Soap Making 101 – Making Cold Process Soap

Soap Making 101 - Cold Process Soap


While there are other methods of making soap (hot process and melt & pour), this tutorial will provide a basic overview on how to make your own all natural cold process soaps. It will be added to the Soapmaking page on my blog along with other helpful links and recipes; so be sure to bookmark or pin it for easy reference.

(For more in-depth information including tips on coloring soap naturally, how to read a lye calculator, plus 25 of my favorite palm oil free recipes, check out my ebook: Natural Soap Making: Cold Process Basics & Recipes!)

Natural Soap Making 275 px

Making soap is one of my favorite hobbies. There are so many ways to personalize a single recipe, that I rarely make the same soap twice! Once you get the hang of it, you will never want to go back to store-bought again!

A few things to note, before we start:

  • Many people are afraid to make soap because it involves handling lye. I know that feeling, because I was the same way! I had my husband do that part at first until I got more comfortable with the idea. Lye requires caution, but you also just need to employ the same common sense you’d use for any potentially dangerous situation such as cooking with a hot stove, or driving down the road in your car. Handle the lye with proper protective gloves and eye wear along with a healthy dose of respect. If you’re careful, you’re not likely to get splashes, but just in case, wear long sleeves. Do NOT involve your children in this activity. There are other fun ways they can “make” herbal soap; check out this post on Making Soap Without Handling Lye.
  • This is just an overview. There are many tutorials and books out there that cover soap making. I have some listed on my Soapmaking Page and a Google search will help you find others. It’s prudent to do your research and view the art from many perspectives before attempting.
  • An accurate digital scale is essential! I used this exact one that was purchased from Amazon.com for five years before it broke (and by that, I mean it stopped measuring in anything but grams – which is still usable, but not always useful for my various projects.) I bought a similar replacement at Walmart that also works great.
  • The links to the digital scale and stick blender in this article are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you click on them and make a purchase, I earn a small commission. This costs nothing extra for you, but does help me afford to keep doing what I do. (Thank you!) :) Having said that though, there’s a good chance you can find suitable items locally as well.

Okay! Now, we’re ready to start! You’ll want to do the following things:

 

MMS violet soap screen shot

  • (1.) Choose a recipe and run it through a lye calculator, especially if you decide to make changes to it. (You can find some recipes HERE, but a google search will find you tons more!) Each type of oil requires a different amount of lye to saponify (turn into soap.) So, if you’re out of the castor oil called for in a recipe and want to use shea butter instead, you’re going to need a different amount of lye or your soap will end up too harsh or too soft. I like to use the Majestic Mountain Sage Lye Calculator.  Just plug your recipe into the blanks and calculate the lye needed. If you click the screenshot above, you’ll see it gives a range of liquid to use and a range of lye. I use around 6% for lye and a midway point for the water/liquid (about 15 ounces in the example above.)

 

Soap Making Ingredients

  • (2.) Assemble your ingredients and safety gear. Lye is sometimes hard to find; my local Tractor Supply store carries two containers at a time and I found a small, local Mom & Pop type hardware store that has a few as well. Make sure the bottle says Sodium Hydroxide and nothing else. You may have to order online. If so, here are two sources: Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and Bramble Berry.
  • I buy my oils & butters from Mountain Rose Herbs or BrambleBerry.com, but you can also check your local grocery and health food stores. Don’t forget you’ll need heat & chemical proof gloves and safety goggles along with a kitchen or candy thermometer (a separate one used strictly for soap and not food use.) Wear long sleeves in case any lye splashes on your arms. (This has not happened to me in 10 years of soapmaking, but  it’s always better to be safe than sorry!)

 

Prepare Molds

  • (3.) Prepare your molds by lining with parchment paper. I have homemade wooden box molds that my dad and brother made for me, but you can also buy them from several places online such as Bramble Berry. I’ve even seen people use rubbermaid containers or heavy duty cardboard boxes. A quick google search will likely give you plenty of inspiration!

 

Measure Water for Soap

  • (4.) Now, we start measuring stuff. First, you’ll want to measure out your water into a heat proof tempered glass jar, pyrex measuring cup, stainless steel or heavy duty polypropylene plastic (recycle symbol 5) container. [NOTE: I’ve been told that glass/pyrex can weaken over time and shatter, so to be absolutely safe, use one of the alternatives.] Mark this container clearly with a symbol such as a skull and crossbones and don’t put it in your fridge or on the counter where someone might mistake it for a beverage.
  • All soap ingredients should be weighed with a digital scale, this includes your liquids. This picture shows me measuring water for a recipe that called for 20 to 31 ounces of liquid. I decided on a mid-range of 26 oz. You can see I went over .3 ounces. This is okay for liquids, but not okay for oils and most definitely not okay for lye. Those need to be precise. More liquid means your soap takes a bit longer to set up (useful if you’re adding honey or beeswax or other items that speed up things) and less liquid means it sets up and is ready to pour into molds faster.

 

Measure Lye for Soap Making

  • (5.) Next, measure out your lye. (Make sure you have on those gloves and goggles!) I use an old plastic cup, labeled “Lye” in several places all over with a Sharpie. I pour slowly and carefully then immediately re-cap the lye container and place it far from the reach of children and pets. I take a wet paper towel and thoroughly wipe down the scale and surrounding area in case a tiny grain got loose.

 

Pour Lye Into Water

  • (6.) Pour the lye into the water (or other liquid.) I do this in my kitchen sink in order to catch any splashes or drips and just in case I have a “volcano.” This only happened to me once because I tried to pour my lye into a very hot herbal tea. I should have been patient and waited for it to cool first, but did not and had to start all over. So, make sure you pour the lye into water that is cool or no warmer than room temp. Also, you always add the lye to the liquid and not the other way around (the other cause of lye volcanoes.) This mixture shoots up to over 200 degrees F quickly, so use caution when handling. Turn your face away to avoid directly breathing in the fumes. (I keep the window over my kitchen sink opened during this step or work outside on my back deck. If you don’t have proper ventilation, consider wearing a mask.) Stir with a heavy duty plastic spoon or rubber spatula until fully dissolved and set in a safe place, out of reach of children and pets, until it cools to about 90 to 115 degrees.

 

Measure Oils and Butters

  • (7.) While the lye solution is cooling, weigh out the oils and butters called for in your recipe. Place these in an enamel or stainless steel pot, that you plan to use for soap making only. (Do not use aluminum during any stage of the soap making process.) Turn the heat on low and gently heat the oils until they reach 90-115 degrees F.

 

Pour Lye into Oils

  • (8.) Before mixing, make sure your lye and oils are roughly the same temperature in the range of 90 – 115 degrees F. It’s okay if they’re 10 or even 20 degrees different than each other though. I sometimes add an ice cube or two to my lye solution to cool it faster (remember the water amount can be adjusted by this small amount) or set my pan of oil down into a sink filled with a few inches of water and ice cubes if it needs cooling. Temperature is a subjective, personal preference that varies between soap-makers. Some will only mix at higher temperatures than I list while others let everything sit overnight and mix the next morning at room temperature. Once the desired temps are reached, slowly drizzle your lye solution into your pot containing oils and butters.

 

Blend until Trace is reached

  • (9.) Using a stick blender, start combining the lye solution and oils, stopping to occasionally stir and check consistency. It only takes a few minutes for most of my recipes to reach “trace” – which means when you drizzle a small bit of the soap mixture over the surface, it will leave a faint pattern or trace before sinking back into the mixture. (Click on the picture above, which demonstrates this.) My first several batches of soap were made without using a stick blender. Every single one failed. I highly highly HIGHLY recommend using one. I have one by Cuisinart that I’ve had for many years. Make sure you use it strictly for soap making and not for food use. Once trace is reached, you’ll add any extras such as honey, oatmeal, natural colorants, and essential oils and blend for just a bit more until they are all incorporated.

