Natural Soap Making for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Creating Your Own

How to make Natural Soap Series - part three of four: Basic soap recipes and how to formulate your own
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Basic soap recipes for natural soap making

Use the below soap recipes or create your own 

So far in this series the topics have been fairly straightforward. This post will get a bit more complicated so what I’ll first share are some very simple natural soap recipes. If you’re just looking for a few recipes to get yourself going then  use them and get started.

If you’d like to start formulating your own soap recipes then keep reading below for some of the finer points of what you need to know. Please also be aware that the recipes below are very basic and the step-by-step procedure will be covered in the next and final post in this series.

This is part 3 of this Natural Soap Making for Beginners Series

1. Ingredients
2. Equipment & Safety
3. Basic Soap Recipes and Formulating Your Own
4. The Soap Making Process: Make, Mould, and Cure


Calendula Soap recipe from Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

Natural Calendula Soap Recipe

Makes a 454g/1 lb batch – approx. 4-5 bars. 5% Superfatted

120g (4.23oz*) boiling Water
64g (2.25oz) Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
1 tsp (1g / 0.04oz) dried Calendula petals (2tsp if using fresh petals)
112g (3.9oz) Coconut oil
164g (5.78oz) Olive Pomace oil
82g (2.9oz) Tallow OR Palm Oil
78g (2.75oz) Sunflower oil
19g (0.67oz) Shea Butter
6 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract
*Please note that all measurements are in mass (so oz in liquids is not fluid oz)

Method: Infuse Calendula flowers in the boiling water and allow to cool to room temperature before following the basic natural soap making steps.

Herbal Soap Recipe from Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your OwnHerbal Soap Recipe

Makes a 454g/1 lb batch – approx. 4-5 bars. 5% Superfatted

120g (4.23oz*) boiling Water
62g (2.19oz) Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
136g (4.8oz) Coconut oil
204g (7.2oz) Olive Pomace oil
91g (3.2oz) Sunflower oil
23g (0.8oz) Shea Butter
10g (0.4oz) Essential oil (approx. 1 tsp) – Match to your selected herb
1 tsp (1g / 0.04oz) dried herb (or double that amount of fresh herbs) of your choice – Peppermint, Melissa Balm, and Rosemary are all great options
6 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract

*Please note that all measurements are in mass (so oz in liquids is not fluid oz)
Method: Infuse the herbs in the boiling water and allow to cool to room temperature before following the basic natural soap making steps. Add essential oil at medium trace.

Natural Lavender Soap Recipe from Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

Natural Lavender Soap Recipe

Makes a 454g/1 lb batch – approx. 4-5 bars. 5% Superfatted

120g (4.23oz*) Water
64g (2.25oz) Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
112g (3.9oz) Coconut oil
164g (5.78oz) Olive Pomace oil
82g  (2.9oz) Tallow OR Palm Oil
78g (2.75oz) Sunflower oil
19g (0.67oz) Shea Butter
10g  (0.4oz) Lavender essential oil (approx. 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp (0.8g/ 0.003oz) Ultramarine Violet (optional mineral colour)
6 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract

*Please note that all measurements are in mass (so oz in liquids is not fluid oz)
Method: Disperse the mineral colour in your liquid oils with a small milk frother before following the basic natural soap making steps. Add essential oil and dried flowers at medium trace.

Honey & Beeswax Soap Recipe from Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

Honey, Oats and Beeswax Soap Recipe

700g batch – makes approx. 6-7 bars
5% superfat

98g (3.5oz) Sodium Hydroxide
200g (7oz) Water
210g (7.4oz) Refined Coconut oil
301g (10.6oz) Olive Pomace oil
105g (3.7oz) Castor oil
70g (2.5oz) Sustainable Palm oil
14g (0.5oz) Beeswax
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Rolled Oats
9 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract

*Please note that all measurements are in mass (so oz in liquids is not fluid oz)
Method: Add Honey at light trace and whisk in well. Add oats at medium trace.

Pre-Formulation Brainstorm

The above recipes are great for getting started but what if you’d like to use different ingredients, batch size, or superfat percentage? The sections below will help you to get started in creating your own soap recipes.

First things first – before you start formulating your own recipes you need to have a goal. Will you be making soap for yourself and your loved ones or are you trying to make a business out of it?

