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Making Natural Soap from Scratch
Whether you choose to make soap for your own
personal use or for gift giving, you will no doubt be hooked after your first batch. The
following instructions are designed for both our kits and soap making from scratch.
At Cranberry Lane our mission is,
To pioneer a standard of excellence in
education, service, and products, that support the earth and body with integrity and
We hope that you enjoy the art of soap making as much as we do, one batch or many. We are
always interested in feedback and questions, so please email us at email@example.com or call us at (604) 629-8383.
See our on-line
catalogue and newsletters.
If you enjoy making your own Natural Beauty Care products, youll love our line of
Make-it-yourself body care kits. With Cranberry Lanes tried and true formulas and
quality ingredients, you can make all-natural products as individual as you are - and at a
fraction of the cost.
Soap: What is it and
where did it come from?
Animal versus Vegetable based soaps
The Soap Process
Testing for pH
Soap Making: Cold Process Method
Diagnosing signs of trouble in soap
Scents & Herbs to Try
Adding Your Favourite ingredients to your soap
Soap: What is it and where does it
Until the early 1900s, much of the soap used
was made at home. Fats from cooking and butchering were saved until there was enough to
make a batch of soap. This all changed in 1916 when a shortage of fats (a main ingredient
in soap) occurred during World War I. As an alternative was needed, enterprising companies
developed the first synthetic soaps called detergents.
With a wide variety of
oils available today, making your own soap is once again very
inexpensive, and a good choice for those concerned about quality, health related benefits,
and the environment.
Successful soap making today is a result of a much better understanding of chemistry,
experience, and a wider variety of ingredients to choose from. Today's soaps are milder and
better for skin thanks to the availability of vegetable and
plant based oils.
Chemically speaking, soap is a salt. An acid and a base react with one another and are
neutralized to form a salt or soap. A more basic explanation is: oils or fats combine with
Sodium Hydroxide or Lye in a process called saponification to produce soap.
Hand made soap retains extra glycerin, known to soften the skin naturally. Glycerin is one
of the best known humecants (attracts moisture to the skin). It is often extracted during
the process of manufacturing commercially made soap, then sold as a valuable by-product.
Natural ingredients are rarely used in commercially manufactured soap. If used at all, it
is sparingly. One of the best advantages of making your own soap is that you are in charge
of quality control. You decide which ingredients to use and how much.
Animal versus Vegetable-based Soaps
Originally, all soap was made from animal fats
mainly lard from pigs and tallow from cattle. It was readily available and at the
time no one questioned the use of animal by-products. Over time, new oils were extracted
from vegetables, grains and nuts providing an alternative to animal oils.
Vegetable oil soaps are chemically superior and can be of higher quality than soaps made
with animal fats. Vegetable oils are more readily absorbed by the skin while animal oils
have been found to clog pores and aggravate certain skin conditions, such as
The Soap Process
Natural hand-made soap is not difficult to make,
once you understand the basics. You can make a batch of soap in as little as one hour,
depending on the formula.
The following is the basic formula for making all soap:
Fatty acid (oil) + Base (lye) = A Salt (soap)
The oil or fat is heated gently. Lye and water are combined separately. When both
ingredients reach the required temperature, they are combined. When the mixture becomes
the desired consistency, it is poured into a mould. The bars are then removed from the
mould after setting up (approximately 24 to 48 hours). They are restacked and allowed to
cure or dry until hard. This can take anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks depending on
There are 3 keys to successful soap making:
2. A good formula.
3. Proper technique.
Cold Process Method: This process
is widely used by home-based soap makers. The neutralization stage takes place during the
moulding stage. Our kits follow this method.
Semi-boiled Method: After the soap
mixture traces, heat is added using a double-boiler to cause the soap to neutralize before
Full-boiled Method: This method is
where all ingredients are prepared in one large container. Heat is added causing
neutralization. Large commercial manufacturers use this method to achieve the by-product
Transparent Soap: This soap is made
clear by adding solvents such as alcohol to prevent crystals from forming as the soap
cools. Transparent soap is often referred to as Glycerin Soap. However, this is a fallacy
as glycerin is not needed to produce a clear or transparent soap. This soap can be drying
to the skin.