 

Quickly pour soap into molds

  • (10.) Working quickly, pour the soap into your prepared molds, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Pick up your mold and give it a few sharp raps on the table or counter surface to help get rid of any little air bubbles that may have formed. The soap is still caustic at this point, so keep your gloves on and be aware that the mixture can burn your skin. If that happens you can rinse thoroughly with water or pour vinegar over the spot to offset the alkalinity (or both.)

 

Cover soap and don't disturb for 24 hours

  • (11.) Cover with the mold top, then several layers of blankets and quilts to make sure the soap is well insulated and retains the heat needed to finish saponifying. Leave undisturbed for about 24 to 36 hours. (It’s okay to peek at it every now and then though. If you spot a crack forming on top, it means the soap is too hot and should be uncovered.)

 

Cutting Cold Process Soap

  • (12.) Unmold your block of soap. You can cut it into bars right away or later. I like to do it fairly soon after making, so that the soap is still soft and easy to cut. Use a ruler and a knife to cut into desired sizes. Let the bars cure in the open air on pieces of wax paper or brown paper, turning occasionally, for about 4 weeks. I find they are gentle enough to start testing on myself after three weeks.

 

This wraps up my post on the basics of soap making. Remember, this is just an overview! I did not cover every tiny detail there is to know about soap making because that is impractical for the space limitations of a single blog post. Be sure to check out the links and books on my Soapmaking Page so you can research more thoroughly before you make your first batch.

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199 Responses to Soap Making 101 – Making Cold Process Soap

  1. Debra says:

    This is great! You make it sound so simple. Totally unrelated, I love the heart quilt. Did you make it? Can you share the method some time? Thanks.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Debra! I’m glad you found the post helpful! My mom made that quilt for me – I’m fairly certain she just drew/copied a heart onto plain paper for a pattern, then cut as many as she needed out of fabric, appliqued them with some wonder under onto plain muslin blocks then zig zag stitched around the hearts before sewing the blocks together. She hand quilted around the hearts and the seams of the blocks. I would love to post on quilting some time – will add that to my list! :)

      • constance says:

        I so want to do this… I have so many things I want to do… I am an artist, and now that the kids are grown I am bursting with ideas…It is so hard to pick lol but this was enticing and I like the quilt as well… looking at mine right now.. thanks for posting this.. don’t ya just love the internet? C Griffin

        • Jan says:

          I can definitely relate! I have sooo many things I want to make and do and learn! :)

          • Jesse says:

            So what are the main things you will need for soap making? I am just starting it myself so I just would like to know what the basic items I will need are such as supplies or the soap ingredients themselves. thanks

            • Jan says:

              Hi Jesse! That’s a big topic, so I’ll refer you to a few web sites that might help. :) Here’s a list to get you started: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/soapmakingbasics/a/cpequip.htm and a good article to read is this one by the Soap Queen: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/cold-process-soap/free-beginners-guide-to-soapmaking-cold-process/ and then I have some books listed on this post and my Soap Making Page that you may be able to find in your library. What I did, when I first started making soap, was read through a lot of books and web sites and then when I was ready to try – made myself a detailed step-by-step list of everything I needed to do and every item I would need to do it. From there, you can see what supplies that you already have that you can use and what you’ll need to get. As far as the ingredients, that will be determined by what recipe you choose. The trickiest item to find sometimes, is the lye – so it’s good to get started looking for a supply of that first. I hope those links prove helpful and that you have lots of fun with your soap making! :)

              • Anonymous says:

                I think it’s hysterical that you are an amazon.com affiliate, put a link to a scale hoping people will click the link and buy through your site, thereby earning you money, yet you admit you bought your scale at WalMart ;)

              • Jan says:

                Hello Anonymous – always happy to make people smile. ;) Actually though, if you reread that – I did have the exact scale I link to and had it for five years. It came from Amazon and was purchased by my hubby’s late grandma for me as a Christmas gift. It was a great scale! I did buy a replacement at Walmart, but not the same one. I can post a picture of that one though, if you’d really like to see it to compare features. Thanks for mentioning the affiliate link, because although I try to clearly state all over my blog about affiliate links (and you can see that in the footer as well as the privacy & disclaimer page – http://thenerdyfarmwife.com/privacydisclaimer/ ) I completely didn’t go back and fix that particular post. I’ll get right on that. Thanks for the heads up and have a great night!

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  3. Carol P. Heller says:

    Thank you for sharing your directions. I’ve been thinking about making my own soap for a while. Maybe your directions will help me find the courage to collect all of the tools/supplies and just go for it. And, I love the name of your website!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Carol, thanks! I hope you do get to try making your own soap. It’s such a good feeling to create something so useful! Go for it and let me know how it goes! :)

  4. Bridget says:

    I’m still scared to use Lye, even with goggles and gloves. I don’t trust myself. (Super clutzy) Is there no way to make soap without lye? I’m thinking with beeswax or shay butter, ..something? Thanks though, I am bookmarking this page ;)

  5. Bridget says:

    Ooo great stuff there, thank you! I’m liking the “melt & pour” idea. Glycerin, hmm..=) Thank you again!

    • Anonymous says:

      I make all of my soaps from a melt and pour method using different glycerin blocks. I use essential oils, oatmeals, blueberry seeds, eucalyptus leaves etc for exfoliates, coconut oil, olive oil, Shea butter, even almond oils and goats milk, then pick your essential oils and any colors. You can make great soaps and they lather and they sell quickly too:) I as well don’t like using the lye:)

      • Tina says:

        I really like your idea of this soap making. Do you have a website that you followed for these soap recipes? I would love to make the soap without using The lye .very excited to start this project. I’m also on Facebook if it will be easier to shoot me a message or website. You can find me at tina lacey lee. Thank you for your ideas. :)

        lawebd me at tina

      • Brenda says:

        Do you share these recipes?

  6. Nice tutorial ,, my grandmother used to make all types of soaps , when I was a kid , of course she kicked me out when handling the lye,, so I really never knew the procedure (s). Thanks for the great info. I think I’ll share on my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/othomestead (if you don’t mind) the link will come directly here,, no stopping along the way !! Thanks again ,, Regards ,, Rich @ NY Homesteader

  7. This is brilliantly laid out and precisely detailed, Jan. Well worth the wait! Thanks for sharing…and I trust all your assignments went well for you, too. Best regards, FD @ Ladybug’s Mew.

    • Jan says:

      Thanks Farmer Doug! So far, so good as far as my homework. I’m putting a project off this week so I can get a post or two up then I’m likely to disappear again into a state of confused muttering and head scratching for another week or two. :)

  8. Christi-TX says:

    What happens if you pour the mixture if it’s not “traced” enough or if it’s “over-traced”? If it’s not thick enough when you pour the soap in the mold, what will happen? Likewise, if it is too thick how to you fix that? Can you tell, I’m not a risk taker? Actually, I just hate wasting my time & money-I don’t have a lot of either :)

    • Jan says:

      Hi Christi, I know exactly what you mean about time and money! :) I know for sure what happens when you pour it too thin – it will leak out of your molds and all over your table and floor. (Assuming you use molds with seams vulnerable to this.) This happened to me the first several batches. We stirred and stirred and got tired of stirring so thought it was enough (it wasn’t.) Using a stick blender however, will speed things up considerably. You’ll quickly see the mixture turn thicker and it will be somewhat like a thin pudding by the time it’s ready. If it’s too thick… you would just have to work as fast as you can to scoop it into your molds and you might have a few pockets where it’s not completely smooth & pretty, but it will be perfectly fine to use. In fact, for my camo soaps, I like it on the thick side so the colors won’t run together.

