How Do You Make Soap For Beginners?

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This post is a guide for beginners to take the first steps on how to make soap in different ways. It summarizes all soap making tutorials posted in this blog. You are also invited to check out the How To Make category

Soap can be produced in many different ways. The good news is that some of these ways, the handmade and less industrial ones, allow you to make your own soap at home! You don’t need expensive industrial-grade equipment or inaccessible, hard-to-purchase chemicals.

Everything you need is at your own kitchen, ingredients included!

I am presenting in this article a summary of the different methods to make soap bars and liquid soap. So you can start making your own soap, at home.

Soap Bar by Cold Process

In Cold Process, you make soap at temperatures slightly higher than room temperature, with no heat source during the production phase. The base ingredients are lye, water, and fat (vegetable oils or animal fat).

You can also add fragrances and dyes to make your soap more complete. Fragrances and dyes, as well as most ingredients used in cold process soap recipes in this blog, are all natural, or closest to natural as possible.

Here are the posts you need to read by order to be able to learn how to make soap bars by cold process:

  1. How Do You Make Natural Soap At Home? – this post lists soap making main ingredients and equipment to use in cold process, as well as important safety instructions, to learn how to deal with the dreaded lye
  2. How Do Make Cold Process Soap? – post with comprehensive and detailed step-by-step instructions to use the cold process method to make natural, handmade soap bars. It includes tips and safety instructions along the way.
  3. How Do You Use a Lye Soap Calculator – SoapCalc is one of the best well known soap calculators among soap makers. This post teaches how to use the soap calculator to customize soap recipes, and even start to create your own! This is a post for more advanced soap makers. Soapmaker beginners should stick to the easy recipes to gain an understanding of the process before customizing soap recipes.
  4. How to Safely Clean Your Soap Equipment –  After the fun of making soap, comes the “nightmare” of cleaning up your equipment and counter. Not only this post teaches you how to safely clean soap batter – because it has lye in it! -, it also provides tips on how to efficiently clean up all equipment and your workstation (aka, kitchen counter).
  5. Why Does Soap Need To Cure? – This post shows you how to unmold and cut soap bars.
  6. How Do You Store Homemade Soap? – This post shows you how to cure and store soap bars, taking you to the end of the soap making process.

Soap Bar by Melt and Pour

“Melt and Pour” means that you have a pre-made soap base, and you only need to melt it, add your fragrance, colorant, herbs, and other (natural) addictives and pour it into your own molds. These pre-made soap bases are basically glycerin soap bars of 1Kg, made for you so that and can be bought you don’t have to deal with lye.

The process is all fun and can become a really nice DIY project for kids. Want to do even better? Make it an afternoon-family project, and make soap with your own kids!

Fragrances and colorants, as well as most ingredients used in the other soap making methods, are all natural, or closest to natural as possible.

Here are the posts you need to read by order to be able to learn how to make soap bars by melt and pour:

  1. How Do You Make Natural Soap At Home? – this post lists soap making main ingredients and equipment, as well as important safety instructions, to learn how to deal with the dreaded lye (not required for melt and pour but still, no harm in reading it)
  2. How To Make Soap by Melt and Pour. – post with instructions to use melt and pour soap bases to make natural, handmade soap bars. It includes tips to avoid some errors and the option of making your own soap base at home.
  3. How Do You Store Homemade Soap – This post shows you how to unmold, cut and cure soap bars, taking you to the end of the soap making process. 

Glycerin Soap Bases

“Melt and Pour” are glycerin pre-made soap base, and you can simply purchase them (click here to know how).

However, as a decent DIY blog as this is, we can learn from scratch to do everything. So, we also have some cool tutorials on how to make the glycerin soap base itself.

Here are the posts you need to read by order to be able to learn how to make glycerin soap base:

  1. How To Make Soap From Scratch – this post lists soap making main ingredients and equipment to use, also as well as important safety instructions, to learn how to deal with the dreaded lye. If you simply wish to purchase the soap base, this post is for you as well
  2. How To Make Glycerin Soap Bases – a category with some glycerin soap base toturials/recipes:
    1. How To Make a Natural Glycerin Soap Base: post with comprehensive and detailed step-by-step instructions to make a natural glycerin soap base using coconut and sunflower oils. It uses natural ingredients, it may be that you have them all at home already!
    2. How To Make Clear Glycerin Soap Base: a post with detailed step-by-step instructions and a recipe to make a clear glycerin soap base. This recipe uses chemicals like stearic acid. Stearic acid is a natural ingredient present in many fatty substances, and it’s chemically removed to be used stand-alone in several cosmetic formulas. This formula is conceived so that we better control the color and aspect of the soap base, to be able have a “crystal clear” soap base.
    3. How To Make white Glycerin Soap Base: the last but not the least. A detailed step-by-step instructions and a recipe to make white glycerin soap base.
  3. How to Safely Clean Your Soap Equipment –  After the fun of making soap, comes the “nightmare” of cleaning up your equipment and counter. Not only this post teaches you how to safely clean soap batter – because it has lye in it! -, it also provides tips on how to efficiently clean up all equipment and your workstation (aka, kitchen counter).
  4. How To Cure Handmade Soap – This post shows you how to unmold and cut soap bars.
  5. How To Store Soap – This post shows you how to cure and store soap bars, taking you to the end of the soap making process.

