A Simple Soap Recipe

One can generate lots of pleasure with self-made soaps. Just the process of making soap can be lots of fun. One is free to decide about the smell of the soap, one can choose the favourite color and can determine which oils should be added for optimum skin care. The prize of one’s own work is a precious piece of soap. Washing with self-boiled soap feels very differently from washing with an industrial product.

We hobby-soap maker don’t any longer make our soaps the way it is described in old cook-books and guidebooks for house-wives. In former times soaps were frequently boiled, especially in the country-side. Also in bad times one always remembered how to make more or less useful soap from waste fat for household-use.

Today self-made soap is almost a luxury product. We only use good fats and oils in foodstuff quality and pure caustic soda. For additional care purposes expensive vegetable oils will be admixed, and valuable extracts will be used to provide odor to the soap. There is no limit to imagination. Some soap makers only use vegetable fats and those from biological cultivation, others like to use lard and suet, because animal fats are a good base for soaps and yield a solid and lathering soap.

Soap making itself is a simple process. Even the beginner can make good soap from a few ingredients. This hobby is fun and one enjoys the pleasant feeling to wash oneself with self-made soaps.


The soap maker always has to be aware that he is working with strong lye. This not only requires all sorts of safety requirements, but one also has to prepare all pieces of equipment and all appliances in the right size. It must not happen that a pot is too small, that a spoon is missing, or that children and pets disturb by running around. It is better to first think of everything rather than having to interrupt the work later.

We have to decide how much soap we want to boil. Small quantities, e.g. less than 500g of soap, are for the newcomer often more difficult to make than quantities of 1 to 2 kg. We choose to work with 500g animal fat and 500g vegetable oil. From 1kg fat/oil one will get about 1.5kg of soap. We thus need

Safety Precautions

Because we work with corrosive caustic soda, we have to protect skin and dresses. Boiling soap is nothing for children. One must be able to work concentrated and take ample time (1 to 2 hours).

Important are:


To create a simple beginner’s soap we take

Fat and oil are slowly heated in the large pot. It must not get too hot. 60 to 90°C (140 - 190 °F)  is enough. After everything is molten the pot needs to cool down to 50-60°C (120 - 140°F).

In the meantime the lye is being prepared. We use pure caustic soda (chemical formula NaOH). It looks like white crystals. One also calls it sodium hydroxide. One can get it in pharmacies or drugstores.

The required amount of lye can be exactly calculated. Each fat or oil requires a certain amount of lye for the soap-making process. If one takes too much lye, then the soap will become corrosive and can become dangerous for the skin. If one takes too little, then a part of the oil remains unconverted in the soap. The soap becomes ‘fat’. Most of the time this is wanted, because the fat can cultivate the skin, and it also provides a certain degree of safety against the danger of corrosion.

We take for the amount of fat in our formula

The dissolves in

During the dissolution of the caustic soda water heats up considerably. Also etching vapours get released, thus safety precautions have to be observed.

ATTENTION: One always adds first distilled water into the pot and slowly adds to the water. Never work in the reverse order, otherwise a small explosion with bad lye splashes occurs.

Soap Boiling

Now the soap boiling process starts. One carefully adds the hot, dissolved lye into the pot with fat and oil, which should still be at a temperature of 50-60°C (120 - 140°F). It immediately leads to a milky mass. If you have a stick blender, you should stir for a few minutes. Fat and lye will mix well. Soon the mass will thicken like apple sauce. With a wooden spoon you may well have to stir for about half an hour, until the mass turns thick. When the mass becomes so thick, that one can leave traces with the wooden spoon (when one can ‘write’ on the soap…) then everything should immediately be poured into the soap mould.

ATTENTION: Heat develops during stirring of the soap. The whole mass will become 60°C (140°F) and hotter. If you stir too long or at too high a temperature, the soap mass will be brought into the soap mould only with greatest difficulty. The soap will become coarse and crumbly.

Once the soap is in the mould, it will soon harden. It is good to keep it warm longer. The mould needs to be covered with old cloths in order to preserve the heat. The soap should remain in the mould for at least 24hrs in order to ‘ripen’. It looses ‘sharpness’ during storage, e.g. the lye content decreases. A chemist would notice that the pH-value of the soap is dropping. A mature soap will have a pH-value between 8.5 and 10.


After letting it sit for one or several days one takes out the hardened soap body and cuts it with a knife into smaller peaces. If one wants to be more perfect, one can also cut along the edges to make the soap lie smoothly in the hand.

The soap pieces have to lie for several days in order to dry. One chooses a cool, airy place without direct sunlight. Our soaps can certainly lie for several months, although they may smell after some time. This is, however, only a surface smell, which disappears quickly after washing. This soap recipe has been intentionally calculated such that the finished soap is superfatted. The excess fat can partially disintegrate at the surface in air or sunlight, which can be smelled. The self-made soap is a natural product. It does not contain any chemical stabilizers and can thus not be compared with an industrial product.

Anyone who has cooperated to this stage has by now been attacked by the ‘soap virus’. Thousands of recipes are still waiting for you in the internet and in the special literature. Do you want to continue boiling?

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© 2006 by Herald Gessinger
Dez 07