Natural Soap Making for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soap Making Method

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method
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Natural Soap Making: Step-by-step cold-process soap making method

Cold-process soap making outlined: Making, molding, and curing

The Cold-process  process is one of the most common ways to produce soap at home. It’s easy enough for most anyone to try and though there might be some uncertainty in your first attempt, you’ll get the hang out of it by the second or third try.

In this tutorial I’ll be showing you the steps I go through when making a honey soap though you can apply the instructions to practically any soap recipe, including the ones I provided in the last post. The video below shows how to make cold-process soap with this Lemongrass soap recipe.

This is part 4 in this 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


Assemble your Ingredients and Equipment

It helps to have everything you need as far as ingredients, recipe, method, and equipment prepared in advance. If there’s a moment of panic anywhere along the way then it definitely helps to not have to hurriedly measure out ingredients or search for an important piece of equipment.
Take your time to read through the steps I’ve outlined for you and then set out everything you need. Even after seven years of cold-process soap making  I still set out my stations and materials every time I make a batch. By being organised I’ve been able to save my skin more than once.

Soap Making Stations

My stations include my warming area where I’ll melt the oils and I have my digital thermometer, spoons, an old kitchen towel and a mini strainer waiting at one side. On the other I have my stick blender assembled and plugged into the wall. I also keep my bowl of liquid oils and additional measured ingredients such as essential oils, herbs, and my antioxidant in this area.

My cooling area is my sink and this is where I’ll mix the lye and water solutions. Here I keep my stirring spoon at the ready and make sure to pop open the window for ventilation. In preparation for cooling my lye solution, I fill the sink with cold water.

In between these areas I have my moulds sitting out and waiting as well as insulation materials such as towels and the wooden box I place my silicone moulds into.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Measure your Solid Oils

Once you’re organised, measure your solid oils using your kitchen scale. I ordinarily just measure directly into the pan I’m planning on heating them in. I don’t mix my solid and liquid oils at this point. It takes less time to melt the hard oils then add the liquid ones than to mix them all together from the start.

Once your hard oils are measured and in a deep stainless steel pan, start heating them on the hob. I keep the heat on med-low and don’t use a lid. Keep an eye on the pan and break up any larger pieces of solid oils to speed up the melting process.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking MethodMaking the Lye Solution

Once your hard oils are on the hob turn your attention to your water (or other liquid) and lye. First make sure that your goggles and gloves are on and that the area you’re planning to work in is well ventilated – open a window if necessary.

Please also ensure that any children and pets are out of the room so that you won’t be disturbed and that the likelihood of an accident is minimised. Now you’ll need to think of cooling methods. Once your lye and water have been combined the mixture will get very hot and will need to be cooled either in a basin of water or outdoors. Please don’t put it in the fridge since the solution gives off unhealthy fumes that you don’t want to come into contact with food.

Though some people find it a bit scary, working with Sodium Hydroxide (lye) is a necessary part of soap making from scratch. All soap requires lye, including the pre-made melt-and-pour bases you can find through specialty suppliers. It’s just that in melt-and-pour, the lye has already been combined with the oils for you in advance.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Mixing the Water and Lye

Measure your water and lye into two separate containers and for safety purposes, use containers made of glass, pyrex, or Polypropylene (PP) plastic. Take both containers to a ventilated area near your cooling station and slowly pour the lye into the water and stir with a stainless steel utensil. The chemical reaction between lye and water produces a lot of heat so please be careful.

Please also remember to never pour the water into the lye since it can result in a mini explosion. Another important thing is to make sure that your water/liquid is at least at room temperature when you add the lye to it – this is especially important for those of you who are planning on making soap using a herbal infusion.

If your water is even lukewarm your lye solution can start to boil violently and even volcano up and out of your container. This volcano action can also happen if you have any ‘sugars’ such as honey or milk in your liquids.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Lye-water making Tips

Another thing I’d like to recommend is to always measure your lye and water into separate containers. When I first started making soap I measured the lye directly into the water and though it seemed to work fine for awhile I had a few accidents that have impressed on me the importance of ‘Measure first, mix later’.

The scariest cold-process soap making instance I’ve had was when the lye solution volcanoed while I was pouring lye into some lukewarm peppermint tea. I was especially unprepared for the situation because the jug was sitting on the scale and I was actively trying to measure lye at the same time as the solution was going crazy. Not good…so please learn from my mistakes.

