Everyone has a different take on soap. There are as many ways to make soap as there are people. There are even countless recipes. Hard soft, soft soap, soap that lathers, soap that moisturizes, soap that exfoliates, etc. There’s everything from extremely basic to outrageously unpractical. The truth of the matter is that to make soap you need you really don’t need much. And if you are starting off it is probably better that you don’t go crazy with soaking the oils in thyme and coffee grounds or other “advanced” techniques. This article will give you a brief introduction to your basic soap making ingredients.
The Basic Soap Making Ingredients
I hate to get you too excited about what makes up soap when there really are 3 basic ingredients. I certainly thought there were more than 3 soap making ingredients when I started. Of course the “fancier” soaps have all sorts bells and whistles. But to make a basic bar of soap you need nothing more than the 3 soap making ingredients of:
Fat/Oils (Coconut, Olive, Goat’s Milk, etc.)
And from these 3 ingredients you can go to a soap making recipe website like soapcalc and put together your own recipe. Of course there are hundreds, if not thousands, of soap making recipes online. But it is always a good idea to consult soapcalc to make sure you have your ratios right. You don’t want to end up with a soap that is lye heavy.
There’s some hoopla on the internet about making soap without lye but that basically just means that the lye reaction has been done for you. Lye is what actually makes oil into soap through a process called saponification. Lye is a strong base and we should definitely be careful when using it. But lye has been used for thousands of years. And lye is safe after it has reacted with your oils. It is actually used in everything from medicines to food.
Once you get the soap making ingredients down and master the basics soap making can be a lot of fun! There is no end to the creative things you can make with your simple fats, water, and lye. The soap making ingredients really are just those 3 items.
Once you figure out how the saponification process works then you can start getting fancy with the extras that make soap-making really fun. Many people love the different scents you can add to a soap. And what smells great for one may smell awful to another. And to the more visual soap-lover he or she might like the colors and the layers and additives (orange peels, blueberry seeds, coffee grounds) that can be put into your soap.
Soap sure has changed in the last hundred years. And to be honest that a nice smelling soap is a lot more exciting than a lump of soap that would have passed off as acceptable in the 1800’s.
The Best Oils for Soap Making
The best oils for soap making is a very subjective term. Like we mentioned above, what works for someone may be awful for the next. But certainly if you are starting out a nice basic recipe for a homemade soap would contain 30% Coconut Oil, 30% Palm Oil, and 40% Olive Oil. There are many that are concerned about deforestation and the negative effects of cultivating palm oil so they will switch out the palm oil for 25% shea butter and 5% castor oil.
Coconut oil probably takes top spot as the most used soap making oil and for good reason. It is an easy oil to work with and can produce a hard soap. Soap that is made with coconut oil will also produce a nice lather. And unlike other oils, coconut oil is quite moisturizing. It adds a slight barrier (film) to the skin protecting it from drying out.
Palm Oil has been one of the best oils for soap making for years. It has also been a top-selling oil for until concerns about deforestation made many serious soap-ers turns soar on this great oil. Luckily Shea butter and castor oil can be used to replace it. Soaps made with Palm Oil are very stable yet malleable and produce a conditioning lather. Palm Oil can be used in quantities of up to about 40% of the base oil for a recipe.
Soap made from Olive Oil might be the oldest oil we know about. 100% put Olive Oil soap is also known as Castile Soap and is one of the gentlest soaps there is. It is still very popular in the Middle East.
Soap Making Ingredients for Adding a Little Pizzazz to your Soap
Fragrance (this can be essential oils, fragrance oils, perfumes, etc.)
Fillers (think honey and oats but can also be coffee grounds, different color shavings, herbs)
So there you have it. You have your basic essentials of soap making ingredients and you have your add-ins. Just make sure you now what you are doing or follow a recipe. This is especially important when mixing in your oils. All oils have different SAP values so you can’t just substitute one oil for another. If a recipe says 12 ounces of coconut oil and you use 12 ounces of palm oil or beeswax instead your soap isn’t going to turn out how you want it to. Just get a little experience working with your basic recipes and don’t forget to consult your lye calculator when measuring out your soap making ingredients.