How to Make Your Own Soap

Make Your Own SoapBeing self-sufficient doesn't just mean having enough food to provide for yourself. It also means being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle - which means staying clean! Making your own soap is a great way to save money and be self-sufficient. You can even add your own ingredients to customize the soap to your family’s needs.

Soap making can be dangerous
Before you start making and using your own soap, please remember that soap making can be dangerous. If the contents are prepared, weighed or measured incorrectly, they can prove dangerous. Please take caution when preparing your own soap.

• 6.9 oz Lye (sodium hydroxide)
• 2 cups Distilled Water (refrigerated)
• 2 cups Canola Oil
• 2 cups Coconut Oil
• 2 cups Palm Oil
Needed Supplies
• Goggles
• Gloves
• Face Mask
• A mold for the soap (an old cake loaf, large PVC pipe, etc.)
• Plastic wrap or wax paper
• Large glass bowl
• Wooden spoon for mixing
• 2 thermometers
• Stainless steel or cast iron pot
• Hand held stick blender (optional)

1. Put on the goggles and gloves and make sure that you are working in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.

2. Prepare your molds by lining them with plastic wrap or wax paper. Set them aside.

3. Slowly add the lye to the cold, distilled water in a glass bowl. Do not add the water to the lye. Stir continually as you are adding the lye. Stir until the lye is completely dissolved. Place a thermometer into the glass bowl and allow the mixture to cool to around 110 F. (The chemical reaction of adding lye to the water will cause the mixture to heat.)

4. While the lye is cooling, combine the oils in a pot on medium heat and stir well until they are melted together. Place a separate thermometer in the pot and allow the mixture to cool to 110 F.

5. Carefully pour the lye mixture into the oil mixture in a small, consistent stream, stirring continually the make sure the lye and oils mix properly. Continue to stir by hand or with a hand held stick blender. Stir until the mixture has a consistency of thin pudding. This may take anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes, so be patient.

6. Once it has reached the right consistency, carefully pour it into the molds and let it sit for a few hours.

7. After you’ve let the mixture sit for a few hours, test it by poking it. If it’s congealed enough that it doesn’t melt back into itself once prodded, it’s good. You can then cut the soap with a table knife into bars. Let the bars sit for a few days, still inside the mold.

8. After a few days, remove the soap and place on brown paper (grocery bags) in a dark area. Wait 4 weeks before using.

Customizable Soap

While you’re stirring the soap mixture you can add other items to add variety and customize your soap.

For example, if you add dyes at that time, you can change the color. You can also add essential oils or oats for texture. Comment below to share what you’d add to your soap bar! Provide your tips and tricks.

The Self-Sufficiency Handbook

53 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own Soap”

  • Melissa Haas

    I have been a soap maker for 6 years. I would recommend fully studying the hazards, the warnings, all about lye it's self and what to do when things go wrong.... BEFORE you make your first batch. I have not had any mishaps other then a few speck splatter on my face..... and running to quickly wash them off... but my friend's son was put into an induced comma and could have died after a soap accident..... and she knew full well all the info before starting..... yes women did this in the old days, but they studied too... don't just jump in.

  • Tommy

    The 6.9 oz Lye (sodium hydroxide) is that by weight or volume. When indicating OZ it can be used in measurement both ways!

  • Sayldog

    Good luck finding these ingredients when SHTF. Like "refrigerated, distilled water"? I came here thinking I was going to learn the recipe for soap making as our forefathers made it - lye from ash and oil from animal fat. Oh well, I'm pretty sure I have that process filed in my survival library.

  • Dnola

    I too found the article pretty useless, having nothing to do with survival and more to do with hobby activities. I am finding more and more poorly researched articles here in the Ready Store. You guys need to find the facts before putting it on your blog otherwise it all begins to be seen as invaluable or unbelievable. Get some new writers.

  • Andrea

    I used to make my own soap all the time because my boys would get really dry skin and I couldn't find anything on the market which would help.

    You don't need distilled water, nor does it need to be cold. I always mixed my water and lye outside and let it steam off (as soon as you mix the 2 you get a big steam/fume cloud) once that's gone, I'd mix that with my oils.

    You can use any oils to make soap, I often used a mixture of olive oil and bacon grease for soap. You need to render the bacon fat, by boiling it in water, letting it harden and then you scrape any bits off it. You may have to do this a few times depending on how well you strain it after cooking the bacon. (you can do this with any animal fat) of course if there's no power you might just use what you have without this step.

    When you mix the ingredients you're looking for the consistency of pudding before pouring it into a mold. The easier mold to use is a cardboard box lined with wax paper. One of those boxes which hold 4 soda 6 packs is perfect. A couple shoe boxes would work too. You want it an inch deep or so, deeper will make it a longer time to cure.

    The biggest thing is your ratio of water/lye to oils to get a successful batch. There are tons of places on the web where you can get some basic recipes. Including how to make potash/lye from your fire ashes

  • tlmntim9

    I agree, best if you leave such useless advice to the Oprah show or ladies home journal.

  • Matt Christian

    I used to watch my grandma make lye soap. She didn't use a barrel like below, but the rest is similar. She made her lye in the scalding pot and filtered out the remaining ash, not as neat as these processed but it worked.

