How to Make Organic Handmade Soap (8 DIY Recipes)

The holiday season upon us and with it comes myriad Santas lists for you to check twice, from the chatty girls at book club to your sweetl sister-in-law to your super cool hair stylist - lots of ladies youd love to give a simple - but luxe - gift.

And what better way to show how much you care than with something handmadelike handmade soap? Not only is it handmade, it smells lovely, is natural and is a pretty addition to any bathroom counter. 

Plus, handmade soap can be super easy to make and completely customizable. Ready to learn how make soap bars?

How To Make Organic Handmade Soap

To start, lets talk ingredients. Youll need just three things:

  • Water
  • Oil
  • Lye 

Simple enough, right?

A few caveats: for the oil, youll want an animal or vegetable fat-based oil (no petroleum products, please!) and essential oils for fragrance. 

Youll also want some molds to pour your liquid soap mixture into. Try rounding up some bits of dried plants and herbs or natural colorings to kick your bars up a notch. 

And if youre wondering how to make organic soap and really amp up the health-factor of your soap, just make sure your essential oils, herbs and plants are certified organic. Similarly, if you choose to use the bar method rather than the lye method (detailed below), make sure your soap bar is certified organic. 

How To Make Soap With Lye

The first two soap-making ingredients are pretty straightforward, right? Its this last one - lye - that can make a person stop their soap-making days before they have a chance to break out a single mold. And sure - its caustic! It can burn you! Its intimidating, for sure.

But fret not, sweet soap-makers. Armed with some basic knowledge and the proper safety precautions, working with lye is super simple and totally safe. 

So, lets address the inevitable question: how to make handmade soap without lye? 

The simple answer is that you cant. You must have lye to create soap; its just science! Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is made when salt is dissolved into cold water and graphite rods are inserted into the mixture, creating an electric charge that sends the salt crystals sticking to the graphite. Those crystal shavings are the lye crystals anyone can buy in a can at the store and is what makes soapsoap.

Some Safety Precautions When Using Lye (Read Carefully!)

  • Wear protective eye wear and gloves
  • Keep all children and pets away from the lye and anything that has come in contact with it
  • Wear a long shirt, pants and closed toe shoes
  • Always pour the lye into your water; pouring the water over the lye can cause an explosive reaction
  • Keep vinegar on hand; it acts as a counter to lye if you do get burned
  • Dont stand directly over the lye mixture and mix in a well-ventilated area- the fumes are harmful too!
  • Use heat-proof containers to ensure no leaks or cracks will form
  • Cover your work area with newspaper to protect the surface

Lye Soap Recipe

While most of our recipes here will be made with natural soap bars as the base, we wanted to include a couple using lye in case youd like to get the full soap-making experience. 

Rosemary soap recipe - Emily’s Little Homestead

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz Olive Oil
  • 13 oz Palm Oil
  • 13 oz Coconut Oil
  • 6 oz Castor Oil
  • 16 oz Distilled Water
  • 2 oz Lye
  • 8 oz rosemary essential oil
  • 4 oz sage essential oil
  • 8 oz peppermint essential oil
  • 1 oz dried peppermint leaves

Materials:

  • Large pot
  • Bowls
  • Food scale (that can read to a tenth of an ounce)
  • Stick blender
  • Soap mold
  • Freezer paper
  • Two thermometers
  • Spoons/scrapers
  • Measuring cups
  • Gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Newspaper to cover your work area
  • Paper towels

Directions:

A quick note: we always recommend clicking through to the original author's site (linked in the title!). They've all provided wonderful step by step instructions with beautiful photos!

Line the soap mold with freezer paper and cover your work area with newspaper.

Fill the large pot 2/3 of the way full of water and bring to a boil.

(put on gloves and glasses for next steps) 

Measure lye into a measuring cup on the scale (make sure to zero outthe scale before putting the cup on it!).

Next, measure water into a bowl. Slowly add the lye to the water while stirring. The chemical reaction will cause the mixture to warm up - let cool a couple of minutes before continuing. 

Measure the oils into a bowl. Place the bowl with the oil over the boiling water in the stockpot to create a double broiler. Heat the oils so that theyre approximately the same temperature as the lye mixture (thats where your thermometers come in!).

While those oils are heating, measure the essentials oils into a bowl.

Once the lye mixture and oils are at the same temperature, start adding the lye to the oils and stirring with your stick blender without turning it on. Once the lye and oils are combined, stir with the stick blender in short bursts for several minutes.

This blending will produce something called trace. Trace is what you get when you lift your blender or spoon out of the soap and the drizzle that comes off of it leaves a trace on the surface of the soap.” 

Once you get a light trace, add the essential oils. Stir gently by hand and then blend lightly.

Add the dried peppermint leaves and pour into the soap mold.Cover the mold with a piece of cardboard and towel. 

Let sit for 24 hours and then cut into blocks.

Once cut, you will need to wait 3-4 weeks to allow the soap to cure to ensure all lye is out of the bars.