      • Christi-TX says:

        Thanks for the information, next step will be to find a recipe using oils & butters I have on hand. I look forward to reading your future posts-let the soap games begin!

  9. As we learn in chemistry, do as you ought ta, add acid to water. I didn’t know that worked the same for Lye.

  10. Suan says:

    I have just started making soap as a hobby and have found it to be really relaxing. So far, I have made coffee mint, vanilla rose, neem, lemongrass with mint and tea tree with lavender. I must say that they have been the best soaps to bathe with. So refreshing! No unnecessary chemicals! I so enjoy this, that now am experimenting with making body butter. I live in the Caribbean, so the body butter always melts. I have no idea how to keep it nice and creamy! Any advice?

  11. Lori says:

    I’ve tried mixing my oils and lye and oils at different temperatures between 90 and 125 but I prefer about 120 degrees. You mentioned that some soapers let theirs sit overnight before mixing. I have never heard that before. How well does that work? What’s the pros and cons?

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  14. Very interesting, can you also use essential oils on them?

  15. INGRID says:

    hi love yr recipes its so confussing as theres so many ways to do it and so many recipes yrs is simple but i need to ask if u have a recipe that only has a few ingredients meaning olive oil and palm oil i have tons of it i have a little bit of coconut oil to so im trying to use the 20 ltres of palm oil up asap before it goes of can u help please i also have fragrances to
    a recipe with only these items would b great and save me lossing all the stuff before it goes of money is tight as everyone is aware im getting desperate all the recipes i find have other oils to i just want the ones i have as im am a beginnner
    cheers

    • Jan says:

      Hi Ingrid, That’s a lot of palm oil!

      You can make a soap with just olive and palm oil, though adding a third oil or butter would help balance it a bit more.
      You can plug the oils you have into a lye calculator
      https://www.thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php
      and create your own recipe that way.
      OR
      Here’s a recipe I found in “Making Scented Soap” by Linda Hamblen – a book from my library. I omitted a hard-to-find oil so that you just have olive oil and palm oil. I haven’t tested this recipe though! But, the book looks lovely and I feel like it should turn out well.

      — 23 ounces olive oil (abt 655 grams)
      — 14 ounces palm oil (400 grams)
      — 4.75 ounces lye (sodium hydroxide) (135 grams)
      — 13 ounces (375 g) water

      If you try to double or triple the recipe, then make sure to run it through the lye calculator so that you get all of the numbers right.

      Fragrance oils should be added at the end (at “trace”) Make sure you have everything ready because once you add scent, it will sometimes set up fast. Add the fragrance, then stir in well, then pour into your molds, cover and insulate – all in quick succession.

      I hope this helped a bit, feel free to ask if you have any more questions! Good luck with your soap!

      • Sis Caplinger says:

        I have never made soap before so I am wondering, can you just pour into your mold and then add the oils? I just started reading up on making soaps and body butters, ect. I love all that I am learning :) Thank you for sharing! I have never messed with Lye before, but I am definitely going to give this a go. Thanks so much!

        • Jan says:

          It’s a lot easier to mix the essential oils in the soap pot – sort of like mixing all of the cake ingredients at once and then pouring in a pan before baking, instead of making a cake, pouring it into the pan, then adding vanilla. :)
          I’m so glad you’re excited about making soap! I hope you have great luck with your experiments!!! :)

      • INGRID says:

        hiya thanku so much for this recipe i love it simple
        cheers

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  17. Avigail says:

    This is wonderful! I am so excited to finally just do this and give it a try! Can you share how you superfat your soaps. I have dry skin and I would like to do this as well.

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  20. Cynthia Reames says:

    A friend and I have been making soap with goat milk as our liquid and a combination of coconut, olive,and palm kernel oil and shea butter as our fats. We’re cautious when mixing the lye with the milk and now we feel like pros. I love this soap so much I can’t imagine using anything else. It’s so creamy, moisturizing and the alpha hydroxy acids in the milk make it a great exfoliant. Once our PKO is gone though I’ll try some of the suggestions for using other fats.

    • Jan says:

      That sounds like a lovely soap! :) I know what you mean about not wanting to use anything else – I hope to never have to go back to store bought again!

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  23. I have always wanted to try this, but, like you said, the lye always scares me away.

    • Jan says:

      It can be scary thinking about it at first! It helped me to approach it somewhat like I would bleach; it’s also a super strong chemical that requires a lot of respect in handling, but something we’re all so familiar in dealing with, that it’s kind of old hat. I hope you do get to try one day – it’s a really fun hobby! :)

  24. Sandra says:

    Enjoyed the post!
    Making soap is on my to do list this year.
    I have talked about it for yearas and decided this is the year for doing!
    I have a few goats I milk so plan on making goats milk soap.
    Thanks again for the good read. Definately going to make a copy :)

  25. Vanessa - Perthgirl says:

    I have always wanted to try soap making and now can’t wait to give it a go. I am just starting to dig up various sections of my yard to plant herb and edible garden beds around the place. the biggest challenges I see will be Kikuyu (evil stuff that comes up everywhere!) and my 1 year old fur baby getting his paws coated in lovely lush and smelly soil! Whilst looking for herbs to plant that were also going to be useable I stumbled upon your website… it is AWESOME!! Thank you so much for sharing all of your experience and recipes… My mum is a naturopath and my grandmother was a real greenthumb , and so I have grown up hearing about the uses for different herbs but have sadly waited until my late 30’s to get into it . Please keep adding to your recipes, I am fascinated! And seccretly hoping I can work out how to make most herbs grow in our Perth Climate – Western Australia (its Autumn and still 37 degrees) I seem to do real well with oregano… Do you have some balms, salves etc that use that? LOL. Thanks again! Ness

    • Jan says:

      Hi Ness and thanks for the kind words! You sound like you have a great herbal heritage and a wonderful place to get your herb gardens started! I have an abundance of oregano as well, but don’t use it that often – I need to come up with some new ideas for it! :)

  26. Khrista says:

    I am very glad to have found your Blog! I am a soap maker and use goats milk rather than water. I do not have the fumes that happen with water. I am curious about supper fatting as I would love to add a bit more creaminess to my soaps. I am very grateful for the information you offer!

  27. nancy says:

    Hi there, I used to make my own soap, but haven’t in quite awhile. Your post has me excited to do it again! It is so satisfying to use your own soap, and it makes a wonderful gift. One thing…you mention that lye can be hard to find. The person I learned from used Drano and it worked beautifully. Is there a reason why this isn’t the best method? Thank you!!

  28. BV says:

    Thanks for sharing your instructions! Quick question, for your recipes, how big do your molds have to be? What are the dimensions? Thanks in advance! :)

    • Jan says:

      Hi BV, thanks for asking! I need to update the posts to reflect that information. I have homemade wooden box molds and the INNER dimensions are: 16 inches by 11.5 inches by 2 inches.

  29. Tawn says:

    made soap for the 1st time used a silacone mold, let set for 24 hours covered, used 24oz coconut oil, 24 oz olive oil, 15ml of each lemon, lime and tea tree oil 16oz of distilled water, 7.7 oz of lye when i cut it it cracked was not able to get a nice even cut bar. What do you think I did wrong?????

    • Jan says:

      Hi Tawn, I’m so sorry to hear that! When I run your recipe through the lye calculator at:

      https://www.thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php

      It says for a recipe containing 24 ounces coconut oil and 24 ounces of olive oil, you should have 7.21 ounces of lye. (Using the 6% extra oils allowance that I normally use.)

      Is there another oil that you forgot to type in here or did you use that much extra lye? If so, your bar is going to be really lye heavy so dry, hard and/or crumbly plus too caustic to use.

      If you try this recipe again, I’d use the 7.21 ounces of lye. Your water is spot on though. Also, make sure you measure the oils by weight on a scale and not fluid ounce.