    Making lye soap from hard wood ash is not rocket science. Here are a couple sites which detail the process well.
    ------------------- or -----------------

  • rk

    thanks where does one purchase lye

  • DG

    I would guess that you are supposed to have your dehumidifier (for distilled water) and your refrigerator hooked up to the solar-powered generators sold by the Ready Store -- they are supposed to be able to supply energy for these appliances! ;)

  • Cheryl

    Sure, it would be nice to learn the original way to make soap, but that doesn't make this article useless. As far as the refrigerated water, I've never refrigerated my water. I use tap water and it works just fine. Water from a storage container would work just as well.

    To get lye, try going to a hardware store. Just make sure it's pure lye you're getting and not some newfangled drain cleaning solution they've come up with. Another way to get it is to go online to soap making supply houses and purchase it from them. I know some "soap making" companies simply offer the melt and pour varieties of products, but keep looking and you'll find what you need. And by the way, that's what I call hobby activities. Melt and pour soap making is no more soap making than making a cake with a cake mix.

    Sayldog, rather than being derogatory, you might consider sharing your information, when you find it, with others here.

    Dnola, it's not particularly useless information, it just requires someone to be prepared with the items beforehand. But then...this site is all about being prepared, so just be prepared with the makings of your soap. And then, get with Sayldog to get a recipe for when you run out of the necessary items.

  • lk

    Thank you for this information. While others do not think it is for survival, They need to remember that death thrives in filth. People started living longer once they started cleaning and washing.

  • joanne ryan

    why be so negative? i have all these things stored in my emergency supplies for SHTF! You could do the same, and when these run out if things aren't better then i go to the ash recipe,i'm not doing it unless i have to!

  • Ken

    I find this info most interesting, my grandmother (b. 1885) made her own soap. Recalling a box of soap bricks that we avoided using, nothing fancy added. Sorry, I cannot see my grandmother using goggles and mask.

    Because of the grandmother's soap making, I have seriously referenced soap making with being very self sufficient. We can make everything, yet, there is a trade-off with how much time we have when we opt for full self sufficiency. The opposite end of the spectrum is the availability of pre-made salads, shredded cheese, etc. in the grocery stores.

  • Dennis

    Good info. However, my wife and i shower every day and use a bar of soap every two months. That's six bars a year. Just bought 30 bars plus dish soap and shower jel to last 7 years. If things don't work out by then I'll walk around smelling. I made lye soap with my grandma years ago and its not hard but can burn the heck out of your if your not careful. Didn't smell good either. Good luck to all and God help us all.

  • K. R.

    Thank you for posting this. It's always better to have another set of instructions, for troubleshooting.

  • Matt

    My granny made Lye soap in a scalding pot with white hardwood ashes and Tallow or Lard. Google wood ash lye soap, and have fun!

  • MattC

    My granny used to make lye soap using a scalding pot, a pile of hardwood ash that were white made from a HOT fire. Some rain water, a scalding pot, and Lard or Tallow.

    It's not rocket science. Google 'wood ash lye soap' and you'll be happy.

  • Elaine

    I make soap all the time. While distilled water is optimal, obviously it's not the only kind to use. Regular water can also be used, but may affect the soap in minor ways. Practice making it with this recipe, then do a small batch with tap eater to see if it makes any difference. I use an olive oil recipe for face soap, and it is fabulous!

  • Sonny

    Distilled water would be hard to obtain when the SHTF and I will just have to use well water which comes out of the ground at around mid to high forties regardless of the season. I for one thank you for this recipe! Extracting oils from lavendar or any scented flower would go well in these soaps.

  • Old Doc Ben

    While I concur this article does not work well when SHTF but it is knowledge and knowledge is th key to any survival scenario. Take what you can from this and move onto your next preparation.

  • JT

    I agree, why be negative? I think an article like this is good NOW so folks can try it a time or two before TSHTF. Do you want to be making soap while also worrying about other stuff in an emergency situation? Get your supplies and make a few batches now so you have "been there, done that"!

  • lyndad

    I want to try it with lavender and oatmeal.

  • DRB

    In defense of Ready Store I don't have a problem with distilled or deionized water, I can make my own. As with much of the advice given on any SHTF sites. We all have a brain....there are gaps in many instructions/ideas. Fill them in. I appreciate the Ready Store. They give ideas and I'll run with them...Thanks Ready Store.

  • CBoord

    I've made soap three times using a similar recipe. The first was perfect, the second a disaster, and the third I just managed to salvage. I bought my lye online, be careful if you buy it at Ace or any other hardware store. Be sure it isn't a Draino-type product that has additives in it. I still have some lye on hand that I can use to make soap using olive oil or lard. In a shtf situation you'll use whatever water you have. If you have the capability, I suppose you could boil it to make it purer.

  • AmericanRight

    The recipe is great, thank you.

    I have always made my soap from measured recipes and not from weighted ones. I don't own a little scale and because I make the soap for my family and not professionally I prefer these types of recipes. You can also use goats milk in place of the water which makes a really nice soap.

    I never use distilled water and have never had a problem with my soap.

    Thanks for posting a basic recipe which may get some people to try making it, then they can go for the fantastical recipe's!

  • Mike

    I agree with the other comments- both positive and negative. Yes, I thought it would show how to make soap from common ingredients. My question is, if you're going to buy lye from Ace Hardware to add to your emergency kit, why not just buy more soap? The problem is the eventually you'll run out of both.