If you’re making soap for personal use and presents then think about your family’s needs and likes. If your partner can’t stand the smell of Lavender essential oil then it’s probably a bad idea to make lavender soap. Also, consider if anyone has allergies to things like fragrance and nuts and make sure to avoid ingredients out that might aggravate them.
Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

Are you creating a soap recipe for the public?

If you plan to sell to the public you should first think about who your target market is. Do you want to make pretty soaps to sell to young women, natural soap for people who have skin and allergy sensitivities, or high-end soap for the luxury market? No matter what direction you take, you need a clear idea of who you’re creating the soap for before jumping into making your products.

Thinking in this way leads to good choices about your business and marketing but will also help steer you in a good direction when creating recipes. It might seem like a no-brainer to avoid expensive ingredients if you want to create affordable soaps, or anything artificial if you want to go natural, but it’s all too easy to make mistakes in ingredient choice.

Ingredients & Availability

Another factor to consider is ingredient availability. If you’re on a farm and have a ready supply of goat milk or tallow then take advantage of your resource and use it as a marketing point while you’re at it. If you’re a beekeeper, or know one in your area, then consider using local beeswax and honey.

For ingredients that you have to purchase, such as oils, hunt around for local suppliers so that you can cut down on the shipping costs for bulk oils. Olive oil can easily be found at most cash-and-carry and wholesale food shops (think Costco, Sams Club, etc) and if you’re lucky you might find an Asian food shop that could sell you bulk Coconut oil.

Ethics is also another thing to keep in mind when creating soap recipes. Everyone has their own set of values so first consider your own. For example, if you’re Vegan, it’s unlikely that you’ll use tallow in your recipes. Take it a step further and think about your customers and their values. If you’re creating soap for Vegans then you absolutely cannot use animal products in your soaps at all. That means no honey, no beeswax, no lard, no Cochineal, etc. If you’re unsure of what your target market might not find acceptable then do the research.

Choosing Your Oils

Soap is the end product of a natural chemical reaction between oils (acids) and lye (a base). You cannot make soap without either of these two types of ingredients. The types and amounts of oil you use in your soap will influence how much lye (Sodium Hydroxide) you’ll need in your recipe so let’s start with them.

Think about the best bar of soap you’ve ever used. Did it have fluffy lather? Was it sensitive? How hard was the bar? How did your skin feel afterwards? The oils you choose in your recipe will have a huge impact on what your final soap will be like. Below are examples of types of oils that will contribute to different factors including hardness, cleansing, lather, and conditioning. A great bar of soap will have a good balance of all of them so it’s recommend to choose between three and five oils initially. The best three oils to create a basic soap recipe will be a combination of Coconut oil, Olive oil Pomace, and Palm Oil/Tallow. They’re inexpensive and used on their own will create a good balanced bar.

Oils that create a hard bar 
Beeswax (use as 3% or less of your total oil amount), Coconut oil, Lanolin, Lard, Palm Oil, Shea Butter, Tallow

Oils that cleanse
Coconut oil, Palm Kernal oil, Sunflower oil

Oils that contribute to lather
Fluffy Lather: Castor oil, Coconut oil, Palm Kernal oil,
Creamy Lather: Canola oil, Cocoa Butter*, Hempseed oil, Jojoba*

Oils that condition 
Apricot Kernal oil*, Avocado oil*, Castor oil, Cocoa Butter, Corn oil, Grapeseed oil, Hempseed oil, Jojoba, Mango Butter*, Olive oil Pomace, Rice Bran oil, Shea Butter*, Sweet Almond oil

*denotes oils that should be used to ‘Superfat’. Superfatting oils are meant to be in your soap not to become soap itself but  to add moisturising and conditioning properties to your bars.

A huge controversy in soap making centres around the use of Palm oil. Also known as vegetable-tallow, it has the same soap making properties as animal fat and is also very inexpensive. Being also extremely versatile, you’ll find it used in everything from Crisco, to chocolate, to cookies to the oil used to deep fry foods. If you look on the ingredients list of a food item and see ‘vegetable fat’ or ‘vegetable oil’ it’s very likely that the item contains Palm oil.

