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Free Cold Process Soap Recipes

Cold process is probably the soap maker’s favorite process for handmade soaps. It is very versatile, allowing to create textures, shapes, designs with different colors. The soap product you get is professional grade. And you are in full and complete control of the ingredients you use. In this post, you will find all you need to know about cold process and a list of free cold process soap recipes tested and tried in this blog:

What is Cold Process Afterall?

Handmade soap is produced by mixing a mixture of oils with lye water.  And that’s it!! No other fancy chemicals with weird names! Surprising, isn’t it?

OILS + LYE (CAUSTIC SODA) -> SOAP SALT + GLYCERINE = SOAP

Cold process is based on this principle, where soap is made with no heat source during saponification, using room temperatures, and the heat released by the chemical reaction itself. The temperature at which the oils and lye water are mixed together needs to be controlled to ensure the produced soap has no issues. However, the only heating necessary is the one to melt solid oils.

Cold process soap creates hard soap bars, whose properties are mostly given by the oils used in the mixture: conditioning, foamy, bubbly, cleansing, mild.

Please, explain about “Trace”…

Terms such as “trace” are always mentioned when speaking about cold process. “Trace” means that all the oils have been emulsified with the lye water – however, saponification is only starting now. You can tell by the way the batter leaves “traces” when, for example, you let drops fall on its surface, pretty much as in liquid pudding. With experience, it will be easier to recognize the difference between having oils and lye, or soap at “trace”: you no longer see oils floating but an emulsion with a slightly different scent.

… And “Gel Phase”? …

Gel phase” happens afterwards “trace”, when the soap batter has been poured into molds and saponification continues. The saponification reaction releases heat, and when this heat is high enough, we say that the soap reached “gel phase” – soap looks brilliant, gelatinous, like gel.

Reaching “gel phase” makes the soap less opaque and with brighter colors, therefore, many soapmakers make sure the “gel phase” takes place by properly insulating thermally the mold containing the soap.

Coconut soap that has gone through gel phase – the middle looks darker and somehow less opaque

This coconut lavender soap has gone through gel phase – the middle looks darker and somehow less opaque. I didn’t do it on purpose: it was a hot summer day and the room temperature was near 30ºC – 86ºF. The soap turned out quite good.

… And “Soda Ash”? What Is It? How to avoid it?

Soda ash is a white powder that forms on the surface of soap, it looks a bit like white ash powder. It is the product of unsaponified lye reacting with carbon dioxide present in the air, during the saponification. The powder is completely harmless, but may be a nuissance for your pretty colors and designs.

Olive oil soap covered with soda ash – compare with the bottom soap, much bluer than the other two

Using less water (water discount, or a bigger lye concentration), gel phase (you need to thermically isolate your soap mold) and less liquid oils are means to avoid soda ash. Other ways to avoid it: sprinkle your soap with alcohol or leave your soap in soap molds for a few days after the soap solidifies. 

Soap Ingredients

In all the recipes I found and wanted to try, I always tried to use only natural or minimally processed ingredients, so you won’t find artificial colors or weird addictives here.

Even the idea of ​​adding dyes or herbs is just to make the soap more decorative, more pleasant to the eye. Essential oils add aroma, but they may also provide some medicinal properties: vitamin, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, moisturizing, smoothing, etc.

In the end they are all optional ingredients. The base ingredients are oils and lye (sodium hydroxide for soap bars).

So let’s go to the ingredients:

Base Ingredients: water, sodium hydroxide (lye), oils

Sodium hydroxide100% pure caustic soda / lye /sodium hydroxide, in grain or small spheres, do not use drain pipe cleaners without checking ingredients list, as they may contain other substances.

Water: preferably distilled or relatively demineralized. If you have a tumble dryer or a dehumidifier, use the water in the tank after filtrating it with a muslin tissue or cheesecloth (to clean dust and laundry fibers).

Oils and butters 

I mainly use vegetable oils, having only done experiments also with lard. I advise you to buy deodorized or refined products, so that you have a more neutral product in terms of color or scent, but you can use the more natural products, having in mind the oil or butter will influence the scent in the final soap.

