Are you seeking ways to minimize your environmental impact while still enjoying a touch of self-care? Look no further than homemade eco-friendly soap! By making soap at home with natural, sustainable ingredients, you can contribute to a greener planet while caring for your skin. In this guide we'll explore the benefits, essential ingredients, and step-by-step process for creating your very own homemade eco-friendly soap. Let's dive in!
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If you still feel nervous about making soap at home but want to try making Soap with solid guidance, head over to Sarah, who runs the Soap School. She has a brilliant online course which will take you from zero to a Soap-making hero in no time (knowledge of English is required).
Benefits of Homemade Eco-Friendly Soap and Sustainable Self-Care
By making soap at home with natural ingredients, you can minimize plastic waste from store-bought soaps and reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, eco-friendly soap ingredients won't harm aquatic life when washed down the drain.
Making your soap can save you money in the long run. While there is an initial investment in ingredients, you can make a large batch that lasts much longer than store-bought soaps.
Creating soap at home allows you to tailor the ingredients, colours, and scents to your preference. Plus, you can make unique gifts for friends and family.
Commercial soaps often contain harsh chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin. By making your soap, you know exactly what's in it, ensuring a gentle and nourishing experience for your skin.
The Methods: make Soap at home step by step.
There are three popular methods for making Soap. Once you master one technique, you can try the others and see which results in you like best.
I would suggest starting with Melt and Pour (M&P), then trying Cold Process, and concluding with Hot Process. There are lots of other ways and additives you can put into soap. Let's walk through them.
1 – Melt & Pour (M&P)?
You can buy your M&P base ready-made. This means you don't have to worry about mixing Lye because someone has already done it for you.
It doesn't mean that Lye was not used in making the M&P base.
I often see a “no lye” soap recipe with M&P, and while it might be valid for the method, I think it is misleading as most hard soaps are made using Lye. You need the saponification process to turn the oil into a solid bar.
For my first M&P recipe, I bought a lovely white shea butter base, and once I gently melted it, I added some pink Egyptian clay and rose essential oil. The most significant benefit of using this method is your Soap is ready within a couple of days, sometimes within a few hours!
It can be a little more expensive than making it from scratch. But if you are in a rush, it's perfect.
Top tip: If you live in a humid area, you must wrap the Soap straight away to avoid sweating. I've never needed to, but sometimes it helps.
2 – Cold Process (CP)?
This is where you melt our oils and fats in a pot over heat.
Cold Process means you must wait until the oils and Lye are within 5°c of each other or a specific temperature (as determined by the recipe) before blending. Then you mix/blend until the mixture comes to Trace.
The easiest method to see if your mixture has come to trace is to dribble your spatula (covered with the mixture) over the surface of the mix; it typically leaves a line (trace) that you can see. You can mix your chosen scent/colour or additives and pour the whole thing into a mould.
Very simply, the steps are:
- Put on your rubber gloves, protective clothes and safety goggles, set up in a well-ventilated area next to an open window and Mix the Lye.
- Melt the fats/oils
- Blend and pour your Soap.
Top Tip: Depending on your recipe, you will either want to force the Gel Phase by insulating the mould or avoid it altogether by putting it into the fridge or freezer.
3 – Hot Process (HP)?
The hot Process uses an external heat source such as a Thermomix® or a Crock Pot to slowly and gently bring the Soap to the gel phase, which is then poured into the mould.
It goes through a few different stages, but people like to use this Process for the rustic look and feel of the Soap. It can be a faster process, and the scent can stay in the Soap for longer if you use essential oils.
Top tip: Soap phases in the Hot Process are often given names to describe them; this might help you as you are starting, but not every ingredient reacts the same way, so don't use them as a guide. The most common ones I have seen are:
- Champagne bubbles
- Applesauce stage
- Wet mashed potatoes
- Dry mashed potatoes
Once you understand which Process is right for you, you can rinse and repeat! And the best thing? You can eat the ingredients if you don't want to do it anymore. Except for the lye crystals… don't do that. That's not safe…
Essential Ingredients of homemade eco-friendly soap
Oils and Fats
Oils and fats form the base of your soap and contribute to its moisturizing properties. You can use a variety of plant-based oils such as olive, coconut, almond, or sunflower oil. Be sure to research each oil's benefits and properties to create the perfect blend for your skin.
Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is a crucial ingredient in the soap-making process. It helps transform oils and fats into soap through a process called saponification. Always handle lye with care and use proper safety equipment like gloves and goggles.
Water is used to dissolve the lye and create a solution that can be mixed with oils. It's essential to use distilled or purified water to ensure no contaminants affect the soap-making process.
Here's where you can get creative! Add natural ingredients like essential oils, herbs, or clays for colour, scent, and added skin benefits. Just remember to use eco-friendly and sustainably sourced additives.
Essential Tools for homemade eco-friendly soap
Find a pot that can carry at least 5 litres. You can also use a smaller pot, but 5 Litres should cover you from beginner to experienced. An old pot will do; it has to work with your stove. It is best to use a Thermomix®, Slow Cooker or Crock Pot for the hot Process, but if you don't have either, any pot is fine. Don't use tin or aluminium, as the Lye will react with these metals.
you have to weigh everything; best to get rankings that have a range of weights available because so many recipes are in ounces, but some are in grams. A good soap calculator should give you both.