Because of its low cost and versatility, Palm oil has now become the most used oil worldwide and it’s now estimated that 33% of all edible oil used is Palm. Due to the high demand, supply has had to increase and Rainforests across Indonesia are being slashed and burned to create more land to farm it. This has led to devastating loss of habitat for animals such as Orangutans and so many producers and consumers now avoid using it or products made using it.

If you’re a fan of Palm oil, there are alternatives to using the standard variety. Tallow (beef fat) has nearly the same saponification (soap creation) values as Palm oil. If you’d like to make Vegan or Vegetarian products then consider using Sustainably Sourced Palm oil. Just a little more expensive than the more common Palm, it should clearly have a logo on the box from the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) which means that this third party has certified that the palm oil comes from plantations that meet their sustainability and ethical guidelines. This oil is not a requirement for soap making though and there are plenty of great recipes that don’t use it at all.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

Soap Calculator

Every type of oil has what is called a saponification value – a number used to calculate how much lye you’ll need to turn it into soap. You can calculate this by hand but it’s far easier and in many cases more accurate (think human error) to use an online soap calculator such as the SoapCalc. It’s not particularly pretty to look at and has a lot of information that you won’t know or understand at first but will work for even the most novice soap maker in telling you how balanced your formula is and how much lye (NaOH) you’ll need.

After entering in the presets that I’ve listed for fields 1-4 in the below image, the most important information to add  is the list of oils you’re using and the percentages you’d like to use. Field 5 shows the soap qualities for each oil in the list and is not something you enter anything into manually.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

Once you’ve finished, click the ‘Calculate Recipe’ button and then ‘View or Print Recipe’ to see the full recipe including the required water and lye amounts. If you’re just playing around with oil percentages at this point look at the bottom of the second screen that pops up for a list of Soap Bar Qualities. It shows both the suggested range and where your recipe falls in the range and is very helpful in telling you if that particular formula will be any good. The FAQ section for the SoapCalc can be found at this link.

You’ll be looking at these screens seeing all kinds of information about various fatty acids, Iodine, INS, Lye Concentration, etc. but to be honest you don’t really need to know much about them to create your first soap recipes. Just make sure that your recipe’s range fits in with the suggested range and that you measure everything accurately on a kitchen scale. If you’d like to learn more about these more advanced topics then the SoapCalc includes FAQs and further information.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own


Scenting Soap Naturally with Essential Oils

The most obvious way to naturally scent your handmade soap is by using essential oils. Essential oils are natural compounds extracted from flowers, fruit, and foliage and come in a range of beautiful scents and therapeutic properties. Don’t get essential oils confused with ‘Fragrance oils’ though. I personally don’t use Fragrance oils in skincare products because I’m not completely won over by the assurances of safety issued by the manufacturers and self-governing regulators of these products, especially since they won’t release information on what ingredients they use to make them

Rules are a little better in Europe and if any of the twenty-six known allergens are present in any fragrance oil then they must be declared, but otherwise the ingredients are a trade secret. Unfortunately, those of you in the USA aren’t protected by legislation regarding skin allergens so you’ll never know what’s in the perfume and if it could cause a reaction.

When formulating a soap recipe I always use the guidelines given to me by my cosmetic chemist. In case you’re wondering what that’s all about, producers in the EU are required by law to have their recipes certified by a qualified chemist in order to manufacture and sell soap, or any other bath and beauty products, to the public. This is also a requirement of anyone outside the EU who wants to sell their products within Europe.Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

The main guideline on using essential oils is that the total weight should not exceed 2-4% of your total recipe. If you’ve ever smelled my soaps, the rich and flowery scents of the essential oils come through strongly and I don’t even use the maximum permitted percentage in any of my recipes. If you look at the SoapCalc presets I have in the above images you’ll see that I’ve recommended 2%. How and when you add essential oils is important in keeping a strong scent so watch for the next part of this series for more guidelines.

Some essential oils are more sensitising than others so please visit this essential oils link to see the maximum percentage of any particular essential oil you can use in your recipes.

Coloring and Decorating Natural Soap

There are various herbs, flowers, minerals, spices, and extracts you can use to naturally colour your soap. With a little patience and know-how you can achieve virtually every colour in the rainbow, though natural colours will always be softer and more ‘natural’ than dyes or artificial colourants.