Melt and Pour Soap: Or also known a
solid Glycerin blocks. Pure glycerin, animal or vegetable derived, is always liquid and
can only be solidified by the addition of plastizer chemicals. To produce a foam,
detergents are added. This method is simply making soap from soap and is more expensive
than starting from scratch. Melt and pour soaps may have natural ingredients added to them
but they are synthetically based.
A preservative is defined as something that protects
against decomposition. However, nature has its own agenda and decay is inevitable. There
are no preservatives, synthetic or natural, that can completely stop this process
they can only slow it down.
Oxidation occurs within fats/oils which causes rancidity and spoilage to occur. Carrot
oil, Vitamin E oil, and Grapefruit Seed Extract are three natural preservatives that are
recommended. They contain powerful anti-oxidants such as vitamin A, E and C, which can
help prevent spoilage.
The formulas in this booklet do not require any additional preservatives, unless you
choose to add an ingredient that is vulnerable to rancidity, i.e. fresh fruit or vegetable
- One large stainless steel mixing bowl (the larger the
better). This greatly reduces the amount of splatter leaving the bowl during the mixing
- One heat-resistant container that hold 2 cups (glass
Pyrex works well) to mix Lye and water. Note: Using a large container may result in
rapid heat loss and temperatures not reaching their goal
- A container to heat oils. If using the stove, a
stainless steel pot will do. If using the microwave, use a microwave-safe container
- Candy or meat
thermometer made of glass and stainless
steel (having two works best one for the lye and one for the oil)
- Protective wear: long sleeved shirt, pants, shoes (no
bare feet), glasses and rubber gloves. Keep a bottle of vinegar nearby to neutralize lye
- Soap moulds;
plastic, cardboard, or
wood (use wax
paper to line, see Soap Moulds)
- Measuring spoons, pot holders or oven mitts, and
Digital scale, accurate to at least two grams (if not
Generally, you can use just about any type of
plastic, wood, or cardboard
as a soap mould. Do not use tin, aluminum, Teflon, or copper as they react with the lye.
Candy and candle moulds may work well, too. If you want something simple, choose a square
or rectangular container and cut the bars to size after your soap has set. Cardboard milk
or juice containers work well as they are coated with wax.
To make round soaps try recycling a plastic bottle. Using an empty, clean, plastic pop or
round shampoo bottle, carefully slice the sides of the bottle lengthwise. Tape sides using
plastic packing tape to prevent leakage. Pour the soap mixture and let set for required
amount of time. Peel tape back and release your soap, then cut the bars to a desired size.
Set to cure as usual.
If you are having trouble getting your soap to release from the mould, try placing it in
the freezer for two hours. This will cause the soap mixture to shrink from the sides and
make removal easier.
To help with release, use vegetable shortening to grease your moulds. Cardboard or wooden
moulds require a combination of waxed paper or freezer paper and vegetable shortening.
Tip: Line your moulds with brown freezer or
butchers paper. Apply some vegetable shortening to the inside surfaces of your
mould, lay in some freezer paper, shiny side up, and trim to fit. After removal,
simply peel off the
paper from your soap block the next day.
Rebatching into fancy moulds
Handmilling or rebatching soap after unmoulding is
done to achieve greater medicinal benefits from ingredients like
to increase colour intensity, and to change the shape and texture of the soap.
Rebatching can be done after unmoulding by grating or chopping a soap bar and using water
to melt it. As a general rule, combine one cup of grated soap to 1/4 cup of water or
herbal infusion. Heat in a double boiler or use a glass Pyrex container to microwave. Heat
gently, stirring constantly to help break down soap pieces and evaporate the water.
Continue until all water has evaporated. Remove from heat and add optional ingredients
i.e.: herbs, spices, grains, essential oils, creams or lotions, or carrier oils such as
- Soap making is not recommended for children because of
the potential danger that lye poses.
- Carefully read the warning label on the lye bottle.
Lye is also known as caustic soda (sodium hydroxide)
- Use only pure lye granules do not make the
mistake of substituting drain cleaner. It contains other ingredients that you would not
want in your soap.
- Be sure to keep the lid tight on the bottle of lye.
Moisture in the air will weaken its strength and cause it to form lumps.