    I do appreciate all the 'How To' articles, though.

  • Angel

    Info for the negative posters---
    If you were to make soap as they used to- with lye made from ashes. . .2 things-- it will take you about 2 to 6 wks to make the lye, which is more like potassium hydroxide & will net you a Soft soap, unless you are prepared to add about 2 lbs or more of salt to the mix before you pour it in the mold. . . So stock up on salt if you want a hard bar of soap made with lye from wood ash. . .

    Making soap as they did, will take you about a month before you even start making soap--- Make a lye hopper, leach the lye, save all the animal fats you can (from cooked food and rendering fresh fat. . .) Then you "clean" the fats before using.
    Also soap was "cooked" in a large pot outside--- then after you make the soap, it still needs to "cure" for at least 4 weeks!

    In times of need, better to stock up on a case of 1 lb jars of Sodium Hydroxide (sold as drain cleaner/ 100% lye at Ace Hardware). And assorted cooking oils, lard and shortening with or without animal fats. . . Much easier to store that way.

    You can go to Youtube now, and search "Making lye from wood ash"

  • Mike

    Just a note here--

    You get Distilled water by boiling water, and allowing it to cool. Then simply put it in a jug & stick it in a cooler or fridge-- geez. . Simplicity- at its finest. Some people really need to do their own research, and not be so negative. Well water or rain water works well too!

    • David M McGregor

      No distilled water is pure water with no mineral content derived by boiling water in a still (yes similar to a wiskey still) catching the evaporated water funneling it through a hose. Through a cooling coil and accumulating it in a glass, stainless steel, orno leachable plastic to keep it from dsolving sedimens or mineral back into it. Distilled water is PURE water thers is a difference.

  • Mrs Britt

    I think there are better ways of making soap without lye, for instance, using goat milk. Lots of small time businesses are making just that now, and its done without rendering down any kind of animal fat, and solely with goat milk...there are even some recipes that include only 4 ingredients..and its widely available.

  • Freddie

    @Sayldog & @Dnola

    Maybe there is a difference between homesteading and survival? I think this was a fine article that I could actually use. And I'm sure the soap would be fine if you just used cold water but it's ideal if you use distilled water.

  • Wade

    Try geting "soap" from the boidiesel folks. It is a waste product from the process. Some have buckets around they will give you or charge pennys, just to defray expenses. The kind I get is liquid & can be used the way you get it. I haven't found anything it won't clean. Makes my hands so smooth, the wife will even let me touch her.

  • Selina

    Thanks for the great recipe and warnings. I make my own laundry, dishwasher and dish soap at the moment. However, that is just a "cost saving" measure for me. I'm a beginner at this SHTF stuff, so any and all suggestions on how to make or prepare everyday things like soap is very welcome! Thank you! As for the negative posters here...really? Why not add a suggestion or a helpful hint? Could be you don't have any and just want to be spoon-fed all of your info? Probably... SMH

  • Chuck

    For all the negative people -

    No where in the title does it say "Make Soap after the Zombie Apocalypse", it just says "Make Your Own Soap". Get a grip. If you didn't like the information, move on. Not every article, video, picture, etc. deserves a bunch of people crying about how horrible the information is.

    I've had about enough of the negative, argumentative comments on every single website I visit these days. What happened to the old rule - if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. People put a lot of time and effort in to things like this and don't need to be torn apart for it.

    We all wonder why things are falling apart in this country, and yet all I see is anger, selfishness and arrogance everywhere I look. People are so quick to attack each other for every little detail they don't like. Instead of calling something "useless" why not say "Thanks, but could you also post info about..." instead?

    If the need for these skills does arise we will all need to work together to get by. Feedback like the kind several of the first posters presented is the only thing "useless" here.

    Hack, bite, poke, tear, no wonder people are losing their minds. The Internet give us all the ability to anonymously attack other people with no fear of repercussion which turns a lot of people in to tough guys and bullies. Many of these same people would never speak up when face to face with the person they so readily attack online, or would at least be polite when presenting their opinion.

    We all need to take a step back and think about the skills we need to use if an emergency arises, either long term or short. However, we need to study and practice the so-called people skills right along with hunting, canning, first aid, and even soap making. If we all can't get along we will all falter and fail.

    The Golden Rule is just as important as it was 100 years ago, so don't let it fall away like manners, etiquette, and common courtesy have. Make an effort to be nice instead of deriding someone because the information didn't fit your needs. Just because you didn't like it doesn't mean the rest of us didn't either.

    Much thanks to the writer, 99 percent of us appreciate the time and effort put in to all of the information shared freely on The Ready Store.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Phil

    Listen guys, use it or not information helps you be prepared. For someone like me (new to being a prepper)this is great because I know know what to add to my stocks (for basic soap). After I have the basics, I will be looking to add to my library and survival skills, hence the additional research.

    Wade - thank you I will reserch for Biodisel in my area. Soap and possibly a great contact if the SHTF

  • Bel

    The information was truly a confirmation for me since my mother passed away last year and she was a soap maker. So,I decided to make soap and have enjoyed it. The prepper mentality besides the making or purchasing food is also the prevention of infection control. Soap will reduce diseases and maintaining your enviornment is part of survival besides wearing masks, gloves, tyveks suits, tc. Lets be open minded...we are the few who possibly will remain and we must all assist one another...besides, soap is a bardering element as well.