The rule of thumb when using mineral colours and micas in your soap is that they should be no more than 3% of your total recipe. When using plant and flower material the amount is 5% with notable exceptions.For more information on specific natural colours and usage please visit this natural colours link.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own

Using Botanicals in your Soap

Using herbs, flowers, and fruit in your soap is something you may want to try out. Pumpkin puree gives a silky feeling and a pretty orange colour and peppermint leaves leave brown specks peppered throughout your bars. Some botanicals that can be used in soap can be found at this link but do experiment with some of your own ideas and see what you come up with.

The rule of thumb here is that if the material is edible then its generally safe to use in soap – though suitability is another matter. For example, red cabbage might give a pretty red-violet colour to your batch but it can also make your soap smell like cabbage.

As mentioned above, when using plant material in your soap make sure that you use it at 5% or less of your total soap recipe’s weight. If you try using more than that then it’s possible that you’ll have issues with your soap.

Decorating the tops of your soap with dried flowers and fruit is also another wonderful way to personalise your product naturally. Lavender buds on lavender soap and rose petals on rose soap sound wonderful don’t they?

Unfortunately most flowers will turn brown and unattractive when sprinkled on freshly poured soap so it’s recommended to stick with botanicals that are known for keeping their colour. These include Calendula petals, dried orange and lemon slices, spices and cocoa powder.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: Basic Soap Recipes & Formulating Your Own
Where to purchase your Soap Making Supplies

In addition to the links in this post I encourage you to pop into your local supermarket and wholesale food suppliers since they’ll have some amazing deals on oils such as olive oil.

One other point that I’d like to emphasise is that it’s easy to spend a small fortune when starting out making soap. You don’t need much to get started so try to resist purchasing expensive oils and equipment until you’ve made a few batches and have decided that soap making is for you.

Natural Soap Making for Beginners Series

1. Ingredients
2. Equipment & Safety
3. Basic Recipes and Formulating Your Own
4. The Soap Making Process: Make, Mould, and Cure

88 Discussion to this post

  1. Vaylene says:

    Can I sub caster oil instead of Palm oil?

  2. I have bookmarked it, I have some fat stored and some that needs rendering as well. I am not going to attempt the wonderful bar that you sent me but just want to do something simple at first. I will start getting stuff together.

  3. This is so great Tanya. Are you do soap making gift sets in your shop?? Would make wonderful presents with just the right amount of everything for people to have a first try and making soap.

  4. This is fascinating Tanya! Looking forward to exploring the rest of your blog. Particularly liked the blue Burmese (??) enjoying the radiator on the last post – although it made me a little guilty because I didn't buy beds like that for my three when I saw them for sale recently! Looking forward to more…

  5. I just started to gather supplies in the last few weeks. No one working here so the majority of the stuff will be Christmas presents. 🙂
    Thanks for the tutorial and can't wait for the rest.
    Susie in northern NY

  6. Forgot to click the NOTIFY button. LOL.

  7. You are doing such an amazing job with this series!! So thought out and so fantastically written. Such a great resource!

  8. Rachel says:

    WOW- so much great information. This is just what I needed to dive into soap making. I would love to link to this post if you didn't mind.

  9. Dani says:

    Tanay – What does it mean Coconut oil 76 degrees / 92 degrees and fractionated? I just order a tub of coconut oil – and have no idea what it is?

    • There are two main types of refined Coconut oil – one melts at 76 degrees and the other at 92 degrees. Fractionated coconut oil is created to be liquid at room temperature and is used in lotions and as a carrier oil. Hope this helps 🙂

  10. Tanya,
    May I ask a question about the soap calculator on how do you figure out step 2, the weight of the oils? I tried to use this two weeks ago and botched it. I don't get it.
    Thank you

    • That's a step you can use to tell the Soapcalc how much soap to make. So if you have a mould that can only hold a 1 lb batch (the weight refers to the weight of the oils only) then you choose 'lbs' and input 1. Then you toggle the oils units to % and the resulting recipe will fit the amount you require. Hope this helps 🙂

  11. Billie-Jo says:

    Another great supplier in Canada is Candora Soap and Soap Supplies.

  12. Jason says:

    Thanks so much for your advice! I've made several attempts to research soap-making, and your tutorial is the most balanced and practical that I've found.