      I’m sorry your first batch did that! I know my first several failed as well and it was discouraging, but don’t give up! I hope your next batch is perfect! :)

      • Tawn says:

        I am so sorry it has taken so long for me to reply. I just wanted to say thank you so much for the info. I tried a second batch and it turned out great. I have been using my soap for about a month now. I also cut my batch in half just in case. I will definitely be making more. Thanks again for your help and also for responding back to my question so fast. :0)

  30. Cindy says:

    Is it ok to use silicone molds ?

  31. I make soap for a living and have for over 15 years. I learned by reading a book by Sandy Maine. I started in my kitchen with an 8 lb mold (I live alone) and today I make more than 1200 lbs of soap a week in a commercial store setting using 40 lb molds.
    Please, please, if you’re going to make soap at home, please wear a mask while you’re preparing your lye solution. Do the stirring of the lye outside your house, if possible. Make sure there are no children or elderly people in the room. When you add lye to water, it creates a chemical heat of almost 200 degrees F. It must be vigorously stirred to disolve or will turn to solid lye in the bottom of the container, making it useless. During that stir it produces noxious fumes. If you’re unmasked you will inhale the fumes. They will enter your nose and lungs and burn the lining of them. DO NOT make lye solution when there are children in your home. Those fumes travel and can burn skin. If you get lye or hot soap on your skin, please rinse for a long time with cool water to break the bond. Once the lye is stirred into the water it becomes very hot! NEVER start with hot water! The fumes dissipate quickly and then the lye has no smell. Chemically produced heat takes a long time to cool. While waiting for the lye to cool, be sure it is labeled as lye and a poison emblem of scull and cross bones, especially if you put it in the fridge or on the kitchen counter. Someone could mistake it as something to drink and pour themselves a glass. I’ve seen this happen on old soap forums. Husband comes along, sees a pitcher, pours a glass of “juice” and starts to drink. Instantly, lye will remove the mucosal lining of the mouth and digestive tract. The person will spend many miserable days in ICU and could possibly die. Making soap at home should not be taken lightly. Lye is a dangerous chemical. Use caution at all times. Once you make your soap, that soap is caustic until saponification is complete, especially while it is still liquid. It will burn your skin. Be sure to wear long sleeves while making soap. If you decide to try your hand at soap, it is a very fulfilling hobby. It could even turn into a business. I cannot stress strongly enough to use all necessary precautions. A mask and long sleeves is absolutely essential when making your lye solution.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Kathy, I’ve only been making soap for about nine or ten years now, but among the first books I bought on soap making was one by Sandy Maine as well! It was a great inspiration!

      Those are some wonderful safety tips. As I mentioned in the post a few times, this is just a *basic overview.* The format and space limitations of a blog keeps me from being able to make any post overly comprehensive; that’s why I love books so much more than the internet when it comes to my own learning process. However, I realize the validity of your concerns so when I’m able to work at my computer for a few hours this evening, I will definitely edit the post to further highlight the safety topics you mentioned.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  32. Renee' says:

    We used to make soap in a cast iron pot. We put the water in them added lye. Waited a bit for it to cool and then carefully opened the lard and let it fall slowly into the pot. We mixed it with a long stick until it was creamy like hot cereal and then pored it out to finish. This was the best thing we could do with the lard since we never would use lard for cooking. That was a long time ago so more than 45 years has made the details a bit fussy. My scale does 2 grams at a time so I can’t get exact grams. I would rather make soap outside so if it splatters I don’t have a mess in my house. Looks like recycling an old barbecue grill would make a good soap making station especially if it had side stations on it. I would just be able too close the lid and not have to worry. you could ever lock it so no one would mess with your stuff when you were making it. Thanks for a more scientific way to make soap so you get a better soap. I don’t remember how it turned out but I am sure we used it and were OK.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Renee’! What great memories! My husband’s grandpa’s family made soap in such a way and he grew up strong and sturdy too. :) I like your barbecue grill idea as well!!

  33. Anonymous says:

    Jenny

    Thank you so much for your recipes and great directions. Could you please tell me the dimensions of your wooden soap mold and lid? I am asking my husband to make one. Does yours make 2lbs of soap? How many bars do you get per batch in your mold?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Jenny,
      The inner dimension on my soap mold are: 16 inches by 11.5 inches by 2 inches tall. The wood is about 3/4 inch thick, so add that all around to get the outer dimensions which is the same size as the lid. My soap batches that I post, don’t 100% fill it up, so there’s some leeway in there, if those exact dimensions aren’t made or if your recipe has a few ounces more oil. My brother made me some slightly different sized than the one my hubby made and it all works out. I get about 18 bars from each batch, though a few times, I’ve gotten 20. It depends on which way I cut (I never can remember which side to start on) and how even the edges are/if they need trimming or not.

      If you’d like a smaller/bigger/differently sized mold, you can do the formula here and adjust your recipe accordingly:

      http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/suppliers/tp/Calculating-The-Size-Amount-Of-Soap-To-Fill-A-Soap-Mold.htm

      I had to edit your email address out of your comment, so a spammer wouldn’t pick it up. However, I’ll email this reply to you too, so you’ll be sure to see it! :)

  34. Deb says:

    I like coldpressed soaps but the lye drys out my skin so bad. I now understand when I’ve read stories from the early centuries and they mentioned their hands looking so bad with hangnails etc from washing with lye soap. So I use glycerin, coconut or others to make my soap.

    • Jan says:

      You’re right – too much lye in a batch of soap can certainly dry out your skin! That’s why I like to superfat my soaps so that they are very gentle and moisturizing. :)

    • Kami says:

      Is it possible to make a soap without lye? It’s seems it would irritate sensitive skin. Any recipes or ideas for people that are sensitive to traditional soaps that contain lye?

      • Jan says:

        Hi Kami, That’s a very common question – all soaps are made with lye or a chemically equivalent strong alkaline solution. It’s what makes the oil turn into soap. Even store bought soaps have lye in them, they just don’t say “lye” – they say “saponified” or list the ingredients in a way like: “sodium palminate” – which just means palm oil reacted with sodium hydroxide (lye.) Many people like melt and pour soap bases because the producer has already done the step that requires handling lye so you can have “homemade” soap without directly dealing with lye. Often though, there’s added chemicals, so you really have to read labels.

        The great thing about homemade soaps is that they still have the glycerine (the part that really moisturizes your skin) in them so they are extra beneficial for your skin. Most big soap makers will separate out the glycerine and sell it for profit. The reason that some people still think lye soap is irritating to the skin goes back to a few generations ago when people made it without properly measuring the lye to oil ratio so the resulting batches were often too heavy on the lye, so harsh. Modern day soap makers do not have that issue, which is exactly why I make our own soap for own super sensitive skin. :)

        • Kami says:

          Thank you for your reply. I would love to start making my own soap but, I am a little worried about the measuring ratios. With a digital scale do you have to measure each container to zero out the scale and then add the ingredients to the containers? Also, is there an easy peasy kind of tutorial I can watch for beginning beginners?

          • Jan says:

            Oh Kami, I’m so sorry that I somehow missed your second comment and am just now seeing it! With my digital scale, I put the container on then turn it on so that it’s at zero to start then add the ingredient.
            I recommend that you check out the video tutorials that the Soap Queen blog has. She’s wonderful! :)

            http://www.youtube.com/user/soapqueentv

  35. Diane Cheney says:

    Looking forward to being able to do some of the crafts after I heal from knee surgery. Your site looks GREAT!!!!
    Di

  36. Peter says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe :)

    so many people have commented on the article and its great to see them all interested in making soap! Rest assured I’ve read every single one of them and enjoyed doing so!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Peter, So glad you enjoyed reading through the post and comments. I love seeing people interested in soap making as well! :)

  37. vanessa says:

    what is a safe source to buy lye? I have been wanting to make soap for my family for a while…. Looking for a natural product since we strive to do only natural and organic products and wasn’t sure if lye had become a victim of the make it cheap by adding unnecessary ingredients…

    • Jan says:

      Hi Vanessa! That’s a good question. I haven’t heard of any adulteration in pure lye, but that’s an important thing to keep an eye out for.

