How to make handcrafted soap: the most useful tips

I’ve found making soap to be extremely addictive and one of the most wonderfully rewarding creative hobbies. Below you’ll find all of the information you need to get started, along with the basic soap recipe that I’ve made dozens of times.

After you have mastered the basic cold process technique below, I recommend that you take it a step further by adding interesting things like in my lavender and mint soap or the pretty pink clay soap which are both totally natural.

It’s then possible to go even further by creating your own unique soap from scratch using my calculator and formulation guide.

You also have some other techniques for soap making, such or my recent liquid soap tutorial. Or there’s the hot process soap which is quicker than cold process and less volatile, but perhaps not as pretty. And finally, you have the simplest form of soapmaking known as the melt & pour process if you want to make soap without using lye.

It’s Far Cheaper Than Store-bought

Long before I started making my own soap, I knew that the cold process method would be the most authentic and difficult to master. But once I got the hang of it I quickly realized the total cost to make several months worth of homemade soap bars was far cheaper than buying the chemical cocktails from the store.

Since then I’ve created, photographed, and videoed many soaps. And even built my own lye calculator complete with formulation guide to help you create on your own recipes.

The Basic Supplies & Equipment

Once I learned how to make homemade soap I quickly realized that because you have total control over what goes into your recipe, you can avoid using any ingredients that do not suit your skin.

The full rundown of items that I recommend can be found at wholesale soap supplies and equipment. Some of them you will have already, some you can make and some you will need to purchase.

These items are not very expensive, so your setup costs to start making soap at home will not break the bank! To begin with, here’s a list of what’s required.

Safety Before You Begin

A lot of folks express concern around the cold process procedure and ingredients, in particular, the dangers of working with Lye, and yes you do want to take some precautions whenever you handle it. Lye is the most common alkali used for making soap. Its official name is sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and is also known widely as caustic soda.

Having said that, all that’s required is a bit of common-sense, which you already have otherwise you would not be reading through this guide!

Important things to remember when working with Lye

  1. All of the soapmaking recipes on Savvyhomemade allow 5% superfatting. This ensures correct saponification (the chemical reaction that creates soap) making sure there is zero free caustic alkali remaining and a good ph balance is achieved. As long as you have measured your ingredients correctly you have nothing to worry about. To be sure always test it using a ph strip to make sure it is somewhere between 7-10.

  2. Make sure you are making this in a well-ventilated area. Put on protective eyewear, mask, apron, and long rubber gloves to protect the eyes and skin. Should you get some on your skin rinse with vinegar before washing it off using water.

  3. Once you add the Lye to water it creates a small chemical reaction, some choking fumes will rise from your bowl. This is the area that concerns most people, but all you need to do is keep your face away from these fumes while you stir the mixture and try to not breathe them in. You could use a mask here if you want. I wrap a scarf around my nose and mouth and that’s probably sufficient, as the fumes only last a few moments.

  4. Never leave your soap mixture unattended, this is a big no-no, especially if you have children or pets in your home.

  5. When cleaning your soap pot, allow the mixture to solidify and scrape it into a bag to be sealed and disposed of. Keep your gloves on when cleaning and add some vinegar to your washing up water to help thoroughly clean your utensils.

  6. Don’t be tempted to use your diy soap until you are sure that it has cured, if in doubt test it with a ph strip to make sure it is somewhere between 7-10. If you made a mistake and after 4 weeks it measures above 10 don’t just throw it away as you can rebatch it.

For more reading on this subject take a look at SoapQueens in-depth guide on working with Lye which is definitely worth a read.

Adjusting The Volume Of Your Scent

You can adjust the scent volume here up to 3% of all the oils and water added together. Anything over 3% would be very strong depending on the oils you are using, so I recommend starting at 2%.

Below is a good old fashioned recipe that makes a great base for any fragrance, colorants and exfoliates that you may wish to add. If making your own recipe, remember to use the lye calculator and formulation guide to get the correct volumes.