Measure your Liquid oils

While your solid oils are still melting and your lye-water is cooling down, measure your liquid oils into a bowl. I’ve found that if you’re using powdered colours (such as Iron Oxides and Ultramarines) that this is the best time to add them to oils – a milk frother is the best way to disperse them throughout the liquid oils. If you opt to do this then your entire batch will be this colour which is perfect if you’re making a single colour soap.

If you’re planning on using more than one colour you’ll need to add it after the soap has traced. I won’t be covering that step in this tutorial since it will just get confusing with the photos. No doubt there will be another blog post from me in the future on creating multi-coloured soap!

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method


One of the most confusing parts about making soap for me was at what temperature do you mix the lye-solution and the oils? Do they have to be the same temperature? The answer is in two parts.

First of all, the temperature you mix your soap at will affect how your soap comes out in both colour and texture. There are several factors that you’ll need to consider when choosing a soaping temperature and they’ll include batch size, type of mould, if sugars (honey, milk, sugar) are used, and what colour you hope your batch will turn out.

Hotter temperatures

The hotter the temperature, the more intense the colour. Personally I make soap when the oils are between 110-130F and err on the cooler side if I’m using sugars. If you mix cold-process soap over 130F then you risk a whole host of issues including volcano-ing, cracking, and discolouration.

The second part to mention is about lye temperature. Some soapers work with lye solutions that are room temperature while their oils are warm. As long as the overall temperature once you mix the lye solution and the oils is above the lowest melting point of your oils then you’re fine.

Ideal soaping temperatures

If the lye solution cools your oils so that they begin to harden then you might run into an issue referred to as False Trace. You think your soap has saponified but it hasn’t. The oils have just gone solid again.

When I’m soaping I usually mix when the oils are between 110-130F and the lye solution is within 10 degrees of the oil’s temperature but under 130F.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Batch size

For larger batches that are going into large moulds many soap makers tend to stick with lower temperatures around or below 100°F. This is because of the tendency for large batches of soap placed into a large loaf/block moulds to get and stay hotter in the centre than on the outsides and for the colour to change in some places as a result.

Most soap makers that create large batches are doing so to sell them on to the public and a strangely coloured bar of soap is less marketable than one with homogeneous colour and texture.

If you’re making a small batch of soap and want a deep colour then I’d recommend choosing a temperature closer to 110-120°F. If you’re making a small batch and would like a soft and opaque colour then stick with lower temperatures of around 95-100°F.


Having honey, milk, or actual sugar in your recipe will cause your soap batter to heat up to much hotter temperatures even after it’s been poured into moulds.

If you plan on using these ingredients then consider using lower temperatures or the sugars can burn and caramelise resulting in a different smell and colour than you were hoping for.


A higher mixing temperature will mean that the colour of your soap will deepen dramatically due to a reaction called ‘Gelling’. If you’re after soft and light coloured bars then stick with lower temperatures. Please also read the section below on insulation since this will affect the colour of your soap too.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method


Once your hard oils are fully melted, add your liquid oils, stir well, then check the temperature. Compare this against the temperature of your lye solution and adjust them until they’re within ten degrees of each other and close to your target mixing temperature.

Bringing your soap to Trace

Now comes the exciting part. Pour your lye-solution through a strainer and into your oils as shown above. The strainer is to make sure that no bits of undissolved lye make their way into your soap. Now submerge your stick blender into the pan, giving it a little tap to release any air that might have been captured underneath. Start with a few short pulses and then stir.

Repeat this until you come to ‘Trace’ – depending on your batch size it could take anywhere from 1-10 minutes. Trace is when the oils and lye-solution combine into soap through a process called saponification. You’ll know when your mixture has traced when its reached a thin pudding-like consistency. Once you lift your stick blender out of the mix, you’ll also notice that you’ll be able to see little trails of soap that linger on the surface for a bit.

Note: If you do not use a stick blender to mix your soap and instead opt for a spoon and/or wisk then expect your soap to take up to three hours to trace!

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Adding Ingredients at Trace

Once your soap has traced you’ll need to work quickly to add in some of the more delicate ingredients to your soap batter. These will include your superfatting oil, essential oils, your antioxidant, and botanicals such as herbs and dried flower petals.

You add these after trace for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the chemical process of saponification (the oils combining with the lye-solution) can be very hot and adding fragile ingredients during that phase can destroy and evaporate their beneficial and fragrant properties.

