Your Go To Cold Process Basic Soap Recipe
So you have decided to start making Soap. Welcome to the world of Soap Making!
It may feel daunting and you may not know where to start. Well I’m here to help you get started to create something beautiful. Soap bars are also a beautiful personalised gift. Actually they don’t have to be bars (although my favourite) there are many different shaped moulds out there. You can find a great selection here at All About Soap!
The best advice I can give is to make sure you have everything you need close by and ready to go. Having clean and all your safety gear on is paramount. The first day of soap making is the most dangerous and working with Caustic Soda carelessly could lead to a hospital visit with burns. Don’t rush the process however you need to work efficiently.
My love for soap started when I was a young girl and would watch my grandma make soap with olive oil , caustic soda and water.. That’s it no fragrance, just like this and she would let it cure for 12 months as that is how long olive oil soap needs to cure. However my actual soap making journey started back in 2019. This is a recipe that i use and suits my preference. It’s a perfect basic recipe that you can use and as you get more experience you can adapt. And honestly when it comes to soap making you can use goat milk, camel milk, all different botanicals and essential oils.
Weights and measures need to be exact so best to use scales with decimal point, the more accurate the better. Soap making can be a temperamental process, however a beautiful product to make. We all love natural ingredients and making your own soap where you can choose your own fragrances, flowers, seeds, clays and even coffee is so satisfying. Truly the variations are endless.
So What Do you Need?
Safety Equipment & Key Notes:
This is where you make sure you are dressed well with no skin exposed. You are wearing closed toe shoes, long sleeves, safety glasses, a mask and gloves (I prefer dishwashing gloves, thick plastic ones).
Caustic soda (also known as Lye, I’ll be referring to either one throughout this post, remember it’s the same thing) is dangerous when it comes into contact with water as a chemical reaction occurs and the mix becomes extremely hot. At this stage when you mix the caustic soda and water fumes are released, best to do this process outside or at least a large room with great ventilation. Make sure no pets or children are around. Just incase they knock over the mix or even think its water and put their hands in it or your pets try and drink it. Oh that would be disastrous!!!
When you have completed the soap making process and the caustic soda mix and oil have been blended, poured into your mould and has set for 24 hours, the ‘liquid soap’ goes through a process called saponification and then becomes safe the next day to the touch and safe to use once it has fully cured 4 weeks later.
Large Stainless Steel Pot
Measuring container for Lye can be disposable
Stainless steel bowl for water and Lye mix
smaller stainless steel bowls to measure your oils.
Scales – Best is digital with decimal point
Thermometer – easiest one is the infra red laser thermometers with digital reading.
Your chosen moulds or soap loaf moulds
Rubbing Alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol) in a spray bottle
Soap cutters and knives for the following day
A big cardboard box, styrofoam box or even an old esky and and old blanket.
All the safety equipment from above.
1100g Olive Oil
650g Coconut Oil
425g Shea Butter
425g Cocoa Butter
358g Caustic Soda (Lye)
750g Distilled Water
Sodium Lactate – which is a Sodium Salt of Lactic Acid. (Optional) Perfect to add to your recipe to harden you bar of soap, especially if you are not using Palm Oil in your recipe. It will also help you easily remove your bar from Silicone Moulds. (Ratio 1/2 teaspoon per 500g of Fats/Oils)
Weigh all your solid oils (Coconut Shea and Cocoa) in the the stainless steel pot and heat til melted. Then add your olive oil to the rest of the oils. Leave to the side.
Now is the time to mask up, pop on your gloves and safety glasses.
Place your water in the stainless steel bowl, measure the Lye in the measuring cup and gently pour it into the water. Remember always the caustic soda to water. If you do it the other way around you may get splashes which could hit your face.
Stir the lye water mixture with the spatula until the lye has melted. This is when you add Sodium Lactate if you will be using it.
At this stage you are waiting for your oils to cool down to 52 Degrees Celsius and the Lye Mix to cool down to 48 degrees Celsius or cooler.
Once the temperatures are reached, pour the Lye mix into your oils and use the stick blender to blend. Remember to keep your safety gear on during this process, I also prefer to have long sleeves so added protection.
Now you are blending until the soap has thickened enough to create a trace, simply put this means the saponification of the soap has occurred. You are after a light trace where you can see it resembling a light custard/ pudding mixture.
And this is your basic soap recipe done. If you would like your soap to be plain and simple pour it into your moulds and set….. However this is where the real fun begins for me….
It’s at this point where you can mix with a whisk anything you like, such as dried flowers, activated charcoal, clays, oatmeal, titanium dioxide ( makes your soap white) or coffee to make them really your own.
Don’t go overboard with adding too much of the extras general rule of thumb is around 2 tablespoons per kilo of your oils. As an example for this recipe it would be 4-5 tablespoons. Once this has been mixed through you can then add your essential oils (my favourite) or fragrance oils.
Essential oils are added last and they are measured at 2% of the weight of the oils, so for this recipe you would use approx 50mls of essential oils.
NOW.. adding the extras shouldn’t take long as you don’t want your soap to go past the trace. If this occurs your soap seizes and becomes hard. It should still be a creamy mixture and now you gently pour into your moulds or silicone loaf.
Place in a warm place so your soap can set for 24-48 hours. Putting in a warm place will allow the soap to dry slowly at its own pace, not being too affected with the outside temperature, being too hot or too cold. This makes your soap dry through properly and evenly.
Then de mould your soap and place on a drying rack or cake cooling rack to cure for the next 4 weeks. Then they are ready for you to enjoy, give as gifts or just admire in the guest bathroom.