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Main Content
scented soap

How to Make Soap

Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Learn how to make a basic bar of soap for a homemade gift or for your own use.

Why Make Homemade Soap?

Homemade soap has a personal feel to it that manufactured soap simply lacks—with homemade soap, the texture and shape are unique, the scent is customized, and the ingredients list is what you make it. Manufactured soap companies are not required by law to list all of their ingredients, allowing them to exclude powerful detergents and possibly toxic chemicals from their disclosures.   

What Is the Process for Making Soap?

There are actually several ways of making soap: melt-and-pour (melting premade soap and adding scents), cold process (most common), hot process (a variation of the cold process that involves cooking the soap in an oven), and rebatching (grinding up and recycling old bars of soap). For the cold and hot processes, in which soap is prepared from scratch, soap-making is a chemical reaction between lye and fats or oils. 

The Basic Melt-and-Pour Recipe

Making soap from scratch involves purchasing a lot of equipment and handling lye. Start with the simple melt-and-pour method before moving on to more complicated soap-making!

You Will Need . . .

Pyrex pitcher

digital scale

Melt-and-Pour Soap Base (can be found online or in a local craft store)

fragrance or essential oil (optional)

ramekin (optional)

soap-friendly dye (optional)

4-bar soap mold

1. Set the Pyrex pitcher on the scale and zero the weight. Cut the Melt-and-Pour Soap Base into small chunks and place them in the Pyrex pitcher. Continue to add chunks until the scale reads 2 pounds.

2. Melt the soap in the microwave: Cover the Pyrex pitcher with plastic wrap and place it in the microwave. Heat the soap for a minute at a time, stirring gently between sessions. Repeat until the soap is completely melted. 

Note: The soap will reach about 150°F once it’s melted. Be careful.

3. Place the ramekin on the scale and zero the weight. Measure 0.8 ounce of the liquid fragrance or essential oil of your choice into the ramekin (the general rule of thumb is 0.4 ounce per pound of soap). Pour the fragrance into the liquid soap and gently stir.

4. Add dye of the color of your choice to the liquid soap. For example, if you added a lavender scent to your soap, add about 10 drops each of red and blue dye to make purple. Stir gently until the dye is completely mixed into the soap.

Note: Avoid stirring too hard, or you’ll end up with bubbles in the soap.

5. Slowly pour the liquid soap into the soap mold. Leave the soap to harden over several hours or place it in the refrigerator to speed up the process (don’t put the soap in the freezer).

6. Once the soap is hard, pop the bars from the mold and enjoy! 

Yield: Makes 4 regular-size bars of soap.

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