Secondly, if you add whole ingredients, such as rolled oats, before the soap has traced, then the stick blender will pulse them up too. The last reason specifically touches on the superfatting of your recipe.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Ingredients at Trace

If you add your fine superfatting oils before saponification, then some of those oils will be converted into soap. If you add them after saponification, then they’ll stay in your soap as free-floating oils as intended.

An easy way to superfat is to stick with a liquid oil which you have measured and have set aside for this step. If you choose a hard oil, such as shea butter, you will need to melt it first before adding it into the soap. Personally, I’d recommend sticking with a liquid oil on your first few attempts.

Adding an antioxidant

Part of this step is adding your antioxidant. There are three main antioxidants that soapers use to help ‘preserve’ their soap: Grapefruit seed extract (GSE), Rosemary Oleoresin Extract (ROE), and Vitamin E, and each has their own pros and cons.

Read up on them and choose which one will be best for you. I should also say that antioxidants are not true preservatives but work to keep the extra oils in your soap from going rancid. Soap does not require a preservative since once it’s ready to use, it does not contain any water or environment where bacteria can thrive.

Note: Try to work as quickly as you can in this step since depending on your recipe, your soap may start to set (harden up). Also, I’ve found that using a whisk is the best way to incorporate your extra ingredients. However, try not to beat the soap or introduce air into the mix or you can end up with air bubbles in your soap.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Pouring into Moulds

Your soap is now ready to be poured into your moulds. Please have a look at the equipment post for more information on what you can use. For most of my soap I use silicone loaf moulds that hold eight bars at a time. There are plenty of other types of moulds out there and quite a few household hacks though.

Lift and plunk your moulds down a couple of times after the soap has been poured in to help settle out the mix and release any trapped air bubbles.

Insulating the soap

Now you’ll have a choice on whether you’d like to insulate your soap or not. Insulating it will keep the temperature hot and steady which will deepen the colour and add a slight transparency to the finished bars – this is called putting the soap through the ‘Gel’ state.

You can insulate your soap in a wooden box as I do, or line the top of the soap with cling film and wrap a big fluffy towel around the mould. If you choose not to insulate your soap then the colour will be much lighter and opaque – much more like the soap you find for sale at the supermarket.

Either way you choose to insulate, you need to let the soap sit for at least twenty-four hours in the mould(s). This allows for the soap to set and cool down to room temperature and if you try to take your soap out before this time then you can be left with a sticky mess.

Insulation considerations

If you do not insulate your loaf moulds there’s a chance that the inner part of the loaf will ‘gel’ and the outer parts will not. You’ll see this as a darker circle on the inside of your cut soap bars. It will not affect the soap’s usefulness but can look unattractive.

If you use sugars in your recipe it’s likely that you will not need to insulate your soap. Sugars will raise the temperature of your soap even after it’s been poured into the moulds and further insulation can cause your soap to volcano or darken to an undesired colour.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Cutting your Soap

If you’ve used small bar-sized moulds you can pop your soap out and set them on shelves to cure right away.  Those using non-silicone plastic moulds may encounter some issues in getting the soap out and to you I’d recommend popping the moulds into the freezer for around thirty minutes. The soap should pop out like an ice cube afterwards.

With loaves, just use a sharp knife to cut your soap block into bars. If you want exact sized bars then invest in a professional soap cutter – some are relatively inexpensive and good for the small producer. A hack would be to use a mitre box and a knife that will fit through one of the sets of vertical slats.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

Curing your Cold Process Soap

Your soap looks finished and might even smell pretty nice at this point but it’s not ready yet. First you’ll need to set the bars in a cool and well ventilated area, and away from direct sunlight, for at least four weeks.

This period is called ‘curing’ and it gives time for the soap to finish saponification (which is generally the first two to five days) and for all the excess water to evaporate out of your bars. Just try to forget about the soap and move on to other projects for awhile. Before you know it, the time will have passed and you’ll have a full batch of lovely handmade soap to use.

Hopefully this tutorial has been helpful but if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section. There’s also a lot of information in the other three posts of this series so have a browse through them as well.

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

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners: the Cold-Process Soapmaking Method

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99 Discussion to this post

  1. Saranya says:

    Hi, whn we add vegetables r fruit puree,should we keep d soap in fridge until it sets?

    • lovelygreens says:

      There’s no need to refrigerate soap because of added fruit puree. It won’t spoil if you’re using the correct amount. What soap does need is plenty of air during the curing process to allow the water in your recipe to evaporate out.