  • MyKisa

    never seen my greatgrandmother in all that safety gear, but she made her soap and always boiled all the clothes for washing

  • susan

    I agree, the golden rule should be one we always go to 1st, seems people forget that! I enjoyed the article and appreciate it regardless what others may think, I appreciate all of our efforts to educate all of us to learn to do for ourselves. Much success in the new year!

  • BFarr

    Way to go Chuck!
    The Golden Rule is exactly the
    standard that we should uphold.

  • Angel

    @ Mrs Britt--- I do believe that you are considerably- MisInformed...
    1. You Need Oils and or Fats to make soap
    2. You Cannot make soap without Lye!
    -- It is a chemical reaction (to explain simply) between the fatty acids/fatty esters of the oils/fats AND the Lye. . .together, they Combine to make a sodium/salt of sorts, to become soap.

    You only need 3 ingredients to make soap-- Oil, Lye and Water. . . . . Using Goat Milk instead of water makes for a rich soothing soap

    As ALL soap makers say-- * No Lye- No Soap*

  • Myava

    I don't understand all the negative comments. The recipe is very basic. U can use rainwater if you don't want to buy distiller water off the Walmart shelf. It doesn't have to be refrigerated . But if you put your lye container in a cold water bath after mixing it together it just cools it own faster.

  • Dawn

    I am glad that everyone has put their thoughts and practices up here. I plan on using what I can to create my own soap, but by using goats milk instead of water plan. I own the goats, so the milk is handy. I am new to making soap, and do plan on being very careful until I get a real good handle on it all. I will be primarily making the soap for my own usage. I would rather make a more all natural soap, then to buy the store bought kind that is full of chemicals that over time does more harm than good. And buying the stuff that is already premade that is all natural costs and arm and a leg. I plan on writing down several recipes before I get started and then picking the one that I feel is best for my needs and go from there. Once again thanks to all those out there who have shared their opinions on the matter, it is very helpful!

  • Erika

    For soap molds, I have been using empty cardboard milk cartons. The waxed carton works great and reuses something that might otherwise just be thrown away. Clearly not a end-of-the-world solution, but certainly works well now.

  • Scott

    WOW..... Boiling water does not distill it, it boils it. It could make it safe to drink, but would not be distilled. For that to occur it must be heated to steam, water turns to vapor impurities are left behind, cooled it becomes distilled water. Close to what comes out of your dehumidifier, but unless that is brand new and very clean, and sanitized regularly, I would not use it! Get a flashlight and look where that water collects! Gross!

  • NameReid

    you can also use left over cooking grease for oil and wood ashes for lye
    look at
    During hard times sooner or later everyone runs out of soap.

    To make soap you only need three things:

    cold ashes from any hardwood fire, and
    animal fat from almost any type of animal, such as a cow, pig, goat, sheep, bear, beaver, raccoon, opossum, groundhog, etc.

    All soap consists of the above three ingredients in one form or another, and that includes bath soap, dish soap, laundry soap, and hair shampoo.

    Soap is not difficult to make and it does not require any special equipment. And soap can be made from things that exist in large quantities in nature, and which are typically discarded as being of little value (rainwater, campfire ashes, and animal fat). Therefore, a person who knows how to make good soap could provide his or her family with a small but steady income during hard times by making and selling soap. Soap requires no financial investment in raw materials, and therefore it does not require the advance purchase and storage of inventory before the hard times occur.

    Soap is a "perfect consumer product" for the following five reasons:

    Soap is a legal product.
    Everyone everywhere uses soap.
    Soap is completely used up in a short period of time.
    When people run out of soap they want to buy more.
    Soap is relatively low in price so almost everyone can afford it.

    In my opinion, soap is one of the basic necessities of life for the following five reasons:

    Soap and Brush
    Personal hygiene: Good health is maintained by washing your hands before eating and by taking a bath on a regular basis.
    Laundry: If your clothes get really filthy then they will collect lots of germs and those germs will eventually attack your body and you will get sick. During hard times families with small babies quickly revert back to cloth baby diapers that require a really good cleaning before being reapplied to the baby's bottom.
    Dish washing: If your eating utensils are not clean then it won't be long before you get sick from the microscopic organisms that collect and grow on your dishes.
    Wound care and other medical situations: Even small wounds can get infected and become life threatening if they are not properly cleaned with soap at the earliest possible opportunity.
    Disease control: Soap is extremely valuable in preventing the spread of diseases because you can wash the bed sheets, clothes, and eating utensils of the sick person, and you can also give the sick person a daily bath or cleaning to help neutralize any germs on the sick person's body.

    In developed countries most people take soap for granted until they don't have any, just like they take water, canning salt, socks, and shoes for granted. When their soap is all gone people suddenly realize how important it really was. Regardless of how much soap you may have stored for an emergency situation, it will eventually be used up. At that time it would be useful if you knew how to make really good soap from rainwater, campfire ashes, and animal fat.

