Soap Making: How To Make Your Own Handmade Soap

Beau Colin, Graphic Designer / Soap Maker

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13 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Equipment

    • 3. Ingredients

    • 4. The chemistry of soapmaking

    • 5. Preparation & Measuring

    • 6. Soapmaking: the basic soap recipe

    • 7. Unmolding, Cutting and Storage

    • 8. Making lavender and green tea soap

    • 9. Customizing a soap recipe into a moisturizing soap

    • 10. Unmolding Lavender & Green Tea Soap

    • 11. Unmolding Moisturizing Ginger Soap

    • 12. Cleaning Your Soap

    • 13. Gift wrap suggestions

31 students are watching this class

Project Description

Make your own handmade soapbars from scratch

Equipment & Ingredients

  1. Get your equipment together

    As I said before, before you even start with the soapmaking make sure you're well prepared. Get all your equipment together so you don't have to go and look for something in the middle of your soapmaking process. As I said, soapmaking include some crucial steps where you can't afford to take the time to look for the equipment you forgot.

    • Stick blender 
    • Little plastic bucket or a plastic bowl to mix your soap in. Make sure it is deep enough so you won't splash your kitchen full of soap while blending it.
    • Mold (I recommend not using a mold bigger than 5" x 5" x 2.5", a plastic foodcontainer will do fine)
    • Foodthermometer (up to 100°C or 212°F)
    • Old spoon, not plastic
    • Heat resistant bowl, ceramic or plastic works best
    • Sharp knife
    • Goggles or glasses to protect your eyes 
    • Cleaning Gloves
    • Old tablecloth or cardboard to protect the top of your kitchencounters
    • Microwave 
    • Sink
    • Digital scale

  2. Get your ingredients for the basic soap recipe together

    Getting your ingredients together is as important as getting your equipment prepared. 


    1. Olive oil
    2. Sunflower oil
    3. Palm oil
    4. Coconut oil


    Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

The chemistry of soapmaking

  1. Understand what you're doing

    If you understand what chemical reaction is happening in the soapmaking process you're more aware of what you're doing and you are more in control. 

    Once you know exactly how the chemical reaction works it is also easier to anticipate once you're more experienced soapmaker.

  2. Be aware of the fact that sodium hydroxide is very caustic!

    Lye is an essential ingredient in the soapmaking process but it is also a caustic chemical, so be careful. It can cause burns f.e.

Soapmaking: The basic recipe

  1. Get the hang of the basic soap recipe

    Soapmaking is a learning process. If you think something went wrong, analyse what you did and check the basic soap recipe video again. As there are a lot of crucial steps in soapmaking, like measurements and temperature, it is very likely that sooner or later your soapbatch didn't turn out as you hoped to. I wrote a document of the most common 'Oh no what happened to my soap' moments for you and added it to the additional resources. Most of the time it isn't as bad as you thought and you can use your soap anyway, even if is wasn't as pretty as you wanted it to be.

  2. Get familiar with the soapcalculator

    Soapcalculators are essential in de soapmaking process. Measuring out your ingredients are the most important part of the process. Too much oil means your soapbatch is probably going to fail but more important, too much lye means your soapbar will be very dangerous for you skin. So please double check you measurement and take your time while measuring your ingredients.

  3. Make sure you clean your equipment to the max, soap batter is sticky stuff

    Soapbatter is not soap yet, so make sure you clean it very well while wearing your gloves. You can easily rinse off all the soapbatter and put your equipment in the dishwasher. Don't wait too long with cleaning your soap because the soapbatter will get hard and saponify. If you leave too much of the almost saponified batter on your equipment and then put it in your dishwasher you will get a big bubble fest and your kitchenfloor is not going to love it.

  4. Be patient and unmold the soap

    As an experienced but probably even more curious soapmaker being patient is the hardest part of the whole process for me. It normally takes 24 hours before you an unmold your soap but if it's still soft then leave it for another day. How fast your soap hardens depends on your soap recipe.

  5. Cut your soap

    If you've poured your soapbatter in a bigger soapmold like me, I recommend to cut it after you unmold to get some nice little soap. Use a sharp knife for cutting and slice your soap carefully and slowly. Your soap is not completely hardened when you unmold it so it will be easy to cut. If it is really hard to cut you should've unmold it sooner.

  6. Store your soap

    Your soap has to be cured for 4-6 weeks so make sure you cured them in a lightly ventilated area. I like to cure my soaps in a shoebox so they won't catch too much dust.

  7. Share your soaps in the student gallery

    Once you unmold and cut your soap it would be cool to take some photos and share it with the rest of your class, even if it didn't and up as you wanted it to be and you have to make another batch. We can learn from eachothers mistakes.