  2. siu says:

    Hey Tanya , thank you so much for all these usefull and very clear informations!
    i just started Diy soap making nearly one year ago and your tips helped me a lot!! I’m also looking forward to start a business as i love to make it !

    i have some questions:
    after the curing process, where do you store the soaps? and how long can a soap last before all the fragrances are lost?
    I use only pure or organic essential oils. For the moment i store them on the same shelf as my curing soaps. some are stored in a closed cardboard box but all together. i red on internet that some were using rubbermaid box with one scent / box….And as i live in Cambodia, with a tropical climate,i have no cool place, so the best place i can get is in my corridor, wich is shady, and ventilated wether by fan or draught.

    i’m also concerned about learning some basics about skin types. some friends asked me “for my skin what soap would you suggest me?”..Well, i have no answer…haha… or “be carefull with essential oils, some are allergic, pregnant women and kids are more sensitive”…. how can i know which essential oils to use/avoid in these particular cases? Some have to be avoid if applied directly on the skin. what about if it’s not more than 2-3% in a recipe?
    i would really like to learn more about skin, the use of essentials oils an its restrictions in cosmetics…i feel stuck lol. do you have any advices, tips, or informations to share about it?

    Do you have any suggestions about how to start a business in this field, what i need to know about legislations and further for labelling?

    Thanks a lot !!


    • lovelygreens says:

      Hi Siu! I use plastic bins to store my soaps in and it’s one scent per box. Storing them together can affect the scent.

      As for essential oils, in soap making quantities they’re all pretty safe. Some essential oils you do need to take care of though — certain ones should only be used as less than 1% of the recipe. Have a read of my piece on using essential oils in soap making here:

      I’d also recommend that you pick up a beginners book on aromatherapy to learn most of what you need to know about essential oils. Hope this helps 🙂

      • Siu says:

        Hi Tanya! Thx for your you put the lid on your plastic bin without any air? In average how long can you keep a soap in this bin? Thx for your tips! 😀

        • lovelygreens says:

          Yes I seal the lid. The shelf-life of your soap can be up to two years but is completely dependent on the expiration date of the exact bottle/box of oils you use. Look for the closest best by date and that’s how long your soap will be certain to be good by.

  3. Nicole says:

    Thank you Tanya, the list you shared is so helpful there are some i passed by all the time in the market but now i Know, so what are some of the natural fragrances that remains even after the curing process u would suggest? i have been using eucalyptus and it stays but i want to change to others, i guess imma keep reading your reviews for more clarifications, i am definately into natural soap making.

    • lovelygreens says:

      Most essential oils hold well in soap — the only really problematic ones are citrus oils like Mandarin, Sweet orange, and Lemon. They tend to dissipate over a very short time. Happy soaping Nicole 🙂

  4. nicole says:

    hey Tanya i am a new soap maker from Rwanda , i’ve read so many soap reviews but yours ranks them it is so crystal clear, i do have a question tho ,so could botanicals like dried rose flowers, dried lavender flowers and chamomile be used as fragrances and colors?

  5. lakshmi says:

    Hi….my question is regarding soda ash on my soaps and they at very clear and smooth. Please help

    • lovelygreens says:

      In my experience, the best way to avoid soda ash is to use a water discount. Whatever the recipe gives you for the Sodium hydroxide amount (in weight — grams, oz), multiply that by 1.8 to get a new water amount for the recipe. This is the ratio that I use regularly.

  6. Nandita says:

    Absolutely! That’s exactly what I’ll do — make more soap!

  7. Nandita says:

    Tanya, thanks for all the info on this site. I just made my first batch ever, and I’m so delighted with it! I used coconut, sunflower, and palm oils — and 0% superfat. I have a couple of questions:

    1. Once the soap cures and I use it, can I use the grey water to water my plants? (I have used nothing but the oils and lye.)
    2. Despite no superfatting, if I try to do my dishes with it, it leaves an oily residue. What should I change to get squeaky clean, non-oily dishes?

    • Nandita says:

      Also, if I add essential oils, when I cure the soap in a well-ventilated area for a month, won’t the smell go away?

    • lovelygreens says:

      Yes you’re completely fine with using your grey water (from doing your dishes) to water your outdoor plants. I probably wouldn’t try it with house plants though since I imagine the soap would accumulate in the soil. I’m not 100% sure about it though but my gut feeling says no. Also, a soap with zero superfat should not leave any residue on dishes. What recipe and process did you use?