Oils: Olive oil, Coconut oil, Sunflower oil, Castor oil, Sweet almond oil, Palm oil are the most common oils in soapmaking but there are others. Basically, any oil/fat is suitable for soapmaking.

Butters: Shea butter and cocoa butter are the most common, but there is also mango butter, argan butter, peach butter, etc. Unrefined products: natural shea butter, or natural cocoa butter.

Essential Oils (optional)

I only use essential oils as soap fragrance, making an exception for some fragrances whose respective essential oils are extremely expensive (for example, absolut rose or jasmine).

To get started you can buy a starter kit with some of the most common essential oils from one of these brands:

Please, make sure to also purchase May Chang essential oil, to fix/keep the citrus essential oils scent.

Personally, I have been buying almost every essential oils at Plena Natura, because they are cheap and they give a great deal of trust by presenting good information online on all their products. In Portugal, Pranarom essential oils are also an option.

Recently, I’ve reviewed other essential oils suppliers. It didn’t make me change from Plena Natura for now, but it gave me a good insight of how much in the dark we actually are about these products.

Essential Oils or Fragrance Oils?

I am no longer an essential oils “fundamentalist” as I believe that cheap essential oils (there are numerous at Amazon or Ebay) are worse than some good quality fragrances, and we honestly don’t know what manufacturers actually put in these so-called essential oils (see Where Do You Buy Essential Oils For Soap Making? to know more).

My advice, whether you prefer to purchase an essential oil, a natural fragrance, or a “normal” fragrance, is to get information on their ingredients and see if there are substances there that raise concerns for you (such as allergens, see Commercial Soap Ingredients – What Are They?). Know what you are buying.

Be ware that there’s no fragrance or essential oil without any sort of allergens like geraniol, linalool, limonene, to mention only a few. I personally have never developed an allergic reaction to any of them, so they are not harmful per se.

It is possible to use only one essential oil or a mixture of some, they give a very pleasant aroma to the soaps and may even add some medicinal properties.

Or you can mix essential oils with fragrance oils. Some of the best perfumes are a blend of essential oils and synthetic fragrances. I particularly like the Rose one, to mix with geranium rose essential oil and patchouli.

Dyes (optional)

I use only natural dyes. Many of these products can be found in the kitchen: cinnamon, sweet pepper, paprika, turmeric, spinach, carrot, pumpkin …

To better control colors, or to obtain tones less common in nature, I also use micas, which are considered natural dyes, despite being minerals.

Cosmetic clays are my favorite way to color soap. Not only they are natural ingredients, gentle cleansers for your skin, they are also reliable and stable about the soap color, and scent “fixers” (meaning they help to sustain essential oils scent in soap). They are a total winner ingredient.

Here are the ones I use the most: 

Extracts and Anti-oxidants

These are natural anti-oxidant extracts to prolong the life of the soap (to not become rancid). The most used are: 

Herbs and Flowers (optional)

They are only for decoration or exfoliation purposes, as their herbal properties usually do not survive saponification, and must always be added dried, in puree, or ground into powder. Something I learned from my experience was not to use large pieces of fresh herbs and flowers: they become brown, rotten and ugly (ugh!).

Many flower petals, even when dried, turn brown and make the soap look… unpleasant. Having “pieces of soft matter” coming out of the soap and falling into the bathtub during the bath may also not be desirable for many. So, you actually can skip completely adding herbs, it’s totally a matter of personal taste.

If you don’t have the possibility of growing and drying your own herbs, you can purchase dry herbs here.

