Friday, February 25, 2011

Homemade Soap

One of my "new things" for this winter was making soap. I had tried making soap several years ago with rather dismal results. This summer, I watched my friend, Jesalynn make soap. She made it look so simple that I had to try again.

Since we have lots of lard from butchering, I wanted to find a recipe using all lard, instead of other oils. I'm going to share my recipe and the results from the three times that I used it. But take note that I didn't include directions. Please find soap making directions else where (there is many online) before making soap yourself. I don't feel like I know enough about soap making to teach someone else. Take particular note of the safety cautions. Lye is dangerous and must be used carefully.

One of my past problems was the endless stirring to get the soap to "trace". Before making soap this time, I invested in a stick blender. This made a HUGE difference and I wouldn't suggest trying soap making without this tool. 

Basic Lard Soap

40 oz lard
15 oz water
5.23 oz lye

These were my basic ingredients for each batch.

Batch One - Basic Homesteader Soap

I used the basic soap ingredients without any additives. I was hoping for a basic soap like my grandma made that would be good for laundry, stain removal, and poison ivy.

I was surprised how easy it was. Really the worse part was assembling my ingredients and supplies. I waited until the children were napping and mixed the lye and water out on the deck. While the lye water cooled, I melted the lard on my kitchen stove. When they had cooled to the same temperature, I stirred the two together using brief pulses with the stick blender. In less then five minutes the soap was tracing and I poured into the mold.

The next morning, I dumped the soap out of the mold and cut into bars. I was disappointed to find that the soap was dry and brittle and didn't cut into nice bars. A call to Jesalynn determined the cause may have been too much lye. I didn't have a very accurate scales. Since I've been wanting a digital scales anyway, before my next batch I put in an order to Amazon. I bought the My Weigh digital scale and LOVE it.

Batch Two -Honey Oatmeal Soap

With the help of my digital scales, measuring the ingredients was much easier. For the second batch I used the basic ingredients above and added 4 oz beeswax, 8 T ground oatmeal, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 oz honey. I melted the beeswax with the lard but when I tried to cool it down, it kept hardening. I ended up mixing the lye water in with the lard before it was down to my temperature goal (which I forget and I gave the book I was following away.) Immediately the soap traced. I didn't know if it was just my oil thickening since it wasn't the right temperature or what. I continued to blend the soap for ten minutes any way to make sure it wouldn't separate.I then added the other oatmeal, cinnamon and honey before pouring into the mold

The next morning, this soap was perfect. It sliced wonderfully. I love the texture of the oatmeal and would definitely try this recipe again.

Batch Three - Odor Eater Soap

The addition of coffee in soap is supposed to rid your hands of onion odors. I don't know if it works but the flecks of coffee to look nice!

I used the basic soap recipe and added 6 T of coffee just before pouring into the molds. This batch had trouble coming to a trace. I stirred and blended for probably near a half an hour and it still didn't look as good as the other batches.

This time I poured the soap into well-greased muffin tins. I like how the soap looks but it was such a pain to get out of the tins that I doubt I'll ever try this again.

Batch Four - Hand Milled Chocolate Milk Soap

My first batch looked so poorly that I tried to think of a way to salvage it. I decided to try hand milled soap. In hand milled soap, you grate bars of soap, add water and remelt. You can add fragrance without worrying about the lye tracing. I used 12 oz of grated Batch One soap with 9 oz  milk and 1/2 oz baking chocolate.

My first problem was that I waited a month after making the soap. The soap was dry and hard and no fun to grate. Melting took forever and the few slivers that I didn't melt all the way are now bold white spots in my soap. When the soap dried, it shrank and the bars are skinny in the middle. And the final problem, though they look like a big bar of fudge, they don't smell like anything at all, and my husband says it is very strange to have your wash cloth turn brown from your soap, though he admits, it does make you clean.

I doubt I'll try hand milled soap again, unless it is with fresh easily grated soap. I'm not sure what I'll do with my first batch, maybe use it in detergent?

