Make Your Own Soap

Making soap is easy and you can save money by not having to buy soap. Soap is made by reacting an acid (for example sunflower and olive oils) with an alkali (for example sodium hydroxide). It is very important to use accurate measurements and follow the recipe exactly. If you use too much sodium hydroxide your soap will be caustic and could burn you; if you use too much oil your soap will be greasy.

Soap-Making Equipment

You will need:

  • A pair of goggles to protect you from splashes of sodium hydroxide.
  • A large stainless steel or enamel pot (sodium hydroxide can corrode iron or aluminium containers).
  • A thermometer.
  • A wooden spoon.
  • A glass jug.
  • A mould (to set your soap shape)
  • A sharp knife or cheesewire.

Soap Recipe

  • 300g coconut oil
  • 350g vegetable shortening
  • 250g olive oil
  • 125g sodium hydroxide
  • 370g distilled
  • 1tsp essential oil of your choice (optional)


Place the vegetable fat and oils in the pan and heat them until they are fully melted. Then remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool. In the meantime, pour the water into your jug and add the sodium hydroxide, stirring until it has dissolved.

Place the thermometer in the water/sodium hydroxide solution and leave it to one side, checking the temperature and stirring regularly. When it has reached 50 degrees Celcius, add it to the pan of oils.

Stir the soap mixture regularly until it starts to thicken. When it starts to set (when it leaves a candle-wax like trail off a spoon) the mixture is ready to be transferred into the mould. Add any essential oils and stir the mixture thoroughly. Pour the soap into the mould, tapping the moulds gently to make the mixture level.

Then wrap the mould with an old towel or blanket to keep it warm and leave it where it will not be disturbed for at least 24 hours.

After roughly 24 hours you should be able to remove your soap from its mould. Once you have done this, use a sharp knife or cheese wire to cut the soap into useable blocks. Lay the soap bars out on a piece of cardboard or wooden surface and cover with an old towel. Then leave them for four weeks before using them to allow the sodium hydroxide fully react with the oil.

Buying Soap-Making Ingredients

You can buy ingredients to make soap from the high street. Sunflower and olive oil, shortening and even lard and dripping are readily available and may even already be in your food cupboards. Essential oils can be bought from health food and sodium hydroxide can be bought in the UK but you might need to do a bit of research, try eBay.

Making soap is cheap and fun. You can use a variety of essential oils to scent your soap, for example lavender, ylang ylang and marigold are popular scent choices in soap making. Once you have become well-practised in soap making, you can vary your ingredients, using different oils and essential oils to create your perfect indivindual soap.