Soap is a basic necessity that we usually take for granted, but good soap can make a world of a difference — and homemade soap can be a whole different story. Aside from the main benefit of controlling the ingredients, homemade soap is also easy to make, healthier and cheaper than store-bought soap. Plus, that rough look you can give it can turn homemade soap into a small object of luxury.
If you want to learn how to make your own soap with your favorite fragrances and textures, below we’ll share with you both the know-how and our go-to recipes for reference. But first, the basics:
What Is Soap & How Do You Make It?
At its core, soap is the result of a reaction called saponification, which occurs between fats and lye. There are two basic ways to make soap: the cold process and the melt and pour.
The cold process involves creating the chemical reaction between oils and lye. Because it is corrosive, using lye can be dangerous for beginners. Specifically, it can cause harm to your eyes, skin and mucous membranes. So, if you choose to make soap with lye, make sure to wear protective equipment when handling it and that you do so in a well-ventilated room. Also note that this process will require more equipment and will take longer to yield results.
The melt and pour is a process that relies on a pre–made soap base. This is recommended for beginners because it is safer and simpler to follow, while still being a very creative process. Before you get started, ensure the soap is natural by checking the ingredients of the soap base and purchasing it from a trustworthy store.
Because this is our preferred method for homemade soap, below are the tools and ingredients you need to create melt–and–pour soap, as well as some of our favorite recipes.
What Do I Need to Make Soap?
For a basic soap, first get a soap base, which can be transparent or white. Transparent works great with fresh soaps, while white — which is usually made with coconut milk or oat milk — is creamier.
Depending on the scent you want for your soap, you’ll also need one or more essential oils. You may also choose to add natural coloring or other additives. These can include coarser materials for scrubs, fresh or dried flowers, and more.
Finally, you’ll need a whisk, soap molds and a double boiler. If you don’t have the latter, you can improvise by using a pot with boiling water and another heat-resistant bowl on top, similar to what is used to make a Bain Marie.
Our Favorite Recipes
Now, for the fun part, we’ve selected three of our favorite soap recipes for you to try:
Lavender is a popular plant with a pleasant fragrance and therapeutic, calming properties. For a creamy lavender soap, purchase a creamy soap base with either coconut milk, oat milk or even goat milk — these are usually enriched with nutrients that help nourish your skin. Then, cut the base into smaller squares and set them to melt in your double boiler. Make sure the heat is not too high so as not to cook the base, and keep stirring the base to distribute the heat evenly.
While the base is melting, add in a few drops of lavender essential oil. Use between four and eight drops depending on how much of the base you melted, or simply rely on the fragrance to make sure you add enough.
Then, on the base of the soap molds, add broken-up buds of dried lavender flowers. Alternatively, you could also add the base to the molds first and sprinkle dried lavender on top to create a more rustic, beautiful soap. This one might have some fallout, but it will look very pleasing. Finally, leave the soap base to dry in the molds. Take it out when it has cooled and is solid.
- Fresh Lemon & Thyme Soap
A fresh soap is great for summertime and the perfect addition to the kitchen sink to freshen up your hands after doing the dishes. This recipe combines two amazing smells: lemon and thyme. Thyme purifies the skin and reduces fatigue, and lemon tones and helps clean greasier skin while also nourishing it. Lemon peel also has a brightening effect on the skin.
For this recipe, it’s best to use a clear soap base. Cut it into pieces and set it to melt just like in the previous recipe. Next, add a few drops of lemon essential oil. Also, finely cut some fresh thyme leaves (dried leaves work, as well, but will have a different fragrance). Use the zest of a lemon and mix it in with the thyme. Then, place the mixture at the base of your molds and pour the melted soap on top. Mix the base and additives with a toothpick so the mixture is evenly spread throughout the soap. Let it cool to set.
- Cinnamon & Oats Exfoliant Soap
A healthy and natural exfoliant, oats are great for homemade soaps. Thanks to the properties of cinnamon and the mechanic effect of oats, this recipe stimulates blood circulation and helps tone the skin. For the base, a creamy oat milk or goat milk soap works best, especially if it contains additional nourishing elements. Once again, cut the base into smaller squares and set them to melt.
Note that if your skin is easily irritated or if you are allergic to cinnamon, this recipe is not for you. In that case, use another spice — or, for a more calming version, use honey.
For this recipe, add a few drops of cinnamon essential oil, as well as a couple of teaspoons of ground cinnamon, and mix it into the base while it’s melting. Next, add some of the rolled oats into the mixture, while setting the rest at the bottom of your soap molds. Pour the mixture on top of the oats and let it cool.
These recipes are inexpensive and easy to make, especially if you already have essential oils at home. You can also add natural coloring to fit your theme, such as purple for lavender or bronze for cinnamon. This step is completely optional, though, as both the clear and the milky bases look beautiful in the raw combinations described above.
If you don’t have these exact ingredients at home, there are many alternative recipes. Just be sure to research which ingredients go together and which don’t. With this DIY soap, you can control the ingredients more easily to make sure it’s all–natural and healthy. Plus, homemade soap makes for great gifts, too, especially for your fellow DIY– and nature–lovers.