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Has anyone actually made their own soap and liked it?

Has anyone tried making their own soap? Yes, I was watching Fight Club.

I’ve seen it mentioned in a few places and was curious if it’s worthwhile now that we’re all washing our hands more.

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  • Comments (16)

    • 3

      I’ve read that you can make it pretty easily with bacon fat but I’ve also heard that it’s not easy at all. Go figure. Check reddit r/soapmaking if you’re genuinely going to give it a shot. I think it’s a cool project, but I’m content to just stock up on it. It was hard to find back in March, but I see plenty in stores right now.

    • 4

      My wife is considering it, and I’ve researched it in the past. You’ll definitely want to invest in goggles to protect your eyes when handling lye.

    • 3

      Get a copy of the Encyclopedia of Country Living. It’s pretty well known and goes over soap. There’s a ton of stuff in there also in case you get the bug and want to make more of your own preps. Good jumping off point.

    • 3

      I once melted together all my scraps of soap and cooled them down. The final result was a soap a little bit on the mushy side, so that wasn’t great. But it made me feel good that I used thos finals craps that otherwise would have been trashed.

    • 3

      Yes, I have made cold process soap with lye and a combination of palm, coconut, and olive oils with a few drops of lemon essential oil added at trace to give it a light, fresh scent.  It turned out well, and I enjoyed using it.

      Zabeth

    • 3

      I have made soap from scratch many times. It’s not difficult, and home made soap is as good or better than what you can buy at the store, assuming you’re using a decent recipe. Is it worthwhile? Only if you enjoy making stuff yourself, which I do. Or if, like me, most commercial soaps make you itch, and the ones that don’t (e.g. Kirk’s Coco Castille) cost vastly more than what it would cost to make something equivalent yourself.

    • 3

      I wanted to share my first experience of making soap. My goal was to create the cheapest unscented soap as I could. Maybe it would save me some money, I would learn a new prepping/self sufficiency skill, and I would have a stockpile of soap! I thought that getting waste fat from the butcher was going to be a free solution for my fat/oil because when I went there before, they said that they just throw the cut off fat away and they could save me up as much as I wanted. But the next time I went, they enacted a new rule and would have to  charge me for it. So I decided on the next cheapest option, getting two huge jugs of canola oil from Costco.

      Here is what I wrote down 8 months ago, pardon the poor grammar, I just quickly took down these notes so I would remember what I did.

      On 3/16/2020 I made my first batch of soap. I used 95% Canola oil and 5% Castor oil. Using Soapcalc.net, it calculated what I needed to use.

      -I used a large Pyrex measuring cup to measure out 475g of canola oil.

      -In a disposable plastic cup I measured out 25g of castor oil.

      -In another large Pyrex measuring cup I measured out 190g of distilled water.

      -In another disposable plastic cup I measured out 62g of Lye.

      I put on safety goggles, gloves, and long sleeve shirt, and pants then went outside (very important!) I put the water in one 3 gallon bucket. ALWAYS PUT THE WATER IN FIRST! Then I poured in the lye. I used a bamboo kebab skewer to stir the lye until it was clear. The water and lye mixture gave off some really nasty fumes and the water rose to around 130 degrees.

      Back inside, I took the Pyrex of canola oil and put it in the microwave for 2 minutes to bring it up to 130 degrees to match the same temperature as the lye water. I then poured both kinds of oil in the other 3 gallon gray bucket. I then poured the lye mixture into the oil mixture and used an electric mixer to mix for probably 2-3 minutes until it was very creamy looking and 100% mixed.

      I then poured the mixture it into some molds.

      soap

      The above batch filled up the pink silicone mold and it had enough left for ½ of a disposable plastic cup.

      I wanted to make another batch so I doubled the above recipe. This was able to fill both of the cardboard molds.

      This probably was a mistake to use a DIY cardboard mold. I first made the cardboard boxes and lined them with freezer paper. When I poured in the soap mix it started to seep through the cracks of the freezer paper and through the cardboard onto the table. I hurried and covered the outside of the cardboard molds with plastic wrap and that seemed to hold it. If I am going to use a cardboard mold again, I will wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap before I then line the inside with freezer paper.

      I left the soap molds in a dark cool cupboard covered with a cloth for over 3 weeks until they were solid enough to be cut. I cut them into pieces and stood them up to get as much airflow as possible. I then left them in a cupboard for 7 months to cure.

      7 months later, can you guess how they turned out!?

      soap

      HORRIBLE…

      DO NOT USE CANOLA OIL! It is not a good smelling oil, and I couldn’t get over the smell. It just was not worth it. The first two lathers of the soap worked well, but then the soap gave off a slimy gooey feeling after that – yuck!

      I do have a couple jars of beef and pork lard that I got for free this year. Lard is the original way to made soap and how people have been doing it for hundreds of years, so hopefully it will work this time.

      I’ll report back when I make that lard soap.

