Sunday, 16 June 2013

Do you make your own soap?

I imagine that most readers who have found my blog already make their own soap but, if there is anyone out there who hasn't taken the plunge, let me give you some encouragement to have a go at making your first batch. If you do, I can almost guarantee that it won't be your last.

Now let me start off by saying that I am no expert when it comes to making soap and just make basic soap. My family likes using it and it is nice to know just what exactly is in a product we wash ourselves with.

I was encouraged to have a try at making soap after reading about the process in Rhonda's book, 'Down to Earth' and you can find tutorials and other hints about soap making here on her blog. When Rhonda explains the process she warns about the dangers of using caustic soda and rightfully so. So... when I got over my paranoia about handling such a potentially dangerous product and telling myself that I was still alive after changing dozens of dirty nappies when my children were babies, I collected all the ingredients and made my first batch and was surprised to find how easy it actually was.

Firstly I made sure I added the caustic soda TO the water and not the other way around...

heated up the oil...

and when the temperatures of both the oil and caustic soda + water were around 50 degrees I added the caustic soda to the oil very carefully to avoid splashing...

Then it is just a matter of using a stick blender until it reaches 'trace' ...

getting there...

Once it reaches 'trace' then just pour it into your moulds...

I got a bit carried away with spreading the soap out with a fork!

Then put the soap to bed for the night by wrapping it in a couple of towels.

The next morning turn it out of the moulds and admire your handiwork. The bits on the right of the photo will be added to water and used for hand washing. The soap now needs to be dried out for six weeks to harden.

I had bought a new stamp and wanted to try it out but I really needed a flat surface for that so had a few disasters when I tried it on the raised surfaces of the heart shaped cakes of soap. Next time I will use a different flat mould.
 These are the moulds I have. As far as I am concerned, the cakes of soap which I find most comfortable to use are made in the purple rose mould as it is a round shape and fits nicely in my hand.  I recently picked up the red heart mould at The Reject Shop and it may become a favourite shape too. The clear moulds were bought online from Aussie Soap Supplies. These moulds need to be put into the freezer for an hour or so before turning out otherwise it is difficult to release the soap. However there is no such problem with the silicone moulds.
So there you have it. As I said, I am no expert but it is fun making your own soap. My first batch was made using the recipe in the Down to Earth book and contained coconut oil, rice bran oil and olive oil. However, coconut oil can be a bit expensive to buy so I now use copha instead. In the first photo in my post I used  copha, rice bran oil and olive oil for all of the soap except for the white cake which was from a batch made without the rice bran oil.
One thing that I have noticed during all the wet weather we have had is that the soap becomes sticky and wet but it dries out as soon as the humidity has gone. Also, as there are no chemical hardeners in this soap, don't leave it on a bathroom sink where it might be sitting in water or it will go soggy.
If you haven't already done so then have a go at making soap. Take the warnings about handling caustic soda seriously and protect your eyes, wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt. You will be amazed at how easy it is to do and will be pleasantly surprised I am sure. If you have any problems come and join us on the Down to Earth forum as many of the members there make their own soap and are always happy to help.


  1. Hi Nanna Chel,

    I have had the fixings in my cupboard for quite a while since reading Rhonda Jean's posts about soap making but haven't quite worked up the courage to do it. Your's do look great, how long roughly did the the mixing part take? Did you find it difficult to measure out the ingredients?

    So, have a lovely Sunday.


  2. So easy............ Yet to make my second batch. School hols coming up.

  3. Yes Deb, isn't it easy? Once you have made it you wonder why you took so long to get round to it.

    Barb,I used digital scales to weigh the ingredients and it wasn't a problem at all. It usually takes about 20 mins for the caustic soda/water mixture to get down to about 50 degrees so once I have started that off I heat my oil. If your oil happens to be hotter than your caustic soda mixture once the latter is at 50 degrees you can always put your saucepan of oil in cold water but you can't reheat the caustic soda mixture. Then once the caustic soda is added to the oil I find it only takes a couple of minutes till it comes to trace when using my stick blender. A few times I have thought that I didn't beat long enough and the mixture got really thick.

    Have a go. You will be amazed at how easy it is.

    1. Yes, I will need to invest in a set of digital scales to make sure I get it right. Thanks for your advice. Hopefully I'll have something to show soon (perhaps after our trip to Tassie brrr).

      Isn't it fresh this morning? We got down to 2.8C here, but it must have been lower where you are. Hope it warms up quickly.

      Have a great day.
      Regards, Barb

    2. Barb, according to the BOM it was 3.6C degrees here. A veritable heatwave! LOL! Enjoy your trip to Tassie and all the best with your soap making efforts when you get back.

  4. You make it look so easy thanks for the step by step photos - I love the look of your results. Well done Nanna Chel.

  5. Yvonne, it is easy and I am waiting to see what your first batch of soap looks like. LOL!

  6. This is now on my to-do list. Your's look lovely.

    1. I can't wait to see what you come up with, Shiralee. There are lots of things you can add to soap once you get the hang of it but I just keep mine basic. I'm not terribly adventurous!

  7. I really must try this :) I have put it off and put it off, but your soap looks so good. Thanks for sharing with us :)


  8. Hello, and thanks for reminding me I need to make another batch!

  9. Hello from me too. Thanks for calling in. You have a very interesting blog.

  10. I haven't made soap but it is at the top of the list to do because we have very sensitive skin and the good stuff cost a fortune. I have a small soap book and have seen tutorials but your guide has has simplified it even more and not made me so afraid of caustic soda.

  11. Zena, it isn't hard to make if you follow Rhonda's tutorial. You just have to be careful with the caustic soda but once you have overcome your fear it is a lot of fun and before you know it you will be an old hand. I have done an updated post with several soap recipes included if you want to check that one out If you have calendulas growing you can infuse some oil with the petals and make soap for your sensitive skin.

  12. I hadn't even considered making my own soap until I started reading the Simply Living forums. But the steps to make soap sound so simple and straightforward.. easy to follow. So i'm going to consider it, probably start doing it in the new year. It would definitely save me money... and i'd love to experiment with smells and use my lavendar, mint and other herbs and flowers I have for different smells. But first, i'll do the simple soaps until I have the process right and am used to doing it on a regular basis.

  13. Welcome Damaria. I am no expert but have made quite a few batches now. I did put the 'recipes' I have used which are pretty much all from the DTE forum in one post on my blog. It should come up if you click on the 'soap' label at the bottom of the homepage. I look forward to reading about your soap adventures.


Thanks so much for leaving your comments as I love to hear from my readers. As soon as I check them they will be published. If for some reason you have trouble leaving a comment feel free to email me directly by filling out the 'Contact Me' form on the sidebar at the right.


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