You need to measure temperatures often because it can affect the outcome.
Container for mixing Lye
The temperature can shoot up to 200°c (400°F), so you must ensure your container is good enough to deal with these high temperatures. Don't use tin or aluminium, as the Lye will react with these metals. Glass is okay for beginners. Still, the Lye can cause micro-abrasions or scratches on the Glass, so plastic is optimal (although not great if you are worried about sustainability).
The spatula has to be strong enough to scoop the soap mix into a mould when it has come to trace.
Hand mixer (Stick blender)
You can whisk your Soap by hand, but just like cream or egg whites, it can take a loooong time to trace, so using a handheld blender is easier.
You can buy a mould kit with a cutter, but it is just as easy to line any plastic container with parchment paper. Once the Soap has been set, you should be able to cut it with a knife or a cheese cutter.
When you have poured your Soap into the mould, wrap it in an old cosy blanket for 24hrs to set. This can avoid a few issues like cracking. But if you are making milk soaps, you want to prevent the Gel phase entirely and put the Soap in the fridge.
I have written instructions on how to use a popular soap calculator, there are plenty of others on the internet, and they are all different depending on your experience. It's not something you have to purchase. Whatever recipe you see, you must put it into a soap calculator and always check it. Because, very simply, you don't want to get it wrong as then you won't be making Soap, just a hot mess.
SAFETY – do not fear making Lye. Yes, it is dangerous if misused, so you do need to be cautious. But if you wear safety goggles, gloves, a mask, and long sleeves and do the mixing outside, away from people and animals, then it should be okay.
Checklist: How to make Soap at home
Top tips for homemade eco-friendly soap
When you are starting, simple is best.
- Always follow safety precautions when handling lye.
- Use a digital scale for accurate measurements.
- Research the properties of your chosen oils and additives.
- Keep a notebook to document your recipes and results.
- Avoid 100% Olive Oil, Milk or Silk soaps for your first time.
- Tallow or Lard soap makes a nice hard bubbly bar, but if you are vegan, look to replace the tallow or lard with sustainable palm oil.
A simple soap recipe
I have written a favourite recipe which I make every year. I may tweak it a little in my soap calculator depending on the ingredients I have to hand, but I love it, and so do my family and friends. It is an excellent recipe to start with and learn the process.
The Gel Phase
To gel or not to gel, that is the question. You can follow different methods, so I have written a thorough guide on what to expect and the impact each phase has on the look of your soap.
How to make lye with ash
I have written a blog post about how to do this. The commercial Lye you purchase will always be of a certain quality you can trust. But a truly sustainable life might see you making your lye at home. But it's not for the faint of heart. I would strongly recommend only trying this method once you have mastered the art of soap making.
Many people have issues with me recommending this process; it's a spicy topic! This is because there is some misnomer that you cannot test lye. You absolutely can and should test lye. In theory, even the industrial stuff you order off the internet should be tested. I talk about it all in my other blog post. You will see me mention this a lot because I need to drill it home!
The best way to naturally add colour to your soap is with clay. I have another blog post explaining what each clay does and why it is beneficial. Clay has lots of minerals, which can be great for the skin. But it's the colour it is best used for; in my rose soaps, I add two heaped teaspoons of scented pink clay, but you can add more or less depending on how light or dark you want the colours to be.
I have to talk also about henna and natural plant products such as indigo, spirulina, tea and coffee; a range of them can be used to add beautiful colours to your soap, and it's worth exploring as you improve your technique.
There are alternatives, such as Micas, but although Mica is a natural resource, the production methods are usually not ethical, so I can't in good conscience support it. When I find someone who makes a natural & ethical Mica soap colourant that won't harm the environment or the people working to produce it, I will have to update this post!
Adding scent: Essential Oils versus Fragrance Oils
I love good-quality Essential Oils because I love my soap to smell delightful, and I believe that specific essential oil scents have a therapeutic quality.
But adding oils to your soap too early when mixing it can sometimes mean that the EO can saponify, and then you don't end up with any scent in your soap. So I try to add it right at the end – but it can be tricky because this can also lead to oil spots in your soap. I haven't had that happen to me yet, so my method is working, but I have read about it happening to other people.
I like to mix the oils with some clay; the clay then hangs onto the scent. This works for me, and it is my recommended approach. I have a table on how best to do that.
Fragrance oils are made synthetically in a lab with chemicals. The only reason I don't use them is, again, do they impact the aquatic creatures in our waterways? Probably.
But let's assume they don't for a minute; Fragrance Oils easily adds a strong scent, and you can get them in various perfumes. The consensus is that Fragrance Oils cause more skin irritation than Essential Oils, but I am not sure if that's true. If you have sensitive skin, you will likely react to Essential Oils just as much as Fragrance Oils – but the debate rages and the jury is still out.