    There are three major differences between homemade soap and commercial quality soap:

    Homemade soap does not lather or produce soap bubbles. However, soap bubbles are only for visual appeal. Bubbles do not increase the cleaning power of soap. (Note: It is possible to add bubbles to homemade soap and that procedure will be explained below.)
    Soap made from campfire ashes will not be as hard as soap made from commercial quality lye crystals.
    Homemade soap has an oilier texture than commercial quality soap. However, homemade soap will still yield very acceptable results for most routine cleaning chores because it will surround and cling to the dirt particles, regardless of their size, and allow them to be more easily washed away.

    Soap making lye crystals have been withdrawn from the market because they were being used to make illegal drugs and you can no longer purchase lye crystals at your local grocery store or hardware store. Therefore if you have an existing soap recipe it will probably be of limited value during a long-term hard times event because you can no longer purchase lye crystals at your local grocery store or hardware store.

    However, soap making suppliers still sell lye crystals by mail order. But why would you want to purchase an inventory of lye crystals so you can make homemade soap during a long-term hard times event? If you are trying to prepare for a future hard times event wouldn't it make more sense to simply purchase some ordinary soap and put it away for future use. To me this would make far more sense than purchasing some chemicals to make some homemade soap in an emergency.

    On the other hand, if the hard times last longer than you expected and you use all the soap you have stored then you could make good soap using lye water made the old fashioned way by using the following soap making procedure that does not depend on commercial quality lye crystals.

    Basic Soap Making Equipment
    Stainless Steel One Gallon Pot Glass Measuring Cup Empty Plastic Frozen Food Tray Instant Read Cooking Thermometer
    Stainless Steel Pot Glass Measuring Cup Food Tray Mold Thermometer

    To make soap you will need:

    A cook pot made of stainless steel, or cast iron, or enamelware, or heat-tempered glass, or a clay-fired cooking pot. Aluminum and tin and Teflon coated pots are not acceptable because the soap making lye will adversely react with these materials. The cook pot should be at least twice the size of the batch of soap you intend to make. Generally, a one-gallon or four-quart cook pot will be more than adequate as a soap making pot. (Note: You may use the same pot for soap making and cooking. Just wash the pot when you are finished making soap. Some soap recipes suggest having a special pot just for soap making but this is not necessary, in my opinion. You are just making soap in the pot, and it will be the same soap you use later to wash the pot after you cook a meal.)

    A long spoon made of stainless steel or wood. If necessary, an old wood broom handle or a big stick may be used to stir the soap if nothing else is available.

    A glass measuring cup. You can use a plastic measuring cup but the concentrated brown lye water may permanently discolor the inside of the measuring cup. (Note: If you don't have a measuring cup, then use approximately 2.5 times the amount of melted grease as concentrated brown lye water.)

    Empty Matchbox Lined with Food Wrap Some type of mold to pour the soap mixture into so it can harden into a bar of soap. For example, you could make a soap mold out of a large empty kitchen matchbox by lining it with plastic food wrap. Or you could use the small black plastic serving trays that contain frozen dinner meals, such as a single serving lasagna meal. The soap mold container should be at least 1 to 1.5 inches deep.

    A thermometer is optional because soap was made for centuries before the thermometer was invented. If you wish to use a thermometer, then select a cooking or meat or candy thermometer that will show temperatures from a minimum of 70ºF to at least 140ºF. An instant-read thermometer works exceptionally well.

    Almost anyone can make good soap if he or she has a little patience and is willing to begin on a small scale in order to gain practice and experience.

    Grandpappy's Homemade Soap Recipe
    Yields two large eleven-ounce bars of soap or a total of 22 ounces of soap by weight.
    This is equivalent to approximately four normal bars of store bought soap.

    3/4 cup of concentrated brown lye water. Normal strength brown lye water can be made by pouring rainwater through the cold ashes of any hardwood fire. Detailed instructions for making concentrated brown lye water are at the end of this article.

    Two cups of melted grease. Any type of animal fat may be melted into grease, such as beef, pork, lamb, goat, bear, beaver, opossum, raccoon, groundhog, etc. Only use the fat because lean meat will not make soap. Do not use any lean meat. Detailed instructions for melting animal fat into grease are at the end of this article. Beef tallow is a hard fat and it makes a hard soap that cleans really well. A soft fat, such as Pork Lard, may be used in a ratio of up to 50% with a hard fat. (Note: If you do not have access to animal fat, then you can ask the employees in the fresh meat section of your local grocery store if they have any beef fat or pork fat for sale.) Ordinary vegetable oil or vegetable grease may be used instead but vegetable oil or grease has more valuable uses than making soap. In addition, soap made from oil and lye water will be a very, very soft soap.

    (Note: You should reduce the above quantities by one-half when you first attempt to make soap. This will give you the opportunity to gain confidence and experience on a small scale. You may use the above quantities, or any multiple thereof, for future soap making efforts depending on how much soap you wish to make in one batch.)

    The Six Soap Making Steps
    STEP ONE: Mix the concentrated brown lye water and the grease, stir thoroughly, and give the chemical reaction between 30 minutes to 3 hours to gradually take place. Be patient.

    This is the most important step in making soap.

    The concentrated brown lye water (or lye crystals) used in soap making can hurt you. Be careful when handling the lye. Wear rubber gloves to protect your skin from the lye. If some lye solution gets on your skin, wash it off immediately with soap and water. Lye is caustic and it will permanently disfigure Formica counter tops, kitchen tables, and other nice furniture, even if you wipe it off the surface immediately. Be careful when handling lye and do not let it splash or spill or bubble over onto your kitchen furniture or onto your floor.