      I don’t believe that there’s a natural source, per se, because sodium hydroxide is a man-made chemical. I have seen a few places around the internet where you can make lye from wood ashes though, here’s one such article:

      http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/how-to-make-soap-from-ashes-zmaz72jfzfre.aspx#axzz2Yq6RJCto

      I buy mine from my local Tractor Supply (farm type) store. I’ve also gotten some from my local small hardware type store. The main thing to look for is that the label only says “sodium hydroxide.”

      You can order lye online from Bramble Berry or Brushy Mountain Beekeeping as well:

      http://www.brambleberry.com/Sodium-Hydroxide-Lye-2-lbs-P3037.aspx
      (I notice that their flake form though says 97% pure, so you’d probably want to investigate that one further.)

      http://brushymountainbeefarm.com/‎
      (For some reason, their site seems really slow this morning. But, I’ve ordered from them before with good results.)

      I hope you enjoy making your own soap! :)

      • Amy says:

        I have been reading everything within my reach to prepare for my soap making chapters of life. Thank you for for sharing your knowledge. Inspiration from your name, my own skin troubles and cleanliness provoke me to take the next step to start sooner than later. Thanks thenerdyfarmwife!

  38. shia says:

    hi,

    i would like to ask what happens if we pour the soap into the mold and leave it there for more than a day? usually instructions will mention to remove from mold and cut after a day. i’d like to know if we leave the soap in the mold for more than a day, say a week? will anything happen?

    also, what happens if we do not mix the lye and the oil at the same temperature? what if we do not measure the temperature and just mix them?

    thank u

    regards,shia

    • Jan says:

      Hi Shia,

      I’ve left my soap in a mold for up to four days without any problem. It’s just that after the first day or two, the soap has set up as much as it is going to by that point, so you might as well remove it and let it start curing in the air. If you did have to leave it in the mold for a week, perhaps uncover it so that it can “breathe.” As the bar cures in the air, it hardens and lightens in weight. You definitely don’t have to cut after a day – I sometimes keep my soap in large blocks and only cut a bar off as I need one. (In fact, I have a batch of violet soap from April and rose soap from May that’s still sitting mostly uncut right now.)

      I try to get my lye and oil in the same general range of temperature before mixing, but you don’t have to be extremely precise. One can even be about ten or fifteen degrees cooler or warmer than the other and you’ll probably be fine. The biggest issue is that if your lye mixture is too cool, it might not completely act on your oil. I had that happen once when I let my lye sit outside on a winter day and it got actually cold. I thought it’d be okay, since it heats up as it combines with oil and my oil was the right temperature, but that batch of soap smelled badly and was harsh where the lye wasn’t used up properly. If your oil/lye is too hot, then you have a chance of your soap setting up too fast while you’re mixing it, leaving you with quite a mess. So, for best results and to avoid various little problems that may occur, try to get both in a fairly close range.

  39. Janice says:

    How do you clean the utensils after using them. Is it ok for stuff to go down the drain? I have always wondered about that. Thanks in advance.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Janice! That is a great question that I need to address in a post one day! You don’t want it to go down the drain, because it’s not soap yet – it’s akin to pouring grease down the drain when it’s freshly made.

      What I used to do, was to put everything in the dishwasher once I poured the mixture into the molds. Eventually, my dishwasher stopped draining correctly, so we got another one. That one shortly broke too. Turned out that I had clogged the pipes with the soap mixture and had to get a plumber in to fix everything. He told me to NEVER put raw soap in my dishwasher/sink again!

      Now, I have two ways to clean up the pan & utensils: First way – I will immediately wipe out the pan and clean the utensils with paper towels or old rags. (no water.) Make sure to wear rubber gloves because the mixture is still caustic at this stage. You also want to bag up the dirty soap rags well so that no kid or pet accidentally comes across them. I tie them up in a grocery bag before tossing in the trash. A second alternative – I just set the pot & utensils aside and out of the way for about a week. This gives any soap on them a chance to harden and be more soap-like & less caustic. I take a spoon and scrape off most of the soap layer and then I can easily rinse any extra layer of residue off in my sink. At this point, it’s no longer raw soap that will clog the drain. It foams up and washes off nicely with warm water and some elbow grease. Method one is the easiest way! But, both options work & will preserve your pipes! :)

  40. Talia says:

    You mentioned placing the top on your soap mold and covering with blankets for it to saponify. If I’m making my own soap mold, can the mold top be any hard surface to lay over the mold? I’m thinking maybe a baking sheet?
    Thank You

    • Jan says:

      Hi Talia! The top can be a plastic lid or a piece of cardboard or plywood… anything kind of hard to protect it. You want to avoid anything metal though, especially aluminum, since it can react with the remaining lye in your uncured soap.

      • Talia says:

        Thanks Jan! One other question…how do both the lye solution and the oil mixture reach the same temp when mixed at different times? I’m guessing even if they were mixed at the same time, each mix would have their own rate at reaching just the right temp. Just trying to figure out how this works before combining the two.

        • Jan says:

          They don’t have to be exact. Some people like to use them when about ten degrees different. I’ve found by trial and error that if I mix the lye into the water first then let it be cooling while I get everything else together, it works best. It gets MUCH hotter than the oils will (which only need a short time heating on your stove and are easier to modulate with the burner controls.) Depending on the weather, I’ll let the lye water sit outside for a bit to cool it further (making sure no pets, kids, or wildlife can get to it – my area is a separate back porch they can’t reach.) I also sometimes add a few ice cubes to the water to speed up cooling too. I hope that helped! :)

  41. Thanks for the great post! I will be making my first batch of soap this weekend. I have all the stuff now I’m waiting on the courage. ha ha.

  42. Sandy Rodewald says:

    I want to Thank You for this post!!!!
    This post is the best I have ever read about making soap! I have bought books but they have had too much chemistry in them and they have not made sense to me. You have given easy to understand instructions to make this a pleasure! The others post I’ve read have just been too complicated.
    I understand that it is probably better to understand the chemistry but you have made it sound like you can learn a Loy just by doing, which is how I learn!
    Thank You!!!

  43. Michelle says:

    sighing…………you are sooo very talented! I’m very impressed with your site. I was initially drawn to it because of the beautiful images and then found myself reading through a lot of it. I don’t know if I will ever be able to make soap though.

    • Jan says:

      Thanks for the kind words! I didn’t think I could ever make soap either – but you never know until you try! :)

      • Cheyenne Pomerleau says:

        My husband and I are just beginning to discover the great fun of making our own soap together. We’ve made a coconut and olive oil soap that we really love and gave as gifts, even in the past. I absolutely love the creative process involved and hope to one day have a small online shop or something similar, so I can earn a living doing something I love doing. :-)

  44. jr says:

    Where can I buy lye?

  45. I don’t make this type of soap because of the lye handling. I am too accident prone since I am somewhat disabled and the last thing I need is more burns. However I stick strictly to making liquid soaps because they do NOT require handling lye.

    I remember reading an article many years ago about a plant called the Yucca or yew something like that anyway but that the fluid from the plant makes a great liquid soap and many native Americans used it as a shampoo back in the day. Still trying to find something more about that so I can make the soaps and shampoos.

