How to make Homemade soap Bars – A Beginner’s Guide

Are you one of those people who wants to learn how to make homemade soap bars but are intimidated by the process?
Years ago I felt the same way. I wanted to make bar soap, but the thought of working with lye terrified me.

All I had heard was how caustic and dangerous it was, and with young kids and my clumsy nature I assumed attempting to make my own soap bars was a recipe for disaster.

But a friend invited me over while she made some to show me just how easy the process was. I was hooked!
And now that I have been making it for quite some time, I want to show you how you can make your own soap.

How to make your own soap

Let me warn you now, soap making is one of those things that can get addicting. It’s fun, it smells nice, and the variations and styles are endless!

But let’s talk about the lye for a moment. The truth is, lye IS dangerous because it’s a caustic substance. Don’t let that scare you away though.  As long as you take the necessary precautions you can make your own soap without any catastrophic results.

When working with lye you will want to make sure you are wearing the right safety equipment. A long sleeve shirt and gloves are a must.



I also recommend safety glasses because the last thing you want is to get some lye in your eyes. If you were to spill some lye on yourself, take your contaminated clothing off, and flush your skin for 15 minutes.  If you were to get it in your eyes, flush for 15 minutes and seek medical attention.

You can read the full details on safety when working with Sodium Hydroxide (lye) here.  I know, I know, it sounds scary, but as long as you are careful you most likely will not have any problems.  I have not had any incidents in all the soap I have made, and I have made quite a bit!

Also, make sure you are making soap in a well ventilated room and away from your children. 

The soap we are going to  make is cold process soap.  You can also make hot process soap which requires some kind of heat to speed up the curing process.  I prefer the cold process because it helps retain the natural ingredients in the bar of soap.

Okay, now that we got all the scary stuff out out of the way, let the fun stuff begin! Let’s learn how to make homemade soap bars with these step-by-step instructions.

First, get your supplies together.

How to make your own soap


Don’t panic at this big pile of ingredients. While there are many ingredients here that I used for this recipe, I will share how you can leave some ingredients out. To be honest, you only need a couple different oils to make a basic soap recipe.

The recipe I am using is a gardener’s soap recipe that has added exfoliants in it to help you get that dirt off! But you don’t need to add exfoliants if you don’t want to.

At the end of the post I will leave you with another simpler recipe with ingredients you already either have in your home or can easily purchase at a local store.

So, as you see in the picture above, I have some different bowls, spoons for measuring and stirring, a pot to melt my oils on the stove, a scale, and an immersion blender. The blender and scale both came from the thrift store for a couple bucks each. You don’t need to spend a ton on the tools you use. Also have a thermometer on hand.

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So, make sure you have:

Soap Mold

Immersion blender



Measuring cups and spoons

2 Spoons to stir with

Mixing bowls


Safety glasses


Rubbing Alcohol

Because I make soap pretty regularly now, I bought myself a silicone soap mold. But you don’t need to buy a mold to get started. My first batches of soap were made from old bread pans which I coated with olive oil.

You can also use boxes or anything you find around the house. If you use a box you need to line it with freezer paper. I have used cut open milk cartons before and did not need to line them because they have that plastic coating inside. If you do use a loaf type mold for your soap, you need to remember to cut the soap into bars after 24 hours.

If you do it too early your soap will be a soft mess, and if you wait too long it will be too hard to cut through.

Gardener’s Soap:

Sweet Almond Oil 1.5 Oz

Avocado Oil 9 Oz

Coconut Oil  11 Oz

Lard 10 Oz

Shea Butter 2 Oz

lye 4.8 Oz

Water 12.7 Oz

Additives (Optional):

Fragrance 1.47 Oz

Green Australian Clay 2 Tsp

Ground Pumice 3 Tbsp

*Ground Coffee 1 Tbsp

*Make sure the ground coffee has been run through the coffee maker with water. Ground coffee runs and if you don’t use coffee grounds that have been “used” your soap may end up a muddy mess.

When I take coffee grounds from the coffee maker I blot the extra liquid out of them with a paper towel. This minimizes the grounds bleeding in your soap.

Any of the additives are optional when you make your own soap. You can have an unscented bar, or you can add essential oils instead. I prefer to work with fragrance oils because I find the scent of essential oils don’t last as long as I’d like.

Whether you are just learning how to make homemade soap bars or you’ve been doing it for awhile, you need to take your recipe you are using, whether it be another one you find or this one, ALWAYS, I repeat ALWAYS run it through a soap calculator.

When working with lye the weights have to be just right. Double checking with a soap calculator will avoid too much lye in your soap. There are plenty of soap calculators online, but my favourite is SoapCalc. You just add your ingredients and the weights and make sure the total percentage adds up to 100%.

