Easy Beginner’s Cold Process Soap Recipe


I’m pumping up my production for the holidays, to prepare for upcoming holiday craft shows. This Lavender Rosemary soap has been a huge hit so far, despite being a simpler soap and not containing a lot of luxury oils, this is my best seller!

This is the first cold-process soap recipe I made all by myself, and it is a confidence booster because it turns out great every time. This recipe makes a hard bar, that un-molds easily and hardens quickly. The resulting bar after a short cure time (3-4 weeks) produces a medium lather. I’ve received feedback that it doesn’t rinse away as clean as commercial soaps, but I like this soap. I think it leaves your skin feeling moisturized, although it’s definitely not as moisturizing as some of the other soaps I’ve made. If you are new to soapmaking, I encourage you to give this recipe a try! The oils are common to many other soap recipes, so if this is your first investment in soapmaking oils I promise you will get your mileage out of these ones.

I found this recipe on SoapQueen’s blog, like many others I pulled inspiration from. Her recipes make great finished soaps, even though I often have to improvise and use oils I have on hand instead of all of the oils she has.

This is meant to be run through a lye calculator to figure out the weight of each oil to use, so you can make enough to fill whatever size mold you are using. The first time I made soap on my own, I decided to use an aluminum bread loaf pan I had, and line it with parchment paper. My pan had a non-stick coating.. and I’ll just advise you right now to not use any sort of nonstick pan, even if you line it, for your soapmaking. The nonstick coating just fell off the sides of the pan when I washed it when I was done and I had huge rusty spots all over the pan. I’m not sure if using a stainless steel pan that wasn’t coated would work better… what I can tell you is I found these silicone loaf pans on Amazon for $10, just take my advice and grab something like this before ruining one of your old baking pans! Even if you plan to dedicate it to soapmaking like I did, when it’s covered in rust it’s not going to be a good long-term solution for your molding needs. The silicone molds are nice because you don’t need to line them before pouring your raw soap into them. Do make sure that whatever you use for your soapmaking mold, you don’t use for any food storage or preparation once you’ve made soap in it.

Whatever mold you decide on,  you have to figure out the volume of the mold to be able to accurately run your soap recipe through a lye calculator. Measure the length, width and height of your mold in inches and multiply by .4. This will give you the total oil weight volume to plug into your lye calculator for your soap recipe. My mold needs anywhere from 30-40 ounces of oils to fill it mostly to the top (I like to leave myself a little bit of room at the top, so I can throw cardboard and a towel over the mold to insulate without ruining any designs on the top of the soap). I have a 10″ silicone mold, which is a pretty standard mold size (I know Brambleberry has a similar 10″ silicone mold , with reinforced sides to prevent your soap from bowing out at the sides, that I’d like to try soon!).

When you are measuring your soapmaking ingredients, always use weight to measure, not fluid ounces! I use a digital kitchen scale I bought at Costco for fifteen bucks – it converts to pounds, ounces or grams, and you can zero the scale whenever you want so it makes measuring all of the oils into one bowl really easy.

Beginner’s Cold Process Soap Recipe:
30% Coconut Oil
30% Palm Oil
30% Olive Oil
10% Sweet Almond Oil

So, to fit my 10″ mold I use:

9 oz Coconut Oil
9 oz Palm Oil
9 oz Olive Oil
3 oz Sweet Almond Oil

At 0% superfat, this would require 9.9 oz of distilled water and 4.5 oz of lye. At 5% superfat, 9.9 oz of water and 4.3 oz of lye. Notice the only thing that changes is the lye amount? Some people also refer to superfatting as the “lye discount”, since you are just reducing the lye amount to your water and oils. Superfatting your recipe ensures you will be slightly oil-heavy for your finished soap, resulting in a more moisturizing finished product. You can change the superfat percentage on your lye calculator to whatever you desire. Most soapmakers don’t go above 10% because if your soap is too oil-heavy you can wind up with a soft soap or dreaded orange spots, which is unsightly discolored oils going rancid in your finished soap product. Not good! I make this soap at 0% superfat, so I use the full 4.5 oz of lye, and I still think it leaves the skin feeling moisturized and nice, but feel free to play around with it to get the results you desire.

Make sure you suit up for soaping – goggles, gloves, long sleeves, long pants and shoes that cover your feet – and I mix my lye into my water out on my back deck to keep the fumes out of my kitchen.

