is usually found in with the laxatives, generally on the bottom shelf. It’s fairly cheap, as I recall.

            I bought sweet almond oil from the “salad dressings” aisle, in with all the flavored oils. I think I paid about $5.50 for mine, and it’s not even half empty yet, and I’ve used it both for my wash and as a sunburn treatment straight from the bottle. A little goes a long way.

      • says:

        Hi Jennifer. I have been using a jojoba oil only face wash that has done wonders for my face. I don’t mean to just put a link to my blog here, but it really does work. I had very reactive skin prior to using this. I hope it helps you! (Jojoba oil is very similar to skin oil so it is quite calming.)

        • says:

          this looks great!

          • Kim D says:

            I have a lot of allergies too, and can’t put any thing on my face. It shows too. : (

            I’ll check out your blog and see what I can find on google. I have normal skin on my face, but really dry every where else.

        • says:

          I use 1/3 castor (for it’s drying properties), 1/3 avocado and 1/3 jojoba oils (because my skin is oily and acne prone). I also add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil for its antiseptic qualities. I, too, have a post on it if anyone is interested in my combinations. No commerial product comes close to the oil cleansing method.

          • Aubrey says:

            I’d love to read more about your method if you don’t mind posting a link!

          • says:

            I detailed my combination and process here:
            . It was a little expensive to get started (probably $45.00) but I have made several bottles from those initial ingredients. The tea tree oil will last a LONG time (only using a few drops each time), and the jojoba oil (being the smallest bottle) will need to be replaced soonest. I think the only time I will need to buy all of the ingredients at the same time was the first time. From now on, it should be easier financially, but still have long term benefits. Hope it works well for you, too. If you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll try my best to answer.

        • Andrea Q says:

          It is possible to be allergic to jojoba. I am!

          • says:

            Andrea, I am sorry to hear that. Of course, anyone can be allergic to anything. Have you tried non-expeller or non-cold pressed? The allergens are in the protein of the offending product so typically (if not always), someone who is allergic to a food will not be allergic to the oil of that same food since there is no protein in the food.

            My son has had life-threatening food allergies since he was 3 months old and we have worked with the top allergists in the country. This is common knowledge amongst allergists. Hope that helps.

          • Andrea Q says:

            Adrienne…I think you mean there is no protein in the oil??

            But, no, I try not to use chemically extracted oils. Jojoba is easy enough to avoid. It is often recommended for people with sensitive skin, so I just wanted to give a word of caution.

  • Karen says:

    Don’t wait to try the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes. It’s really easy and very good. Just make sure you let it rest a while when it comes out of the oven. If you cut it too soon the crust doesn’t stay as crisp. I need to make it again. I think I might mix it up tomorrow and have some nice crusty bread on Sunday. Don’t wait.

    • says:

      I know, I’ve been seeing this project for months now and have been thinking, why wait until November? This needs to be done asap! 🙂

  • Jennifer Latham says:

    Just wondering where you purchased the ingredients…? Thanks!!!

  • Megan says:

    Awesome! I can’t wait to try this for Christmas. Our August project is drywalling our master bedroom.

  • says:

    The soap looks lovely! I bet is smells good too.

    I understand that satisfied feeling . . . I think I’m addicted to it actually 🙂 I love making things from scratch!

    Looking forward to reading about the last few projects, especially the Artisan bread!

  • Melissa Hartley says:

    read the title as SOUP! Though, nasty! Lavender Oatmeal! LOL, can’t wait to try this SOAP reciepe 🙂

    • deann says:

      Me to o I’m thinking lavender lemon soup must be chilled does sound great.. But I don’t think this “soup” is edible 🙂 ohhh my whole thing here is the Crisco.. Its OK to wash yourself with this? Sorry cant put my mind around that idea..

  • kristin says:

    Where did you find the lye? Thanks

    • Lara says:

      you can find the lye in the grocery store, in the same section that sells ‘drano’. When I’ve made it, I actually used the drano brand of oil. I usually used other fats. But, I loved my soap. Biggest reason I stopped making it.. I didn’t like the cost of the fats….. Keep in mind, that if you don’t cure long enough, the soap can be really rough on your skin.

  • Jennifer says:

    Did you use the entire bottle of each essential oil? And have you figured out what the total cost was per bar? Looks like an interesting project. My MIL did this with all the grandkids over a camp stove in her back yard many years ago. But it was plain lye soap, and mostly only good for laundry.

  • Viki says:

    Where did you buy your lye at?

    • Dana S. says:

      I found lye at Menards. If you don’t have Menards close by, you might check Lowe’s or Rural King Supply. Both carry it in some form in this area (Indiana). Hope that helps you out!


