Lye (sodium hydroxide) is the one ingredient in homemade soap that can’t be substituted. Lye is caustic so you’ll need to be very careful when using it – always use eye protection, gloves and a mask.
When lye is mixed with water, it will heat up and fume for about 30-60 seconds and may cause a choking sensation in your throat. This is not permanent and will go away after a few minutes. You should always add lye to water and stir straight away. If allowed to clump on the bottom, it could heat up and cause an explosion. After the lye has reacted with the oils in the soap, none will remain in the finished soap.
When making soap don’t use any equipment that you use for cooking. Stainless steel, tempered glass and enamel are good options for mixing bowls. Avoid copper and aluminium as they will react with the lye, and don’t use plastic as it can melt.
- ⅔ cup coconut oil
- A ⅔ cup olive oil
- ⅔ cup oil such as almond oil, sunflower or safflower oil
- A ¼ cup lye, also known as sodium hydroxide
- ¾ cup cool water
1.Prepare Your Work Area
This is mainly for health and safety. Place down newspaper so it covers your work area, that way nothing gets stained whilst making the soap. Then make sure you are wearing gloves and some kind of safety glasses.
Pour Lye Into The Water
Measure the water and pour into a glass jug or a mason jar, have a spoon to hand, and measure the lye, then slowly pour the lye into the water, stirring as you go. Make sure to stand back to avoid the fumes. When the water clears allow it to sit before moving onto the next step.
Mix And Heat The Oils
In another jug or mason jar add the three oils together – they should make a pint. Next, heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Check the temperature of the oils – they should be about 120°. Wait for the lye and oils to cool somewhere between 95° and 105° – this is very important for soap making. If the temperature is too low the lye and oils will come together too fast and end up coarse and crumbly.
Mix The Oils And Lye
Once the lye and oils are at the correct temperature you can pour the oils into a mixing bowl, and then slowly add the lye, stir by hand for 5 minutes until it’s all mixed ensuring to get as much of the lye in contact with as much of the soap as possible.
Add In The Herbs And Essential Oils
After 5 minutes you can switch to using a hand blender. The mixture will lighten in colour and thicken up. Once it looks like vanilla pudding you can add in the herbs and essential oils and stir to combine.
Pour The Mixture Into the Mould
Pour the mixture into the moulds and cover with cling film. Place in an old towel and wrap them up to keep the heat in and start the process of the base ingredients transforming into soap.
Let It Cool
When I say let it cool, I mean for a long time. Not exactly the same as letting food cool I’m afraid. Check your soap after 24 hours. If it’s still warm or soft allow it sit for another 12-24 hours. Once it’s cold and firm, place onto a baking rack. Allow the soap to cure for 4 weeks or so.
Wrap The Soap In Wax Paper
When the soap is fully cured wrap it in wax paper or keep in an airtight container.