DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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28 July 2014

How to make soap - new recipe

This is the soap made last week using calendula-infused oil.

I love making soap. It's another piece of the self-reliance puzzle and it makes sense to me to put time into this very old craft. Hanno and I both have dry, sensitive skin so we make sure we use soap that nourishes our skin. The soap I usually make has four ingredients, commercial soap contains many more than that. Shower gel is no better. The trouble with most commercial soaps is that they use man-made ingredients instead of natural ones and they remove most of the glycerin from the soap. Glycerin is the moisturising part of soap but it's removed in the commercial soap making process and then added back in much smaller amounts. Glycerin is more expensive than soap is so it's often sold as a separate product to make a greater profit. What's in your soap?  A list of soaps and their ingredients. This list is from the USA but it would be very similar in Australia and Europe.

Your skin is your body's largest organ. What you put on your skin has the potential to heal or harm. I want to use products that at the very least, don't hurt me, and at their best, provide nourishing care for my skin and make me feel clean and cared for.

I hope I can encourage you to make your first batch of soap. But I have to start off with a warning. It can be dangerous because the caustic soda/lye you use will burn if you spill it. If you make soap when you're alone, with no children or animals around, you'll be able to focus all your attention on it and if you have the capabilities and intelligence of the hundreds of thousands of people who made soap before you did, you'll be fine. The danger point is mixing water with the caustic soda - the combination of those two elements will cause the mixture to heat up, even though it's not on the stove. Fumes will come off the mix so you must carry out that stage with doors and windows open. When the caustic soda/lye is mixed with the oils, the danger period is over, although the soap mix will still be slightly caustic.  It sounds like something to be wary of but if we were together in your kitchen making soap, I'd simply say to you to be careful and I'd watch to make sure you were. Before and after that mixing of the caustic soda/lye, it's simply a matter of measuring and mixing.


Those who know me well know that once I happen upon something that works well for me, I almost never change it. Well, I'm not exactly changing my tried and tested soap recipe, but I am adding one ingredient to it. It's something I grow in my back yard - organic calendula petals. I add them in the forum of calendula infused olive oil. I am making a couple of batches of it because I like to use the fresh petals. I'll store that oil in the fridge to be used when I make soap again. I have no doubt that I'll dry some petals too, probably when it gets closer to the end of their season, so I'll have my own petals on hand and don't have to buy them.


Making calendula infused oil is quite simple. Early in the morning, after the dew has dried on the petals and after the bees have visited, but before the sun is high, pick the flower heads. This is when the oils in the flowers are at their best. Picking calendula flowers stimulates the plant to produce more so you can repeat the picking process every week until you have enough petals. Healing properties of calendula.


This is my new soap recipe:
450 mls/15.2 liquid oz of rain water, spring water or distilled water * 
172 grams/6.06 oz caustic soda/lye 
750 grams/26.5 oz olive oil
250 grams/8.8 oz calendula infused olive oil
250 grams/8.8oz copha or coconut oil

* If you don't have rain, spring or distilled water, collect enough tap water the day before you make the soap and leave it on the bench to sit. That will allow the chlorine in the water to evaporate off.

All the instructions and equipment you'll need to make soap is listed in this post. Please read the entire post before going ahead, then come back here for the new recipe. Or if you have no infused oil, use the old recipe until you have time to make infused oil.



When the soap mixture progresses from being liquid to a thicker consistency which holds a shape on the surface, the soap is ready to go into the moulds. This stage is called trace.


When the soap is made and poured into moulds, it needs to be kept warm for as long as possible. This (above) is how I do that. I place the moulds on a large board and cover the tops with plastic wrap, then cover that with a towel and wrap the entire thing in a woollen blanket. It sits on top of my freezer until the following day when I take the soap out of the moulds.

This soap can also be used for washing your hair and you don't need to use hair conditioner with it. I've used it for years and it's always made my hair shiny and healthy. Homemade soap is also a great gift. A bar of soap and two hand knitted face cloths is a beautiful gift that most people would love to receive. But I think the biggest benefits to making your own soap is knowing how few ingredients go into is and experiencing the nourishing qualities of the soap on a daily basis. And if you doubt that is a benefit, have a look at the list of ingredients on any supermarket soap.

I hope you take some time to learn the skill of soap making. Buying commercial supermarket soap will give you a lot more chemicals than it should and buying natural soap is expensive. Making your own from scratch is a natural progression in your simple life journey, so when you're ready to take that next step, I encourage you to dive right in. Here is a thread on the forum about this new recipe. If you have any questions, go there and I, or one of the other soap makers, will be sure to help you.