    I have a crazy question for you. My six-year-old and I collected a bunch of acorns, and on a whim I decided to make flour with them – which involved leaching the tannin from the nuts first. I boiled down the water into a concentrated tannin-rich solution. I'm working to perfect a recipe that uses this solution in place of water.

    I'm hoping the tannin-rich solution will produce a soap that will be cosmetically beneficial.

    Have you ever tried anything similar, or heard of anything like that? Could all my work be for naught – for instance, could the heat of the production process render the tannins ineffective?

    I have over a gallon of the tannin solution, and would like to justify its presence on our countertop to my wife….

    • Hi Jason and I'm pleased to hear you've found my tutorials helpful 🙂 Regarding Tannin water soap…please give it a miss! That water leftover is acidic and not only will it stop your soap from lathering but it can also burn your skin. If I were you, I'd listen to your wife and dispose of it from the counter top! haha

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hi Tanya! I'm making soap for the first time this winter and just wanted to run my recipe by you to see if you have any advice you could offer. I have been living in South Africa for the past year and so was thinking of using rooibos tea in place of the water, pairing that with orange essential oil. I was thinking of using coconut (60%) and olive oil (35%) as the bulk oils, with cocoa butter as the superfatting oil (5%). Would you recommend different ratios in the oils?

    • Hiya! Coconut oil is amazing stuff…especially if you use it directly on your skin. When it's made into soap though, it creates a very hard bar that is very cleansing and bubbly. Personally, I wouldn't use a recipe that was so high in coconut oil for fear of the soap stripping my skin and leaving it feeling dry and tight. What I'd recommend doing is swapping the percentages of Olive oil to Coconut oil for a much gentler bar of soap. Also love the Rooibos tea idea for natural colour – it will range from tan to dark brown when finished. A caution on the orange essential oil though…it will evaporate very quickly from your bars leaving them smelling unscented. Have a great time making your soap and good luck 🙂

  14. Hi, this blog of yours it's awesome. You explain so clearly and i just want to thank you for sharing. I'm a beginner at soap making, and all your advices aré really useful.
    Have a nice weekend!

  15. Can I substitute extra virgin olive oil for regular olive oil in these recipes?

    • You can do, but it's said that extra virgin takes a lot longer to 'Trace'…and it's also more expensive and not necessarily all that much better for your skin once it's transformed into soap. I'd recommend 'Superfatting' with extra virgin but probably not using it as the entire quantity of olive oil needed 🙂

  16. can you advise on a nice soap with lard and maybe 2 other oils also can you give me some advose on colouring as my soaps all come out wrong colour

  17. PClark says:

    Hi There! Lovely post! I've been making soap for about a year and a half now, and I've been using a wire multi-cutter, which leaves bumps and grooves on my soap. What kind of mold and cutter do you use to achieve the clean edges of you natural lavender soap above? Thanks!

  18. Meagen says:

    This is very informative for any kind of DIY products. I was wondering if anyone can shed some light, suppliers do not list that the stock is food safe, but things like cacao butter should be edible also correct? I can’t find any info on that and it would be nice to get everything at once!

    Also, Saffire Blue has become less reputable over the years but I hear good things about Candora Soap.

  19. Deenie says:

    Hey Tanya, thank you for the info, your posts have been so valuable on my soaping journey! I noticed the links on this post are broken, any idea on where else to get the information you were trying to share because I am about to try to create my first recipe and i need all the help i can get! Thank you in anticipation of your response.

  20. Maureen says:

    Hi Tanya. I have just made the honey and oat soap you have posted in this page. I only realised toward the end, that I had mixed all the oils together, instead of leaving the superfatting oil aside to mix at light trace. So for next time which is the superfatting oil and what are your thoughts on 10% superfatting?

    • It’s alright to add all the oils in at the same time – you’ll still have your percentage of superfatting but it will be a mix of all the oils you used rather than just one key oil of your choice. As for a 10% superfat, you’re running the risk of your soap being too soft and oily. Saying that, it could turn out to your liking though so give your recipe a go! Just try making a smaller test batch first 🙂

  21. Bruno says:

    I realize this post is a bit old but I’m curious about the broken link on this page under ‘Coloring and Decorating Soap Naturally’. Could you update your post to reflect the corrected link — if it still exists? Thanks for sharing your work! =)

  22. Heather says:

    For the honey and beeswax recipe, when should the beeswax be added? Is it melted with the other oils or added separately? I think I’ve seen some instructions that it is melted separately and added after lye and oils are combined?

