Soap Making 101 on the Homestead – Start Here

So, this past Friday I gathered my courage and tried something new and a bit intimidating…

I made soap. Cold-process soap, to be exact.

Intimidating, ’cause handling lye takes caution; it will burn the heck out of you if any touches your skin.

Plus, I’d never even watched anybody make soap, so I was completely at the mercy of the directions.

I’ve been dying to learn how to make soap for a long time now, but have had a hard time trying to gather all of the right ingredients. There are so many different recipes, oils, and fragrances to choose from, frankly I was a bit overwhelmed.

Fortunately for me, the generous ladies with Urban Homestead Supply sent me one of their Botanie All Natural Soap Making Kits to review. That was just the motivation I needed to get this skill under my belt!

(A side note: Urban Homestead Supply is run by the Dervaes family out of California. For those of you who are not familiar with the Dervaes’. Their family is such a huge inspiration to me!!)

What I love about this kit is that it comes with everything you need to make soap (well, except for a few tools); base oils, organic herbs, and pure essential oils.

It even comes with lye, which I noticed was not included in many other soap making “kits” on the market. All of the ingredients are pre-measured for you, and step-by-step instructions are printed out for you to follow.

So there’s no guess work, there’s no trying to figure out which oils you should buy and all that, everything is all put together in one neat box. All you have to do is dump and pour and mix.

If you are new to making soap, this kit is the way to go!

The few tools I did need to gather before hand were:

  • Safety goggles
  • Rubber dishwashing gloves
  • A heavy duty rubber spatula
  • A steel whisk
  • A measuring cup (for water)
  • A metal thermometer (make sure it shows 95*F)
  • Towels and a cooler
  • A medium stainless steel pot
  • A plastic, white 2 gallon bucket
  • And 3 one-quart milk cartons (I didn’t have any, so I improvised.)

Once I had everything I needed to get started I was ready to go! The instructions advised setting aside 3 hours of uninterrupted time to make the soap, so I waited until the three youngest were down for their naps before beginning.

Jada was my little helper. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much she could help me with once the oils were poured.

She hung out in the kitchen with me anyways though, and manned the timer when I needed her to. As always, I enjoyed her company and it was fun at least explaining to her what I was doing.

I didn’t take pictures of every step, so I’m not gonna do a step-by-step “how to” type of post. (I was too busy reading directions and trying not to get hurt!)

But I’ll tell you, making soap is a lot of WORK! Whew! I’ve read it many places, and can now confirm, if you are going to get into soap making, GET A STICK BLENDER! Your arm muscles will thank you.

Getting everything mixed and poured didn’t take very long at all, and overall it was quite simple. The house smelled wonderful too!

The stirring, however, took about 45 minutes. As I worked, I was suddenly very grateful for every bar of homemade soap I’ve ever been given!

Let me tell you, if anybody ever gives you homemade soap, thank them profusely and acknowledge the hard work that went into that little bar. It was no small task to make it!

Since we didn’t have any one-quart milk cartons, I used a cardboard orange juice container, and an empty sanitizing wipes tube. As I type, the soap is curing in these.

Tomorrow they will be ready to dump out and cut into bars, and then allowed to dry for 3 more weeks before we can use them.

I’m SO anxious to see how they turned out!! I’ll have to let you know what I think in a few weeks after I’ve had a chance to try a bar.

I’m pretty proud of myself for finally making my own soap! Another notch on my “do-it-yourself” belt. Next on my list is using our goat’s milk to make a batch! After I get a stick blender, of course.

What about you? Do you make your own soap? Have you been wanting to make it, but just haven’t jumped in yet? I’d love to know where you’re at!

*UPDATE: The soap turned out really good! The wipes container (tube shaped) was NOT a good idea. I thought I’d never get the soap out! The cardboard container worked well though; it was easy to tear away from the soap block. I’m loving this homemade soap!

22 thoughts on “Soap Making 101 on the Homestead – Start Here”

  1. I’m really curious if you’ve continued to make soap and with the goat milk and any new information you might have since your first time!?

  2. Well,that’s great!Soap making is a great option for anyone wanting to do more for themselves.Soap making is fun, provides a natural outlet for your creativity, creates a viable product for market and is simply wonderful for your skin.

  3. Hey Kendra. Congrats on making soap for the first time! It’s on my list of to-dos for the fall. I feel the same way about being a bit intimidated using the lye. I recently watched a video called “Homestead Blessings: The Art of Soap Making” by the West Ladies. I got it from our library. It was really helpful to have the visual. I did a review of the DVD on a blogpost. Enjoy your soap!

  4. I made my own soap this year from scratch. The hardest part was the stirring! I am in search of a stick blender and have every flea market vendor I know looking for one too! I’d actually like two, one for soap making and one for cooking.
    My husband and boys have skin issues and lye soap is perfect. I added goat milk and oatmeal and I used lard instead of oil. The whole idea for me was using what was available. Palm oil, olive oil and such are expensive. We have farmers all around that practically beg me to take their lard! My next project is making lavender scented goat milk soap using essential oils and herbs.
    I also have some dried lavender soaking in a jar of olive oil and I bought some beeswax from local beekeepers and I’m going to attempt to make hand salve.
    You will love the feel of the soap!

    I wonder, if you make plain lye soap can you use that to make homemade laundry detergent instead of buying the Fels Napths soap?