- Lye can be fatal if swallowed.
- Always wear rubber gloves and protective clothing,
such as a long sleeved shirt and shielding eyewear when working with lye.
- Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. Vapours
released from the lye when it is first mixed with water are quite noxious, and can greatly
irritate the lungs.
- Always have a bottle of vinegar close at hand.
Vinegar will help neutralize the lye/water mixture if it happens to splatter on
- Lye can remove paint, so be careful not to let it
come in contact with any painted surfaces. If lye, lye/water or even freshly made soap
splatters on any painted surface, wash the area quickly with water and detergent. Rinse
with clear water and wipe dry.
- Freshly made soap can burn and irritate the skin,
therefore its best not to handle soap with bare hands for at least 48 hours. If your
skin does come into contact with fresh soap, rinse your skin with vinegar immediately,
then rinse with running water.
- Do not use any containers made of tin, zinc or
aluminum. Lye will react with them.
- Recommended containers for mixing your soap include
glass, plastic, stainless steel, enamel, and heat proof stoneware.
Testing your soap for proper pH
You can test your soap for excess lye by applying a
few drops of
Phenolphthalein, a colourless, clear liquid. This chemical will turn pink or
fuchsia in the presence of an alkali or an excess of lye. Soap that is to be used on the
skin should be in the range of 7 to 9.5.
Its the degree of pink that determines how alkaline your soap is. If a drop applied
to the middle of a soap cutting turns deep pink or fuchsia then the soap should not be used
on the skin. This soap however is great for the house and or laundry. If the drop stays
clear or turns just the lightest shade of transparent pink then your soap should be fine.
If your soap was left uncovered while in the mould then the white chalk-like substance on
the surface (soda ash) will also test alkaline. This can be trimmed off or avoided by
applying plastic wrap to the surface right after pouring your soap into the mould.
Soap Making: Cold Process Method
Carefully read the sections on Caution, and Soap
making: the procedure before beginning. One of the most common mistakes soap makers make is
not weighing the ingredients carefully. This is a crucial step. Make sure you use an
accurate digital scale to weigh your oils and your Lye.
Each premixed bottle of oil makes approximately 700g
of soap. You can combine several bottles together to make a larger batch, however, it is a
good idea when making soap for the first time to make small batches in order to learn as
- If making soap from one of our kits, set one of
Cranberry Lanes pre-mixed oil bottles in a hot water bath to liquefy contents (do
not microwave these bottles). When the oil in the bottle becomes clear, pour into a 2 cup
measuring cup. Be sure to get all the oil out of the bottle.
If making soap from the Soap Formulas
guide, accurately measure all oils required for your soap recipe using a
- The Oil Phase. Gently heat oils using one of these
Stove Method: Use a stainless steel pot on the stove. Be careful not to burn oils.
Microwave Method: Use a microwave-safe container for your oils. Heat for 1 minute on high,
then use 20 second intervals thereafter, until the required temperature is reached.
(150°F, 65°C for our Basic or Deluxe Soap Making Kit).
Heat oil to 10°C past the required temperature per formula. This will allow time for the
lye to cool to its correct temperature. Always heat oils before mixing lye and water.
- The lye/water phase. Pour room temperature distilled
water (amount specified by formula) into a clean glass 2 cup size measuring cup. (If using
our Basic, Refill, or Deluxe Soap Making Kit use 3/4 cup) While stirring, slowly add one bottle of
lye. This mixture will quickly become very hot. Continue stirring until the water turns
clear. Do not inhale the fumes. Place a candy thermometer in the cup, do not rest it on
the bottom as it will give you a false reading keep it somewhere in the middle. Let
this mixture cool to the required temperature (refer to Soap Formulas for
temperatures or use 150°F, 65°C for our Basic or Deluxe Soap Making Kit).
- Pour the hot oil into a large mixing bowl. Use a
plastic spatula to get all the oil out of the measuring cup. When both oil phase and
lye/water phase have reached their required temperatures, slowly pour the lye/water
mixture into the oil mixture while stirring in rapid, small circles.
Note: Always add lye/water to oil, not the other way around.
Continue to stir this mixture even after you have finished combining the two parts. Use a
rapid, figure 8 pattern for stirring being careful to incorporate the sides as
- Stir the soap mixture until it traces.
