I have wanted to make my own soap for some time now, but I was SCARED! Over the past few years I have made more and more products we use at home (including cleaning products, laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, body wash, diaper cream….) but soap making just seemed so much more challenging and dangerous! From some seemingly complicated directions, to the array of ingredients required, to the dangers of the products involved, I wasn’t sure whether I was up for the task. Well, I just completed my first batch of soap and I am so please with both the process and the results!
I made a simple bar of castile soap made with olive oil alone, without fragrance or colour additives. We’re a fairly fragrance-free home here and try to be as chemical-free/waste-free as possible, and this project helps us achieve that. This is a bar that myself, my husband, and my 9 month old can use without worry of questionable additives, preservatives, or unecessary chemicals. Making soap at home helps me reduce our household waste, limit our chemical exposures, and reduce the amount of money we spend on toilettries.
Before taking on this project I took a soap making course and it was a really nice step toward home soap making, helping me get over some of my fears and teaching me some tips and tricks of the trade. The course I took was with Mains the Mariposa, in Ottawa, Ontario, learning the basics of cold-process soap making. Bonnie was amazing and I highly recommend her course!
I also read a few soap making books, my favourite being Soap Crafting by Anne-Marie Faiola. It was from this book that I found the recipe I used below, however I didn’t add the colouring or fragrance.
3.4 ounces sodium hydroxide (lye)
9.0 ounces distilled water
27.0 ounces olive oil
Recycled clean sour cream container (with lid)
Heat-safe measuring cup or jar for water
Heat-safe pot for oils
Pringles can and/or milk carton (with one side cut off to make the mold)
Spatula and/or spoons for stirring the lye solution and oils
Immersion (stick) blender
Plastic table cloth and newspapers to protect surface
Rubber gloves and safety goggles
Cutting board, knife, and vegetable pealer for cutting into bars
Please make sure that you have learned the appropriate soap making steps, whether through a course, book, or online, prior to making your soap. This post is by no means a how-to, but a description of my experience in hopes of helping others get into soap making!
I gathered all of my supplies and safety equipment, donning my rubber gloves and safety goggles. I then measured the lye by weight into the sour cream container and put on the lid (to make sure I didn’t spill it). I measured the water (by weight) into the large measuring cup and headed outside to combine the two in a well-ventilated area. Carefully, I poured the lye into the water (and not the other way around!) and gently stirred. The solution gave off a great deal of heat and likely some fumes (I didn’t sniff it) and eventually turned clear again. I left this solution outside for a while (it was -2 degrees Celsius) to cool. This process can be dangerous due to the caustic lye so it’s not a place for children or pets. By following the directions and wearing the appropriate safety apparel this step was very straight forward and not as hard or scary as I had expected.
Leaving my lye solution to cool (in a safe area and clearly labelled), I headed inside to measure my olive oil into a large pot. The recipe I used didn’t ask to heat the oils, which was a nice change compared to a few other recipes I’d seen. Once the lye solution cooled I added it to the oils by pouring it over the shaft of the stick blender to limit the bubbles/air going into the oil solution. I tapped the stick blender a few times to release some more bubbles, and then, keeping the stick blender submerged, blended for 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until I reached a medium trace (like pudding). This didn’t take much time at all, maybe 5 minutes or so.
I then poured it into my molds, covered them in plastic wrap, and wrapped them in a towel. I let this sit for 24 hrs after which time my soap was ready to unmold. It make take up to 4 days for the soap to set enough to unmold, but mine was ready fast 🙂
I cut my soap into bars, and shaved down the sharp edges with a vegetable pealer.
I tried out one bar right away, and set the rest to dry for 4-6 weeks. I plan to wrap my soaps in coffee filters for storage, adding a little twine to any I give away.
I’m so happy with the results! The bars are nicely unscented and produce a creamy light lather. I can’t wait to try out different oil, butter, and scent combinations!
I ran a few calculations, and figured with this recipe the bars cost me approximately 75 cents each to make. Not bad for a bar of castile soap without additional addtives, preservatives, or unnecessary chemicals!
I hope this post will encourage you to try your hand at soap making at home!