28 comments:

  1. Gr8 sharing post as always Rhonda(I hope you,Hanno & the family are well:)! X

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  2. I started making my own soap a few months ago and sell it at the local farmer's market. It was a bit scary at first with the lye but as long as you follow safety precautions, and as you say, stay focused it's fine. I love the feel of the soap on my skin and it is so much better than store bought!

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  3. My gran lost half her finger to caustic soda...must admit l am a bit frightened. Wish l had you here the first time l try making soap :-). Pam

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    1. I've never heard of such a severe injury, Pam. Usually it will cause burns. Maybe your grandma had some complications from a burn.

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  4. I would love to make soap Rhonda. Have always worried about the lye though.
    A couple of years ago, our son was going out with a girl who gave us some lovely soap that she had made. I asked her how she got on with the lye. She said she had never heard of it! She obviously didn't use it. I was meaning to ask her for the recipe the next time I saw her, she lived quite a way from us, so that wasn't often. I never got the chance to ask because they parted soon after.
    So if anyone knows of a way to make soap without using lye I would love to know. It was really lovely.
    Best wishes,
    Angela (south England) UK

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    1. Angela, there is NO way to make soap without lye. It's chemically impossible. Your son's friend would probably have made her soap using a soap preparation she bought to melt and make into bars. The soap making had already been done.

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  5. I've been thinking about making soap, but am respectful of the caustic properties of lye. Maybe I'll have my son in law here so if I goof up, I'm not alone. At this time I invest in the expensive soap. It does last quite a while. Since it is mild and chemical free, I consider it an investment. Making it would certainly cost less. As you said it would make a nice gift with 2 hand made cloths. (I just got some cotton thread and a small crochet hook to make the cloths.) Thank you for the knowledge. I appreciate all you do and teach us.

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    1. That's what I was hoping to see, Angie. Some respect for the process but the self-belief that you can do it. Go to the forum if you have any problems. I doubt you will, I'm sure that when you're finished you'll realise it's a simple process with one part that needs extra care.

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  6. Soap making is something I really want to try however I will wait until I'm not pregnant (I'm super clumsy at the moment) and don't have little ones around. My skin has become very sensitive and I find using goats milk soap is very soothing. I love your little soaps that have been set in the rose moulds- so pretty! I'd love to receive a beautiful homemade soap with a face washer as a gift. Just lovely.

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  7. I've made soap once and I've now used up all the bars and need to make some more this week. For those who have never done it before I felt a bit the same, a little intimidated so never got around to doing it however I bought a kit first up which had all the things in it (Green Living Australia) and the soap was fantastic. It saved me going from store to store to source ingredients for my first time round. If you follow the instructions and I totally agree (have no kids or pets around) it's perfectly safe and very exciting. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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  8. After many years I am growing calendula in the front garden. I put them in to make exactly this, calendua infused oil for soap making.

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  9. Thanks for replying Rhonda. You told me what I already thought. People wouldn't use lye if they could get away with not using it I'm sure. I guess I'm just a bit nervous. You & many others do make it I know without incident so perhaps I should give it a go.
    Thanks for all your interesting posts.
    Best wishes,
    Angela (south England) UK

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    1. Angela, I've read enough of your comments to think of you as a thoughtful and careful person. I'm pretty sure you could make it. I know teenage girls who make their own soap. Give it a go and make contact with the soap makers on the forum. I'll be there to help if you need it. xx

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  10. I wonder if any of you have broken down the cost per bar to make your own soap? For many years I have purchased handmade organic safflower oil soap by mail order. It is quite reasonable. If I buy 55 bars at a time it comes out to $2.10 for a 4 ounce bar including the shipping. So my question would be whether or not I would have any significant savings by making my own? I could not make soap from olive oil as it irritates my skin.

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    1. Lana, it all depends on the type of oils used to make the soap. Mine vary depending on what I have in the house at the time. But I have to say also that I make soap because I want to know what's in the soap I use and not necessarily to save money. I'm sure there will be some soap makers who have worked out the costs and I hope they share that with you.

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    2. I made my first batch a couple of years ago, using Rhonda's recipe. I also used the same sort of moulds as she did do they're the same size. It worked out to be around 18 bars @ 0.60c each. I bought the cheapo 4L spanish olive oil from the supermarket, and copha as the coconut oil. havent costed it since, but I would guess it would be maybe a bit more, but still waaaaaay less than you would buy it for.

