You can make your own natural, affordable, and beautifully fragrant soaps at home.
There are plenty of reasons to make your own soap. It’s less wasteful when it comes to the plastic and paper-packaged stuff you buy at the store. And as oppose to commercially produced soap, you can make it with natural ingredients and fragrances that are better for your skin and better for the planet. Plus, you’ll save money in the long term and a batch will last you for months.
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The recipe below uses coconut oil and olive oil as a base. We’ve used coffee grounds and oat bran in this batch, which act as a natural scrub and also impart a lovely fragrance.
A NOTE ABOUT SOAP CHEMISTRY
The key ingredient in soap making is lye, which is sodium hydroxide (a salt). No commercial or homemade soap can be made without it. While caustic to skin and clothing, don’t be alarmed by its inclusion—it is necessary to any soap making, and soap is essentially a chemical reaction between the lye and the oils used. When combined, the reaction is called ‘saponification’. Once the soap is made and cured, they is no lye left in the finished bar, only the natural ingredients you used to make the soap.
While the setup and all the equipment below may seem a little complicated, don’t be afraid to push on! With some common kitchen equipment and a few ingredients, it takes less than an hour to make enough soap to last you a few months. Plus, you’ll have the added satisfaction of having crafted something yourself.
You could omit the coffee in this recipe and use finely ground walnut shells instead, or simply use oat bran instead of coffee. You can also experiment with a few drops of essential oils, such as vanilla, almond, lavender, or peppermint. You can buy soap molds at a craft store or online (you can get both plain and patterned molds.)
Equipment and ingredients
Stainless steel thermometer
Gloves, protective eyewear, face mask
Stainless steel pot
Measuring cups and spoons
Stainless steel spoon
Lye (sodium hydroxide)
*Note: Any containers or utensils that come into contact with sodium hydroxide should be kept for soap-making purposes only.
Measure and mix
+ Using a kitchen scale, weigh out 8.48 oz coconut oil in a stainless steel pot.
+ In a bowl, measure 12.48 oz olive oil.
+ In a second bowl, measure 7.9 oz coffee.
+ Measure 3.22 oz lye in a third bowl.
+ Measure out 1 tablespoon coffee grounds and 1/3 cup oat bran in a fourth bowl; set aside.
+ Put on protective gear, and make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. Add the lye to the coffee, and stir to dissolve. (Always add lye to liquid, not the other way around.) This will start a chemical reaction, and the mixture will get quite hot. Set aside. You may remove eyewear and face mask at this point, but gloves should remain on.
+ Melt coconut oil over low heat until no solids remain. Add olive oil.
+ Using a stainless steel thermometer, check the temperature of the oils. Compare against the temperature of the lye solution, and adjust until they’re within a degree or two or each other, between 100 and 110 degrees.
+ Pour the lye solution into the oils, and use a hand or stick blender to emulsify until the mixture begins to thicken and the texture resembles pudding. This process will take 5 to 10 minutes with a stick blender.
+ Once the soap has thickened, stir in the coffee grounds and oat bran with the stainless steel spoon or spatula.
Pour and rest
Slowly pour the mixture into a soap mold. Lift and tap the mold against the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Cover with parchment paper, and then wrap the entire mold with a towel to insulate it.
Remove from mold
After 24 to 48 hours, remove the towel, and take the soap out of the mold. If you used a large single mold rather than individual molds, let the soap loaf sit for another day to harden further before cutting into bars. Any sharp knife will work here. A vegetable peeler can be used to smooth sides, if desired.