      • Nandita says:

        Thanks, Tanya.
        I used 6 oz. coconut oil, 5 oz. palm oil and 5 oz. sunflower oil. And 2.5 oz. lye. Cold process.
        Perhaps it’s possible that the soap still is too fresh? I made it just five days ago, and I have been using the flakes left in my mould — it might ‘improve’ in 4-6 weeks?
        Anyway, in the worst case, I’ll probably grate it and use it as a laundry soap!

        Yes, good point — about not using the grey water in indoor plants or those with limited soil.

        • lovelygreens says:

          Hi Nandita. It makes sense now — your recipe is good but you need to let cold-process soap cure for at least four weeks before using it. Technically saponification is supposed to finish 48 hours after you make soap but it could take more time. It could smell, look, and act different to what the end product will be at the end of the cure time. Be patient, give it time, and come back to it in another 23 days.

          • Nandita says:

            Thanks; I will. Sigh, a watched soap is long in curing! 🙂 And I love to keep going back and smelling it — that *pure* soap smell — I’ll probably keep mine unscented!

            Thanks once again — I really like your site. And I realised that there is so much info to digest that I should go through each of the four parts at least 3-4 times to absorb all that you are saying!

          • lovelygreens says:

            The best way to forget about your soap while it’s curing is to make more soap! 😀 If you have any further questions just let me know.

  8. arefa says:

    Tanya thank u so much for this wonderful blog. I am from india and have tried making cold process soaps. I have a problem Tanya, in the monsoon season my soap sweats. and another problem is my fragrance never lasts very long. please suggest some good fragrance oils and at what stage to put them. thanks

  9. khalied says:

    so nice work nice nice very nice

  10. Alhena says:

    Very nice recipe and love your tips, thanks Taniya!

  11. Marianne Thiede says:

    Hi Tanya, I’m new to soap making and even though I am very keen to make bars for personal care, I am also interested in making a laundry soap from scratch. Any advice on how to go about it or maybe a link?
    Thanks for all the great info and guidance! I’m from Pretoria, South Africa.

    • lovelygreens says:

      Hi Marianne and welcome to soapmaking! A simple DIY laundry detergent includes a bar of soap grated with a cheese grater and one cup of Washing Soda. Use 1/5 Tbsp per load. Hope this helps.

  12. Natália Monteiro says:

    Hi, Tanya! What an amazing tutorial! I’m new to soapmaking and it was really valuable to me so I’m just passing by to tell you how much I appreciate it and also to let you know that you have a new follower, from Brazil. Wish you all the best and thanks again! 😀

  13. Nina V says:

    I have just stumbled again your posts/website via a link on Pinterest.
    Making soap, from scratch is something I have been interested in doing for yeeeears. I’ve never quite had the confidence to actually try. Your posts are so thorough, I am already making lists in my head. ?
    Thank you for sharing this wealth of information.
    Many thanks,

    • lovelygreens says:

      Thanks for your return visit Nina! If you have any questions about making soap do leave them here and I’ll try to get back to you with answers. All the best – Tanya

  14. carol says:

    I was wondering have you started teaching class yet. I live in the US. If so where do I go to here you teach. Do your classes cost if so how much. Carol

  15. Rachael says:

    This is one of the best tutorials I have read so far. I’m just about to start venturing into the soap making world and these posts helped clear up a lot of questions I still had. Also is there a huge difference between extra virgin olive oil and the pomace olive oil?

  16. Adrian says:

    Hi, Tanya! Thank you so very much for writing this series! I have studied it and have made three batches of soap! The only part I have trouble with is matching the soap lye temperature. I know you said it is not complicated, I just have to master the process! I am getting my oil too hot in the first place. I am going to get two thermometers so I can keep a closer eye on the temps. Thank you again for writing this! I very much appreciate it!

    • lovelygreens says:

      You could very well do that but the other thing I can recommend is that you only heat the solid oils in the pan. When they’ve JUST melted, take the pan off the heat and add the liquid oils. This should make your soap-making life much easier 🙂

  17. Juliet says:

    hi Tanya I am a fan of yours, if I am using the melt and soup base, how long before I can use it? is it also 4 weeks

  18. Carolyn says:

    Hi Tanya, I follow you on Instagram, but wasn’t aware of the blog until I recently started to research soap making. I am really interested in making herbal soap and salves. Specifically a poison ivy soap recipe for the gardeners and friends who I am always making up batches of jewelweed and plantain in a witch hazel base. You can never have enough of this stuff on hand it seems so soapmaking would be a great option. Thank you for the articles, they lowered the stress factor for me. I have family members who are vegan, so am interested in options besides palm oil. Just saw the Orangatang who signs video (sigh).