    • You can add it with your other oils to melt down or afterwards – either works. If you add it afterwards though, there’s a higher chance of the beeswax not saponifying and staying in your bars as-is. Personally I think adding the wax during the melting phase is better since beeswax is better used to harden bars rather than moisturise the skin. Other ‘superfatting’ oils like shea butter and cocoa butter are better to add at the end.

  23. Rana says:

    How Can I replace shea butter if it isn’t available for me ?

  24. Kimmie says:

    Thank you so much! I have decided to try my hand at soapmaking and this info is by far the best and most informative that I have found.

    • Kimmie says:

      I have a lot of frozen goats milk that I would like to use in my soap. I do not want to use Palm oil or Tallow. I would like to stick with coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, beeswax and goats milk. Is this doable? What are your suggestions?

      • I’d use the Soap Calc to see what it says but your ingredients will work. Note that you should only use a tiny amount of beeswax in your recipes (only 1-2%) and that the goats milk should be added to the lye in your recipe slowly and in its frozen state.

  25. Sarah says:

    I have been reading your 4 part series and noticed where you mentioned antioxidants you mentioned using either Grapefruit seed extract or rosemary oleoresin extract, however in all the recipes it lists using vitamin E or Grapefruit seed extract. Is vitamin E an acceptable antioxidant to use and can you use the powdered form or liquid form?

    • Vitamin E is also an antioxidant so you can use it as well. Use a high quality liquid form – many bottles of inexpensive Vitamin E are mainly carrier oil and contain very little of vitamin e.

  26. Meg says:

    Hi Tanya. Thank you for your wonderful, easy-to-follow tutorials! I can’t find ultramarine violet to purchase in small quantities here in New Zealand, but I found this purple mica – would that be a suitable substitution? I’d hate to end up with something that looked fake and tacky! Do you think the quantity required would be similar? Many thanks 🙂

    • You could use purple mica as well but be careful about the proportions. You might need less than the amount listed for the ultramarine purple so I’d recommend you do a test batch(es) first.

      • Margaret says:

        Hi again, Tanya.

        Hurrah! I have now made 4 batches of soap and am well on my way to being dangerously addicted 😉 Christmas presents are sorted for this year haha! I’m just struggling to get my head around a couple of things. Firstly, I bought a silicone mould with 12 individual bars instead of a loaf, and am struggling to get it to gel. Either that or I’m just not recognising gel when I see it. I’m wrapping it up with 3 or 4 towels and heating the oils & lye to 45C. Ought that to be hot enough for individual moulds?

        I also have a question about trace. It seems different soapmakers have preferences as to whether they blend to light, medium or full trace before pouring. I am just wondering what difference this makes to the final soap? Does a lighter trace mean longer setting/curing time, or does it make no difference?

        Thanks again for your wonderful wealth of knowledge 🙂 If I lived in the UK I would so come to one of your classes!!

        • Yay! Soapmaking is addictive…but it’s a useful addiction, especially at Christmas time 🙂 As for your questions:

          Gel with individual soap moulds – you’re probably going to need to use a higher temperature (55C/130F) for mixing and then pop them into a well insulated box wrapped with towels. If you have a wooden box that the mould and towels will fit in, all the better!

          Trace – the thicker your trace, the less likely it will be that your soap develops ‘Soda Ash’, that white powder that sometimes develops on top of soap. Thicker trace is also preferred by soap makers who like to create textures on the tops of their bars, fluffy meringue-like spikes and the like. Personally, I prefer a medium trace but that’s just me 🙂

  27. Tiffany says:

    Hi Tanya,
    I’ve found your soap making tutorial and am going to give it a go! The only thing I am confused about is the oils in making my own recipes. I have the soap calculator and the 3-4 oils I want to use, but I don’t understand how to decide the % of oils to use. Is there a guideline as to which solid or liquid oils need to be in %? And does this include the superfatting oils? That was also one thing I didn’t understand – in the soap calc, it asked for the super fat %, but I am hung up on how to figure out how much of each oil to use! I’ve chosen coconut, olive, sunflower and either shea or cocoa butter but am unsure of how to figure out the amounts to use of each. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • deciding which percentage of oils to use – experienced soap makers will know this but your best bet is to think olive oil first, then coconut, then other oils. Those first two will make up the bulk of most soap recipes. You’re going to have to play with the calc to get a good result though.

