25 Secrets For Making Amazing Soap at Home

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Soap Making Tips

It’s no secret that I love making soap.

I’ve learned the hard way over the years by making many mistakes along the way. But I believe the mistakes help me learn how to deal with the failures. So during the years that I’ve been making soap, mistakes and successes, I’ve picked up some tips that I’d love to share with you.

25 Secrets for Great Homemade Soap

  1. Add a small amount of sunflower oil instead of Vitamin E. Sunflower oil is naturally high in Vitamin E and has other nutrients that are good for your skin.
  2. Grease your molds before you start. I’ve had some batches that trace long before they should and I don’t have the molds prepared yet. Save time and effort by greasing them ahead of time. (Silicone molds don’t require greasing.)
  3. Measure all your ingredients ahead of time. Not only does it speed up the process, it will also allow you to see if you’re missing something and need to run out and get it.
  4. Mix powdered pigments with oil. There will be less lumps than if you use water. Mix powdered goat’s milk and other ingredients with oil as well for the same reason.
  5. Don’t allow your supplies to run out. If you make a lot of soap (like I do!), pick up extra oils or oatmeal when you do your weekly shopping. It makes it much less of a chance for running out.
  6. Add a small amount of beeswax to prevent soda ash, or use plastic wrap on top of the new soap before you close it for the first rest period. The plastic wrap must be touching the soap for the soda ash to be eliminated.
  7. Or – use the soda ash for a decorative effect, such as foam on the waves of beach soap.
  8. Mix your lye ahead of time and let it cool. Just be sure to label it!! I’ve made several batches now with cold lye. If the lye is 75° then compensate temperature by making your oils 125°. One will balance the other and end up about 100° which is exactly where you want it.
  9. Buy ingredients in bulk. If you make a lot of soap, it will pay in the long run.
  10. Get a cutting board just for cutting soap. Then there will  be no chance of getting soap remains on your chicken, or vice versa, getting onions on your soap.
  11. Draw lines on this cutting board to aid in cutting your soap. No guesswork on straight lines.
  12. Buy wholesale. In addition to buying bulk, get a wholesale tax number so that you can buy from sources that only sell to businesses. Even for a small business, it can make a big difference in expenses.
  13. Warm up honey before adding to soap. Cold honey will congeal and possibly stay in clumps.
  14. Mix Vitamin E oil (or sunflower oil!) with dried herbs to help preserve the color. Eventually most all herbs will turn brown, but this helps to slow the process.
  15. Prepare your extra additions ahead of time. As with the molds, sometimes the soap traces quickly and you need to add your additives sooner than expected.
  16. Use a lye calculator. Many websites have lye calculators to help you figure out how much lye you need to make certain oils into soap. (See one here.)
  17. Pour vinegar on clean rags or baby wipes for convenience. No matter how careful I am, sometimes I get a few beads of lye on me. Vinegar will help to neutralize the lye. You can even make your own baby wipes using this recipe.
  18. Wait 3-5 days to clean your soap-making equipment. If you try to clean them right away, you’ll just have a greasy mess and you’ll get raw lye on your hands. If you wait, the grease and lye will turn to soap. After a few days, just soak everything in hot water. I usually don’t even have to scrub!
  19. Donate imperfect bars to a homeless shelter or food bank. We have a local organization that helps people after a fire. They are always in need of personal care items. I donate my imperfect bars to local organizations and give people a chance to use good soap.
  20. Shop thrift stores for blankets for cleanup and covering soap. Thrift stores always have old flannel cotton baby blankets that are stained and no one seems to want them. I don’t care about stains, as I’ll likely be adding more. They are cheap and very absorbent.
  21. Save up all your soap making towels and blankets for one laundry load. No need to use detergent – they already have soap on them. Use hot water and turn you washer off after it agitates a bit. Let them soak until cool and then finish the cycle. I don’t use softener either. The natural glycerin in soap acts as a fabric softener.
  22. Use silicone molds. (This one makes a nice bar shape.) Soap is easily removed from them. No freezing or chipping out with a knife.
  23. Sniff some coffee before checking the scent in your soap a final time. Coffee will clear your nose and give you a true sense of the scent. After you get the scent exactly where you want it, add a bit more.  Lye tends to “eat” some of the scent leaving some bars too faint.
  24. Don’t stint on the first stirring. It’s essential to get all of the lye in contact with all of the oil, so you should stir by hand for at least the first 5 minutes. After that, a stick blender can be used.
  25. Have fun! Don’t get caught up in making the perfect bar. You might miss out on something good.