All the glycerin soap bases presented here are from Silvana Liviero, a brazilian cosmetologist who was kind enough to allow me to publish her wonderful recipes on my blog. She manages a facebook group called saboaria artesanal para iniciantes , where she guides beginners in soap making with tips, answering questions and doubts, and sharing lots of cosmetic recipes (not just soaps). She also owns a YouTube channel.

Liquid Soap Using a Soap Bar

Most people tend to prefer to use liquid soap to a soap bar. Maybe because it’s easier to use. The commercial liquid soap you have access to might be very complicated to make, but you can do your own (cheap!) liquid soap at home just using a soap bar and water. This is a recipe hack, not really making soap from scratch, but it’s a good way for anyone, even people with no experience in soap making, or those who don’t like to deal with lye, to make some liquid soap at home.

This is the toturial post that teaches you how to make liquid soap by using a soap bar:

  1. How To Make Liquid Soap With a Soap Bar 

This recipe may raise a lot of questions, so I am leaving here some tips already:

  1. I only used new, natural soap bars to make this recipe. So, there is no need to add glycerin or any other sort of humectant, since the soap bar already has natural glycerin.
  2. My experience with remnants of used soap to make this liquid soap was a disaster. I’ve only managed to get a watery mess, even after a couple of attempts… Maybe you can use soap remains and be sucessful, but I do not advise it.
  3. I never used commercial soap for this liquid soap. There is no reason not to work with commercial soap, but I’ve read it that you need to add some glycerin to make the soap milder, more conditioning to your hands.
  4. The resulting soap is not a perfectly “behaved” substance like the commercial liquid soaps. It doesn’t have any chemicals to adjust its viscosity, so it’s natural that your soap will create “endless strings” while using it, or clog a little bit your soap dispenser. Well, nothing is perfect…
  5. It’s adviseable to use this liquid soap in a soap dispenser, away from the contact with dirty hands and air. Because this soap has water content, and no perservatives are added, it will last roughly one month if used this way. And why someone would prefer to use liquid soap in any other way…? In any case, throw it away if you notice any change in smell or color
  6. You can add some fragrance or essential oil to add a nice scent to it. You can also add a colorant (I never did it). But it’s not mandatory. And if you want to keep it cheap, it’s better if you don’t.

Cheap Soap!

In more dificult times, where saving in every way you can is important, you can make some cheap soap bars at home, while still having a natural, healthy washing product. Here are some tips:

  1. You don’t need to use essential oils for scent. In fact, you don’t need to put any scent in your soap at all. Scent addition is only because we are used to fragrant washing products, and a nice scent is always pleasant. Essential oils are expensive and without surprise is the most expensive ingredient used in natural soaps. There are some ingredients that add a natural fragrance to soap, like honey or beeswax. Natural unscented soap also has a very slight but “clean” scent, that I find pleasant as well. 
  2. You don’t need to use organic oils to make your soap. Conventional oils will still create a great bar of soap. Just be sure that they are of good quality – and fresh. Remember that the quality of your soap depends on the quality of the oils. Fresh, pure, cold pressed oils, for example, are almost perfect oils for soap making. They don’t necessarily need to be organic.
  3. You don’t have to purchase colorants for your soap. In alternative, there are a lot of kitchen ingredients that work as natural colorants, like herbs, spices, or some vegetables. They are cheaper and will make your soap more interesting and natural. You can also leave your soap with its natural color provided by the oils used. Most likely it will just turn white or very light cream after cure. It’s not that bad, is it?
  4. Make 1-oil soap. See the Homemade Soap Recipes for Beginners category in this blog. They all use just one type of oil. Instead of having to purchase 4 or 5 different (and sometimes expensive) oils, purchase one oil in bulk (around 1 Kg, or 2 lb, will make 12 bars of soap). 100% olive oil soap, known as castile soap, is one of the mildest soaps you can use, so it’s even advisable for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions, children and babies. You will be saving money AND providing your family with a bathing product fit for everyone!
  5. Make liquid soap. For some reason, liquid soap is very cost-effective. Maybe it’s because is mostly made of water. You can make liquid soap from a natural soap bar, see the chapter above. However, liquid soap from the scratch is equally economical and a safer product in terms of germs (but you need to use lye. Oh, always the balance between pros and cons). to be on the safe side, you can add a preservative to it, see this article.
  6. Source your ingredients locally. Maybe you are lucky enough to live in a farm, or near a local market. In this case, use the cheapest fat you can have acess to, be it olive oil, palm oil, lard, tallow, or coconut oil, to give some examples, and use it in your soap. These are all oils you can use 100% in your soap, as well as mixed with others. You may also be a beekeeper, have a garden or own a few dairy animals.  Well, use those ingredients you get very cheap to enrich your soap: honey, beeswax, goat milk, herbs, spices, flowers, they are all ingredients you can use in soap making and that will improve your soap properties and looks. You will have great natural handmade soap, made with ingredients you have easy access to.