    Concentrated brown lye water is normally used at room temperature unless the room is unusually cool or cold (below 75ºF). If necessary, heat the concentrated brown lye water to between 80ºF to 130ºF in a separate cook pot. The temperature is not critical as long as it is not too hot. The purpose of using warm lye water is to help maintain a warm soap mixing temperature inside the soap mixing pot.

    Put the grease into a separate small melting pot and then put the pot on the stove over very low heat. Do not heat the grease to the smoking point. If you see smoke then you are burning the grease. Melt all the grease and then allow it to cool back down to 90ºF for pork lard, or to 130ºF for beef tallow, or to 110ºF for a combination of tallow and lard. Do not allow the grease to harden while it is waiting to be added to the soap mixture. The grease must be melted when it is added to the soap mixture, and it should be relatively warm. The temperature does not have to be exact, but the grease must be warm and fully melted.

    Soap Mixture Showing Brown and White Streaks Pour one cup of the melted grease into the big soap making pot. Slowly pour 3/8 cup of the concentrated brown lye water into the soap making pot. Stir the mixture for three-minutes. The mixture will look like brown soup with white streaks in it (see picture on right). Add another cup of grease and another 3/8 cup of concentrated brown lye water and stir thoroughly and continuously for about 15 minutes. The grease and lye must be completely and thoroughly blended together to make soap. If the mixture is not thoroughly blended then the mixture will separate later and you will not get a good soap.

    (Note: You can use a manual hand-cranked blender to speed up the mixing process and reduce the amount of time it takes for the chemical reaction between the grease and the lye to be completed. However, this method does require a little practice and experience because it can also result in what is called a "false trace" which is described in Step Two below.)

    (Note: If you increase the original recipe to make larger batches of soap, you should still slowly and gradually mix the grease and concentrated brown lye water together at the rate of one cup of grease to 3/8 cup of concentrated brown lye water until all the grease and lye water has been added to the soap making pot. By adding the ingredients gradually and mixing thoroughly each time, you can avoid a separation problem later in the process.)

    When you are not stirring the soap mixture, cover the soap mixing pot with a towel to help conserve the heat inside the mixing pot. Remove the towel if you need to add a little heat to the mixing pot, and then replace the towel when you turn off the heat.

    This part of the soap making process normally takes between thirty minutes to three hours if you are using grease made from animal fat. During this time the soap mixture needs to remain slightly warm and just above the temperature at which the grease normally hardens. This is where an instant read thermometer is useful. If the mixture begins to cool too quickly, then add just a little bit of heat to the soap mixing pot until the temperature of the soap mixture is between 90ºF to 130ºF, depending on the type of grease you are using (pork lard melts at 85ºF and beef tallow melts at 125ºF), and then turn off the heat.

    (Note: Do not cook the soap mixture and do not heat it to the boiling point. Although additional heat will speed up the chemical reaction it can also cause potential separation problems later in the process.)

    Be patient and wait for the chemical reaction to gradually take place at its very slow normal speed. Once every ten or fifteen minutes stir the soap mixture vigorously for one-minute to facilitate a more complete mixing of the lye and the grease. Vigorous stirring means fast and smooth stirring. Do not splash the soap mixture onto the sides of the mixing pot. When you begin stirring the mixture after a ten or fifteen minute rest, you will notice that the brown lye water and the grease are still partially separated because you will be able to see streaks of color in the soap mixture as you stir. However, as you stir vigorously for one minute you should attempt to combine the lye and grease into a solid color so there are very few or no streaks in the mixture. Then you may stop stirring and wait for another ten or fifteen minutes.

    Each time you make a new batch of soap you may or may not encounter one of the following two problems. These problems may occur because your concentrated brown lye water may be just a little stronger or a little weaker than what you used in your previous batch of soap. You may also encounter one of the following problems if you use a different type of animal fat, or combination of animal fats, than you normally use. The exact amount of concentrated brown lye water that is required will be slightly different depending on the type of animal fat you are using.

    Problem One: If a layer of grease forms on top of the mixture, then check the temperature of the soap mixture and make sure it is above the temperature that the grease normally solidifies, which is 125ºF for 100% beef tallow, or 85ºF for 100% pork lard, or 110ºF for a 50-50 blend of tallow and lard. If the top layer of grease is simply due to a cold soap mixture, then heat the mixture just a little bit and stir the grease back into the mixture. However, if the soap mixture was already at a reasonably warm temperature, then heat the soap mixture just a little, then turn off the heat, and then add 5% more of the concentrated brown lye water, and stir the soap mixture thoroughly for ten minutes.

    Problem Two: If the mixture does not thicken properly after three hours, then heat the soap mixture just a little, then turn off the heat, and then add 10% more melted warm grease, and stir the warm grease thoroughly into the soap mixture for ten minutes.

    (Note: It takes time for the concentrated brown lye water and the grease to combine together chemically to make soap. Depending on the type of animal fat or grease you are using, it may take as much as twenty-four hours. If you are using vegetable grease or oils, it can take several days. The most difficult part of Step One is to be patient if the chemical reaction is going slowly, and not ruin your batch of soap by adding too much lye water or too much grease in an effort to get the soap mixture to Step Two more quickly. Waiting patiently does not hurt the chemical reaction. Adding too much of the wrong thing can upset the chemical balance.)