      Superfat oil – this is an area that the soap calc does need work in my opinion. What I do is take the percentage of oil that I want superfatted out and set that aside. For example if you’re making a 800g batch and your superfat is 6% then choose the oil you want (shea butter for example) just use 48g of it at the end. Or if there isn’t 48g of it in your recipe, just set what you have aside for the end. The lye can only combine with so much oil so whatever is left after will superfat your bars no matter if you add it in with the lye or at the end. The reason you would set aside a specific superfat oil for the end is to stop it from combining with the lye and becoming soap itself.

  28. fari says:

    Is Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) also called caustic soda?

  29. Stephen says:

    This is a wonderfully well written and researched series of articles. Just what I was looking for. Thank you!

  30. great resource. thank you. I have a question. I am unable to find palm oil . Do you know if there is a substitute in your lavender soap recipe?

  31. Adesewa says:

    Thank you so much for these priceless information!!?

  32. Kate says:

    these look awesome!!
    I’m sorry if I’m repeating a question from earlier … what is the shelf life for homemade products?

    • If you’re selling it, your shelf-life will be the expiration date of the oil you’re super-fatting with. If it’s just for home use, then there really isn’t a general one in my opinion. Soap stays soap a long time and though the fragrance might fade, the soap will still clean 🙂 Saying that, if it smells strange, has weird growth on it, or is generally icky then don’t use it. Keeping soap stored in an airtight container will help prolong its life/scent too.

  33. Emma says:

    In one of the recipees above the instructions say, ’10g (0.4oz) Essential oil (approx. 1 tsp) – Match to your selected herb’, my digital scale measured this as about one tablespoon (tbsp) rather than 1 tea spoon (tsp). Just wanted to clarify for others incase they found the same thing. Thank you for your lovely instructions 🙂

  34. Sue says:

    Thank you for a great series of articles – I have been making soap for a couple of years just for my own use and to give to family as presents – I have been thinking about maybe selling them. I have been told in order to sell them each recipe needs to cosmetically tested to comply with EU regulations’ – this is not cheap around £49 to £65 each one. You must have been though this process Just wondered if you could share your experience and offer any pointers or a good cheap tester – many thank for a great resource

    • lovelygreens says:

      I fortunately had my soap recipes certified before it started getting too expensive. These days yes, it can be pricey depending on how many variations you have in mind. The best advice I can give you is to get in touch with a reputable EU certified chemist and get a quote.

  35. Lana says:

    Hi, I noticed all the recipies require pomace olive oil!! I live in the middle east where organic vergion olive oil is available in abundance , we have millions of olive trees here in Jordan and it’s the only olive oil we have and know 🙂 my question is can I use it instead of the pomace kind? thank you

  36. Jana says:

    Hi Tanya, thank you so much for this blog it’s the best one out there! I’m not sure if this has been asked before, but for the Honey, Oats and Beeswax Soap recipe, if you want to get the lovely brown colour you say to add the honey in lye solution. However, in the Part 4 you say not to have any sugars, such as honey, in the lye solution as it can result in a mini explosion. At what point would you add the honey? Is it once the water and lye have been mixed together and the lye is cooling down? Many thanks 🙂

    • Jana says:

      Sorry, I forgot to ask, I have a silicone mould with individual soap cubes, and I noticed you advised someone to use a higher temperature (55C/130F) with this type of mould but with using honey in the recipe I should stick to lower temperatures. What do you think would be best? Thanks again!

      • lovelygreens says:

        When you have sugars in your soap recipe (like honey), your soap will naturally become hotter once its poured into the moulds. Stick with cooler soaping temperatures when you’re working with sugars.