    • lovelygreens says:

      Hi Carolyn! There are many recipes that don’t use Palm oil or which specifically use Sustainably Sourced Palm. The top three main oils for a non-palm recipe would likely be olive oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil.

      Great idea for the gardeners’ skincare products and good luck with making them 🙂

  19. vanessa says:

    For my first soap I was hoping to do a fairly simple recipe. I tried using the calculator and I wanted to verify that my recipe will work. Please advise?
    Water 109.44 grams
    Lye 49.52 grams
    Cocoa butter 14.4 grams
    Coconut oil 273.6 grams

    • lovelygreens says:

      Hi Vanessa! Your recipe is probably not going to give you a good batch of soap. You need to add some conditioning oils like sunflower or olive oil (as the main oil I recommend). Tip: When you enter your values into the soap calc press the button to ‘2. View or print recipe’. There’s a box in the bottom left called Soap Bar Quality with ranges for each value provided – your own numbers do not fit into any of the ranges. I recommend you start with an existing soap recipe such as the ones I’ve provided and then tweak it in the soap calc. Good luck!

  20. Linda says:

    I’m just in the process of learning how to make soap, this was a most useful post, I will regularly be referring back to it. Great work.

  21. Tiffany says:

    Thank you very much for giving such an informative post on soap making!
    I have made a few soaps in the past but am keen to master the process and use all natural ingredients that are safe for the whole family.
    It will be hard to wait a month for them to be ready but Im sure it will be worth it.
    Keep up the great work!

  22. Lilly Rivas-Waits says:

    I have a lot of respect and appreciation for your time and effort on this post! I’m a fairly new soap maker but I’ve done a lot of research online, with books and also join a few groups on fb, you are straightforward, very informative while keeping it simple, I wish lots of blessings on you for sharing all the knowledge you have. Have you ever done the Hot process method? That is all I’ve done because I’m impatient but I am ready to give the CP a try. Thanks so much for the information.

    • lovelygreens says:

      Thank you so much for this kind message Lilly! I have tried Hot Process but the rustic look of the soap afterwards isn’t my favourite so I mainly stick with CP. Trust me, once you make a few batches and then stash them away, a month to wait is over in the blink of an eye.

  23. Judit Zsedenyi says:

    Thank you for the detailed explanation of making soap.
    Currently i am in indonesia where the wheather is humid. Hot but very moisty. So my question is after finishing uo my soap and i am in the patiance period where i wait and see the turn fan and coring it up with a towel couldbe good to this period or should i just let it uncovered in a room?
    Thank you

    • lovelygreens says:

      In a hot Indonesian room it shouldn’t need any insulating towels – there’s a chance the soap could overhead and have a volcano effect out of the mould. If I were you, I’d experiment with simply leaving the moulds on a tabletop as you suggest.

  24. Pia says:

    hi Tanya thank you so much for this extensive and informative tutorial. I am ready to start now. Wish me luck!
    I hope the bars are finished before Christmas! I am prepared for the worst! But I’m hoping for the best.
    I love following you on FB and reading Lovely Greens blog. I’ve got the rest of my life to spend following some of these home made recipes. It’s what I’ve always wished to do!


  25. Chelsea says:

    Awesome advice and step by step tutorial! Super stoked to start making my own soaps! I do have just one question- I’d rather ask this one than chance it.. When exactly do you add honey or sugars, or milks (if those ingredients are in fact in your recipe)? Thank you so much and thanks again for sharing your tips and tricks!

    • lovelygreens says:

      That would make a good blog post in itself! It’s all different Chelsea and depending on what you want to do with the sugars. If you add a little in before saponification then you can achieve a lovely natural golden colour to your bars. If you want the bars to be unaffected (colour-wise) by the sugar you need to be far more careful. Making goats milk soap often including freezing the milk before use.

  26. susie says:

    This was the best information I have found yet. I will try your recipes. Wish I had found this before I spent a fortune on oils, FO, etc. Oh well ! I don’t mind that much. This soap making process is helping me getting through a ruff spot in my life so… it’s all worth it. I love making soap and learning. I will share your blog with friends., Thank you so much for all of this information 🙂 God bless you .

