Before you can begin making soap at home, you need to gather some specific pieces of essential equipment.
Below, I’ve assembled a list of must-have tools for soapmaking, followed by a couple of extras that are also useful to have on hand.
LEARN TO USE HERBS & FLOWERS IN SOAP
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This doesn’t have to be super expensive. Check the kitchen supplies section of local stores. THIS is the kind I use and the one shown in the photo above.
All soapmaking oils, liquids and lye should be weighed and not measured by volume. Weight doesn’t always equal volume. For example, in the case of olive oil, 8 ounces (by volume) poured into a 1 cup measuring cup actually weighs much differently when using a scale. If you use a measuring cup instead of a scale for your oils or lye, your soap could end up overly oily, or worse, lye-heavy, creating an unsafe product.
There’s a pretty wide range of temperatures that the lye solution and oils can be before mixing them together. Depending on the recipe and which soapmaker you ask, this can vary anywhere from room temperature to 125°F (52°C).
To keep track of the temperature of your lye solution and oils, you’ll need an accurate thermometer. While I got by for many years with a simple candy making thermometer, like THIS ONE, an infrared laser thermometer, like THIS, is light years easier to use and highly recommended!
3. Immersion Blender (Stick Blender)
While you can stir soap by hand for a long time (sometimes hours!), an immersion blender, also called a stick blender, will cut the mixing time down to a matter of minutes. THIS is the kind that I personally use; I had the same one last over 10 years and it’s still going! Inexpensive stick blenders from local stores are usually fine to start with, but if you decide you enjoy soapmaking, you’ll probably want to invest in a stick blender that’s a little more durable.
4. Containers for Measuring & Mixing Lye
Weigh out the dry lye (sodium hydroxide) needed for your recipe in small disposable bath cups or a designated small container clearly marked with the word LYE.
Since the lye solution can shoot up to over 200°F (93°C) at first, it’s best to avoid a glass container for mixing the lye and water together, even if it’s heavy-duty. Lye can etch places in glass over time, causing weak points that are prone to breakage. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people who had a glass container shatter on them while making soap! If you still feel the need to use glass, I suggest working in your kitchen sink to better contain any potential accidents.
Instead of glass, use stainless steel or heavy-duty plastic which should have a recycle #5 symbol on the bottom of the container.
5. Containers for Mixing the Soap Batter
I’ve used all sorts of things from a Tupperware pitcher, the ceramic liner of an old CrockPot, an enamel lined soup pot, a stainless steel pot, and a Pyrex mixing pitcher. Since the lye solution has cooled by the the time you start mixing, it’s okay to use heavy duty glass at this point.
Currently, I’ve settled on using Encore Mix N Measure containers from the paint section of my local home improvement store.
The 2 1/2 quart containers are perfect for mixing up a batch of soap; my recipes are usually around 2.5 pounds, containing around 28 to 30 ounces of oil.
The 1 quart containers are good for mixing lye solutions, and also for mixing up mini test batches of soap.
Don’t use aluminum or anything with a non-stick surface (Teflon), since they’ll have a negative reaction to the soap batter.
6. Heavy Duty Plastic or Silicone Spoons & Spatulas
These are used for stirring the lye (sodium hydroxide) into the water or other liquid, and for stirring the soap batter as needed. You can find all sorts of options in the kitchenwares section of local stores. Look for heavy duty plastic or silicone, avoiding anything with aluminum.
7. Gloves & Goggles
These two pieces of safety gear are an absolute must. Even after 16 years of making soap, I still wear them and find them useful. Just this past summer, I accidentally splashed a bunch of raw soap batter on my face. I was so grateful for my goggles or else I would’ve been rushing to an emergency visit with my eye doctor. Never get too complacent in this department! I look for safety glasses/goggles that are specifically meant for working with chemicals (LIKE THESE). Regular eye glasses don’t really offer much protection.
To protect your hands, use disposable latex or nitrile gloves, or look for dishwashing gloves in the cleaning section of local stores. I like THESE KIND because they can be used multiple times and also because they extend almost up to my elbows, keeping my forearms protected.
In the past I recommended soapers wear long sleeves too. After accidentally dumping a mold filled with raw soap batter all over the front of me though, I found that the long sleeves were actually a hindrance and smeared more batter across my skin as I struggled to get out of it. I no longer specifically recommend long sleeves, but other respected experts do, so I’ll let you decide on that point.
8. Soap Molds
Virtually all of my soap recipes will fill a Crafter’s Choice Regular Silicone Loaf Mold (you can buy one HERE). If you can’t buy a mold yet, use an empty rinsed milk carton instead. You could also line a sturdy shoe box with a trash bag, or check out the baking section of local stores for silicone loaf pans.
I also have a list of 15+ decorative soap molds for when you’re ready to get more adventurous with soapmaking!
Mesh Teaspoon – This is an exceptional tool for making pencil line designs in soap. Just scoop cocoa powder or your desired colorant, into the spoon and gently sift over soap layers. I bought mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Strainer with Funnel – I get so many questions and comment about my funnel/strainer set. I bought it from Mountain Rose Herbs and it’s perfect for straining infused oils and herbal teas for soapmaking!