Staycation soap making

I’ve had a lovely day, made especially so by the visit of Foster Mummy and family and my apologies to them for being ‘low’ today………..I wasn’t at my best; nonetheless it was wonderful to see them and to get the chance to try out some vegan cuisine on them of: chick pea and sesame burgers, butter bean pate, roast butternut squash, with roast sweet potato and courgette. Thanks so much to Man Wonderful for the wine! I’m drinking it as I blog.

On the soap making adventure. I’ve never made soap before but I knew the O level chemistry would come in handy one day! You start off by measuring sodium hydroxide and adding it to bottled water (the water can not have chlorine in it so tap water won’t do apparently). You must add the NaOH to the water and stir. You have to wear goggles, an apron, long sleeves and thick rubber gloves. ………this will eat through flesh and bones.

Stir well in a well ventilated room. Do not fall over the bucket!!! In a pan, melt solid vegetable fat (or if you’re minted……..solid coconut oil) and then add the olive oil and sunflower oil. When melted, add to the solution of sodium hydroxide.

Then you stir for an hour!!! In the end it changes colour and textures and has the consistency of custard, when you dribble some on the surface it leaves a visible trail.

Below is the soap, mid way through stirring……………..this is really boring but the Archers was on the radio, so that entertained me for a while.

Once it changes colour and texture to resemble custard, add the essential oil. I used half a bottle of lavender oil, I could have added more but it smelt so strong that I was cautious and only added half.

I poured the custard like solution into old lunch boxes, I then placed the lids on top. Do not over fill the containers as by all accounts the soap will expand.

Below is the finished soap, it has the usual creamy soap colour and now does not smell simply of olive oil, but predominantly of lavender.

Then the washing up.

Keep the gloves and goggles and other protection on whilst cleaning up, this is highly caustic at this stage and can burn. Make sure you get all the solution off spoons, buckets and anything else that you use. Now you have to wrap up the soap to keep it warm for 24 – 48 hours.

I used all of my spare towels to wrap it up and now I have to wait and see if I have anything that resembles soap when I peek tomorrow evening. Watch this space.

If anyone is interested the costs are as follows
Bottle of olive oil – £2.39
Bottle of sunflower oil – 89p
Quarter of pack of Sodium hydroxide – 59p
Pack and half of ‘Trex‘ – £1.50
Half a bottle of lavender oil – 50p
Total – £5.87
If this works and I make 32 bars of natural vegetable soap – the cost per bar will be 18p per bar.
More tomorrow to see if this worked. If you want the full instructions of how to do this, then I used the instructions from How to make soap – from Channel 4 – from Kirsty’s handmade Christmas – my hope is to give people handmade soap for gifts. Here is another set of instructions about soap making from downsizer


13 thoughts on “Staycation soap making

  1. In you're photos things appear very calm, correct and smooth running. I would LOVE to make soap now, but I just know for sure that I would end up spilling it, dropping it on the cat, sweating and my hair all stuck to my face and then the kids battling around my ankles and phones and doorbells ringing!!! How do you do it Queenie??!! Ha ha, although…I am seriously tempted… x


  2. You can use tap water it's just not recommended.

    We do it though without problem.Trying to remember my Chemistry, I have the feeling it will evolve of chlorine gas but so long as you are working in a well ventilated area and not making industrial quantities you are probably safe.

    We've made it in the garden in the past so totally clear!

    Best advice is to keep some vinegar readily available. It's an acid which you need to neutralise the Sodium Hydroxide should you get it on you. We always make sure there is a jug of vinegar on the side and when we have finished everything gets a very quick rinse in the vinegar which is then stored separately for next time. DOn't overuse the vinegar though as a given amount of acid will neutralise amount of alkali and no more so I recommend changing the vinegar every few batches.

    If you feel really giddy you can make your own essential oils but that is tricky! Also natural colourings are easy to come by. Nettles, berries etc all make great colourings for soap.

    Can't wait to see the result though, we were like kids at christmas with ours!


  3. Magic mummy – thanks xxxx

    Foster mummy – the DIY shop in town, usually called caustic soda

    Claire – I've been brewing to do this for days, and needed some clear time

    Brocolli – i just remembered the neutraliser, i was fine though and didn't burn myself, i used to strip doors and furniture with caustic soda, so all was good


  4. Hi Hester – I really worried about doing this, but it was easier than I thought, I didn't burn myself as I took it slowly and carefully – I'm worried today that I paid a lot of money for ingredients that might not have made soap and I have to wait until tomorrow morning to see what I have


  5. It looks as if you've avoided using any aluminium pans and containers. This is fortunate, as sodium hydroxide reacts chemically with aluminium… and not in a good way!

    (I too have waited many years to make use of 'O' Level Chemistry!)


  6. I hope it all turns out well, I have made soap the cheats way before with the melt and pour stuff but it is expensive. I will endeavour to give this method a go at some point although we are using up my Grandmothers stash of Harrods soaps she accumulated during her lifetime. She died having hoarded rooms full of stuff including half a lifetimes worth of soap. They last forever too as they are so hard. Some of them must have been 40 years old!!!!!!!!!! xxx


  7. Excited to see how this turns out! When I was a kid my parents made lye soap at pig-slaughtering time…I still remember them stirring it outside! We had a big bonfire and put the pot on that…

    My mother used that stuff for everything!


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