  8. Gather the ingredients for the upcoming customized soap recipes

    For the next class we will be customizing our soap. I'm using common ingredients for these recipes to make this class accessible to everyone. This is what you need:

    Lavender & green tea soap

    • coconut oil
    • olive oil
    • palm oil
    • sunflower oil
    • arachis oil/peanut oil
    • sodium hydroxide
    • green tea
    • dried lavendel buds
    • lavender essential oil (optional)

    Moisturizing soap

    • olive oil
    • coconut oil
    • unrefined palm oil/palm oil (unrefined palm oil adds color)
    • sunflower oil
    • Ginger powder, be gentle a couple of pinches of ginger and you'll be fine
    • Ginger essential oil (optional)

Customizing: Oils & Additives

  1. Complete the lavender & green tea custom soap recipe and process

    As we are doing an extra customizable step, we add an extra risk to make your soapbatch go bad. If you carefully follow the steps in the video it'll be okay.

  2. Complete the moisturizing soap bar recipe and process

    As we are doing an extra customizable step, we add an extra risk to make your soapbatch go bad. If you carefully follow the steps in the video it'll be okay.

  3. I challenge you to make your own custom soap recipe and try it

    If you have the hang of making those customized two soap recipes then I challenge you to make your own recipe. Use the soapcalculator and additional resources to make a soapbar to suits your skin or holds your favorite fragrance for example. 

  4. Share your soaps in the student gallery

    As I said, sharing your experiences with your students will help you and others. Share you customized soaps soaps and maybe even the recipe you've created yourself!

Wrap it

  1. Wrap your soaps and share with loved ones or smelly people

    Wrapping your soap adds that little customized touch to your lovely soap. And as soap lasts a long time you can easily share it with others.

  2. Share your giftwrapped soaps in the student gallery

    Share your giftwrapping creations with the rest of your classmates. I'm really curious what you guys come up with.

Additional Resources

  • These are some online shops, tips and tricks to get your ingredients and/or equipment for soapmaking. Almost everything your need for this class can also be bought at your local supermarket and hardware store. 

    For soapmaking supplies: and

    For f.e. cheap foodthermometers:

    To try out and discover soap and soapmakers:

    Make your own soapmaking mold, only if you want to make a soap loaf and cut your bars afterwards

    Tips on making molds

    How to make your own wooden soapmaking mold

  • More on caustic soda/sodium hydroxide on Wikipedia

    Where to buy sodium hydroxide

    We are making cold process soap, but there's also another basic way to make soap which is called hot process soap. It speeds up the saponification but as you have more variables concerning heat it is also not as fool proof as cold process soap.
    HP is "hot process" soap. It is called hot process because the saponification process is acellerated with heat. The is soap made similar to cold process soap ~ using oil/fat/nut butters, lye and water. The ingredients are brought to trace. The soap is then exposed to heat and "cooked" through the saponification process, usually in a crock pot or double boiler. At this point fragrance and color added and the soap is place into a mold. The hot process somewhat changes the appearance of the finished soap, but allows the soap to be fully saponified and immediately ready for use within a few days.

  • Always measure out your ingredients carefully. To do so, you'll need a soap calculator or conversion tables. Below you can find several links. Don't forget to set your overfatting percentage!

    Brambleberry Soap Calculator

    Zeep Calculator for the Dutchies (in Dutch)


    We are putting our soap in the fridge to prevent the soap going through a gel phase, but it is also possible to force the soap through a gel phase.

    The soapbatter naturally heats up and goes through a gel phase, but if you don't insulate the soap enough by wrapping it with towels and keeping it warm your soap will partially gel. That doesn't make your soap unusable but it is not very pretty. That's why we're cooling the soap, to prevent that it gets hot and gels. When a soap doesn't go through a gel phase it is creamier and has a more pastel color than soap that went through a gel phase. Gel phased soap can also be harder but it also possible that it gets another color (depends on the ingredients).

    Being a experienced soap maker I prefer my soap not going through a gel phase as I like the colors and I don't want the risk of a partial gelled soap. I'm making small soaps in single molds most of the time, I normally don't make big soaploafs that need to be cut. If you want to make big soaps and cut them afterwards it might be better to go through a gel phase as it is very hard to cool your soap fast enough to prevent gelling. If you want to go to a gelphase try to wrap you soapmold as much as possible to keep the heat in.

  • As with cooking, some unexpected thing can occur while making soap. I made you a list with common issues you might encounter while experimenting with soap

  • A step-by-step guide

  • Additional links:

    Rendering tallow for soapmaking

  • I made you a list of herbs, oils and spices I have experience with. Each herb, oil and spice has a little description with their properties, effects and qualities.

    Oils that are sold at roomtemperature make hard soap bars. Oils that are liquid at room temperature make soft bars (apart from sunflower oil). It is best to combine soft and hard oils.

    If you want to make a more complicate recipe you can also look in to fatty acid breakdowns of oils. This is something for the more experienced soapmaker. 

    • lauric acid for cleansing, big lather, hard bar
    • linoleic and oleic acids for skin conditioning
    • palmetic and stearic acids for consistent lather and a hard bar
    • ricinoleic acid for skin conditioning with consistent big lather
    • iodine the lower the value the harder the bar

    For more information I refer you to:

    Qualities of soapmaking oils

    For an eleborate list of oils including the fatty acids

  • Fragrance oil calculator

  • Other liquids than water in lye

  • To get more packaging inspiration I keep up a board on Pinterest about soap. You can follow/see it right here

  • I made some tags especially for you, you can print them on thick paper on your own printer.

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