In a bid to reduce plastic waste and live more eco-friendly lives, the humble bar of soap is having bit of a revival! It’s so easy to make your own soap that after you’ve tried our recipe, you’ll never want to buy mass produced soap again!
This simple guide will show you how to make your own natural, vegan soap using essential oils and other botanicals.
Benefits of making your own soap
- Save money – you can make it in bulk which is much cheaper.
- Less waste – you’ll be reducing rubbish which is sent to landfill.
- Become more self-sufficient – cutting down on what you buy at the grocery store.
- Peace of mind – you know exactly what’s going into your soap. (No nasty hidden chemicals round here, thank you very much!)
- Source local ingredients – live near a lavender farm? Friends with a local beekeeper? You can use ingredients which are easily available to you.
- Creative – there’s no end to what you can create.
Many of the commercial soaps out there contain a lot of chemicals and artificial ingredients. When you stop to think about it, do you really want to put all those additives and perfumes onto your skin?
One of the wonderful things about making your own natural soap is that you can harness the power of nature through using essential oils. You can create blends tailored to your particular needs or simply create fragrances that you love.
Essential oils contain all the wonderful healing properties of plants. They promote physical and emotional health and enhance well-being. You can create soap which is good for mind, body, soul and the environment! Essential oils can also help reduce anxiety, boost sleep, soothe headaches and help manage pain. It’s worth taking the time to read about the properties of different essential oils so you can create your perfect blend to add into your soap.
Essential oils for soap:
Here are few ideas of essential oils blends you could try.
To boost mood:
- 15 drops lavender
- 10 drops geranium
- 10 drops bergamot
Soap making basics
Soap consists of three base ingredients – lye, oil and patience!
- Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) is an important ingredient as it reacts with the oils and turns the liquid into a solid block of soap through a process called saponification. Always choose 100% Sodium Hydroxide or lye in crystal form.* You need to be very careful when working with lye. It’s advisable to wear an apron, safety goggles and gloves. It is caustic, meaning that it can burn through clothes, soft furnishing skin. When you mix lye with water (not water with lye) it will heat up and fume and may cause a burning sensation in the back of your throat. Don’t worry, this won’t last long! And no lye will be left in the finished bar of soap. If you don’t want to handle lye, you can purchase readymade ‘melt and pour’ soap base. You only have to melt the base and add essential oils and botanicals to the mix and pour into your moulds.
- The other important ingredient in soap is oil. Most recipes use a mixture of different oils, combining their different properties and benefits. Soap makers love using olive oil, coconut oil and sustainable palm oil. Butters like shea and cocoa also fatten out the soap and give it a moisturising lather.
- The third important ingredient in soap is patience! You’ll send when we come to make the soap that it takes around 4-6 weeks to create a batch of soap.
Other ingredients include essential oils and botanicals. These infuse a simple soap with all of nature’s superpowers. 15-30 drops of oil are recommended in most recipes but it depends on your preference. Again around ¼ cup of botanicals such as lavender sprigs and rose petals should be used in recipes.
You can use plants and botanicals to achieve natural colouring. Unlike vibrant mass-produced soaps which use artificial colouring, natural dyes will produce light colours or deep, earthy tones. Some natural dyes include:
- Red/Purple: Madder Root
- Blue: Indigo powder
- Yellow: Turmeric
- Green: Spinach
- Brown/Black: Instant coffee
Equipment you’ll need
In case you lack some of the items needed to make your own soap, here below are a handful of featured links which will lead you to great products on Amazon:
- Safety equipment – safety goggles, rubber gloves, apron
- Digital kitchen scales
- Digital thermometer
- Hand-held blender
- Stainless steel pan for melting oil (avoid using copper and aluminium pans)
- Large bowl for measuring liquid oils
- Tempered glass jug for lye solution
- Rubber spatula
- Sieve strainer
- Essential oils of choice
- Moulds / empty milk or juice carton / baking tin lined with parchment
Make sure all equipment is sterile. You should use separate equipment from the pans and jugs you use for cooking. You can use moulds to get specific shapes but using an empty milk carton or a baking tin also works perfectly and creates less waste.
This recipe makes 8 bars of natural, vegan soap created using the cold-process.
- 64 g Sodium Hydroxide
- 120g distilled or bottled water
- 145g refined Coconut Oil
- 55g Shea butter
- 225g Olive Oil
- 30g Almond Oil
Simple vegan soap recipe
- Put on your safety equipment and prepare everything you need. If you are using moulds, have them ready. If you are using a baking tin, line it with baking parchment. If you are using a carton, make sure it’s washed and dried. With a sharp blade, cleanly slice the carton in half down the middle. Tie string at both ends to keep it from buckling.
- Pre-measure ingredients. Put the solid oils into the pan. Put the liquid oil into the jug. Measure the distilled water into the jug. Measure the lye in another container.
- Dissolve the lye in distilled water and stir well. Do this somewhere well ventilated and airy – outdoors is best. The lye will create a lot of heat so be careful and try not to inhale. Leave to cool.
- Melt the solid oils (Coconut oil and Shea butter) in the stainless steel pan over a very low heat. When they’re melted, remove from the heat and pour the liquid oils in.
- Check the temperatures of the lye solution and the mixed oils. They should be cooled to around 35°C.
- Pour the lye solution through a sieve, into the melted oil. This helps catch any undissolved lye crystals which you don’t want in your soap.
- Using your spatula, give the mixture a few-second stir. Next, blitz the mixture with the hand-held blender. Alternate between mixing and blending until the solution thickens to ‘Trace.’ The consistency should be like thin custard.
- Now is the time to add your essential oils, botanicals and natural dyes into the mix. Around 15-20 drops of essential oils. ¼ cup of botanicals. Add dyes until you achieve your preferred colour. Give the mixture a good stir, combining all the ingredients.
- Pour the soap mixture quickly into the moulds / carton/baking tin. Leave it in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Take the soap out of the fridge and allow it to rest for a further 48 hours.
- Remove soap from the mould and slice into 8 bars with a sharp knife.
- Allow the bars to ‘cure’ 4-6 weeks. (This is the hard part!) Once the curing process is over, the soap will last up to two years.
- If you are giving them as a gift, wrap the soap in parchment paper and tie with a piece of twine.