How to Make Homemade Soap
Follow these simple instructions for how to make homemade soap, and you’ll be making soap in no time.
"Soap" is the result of the chemical reaction called saponification that occurs when combining fat with lye.
Soapmaking is a homestead craft I had long wanted to try, despite my unfounded perception that it was difficult and dangerous. My ancestors made soap during the Depression using primitive methods – hardwood ashes and rainwater to make lye, fat rendered to make lard – and no one died, went blind or was burned (though a bar occasionally got stuffed into my mother’s mouth when something came out of it that shouldn’t have). The old-fashioned method of hand stirring – sometimes for hours – combined with the unpredictable strength of lye made from ashes resulted in soap that was highly variable and sometimes harsh on the skin of the person using it.
Modern methods and conveniences have taken just about all of these unpleasantries out of the equation. Though I’m usually a big fan of old-timey methods, I’m not quite so excited when chemical reactions are involved.
When I got serious about learning how to make homemade soap, I turned to a friend who’s been doing it for years and requested a hands-on demonstration. Sandra Johnson, a librarian in Baldwin City, Kansas, knows the craft inside and out. She happily agreed and sent me away with instructions to get the “only book I’d ever need,” Smart Soapmaking by Anne L. Watson – and read it cover to cover – and the supplies for one of her foolproof soaps.
When I showed up on the appointed lesson day at Sandra’s house, the schooling commenced. As a former schoolteacher, Sandra is exacting with her instructions, always stressing the importance of exact measurements, exact temperatures, and following instructions exactly.
This is precisely how you’d want a soapmaking teacher to be. By establishing the simple truth that if you follow procedure and use common sense, your soap will turn out, and no one will be harmed – just like home canning.
We began by gathering up all the needed supplies – food scale, glass bowls, measuring cups, pots, rubber spatula, stick blender, etc.
We staged the two necessary areas – the lye-mixing area and the main work area – and we prepared the mold for the soap using a free plastic bag from the grocery store. We then made Olive Palm Soap (see recipe on later in this article).
Thirty minutes later, we were finished with the process, and I had a perfect batch of soap setting up. My reaction, which is common, was “That’s it?” I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t complicated and it wasn’t dangerous. Ingenious conveniences, like a stick blender, have made soapmaking easy as pie, so keep reading to understand for yourself.
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