Safety Precautions

Cold process soap includes lye in its list of ingredients. It’s probably the main cause that many people shies away from making soap at home. While lye is corrosive and does need caution, you don’t need a biohazard suit or any special gear to make soap safely:

Cold Process Soap Recipes

Herbal/Floral

Simple recipes based in herbal or floral ingredients: herbal infused oils, floral essential oils, exfoliating herbs…

Homemade Rosemary Soap
Try this wonderful rosemary soap bar at home. With rosemary-infused oils and castor oil, this soap has the right ingredients for a good hair washing and treatment and lots of foam! A great soap for a travel/all-purpose soap. Natural colorant is orange juice!
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 500g (17,63 oz)
Lye Concentration: 30%
Superfat: 5%
Check out this recipe
Luxurious Rose Soap Recipe
A recipe about a romantic and luxurious heart shaped rose soap for a special occasion, like Valentine's day. With shea butter for extra hydration, a special blend of rose fragrances and coloured with pink clay.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 450g
Lye Concentration: 35%
Superfat: 5%
Check out this recipe
Peppermint Soap
This is a recipe for a castile soap (100% olive oil) with peppermint and rosemary essential oils. The result is a pretty, refreshing and very moisturizing soap.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 900g (31,68 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 35,8%
Check out this recipe
three bars of light blue peppermint soap with presentation
Rosemary and Lavender Soap Recipe
A wonderful recipe of a homemade exfoliant herbal soap with rosemary, lavender and poppy seeds! Poppy seeds are used in soap making to make mild exfoliant soaps.
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Weight: 454g (16 oz)
Check out this recipe
purple rosemary and lavender soap with poppy seeds with flower decoration
Homemade Rosemary and Eucalyptus Soap Recipe
Recipe of a natural herbal soap, made with rosemary and eucalyptus. Both plants contribute with very pleasant herbal camphor aromas, and very useful medicinal characteristics, to obtain a very refreshing and invigorating soap.
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Weight: 1 kg (35,20 oz)
Superfat: 6%
Lye Concentration: 28%
Check out this recipe
Three green soap bars scented with rosemary and eucalyptus
Layered Lavender Cold Process Soap Recipe
Another classical among handmade soaps: lavender soap! A very foamy and creamy soap, made by cold process with olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and castor oil. Scented with lavender essential oil and colored with violet ultramarine, in pretty but simple layers. Try this recipe at home!
Difficulty: Difficult (experienced soap makers)
Weight: 900 g (31.74 oz)
Lye concentration: 30%
Superfat: 6%
Check out this recipe
Pink Clay Soap Recipe
This olive oil recipe uses french pink clay and a fabulous rose geranium essential oil, for a very classical and romantic rose soap. Try this recipe and enjoy your soap!
Dificulty: Easy
Weight: 450g (15,84 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 36%
Check out this recipe
Lard and Calendula Exfoliant Soap Recipe
Try this soap recipe filled with lard and lovely calendula infused oils. Foamy, creamy, moisturizing, scented with lemongrass and May-Chang. Add it poppy seeds and it becomes a lovely exfoliating soap to wash your hands from heavy dirt, like gardening or kitchen work. Or just give your body a good scrub.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 800 g (28.22 oz)
Lye concentration: 33%
Superfat: 5%
Check out this recipe

Design Soap

Soap with layers and simple designs. I have to be honest I don’t have pacience for a load of intricate and complicated designs with lots of steps. I do deeply admire the work of the soap makers that do.

Homemade Soap Gift
This soap recipe was created as a holiday soap gift for family and friends. Instead of using green and red, the holiday color, I thought of making a more wintery/twilight soap, with blue and violet colors. It's the first layered soap recipe I am presenting in this blog.
Difficulty: Medium
Weight: 1 kg (35,20 oz)
Superfat: 6%
Lye Concentration: 30%
Check out this recipe
Blue and violet lavender scented soap bars
Patchouli Soap Recipe
This is the first recipe with layers that I present in my blog. It was also my first successful layered soap! The result was a pretty red and cream layered soap, scented with patchouli and rose geranium essential oil.
Difficulty: Difficult (experienced soapmakers)
Weight: 900g
Lye Concentration: 30%
Superfat: 5%
Check out this recipe
3 pretty soap bars with layered red and cream colors with star anis on top and decorated with a rose
Luxurious Rose Soap Recipe
A recipe about a romantic and luxurious heart shaped rose soap for a special occasion, like Valentine's day. With shea butter for extra hydration, a special blend of rose fragrances and coloured with pink clay.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 450g
Lye Concentration: 35%
Superfat: 5%
Check out this recipe

Food/Spices Soap Recipes

Fun soap colored with kitchen ingredients you also eat: carrots, cinammon, turmeric, milk, honey, beer….

