Soap Making 101 - Part 1

I am so excited to be finally getting to this series!  Like I said in my "New Year" post, I will be posting a 101 tutorial series each month.  These posts will be a series of in depth tutorials, usually having to do with self sufficient living. 

So onto my first series.  Soap Making 101!  I aim to show you just how easy it is to make a basic soap that you and your family will love!

 In the next 3 weeks I will break it down into 3 separate posts:
  1. What supplies and ingredients you will need.  Where you can find them, maybe at home, in your nearest stores and/or websites where you can order them.  I will go over safety information as well. 
  2. A basic recipe for unscented soap.  Step by step instructions on how to make your soap complete with pictures. 
  3. Here I will go more in depth on different ingredients can be used for you soaps like:  oils, butters, fragrances, essential oils, and other add ins. I will also give you  links to many useful soap making sites.  Tips, recipes, and a lye calculator to be able to make your own recipes.

First lets go over the SUPPLIES you will need.  I'm sure you can find most of these in your kitchen.  Some people don't like to use the same items for cooking that they do for soap making.  And you can have your own separate stash for this, but most will be fine if you wash them. I will warn you about the ones that shouldn't be used for both. 

* Never use aluminum items, lye reacts violently with it.  Glass, ceramic, and stainless steel are the best choices for all supplies.

  •  2 cooking thermometers.  I use the metal one for the oils and the glass one for the lye solution. 
  • Two or three mixing utensils.  Stainless steel spoons are the best.  You can use wooden, but reserve it just for soap making, it can absorb lye and not be completely cleaned.  Rubber spatulas are the same way, they will also be slowly eaten away by the lye so they won't last long. 
  • Glass measuring cups.  I have two, one to weigh water and one to weigh out the lye. 

I would think all of these items can be either found in your home or at your local stores.

  • One STAINLESS STEEL PAN.  No aluminum, Teflon coated or anything that doesn't have the words "stainless steel" on the bottom just to be safe.  Your big chain store will have them. An average size sauce pan will be sufficient for this recipe.  
  • DIGITAL scale.  All ingredients will be weighed not measured.  I found this one in the postal section of Walmart for about  $15-$20.  Here are some more that are a bit pricey and one that that is $28.50.
  • STICK BLENDER.  Another item you should reserve just for soap making.  Your best friend in your modern soap making adventure.  Hand stirring can take 3 hours or longer, a stick blender cuts it down to about 20-30 min.  So with that in mind you need a stick blender that can last that long.  I have gone through a few (blew fuses with cheap ones) and found the best one is this model.  Hamilton Beach 59780R. This one is around $35 found at Walmart or online here on Amazon.  If you can't find this one, you can try others.  It should be one that has a least 2 speeds (these will be higher wattage) and try to find one that has a sealed shaft.  Ones that aren't sealed will whip air into your soap, you don't want that!

  • SOAP MOLD - this is the kind I use.  You can do a search for "wooden soap mold" and find many many kinds.  I would show you a link to where I got mine but he no longer makes them.   Mine is 3" deep, 13" long and 3 1/2" wide.  You can also you many household containers around this size, just line them with freezer paper. 
  • FREEZER PAPER - not wax paper, it needs to be thick
  • Tape and scissors to cut and tape your paper into your mold
Follow this link for an easy way to line your soap mold.

Last but not least would be SAFETY GEAR.  Working with lye can be risky.  It is a very strong base that will burn you on contact.  Here are some safety precautions and gear you should have.
  1. Rubber gloves
  2. Goggles
  3. Long sleeve shirt, apron
  4. Vinegar - is an acid that will help neutralize lye on skin and surfaces
*If you are working at home you are probably going to be in the kitchen.  Start with a clean kitchen, (hard for me sometimes haha!) no food or other items you could possibly contaminate unknowingly.  I also never let my kids in the kitchen when I am making soap.  Even a small splatter in an eye could have terrible consequences.  

I hope all that didn't scare you. Really it is not that terrible.  I have gotten lye granules and the raw soap on my hands numerous time and it just itched and burned a little.  I put a little vinegar on it and it was fine. 

So now onto the INGREDIENTS.

Your basic soap recipe will be as follows:
(I will have this again in the next part of the series)

18 oz Olive Oil 
11 oz Coconut Oil
11 oz  Palm  Oil      
4 oz Shea Butter    
13 oz water
6.2 oz Lye

Where to find your ingredients

The only ingredient I have been able to find in my local big chain stores is the Olive oil.  They have many kinds to choose from.  If you are wanting a higher quality, keep in mind you are going to get what you pay for, but they will all work nicely for your soap.

You may be able to find this in you local store, it comes under the name LouAna.  I have not been able to find it here in Iowa.  Health food stores may also have virgin coconut oil that will be more expensive.  Here are two soap making sites that sell Coconut oil.  MMS and The Soap Dish .

I have never heard of anyone finding this in a store.  I have to buy these online.  MMS and The Soap Dish also have Palm oil under the same section as the coconut oil.

This is the same senario as the Palm oil, see above.

Distilled/softened water is best.  If you have hard water I advise using distilled water as the lye does not dissolve as easily in  hard water. 

A few years back you could by lye in any store.  It was marketed as a drain cleaner.  People also use lye to make Meth so all lye has been taken off of most store's shelves.  I get my lye from a local Amish store, don't ask me why they can sell it, but I'm glad they are able to.  You may be able to ask a local store if they can order it for you.  For the rest of you, you will have to go online.  Most soap supply sites will sell it, but you have to buy other soap making ingredients at the same time.  The soap dish is a great site as you can buy you palm, coconut and shea butter there too.  They have small quantity options which I loved when I was just starting out. 

Those are just a few options.  Go ahead and do a search online and you may find better prices, there are MANY site out there.  Fun to look through too :)

So there is the very beginning folks.  I thought I would give you this up front so you may have time to gather your supplies before the soap making tutorial.

Ready for Part 2?  Click HERE



  1. Inspirational. There's nothing quite like homemade soap. I support local makers by buying such soap at our farmer's market and just got some from my mum for Christmas too. Thanks for sharing!

    Popping in from the Etsy Blog Team!

  2. Thank you for doing this Debbie! I'm looking forward to next week's post! :)

  3. Fantastic! I can't wait for the tutorial! I just took a soap making book out from the library because I have been wanting to make soap for years. What great timing for the tutorial:)

  4. Great! So glad to have you all along. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions along the way:)

  5. Ah, at last! Thank you for a very detailed and easy to follow intro, Debbie! Finally soap making doesn't sound complicated or scary!

  6. ohh thanks for sharing. I have never tried making my own soap before but this should be a great diy to try.

    thanks for sharing. amazing blog.

  7. Debbie! welcome to FArmgirl Friday. You brought the goods today girl! Thank you so much for this great post. I've always wanted to try soap making and laundry soap too! Look forward to seeing more of you!

  8. I love making my own soap. There's nothing like it.

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