    Soap Mixture Solid Creme Color and Trace Stage When the soap mixture is a solid cream or solid light brown color that displays no streaks when it is first stirred after a ten-minute rest, and it is the consistency of thick gravy or soft pudding (see picture on right), then you can test it using one of the methods in Step Two below. (In the picture on the right the bright white circle is the reflection of my camera flash off the top shinny surface of the stainless steel cook pot.)

    STEP TWO: Verify the soap mixture is warm enough and that it is ready to be poured into the molds using one (or both) of the following two test methods.

    The grease will gradually thicken if the temperature of the soap mixture gets too low. This will make you think the chemical reaction is complete, when in fact it is not. This is called a "false trace." Therefore you must verify the soap mixture is still above the melting point of whatever grease you are using before you test the mixture using either (or both) of the following two methods. The minimum soap mixture temperature is 125ºF for 100% beef tallow, or 85ºF for 100% pork lard, or 110ºF for a 50-50 blend of tallow and lard. If your soap mixture temperature is above the minimum, then it is ready to be tested.

    (Note: If the soap mixture is below the minimum temperature, or if you do not have a thermometer, then add a little heat to the soap mixture and see if the soap mixture melts back into a fat and lye solution that separates into different colors when stirred gently. If the mixture does show streaks of different colors, then continue to add very low heat for two minutes, stir the mixture vigorously, and then turn off the heat and cover the pot with a towel and return to the instructions for Step One.)

    Test Method One: Use a spoon to lift a little of the soap mixture about one-inch above the top surface of the mixture, and then allow one drop to fall back onto the top of the mixture. If the surface of the mixture will support the drop for a moment, then the soap is done.

    Test Method Two: Try to draw a medium thick line in the top of the soap mixture with the front tip of your spoon. If you can see the line, then the soap is done. This is called "tracing."

    (Note: When the mixture "traces" the chemical reaction between the lye and the grease is approximately 90% complete. However, the final 10% will happen very, very slowly and it will take another 3 to 7 weeks. The soap will not be ready for use until the chemical reaction has been 100% completed.)

    STEP THREE: (Optional Step) - Add Color and Fragrance.

    If you wish, you may add color and/or fragrance at this time. However, in my opinion, it is generally not worth the effort. Soap is a consumable item and when it is used up it is gone. Investing time and energy to make the soap more colorful or more fragrant has marginal value if you are simply going to use your soap yourself. On the other hand, if are considering the sale of your soap for a profit then color, shape, and smell are important marketing factors. However, do not use commercial perfumes or alcohol-based solutions. Adding a fragrance or color that is not compatible with the soap making chemical process may ruin your batch of soap. Pure essential oils or herbal solutions are preferred, if you chose to use them. Stir them thoroughly and completely into the soap mixture and then proceed to Step Four.

    (Note: Another way to add fragrance is to wait until the end of Step Six when the soap is fully cured after six-weeks. Then place the soap and your fragrance inside an air-tight container and seal the lid. Wait three to six weeks. The soap will gradually become saturated with the smell of your fragrance, regardless of what it might be. Remove the soap and put the lid back on your fragrance bottle, or return your fragrance to its own airtight container.)

    STEP FOUR: Pour the soap into the soap molds and let the soap rest for seven days.

    Greased Empty Food Trays to be Used as Soap Molds Any container can be used as a soap mold, such as cupcake pans, small boxes, or any other type of container. Lightly grease the inside of the containers. Or place plastic food wrap inside a small cardboard box, such as an empty kitchen matchbox. The small black plastic serving trays that contain a frozen dinner meal, such as a single serving lasagna meal, make really nice soap molds if you wash them out first. The soap molds need to be at least 1 to 1.5 inches deep because the soap mixture needs to retain its heat during the initial phase of this step and if the mold is too shallow it will lose its heat too quickly.

    In the old days our ancestors would use a thin damp towel to line the inside of whatever container they were using as a soap mold. When the soap finished curing, the towel permitted the easy removal of the soap from the mold.

    Today the best way to line the inside of a mold is to use plastic food wrap. The plastic food wrap will not react with the soap while the chemical reaction continues to its completion, and it provides a very easy way to remove the soap from the mold when the soap is done.

    The soap mixture should be above the minimum melting point temperature for the type of grease you are using.

    Soap Poured into Molds Pour the warm soap mixture into the molds and then put the soap molds in a warm location.

    Immediately cover the soap molds with a thick cloth or blanket to prevent the heat from escaping too quickly. Do not let the cloth or blanket make contact with the soap in the molds. The blanket should simply provide a cover to help keep the molds warm.

    Allow the soap to rest in the soap molds for one day. Then remove the towel.

    Let the soap continue to rest in the soap molds uncovered for six additional days.

    If you peek at your soap during the first day while the soap is covered inside the molds, the soap may look strange depending on what stage of cooling the soap is in. Do not worry. Be patient and wait for the chemical reaction to run its normal course.

    During most of this seven-day period the soap may be relatively soft and it will not have the hard consistency you expect from soap. This is normal. Remember to be patient.

    STEP FIVE: After a total of seven days, remove the soap from the molds.