  46. Kansas says:

    The lye calculator at MMS specifically states that the liquid is by VOLUME and not weight. “Please note the amount is in a volume measurement, while everything else you do in soap is by weight.” Meaning you should be measuring it in a measuring cup and not on the scale.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Kansas, Thanks for pointing that out! I like to still use weight since water is almost precisely the same amount whether measured by fluid ounce or weight. It’s easy to misread the side of a measuring cup, but using a scale gives consistent results each time. Adding herbal infusions into the equation could slightly affect the density of water, but not enough to make a significant difference in weight/volume, especially given the fairly wide range of liquid amounts to work within and still get an acceptable soap. I don’t use milk in my soaps (extended family members with allergy) but that does have a different density, pending on fat content. (i.e. water density is 1,000 kg/m3 versus milk at up to 1,035 kg/m3) I feel that the range of liquids given by the MMS calculator helps account for those variations, but others more experienced in making milk soaps will have more knowledge on that than I would. That’s a great point you made, so thanks for bringing it up!

      • Kansas says:

        I wish MMS was more clear about this upfront because I had to dig to find the info when I first started soaping. I kept going back and forth because I wasn’t quite sure until I read it on a different page of theirs. I did find that there was a slight difference in the amount but not enough to make an impact on my final results.

  47. Katie says:

    I’m making my soap now and it just won’t reach trace (too much water?) and it’s in a soft gooy stage. (I’m using an electric mixer) what would happen if I just pour it in my plastic mold anyway? :S

    • Jan says:

      Hi Katie! What recipe did you use? I can look at it and see what the water looks like. For my first few batches of soap, I poured my untraced mixture into molds only to have the caustic soap ooze out EVERYWHERE. Was quite a mess! I do hope yours set up for you though! You might also want to read this about stick blenders versus electric mixers for stirring soap: http://millersoap.com/SoapFAQs.html#8

      • Katie says:

        oops looks like I bought the wrong type of mixer. I used your honey and oatmeal recipe and added about 20mL extra for water. It did reach trace after I left it to sit for half an hour and mixed for another half an hour :)

        • Jan says:

          Ohh okay. Yes, the stick blender does an excellent job of reaching trace much more quickly. The extra water probably wasn’t needed either. However, it did reach trace so yay!! Great job making it work! :)

  48. Roger says:

    I remember my grandmother making soap in a large cast iron tub. Hers was made with lard rendered from hog fat. She used it for washing .

    • Jan says:

      What a great memory; thanks for sharing! :) It’s amazing how much our grandmothers accomplished in the same 24 hours we all have. I’m always in awe and inspired when I think of it!

  49. Thank you, Jan. Could you give me more info about the “soap nuts” you spoke of. Where to find them, or how to make them, etc.

  50. Just came across this site, and really enjoyed reading it and all the wonderful comments. A great book for beginning soapmakers is Country Living’s (as in the magazine) Handmade Soap. I have tried every recipe in it, and they have all worked perfectly.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Carol! Thanks for the kind words and book recommendation. I’m always looking for new books for my collection and will definitely add that one to my wish list. I love Country Living magazine so I bet it’s fantastic!

  51. I have used many natural skin care products but never made my own soap, lotion or body butter so thanks for the inspiration. I am definitely going to try it ASAP :)

  52. HOW DO YOU ATTANE A neutral Ph in your soap witch is very good to have for the elderly or anyone with diabetes who may have compromised skin, and are there any good bactericidal natural additives so the soap can be used on wound ? even dove has acid base and even nivia I remember mom soaking wood ashes for lye and we used beef tallow or pork fat ( dad always insisted store soap didn’t do a good job) he kept all his hair until he died and it didn’t turn grey

  53. Mandy says:

    Hey Jan! I’ve just started my soap career, thank you for all your tips, they always come very much handy. Chocolate/cocoa soap is my next challenge. Since I’d like to keep a cocoa scent, I was thinking of adding cocoa butter (10% of all oils) only at trace and not at the beginning together with other oils. But I’m quite sure this will not work since the quantity of oils mixed together with lye solution will be too weak for the saponification process to start. Am I wrong? What do you suggest? Should I put the wanted amount of coca butter to all the other oils at the beginning and only add an extra spoon or two of cocoa butter at trace (I’m making a small batch of 1 lb). Thank you for your answer. Best, Mandy

    • Jan says:

      Hi Mandy! I think you could mix in all of the other oils first, stir just a minute, if that, (with the stick blender), then stir in the rest of the cocoa butter, maybe saving a spoonful for adding as soon as you hit trace. This is just a guess though – just how I would try it out first! :) I’ve made soap with cocoa powder and mint before and it smelled just like a peppermint patty. (Yum!) The cocoa powder gives some chocolate scent too. Good luck with your soap!

  54. Amy says:

    Hey I am new at this soap making. I am so nervous with getting started but I have everything I need. When people say use the lye calculator to create your recipe. I was wondering how to you create a recipe and know what kind of oils to use and oz of each. It might be a silly questions but being new at this I have no clue. Thanks!!!

    • Jan says:

      Amy, that is an excellent question and one that I plan to write a post about. (It’s a big long answer!) :) In short though, I search online and in my soap books for charts that tell you recommended amounts of certain oils to use, for their various qualities. So, for example, this chart at Nature’s Garden:
      http://www.naturesgardencandles.com/mas_assets/pdf/soapoils.pdf it says Avocado Oil use 5 to 30% and gives its properties and so forth. Then you can scroll down and see not to use more than 30% coconut oil or it can be drying (though extra superfatting can counter that, so it’s not a steadfast rule). So, you can either take an existing recipe and change it all up or start from scratch and plug in amounts of the oils you want in the calculator and see what percentages it tells you you have then keep adjusting until they all seem good ratios. You can put together a nice soap that has lather and moisturizing properties that way. It’s like a puzzle of sorts! :) If in doubt though, you can always fill in with olive oil, because that is the one oil that you can make a soap with 100% of it. (though it won’t lather as well, so it’s good to combine several oils.) For starters though, it’s always good to use a tried and true really basic recipe. I’m pretty sure there are a few good ones at soapqueen.com that are pure, no frills soap. Once you get that down, you’ll quickly see how many zillions of ways that you can change that one recipe to get more colors and scents… it’s kind of addictive! :) I hope that bit of information helps and I hope to get a much lengthier and more informative post in the near future!

  55. Amy says:

    Jan, Thank you so much that will get me started. Cant wait to see the post you do on it!!! Thanks again Amy

  56. Laurel McGilvery says:

    I learned to make soap from Susan Miller Cavich’s soap making books. I make goat’s milk soap (which you do not insulate during cure) as well as soap from lard (rendered from my homegrown pigs). I don’t buy any soap products. As for cleanup, I put everything in the sink to soak overnight then hand wash using plenty of HOT water to rinse. Have had no plumbing problems. But never ever dump a batch of raw soap down the drain. Leftovers that won’t fit the mold are scraped into a covered soup mug and allowed to cure. I use them next to the bathroom and kitchen sink.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Laurel, thanks for sharing all of those great tips with us! :)

    • susie says:

      I want to make goat milk soap, so are you saying, I don’t cover it up with blankets.
      Do I put it in frig??? Please send some pointers

      • Jan says:

        Hi Susie, Milk soap will heat up a lot on its own, so you don’t have to cover it up with blankets. Some people want to keep their milk soaps cool to prevent them from going through gel phase and turning darker so will put the soap mold in their refrigerator. I like mine to go through gel phase so just leave them sitting out. That’s really a personal preference thing and if you try one batch one way, and then another batch the other way, you can see what method you like best.

