BBL DIY: Make Your Own Soap

After conquering homemade lotion and lip balm, I wanted to tackle a project that has caused me abject fear. Making soap.

It was the lye that worried me. And the fact that I Googled lye burns — I don’t recommend this. But I was tired of “body bars” that left my skin dry or filmy or overwhelming artificially scented. In fact, conventional bar “soap” is not soap at all. Pioneer Thinking explains the ingredients in conventional bar soap well. I was also not about to spend $2 or more on good quality soap. Not when I could make a bar for less than $1.

Research makes me brave, and after about 10 hours of it I was feeling confident enough try my hand at making olive oil soap. There are two different types of soap-making processes – hot process and cold process. Hands down, I recommend using hot process. I’m not sure why cold process is so prevalent. It requires more precision and it takes 4-6 weeks to cure before you can use it. You can start washing with hot process soap as soon as it’s done cooking. I’ll stop there before I get on my hot process soap box.

Once you decide on your soap recipe you should gather your ingredients. I used this recipe from About.com because I already had the olive oil and coconut oil. This recipe doesn’t have scent, but I added my own fragrance of lemon and chamomile. I added 40 drops of lemon essential oil and 2 tablespoons dried chamomile. The measurement here doesn’t have to be perfect — whatever you think looks and smells good. Remember that the scent will become lighter as the soap cures.

I’m going to let Suzanne McMinn from the blog Chickens in the Road explain all the details of how to make soap and, specifically, how to make hot process soap. But here are my soap making tips. Hopefully, they’ll help ease any concerns you may have about starting the process yourself!

Soap Tips

  • You must have lye – buy your lye from Amazon. Shipping’s expensive because it’s a toxic product, but it’s still cheaper than anywhere else. And buy lye beads. Anything else is too messy to work with.
  • It’s all about ratios – As long as the ratios of your ingredients are correct, you can mess around with anything else – including scents, color add-ins and exfoliants. I recommend starting with a pre-determined recipe, but use a lye calculator if you want to create your own.
  • Use a kitchen scale – you have to measure your ingredients by weight to make sure the ratios are correct. I found my kitchen scale on Amazon and I love, love, love it.
  • Wash and wash again – I reused the utensils that I used to make soap. But I made sure to first rinse them with a solution of vinegar and water to neutralize the lye. And then I washed them twice with soap and water.
  • Go fearlessly but cautiously – Make sure you have the proper attire: glasses, long sleeved shirt, gloves, pants and close-toed shoes when working with lye. After you do it once, you’ll be a pro.

Cost Breakdown

Olive oil: $7.50
Coconut oil: $3.89
Lye: $2.59
Essential Oil: $7.00
Chamomile: $0.40
Total: $21.38
Bars of soap: 27
Cost per bar: $0.79

Soap Recipes
Check Pinterest for soap recipes – there are tons! Here are a few of my favorites. You can use any of these recipes in hot process soap making. (We also put together a soap making Pinterest board with all the links in this article. Follow us!)


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