  27. Sarah says:

    Hi Tanya. First of all, thank you so much for this tutorial. I made my first batch of cold process soap tonight, and am eager to see how it will turn out. I had a couple of questions re: superfat that I would really grateful if you could help me with. In your tutorial, you say to add whichever oil/butter you want as superfat after trace. I chose cocoa butter to add at this point. My first question is re: SoapCalc. Should I enter the cocoa butter in the oils section, along with olive oil, coconut oil etc? Or do I just calculate how many grams 5% is? Secondly, I have been told that you cannot choose your superfat when making cold process soap as the lye chooses which oils it will saponify and which it will leave to superfat. Can you clarify your thoughts on this please? Thank you again!

    • lovelygreens says:

      Hi Sarah and happy soapmaking! I hope your first batch turns out well but if you run into issues (like I did on my first THREE batches) just keep at it.

      To answer your questions:

      SoapCalc calculates the Superfatting in a recipe by looking at the oil amounts you input and by changing the amount of lye required for the recipe. The higher the percentage of your superfatting option, the lower the amount of lye needed. So basically, any five percent of your oils added after trace will have the best chance of surviving saponification.

      Choosing oils for Superfatting: The term ‘Trace’ means that most of your oils have bonded with the lye and are on their way to becoming soap! If you add your oils after Trace, there will be a lot less chance of it finding lye and a much higher chance of it staying in your bars as oil. There are also some oils that don’t bond with lye as easily as others (Shea Butter for example) so even if you add it before Trace it’s likely to remain more of a superfatting oil.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Hi Tanya,
    I am a little confused on one thing so I do apologise.
    When you add a superfatting oil or any of the other extras after the process off mixing lye water and oils together. Do I include their measurements in the original ingredient amount but do not add until the end?
    Thank you,

  29. Thyme says:

    I'm always wanted to try my hand at cold process soap making. Your tutorial is by far the best I've seen and I'm feeling empowered. Thank you.

  30. Joseph Gill says:

    My wife and I make cold process lye soap every Fall. Thank you so much for publishing this excellent tutorial! I have made lots of batches of soap. Your tutorials have answered many of my questions. I am looking forward to make my next batch and adding cornstarch and GSE to it. 🙂 I"m also looking forward to experimenting with natural colorants and using botanicals.

    One botanical we have added for exfoliant that I didn't see mentioned, was used coffee grounds. It adds exfoliant and color. It makes for a great hand cleaning soap and invigorating shower bar.

    Also a good hack for a soap cutter is a cheese cutter. It works great! 🙂

    We try and integrate rendered venison tallow into every recipe we make. The tallow adds a great hardness and silkyness to the soap and it makes great use of an otherwise useless product. Making use of this tallow is how I got into this soapmaking hobby. 🙂

    Thanks again! Cheers!

  31. shalom says:

    I am hesitant to make soap from scratch using lye, however I am looking for an alternative to the harsh chemicals in store bought soaps. what is your opinion on the ingredients in the melt-and-pour pre-made soaps? are they more natural or just as bad as the store bought soaps? thank you so much!

    • lovelygreens says:

      It depends on the Melt-and-Pour really – I personally don’t see any issues with using it as long as it’s SLS and SLES-free. These chemicals are often used in ‘Soap’ to boost bubbles and lather or just as a surfactant.

  32. coe102 says:

    Thanks for the awesome information! I was wondering if I could use lard instead of the tallow fat because it seems easier to find in my area. Thanks so much for your help. Sharing of your time, advice and knowledge is truly commendable!

    • Hi there! Of course you can use lard instead of tallow…the main difference is that lard comes from pig fat and tallow from beef fat. HOWEVER, they have different saponification values – these determine just how much lye is needed to convert the fats into soap. Pork lard is 0.138 and beef tallow is 0.1405. Just use the soap making calculator (check out the third part of this series for a link: 3. Basic Recipes and Formulating Your Own) to determine your final recipe and you'll be fine 🙂

  33. Sam says:

    Hi Tracy, we used your Herbal Soap Recipe for our first attempt. After about 36 hours we tried to cut into it, and it is squishy and sticks to the knife. What did we do wrong? Did we not mix it with the stick blender for long enough? Thank you!!

  34. Christy says:

    Thank you so much. Maybe I missed something, but how did you calculate how much oil you used to superfat at trace? Do you calculate the 5% on the total recipe weight or on just what oils/butters are in the recipe. Thank you so much for your help.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this great tutorial. I have switched to all natural beauty products and foods for 2014 so I wanted to try making my own soaps. I have been doing research for the last few months on soap making. Your site is the best. Thanks again!

  36. Anonymous says:

    Your directions are excellent, thank you! A friend wanted me to talk her through this via phone as she doesn't live near me. It was great to be able to send her to you, so thank you!