      • 2

        Hi Robert,

        As you’ve discovered the hard way, soap recipes where polyunsaturated fats predominate make poor soaps. This is for two reasons:

        1. The soap produced is soft/mushy, has an unpleasant greasy feeling on the skin, and doesn’t lather well.
        2. Because all home made soaps are superfatted (formulated with excess oil that is not saponified), combined with the fact that polyunsaturated fats are the most prone to oxidation, over time the excess fats in these soaps will go rancid, making them smell terrible.

        Besides reading up on soap making, the best suggestion I can give you is that when you’re formulating a recipe on soapcalc.net you should shoot for an overall INS value of about 160. By doing so, you more or less guarantee you’ll get a good balance of saturated/monounsaturated/polyunsaturated fats. Higher is OK, though the higher you go the “harsher” the soap will be, but you don’t want to go too much lower. By way of illustration, your 95% canola/5% castor recipe gives an INS of 58, which is NOT good.

        When you read #2 above, you may be tempted to change the superfatting percentage on your recipe to zero. Do not do this. The SAP values used to calculate the lye required for a recipe are based on “typical” values for a fat, but the actual SAP values for the particular fats we have on hand are almost certain to vary somewhat. By superfatting we guard against the case where the actual SAP values of our fats are lower than what is typical, which would otherwise result in a soap containing excess (unreacted) lye, which is undesirable for obvious reasons. In a well-formulated recipe, the unsaponified fats that remain in the finished soap will almost never be a problem. The worst that usually happens is that over an extended period of time the bars may develop what is commonly known as the Dreaded Orange Spots (DOS), a sign that the some of the excess fat has oxidized.

        I hope this helps!

      • 3

        A good online resource for soap makers is Miller’s Homemade Soap Pages

      • 3

        Wow! Thank you so much for the incredible advice. You seem to know a lot about soap making.

        You pointed out exactly all of the issues with my failed attempt. It was incredibly mushy, and I do believe it had oxidized because I saw orange spots on it and it smelt rancid and nasty too.

        I’m going to try and make some beef/pig lard soap here probably in January or February, so hopefully I can run my recipe by you before I start.

      • 3

        Hi Robert,

        You’re welcome! And I would be more than happy to look at a recipe for you. That said, it’s honestly hard to go wrong if your recipe comes out with an INS near 160. BTW, I’ve used lard many times in recipes, and it makes nice soap. I’m sure tallow would too, I’ve just never used it because lard is cheap, and they sell it at my grocery store. 🙂

        Anyway, now that coconut oil is available in most grocery stores, I’d suggest using at least a little of it in your formulations. It’s great for boosting INS, and helps soaps lather well. Palm oil is good too, if you can find it.

        One more thing… Once you’ve cut a fresh batch of soap into bars, there’s no benefit to curing it for more than a month or so.

        Happy soaping!

        -Chris

      • 3

        Thank you Chris. That is good that I don’t need to let it cure for more than a month. I thought that the 6 months that I previously waited was quite a long time.

    • 3

      I make my own soap, mainly because so many companies use palm oil and I don’t like that. My basic recipe is 40% olive oil, 30% beef tallow, 20% coconut and 10% castor oil with sodium hydroxide. I work with a 5% superfat (the amount of fat left in the bar after the mixture has saponified). I also add 20% sea salt (not iodised) calculated from the weight of water. The salt gets dissolved in the water before you add the lye. The advantage of the salt is that it makes a very hard bar, so it does not disintegrate in the soap dish. The downside is that you either need to use individualised moulds or work very quickly and cut the bar as soon as it solidifies. I use the calculator at soapcalc to work out the weights required.

      The recipe above gives a hard white soap that does not strip my hands, produces a nice lather and can also pass for a shaving soap as well.

      For a cleaning bar (laundry) I use a 100% coconut bar with a 0% superfat. I also add 20% salt to the water for hardness. This bar is not good for handfasting due to the lack of superfatting.

      • 3

        That is very interesting that adding salt would change the hardness. I like that idea though! Does adding salt or not make you have to tweak the oil/water amounts if you add? Or is adding salt not something that affects the rest of the recipe?

        Would sea salt vs table salt make a difference in the soap? I have a ton of very cheap table salt.

      • 3

        Before I started making soap I did some research. The one thing I noticed was that adding salt makes the bar set hard and fast, so there was the need to work fast. If using a loaf tin as a mould, you don’t leave it in long as it would set too hard to cut. You should be able to make the soap without the salt, the bar would probably lather more.

        I wouldn’t think that adding table salt would make a difference, as long as it is not iodised. There are two ways to add salt – to the water which is dissolved, or to the soap itself just before moulding. The latter gives a bar that is exfoliating.

        Using salt also effects the lathering ability of the soap. Coconut, is almost always used in bars that have salt as they can lather in salt. The problem with using coconut oil is that it can be very harsh on the skin due to the high levels of lauric acid which can be very drying. If you are making a 100% coconut bar you need a high level if superfatting – I read 20%.

        My recipe has 50:50 hard fats:soft fats, so it should give a reasonably hard bar, even without the salt. The stearic acid in the tallow gives a hard bar and stable lather. The oleic acid from tallow and olive oil gives a moisturising and conditioning effect, while the risinoelic acid draws moisture and gives a stable lather.

      • 2

        Great advice. Thank you!