  • says:

    okay, what does it mean to “trace”? Like, when you stir it it leaves a line for a second?

  • Dana S. says:

    Where do you find the coconut oil and the lavendar? I live out in the middle of nowhere, and maybe that’s the problem. I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time. I even have the lye and other obscure ingredients just waiting for me to break down and do it! (Maybe I need your sister to come hold my hand! lol)

    Dana inIN

    • says:

      Amazon for sure has Coconut oil- but I am sure they have lavendar, too (they seem to have most everything ).


      • says:

        I use coconut oil in my lotion recipe. I found it at WalMart near the olive oil. At mine, they have speciality oil right next to the olive oil.

    • says:

      You can get essential oils at Amazon as well. Also Mountain Rose Herbs. A more expensive option (though I will say that they are higher quality) is Young Living. Health food stores will carry both the coconut and essential oils.

  • Andrea says:

    High Five Crystal, I bet it is going to smell wonderful. I can’t wait to try this recipe out; all I need is lavender.

  • Audrey says:

    I so love that you did this. Please let us know how it turns out once you begin using it. Will it be for hands, body? Also, let us know the approx cost per bar. Thx Crystal for you enthusiasm to try new things and then share w/ us.

  • says:

    Wow, Crystal! I have been wanting to make soap for literally YEARS! I have the best olive oil soap recipe that a friend in Chicago introduced to me. You have given me the encouragement to do it! We are going to Costco today and I am going to get the olive oil. Yippee!

  • Heather says:

    I think the most impressive thing is that you left it out on the kitchen table for 2 days without your 2 year old wrecking it! How did you do it?

    • Crystal says:

      That’s what my mom said, too! I knew that I would be sick to my stomach if they got into it and ruined it so I just brought them all over to the table and had a very straight-forward talk about how it important it was not to touch it and what the consequences would be if that happened.

      I guess they got the message loud and clear because no one even so much as attempted to lift up the blanket. That was an encouragement to me as a mom because it seems like so much of the time the work and effort I’ve put into training my children isn’t going anywhere and we’re dealing with the same disobedience over and over again!

      • says:

        I’m impressed!!! As a person working with adopted kids, I can say it, but the follow up obedience is not a given.

      • teresa says:

        thankful that your children chose obedience. that is such a blessing to a parent’s heart. it’s even a blessing this grandma’s heart (and i only “know” you & your family thru your blog). now tomorrow may be a different choice and the training will continue. =)

  • yvonne says:

    I have been making handmade soap for at least 5 years now, and our family uses nothing but homemade soap! I love the feeling of having made a batch of soap! It’s addicting—there are so many ways to be creative (as in things you can add to your soap).

  • says:

    .. And now, I must make soap!! Thank you for a one click spot of consistent inspiration!! Love it!

  • Bonnie says:

    Way to go, Crystal!! You are my “hero mom” that I look up to!

  • Guest says:

    Go Crystal! Is it possible to make it without the oats? We have to stay away from anything with gluten.

  • says:

    Wow, what an accomplishment! I’ve kinda wanted to make my own soap, but I’m a little scared. Also, it seems like the ingredients would be fairly expensive up front? (Olive oil and oatmeal are the only things I typically have on hand. If I bought the other other items – lye, essential oils, lavender, Crisco, coconut oil – I doubt that I would use them for much else.) Do you have an idea how much you had to spend on ingredients? It did look like it made a lot of soap so it might last forever.

    • Crystal says:

      I already had some of the ingredients and my sister brought some, so it only cost me around $0.63 per bar. If you bought everything from scratch, my sister said it would cost around $1. If you tweaked the ingredients some, you could get the cost down lower than that.

  • says:

    I’m really wondering how the cost per unit checked out. Any thoughts?

    • Crystal says:

      I already had some of the ingredients and my sister brought some, so it only cost me around $0.63 per bar. However, if you bought everything from scratch, my sister said it would cost around $1. If you tweaked the ingredients some, you could get the cost down lower than that.

  • Jen says:

    We made soap when I was little, but our ingredients were simple; lye, scent and lard. It was actually the best soap ever and not harsh at all. I’m not sure about using crisco in soap. What is the reason for so many different kinds of oil?

  • Katie says:

    Just curious… about how much does it cost to make a batch of soap with this recipe?

    • Crystal says:

      I already had some of the ingredients and my sister brought some, so it only cost me around $0.63 per bar. If you bought everything from scratch, my sister said it would cost around $1. If you tweak the ingredients some, you could get the cost down lower than that.

  • jodes says:

    This is taking me back to organic chemistry class. I think the lesson on Saponification is the only one I remember. I really want to try this, but I don’t think it would work in my studio basement apartment. Sounds amazing though.

  • says:

    I would also like more of an explanation of ‘trace’ – Thanks!!

