How to Make Basic Bar Soap

Last year for my wedding favors I made several batches of bar soap for guests to take home.  Since then I have had a lot of friends and family ask how I made the soap and I have FINALLY put together this post to show you how to make basic bar soap!  Here we go!


(Important Note: You can use other oils besides olive oil, coconut oil and shea butter to make soap, however if you use different oils or different amounts of the oils you MUST recalculate the amount of lye that is needed.  Here is the best soap calculator to use for adjusting the recipe: Soap Calculator .  The following recipe is superfatted at 5%)



WARNING: Lye is caustic.  Exercise extreme caution when handling lye.  When mixing lye with water, a chemical reaction occurs which releases caustic fumes into the air.  DO NOT BREATHE IN THE FUMES.  Do not allow lye to come into contact with your skin or eyes.  Read all if the warnings on the lye packaging before proceeding with soap making.

  1. In one large bowl (or pitcher) measure/weigh out water and in a separate small bowl measure/weigh out the lye using kitchen scale.  **All of the ingredients will be measured using weight as opposed to volume
  2. In a well ventilated area add the lye to the water and carefully mix it with a spoon or spatula.  (I always do this outside).  **ALWAYS add the lye to the water not the other way around.
  3. The chemical reaction between the water and the lye will heat the mixture to 140+ degrees Fahrenheit and you will need it to cool down to 100-110 degrees which will take about 20-30 minutes.  While it is cooling, you can warm up your oils.
  4.  Measure out the appropriate amounts of coconut oil, shea butter and olive oil in a microwaveable safe bowl.  Put in the microwave for 1 minute. Take it out and stir.  Microwave again for 30 second increments until all of the oils are liquid and mixed together.  (Usually this only takes a total of 1.5 minutes in my microwave.)
  5. Take the temperature of each of the 2 separate mixtures until both the water and lye mixture AND the oils are within 5-10 degrees of each other and both between 100-110 degrees.  (For example, the lye mixture is 110 degrees and the oils are 105 or the lye mixture is 102 degrees and the oils are 106)

    Lye mixture on left, oil blend on right
  6. Pour the lye mixture into the oils while using the stick blender to mix them all together.  After a minute or 2 of mixing, the mixture should “come to trace” meaning it will thicken so that when you lift the mixer out and the mixture drips, the drips will stay in place on the surface.  If it is still soupy after a minute or two of mixing, just keep mixing until it comes to trace.  
  7.  Once the mixture comes to trace, add in your essential oils and mix until the oils are combined.
  8.  Pour the mixture into your soap mold and put in a cool dark place. 
  9.  If you have used the PVC mold with parchment paper, after 24 hours you can take your soap out of the mold and cut it.  If you have used a silicone soap mold, you will want to wait more like 2-4 weeks to pop your soap out of the mold to prevent it from being too tacky.
  10.  Place soap somewhere spread out with good air circulation to dry such as a cooling rack.  You will want to allow about 4-6 weeks for your soap to dry and cure before using. 

Now that you know the basic process for soap-making you can experiment with different oils, essential oils and other ingredients such as herbs.  Just remember, whenever making any modifications to this recipe visit the soap calculator to ensure that you are using an appropriate ratio of lye.

Let me know how your soap making adventure went in the comments!


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