Carrot Soap Recipe
This carrot soap recipe contains olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and shea butter, which makes a wonderful creamy soap. Scented with May Chang, a lemony aroma. It is colored by a 100% natural ingredient: carrots! Try this recipe and enjoy!
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 450g (15,84 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 30% (considering water and carrot pureé together)
Check out this recipe
pile of 3 carrot soaps colored with carrot, carrot decoration
Turmeric and Cinnamon Soap Recipe
This is a recipe for a deliciously fragrant and fun cinnamon soap enriched with shea butter and colored with turmeric. Be aware that, when containing spices, the soap might turn skin irritant to very sensitive skins. Please, make a skin test with this soap before using it.
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Weight: 1 Kg (35,20 oz)
Lye Concentration: 28%
Superfat: 5%
Check out this recipe
pile of 3 pretty golden brown soap bars
Homemade Lard Soap Recipe
This is another easy one-fat homemade soap recipe, this time made with an animal fat: lard. Lard soap is very moisturizing, makes a good hard bar, and has light foam.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 225g (7,93 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 30%
Check out this recipe

Castile Soap Recipes

Olive oil is my favorite soap of all. Probably because I am mediterranean, and love olive oil: it’s also quite common and inespensive in Portugal. Probably because the soap is really awesome and very easy to make. Most likely because all of this. Fact is you will find a lot of 100% olive oil soap, or castile soap recipes at Herbalcochete.

Olive Oil Soap Recipe
Basic recipe for a natural olive oil soap, one of the most well-known ingredients for handmade soap. In the end, you will have a very moisturizing, silky and smooth bar of soap.
Difficulty: Beginners
Weight: 225g (7,9 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye concentration: 36%
Check out this recipe
Peppermint Soap
This is a recipe for a castile soap (100% olive oil) with peppermint and rosemary essential oils. The result is a pretty, refreshing and very moisturizing soap.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 900g (31,68 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 35,8%
Check out this recipe
three bars of light blue peppermint soap with presentation
French Green Clay Soap Recipe
Recipe of handmade natural olive oil soap with green clay and essential oil of lemongrass. This essential oil, used to cleanse oily skin, combined with green clay and the softness of olive oil, will create a natural handmade soap ideal for purifying and cleaning any type of skin. Try this basic recipe at home and enjoy!
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 450 g (15,84 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 36%
Check out this recipe
Pink Clay Soap Recipe
This olive oil recipe uses french pink clay and a fabulous rose geranium essential oil, for a very classical and romantic rose soap. Try this recipe and enjoy your soap!
Dificulty: Easy
Weight: 450g (15,84 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 36%
Check out this recipe

Beginners Recipes – 1-Oil Soap Recipe

Another thing I love: simplicity. One-oil soap recipes are hard to find. Most likely because it’s much easier to make a good soap with a mixture of oils than one alone. But I love the idea of using only one oil, lye and water to make soap. Therefore, you will find a lot of one-oil soap recipes at Herbalcochete. You can then pick up the recipe with your locally available oil and make great, cheap soap!!

