Frugal Soap Making tutorial

To make soap you will need some basic equipment. A very large measuring jug, wooden spoon, goggles, thick rubber gloves, apron, stainless steel large saucepan, a hand blender, moulds for the soap and accurate digital weighing scales.

The ingredients, suppliers and prices:

295g of caustic soda – Boots – 1.44
750ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Tesco -2.25
850ml Sunflower Oil – tesco – 1.05
625g CookeenTesco – 1.25
half small bottle of Lavender essential oil – Liskeard posh handbag shop/now closed – .50
900ml water – I use bottled but you can use tap.

total = 6.49 and I will make 24 large bars of soap at 27p per bar.

I followed the instructions and recipe for soap on the Channel 4 website. There are many soap making websites, with recipes on the net. It is very easy and very cheap to make. Do not imagine your soap to turn out to be the mass produced type of soap you find in Tesco, the cheapest bar I saw in there today was 43p for their ivory soap. There soap will have animal fat as the main product, certainly will not be one third olive oil and certainly not have the purity and simplicity of homemade soap.

Start by very careful and accurately weighing your ingredients. Add the solid oil to the liquid oil and gently heat in a stainless steel saucepan until all the ingredients are liquid. Leave to cool.

Now measure out the water and ADD THE CAUSTIC SODA TO THE WATER!!! NEVER the other way round!!!

Make sure you are wearing gloves, apron and goggles all the time, if you splash your skin or clothes you can make holes in your clothes and seriously burn yourself.

When the oils and caustic and water mixture are a similar temperature, gently pour the caustic mix into the oils. You can check the temperature by touching the outside of both containers. They should be still warm when you mix them.

The mixing and blending takes ages!!! and ages!! and ages!!! You will have white finger by the end of it, but you just have to keep mixing.

The more you blend and stir, the more gloopy and custard like the mixture becomes, as it saponifies. As it starts to thicken, you can add the essential oils. It’s your choice. I like something inoffensive and simple, such as lavender.

You can see from the picture below that the soap is starting to reach trace, when it does so, you can lift the blender out, pour the mixture across the surface and it will leave a trail.

Below is an example of the soap being at ‘trace’. I have lifted it out of the mixture and it leaves a noticable pattern when I stir the surface and drop some soap on top.

Below is an even clearer picture of trace.

Below, you can see the pale colour of ‘real’ vegetable soap.

I pour mine into plastic tubs, but old margarine tubs or ice cream tubs will do. I fill them right up so I can have quite large bars of soap as they shrink when you dry them.

The soap starts to set and harden straight away. This is the second batch of soap that I have made and I am already using the previous batch. It is a low foaming soap and very mild on my skin, as well as having a gentle lavender fragrance that permeates through our home. It grates well for clothes and household washing and it holds together well in the shower.

I mixed the oils and caustic mixture at a warmer temperature than I did last time and I only used my hand blender to mix it, it came to trace quite quickly and I blended it a lot more thoroughly than before and I used more essential oil than before. You will find that subsequent batches of soap are of a better quality than your previous attempts.
It’s a very low cost alternative to the artisan soaps that you can buy from companies such as Faith in Nature and Ecover. It’s very soft on my clothes and has a gentle real soap smell on dry laundered clothes as well as leaving my skin really soft from the conditioning affect of the olive oil.

After pouring into moulds, I put the lids on the boxes and they are sat wrapped up in towels to keep them warm over night. I will remove the towels and check the soap tomorrow morning, although it was set when I checked it a few hours ago, the latent heat keeps ‘cooking’ the soap.

Tomorrow, I will turn it out onto a scrubbed chopping board, cut each box into eight large bars and I will store it on a tray at the top of the airing cupboard for a month before I use it, however, the longer it dries in the air, the better is seems to get.
It’s also a lovely hobby and fun to do. (P.S – in case you think I’ve been lazy, today I have made: Blackberry gin, blackberry and apple jelly and the soap)


18 thoughts on “Frugal Soap Making tutorial

  1. Oh you are a clever clogs!! I can smell the lovely lavender way up here in Cheshire…I'd love to make some myself but can just imagine the mess I would get into hee hee. Blackberry gin on the other hand….Please PLEEEEASE show us how to do it…I think that would make fab Christmas presents. xxx


  2. Thanks for the visuals. That is the most helpful tutorial I've seen on soap. Now I see what they mean by trace. I understand that the longer soap airs out (even store bought), the longer it will last when you use it. . . . . . . . . Another chapter in your book, right?


  3. Thanks for the tutorial!, this is something I've wanted to try for a while. Do you use a seperate jug/saucepan/blender than for food or do you just wash it well after the soap?


  4. Hi Kezz, I use the same jars, pots spoons etc for everything and wash everything well.

    Hi Jo – I wil be bottling apples again, I cook them, I bottle them with plenty of apple juice and then I cook them for the required time in boiling water to further kill any germs so they last, I then keep them in a dark cupboard so they don't go brown.


  5. Hi Richard, in days of yore, part of the process of soap making would involve the rendering of beef fat. I use solid and liquid vegetable oils. My house smells wonderfully of lavender and curing lavender soap. You are always welcome to come for a sniff. xx


  6. Hi Gideon, I don't want cheap soap, I want luxury skin softening hand made olive oil soap. If I bought the soap that I make, I would have to pay £2 – £3 a bar for it in specialist suppliers such as health food shops. I can make that luxury soap for 24 p per bar and it's my hobby.


  7. Thanks for all of the comments, what I made is essentially olive oil soap, which is low foam and moisturising. Next time I will make a skin softening, shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil concoction for presents for Christmas.


  8. good tutorial, pretty much how I make soap too, and yes it is lovely (adding a bit of oatmeal makes a scrubbiery soap)
    Just a word to the wise though, lest anyone gets caught like me (!) what you cannot do is sell soap you make at home, in any way shape or form without all sorts of chemical analysis, and trading standards involvement. Thank you, dear old EU.
    Frustrating, but true, and not funny if you didn't realise and happily got your soap installed on the shelves of the local healthfood store …..


  9. I want to make soap, but I dare not use my Bamix to mix it with OH would have a fit. Guess I will have to see if I can find a cheapie at Tesco…..I will have to find a large stainless steel pan too, would my stockpot do??? I can wash it in the dishwasher to get rid of the soap taste, don't think OH would like the tsate of soap in his soup. LOL

    My grandmother taught me to unwrap soap and put it in the airing cupboard to harden off, I no longer have an iaring cupboard so I put it in the drawers to scent my clothes.


  10. I'm so thankful one of my blogging friends introduced me to your blog – it's fantastic!

    Re the soap recipe, I have a question. In Australia we don't really have a vegetable-oil based shortening product available at the supermarket, but we do have “Copha”, which is a coconut-oil based one… do you think that'd be safe to use?



  11. I was wondering about special equipment to make this, as I don't have much room for any more pans, indeed could do with getting rid of some.

    Is the caustic soda not harmful to you after it has been made, or does soap contain that anyway?

    Could you just use a wooden spoon, as, like another follower, wouldn't want to use my Bamix and have given away my cheapo one to a frugal friend.


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