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  11. Ok this may finally be the post that makes me take the plunge....
    caustic soda can't be that scary right? and i've got lots of lovely calendula flowers just waiting to be useful.
    you make it sound so easy, and I've got all the ingredients (minus the caustic soda and the moulds), just need to stash the kids and the dog with my m.i.l for a few hours.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe.
    kindest regards from the french alps.

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    1. Emma, working safely with caustic soda is far less scary than using commercial soap and shower gel. Go to the forum if you need help. Good luck!

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  12. was reading on this blog about a lady who makes detergent from the soapwort plant http://eight-acres.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/how-i-use-herbs-soapwort.html

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  13. Ok this may be putting it out there a bit, but here goes. I stopped using all soap in the shower/bath a few months ago. I do still use it at the handbasin (for sanitary reasons), but soap is actually not necessary to get clean in the shower. Unless you have something that actually needs the soap to wash it off (eg the glue from a bandaid), water only will do the job brilliantly.

    You'd think that not soaping up would result in smelliness. Not so. In fact, I've found that there is far less smell from all areas of the body.

    A caveat though - you do need to scrub with a washcloth - you can't just stand under the water, or that won't really do anything. Since ditching soap altogether my skin is much much softer, not to mention the reduction in smell.

    I have made soap previously, so now I have quite a lot left over. I'd forgotten that it could be used for shampoo, so I'm going to do that next - thanks for the tip Rhonda!

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  14. Thank you for your kind words Rhonda.
    I'm a bit nervous, but one day I might think differently:-)
    Best wishes,
    Angela ( south England)UK

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  15. I enjoyed reading and seeing your process. Currently I buy soap and creams from a local man who uses goats milk in his. He raises the goats too.

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  16. Lovely coloured soap Rhonda. I have some calendula oil already but will make more as have picked some flowers today. Looking forward to trying your new recipe. Thanks for sharing it. Bridget

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  17. I have been making soap for a few years now - yes, you do have to be careful with the caustic soda (I always have a spray bottle of white vinegar to hand, just in case) but as you say, Rhonda, there are a lot more scary things in commercial soap!
    This is a really nice recipe - and infusing my own calendula oil would be lovely, so I'll be planting calendula in my new garden after the move!

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  18. I started making my own soap earlier this year and cannot imagine going back now. Just made a batch last week. The lye can be intimidating, but really, with proper attention to what I am doing I am not worried about it. I've only made unscented, but like the idea of adding floral touches, herbs, or oatmeal, etc.

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  19. Found your amazing site when I was researching using beeswax for hand cream. I started to read the blog and found the soap recipe. Too late here in UK for calendula harvest so I went back to the earlier recipe and wow, it is so simple and much quicker than I expected. It is now resting in my airing cupboard and I cannot wait to try it out. I did not have a pan big enough for the mixing so I transferred the oil mix to a heat proof glass bowl (ex halogen oven bowl) and added the lye to that. Perfect.

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  20. Hello
    I came across your blog searching for soap recipes in an attempt to start making my own soap. I work in a laboratory so I'm very familiar with safety procedures and quite confident with the caustic soda but I have some of questions I hope you can help me with.
    Could I use your recipe as base and add oils and colouring to it? I was also wondering if I could add things like oats, poppy seeds or even blended watermelon seeds to give it a exfoliating feels?
    I have some natural coconut oil I bought in Fiji but it doesn't great on its own. Would that oil work in your recipe?
    Thank you very much for your help and all the info! Have a lovely day :)
    Priscilla

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  21. hello - i found your 4 ingredient soap recipe about 2 days ago - cant get copha in new zealand that i know of and found its the same as kremelta here - so bought a pottle and made your soap this morning - i am testing out some soap making recipes and yours is the 6th one i have tried - i didnt add any ess oils - just kept it plain - it was beautiful and easy to make - the lye section still terrifies me but i have figured out that that terror is keeping me safe e.g. long rubber gloves bottle of vinegar uncapped and beside the kitchen sink and a clear path to the sink just in case - and i go from there - all my equipment is excess bits and bobs from the kitchen - the only really big expense was getting the silicon molds - i loved you recipe it went together like a breeze and reached trace so easily - it was a complete joy to make and i am looking forward to test it once the 6 weeks waiting is up

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