Tag Archives: soap making

Two New Soap Recipes

I am really excited about the two new soap recipes I made this week. The soap I made on Monday was inspired by the dandelions that are popping up everywhere screaming “spring is here.” I decided that those yellow beauties might just make a nice soap.

Usually before I try something new with a soap recipe I do an internet search to see if others have done similar. Artisan soap makers are a creative bunch and it seems there is not much they haven’t tried and wrote about. I did indeed find several sites with dandelion soap recipes, stories, and for sale. I do not use other peoples recipes but I like to get an idea of how others have used particular ingredients, what the results were and if there is anything major that might go wrong.

By this time I have learned that when adding botanicals to cold process soaps you will very rarely capture any fragrance and I have no way of testing to see if any potential therapeutic benefits from them survive the process. The most I could hope for is to capture some of the cheery yellow color. Hoping to double up on any benefits I infused both the water and the oils with dandelion flowers. I decided to add honey as well.

This recipe is now out of the molds and has a deep yellow color. It still has to cure for about six weeks and doubtless the color will change as the soap cures. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Todays soap experiment is maple. When I did my internet search for maple soap I found that maple syrup is often used as an ingredient in handcrafted soap. My plan was a little different. When my husband was collecting sap to make syrup this spring I asked him to save me a couple of quarts so I could make a batch of soap with it. “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” he asked. I explained that I plan to use the sap in place of the water in my soap recipe. He graciously obliged my request and I have kept the sap in the freezer waiting to be turned into soap.

One morning when we were having our homemade syrup on our pancakes and I looked at the sugar sand that had collected at the bottom of the jar and wondered about using it in soap. Will the sand particles remain sand or will they dissolve during the processing. I remembered reading that it is mostly composed of calcium salts and malic acid. It is not harmful to eat and upon further research I learned that those ingredients can be beneficial for skin care. Again I can’t make any claims about my soap providing these therapeutic benefits because it is questionable whether they survive the soap making process. The sand in that jar was gone before I had a chance to tell my husband that I wanted to save some for making soap. We had a few more jars with sand at the bottom, so I opened one this morning, poured most of the syrup into an empty jar and put it in the refrigerator for future breakfast. The sand and a small portion of the syrup that was left in the bottom of the jar were added to my soap.

The maple soap, if it turns out well, will definitely be a seasonal soap and I expect the sweet dandelion soap will be as well. Although they won’t be ready for 6+ weeks you can contact me by email ( ruth20012001@yahoo.com) if you are interested in purchasing either of these soaps. 🙂


Lye is the key ingredient in turning fat and oils into soap.

Lye is actually a common name for two different chemicals, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH). Both of these forms of lye can be used in making soap, however they are not the same chemical, and are not interchangeable in soap recipes. This means they are required in different amounts in a recipe and will produce a different type of soap. While sodium hydroxide will produce a hard bar-type soap, potassium hydroxide is more often used in making a liquid or soft soap. Sodium hydroxide has a PH of 14 while potassium hydroxide is reported to have a PH between 12 and 14.

Sodium hydroxide was once readily available in grocery stores and hardware stores, most commonly packaged as Red Devil Lye, it was used mostly as a drain cleaner. Because of it’s illegal use in the production of methamphetamines, it has become harder to find. While I’ve read that it is illegal to sell in retail stores in the U.S., I have been able to purchase it in a few stores. The easiest way to purchase it is online through soap making suppliers.

Potassium hydroxide is made from wood ash and water. I have not yet made soap using potassium hydroxide, but this is on my to-do list.

Because of it’s high PH lye is a dangerous chemical and must be use with caution. If it comes in contact with bare skin it can cause severe burns. It will erode some metals, but it is safe to use in glass, plastic or stainless steal containers. If mixed improperly or with certain substances it can create dangerous gases.

Once lye has been properly mixed with the liquid and oils and the chemical changes occur lye becomes safe to use on the skin. Soap should have a PH between 7 and 10.

You don’t see lye, sodium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide listed as ingredients on commercial soap products. Instead you will see thing like sodium cocoate, which would be the combination of coconut oil and sodium hydroxide after the chemical change, known as soaponification, has occurred. Other examples would be or sodium palmate or potassium tallowate.  I, like many handcrafters, list the ingredients as the raw materials put into the soap even though the chemical change does occur before the product is finished.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is another ingredient I use when making soap and skin care products. Like coconut oil it is readily available at the grocery store and in my kitchen.

The definition of “castile soap” used to be soap that was made with 100% olive oil. Apparently through the years the definition has evolved, first to mean any soap that contained olive oil as an ingredient, and now apparently to mean any soap that contains only vegetable oils. I have seen soap that is made from 100% coconut oil labeled as “castile soap”. So in my opinion the term “castile soap” has absolutely no meaning, and the only way to know what you are getting is to read the ingredients on the label (if you can see them).

In soap making olive oil makes a creamy, conditioning and moisturizing bar.  I have found that olive oil in the right combination with coconut oil makes the perfect soap. The proper ratios of these two oils can make a bar of soap with just the right degree of hardness, it is a cleansing soap that is creamy and lathers like crazy.

In skin care products olive oil offers vitamins A and E and has great moisturizing properties. Olive oil is also a great oil to infuse with herbs that can be beneficial to skin care.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil: There is a lot to be said for coconut oil and unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years you have probably heard or read something about it. There have been countless stories, on television, the internet, and in health and cooking magazines, all proclaiming the hundreds of uses of coconut oil. So since they have probably said it all, I will simply say, I love coconut oil for many things.  When my husband says that something (usually mechanical in nature) needs lubricating, I will often joke, “get out the coconut oil.” Just in case you have just climbed out from under your rock, and happened to find my website, here is one article from natural news.


Most of the articles I have read do not go into detail about types of coconut oil, but here is a link the explains the difference in types of coconut oil.


If you are not interested in reading the article for yourself I will summarize it by saying, if the label says “coconut oil” then it is probably a mass produced, mechanically refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD)coconut oil. While not necessary unhealthy it probably has lost a lot of the nutritional benefits during the processing.

“Virgin” coconut oil, on the other hand, has been cold processed and retains the nutrition value.

So if you are eating coconut oil for maximum health benefits you will want the much more expensive “virgin” coconut oil. However, in my opinion, it is not cost effective to use virgin coconut oil in making soap, when the less expensive RBD coconut oil will provide the desired effects while keeping products more affordable. So while I do not use virgin coconut oil in my products, I do use a food grade RDB coconut oil.

In soap making,  Soap-Making-Essentials.Com says:

“Coconut oil probably takes top spot as the most used soap making oil and for good reason.

Not only does it produce a rock hard soap with a fantastic lather but this oil is wonderfully moisturizing and adds a barrier to the skin protecting it from the elements.

It’s cleansing ability is amazing and is one of the few oils that produces a soap that will lather in salt water.”

I have discovered all of this to be true (not sure about lather in salt water, I haven’t had the occasion to test it.) I have experimented with making a soap that has only coconut oil as the only oil. The result is a soap that is so hard that it can not be cut. It will break into funny shapes with jagged edges. It does however provide great lather and cleansing power. I have a customer who uses this in her homemade laundry detergent. I have been testing it as a stain remover/pretreatment for laundry and am having great results.

I also use coconut oil in my balms. It is a wonderful moisturizer and protector for the skin and just feels sooo good.

So to answer two questions about this ingredient in my products:

Is coconut oil natural? Yes.

Can you eat coconut oil? Yes

Thanks for reading 🙂