    Awesome recipe! Thanks

  • Bonnie says:

    Thanks for all your inspiring things and words! I do have a question a little off of the soap debate here . Lol. I was wondering if the homemade dishwasher soap really worked or not. I tried your link to the dishwasher soap but it failed or is not there. Any help would be great!

  • Danielle says:

    I so wanted to try this, but I cannot imagine putting Crisco anywhere on my body, even as diluted as it might be. That grosses me out, even though I know they used to use all kinds of animal fats in soap. 🙁 I bet it smells amazing, though, but I wish I could make it without Crisco.

    • Crystal says:

      You can definitely make it without Crisco; there are many other substitutions–I’m not a Crisco fan either, so I’m hoping to try something else the next time I make it!

    • Missi says:

      The Crisco pictured above is all-vegetable. 🙂

    • says:

      Crisco is out for us because of a soy allergy in the family. Spectrum makes a palm shortening.

      • Ann says:

        As a chemist, I’ll tell you that after you add the lye, the crisco isn’t crisco anymore–the purpose of the lye is to separate the triglycerides (fat molecules) into its parts, glycerin and three fatty acids. The reason you have to be so careful with the amount of lye is that you don’t want any left over lye (which will burn your skin) OR any leftover fat (which will feel greasy)…so if you don’t want to use the same ingredients, look for a different recipe.

  • says:

    How cool! What a great idea for Christmas gifts! Thanks for sharing!

  • Denise says:

    Yay – great job!! We’ve been making soap for a while, and it is a lot of fun. My mom just found an essential oil – cinnamon and cassia – it has a wonderful spicy smell. I have made several batches of lavender and oatmeal. congrats:)

  • charlene says:

    I have been making soap for about 10 years. Coconut oil can be bought at any health food store, Olive oil can be bought from the grocery store be sure to get extra virgin cold process it works best, Grapeseed oil, Jojoba oil, Emu oil, all can be added. Here is the kicker, it depends on WHAT oil and HOW much of each you use as to how much lye you use. The process is called sponification that is a fancy word for how much lye it takes to make the oils solid. There are a couple of charts online, I will try to find them. You put in how many ounce of which oils and it tells you how much lye and water to use.

    Fragrance, it has to be skin safe you cannot use candle fragrance or such it will not work on skin. Michaels and Hobby Lobby has some soap stuff, not the best but will work for small batches. Do not use more than 5% fragrance to oil, ie 10 ounces of oil gets 1/2 ounce of fragrance. This gets worse by some fragrance is heavy and you use less. Play with it

    • charlene says:

      you will figure it out. I have some where some old recipes I used. If you want some email me with SOAP RECIPE in the title, if not I might delete your email.

      Lye. Good old Red Devil lye for opening drains is what you use. Nothing fancy. Red Devil worked best for me until I started buying it in 50# bags. I made a lot of soap!!!!!

      If you have questions feel free to ask. There is a GREAT Yahoo group, Southern Soapers I use to belong to and was a charter member. They taught me a ton, the lye thing scared me to death!!! Now I do it in the house on the stove under the exhaust fan. Keep vinegar on hand if you get any on you. That makes it stop buring

  • Amy says:

    You can check out this site for lots of recipes, many of which do not use crisco: Making soap is one of the best things ever! I use a method of making it and then putting it in the oven to cure so it is useable in a few days, instead of weeks.

  • Lori says:

    Hi Crystal- does the lye mixture have to be a certain temperature before it is added to the fats? I’m going to try this! Thanks so much.

  • Mary says:

    Years ago my sister in law and I made homemade soap. We used fat, (the local grocery store gave it to us) and rendered it and we did not always have essential oils to add. I also, felt so accomplished the first time I made it.

    When you are making apple butter this fall, (homemade is delicious) you might try substituting pears for the apples. We have a pear tree, and I found it was a good way to use the pears. It makes great gifts and I like it much better than apple butter. Note: My pears are very sweet, so I am able to cut the amount of sugar I use.

  • sheri says:

    I have been making my own soap for about 2 years now. It is superior to any soap you can buy in the store. If you look at your store bought soap it doesn’t say soap on the label. All of the glycerin has been removed because they can get more money for the glycerine. What you have left in store bought soap is a harsh cleaner. You can also cut down on the cost of making soap by not using fragrance. Fragrance oils are expensive. You only need to use the cheapest olive oil. My store always has the cheap brand on sale. I don’t use crisco in mine. I use olive oil, coconut oil and sweet almond oil. My husband even loves it. He itches all winter using store bought soap. He started using mine and never itched all winter. It has moisturing oils that doesn’t get stripped out. Dannielle you don’t need to use crisco to make soap. Trace is just like making pudding. My only problem is I give away soap to my daughters and friends because they love it too.