I wanted to dress this basic soap recipe up a bit, so I added 1/3 of an ounce of 50% lavender essential oil and 50% rosemary essential oil at trace. I like to blend this into a thick trace, because I also sprinkle dried lavender blossoms on top of the soap in the mold. Try not to push them into the soap to deep, if you mix the dried blossoms into your raw soap they will turn black, and discolor the soap around them a brownish color. If you can leave them sitting on top of the soap, they retain their purple color and keep the soap a nice pure white.

I insulate this soap recipe by placing a cardboard box over the top of my filled mold and wrapping it with a towel to hold in heat. After just 24 hours, you can unmold and slice your soap, and after about 4 weeks of curing this soap is ready to use or gift!

All of these soapmaking oils can be found at Costco, Amazon, or other websites on the internet for good prices.. I have found organic versions of all of them except for the Sweet Almond Oil so far. If you buy in bulk, you can get your prices down to under 50 cents per ounce on most of these oils, which will help reduce your overall cost per bar of soap. You can easily make 90-100% organic soap as gifts with a cost of under $2 per bar for your family and friends!

Do you make homemade, natural gifts for Christmas as well? What are your favorite items to make?

Oktoberfest Beer Soap


I learned early on that you have to plan ahead if you want to make a special or seasonal soap, to allow for it to fully cure before you want to use, sell or gift it. I am a huge fan of Oktoberfest and go to as many local beer festivals as I can, so at the end of summer I was already trying to decide which local beer I wanted to use to make my first beer soap for Oktoberfest. I’m fortunate to live in the pacific northwest, where we have dozens of local microbreweries I can easily bus or drive to within less than an hour drive from my house, and if I want to branch out and take a 3 hour trip to Portland I have dozens more to choose from!

My favorite beer of all time is Redhook ESB, a medium-bodied darkish beer made with roasted grains that has a smooth finish. It’s affordable, delicious, and goes with just about everything.

I read through several different beer recipes before I decided which one I wanted to try to mimic – I went with About.com’s candle and soap expert David Fisher’s recipe. For once, I had almost every oil the recipe called for, so this was a first for me! I didn’t have cocoa butter, but I have organic shea butter, so I just made a 1:1 swap for the butters. I ran the new recipe through a lye calculator and saw that making this change didn’t affect the liquid or lye amounts. I also omitted the essential oils and honey in his recipe, and of course had a different beer for my lye solution.

I’ve read a lot about how sugars can heat up your soap batter, so I thought I’d be safe mixing my oils and lye-beer solution at 100 degrees. Even at this low temperature, my mixture still heated up very quickly and started to set while I was still trying to blend it! I got it into the molds before it seized, but it was THICK. I didn’t insulate my molds, and still achieved a full gel.

This soap turned out so soft, I left it in the mold for 2 days before I unmolded it, and then I left it another full day before I sliced it. It was still very gummy when I sliced it, I had to rinse my cutter off every 2nd or 3rd bar to prevent sticky soap buildup from developing on the bars. Next time I make it, I’m going to stick my molds in the freezer for a few hours before I unmold them to ensure I have smooth, fingerprint-free sides, and I’m going to let it sit for at least 2 days before I slice it after that.

Despite my learning experiences, I still ended up with some great finished soap. It is smooth and hard after 4 weeks of curing, and it smells refreshing and beery! It makes big, soft bubbles and my skin is so smooth after I wash with it. I love this soap!

What are your favorite beers to use in your beer soap? Do you add additional fragrances, or let the smell of the beer shine through? Happy Oktoberfest!

Palm Free Peppermint Mocha Soap Recipe

I have been souring the internet looking for good palm-free soap recipes, and usually I find ones that contain some percentage of oils that I don’t have. I can get pretty creative at coming up with a decent mix based on what I do have, but sometimes I wind up with a softer finished bar than I was hoping for.

I felt like I struck gold when I saw Offbeat and Inspired’s Peppermint Mocha Soap, since it is palm free, but I don’t have canola oil, so I went to work on Brambleberry’s lye calculator and came up with the recipe below. I made one 10″ loaf and poured a little bit into some tiny silicone seashell molds I have.. I’ve only unmolded the shells so far, but they have firmed up nicely and have a beautiful glossy finish.