How to make coconut oil soap from Sustain, Create and Flow

Ingredients:

  • 33 oz. coconut oil (76 degrees)
  • 96 oz. lye
  • 5 oz water
  • 1 oz essential oil (optional)

Materials

  • crock pot
  • stick blender
  • digital scale
  • small glass bowls
  • plastic spoon with long handle
  • rubber spatula
  • protective equipment: long-sleeved shirt, plastic/rubber gloves, safety glasses or protective eye gear
  • soap mold
  • parchment paper for lining the soap mold

Directions:

  • Melt the coconut oil until it is completely liquid and add it to the crockpot on low heat.
  • Measure and pour the water into a glass bowl.
  • Measure and pour the lye into a separate glass bowl or jar.
  • Slowly add the lye to the water.
  • Add lye mixiture to oil in crock pot slowly
  • Begin to mix using stick blender.
  • Cover and let cook for 45 minutes (ish)
  • Add your essential oils once mixture has cooled down.
  • Put mixture into molds and let cure for 24 hours.

Handmade Soap Recipes - With Glycerin Bars (No Lye)!

So, if youre still hesitant to break out the caustic materials in your kitchen (and we get it!) there is an easy solution to get your soap-making on.

Just buy ready-made bars of natural, chemical and fragrance-free soaps (where the lye-work has already been done for you by the soap manufacturer) to use as your base. It may add to your expense but absolutely decrease your anxiety.

For your convenience (and safety!), weve included recipes below that use the bar method rather than the lye method. Here are six soap recipes (without using lye)

Lemongrass soap recipe from Brothers Handmade

Lemongrass Homemade Soap

Ingredients:    

  • 1 lb. Clear Glycerin base soap
  • lemongrass essential oil
  • green or yellow coloring (optional)
  • 2 tbl dried lemongrass (optional)

Materials:

  • double broiler
  • 4 cup glass measuring cup
  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • soap molds
  • Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle

Directions:

Get water boiling in the double boiler.

Cut bar of soap into 1/4 inch stripes. Place the strips into the measuring cup, cover with aluminum foil and place the cup into the double broiler. Let melt, stirring with a wooden spoon (gently, so as not to create air bubbles!)

Once the soap is melted, let cool slightly and add the rest of ingredients (in order!):

  • a few drops lemongrass essential oil
  • natural color
  • dried lemongrass 

Pour the mixture into the molds and let set for 2 minutes to allow air bubbles to rise to the surface. Afterwards, spray the top of the soap with the rubbing alochol; this will help the soap set clear.

Let soap sit for an hour or until it is hard and cool; remove from molds.

Lavender soap recipe from A Pumpkin and a Princess

Homemade Lavender Soap

Ingredients:

  • 13 Goats Milk Soap Base cubes
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Dried Lavender flowers

Materials:

  • Double broiler
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon
  • Soap molds

Cut cubes into small sections and place in glass measuring cup in the double broiler. Bring water to a boil so soap melts.

Stir gently occasionally being sure not to create any air bubbles.

Once soap is completely melted, add a few drops of lavender essential oil and dried lavender and stir.

Pour into soap molds and let harden for one hour, remove from molds.

Goat milk soap recipe/Sandalwood soap recipe from The Frugal Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Goat Milk Soap Base
  • Sandalwood essential oil

Materials:

  • Double broiler
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon
  • Soap molds

Directions:

Cut cubes into small sections and place in glass measuring cup in the double broiler. Bring water to a boil so soap melts.

Stir gently occasionally being sure not to create any air bubbles.

Once soap is completely melted, add a few drops of sandalwood essential oil and stir.

Pour into soap molds and let harden for one hour, remove from molds. 

Activated Charcoal & Mint Soap Recipe From Hello Natural

Ingredients:

1 lb. Shea butter soap base

1 tsp of coconut activated charcoal

15 drops tea tree or peppermint essential oil

Materials:

  • Double broiler
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon
  • Soap molds

Directions:

Cut cubes into small sections and place in glass measuring cup in the double broiler. Bring water to a boil so soap melts. 

Stir gently occasionally being sure not to create any air bubbles.

Remove a small amount of soap into a cup and let cool slightly. Add in the charcoal until combined and add mixture back into measuring cup.

Add essential oil. 

Pour into mold and let cool; remove from mold. 

Poppyseed lemon soap recipe from Glue Stick Blog (adapted)

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz soap base
  • 12 drop lemon essential oil
  • Zest of one lemon

Materials:

  • Double broiler
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon
  • Soap mold 

Directions:

Cut cubes into small sections and place in glass measuring cup in the double broiler. Bring water to a boil so soap melts. 

Stir gently occasionally being sure not to create any air bubbles.

Remove a small amount of soap into a cup and let cool slightly. Add in the charcoal until combined and add mixture back into measuring cup.

Add essential oil.

Pour into mold and let cool; remove from mold.

How to make liquid Castile soap from Vintage Kids Modern World (adapted)

If youre looking for an even simpler recipe for handmade soap, try making handmade liquid Castile soap. Its perfect for a hand soap near the kitchen or bathroom sinks!

Ingredients:

  • 1 4 oz. Castile soap
  • 2 3/4 cups of water

Materials:

  • Sauce pan
  • Mason jar 

Directions:

  • Boil water in sauce pan.
  • Cut soap into small cubes or sections and place in Mason jar.
  • Once water is boiling, pour into mason jar over soap chunks.
  • Let set for 20 minutes

Those are just a small sampling of the handmade soap recipes you can make at home; the possibilities are vast, so have fun experimenting with colors and fragrances! If you are giving your bars as gifts, pick up some small, clear cellophane bags and ribbon at the craft store to package them so they look as sweet as they smell!


Sara Rogers
Sara Rogers

Author



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