How To Make Homemade Soap From Scratch

You can make your own natural, affordable and beautifully fragrant soaps at home.

August 7, 2017
making soap
PHOTOGRAPH BY MEGHAN CAUDILL

There are plenty of reasons to make your own soap. It's less wasteful when it comes to the plastic and paper-packaged stuff you buy at the store. And as oppose to commercially produced soap, you can make it with natural ingredients and fragrances that are better for your skin and better for the planet. Plus, you'll save money in the long term and a batch will last you for months. 

The recipe below uses coconut oil and olive oil as a base. We've used coffee grounds and oat bran in this batch, which act as a natural scrub and also impart a lovely fragrance.

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A note about soap chemistry

The other key ingredient in soap making is lye, which is sodium hydroxide (a salt). No commercial or homemade soap can be made without it. While caustic to skin and clothing, don't be alarmed by its inclusion—it is necessary to any soap making, and is essentially a chemical reaction between the lye and the oils used. When combined, the reaction is called 'saponification'. Once the soap is made and cured, they is no lye left in the finished bar, only the natural ingredients you used to make the soap. 

Related: 6 Worst Ingredients in SoapAnd What To Look For Instead

While the setup and all the equipment below may seem a little complicated, don't be afraid to push on! With some common kitchen equipment and a few ingredients, it takes less than an hour for months' worth of soap. Plus, you have the added satisfaction of having crafted something yourself. 

You could omit the coffee in this recipe and use finely ground walnut shells instead, or simply use oat bran instead of coffee. You can also experiment with a few drops of essential oils, such as vanilla, almond, lavender, or peppermint. You can buy both plain and patterned soap molds on Amazon

Related: How To Make Your Own Shampoo With Ingredients You Have In Your Kitchen

soap ingredients
Equipment + Ingredients

Kitchen scale
Stainless steel thermometer
Gloves, protective eyewear, face mask
Hand blender
Stainless steel pot
Mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Stainless steel spoon
Silicone spatula
Soap mold
Parchment paper
Towel

INGREDIENTS

Coconut oil
Olive oil
Lye (sodium hydroxide)
Coffee
Coffee grounds
Oat bran

**Note: Any containers or utensils that come into contact with Sodium Hydroxide should be kept for soap-making purposes only.

 
making soap
Measure + Mix

+ Using a kitchen scale, weigh out 8.48 oz coconut oil in a stainless steel pot.

+ In a bowl, measure 12.48 oz olive oil.

+ In a second bowl, measure 7.9 oz coffee.

+ Measure 3.22 oz lye in a third bowl.

+ Measure out 1 tablespoon coffee grounds and 1/3 cup oat bran in a fourth bowl; set aside.

+ Put on protective gear, and make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. Add the lye to the coffee, and stir to dissolve. (Always add lye to liquid, not the other way around.) This will start a chemical reaction, and the mixture will get quite hot. Set aside. You may remove eyewear and face mask at this point, but gloves should remain on.

Related: How To Make Your Own DIY All-Natural Bath Bombs

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making soap
Emulsify

+ Melt coconut oil over low heat until no solids remain. Add olive oil.

+ Using a stainless steel thermometer, check the temperature of the oils. Compare against the temperature of the lye solution, and adjust until they’re within a degree or two or each other, between 100 and 110 degrees. 

+ Pour the lye solution into the oils, and use a hand or stick blender to emulsify until the mixture begins to thicken and the texture resembles pudding. This process will take 5 to 10 minutes with a stick blender.

+ Once the soap has thickened, stir in the coffee grounds and oat bran with the stainless steel spoon or spatula.

soap mold
Pour + Rest

Slowly pour the mixture into a soap mold. Lift and tap the mold against the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Cover with parchment paper, and then wrap the entire mold with a towel to insulate it.

making soap
Remove from mold

After 24 to 48 hours, remove the towel, and take the soap out of the mold. If you used a large single mold rather than individual molds, let the soap loaf sit for another day to harden further before cutting into bars. Any sharp knife will work here. A vegetable peeler can be used to smooth sides, if desired.

Related: How To Make Your Own Natural Perfume In 3 Easy Steps

 
 
making soap
Cure

After the soap is cut into bars, you’ll need to let them cure in a cool and well-ventilated area for four weeks. This allows the soap to finish saponification and for all the excess water to evaporate. Before you know it you will be able to enjoy your soap!