Olive Oil Soap Recipe
Basic recipe for a natural olive oil soap, one of the most well-known ingredients for handmade soap. In the end, you will have a very moisturizing, silky and smooth bar of soap.
Difficulty: Beginners
Weight: 225g (7,9 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye concentration: 36%
Check out this recipe
How To Make Pure Coconut Oil Soap
Homemade basic recipe of a natural soap with a wonderful ingredient: coconut oil, resulting in a super cleansing, smooth and skin-friendly soap.
Difficulty: Beginners
Weight: 225g (7,9 oz)
Superfat: 20%
Lye Concentration: 25%
Check out this recipe
Homemade Lard Soap Recipe
This is another easy one-fat homemade soap recipe, this time made with an animal fat: lard. Lard soap is very moisturizing, makes a good hard bar, and has light foam.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 225g (7,93 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 30%
Check out this recipe
100% Palm Oil Soap Recipe
This is another easy one-fat homemade soap recipe, made with 100% palm oil. Palm oil is, in my opinion, a great ingredient with a bad reputation.
In Africa, palm oil is quite common and this would be a great handmade soap for african soap makers, cheap and acessible to everyone. The result is a great, well balanced soap, with enough conditioning and cleasning properties, with good stable lather (although not abundant), pretty much like a lard soap.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 210g (7,4 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 30%
Check out this recipe

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4 thoughts on “Free Cold Process Soap Recipes”

  1. Hello. Good day. Thanks for this wonderful article on cold process soap recipes. This is an avenue for those who wants to go into soap making. This is a very productive entrepreneur business. A good creative idea. Soap is a very important goods needed in our community and places. Having the idea to make soap with different natural products is not just wonderful but it’s cool also. Thanks a lot.

    Reply
    • Hello BobKay and thanks for your comment.

      This post is meant to be a door to cold process soapmaking indeed, as most people interested in it are actually looking for recipes and not how-to-make-soap tutorials 🙂 It is indeed a good creative idea, not so sure about a good idea for a business: read Nathaniell’s post about it. I corroborate his ideas with what I see in Portugal.

      I see soapmaking more as an alternative to hygiene products, something you can even make it on your own (as natural soaps are somehow expensive due to using natural ingredients), is healthier and an option to hygiene products from the supermarket. 

      There are many people with skin conditions that heal or at least get better by removing completely commercial products (even hypoallergenic and from a pharmacy) and using only natural soaps. 

      Above all, I want to empower people with this information. 

      For me, and I guess for many, it’s also a superfun hobby!! 😀

      Cheers,

      Sofia

      Reply
  2. What a great niche and fantastic description of how to make soap! It made me want to try this out for my self. I have always believed that I needed to do some “cooking” to make soap, but how wrong I have been. 

    I remember my grandmother making soap when I was a kid. I was fascinated with the process of it, an dit has somewhat stuck to my mind.

    Your description of the process of cold process soap making is very clear,a nd doesn´t seem to be very difficult. A good bonus is all the recipes you have provided. I would have loved to try the Castile Soap Recipe. It is classic and it contains olive oil which very good for us.

    Thank you for sharing,

    Roy

    Reply
    • Hello Roy and thank you for your nice comment!

      Although, like any art, it has its tricks and specific knowledge, making soap is FAR from our idea of big plants, big automated containers, huge amount of weird chemicals, an automated process of making soap… I mean it can be like that, but just as baking a cake, or making bread, you can industrialize the process with big machines… or you can make it at home!!

      I tried to make the tutorials as detailed and simple as possible, but it’s not easy 🙂 Please, check out https://herbalcochete.com/how-… I hope it’s a simple start that helps you decide what is your best process: melt and pour where the base is already made, and you just deal with shape, scent and color; or making soap from scratch, where you actually deal with the chemical process (again like baking a cake, there IS chemical change there :D).

      Castile soap is the best to start, as olive oil is easy to find. Then, you just need lye and water !! The essential oil blend is for scent and it’s totally optional. And you will get a very mild and conditioning soap. It doesn’t make a lot of lather, and we are so used to so many cleaning products making a foam-fest that it might be disappointing.

      Two words on that:

      – It’s such fun to look at olive oil and lye, and then at your homemade soap that you don’t care about the low lather. It’s your soap!! You made it from scratch!

      – Soaps with coconut oil make loads of lather!! You can try that instead if you wish: https://herbalcochete.com/home… 

      Give it a try, it will be loads of fun and very fulfilling to make your own soap!

      Cheers,

      Sofia

      Reply

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