This is a term to describe the consistency or thickness, and the stage where the soap
mixture is ready to pour into moulds. Tracing is easily recognized. Using a plastic
spatula, drizzle a small amount across the top of the soap mixture. If a mark or trail
remains for a few seconds before disappearing again, your soap has traced. The mixture
should be the consistency of liquid honey or pudding before its poured. If your soap
takes a little longer than normal, dont worry just keep stirring and it will
Tracing time for formulas can vary greatly; affected by room temperatures, humidity
levels, and the speed of stirring. The tracing time for our formulas are based on normal
room temperatures 20° to 23°C and average humidity levels.
- After the soap traces, you can add your own herbs and
essential oils (see pages 12-13 for some great ideas). Do not use perfume, synthetic
fragrances, or extracts of any kind as the alcohol content may interfere with the soap
- After adding any additional ingredients, pour your
soap mixture into the mould. Place a piece of clear plastic wrap on top to create an air
barrier. Cover your mould with a blanket or towel and place in a warm location away from
drafts and childrens reach. Let set undisturbed for the specified moulding time as
stated in the formula for your oil blend.
Moulding tip: Grease your mould with vegetable shortening for ease of release later. Wear
gloves during clean up and use hot water and dish soap to remove all residue from
- When removing soap from the mould, wear gloves to
protect your hands. The soap may be slightly caustic at this stage and can irritate your
skin. Gently press the back of the mould. You may find twisting the mold slightly works as
well same technique as removing ice from ice cube trays. If your soap will not
release easily, try placing the mould in the freezer for one hour. Freezing causes
moisture loss and the soap will contract and pull away from the edges. Use a large knife
to cut your soap into desired size bars. (Note: colour may fade in soap placed in the
- After soap has been cut into bars, place them on a
piece of wax paper or plastic wrap in a cool, dry, dark place to cure or age as specified
in each formula. This time is necessary for the moisture to evaporate. Using the soap
prematurely will lead to a spongy bar that may not lather or last very long. Wait for at
least three weeks before finishing your bars (see section on Finishing.) After
your bars have had a chance to dry or cure they will be able to with stand some rough
handling. All good things take time! Write down the date of unmoulding and keep it with
the curing soap as a reference.
Within 1/2 hour of pouring your soap into the mould you should notice it becoming hotter and turning dark in the middle. It can become quite dark and somewhat transparent. Bubbles may also come to the surface. This is a sign that your soap is properly neutralizing. It should stay hot like this for several hours before cooling and becoming light in colour again. Soap that is not properly insulated, cooled too much during tracing, poured into too small a mould, or with initial temperatures too low may not completely neutralize.
Making Liquid Soap
Because of the moisture content of a natural
liquid soap, they can be susceptible to rancidity. Keep your liquid soap in a cool dry place and
in an air tight bottle, preferably with a pump or flip top to dispense your soap.
- Follow the procedure for making soap as specified in
the formula, with one exception no curing time.
- After you have removed your soap from a simple mould,
shave, shred or chop the soap into small pieces.
- Place one cup of shredded soap in a double-boiler and
add 3 cups of water. Stir continually on medium heat until melted.
Note: Soap may not completely melt. There may be small pieces that do not break down,
simply strain them out.
- When all the soap has melted it should be very runny.
If not, add an extra cup of water.
- Add four tablespoons of vegetable Glycerin and 1/2
tsp. of Grapefruit Seed Extract to help preserve your liquid soap. You may also add any
essential oil to scent before pouring your liquid soap into bottles. Try adding 6 - 10
drops per 500ml. Your liquid soap should have a shelf life of approximately 6 - 8 months.
Our shampoo refill kit or shampoo recipe melts into liquid soap very easily. It has a large proportion of
castor oil and makes a softer bar of soap. Soaps that are made with soft oils (oils that are liquid at room temperature) make softer soaps. Although initially softer, many of these soaps will still cure to become very hard bars.
Diagnosing Signs of Trouble in
Trouble in Mixing Bowl
Your mixture does not trace after the time listed in the formula passes. You may
have one of the following problems: incorrect temperatures, stirring too slowly, or too
much water. Make sure you get all the oil blend and lye out of their containers. Measure
water accurately to ensure the correct amount is used, stir mixture smoothly and
consistently. The Perfect Blend kit should trace within 45 minutes.
