Cold Process Soap - A Basic Recipe
Making soap yourself is so easy. I remember being extremely daunted by the idea of the lye the first time I handled it. While it is dangerous if handled incorrectly, the whole process is actually glorifyingly easy, I immediately kicked myself for not starting soap making earlier. The phrase 'cold process' is slightly misleading in that the process is not actually cold, although following the initial melting of any solid oils such as coconut and palm oils, no further external heat is needed.
With natural soap making, a chemical reaction takes place. Many people have the picture in their mind that soap is made by endlessly stirring a bubbling mixture in a large pan over heat and although there is a 'hot process' method which might have similarities to this, most books and instructions on how to make soap only cover the 'cold process' method which is by far the easiest and simplest method. Once everything is mixed, you let the soap cure, or saponify, for about 4 weeks until the soap is ready to use.
This recipe uses coconut and olive oil - coconut for its cleaning properties and olive for its moisturising ones, making it a great all rounder of a soap. This batch makes about 1kg of soap, so plenty to keep you and your friends as clean as a whistle!!
Soap making is part of our Natural Home and Beauty Online course, which includes recipes for hot process soap (which uses heat to make the soap ready to use in about 2 days), Castile soap, goat’s milk soap and a lot more.
450g coconut oil
450g olive oil
133g of lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
Up to 10g of essential oils of choice (optional)
A slow-cooker or a non- aluminium bowl for heating the oils
A digital scale
A stick blender
A wooden or metal spoon
Soap moulds (or an old cardboard box lined with parchment paper)
Gloves and sunglasses or eyewear
A large bottle of white vinegar for neutralising the lye mixture if it spills on anything.
Note: Make sure that your work area is clean, ventilated and that there are no children nearby. This is not a good recipe to let children help with since Lye is caustic until mixed with water and oils. It is best to have all your ingredients and materials ready before you begin, so you can just mix everything quickly and easily.
Start by melting your coconut oil. You can do this in the microwave or in a pan.
Carefully measure the lye and water separately.
Pour the water into a bowl or large glass jar. With gloves and eye protection, slowly add the lye to the water. NEVER ADD THE WATER TO THE LYE (this is really important). Stir carefully with a spoon, making sure not to let the liquid come in contact with your body directly.
As you stir, this will create a cloudy white mixture that gets really hot. Let this mixture set for about 10 minutes to cool. It should become clear and not cloudy when it has cooled.
When you have your melted coconut oil, pour it into a bowl and add the olive oil.
Slowly pour in the water and lye mixture and stir.
Quickly rinse the container used for the water and lye mixture out in the sink. I rinse well and then re-rinse with white vinegar to make sure all Lye has been neutralized.
Use the metal or wooden spoon to stir the lye/water mixture into the oil mixture in.
Once it is evenly mixed, use the immersion blender to blend for about 4-5 minutes or until it is opaque and starting to thicken.
If you are going to use essential oils for scent, add them now.
Quickly and carefully spoon into moulds. Any container will work, but I like loaf tins lined with parchment paper. I have included instructions for making one out of a box lined with parchment paper.
Cover the moulds with parchment paper and set in a cool, dry place, away from kids and pets.
After 24 hours, using gloves remove the soap from the moulds and cut into bars.
Leave the bars somewhere to cure for about 4 weeks. You can test if they are done by sticking your tongue on them (yes this is really what you do) to see if the lye is still active. It will zing you like a battery if they aren’t ready.
If homemade soaps, cleaning and beauty products are your thing, book onto our Natural Home and Beauty online course!