  57. Shelby says:

    Hello,
    My husband and I have decided to try soap making as a hobby together after falling in love with homemade soaps. I think your site it WONDERFUL and we plan to follow many of your recipes. One that we will be trying first is the Oatmeal & Honey Soap. I have your ingredients list, but was wondering what size mold this amount would be suitable for. I am worried to but too small of a mold and then have too much soap for it.
    Thank you! Your site I spires me ;)

    • Jan says:

      Hi Shelby! That will be a wonderful hobby to do together! :) The oatmeal & honey soap is one of my older recipes, when I used box molds more often than loaf molds. It makes quite a bit of soap – about 18 bars! It calls for 82 ounces of oils compared to the 2 lb loaf mold I currently use most which only takes about 30 oz of oil and makes 7 or 8 bars. If you reply here with the measurements of your mold, I can help you figure out how to resize the batch to fit. This site will also be helpful to read – to help you figure out how much soap a mold will hold in the first place.
      (Edit: oops forgot the link!) http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/suppliers/tp/Calculating-The-Size-Amount-Of-Soap-To-Fill-A-Soap-Mold.htm

  58. Bill Benedict says:

    Nice site you have here, very informative. Many people have trouble calculating oil amounts for mold sizes. To determine that use, Length X Width X Depth X .4 = amount of oil to be used. Then decide how much of each oil you want to use. Don’t forget to use your lye calculator.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Bill, Thanks for the kind words and for sharing that calculation with us! It does get quite confusing figuring out mold sizes!

  59. cay says:

    When I first started making soap (using hot process) I was putting crushed up herb leaves as an additive, but it never turned out smelling like at all like the herb. I was wondering if I used cold process with crushed up herb leaves if it would smell like it, or how I would go about making herbal soap (without using essential oil) to make it smell like the herbs. Help!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Cay, Unfortunately, herbal scents don’t seem to make it through the saponification process. The only reliable way I’ve found to scent cold process soaps is by using essential oils. I’m always experimenting though, so there might be a way I haven’t discovered yet. If so, I’ll surely update this comment to let you know!

  60. Krista says:

    Jan, I have been making cold processed soap for about a year now and that is the only kind I use anymore. I add dried herbs to mine as well as essential oils. Also for molds I find the silicon molds at thrift stores and use them and they work great the soap pops right out and you can find all kinds of shapes. I have 3 mifin pans and 2 bread loaves that I use.

  61. Bridget Kapala says:

    Hi Jan,
    I bought Sandy Maine’s book about 10 years ago and was scared away by the lye. This winter I took a class, and now am not so scared. I’ve decided to try it on my own and found your blog. Am going to read a lot before I get started. I was wondering why your preference for wood molds. Is it that the soap looks more rustic? Also, wondering is that parchment paper you line it with? Thanks for all your tips and recipes.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Bridget,

      That’s great that you’re going to get into soap making! I do use parchment paper to line wooden molds. Waxed paper is a little too flimsy and the moisture goes through and is hard on the wood. The main reason I use wooden molds is because that’s all I had to work with for a long time. My dad and brothers are wood workers & my hubby is in construction, so they would make me molds from wood scraps. A few months ago though, I was finally able to squeeze a silicone mold out of the budget and I have to say that I love it! This is the one I’ve been using a lot of lately:
      http://www.brambleberry.com/Silicone-Column-Mold-P5619.aspx
      It holds recipes that have about 27 or 28 ounces total of oil in them. I also decrease the water by an ounce (usually 8 ounces instead of 9 ounces) so that it firms up faster in there. I did have one problem with it the first time I used it. I tried rapping it firmly on the table to get out air bubbles after I filled it. That was a mistake! The sides came loose and raw soap came out everywhere! That was complete user error though. It’s really secure and won’t leak as long as you have it thoroughly sealed up and avoid moving and jostling it around until the soap firms up.

      Good luck with your soap making! :)

      • Bridget says:

        Jan, Thanks for the tip and website link. I’ve seen round soap and I like those shapes. I also like the raw look of rectangular bars. I’m reading up lots before I make my first attempt. I’ll let you know how my soap turns out!

  62. Lisa says:

    How do you determine the amount of soap you need to make for a specific mold?

  63. Christina says:

    I was wondering about add-ins with soap making. I see a lot of lavender buds, rose petals, even cut lemon slices made into the soap bar. I was wondering how that works when you use the soap. Are you in the shower picking the stuff out as it works it’s way to the soap edge.? Have a trash next to your shower to throw these things in? Stuff seems too big to go down the drain. I understand the ingredients that are supposed to exfoliate, but I don’t understand big hunks of things that don’t.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Christina, The larger add-ins are generally added for looks and market appeal. They’re pretty to look at, but you’re right – they aren’t very practical for use! If you make soap and want to stir in dried herbs or flowers, it’s a good idea to powder them in a coffee grinder first and then sift them through a fine mesh sieve. This way the soap isn’t all gunky or scratchy when you wash with it. Still, most add-ins like that will eventually discolor to a brown or black shade, so it’s good to be sparing with amounts.

  64. Ellie says:

    I have a problem. I started making soap today and I’m using a melting soap kettle. I can not keep my soap hot long enough to stir in the fragrance and coloring. It say not to put coloring or fragrance into the kettle. I’ve been using a bowl to scoop it into to add the other things before I put it in the molds. Any suggestions for keeping it warm while I’m adding the other things?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Ellie!

      I’ve not used a melting soap kettle before, but when I make melt and pour soap, I deal with small amounts at a time and use a pyrex measuring pitcher in the microwave to melt the base. It turns into a liquid and has a reasonable window of time where you can add in extras before it starts to set up. Is your soap base melting completely? Maybe it’s not warm enough to start? Or perhaps it’s the type of soap base you bought? One thing that might work to keep the soap base warm longer would be to place it in a heat proof bowl that could nestle down over a pot of steaming water. (making a double boiler of sorts)

      This is a link to a melt & pour guide on the Soap Queen blog that might have some helpful ideas:
      http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/melt-and-pour-soap/free-beginners-guide-to-soapmaking-melt-and-pour/

      (If anyone else reading this has more experience with a melting soap kettle & better tips for using one, feel free to chime in!) :)

  65. Ellie says:

    Thank you. I’m going to try the double boiler. :) I also thought of using a measuring cup on a candle warmer to keep it from turning fast.

  66. akila says:

    Is cold process soap prepared with neem oil as one of the soap making oil safe to use for small kids/toddlers?

    Also I have an another query,
    Are these Essential Oil safe to use as fragrance in cold process soap preparation for kid (3 year old)
    ylang ylang
    grape fruit
    orange

    • Jan says:

      Hi Akila! From what I understand, neem oil is generally recognized as safe when used topically. In fact, when my son was kindergarten age, his doctor had him rotate several natural antibiotics for his stomach issues, and neem powder was one of them. He did very well with it. If you’re still concerned though, you can double check with your family health care provider for their opinion.

      As far as essential oils – I don’t use them a ton to have them memorized, and don’t have a guidebook on hand, so what I always do is google the name of the oil along with the word safety. When I do that for: ylang ylang safety – I picked the site webmd (versus those who sell essential oils who might embellish their claims a bit.) It says: “Ylang ylang oil seems safe for children and adults in the amounts found in foods. It also appears to be safe when applied to the scalp in combination with other herbs…” Then I would read a few more sites to make sure. My first thoughts are that unless you have a citrus allergy, grapefruit and orange should be fine as well, but it’s always good to research and read around or double check with your nurse/pediatrician first.

  67. Magdalene says:

    Hi Jan,

    The other day I was at my local pharmacy and saw some handmade soap but it didn’t list lye or sodium hydroxide in the ingredients. So, I were to buy that bar of soap, how would I know I am buying “soap made from scratch” or melt n pour, can I tell the difference when using them?

    About the calculator, after inputting all the oil, will the result show me how much water I should add also? Or I just estimate the water, oil to get the lye calculation?

