How to Make Soap

Well, and so the good news is confirmed, and Martha triumphs. My uncle and aunt seemed quite surprised that you and my father were not coming sooner. I have given the soap and the basket, and each have been kindly received. One thing only among all our concerns has not arrived in safety: when I got into the chaise at Devizes I discovered that your drawing ruler was broke in two; it is just at the top where the cross-piece is fastened on. I beg pardon. Jane Austen to Cassandra Paragon, Bath, May 5, 1801
Until the Industrial Revolution soap-making was done on a small scale and the product was rough. Andrew Pears started making a high-quality, transparent soap in 1789 in London. With his grandson, Francis Pears, they opened a factory in Isleworth in 1862. William Gossage produced low-price good quality soap from the 1850s. Robert Spear Hudson began manufacturing a soap powder in 1837, initially by grinding the soap with a mortar and pestle. William Hesketh Lever and his brother James bought a small soap works in Warrington in 1885 and founded what is still one of the largest soap businesses, now called Unilever. These soap businesses were among the first to employ large scale advertising campaigns to sell the output of their factories. How to Make Your Own Soap Whether you choose to make soap for your own personal use or for gift giving, you will no doubt be hooked after your first batch. The following instructions are designed for soap making from scratch. Things You'll Need
  • Oils:-24 ounces olive oil (not extra virgin)-24 ounces coconut oil-38 ounces vegetable shortening
  • Alkaline Solution:- 12 ounces sodium hydroxide (lye). No longer readily available; can be purchased online. Do not use drain opener; the formulas have changed and are no longer suitable for soap. Or make your own lye solution.-32 ounces spring or distilled water
  • Fragrance or Essential Oil-4 ounces of your favorite fragrance-dried ground herbs (optional)
  • Equipment:-Safety Goggles- Rubber Gloves- Scale to weigh the ingredients-A one gallon stainless steel or enamel kettle, not aluminum - Glass or plastic wide mouth pitcher to hold water and lye -A two cup plastic or glass measuring cup - Plastic or wooden spoons - Stainless steel wire whisk or a hand blender - One accurate glass thermometer that registers between 80-100 degrees F. - Plastic shoe box for your soap mold. Spray with vegetable spray so soap will release easily. - 2 towels to cover your soap
  • A source of running water, in case of a spill. If you get the lye or liquid soap on you, run under lots of water.
  • You will need several hours of time to make your soap.
  1. Put on your rubber gloves and goggles.
  2. Weigh out 12 ounces of lye (sodium hydroxide) into the two-cup measuring cup.
  3. Weigh 32 ounces (2 pounds) of cold water in glass container.
  4. Slowly add lye to water (best done outside), stirring gently. It is very important to add the Lye to the water and not the other way around, otherwise the reaction is too quick and it is dangerous! The lye will heat the water and release fumes. The fumes dissipate quickly, but turn your face away so as not to inhale the fumes.
  5. Set aside and allow the lye to cool.
  6. Weigh out 24 ounces of coconut oil and 38 ounces of vegetable shortening into the metal kettle. Melt these oils over low heat and stir frequently. Remove from heat after the oils have melted and add the 24 ounces of olive oil.
  7. When your lye has reached a range of 95-98 degrees Fahrenheit (35-36 degrees Celsius) and your oils are at the same temperature, add the lye in a slow steady stream to the oils. Use the metal whisk to stir the mixture. After about ten minutes you will notice a change in your mixture. This is called saponification.
  8. Add your fragrance when tracing occurs. The mixture will appear like thin cream, and droplets of soap will stand up on the surface. Stir well. Be ready to pour natural soap in your mold.
  9. Cover your shoe box with the two towels and set aside undisturbed for eighteen hours. The soap will go through a gel stage and a heat process. At the end of this period uncover the soap and allow to sit for another 12 hours. If you measured accurately and followed the directions, there should be no problems. But if your soap has a deep oily film on top the natural soap cannot be used because it has separated. It is disappointing if this happens. This will occur if your measurements were not accurate.
  10. Unmold your natural soap. Turn the box over and allow the soap to fall on a towel or clean surface. Cut your soap into bars. Allow the natural soap to cure in a cool dry place for approximately four to six weeks before using.
  • Temperature is crucial when mixing the oils with the lye. If too hot, it will separate; too cool and it won't turn into soap. If you have a thick layer of oily stuff after the 18 hour covered period, the soap will be unusable. If it has a layer of white stuff, don't worry about it, that's normal. If there are small white lumps in the soap, they are lye and it will burn if used.
  • Adding any chemical to water significantly reduces the risk of the chemical splashing back to your face. Remember, "Do what you oughtta, add acid to water". It works with base as well.
  • Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)is a harsh base and can be extremely dangerous. Avoid skin and eye contact. If you get skin contact, flush with a diluted acid (water and vinegar would do fine) and seek medical attention. If you get eye contact flush with cool water for 15 - 20 minutes. Use eye wash center or eye flush bottles if available, seek medical attention immediately. If swallowed, contact poison control center.
  • Don't use the same tools for food preparation as you do for soapmaking. Wooden spoons are porous and will suffer splintering when used repeatedly for soaping. Similarly, whisks have too many little nooks and crannies in which caustic substance can hide.
  • Caution! Put on your rubber gloves and goggles when working with lye. Do not leave lye in reach of children and animals. Always add lye to water, not water to lye!
  • In case of a spill, run under lots of water! (Vinegar is a weak acid, lye is a strong base....the vinegar is not enough to neutralize the lye, and the burn may worsen while you're looking for vinegar. Use water.)
For more recipes have a look at our cookbook "Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends", available from our giftshop! Historical information from, the online encyclopedia. Soap making instructions from

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published