Step 1 – Learn What The Soap Making Process Is For Beginners

learn how to make handmade soap

In order to learn how to make soap, we will share the steps in the soap making process with you. First, we will start with the components, like oils, essential oils, butter, botanicals, and what about lye? This article has an introduction to the equipment you’ll need and soap making safety, a few essential recipes, how to formulate your own soap recipes, and finally a section showing how to make handmade soap.

What is ‘Natural’ Soap?

Making soap means preventing the use of any ingredients that could be toxic or are or are manufactured in ways using methods or questionable substances.

While some people may want to attempt and create soap for fun and are not too fussed about using all natural, our ideas on the topic are that if you are going to go to the effort of creating handmade soap why not create something that’s going to be entirely safe for you, your friends, your little ones, and your whole family?

What’s Soap Made From?

Most people want to know the way to make soap, but possibly the first question that should be asked is ‘What’s Soap’? At the core of all soap recipes are two primary components: lye (Sodium Hydroxide) and oil. Your soap making recipe will, through a controlled but straightforward method, chemically link these two ingredients into a new compound – Soap!

Lye / Sodium Hydroxide

Right, let us talk lye. Many people shy away from making soap because of experience with the hard lye soap their grandmothers made or as the idea of adding caustic soda into skin care products frightens or puts them off.

As we shared previously, soap making is the chemical reaction within oils, that are acids, and lye, which is a base. Together they will form an entirely new material which is gentle and almost neutral in PH.

If you’d like to create soap but are however feeling a little doubtful about managing Sodium Hydroxide, then we would recommend that you look into buying ‘Melt-and-Pour’ soap. Its pre-made soap that you melt put other ingredients and scent and then drain into molds.


You apply water in soap making to activate the dye and disperse it through the oils. Most of this water evaporates from your bars throughout the curing process. That means that your finished bars may be smaller than when you took them out of their molds.

As a newcomer, use the water amount shown in the soap recipe you’re about to use. This will usually be formulated to provide you with a 33-38% lye concentration. You can water discount your soap numbers as you become more experienced although we do not suggest you do this initially. Track time can hurry up, and the color of the soap may vary from what you suppose.

Oils & Fats

You can use any fat or oil to make soap. Most soap recipes comprise 3-6 oils, but a few have less or a good deal more. Soaps produced from one oil, like Castile (olive oil) soap are rare since very rare single oils create a fantastic soap. Different oils give several properties to soap, including lather, creaminess, hardness, and conditioning.

Most soap recipes are also super-fatted. This usually means adding extra oils at the end of the soap making process that will be free-floating in your bars. These oils and lye do not mix together with the lye and make the difference between a bar of soaps that is cleansing and a bar of soap that’s moisturizing and cleansing.

If you are a starter, please stick to using tried and tested recipes. Ones you know have a high success rate and are easy.

Common Oils Used In Soap Making


— Beeswax Vegetarian but not vegan, this wax will add hardness to your own soap and a gorgeous scent. As it stops lathering at larger amounts, use small quantities of beeswax on your recipes.

Cocoa Butter

— offers gorgeous moisture and skin protection and also helps to harden your soap. Use in smaller proportions as a ‘superfatting’ oil.

Coconut oil

— makes a hard bar with plenty of fluffy lather and cleansing power.

Olive oil

— soap prepared with olive oil is delicate, conditioning, and suitable for all types of skin.

Palm oil

— Using palm oil is a fantastic oil for soap making but one that’s hugely controversial. The palm plantations in south-east Asia have contributed to deforestation and loss of habitat for animals such as Orangutans. If you decide to use palm oil, please think using certified oil as sustainable and seek to learn more about where precisely it’s being grown and by whom.

Soybean oil

— Soybean oil helps produce a conditioning bar with a stable lather

Shea Butter

— Shea Butter an intriguing oil as it has more trouble turning into soap compared to other oils and will often stay on your soap as moisturizing butter as opposed to soap. Use in smaller proportions as a ‘superfatting’ oil.

Sweet Almond oil

— Sweet Almond Oil used for its mild feeling and ability to moisturize and condition the skin. Use in smaller proportions as a super-fatting’ oil.


Preservatives are utilized in ‘wet’ products because water produces an environment where bacteria can develop. Soap does not need preservatives since the water that you use in the recipe will evaporate out.

If you are super-fitting your recipe (that you should certainly do), then everything you may need is an antioxidant to help free-floating oils remain stable and never go rancid. There are two antioxidants that soap manufacturers use at the end of the soap making process in small quantities.

Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)

— Grapefruit Seed Extract extracted from the seeds and pulp of grapefruit that this thick and clear liquid doesn’t add a scent to your soap and is exceptionally effective at keeping other oils from spoiling.

Rosemary Oleoresin Extract

— is obtained from Rosemary leaves and indeed a solid and powerful smelling herbal fluid.

rosemary herb scent used in soaps

Soap Fragrance

Many people will decide to let their soap smell speak for it and leave it to scent like pure, clean, homemade soap. As they will impart their own aromas, another idea would be to use oils on your recipes such as beeswax or sesame.

However, the standard method to scent soap is with either essential oils or cosmetic grade fragrance oils.

Fragrance Oils vs. Essential oils

If you love the concept of natural fragrance, then we would recommend you’d stick with essential oils. They’re a real flower and plant essences and arrive in a variety. The drawback of using essential oils is propensity or fading with time and their cost. It is particularly problematic for citrus essential oils like orange and lemon.