  5. Fun!! I started making soap last fall and had to stop when I didn’t have room to dry any more!! We have just a few bars of mint soap left, so I need to be making more very soon. I gave away lots of soap to extended family for Christmas. I use goat milk in my soap and we really like it. And the stick blender? I can’t imagine NOT using it! A helpful video is the one on soapmaking from the West ladies at Homestead Blessings. Are you familiar with their dvds produced by Franklin Springs? Wonderful resources for homesteading families!

  6. I forgot to mention if you have silicone baking pans they work great for making mold. I bought some online at Target and have had them going since my first batch. I did go and buy real molds this year since I suck at cutting the bars staight. But I still use my silicone ones when making tons of soap for market.

  7. How did your soap turn out??

    I have been making soap for about 3yrs now and love it. I just blogged about it earlier this week. Tomorrow morning my dh and I are going to make 15lbs of Goats Milk Soap and 5lbs of a coffee/cocoa soap for grabbing odors in the kitchen. My daughter loves to stay and chat with me while I am making it too.

  8. I just came upon your site because of Anais’s post of this entry on FB. It caught my eye, not only because of the soap making but because we share the same name! 🙂

    I’ve been wanting to try making my own soap for awhile now. It’s something I’d like to try this summer and am debating on whether to buy a kit or get all the supplies myself. I’ve been leaning toward making goat’s milk soap but I’m having a hard time finding goat’s milk. 🙁

    I’m starting to browse your blog and LOVE it. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Hi Kendra!

      (Whoa, that’s weird to say 🙂 )

      I’m so glad you came by to check out my site! Definitely give soapmaking a try! Buying the ingredients yourself *may* be cheaper (depending on where you get your stuff and what you get), but a kit is SO much more convenient and easy for your first time. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best! You may find somebody on Craigslist who would sell you some goat’s milk for soap. I’ve often seen it for sale there in the farm and garden section. Good luck!

  9. A stick blender definitely shortens the mixing time. We’ve made it three times now and it’s come out every time. Not from a kit, just getting the needed items and using recipes from books and online. Congratulations on your first batch!

  10. Welcome to the club! Soapmaking is one of my favorite things in the world! It’s an art/craft/science that is useful and consumable! 😀 A tip: don’t settle for anything less than a stainless steel stick blender. I have gone through three plastic ones. The lye makes it (the blender) break down very quickly. I’ve had my stainless one for about two years now, and it still works great!

  11. Good for you, Kendra! Hope your bars turn out well. Soap-making is something I haven’t tried yet. I do have a cheese-making kit my husband ordered for me that I’m looking forward to trying, though!

  12. Good for you, I have been wanting to make my own soap for awhile and have had a hard time getting a hold of lye (like you said its a bit intimidating). But I had determined a few weeks ago to do it this summer and I will soon as we get some other things done.

    How well do you think the water would heat up in a pan on a propane grill (really good grill). My kitchen is in the middle of the house with no real ventalation to the outside. Also I just got a new induction stove and I hate to use one of my new good pots for soap, but I could use the old pots on the grill.

    Anyway thank you for the review and link I will check it out.


    • Teresa,

      So, with this recipe anyways, you can opt to only heat the oils in your pot, and then pour them into the bucket and mix in the lye. This way you aren’t ruining a good pot. The only thing you would need to heat is the oils, to 95*, so I think a propane grill would work okay for heating (though I don’t have any experience trying). You will need a sink though, to cool off the lye if it’s too hot. Hope that helps! Good luck with it 🙂

  13. Hi Kendra,

    Congratulations on making your first batch of soap – especially with a newborn! I just started making my own in January using the West ladies recipe from Homestead Blessings. I have a Cuisinart stick blender, but it must not be a very good one because I find much more success with getting a trace when I use a plain old fashioned whisk. I haven’t done much with additives, yet, but will try that on my next batch. Looking forward to seeing how you like your new soap!

  14. Hi Kendra,
    We have not made soap in many years.When we tried for the first time probably seven years ago now,we had a difficult time finding the lye.We finally found some at a pool store when I got brave enough to call a business near us that sells homemade soap to find out if they would sell us some.They would not but told us where they buy it.So that was nice and we headed there.
    We made a big batch of goats milk soap and while curing in the garage some mice decided to take lunch.It was so depressing that we have not tried it since BUT I am thinking that maybe we will try it again one of these days.Glad that you were able to make a batch.Can’t wait to hear how it turned out.:)Nikki

  15. Kendra,

    First I want to say that you took a big step doing this on your own. You have a right to be proud!

    I learned to make soap 2 years ago. My son has eczema and he can only use cold process, all natural soap made with lye. It was getting expensive to buy this stuff and I REALLy wantec to learn to make it. Like you, I had a fear beyond fears of handeling the lye. My good friend Julie invited me over one cold novemeber day and I was hookef from there! You can read about my first adventure here:

    I agree with what you said the other day…You NEEd a stick blender! This was one thing I hesitated on investing in, but now that we are selling our soap here locally and on Etsy, the $30 stick blender has paid for itself:)

    Its so relaxing for me to make a batch of soap. My children loved being involved in the process and I love that they are. I never let them handle the lye, but measuring and mixing, they can do:) One thing I would love to invest in next, is a nice wooden soap mold:)

    It was exciting to read your post, as it’s been a few months since I’ve made a batch and I must say that you’ve given me the bug to whip up a batch:)

  16. inspiring!
    i have all the ingredients that I need to make many batches of soap, but haven’t tried it yet!!
    maybe its that 3 hours of uninterrupted time that I keep waiting for?
    I do have a stick blender but I was wondering if maybe I should try make it the old fashioned stirring way to appreciate the process and see what this “trace” thickness looks and feels like…
    anyhoo, when I have finally taken the plunge I will let you know.


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