    Have you ever tried using herbal tea instead of water as you make the soap? It may sound a bit odd, but it gives a lovely product. I brew a strong batch of tea and it works just like it does with water. My favorite is Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer tea (double strength) in a soap that I add powdered oatmeal, cinnamon essential oil and either rosewood or sandalwood oil. It gives it a dimension that the same recipe just doesn't have when plain water is used. I have also used Tazo Wild Sweet Orange tea in a batch that I added lemon, orange and cinnamon essential oils to.

  37. Sherie says:

    Thank you so much for this Tutorial. I was going to give up on soap making… my first batch didn't turn out so well. It suds for a while then it stops. I was starting off simple by buying ingredients from HL but I will try your method.

  38. Anonymous says:

    The post on soap-making is extremely helpful and detailed. I've been making soaps recently, but the problem is despite adding essential oils, the soap doesn't smell that great. Could it be because i'm adding the essential oil too early? Do i need to wait for the soap temperature to lessen before adding EO? Would be really helpful if you can tell. Thanks.

    • Hi Scinia and yes, it could be that you're adding the essential oils when the soap is too hot. Essential oils are quite delicate and can evaporate in batches that are too hot – especially citrus based essential oils. Try adding them as the very last ingredient and see if that works? Also, I'd try mixing your lye-water and oils at a lower temperature too – 95-100F perhaps?

    • Neelam says:

      Thanks a lot for your valuable advice. Love your blog. Following you via email:)

  39. sueold55 says:

    Tanya, thank you so much for this detailed tutorial. I recently took a small soap-making class where we made our own batch of soap to take home, and plan to try my hand at making it myself. Your instructions are so thorough and easy to understand, I will definitely be referring to them closely when I try it. Bless you!

  40. Allen Dawson says:

    The procedure you have shared about making soap is nice. Some soap contains triclosan as their main ingredient. We need to choose triclosan free soap because they do not harm our skin.

    • Avoid any soap that's labelled as 'Anti-Bacterial' and you can avoid coming into contact with Triclosan! It won't be the main ingredient in bar-soap recipes but is added to products to help kill bacteria. Funny thing is, a recent study by a U.S. FDA advisory committee found no added cleansing benefit to using Tricosan-based anti-bacterial soaps opposed to just ordinary soap and water. Funny that…

  41. Anonymous says:

    I have access to 50% NaOH. How do I calculate your lye to water concentration vs. using the caustic solution? I've made soap before with lye but want to try the liquid caustic next. Thanks for your great tutorials!

    MKat [email protected]

  42. Very generous of you to share your knowledge and expertise, Tanya. I doubt I'll be making soap at any time soon (no space for the equipment or time) but it really underlines the hard work and attention that goes into every bar that you make. Awesome!

    • Thanks so much Caro 🙂 I've had quite a few people ask me about how soap was made so thought this would be a good opportunity to show the process. I'm also going to be offering soap making courses from next year and setting down some information seemed the best step in that direction.

  43. Reifyn says:

    Looks like caramel to me in the top pictures especially. Good enough to eat!

  44. excellent tutorial-thank you I make soap with the melt and pours cause I am very leary about the lye-I may try this when I can work outdoors

  45. I haven't made soap yet but I think that I can do it now that you have posted this series that even I can go with. I am collecting fat still. I can probably get some from some people who are butchering hogs, they usually have a lot.

    • Pork fat (lard) is a really good fat to use in soapmaking – as long as you're not a vegetarian of course! While it's not great to use as a sole oil, using some of it in your recipe will add conditioning and a creamy texture. I've never rendered down port fat before Sunnybrook but would be interested to hear how you get on if you manage to get some from your hog contacts!

  46. Dani says:

    Tanya – Thank you so much for the information you have so willingly shared with us – bless you.

    I have been making a soap which uses a lye solution, coconut oil, pomace and canola oil – and an essential oil mixed in at the end. I let the temperature reach 50oC (120oF) before mixing the lye and oils together.

    I have tried using a hand mixer, a stick blender, and a spoon / hand whisk, and I have never managed to get it to trace in under an hour – sometimes 1 1/2 hours. Very tedious. Where am I going wrong? It does make me hesitate to make another batch until it is absolutely necessary, as I don't always have 1 1/2 hours to spare to stand and mix soap…

    I love the scent that pervades a room whilst the soap is curing – a natural air fresher LOL

    Merry Christmas Tanya – and all the best for 2014.

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