More Info on Soap Making

Haven’t made soap yet? No problem. These articles will help get you started:

Do you have any tips for making great soap?

Share them with us in the comments section below!


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Irene says

    Hi! I have a question, pretty much every soap “recipe” I have ever read says you should use a stick blender. I don’t really have the money/space for the stick blenders I have seen. I already make a lot of my own things (lotions, lip balms, scrubs, etc.), but the fact that I need to find space for yet another thing in my tiny kitchen is irksome so I have put off soap making. Can I just use a “regular” hand held blender? I have one that I have set aside for non-food use…

    Also, how dangerous is lye really? I have heard all sorts of horror stories, but seems to me if you are smart and careful it really isn’t any more dangerous than doing other things. Yes, you can get burned, yes you could catch something on fire, and the list continues, but I read about a number of people who do this consistently with no problem. I distinctly remember a friend’s great grandmother making soap, she never kicked us out of the kitchen when she started the soap. She just had us stand over near the door so we were not underfoot. Maybe she had done it so many times she felt confidant we wouldn’t get hurt, but seems to me she was just careful.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Well, Irene, this is a tough question. You don’t need a stick blender, it just makes the process go faster. I’ve tried a hand held blender and an upright blender and I don’t recommend either. The hand held blender is just too slow and splatters everywhere. Clean up is a mess! And the upright blender is a bad choice as well. It’s certainly fast enough, but the soap gets thick fast and it gets very hard to get out. Instead of either one, I would just stir by hand.
      In answer to the second question, you pretty much answered yourself. I use gloves and don’t let the dogs in the area where my workshop is downstairs, but I’m very careful. I still get a few beads of lye on me on occasion, but I keep my vinegar baby wipes handy and that takes care of it.

      • Irene says

        Okay, thank-you. What do you mean it splatters? Seems to me if you keep the beaters below the edge of the bowl it would be fine. If it’s thick you could just do like you do when you make cream cheese frosting and you don’t have it softened quite enough, you get a really deep bowl and it just slings on the sides…how long can I expect it to take if I am going to stir it by hand though? Like I said, pretty much every recipe that I have ever read says “use a stick blender”. I made pudding and custard like things on a regular basis so standing and stirring isn’t that big of a deal to me, but I would like to know if it will literally take hours, and is there anything I can do to speed things up besides using a stick blender?

        Okay, so does it immediately cause injury? That’s another thing I keep reading, the lye keeps getting portrayed like it’s a snake that’s going to bite you and once you’re bit you are bit and you have this severe injury. It sounds like to me though that you have a chance to get it off you….

  2. Cyndi says

    Thanks for the tips! I have a question. Do you use essential oil or fragrance oil to scent your soap? I’d like to stay as natural as possible, but I’ve read that essential oil loses it’s scent fairly quickly in soap. Also, essential oil is more costly than fragrance oil. Which do you recommend? Thanks so much!

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Hi Cyndi! I use both. Most essential oils are long lasting and concentrated so you don’t need to use much. but some, like citrus oils, tend to fade quickly. I use substitutes where I can. For example, litsea cubeba has a very lemony scent and taste and it has no know irritants. So even people who can’t use citrus can use litsea. But for some, like grapefruit, I use fragrance oil. I try to get those that are naturally based if I can.

  3. Becca says

    I also haven’t ponied up the courage to attempt cold process soap. I enjoy the simplicity of Melt and Pour so much! And I’m terribly impatient – once the soap solidifies I want to use it! 🙂

    Iris that’s a good idea to use botched bars as laundry soap

    • Debra Maslowski says

      I have to admit I do some melt and pour soaps myself, Becca, usually because someone wants a special order right away. And you’re right, it’s ready as soon as it’s solid. If I want to try a new fragrance oil or herb, I can do it this way and not have to wait for weeks.

  4. Iris Weaver says

    I haven’t yet had the courage to face down my fear of lye. But if I had imperfect bars of soap, I would grate them up for my homemade laundry powder.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Don’t fear the lye, Iris, but respect it. I’ve never had a serious burn either on me or any of my students. Just be careful and follow the directions. You’ll be fine.