SAP Values are like a recipe for making soap. They tell you how much of a particular ingredient, called lye or potash, you need to turn oils into soap. The number is measured in milligrams of potassium hydroxide (KOH) needed for every gram of oil.
Different oils need different amounts of lye, which can vary a little depending on how the oil was made. The SAP Value helps you know how much lye to use so your soap turns out right. If you see different numbers on different websites, the oil can be made differently, and the SAP Value can change slightly. You can ask your supplier for the correct number if you're unsure.
Getting Started with Soap-Making: Resources and Inspiration
If you're excited to begin your soap-making journey, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started. Here are some suggestions to kick-start your creativity:
- Books and eBooks: Look for well-reviewed soap-making books that cover the basics, offer recipes, and provide tips for success. Many authors also offer eBooks for easy, on-the-go access.
- Online forums and communities: Join soap-making forums or social media groups where you can ask questions, share your creations, and learn from experienced soap-makers.
- Blogs and YouTube channels: Many soap-makers share their expertise and passion for soap-making through blogs and video tutorials. These resources can provide invaluable tips, tricks, and inspiration for your own creations.
- Soap-making workshops and classes: Check your local community centres, craft stores, or online platforms for soap-making workshops and classes. These hands-on experiences can be an excellent way to learn the process and ask questions in real time.
The Final Product
When you make Soap at home, it can be both a daunting and a rewarding experience. With the rise of the cost of living globally, this is yet another thing you won't need to buy from the supermarket. I use Soap to give as gifts of thankyou or a sudden birthday that I had forgotten.
The learning curve for making soap seems enormous, but this blog post contains all the details you need to get started.
There are so many exciting aspects to it, and so much more you can experiment and explore, for example, how to make soap with milk or what silk soaps are. I have recently been seeing soaps made with shed snake skins, beer, chocolate pumice, seaweed, spirulina matcha, and tea…. the possibilities are endless, and so is your imagination!
A final tip before I go – is don't do what I did and add lavender buds into your soap. Organic materials can rot, and lavender buds (unless properly treated) can sometimes look like mouse poo!!
Time and time again, I am happy that I have invested a little time and effort into making my Soap. My family has sensitive skin, so I like to know what is going into my products to prevent irritation.
Making soap at home with natural, eco-friendly ingredients is a fantastic way to embrace sustainable self-care. Not only do you reduce your environmental impact, but you also create a unique and nourishing product for your skin. So why not give it a try and explore the world of homemade soap?
Remember, soap-making is an art and a science, so don't be discouraged if your first batch doesn't turn out perfectly. Keep experimenting, learning, and refining your skills, and soon you'll be crafting beautiful, eco-friendly soaps that you can be proud of.
Embrace the world of sustainable self-care and experience the joy of creating homemade soap with natural ingredients. Not only will you contribute to a greener planet, but you'll also delight in the process of crafting something uniquely yours. So go ahead, grab your ingredients and tools, and start your soap-making adventure today!
Join a Facebook group and talk about how your journey is going. Happy Soaping!
Can I make soap without lye?
No, lye is necessary for the saponification process that turns oils and fats into soap. However, you can use a melt-and-pour soap base, which has already undergone saponification.
Is homemade soap safe for sensitive skin?
Yes, homemade soap can be tailored to suit sensitive skin by using gentle oils and avoiding harsh additives. Always patch-test a small area of skin before using any new product.
How can I colour my homemade soap naturally?
Natural colourants like clays, herbs, or plant powders can be used to colour your soap. Be sure to research the properties and usage guidelines for each colourant to achieve your desired results.
How long does homemade soap last?
When properly stored and cured, homemade soap can last for 1-2 years. However, the shelf life may vary depending on the ingredients used and storage conditions.
Can I make liquid soap at home?
Yes, you can make liquid soap at home using a similar process but with potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide (lye). The process is slightly more complex, but it's definitely achievable for the dedicated soap maker.
I think we've covered the essential information you need to get started with making soap at home. However, there are a few more things to keep in mind as you begin your soap-making journey:
- Patience is key: Soap-making can be a trial-and-error process, especially when you're first starting. Don't get discouraged if your initial batches aren't perfect. Embrace the learning experience and continue refining your techniques.
- Keep it eco-friendly: As you explore new ingredients and additives, ensure they are sustainably sourced and environmentally friendly. This way, you'll stay true to the purpose of making sustainable, natural soap.
- Experiment with recipes: Once you've mastered the basics, don't be afraid to branch out and try new recipes or techniques. The world of soap-making is vast, and there's always something new to learn and create.
- Document your progress: Keeping a journal or log of your soap-making experiences can be helpful in tracking your progress, learning from mistakes, and perfecting your recipes.
- Share the love: As you gain confidence in your soap-making abilities, consider sharing your creations with friends and family or even selling your products at local markets or online platforms. Homemade soap makes a thoughtful, sustainable gift that people will appreciate.
The key to successful soap-making lies in patience, creativity, and a dedication to using eco-friendly, natural ingredients. With practice and persistence, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of homemade soap and embracing a sustainable self-care lifestyle. Enjoy the process, and happy soap-making!