How To Use Natural Soap Bars

So, you have your soap bars made, cured and ready for your bath or shower! Here are some instructions on how to use them.

You are probably wondering: “What the heck? You need instructions to use a soap bar?? You just get into water and rub it on yourself to lather!”. Well. Yes and no. Natural soap bars are different from commercial ones, as commercial soap bars are especially made to last longer (that is why they have so many chemicals). Natural soap bars are not.

This chapter is to inform yourself and enable you to provide others with information (your customers, for example) that natural soaps are a bit different and should be used a bit diferently.

Therefore, here is a list of some good tips and information to use natural soap bars in the bathroom: 

  1. Natural soap bars are not made to last years, therefore they have a shorter “best by” time (around one year or two, depending on ingredients’ freshness and quality) and… they dissolve fast in water!
  2. If you wish your soap to last longer, lather yourself without running water, slowly and patiently. Natural soap inside water dissolves fast. Take advantage of the shower or bath time to slow down and relax.
  3. Natural soap bars tend to soak up water. If you leave them in or right over a pool of water, it will tend to dissolve, and become very soft, more like mush than a hard soap bar.
  4. Use a soap dish with good ventilation below and water drain. Ideally, keep your bathroom as dry as possible. In alternative, if you can, keep your soap dish near a window, to dry your soap.
  5. Natural soaps have natural ingredients and a natural way to keep them from spoiling: relatively high pH, and no water content. See this article for a very comprehensive explanation about it. My recipes also have always an anti-oxidant to prevent soap bars to go rancid.
  6. Still, if your soap bar gains a bad smell or big dark orange spots, you should discard it. You can use it, it probably won’t do any harm, but why risk using a bar of soap with potential microbes, germs or bacteria in it? This is why ingredients freshness, especially in oils, is so important.

From my personal experience, I do use my cold process soap under hot running water, and I love to lather myself like that. I keep it in a high place in the shower, in a tray with a lot of air ventilation, and it’s normally dry. My 90g soap lasts from 3 weeks to 1 month, roughly.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to leave a comment or pose a question using the comments field below.

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4 thoughts on “How Do You Make Soap For Beginners?”

  1. Great ideas on How To Make Soap For Beginners. Years ago, when I was still actively working with one NGO, we organized soap making workshops. Otherwise, I no longer remember all the ingredients we used and the procedure (we had one great mentor who did the workshop), but I think we made soap bars with different flowers (marigold flowers, rose leaves). And after using this soap, I had a full of these flowers in the water. Now you have recalled this memory to me with this article.
    I see in your article that you have described very extensively what types of soaps we can all make, with what ingredients and in what way. Great! Maybe this time I’ll try making homemade liquid soap. Thanks!
    Friendly greeting,
    Nina

    Reply
    • Hello Nina,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with soapmaking, sounds really nice, and filled with good memories. Or at least I hope that flowers falling in the water while your washed with that soap is a good memory and not an annoyance 🙂

      I personally prefer soap without any bits of flowers or plants falling in the bathtub (and still, I made a lot of those soaps as they are fun to make 🙂 ). 

      Anyway, I couldn’t stop noticing how soapmaking was connected with your work at a NGO institution, which only proves that soapmaking is a useful, sustainable and very economical activity 🙂 still, no need to make soap with flower bits on it 😉

      Cheers,

      Sofia

      Reply
  2. Wow it’s good to know that I can make my own soap from home! With these uncertain times and with inflation hitting more and more every day, I am always on the lookout for ways to save money in the long run. From your choices, I like the sound of the melt and pour method. It’s good to know that you don’t necessarily need essential oils, and I like the sound of using honey. I’m looking forward to trying out some of these great ideas, thanks!

    Reply
    • Hello Pentrental and thanks for your comment!

      I am glad you liked the idea of making soap at home! It is indeed a way to save some money and most important to feel more empowered and less dependent. If you’re choosing to do melt and pour and purchase soap base, just try to choose a relatively good and low-chemical soap base: run away from SLS and stuff like that (see my post https://herbalcochete.com/comm… to know what are the most allergenic substances).

      To be honest, it is really when you start to make creams and other cosmetics at home that you see the big economical difference. With the ingredients I source in  Portugal, I can make 200 ml of body lotion or 50 ml of facial lotion for 3€-5€ (that’s $3,6 – $6) when creams for perfumery stores are easily 30€ or more!

      I’ll be posting lotions and creams soon, as well as haircare products.

      If you wish to receive firsthand the latest posts, please, subscribe to HerbAlcochete mailing list.

      Cheers,

      Sofia

      Reply

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