    • lovelygreens says:

      Hi Jana! Yes do add the honey to your lye water to get a rich brown colour for the Honey, Oats, and Beeswax soap. In part 4 I say that you can have a mini volcano if the water/infusion you mix with your lye has both sugars in it AND is more than lukewarm in temperature. Hope this helps 🙂

  37. Diana says:

    Thank you so much for all the information! I love your nature oriented life style and admire you for it. I was wondering if the soap recipes can be doubled or tripled. Thank you!

    • Thank you Diana 🙂 In regards to doubling or tripling batches — absolutely. Just be aware that the tracing time will take a little bit longer with larger batches. Also, I’d recommend that the soaping temperatures are dropped about 10 degrees F if you’re using larger moulds.

  38. Lucie Dauth says:

    Love all the information in your blog. Starting my own adventure in soap making. For the calendula soap, when do you add the Shea butter – at the beginning with the ‘hard’ oils or after trace ?

    • It’s entirely up to you! If you put the shea butter in with your hard oils then your soap will have a superfat of all the oils in your recipe. If you add the shea after Trace then it’s more likely that it’s the shea butter that superfats your soap.

  39. Julie says:

    Hi Tanya, I want to try making a basic soap but I can not understand how to use the lyecalk’s ? I want to make a small amount . I have coconut oil, caster oil and olive oil my lye but no idea what quantities to use . Please help , Julie.

    • Hi Julie! You can play around with the soapcalc but a good recipe might be 30% coconut oil, 60% olive oil, and 10% castor oil. Pop those into the calc and give it a 6% superfat. Once you have the percentages in, click the radio button on the other side of the percentages column — it will be lbs, oz, or g. Then at the top under number 2, select your preferred value and put the total weight of the batch size you want to make. Press ‘Calculate Recipe’ then ‘View/Print Recipe’ to see your recipe.

  40. Marlene Chalmers says:

    I just made my second batch of soap: Coconut, olive, shea butter and castor oil. Upon rereading your website I realized I needed to also add an antioxidant. Will my soap go rancid?

    • It will probably be fine Marlene. A lot of soapers don’t use one at all but I’d recommend that you use your soap within a year to make sure your extra oils don’t go off.

  41. Nandita says:

    Tanya, thanks for this very comprehensive and useful article.
    Can I make a half recipe to begin with? First of all, because I’ve never made it before. Also, will a half recipe reduce my stirring time to reach ‘trace’? I’ve not yet bought a stick blender.
    Another question — can I use ALL palm oil? Because, where I live (India), olive oil is expensive, and the coconut oil is not deodorised — I don’t like that strong smell in soap. I don’t mind if the bar is hard from using just palm oil — I’m thinking of adding some orange zest to it.

  42. Nandita says:

    Thanks, Tanya, for the useful tips!

  43. Liydmila says:

    Hello Tanya. I have a question on the “superfate” I can not understand where he is. If it is incorporated in a calculator for example 7%, this means that it is already in the composition of soap oils or it needs to be added separately already on the trace. Thank you

    • Superfat can be a difficult idea to understand, especially in the SoapCalc. All it means is the percentage of oils that exceed the amount the lye needs to be completely used up. Any or all of the oils in your SoapCalc recipe can be your superfat.

      There are at least two ways to go about creating a superfatted soap. The first is to expose ALL the oils in your recipe to the lye solution. What happens in this case is that a proportion of each of the oils you use will end up staying in your bars as unsaponified oil.

      If you want a particular oil to be your sole superfat, then you hold back the oil until the very end. That way, the lye interacts with the oils you want it to, and when you pour your superfat oil in at Trace, it will stick around without turning into soap. Hope this explanation helps.

      • liydmila says:

        Thank you very much, Tanya, for your explanation. As for first way i understand. As for second if am whrite understand when i make a recept in calculator i put 7% “superfat” for example and after i start preparation i separated these 7 % particular oil and add them just in trace? Thank you.

        • It’s entirely up to you if you want to separate 7% of your oil out and add it at Trace. If you do, the chance that these oils will stay in your soap as the superfatting oil is higher. If you put all your oils in the pan before the lye-solution (so before before you even start stick blending) then your superfat in your final bars will be a little of each oil from your recipe. Does this make sense?

  44. Liydmila says:

    i have read a books but every time i think it’s difficult and when i saw your site it’s seems to me realy so easy with your explanation and your site is like inspirations for me/ thank you

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