So that is my soap making experience. In all, it was a lot of fun and far easier then I expected. I've enjoyed giving soap away and hardly have any nice bars left. But we'll be using the scraps and flops for a very long time so I don't expect to make soap again anytime soon.

Since lard is basically a waste product that I have in  unlimited supply, this soap was very economical (unless you count the purchase of a stick blender and digital scales - that I've been using for far more than just soap!) I would love to make some with essential oils but at this point I was trying to make do with what I had in my kitchen.

 Have any of you tried making soap?


  1. I have been making soap for us for years. And I agree, a stick blender is a must!! I make it with oils and various essentials and spices. My last batch was peppermint and I colored it with chlorophyll. It is a lovely mint green. I don't use artificial scents or colorings, because the point is natural. My husband will hardly use store bought stuff anymore.So I guess I am committed now. Loved hearing how it went for you!

  2. I am curious did you render your lard first? We too have some lard coming from our butchered pigs and I would also like to make soap this year. The recipes I have call for rendering your lard.

  3. I have never maid soap...but I sure want to ...I am somewhat scared ...I do well with watching someone do it and have them there to guide me...I am one of those visual learners...may be I will find the "guts" to try it on my own...
    Your soaps looks beautiful!!...

  4. Mrs. Trixi -
    We render our lard on butcher day from the pork fat. Does your butcher render the lard for you? Or does he just give you the fat? You can find directions for rendering your own lard online.

    Nidine -
    If you don't have someone local you can watch - try finding some youtube videos. Homestead Blessings also has a good soap making dvd. I, too, find it helpful to watch instead of just read about it.


  5. I had to laugh out loud at your husband's comment about the milk chocolate soap. What a sweet thing to say!

    I have never tried making soap, but have wanted to for a long time. You make it sound so easy, I think I'll give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I just made soap for the first time last month after getting the Homestead Blessings DVDs for Christmas. I was always intimidated by it until I saw how simple they made it look. I followed their basic recipe which produced a beautiful soap. I must have a really crummy stick blender though, because after 20 minutes of getting nowhere near trace I switched to a regular old whisk and saw results very quickly. I tried hand-milling some into coffee soaps using muffin tins as well and found it really difficult to get it out. I won't do that again either, unless I find some of those silicone tins that are flexible. I just tried hand-milling some of it and adding essential oils. It's curing right now so it hasn't hardened up enough to use yet. I'll be interested to see if I like it as well as the basic soap. All in all, I'm finding that it's totally worth it to make myself. I like it just as well if not better than the natural bars I've bought in the store and it's waaaaay more economical.

  7. Where on earth do you buy Lye?
    Anita Nova Scotia

  8. Anita -
    It can be a challenge to find lye. Soap making websites sell it but you have to fill out paperwork to make sure you are using it for a good cause. You can find it sometimes at old fashioned (not chain) hardware stores. I bought my lye at a flea market from someone who sells cast iron pans and sells lye for cleaning cast iron.

    Hope you can find a good source.

  9. Hi Gina,
    I love your and your sincerity about your "mistakes". We all make mistakes.
    For complete technique about bar soap making:
    And for those who are attracted to liquid soap, they can visit

  10. I'm determined to make soap this winter too! THanks for all your details. I have the tallow and that's IT. I'll be back to look at your stories when I have a book and some lye.

  11. ok, I've got a book and some lye! My scales is not digital. . . maybe I need to borrow one. hm.

  12. If you put your muffin tins in the freezer the cold will shrink your soap so they will slide right out.

  13. Question about your coffee soap. Did you use fresh or used coffee grounds? And how well did the finished soap work as a deodorizer?

    1. I used fresh coffee grounds. I didn't think it had much deodorizing affect but it looked nice and the grit helped in scrubbing.

  14. Gina, if you like the look of the muffin tin shape, try silicone muffin pans. They are flexible and the soap is usually easy to pop out.


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