    If you used a hard fat that melts at a higher temperature, such as beef, or goat, or lamb, then the soap will probably be firm enough to be easily removed from the molds. However, if you used some combination of soft fats such as chicken or pork mixed with a hard fat, then your soap may not be firm enough for it to be easily extracted from the molds. If your soap feels soft like a firm pudding then put it in the refrigerator for two hours and it should then be firm enough to be removed from the molds.

    Two Bars of Soap From Soap Molds Turn the soap mold upside down and the soap should fall out, if the soap mold was lightly greased or if the mold was lined with plastic food wrap. If the soap does not fall out of the mold, and you are using flexible plastic molds, then flex the sides and bottom of the mold to loosen the soap from the mold so it can release and fall out. If necessary, you can use a thin bladed knife to separate the soap from the sides of the mold and then gently help the soap out of the mold. (Note: If you used plastic food wrap to line the inside of your soap mold then you will not encounter this problem.)

    If you wish to cut the soap into smaller bars, then use a sharp thin knife, such as a serrated steak knife, or use a thin fine wire to saw through the soap. At this time the soap should still be relatively soft, similar to cheese, and it can be divided into smaller sizes if you wish.

    If there are any imperfections, lines, or tiny cracks in the exterior surface of the soap, you may smooth them out with your fingers at this time.

    STEP SIX: Air dry the bar soap for 2 to 6 weeks.

    After removing the soap from its mold, allow the bar soap to dry in a warm dry dark place for two to six weeks before using it. If you really need your soap, then you could start using it after the second week. But if you want the best possible soap, then allow it to air dry for the full six weeks.

    Cover a dish or large serving tray with some plastic food wrap, and then stack your soap on the dish in a manner that will allow as much air as possible to reach each bar of soap. Do not stack one bar of soap directly on top of another bar of soap. Do not put the soap in direct sunlight or in a moist area. The longer the bar soap ages the harder it will become and the better it will perform when used as soap. During this time any remaining water in the soap will gradually evaporate out, and any remaining lye will gradually blend in with the surrounding grease. However, if your soap is brown lye water heavy, then it will leak out of your soap onto the dish during the first day and you will see a small puddle of brown lye water around your soap. If this happens, then drain off the excess brown lye water so it does not have an opportunity to be reabsorbed into your current batch of soap. You should also consider the addition of about 10% more grease to your next batch of soap at the beginning of Step One.

    After three weeks, turn your bars of soap over so the underside will have an opportunity to dry in the air for the next three weeks.

    After a total of six weeks of air drying, put the bars of soap into an air-tight container, or wrap them in plastic wrap, or put them in a plastic food storage bag. Depending on your local climate conditions, this will either prevent the soap from drying out, or it will prevent the soap from absorbing moisture from humid air.

    When you remove your bar of soap from storage it may have a thin layer of white powder on it, which is the result of the air reacting with any lye on the outside surface of the soap. This thin layer of powder will contain some lye and it needs to be removed from the surface of the soap. Just rinse the ash off and forget about it.

    You may also discover that the first two or three times you use the soap to wash your hands that it does not work very well. This is because the soap needs a brief adjusting period after making its first initial contact with water. After the soap has been in brief contact with water a few times, and rubbed, and allowed to dry, it will start to behave like normal soap and clean very well, with one exception. Homemade soap does not lather the way ordinary store bought soap lathers. Bubbles are not necessary for a soap to be effective. Bubbles only add visual appeal.

    (Note: If you are going to sell your soap for a profit, then you should dip the bar of soap in water and allow it to air dry several times to pre-condition the soap for your customers. This will help to reduce the number of customer complaints about your soap not working the way it should.)

    You can test the quality of a finished bar of soap by shaving it with a sharp knife. If it crumbles, it contains too much lye, but it will still be very effective as a good laundry soap. Good all-purpose bar soap will curl slightly when shaved with a sharp knife blade. Keep a written record of your soap making results and make minor adjustments as required on your next batch of soap.

    How to Make Special Types of Soap Using
    "Grandpappy's Homemade Soap Recipe"
    All-Purpose Soap (Bath Soap, Laundry Soap, Dish Soap):

  • Lisa

    I loved all the explanations, (not the angry birds) thank you for your time and energy. An eye opener to me

  • kaytee

    Pure lye (NaOH) is no longer readily available here, at places like hardware or grocery stores-- because it is used in making "meth", a law was passed to get it off the shelves. You can get it at chemical supply stores (if you can find/get to one locally), and you need to provide ID/give name, address, etc. when you buy it. The other option, is to order on-line-- but shipping may be a problem.

  • Cheryl Olson

    I have had no problem finding Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) online in places such as Ebay. I mail order much of what I need here as I live in a remote area. I didn't find the shipping to be all that much either. I use rainwater from my collection barrels and run it through a coffee filter to be sure there's nothing in it. I also have used melted snow, and well water.

    This was a good article, and I am glad to see people have cleaned up their attitudes and lost the negativity.

  • jon

    Check out the words to the song 'Grandma's lye soap'
    "And they haven't heard a word they've said in years!"
    You all, be careful out there, you year!
    I loved all the comments!

  • jon

    Montgomery Ward started his career, by making soap in his little red wagon and selling bars, door to door!

  • jon

    Glycerin is a byproduct of the bio-diesel companies. It makes good soap and they are glad to get rid of it!

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