Your mixture suddenly begins to streak.
Your temperatures may have been too cold. If your soap still traces then quickly pour into
Your mixture begins to curdle in the bowl.
Synthetic fragrances may cause this.
Small chunks form in the bowl while mixing.
Your oils, lye, or both may have been poured too hot, or you are stirring inconsistently
or too slowly. Soap mixture may still trace, but this mixture is unsuitable, leading to
poor soap quality. Test soap after un-moulding.
Your mixture becomes, or is slightly grainy.
Temperatures were either too high or too low, or your stirring wasnt brisk and
consistent. Maintaining temperature is very important for soap making. If your soap batch
is split up and poured into small moulds after tracing, it may lose temperature to quickly
and not completely neutralize.
Trouble Signs in Finished Soap
Your soap cracks or breaks when un-moulded or
when being cut. You may have added too much dry ingredients, or traced your soap
batch too long. See Scents & Herbs to Try.
Your soap has a thin layer of white on the
surface. Your soap mixture has reacted to the oxygen in the air. This is only an
aesthetic problem, refer to Step #7 in the Soap Making, the cold process
method section to avoid this next time.
Your soap has hard, shiny chunks of solid lye,
the rest of your soap is soft with a slippery liquid on the bottom. Your soap may
have been poured into the mold before it had traced, or you stirred too slowly or
inconsistently. Do not use these bars, they will irritate the skin.
You see air bubbles in your soap.
have stirred too quickly, or for too long.
Your soap has an excessive amount of white
powder on top of the bars, is cakey, or crumbly. Hard water may have been used to
dissolve the lye. You should not use these bars, as they may irritate your skin. Be sure
to use only distilled water in the future.
Scents and Herbs To Try:
See our Soap making Additives &
How to Add your Favourite
Remember to add all optional ingredients after your
soap has traced. Note One batch refers to one bottle of any of our blended oils which make
approximately 10 bars. If you are blending oils yourself, for the purposes of
these instructions, one batch makes 700 grams of soap.
Essential Oils are defined as: "Highly concentrated essences extracted from portions of the plant." They have been valued and used throughout history for their therapeutic and scent qualities. You can add a wide variety of essential oils to your soap as long as they are considered safe. Essential oils are highly concentrated and are extremely powerful. Some are beneficial while others can be harmful. It is best to research an oil before using it to: a) determine the safety of the oil, and b) ensure that the oil(s) are compatible with your body type. For the soap maker, the only oils that have a habit of causing some problems (if added in high volume) are the citrus oils. They can disrupt the soap making process causing the soap to curdle. Limit these oils to no more than 2 tablespoons (30ml) per 700g batch.
Blending for scent qualities: Many scents today are the direct result of scent characteristics present in nature. When it comes to blending a scent there are three main scent classifications or "notes": top, middle, and base. The top note is the odour that is immediately perceived, generally uplifting and stimulating; i.e. orange. The middle note, or modifier, provides full, solid character to the scent. Clary Sage and Marjoram are often selected as middle notes. The base note, or end note, adds depth to a blend. It becomes apparent when the top and middle notes have faded and the last volatile components remain. Clove and Sandalwood are common base notes.
A general guideline for scenting your soap using top, middle, and base notes is: Top notes require 15 to 20 ml of essential oil per batch, for middle notes use 5 to 10ml of essential oil per batch and for base notes use 2.5 to 5ml per batch. Scenting your soaps is a personal choice and individual tastes will vary.
We recommend adding a fixative to your soap if you are adding essential oils. A common fixative such as Orris Root powder acts as a "glue" for the scent. We suggest adding 1/2 tsp of Orris Root powder per 700g batch.
Colouring your soaps: Using ingredients like
clays you can achieve shades of pink and
terracotta red. For earth purple use
Ratanjot, for yellows use
Annatto seeds, for greens
use Chlorophyll, Stevia, Spirulina and Alfalfa powder, for peach and orange tones try
Try adding 1/2 tsp. at a time until you have achieved the desired shade.