I tried an in-the-pot swirl, a new technique to me, and let me just say the soap didn’t look how I had imagined it as I was pouring it into the mold.. despite using the sunflower oil, my mocha soap batter still thickened up more than my white peppermint batter, so it looked lumpier than I thought it would when I poured it. I’m going to unmold it tomorrow and slice it within the next few days.. we’ll see how it turned out! Despite its less-than-stellar looks so far, it still smells absolutely divine!

Peppermint Soap:
2.3 oz Avocado Oil
7 oz Coconut Oil
9.3 oz Olive Oil
2.3 oz Shea Butter
2.3 oz Sunflower Oil
pinch of sea salt

7.7 oz Distilled Water
3.3 oz Lye

1.5 tsp Peppermint Essential Oil

Mocha Soap:
1.2 oz Avocado Oil
3 oz Coconut Oil
4.7 oz Olive Oil
1.2 oz Shea Butter
1.2 oz Sunflower Oil
pinch of sea salt

3.9 oz Double-strength Coffee
1.6 oz Lye

.25 oz Baker’s Chocolate
1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder

If you have never made soap before, I wouldn’t recommend starting out with this recipe. I relied heavily on Soap Queen’s beginner’s guide to cold process soapmaking and lye safety instructions for my first several batches.

I started by making the mocha soap base: brewed coffee with twice as many grinds as recommended, and set the coffee in the fridge overnight to cool completely. The next day, I slowly added the lye to the cold coffee and stirred completely. Like many non-water lye mixtures, this one smelled pretty bad, so I was outside while I mixed it to help with the fumes.

While the coffee-lye mixture was cooling, I mixed my lye into the distilled water for my peppermint soap base so that could start cooling as well.

Then I measured my oils in two separate containers, a larger 12-cup pyrex for the peppermint soap base and a 2-cup pyrex for the mocha soap base. I melted the baker’s chocolate in my microwave, stirred 1 Tbsp of cocoa powder into the melted chocolate, and added a few tablespoons of the warm mocha soap oils to the melted chocolate to stir all of the lumps out. Then I added the smooth melted chocolate to the 2 cup pyrex. I added a pinch of sea salt into each container of oils to help the soap harden.

When the oils and lye-water mixtures were both around 110 degrees, I started mixing. I blended the mocha soap base to a light trace, then moved onto the peppermint base and blended that to a slightly thicker trace. It took a while for each base to reach trace, so I think while I was blending the peppermint soap the mocha soap continued to thicken up on me. I panicked and quickly poured small amounts of the mocha soap base into the peppermint base at 12, 3, 6 and 9 to try my in the pot swirl… and then realized I forgot to add my peppermint essential oil to the peppermint soap base!

I was thinking about just having a swirled mocha soap, but I really wanted the peppermint mocha smell for Christmas. I added my peppermint EO to the soap batter and lightly swirled it into the top with my spatula, and hoped for the best.. then I poured into my 10″ silicone mold. I could see the thicker mocha soap was not swirling into the peppermint soap as I had imagined it would, but I set it under a cardboard box with a towel on top to insulate it and hoped for the best.

When I un-molded my seashells I noticed some of them have whitish spots visible, I think that may be my peppermint essential oil that didn’t get thoroughly mixed into the soap. I’ll post pictures when I slice into my 10″ loaf to see what the final product looks like.

What are your favorite palm free soap recipes?

Holiday Inspired Soap

download            pumpkin1

It is October 10th, and I’m already thinking about Christmas. The smells, flavors, and joy everyone looks forward to each holiday season. How can I capture the essence of Christmas in a bar of soap?

I’m going to try this weekend, by whipping up a batch of Peppermint Mocha soap. Warm coffee mixed with refreshing peppermint.. comforting, relaxing and seasonally inspired!

I’m going to make my soap special by using all organic base oils, and only scent it with natural coffee and peppermint essential oil. I’m hoping to get a bar that is nourishing for your skin, rinsing away clean and leaving your shower smelling like your favorite local coffee shop or kitchen after your morning cup-o-joe.

After I try peppermint mocha, I’d like to make some more holiday scents.. I’m thinking maybe a Mulled Red Wine bar made with red wine replacing the water, or perhaps an exfoliating Gingersnap bar made with honey and cinnamon and ginger! I made a Pumpkin Spice soap for fall, with organic pumpkin puree and scented with cinnamon and clove essential oil. It has organic castor oil to leave your skin soft, and makes such a big bubbly lather! I love the way it turned out.

What are your favorite holiday scents?