Before I start mixing anything, I like to pre-measure out my additives and put them in separate little bowls to make it easier to mix into the soap when it is time.

The first thing I do is put any solid oils I am using into the pot to melt. So for this recipe I will toss the coconut oil, shea butter, and lard into the pot. I heat it up on medium-low heat.
How to make your own soap
while that is heating I mix up the lye and water. Always, ALWAYS pour the lye into the water, NOT the other way around.

This is to avoid a splash of lye on your skin. Stir it until it is completely dissolved. Careful to not get a big breath of this stuff, it can be harsh on your lungs. I always stand back abit while I stir and open a window if you can.

How to make your own soap
Once the oils have melted you can pour the rest of the oils into the pot. If you are using clay as an additive you can add it into the oils at this point and mix it in well.

How to make your own soap
To prepare the pumice I always add 3 tbsp of oil to the pumice to mix it into a sort of gritty paste. This will prevent it from clumping when you add it to the soap mixture.

How to make your own soap
Now is the tricky part. You want to stir the lye mixture into the oil mixture, but you want to do it at the right temperature. You want to wait until both mixtures are between 120-130 degrees Farenheit.

This is why I like to heat my oils first. I watch it closely and take it off the element if I see it rising in temperature too high. But if it is too cool I can always heat it up. I don’t have that kind of control over the lye mixture.

Actually, once my oils were too hot when the lye was cool enough so I took my pot of oil and placed it in a big bowl of ice water! It worked.

But if for some reason your temperatures are out of whack and just not lining up how you want to, don’t panic. Just mix it anyways. While 120-130 is an ideal temperature for soaping, it doesn’t mean your soap won’t turn out. Temperature really is a personal preference when it comes to how you want to make your own soap. Soaping at temperatures that are too hot or too cold have more of a chance of causing cosmetic issues with the soap.

Once your lye mix and your oils are sitting at around 120-130 degrees Farenheit, mix your lye water into your oils. Start blending with an immersion blender.

How to make your own soap
You will blend until it is brought to “trace”. Trace is when your soap mixture thickens to the point that it leaves behind a “trace”. Basically, think about a cake batter, when you lift the spoon and drag the batter over the top it stays there for a few seconds before it sinks down.

How to make your own soap
Once you have a light trace you are going to add your fragrance. After adding your fragrance blend again with the immersion blender. Not too long as it can thicken quite rapidly at this stage. At this point you want to work rather quickly.

Next you can add in the pumice. Mix with either a spoon or immersion blender, but only until it’s completely blended.

Lastly, add the coffee grounds. Mix with the spoon or immersion blender, and again only until it’s completely blended.

How to make your own soap
Now, pour into your mold. If you find it is getting too thick at this point, use a spoon to scoop it out. It will still turn out, but just might be more textured, which can be pretty too! I like to put my mold on a cookie sheet because my mold is flexible and it can be hard to move around once filled.

How to make your own soap
Shake your mold back and forth lightly to help the soap mixture reach all the corners. Sometimes I take the end of a spoon and push the soap mixture into the corners.

When it is in the molds and ready to just sit, I like to spray the soap with a light mist of rubbing alcohol. This helps minimize a white film forming on the soap, which is soda ash. It doesn’t harm your soap, it is just a cosmetic issue.

At this point I like to stick a piece of cardboard on top of the mold just to prevent someone squishing it! But this isn’t necessary, especially if you have some place high to put it away from children’s fingers and cat paws. 🙂

Let it sit for at least 24 hours. With individual molds it can take longer to harden enough to the point that you can take it out. I usually will let it sit for three days before I take it out. When I used a loaf mold I always took the soap out after 24 hours because I needed to cut it, but with individual molds you don’t need to worry about that.

Once you have your soap out of the mold and cut you need to let it sit for 6 weeks before it is ready to use. This is the “curing” process. Racks are great for storing soap as the air can get all around the soap which is needed for curing.


That’s A LOT of information. Are you still with me? 🙂 It can seem overwhelming at first but once you attempt to make your own soap you will find it isn’t that complicated at all. And, it is so much fun!

Make up some fun labels for your soap and you have some pretty sweet smelling gifts for friends and family.

How to make your own soap
As promised, I will leave you with one more recipe for a simple soap with plenty of lather. This is a great one to start with if the above recipe feels a little bit much for you to start out with.

Lather Soap

Coconut Oil 10 oz

Lard 10 oz

Olive Oil 10 oz

Castor Oil 2 oz

Lye 4.6 oz

Water 12.1 oz

Remember to run the recipe through the soap calculator at SoapCalc.
Now you know how to make homemade soap bars! Happy soap making!!!

homemade soap



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