  • Cheryl says:

    what does trace mean?

  • Deanna says:

    Can you replace the coconut oil? We need something nut free…

    • says:

      There so many different recipes you can find online, using all combinations of oils. Great for whatever one’s preferences or sources are. I know coconut oil is a very popular soapmaking oil because of it great lathering properties! But yes, if you want to substitute, there is a great resource called a lye calculator where you can adjust recipes with the proper proportions. It’s fun to be creative with it and also to double check old recipes.

  • says:

    Woohoo, Crystal! I have been waiting for this post. Lavender-Lemon sounds wonderful. When I was first learning to make soap, it took me a good while to get up the courage to actually try it, but now it is quite addicting. 🙂 You’ll want to try all kinds of “flavors.” Enjoyed seeing your photos of the process.

    For your readers, I would suggest Essential Depot for a good source of lye (I get food-grade in bulk) and Brambleberry for supplies like scents. For my simplest recipe, an unscented batch, the cost per bar is around 0.46. Using essential oils/fragrance adds quite a bit and it varies depending on the oil.

  • says:

    That looks great and what a great combination of scents! Did the cardboard box buckle at all? Molds are so expensive and that is such a great idea and free!

  • Heather C says:

    Does anyone know if you could do this recipe in a soap mold as opposed to one big pan? I’d love to add this to my list of homemade Christmas gifts but I thought they’d be cute in one of those fancy soap mold shapes and packaged in cellophane and raffia. Thanks for the recipe Crystal, I can’t WAIT to try it. My son and I just finished our first big batch of homemade canned salsa with all our own garden ingredients, nothing more satisfying then homemade!

  • Angie says:

    I have made soap for years and one of my favorite sites that will walk you through the process as well as different recipes is:

    There is nothing like homeamade soap 🙂 Lots more gentle on your skin then commercially bought soap.

  • says:

    My kids tried making soup recently, and it was a disaster! I’ll try this “recipe”

  • cat says:

    I love this post. I’ve always wanted to make homemade soap, but a little worried doing everything correctly. I have a silly question. Do you have to use dedicated utensils, bowls, etc? Or is it as simple as using my everyday kitchen utensils and washing them out throughly after making the soap? Just worried about using the lye in my reguar spoons and bowls that we eat out of. Thanks for the help.

    • Crystal says:

      My sister brought her “dedicated utensils/bowls” for the lye part of the process.

    • lyss says:

      I used to make soap and just used pots and utensils from our kitchen. As long as you wash and rinse everything well, it shouldn’t be a problem. The only thing that got ruined was our wooden spoon for stirring. With repeated use, the lye ate it up. Everything else washes clean.

      One thing I must say is that I don’t think anyone should attempt to make soap just from this article. While the recipe might be fine, it is lacking in detailed instruction concerning temperatures, tracing, curing, etc. I hope no one tries to make soap with this recipe unless they read more details on soapmaking. Just thought I’d throw that out there! 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        Yes, definitely don’t try to make it from this article. I specifically left out the detailed instructions because I’m not qualified to give a tutorial on soap-making when I’ve only done it once myself! It’s a learned art and I encourage you to learn from more experienced and knowledgeable people before trying yourself.

        I just wanted to share pictures to maybe inspire some of you to go read up and try it yourself!

  • says:

    I am so happy that you posted this! I rented a few books from the library several months ago, and one of them really scared me out of it by talking about how dangerous lye is, and the whole process can be very dangerous, etc. But now, seeing the pictures-I’m thinking I might have gained some new confidence to trying this. 😉 I LOVE homemade soaps-the smells are amazing! Thanks for posting!

  • lyss says:

    Sigh! This makes me want to make soap again! I can smell the lavender through the screen. lol! As a teenager, I made tons of soap, but haven’t at all since I got married. I had dreams of starting a business selling soap. But then my family somehow got used to the convenience of liquid soaps and body washes and got away from homemade. Maybe I should research making liquid soap from scratch…

  • says:

    I have been making soap for years. Each winter I make a few batches of Chocolate-Mint soap (recipe found by Google search) for gifts at Christmas. My sisters, SILs, teachers, and friends wait for it each year.

    Sometimes when I’m in a pinch for time, I make soap in the oven (versus crockpot) via hot process. Although I really prefer the cold process method.

    Our area Lowes stopped carrying lye because people were using it to make meth. I had to order my lye online and found a pretty decent deal on eBay a few years ago. I had to buy a case, but I still have plenty left. Some lye companies add metal shavings to the lye to make it unusable for meth and soap, so make sure you are buying 100% lye crystals!

  • Jennifer G. says:

    Way to go Crystal!! 🙂

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