Simple 3 Ingredient Soap Bars: A Tutorial in Hot Process
When I started my plastic free journey, traditional soapmaking scared me and I searched the internet high and low for ways to go about my new lifestyle without ever having to put on protective gloves and handle lye. In time I realized that I was going to have to get used to basic soap making unless I wanted to continue shelling out $5 to $10 for a well made shampoo bar. Below is my recipe for the simplest tutorial of all for a gentle introduction to soap making, using the hot process method. I make these Coconut oil bars for regular body soap, for hand soap, and it can even be used as shampoo bars for people with super short hair or for kids. They are superfatted at 12% so they are extra gentle on the skin.
I use hot process because it is much faster (soap ready for use within 8 hours) than cold process (which can take weeks). Hot process will yield soap bars with textures around the sides, while cold process can yield a much smoother bar. I use cold process to make my shampoo bars, which I will detail in another blog post later down the road. For now, hot process is quicker and simpler for making basic soap bars.
Basic Coconut Oil Soap Bars
All you need for this soap recipe is a large tub of coconut oil, some lye (AKA sodium hydroxide/caustic soda), and essential oil can be added if you wish. You can buy these items in bulk and you will have plenty of material to make soap for a long time. A note on sodium hydroxide - since I bought it, I have also successfully used it on multiple occasions for de-clogging sink and shower drains, so it most definitely has more uses than just for making soap. Coconut oil of course I use for a variety of things, so buying large tubs of it in bulk is pretty usual for me. I know, the large bulk coconut oil comes in plastic packaging, but for all that I use it for I feel at ease knowing that I am recycling one large container once in awhile rather than a whole bunch of smaller containers all of the time.
So, without further ado, here is the ingredient list:
- 33oz Coconut oil
- 12.5 oz water
- 5.3 oz lye
- 1 oz essential oil (optional)
Materials and tools needed:
- kitchen scale
- old crockpot
- glass bowl
- temperature reader
- stick blender
- bread pan and wax paper OR silicon bread pan
- mask, goggles, and cleaning gloves
- Ph strips (optional)
Step 1: Safety First
The first step will require some safety measures that will have you reminiscing on high school chemistry class. To prevent burning your skin from the possibility of spilling lye water on yourself or hurting your eyes while mixing the lye, you should wear long pants and sleeves, shoes, cleaning gloves, a nose/mouth mask, and eyeglasses/googles, or in my case, sunglasses.
Step 2: Mixing the Lye
Measure out the water in a glass bowl and the lye in a smaller bowl. Bring them outside or to a well ventilated area in your kitchen and gently mix the lye into the water (do NOT mix water into the lye). Using a spoon, stir the mixture until the lye is fully dissolved.
Step 3: Prepare the Coconut Oil
While the lye cools, measure out the coconut oil and put it to heat in the crock pot on high until fully melted (if already melted, put it to heat in the crock pot on low). If using, measure out the essential oil as well and put it to the side.
Step 4: Mixing!
If it isn't already, turn the crock pot temperature to LOW. Use your thermometer to measure the temperature of both the lye and oils to determine when they are both within 30 degrees (F) of another. Using your gloves, gently pour the lye water into the melted coconut oil and mix a few times with a spoon. Then, grab your hand mixer and get to mixing! Mix the contents together until the mixture develops a light pudding texture - this can take 5-10 minutes. Once you get this texture, you know that you have achieved 'trace' and it is ready to sit and cook.
Step 5: Cooking!
Cover the pot and allow it to cook on LOW for 45-60 minutes. The soap will rise up the sides and fall in on itself in the process, so this is normal. If the soap starts bubbling out of the crock pot, then it is cooking at too high of a temperature.
The final product will look like a spongy material with no oil puddles in the middle. You can use Ph strips to test the soap to make sure it is fully cooked, you will want your soap to fall in the range of 7-10 on the Ph scale. Getting some Ph strips is not a bad idea if you are getting into making your own hygiene products, because Ph level is very important for skin and hair health. Another way to test the Ph of the soap is by doing what people call the 'zap' test: put a tiny bit of the soap on your tongue and see if you get 'zapped' - supposedly if you get zapped it isn't fully cooked still! You want your soap to be fully cooked, otherwise it can burn the skin because the lye is still active.
This is when you can mix in your essential oil into the soap with a spoon.
Step 6: Mold your Soap
You have two options here, you can line a regular bread pan with wax paper or you can use a silicon bread pan for molding your soap. I used what I had available, so I lined a bread pan with wax paper (this is to get the soap out easily after it hardens), and spooned the soap into the pan. Allow the soap to cool in the mold for 8-12 hours, then you can lift it out of the soap mold with the wax paper (or peel it out of the silicon mold), plop it onto a cutting board, and cut it into mini soap bars with a large knife.
And voila! You have your own homemade soap, just like that!
Step 7: Clean up
If you have a dishwasher, use it to clean everything you used to make your soap as soon as you can so that the soap doesn't harden too much. Otherwise, soak everything in the sink, and using your protective cleaning gloves scrub everything with a regular sponge. The sooner you clean up, the less work you will have to put into it. Since I do a lot of product making in my kitchen, I have a crock pot and hand mixer devoted to my cosmetic/hygienic products, but as long as you clean everything well, you should be able to use materials that you use to cook food with as well so long as it is not made of wood (like wooden spoons or bowls that would absorb product).