There are many ways you can create a more self-sustainable household. From growing your own veg to upcycling, going green can be fun and save you money. Making your own soap is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint and be kinder to your skin. And, it’s much easier than you might think.
Why Should You Make Your Own Soap?
Making soap at home is more than just a fun DIY project. You can personalize the shape and fragrance of your soap bar, and you will always know exactly what ingredients are in it. Homemade soap is also gentler on the skin, and doesn’t have chemicals such as parabens, like commercial soaps. It’s also more environmentally friendly, due to being waste-free, and you can be sure that it hasn’t been tested on animals.
What You’ll Need
Before you start making the soap, look up a recipe. This will help you determine not just how much of each ingredient you’ll need or which oils to go for, but also inspire various additions, such as dried roses, coffee, lavender, oats, even dried citrus slices. Here are the basic things you’ll need:
- Solid oils (coconut, shea butter, etc.)
- Liquid oils (olive, sunflower, etc.)
- Potassium hydroxide (lye)
- Distilled water
- Essential oils
- Optional: dried herbs, flowers, colorants
- Kitchen scale
- Container for weighing the lye
- Container for mixing lye and water
- Container for weighing the oils
- A saucepan
- Hand blender
- Silicone spatula
- One spoon for mixing lye water and one for the oils
- Silicone molds*
- Protective gear
* If you don’t have silicone molds, you can use parchment paper for lining the mold.
The base for most homemade soaps is potassium hydroxide, or lye. On its own, lye is very caustic, and can cause serious skin burns. Although it’s completely safe once incorporated in the soap, always wear protective gear when making your soap bars: long-sleeve shirt, safety goggles, rubber gloves, and make sure your workspace is well ventilated.
Now that we’ve got the basics, let’s get down to soap making:
Step 1: Melt and Mix the Oils
Weigh out your solid oils and melt them in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir gently with a spoon, to avoid adding air to the mixture. Once the solid oils are melted, add the liquid oils and give everything a stir. The ideal temperature for the oil mix is between 90°F to 100°F – use a thermometer to check.
Step 2: Mix the Water and Lye
This step requires the most caution, and always put water first and lye second. Add the distilled water to a container, then slowly add the lye, bit by bit, until it is fully dissolved. Never pour the water on the lye! This will create a violent chemical reaction that will bubble up like a volcano, causing skin burns and dangerous fumes.
Step 3: Mix the Oils with the Lye Water
Once the oil mix is at the right temperature, you can pour in the lye water, mixing it with a spoon until they are both incorporated.
Step 4: Bring the Soap Mix to Trace
Using a hand blender, stir in the mixture until it reaches a creamy, pudding-like consistency. Throughout this step, the lye and oils emulsify, in a process called ‘trace’. This doesn’t take long using a hand blender, but if you don’t have one, you can use a whisk – just bear in mind that it will take a while to reach the right consistency. Once the mixture is brought to trace, you can also add ingredients such as fragrance oils or essential oils, botanicals, and so on. For larger ingredients, such as dried flowers and herbs, mix them in with a whisk, to prevent them being turned into a paste by the blender.
Step 5: Add to the Mold
Quickly but carefully, pour the soap mixture into molds, making sure to fill them to the top – unlike cakes, soap bars won’t rise as they rest. Give the mold tray a gentle tap to get rid of any air bubbles that might be trapped inside. Cover the mold in cling film and wrap in a towel, to maintain the residual heat and allow the saponification process to start.
Step 6: Leave to Rest
It usually takes around 24 hours for the soap bars to harden. You can check them after this time, and if they still feel a bit soft, give them another day. Once the soap bars reach the right consistency, take them out of the molds, and leave them to cure for 4 weeks. This works best if done on a rack, but if you don’t have one spare, you can use parchment paper, occasionally turning them over to ensure that all sides are exposed to the air.
Enjoy Your Homemade Soap!
After a month or so, your soap bars are finally good to go. All that remains now is to enjoy them, whether by using them in your home, or even turning them into gifts.