Herbs, flowers and other additives: Most herbs and flowers lose there colour when added
to first run soaps. It is always best to handmill or rebatch your soap for such results.
You can add other ingredients like grains and seeds either in a whole or ground state, be
sure to limit their use to a maximum volume of 2 tbsp. per batch of soap.
Superfatting: You can add an extra carrier oil to increase the moisturizing capabilities
of your soap. Do not exceed 2 tablespoons per batch. Oils such as
Avocado and Hemp are excellent choices for superfatting.
What to avoid: The following ingredients are not safe to add to your soap: Food
colouring, fabric dyes, candle dyes, paints, or melted Crayons (even the non-toxic type)
When it comes to finishing and packaging your soap,
the only limit is your imagination. Have fun with different techniques. Here are a few
ideas to get you started.
Note: Allow your bars to cure at least 3 weeks.
· To remove the rough outer surface of your soap, buff your bars with
an abrasive cloth or piece of pure wool. You may have some bumps and lumps that can be
removed easily with a knife. For a simple and quick design, take a small, serrated paring
knife and shave off a thin layer of soap on one side. This will leave a wavy line,
· A simple way to decorate and wrap your soap is to use a piece of
paper or cloth as a band around the soap. Allow approximately 1/2 of soap exposure
on either side. Its nice to see and smell your hand-made soap. Try paper bags, cloth
remnants, postcards, or old greeting cards.
· Personalize your bars with the persons name on the label.
Suds for Bud, Barbaras Beauty Bar. Make guest soaps for a
wedding with the bride and grooms names and date. Make great stocking stuffers or
basket fillers. How about candy cane (peppermint essential oil) scented liquid soap?
· For an elaborate monogram, use a separate, smaller mould in the shape
of a letter or design choose a dark shade of soap for this technique. When your
letter or design soap is set, remove it from its mould and place it upside down at the
bottom of a larger mould. Then pour white or light coloured soap over the object and let
it set. When the two have set together, carefully remove from the mould and polish.
dried and fresh avocado. A stable oil with a built in antioxidant system. High in Vitamins
A, B, and D, and rich in lecithin. Has a beneficial effect on dry skin and wrinkles.
Beeswax: Excreted by worker bees to construct the honeycomb. Has
excellent skin protective qualities and increases hardness of soap.
Castor Oil: Expressed from the Castor Bean. Soothing to the skin, it is
used widely in lipsticks, solid perfumes and bath oils. As a soap making oil it acts as a
Coconut Oil: Pressed from the dried meat of the coconut. Adds lather and
Cocoa Butter: Expressed from the roasted seeds of the Cocoa plant.
Softens and lubricates the skin.
Distilled Water: The collected and condensed steam of boiling water.
Jojoba Oil: A natural liquid from the kernels of the Jojoba desert plant.
Has a chemical composition resembling the skins sebum. Antibacterial
characteristics. Excellent for dry skin conditions.
Lye: The solution of Sodium Hydroxide and water. Sodium Hydroxide or
Caustic Soda is the strong alkaline base component of soap making.
Olive Oil: (Pomice grade) Made from the pressing of the olive fruit and
pits. An inferior food grade olive oil but good for soap making.
Palm Oil: Extracted from the fruit of the palm tree. This oil is rich and
viscous. Soothes and moisturizes dry skin.
Palm Kernel Oil: Extracted from the nut of the palm tree. Used in small
proportions it adds hardness to soap and provides lather.
Shea Butter: From the nuts of the Bassia parkii tree in Africa. It is
high in unsaponifiables and adds moisturizing properties to soap.
Vegetable Shortening: Hydrogenated Canola Oil. A inexpensive soft oil to
balance the hard oils of coconut and palm.
these recipes makes 1.5kg (3.3lbs.) of soap. A mould of these dimensions or that adds up to the same number when multiplied together will do. (6"x7"x2.5"deep)
The wooden soap mould in the Moulds
page of or on-line shopping section works very well.
oily to normal skin
Lye (6% discount)
sensitive and normal skin
|Olive Oil (pomace)
Lye (6% discount)
We have more soap formulas
in a pdf file for you to download and print. You can download the
free pdf reader
from Adobe to open this file.
More advanced techniques.
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