    Thank you so much here again.

    regards,
    Magdalene

    • Jan says:

      Hi Magdalene,

      Some people list the oils as being “saponified” which is another way of saying that they have been reacted with lye. You might also find something like sodium tallowate or palmitate – which is another way to say the sodium part of sodium hydroxide (lye) mixed with tallow or palm oil respectively. If the label is 100% truthful, then if it’s melt and pour, you will also see ingredients listed such as: sorbitol or soy bean protein or sorbitan oleate. If it just lists oils (saponified or what have you) and water and perhaps color/fragrance, then it was probably truly made from scratch. You may or may not be able to tell a difference when using. I find melt and pour makes my skin feel dry, but others love it. It’s a personal preference thing probably. :)

      For the lye calculator question: The results will show you how much water you should use after you input the oil amounts and hit the “calculate lye” button. If you look on page 69 of your book, on the left hand side, you’ll see a photo where it lists the water range. I’ve also put the photo here, for your convenience: http://thenerdyfarmwife.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Liquids-as-shown-on-lye-calculator.jpg You don’t need to estimate the water or lye. The calculator will give you numbers for those, once you input your oil numbers.

      These instructions apply to the lye calculator here: https://www.thesage.com/calcs/LyeCalc.html I like it because it’s pretty straightforward. You might find other calculators online with extra bells and whistles that might be confusing to someone just starting to make soap.

      I hope that helped answer your questions! :)

  68. Magdalene says:

    Jan,

    Thank you heaps and I really enjoy chatting with you here. Good news, my supplier has already shipped out the soap cutters to me and I can’t wait to get them in hands and now looking for a digital scale, other essential soap making items, ingredients. Will definitely let you know here how the soap making goes!

    best regards,
    Magdalene

  69. Magdalene says:

    Jan,

    When do you think you release your 2nd e-book? I am looking forward to it!

    regards,
    Magdalene

  70. Rachel says:

    Hi jan!! I really hope you don’t mind, but my uncle and I are trying to make a soap mold similar to yours so to the recipes will fit better, and it’s less expensive :). Your mold is 16×11.5×2 with a divider down the width, correct? Also, with your permission. I don’t know if you want more molds out there like yours, since your was a gift. Thanks!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Rachel, That’s completely fine to make one the same! I have no idea where they got those measurements from in the first place – I just said, “I need a soap mold!” And that’s what I got! :) So, I kept adjusting my recipe until it fit. The divider is a just an extra board I can pop in and out, so I could make half batches too. I’ve currently moved to making smaller batches, since I don’t sell soap anymore and am using a mold with inner dimensions of 8” x 3.5” x 3.5”. I took photos of my hubby making them and planned to put up a tutorial on how, so people could make their own. I just haven’t gotten to it yet! All of my newer recipes from my new soap book on out are sized for that. (It holds a batch that has around 30 ounces of oil, give or take a few. So almost a 3 pound mold.)

  71. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to the tutorial!

  72. Anna says:

    Hi Jan!

    My dad has very sensitive (often dry) skin as well a very sensitive nose. Flowery or strong scents tend to irritate him and make it difficult to breath. I want to make him a soap that will help his skin but is either scentless or has very little scent at all. I’ve considered something dandelion and/or maybe honey and oatmeal. Do you have any advice/suggestions?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Anna! Most cold process soaps (like the ones on this site) will naturally turn out unscented. The lye process “eats up” the natural scents from the ingredients you add. Oatmeal & honey will have a slight oaty/honey scent to it, but it will be barely noticeable and will fade with time. The dandelion bar has a small bit of honey scent, but is otherwise unscented. I have relatives who are the same way with strong smells and they do fine with both types. I would avoid all artificial fragrance oils and most essential oils for him though. (My dad with severe asthma does okay with peppermint essential oil, but otherwise I keep his unscented as well.)

  73. Anna says:

    Hi Jan,

    In the past week I’ve tried making soap for the first time. I made a honey oatmeal soap and a mint soap. But i’m afraid they didn’t come out right. I used your recipes as guidance and they seem oily and sort of smell like fatty oils. Will this dissipate as they cure? Or did I not blend them enough? They’re heavy in olive oil as the recipes call for and they seem to just be solid blocks of olive oil. How do I keep this from happening again?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Anna! When you say that you used the recipes as guidance, does that mean you changed parts of them? If so, what amounts of which ingredients did you end up with? If you type the new versions up here, I can help you troubleshoot better. Finished soap batter shouldn’t be visibly oily & shouldn’t smell like that. My first thought is that you didn’t blend them long enough. My second guess could be your lye wasn’t effective. (Was it clumpy at all?) Also, did you use a digital scale? Did you insulate your soap or keep it cool? (Sorry for the 20 questions – but that helps me figure out a why!) :) There’s a chance that you can still rescue those batches: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/hot-process-hero-2/ The first ones are always tough to figure out when it’s ready to pour into molds or not. I went through about five batches before I had a success! So, I’m glad to see that you’re already looking ahead towards your next batches instead of giving up!

      • Anna says:

        I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to reply sooner!

        I made exactly 3/5s of the ingredients in the garden mint soap recipe. So for a 3 lb batch. And instead of manga butter I used shea and instead of avocado and castor oil I used sunflower and sweet almond (those were what I had). and I put all of the ingredients into a Lye calculator to readjust the lye with the different ingredients to about 5.4 oz.

        The oiliness has gone down since I’ve let them sit and cure for a few days but I still think I need to remelt them and blend them a bit more. The mint one isn’t very creamy looking (it’s very dark possibly from the olive oil)and a bit soft. The honey oat one is still a little oily. Any advice would be great!

  74. Luzvi says:

    I am a beginner too, I really nervous dealing with lye but I needed to do it. About 3 day ago I did my first soap it’s a complicated shampoo bar, then I did as well the same day is a luxury soap and I did a Castile soap next day. Honestly I love it. I am a crafter it’s suit me well. Just careful with lye.

  75. Linda says:

    Do you have a tutorial on rebatching soap? I have a bunch of commercially made soap that I would like to scent and maybe color, and would like to know how to do it.

  76. simone slater says:

    Hi there. Just wondering if you can use a plastic stemmed stick blender or is the soap too hot for that.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Simone! I’m not really sure, but I think it should be okay to use. Your stick blender might have some information in the booklet/box that came with it, as far as how temperature safe it is, or you can ask the manufacturer, but since one is often used to puree hot soups, my thought is that it should work.

  77. Jane says:

    I am new to soap making. Stumbled upon your blog. I have enjoyed reading it. Can I sub goats milk for the water in your recipes?

  78. Courtney Clough says:

    I bought your eBook-Natural Soap Making yesterday and am over-excited start making cold process soap. I went some thrift stores yesterday and found a large and small ceramic crock pot insert. Will these be OK for “cooking” the soap on the stove, or should I just buy an enamel pot? Also, what kind of cooking thermometer do you suggest? I have a very expensive one from Williams and Sonoma, but that is for candy making only. I was looking at a $5 one on Amazon.
    Thanks-Can’t wait to start!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Courtney! I use ceramic crock pot inserts all the time for mixing up soaps. I don’t think you can put them directly on a stove burner though. You can heat your oils in a regular pot, like you’d use for heating up soup or what-have-you, and then pour those warm oils into the crock pot liner and then mix them up that way. (I do that method quite often in fact!) You can use a cheap-o thermometer for soap making. You don’t have to be precise like candy making – as long as you’re in a general range of not-too-hot or not-too-cold then you’ll be good to go!

    • Jan says:

      PS: Good luck & have fun making your soap! :)

  79. Courtney says:

    Thank you! I will send you pictures when my first batch is done.

  80. aaron says:

    nerdy wife, i am attempting to make some pumpkin soap bc i have a ton leftover from halloween, thanksgving, etc. do you need the vanilla absolute for the soap receipe?
    thanks’

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