Fragrance oils are commercially created fragrances for the toiletry industry. They are relatively cheap, have an odor that lasts ages, and have a broad range to pick from. If you prefer baby powder scented soap or shampoo that scents like coconut you will have to use fragrance oils.

The thing that feels uncomfortable about in regards to fragrance oils is that they are trademarked and patent protected. That means you’ll never know all the ingredients used to make them. Often fragrance oils are made of petrochemicals and allergens, which cause people to sneeze or have skin reactions.

Scent Fixer

Above we have stated that the fragrance of essential oils can weaken over time, but there are methods to ‘fix’ the smell so that they’ll last longer. Occasionally, another essential oil can help the other people to stick, and sometimes, it’s good to use a different additive that acts to absorb the essential oils into it.

Fixers are more advanced in soap making, but one can add them so that those experimenting with making lovely smelling soap are not frustrated with the odor disappearing during the curing process of their soap.

Here are some of the options you will encounter:


— use as small as a teaspoon in 800g (28oz) batches.


— accessible as both a powder and as an essential oil.


— use as limited as a teaspoon in 800g (28oz) batches.


–. Using fine oatmeal will add exfoliation and will absorb and hang on your oils.

Orris Root Powder

— produced from the dried and powdered root of the Iris (Iris germanica) and contains a woodsy and violet smell of its own.

Essential oils

— Base note essential oils like Patchouli, Cedarwood, and Balsams and May Chang (Litsea Cubea) are great at grounding the other essential oils in the blend.

Soap Colors

In natural soap production, you have various substances for coloring your soap, which will include cosmetics you can buy from specialty providers and flowers and plants which may be growing in your backyard.

Your other option is to select oils that will impart a natural hue to your soap. These could consist of clays, plant extracts, or components which will caramelize and provide a warm color to the finished product.

Oil Choice

— some of the oils, including olive oil, will present a more creamy or yellow shade. White/light colored oils will produce white soap.


— although limited in color, cosmetic clays may add beautiful natural color to your bar. Clays can also provide bars that gently detox and exfoliate the skin.

Minerals & Micas

— These powders can be found in a wide assortment of colors that may help you hit the most of the colors of the rainbow. Not everyone believes them natural. They’re more accurately labeled as ‘Nature identical’ rather than ‘Natural.’ Micas and minerals are present in nature but are contaminated with hazardous heavy elements that are toxic to use. That’s why the ones offered for soap and mineral make-up are reproduced in a controlled atmosphere.


honey sugar used in soap making process

— sugar, milk, and honey will caramelize if you add them to your batch before trace. If your temperature is warm over 105F in my own experience, they’ll do the exact same thing.

Herbs, Flowers, & Roots

— Nature creates all kinds of beautiful colors beneficial in soap making. Use calendula petals for orange, alkanet root for purples, and Madder root for pink.


The term botanicals simply mean natural fruit, leaf, flower, and root additives which impart color, visual interest, or exfoliation to your soap.

There’s some conjecture as to how much of the original properties found in these ingredients to survive the soap making process. Consider adding them to your recipes and judge for yourself. Using botanicals in soap is optional.

Botanical Oils

— chiefly utilized at the super-fatting phase and might contain rose-hip oil, neem oil, and borage seed oil. With the exception of neem, it is our view that the inclusion of these oils might be a waste in cold-process soap because their valuable components can be destroyed by heat. Probably save them for making homemade lotion and cream, melt-and-pour soap, or mill your finished soap and mix them in after.

Dried Fruit & Spices

— peppercorns, orange and lemon slices, and cinnamon sticks are merely a few of the items that you can add to your soap to make holiday or scent themed layouts. Others, like Turmeric powder, may give natural color.


— Ground almonds, rolled oats, and ground pumice stone can be added at small quantities to make a more scrubby soap.

Herbs & Flowers

— these can be applied to either decorate or tint your own soap. Use infusions of herbs and flowers or all the water content and don’t hesitate to use dried flowers on insides and the tops of your soap. A term of warning, though in using flower petals – most will fade during the soap production and curing process.

mint fragrance in oil used in soapmaking process


— there are numerous roots with a medicinal value which may be used in soap making. The efficacy of the active ingredients can be questionable on your product. Madder and alkanet root are roots practiced solely for color and lead to be added by introducing liquid oils with the dried root. You can also add a powdered variant of the root right to the soap.

Where to Buy your Soap Making Ingredients

First, we encourage you to pop into cash-and-carry or the regional foods wholesaler. See what they have on offer because you can get a better deal than with specialty soap and beauty providers.

Always ensure to verify the best by date of the oils you are purchasing. Quite often the oil in supermarkets can be near their expiration date, always check date. Applying old oil in soap production can lead to a lot of problems from dreaded orange spots to a short shelf-life.

Secondly, we want to highlight is that it’s easy to spend a small fortune when beginning creating your soap. You don’t require much to get started, so try to avoid buying expensive oils and equipment. At least till you’ve made a few batches and know better what you want.

To be continued…

One Comment on “Step 1 – Learn What The Soap Making Process Is For Beginners

  1. This was a great breakdown for beginners! I usually just recommend using a pre-made soap base and scenting it how you want. I like the ones here: https://www. _ _ They work well and are great for getting the feet wet with soap making. You made it all seem so simple too.

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