The older I get, the more finicky I become about what I put on my skin. Giulio has a mild soap allergy, so he can only use the most boring of soaps – thick blocks of scentless sadness! At first, I put up with it, but then I thought, showering is one of life’s little luxuries, so why should my soap be blah?
So I started buying Zara Home soaps and Lush soaps, but they still made him break out in a rash. Frustrated, I was tossing up changing husbands or making my own. I chose Giulio, for now (☺️). Naturally, everyone laughed at me. Friends and family thought I’d lost my mind. Who makes their own soap? Me! And I’m actually addicted to doing it now. It’s not as hard as it sounds. There are heaps of instructions online, but most of them need a million ingredients and a degree in chemistry. I’ve been making soap for more than a year and I’ve narrowed it down to a recipe that’s versatile and only uses a few ingredients. The only thing I’m super against is palm oil, so my recipe doesn’t include it. But you can add any essential oils you like. Not only is this soap gentle, I know what’s in it, a batch lasts us months and we end up with a pretty luxe bar that would have otherwise cost a fortune at the store.
silicone loaf tin
two glass jars
metal tablespoon & teaspoon
big saucepan or pot
googles and gloves
Say hello to your soap making arsenal. Pick them up cheap from a discount store and set them aside for soap making. Because you’re working with lye, it can be dangerous, hence the goggles and gloves, but nothing has ever happened in all my soap making adventures. And no, you can’t make soap without lye. Don’t bother googling it. I already tried.
25% olive oil
25% coconut oil
15% shea butter
5% castor oil
Calculate to 5% superfat
1/2 tablespoon kaolin clay
15g essential oils (you can use just one or a combination)
You’ll notice I’ve given you these ingredients in percentages. That’s because the quantity of soap you make is up to you. It’s very important to get the quantities right when making soap, so pop onto Soap Calc and enter in the percentages above. Then decide how much soap you want to make. I usually make no more than 250g. That produces four bars, which lasts the two of us two months. Press enter and the calculator will tell you how much of each oil to use, as well as how much lye (caustic soda) and water.
Place all your oils in your saucepan and give them a quick whisk with the immersion blender to combine and remove any lumps. Don the googles and gloves and carefully measure out your lye and water in separate glass jars. Head outside with your jars and tablespoon and add the lye to the water. Never do it the other way around or it will explode. Stir to melt the lye and head back inside.
Make sure you’re a well ventilated area and add your lye mixture to your oils. Use your spatula to combine. Then grab your immersion blender and whip the mixture until it becomes the consistency of thick custard (that’s called trace).
Fold in your oils and clay with the spatula.
Then pour into your loaf tin. If you’re making a small batch, like I did, and could only find a giant loaf tin, like I could, use a piece of thick cardboard to cordon off a section. That will give you thicker, more shop-bought looking soaps. You could also use silicone muffin or cupcake tins to create cute round soaps.
Wrap the entire thing in an old towel and leave to set somewhere warm for 24 hours. Flip your soap out of the tin and slice into bars. Then leave the bars to cure for 3 weeks.
a note about sourcing the materials
At first soap making can seem really expensive and difficult. But with this basic recipe, you can make every soap scent under the sun. I picked up all my soap making ingredients on Amazon for next to nothing. Caustic soda is available in any hardware store and you can cut out the clay if you like. It’s only there to make the bar softer and little more luxurious. I really recommend you give this a try. You’ll be surprised at how easy and satisfying it is!