MAKE YOUR OWN HOT PROCESS SOAP! My Favorite Hot Process Soap Recipe in 12 EASY Steps
I talk with a lot of people about making soap. One of the biggest reasons people don't make their own soap, even though they REALLY, REALLY want to, is they are afraid of working with lye. I know this...because I had this same problem, and I've talked to many others who are afraid of working with lye too. If you are a beginner to handmade soap making, maybe you feel this way too? If so, never fear! I'm about to make those fears go away!
In this step by step hot process soap making tutorial, you'll find directions that are easy, clear, and will help you get started on your handmade hot process soap making journey with confidence! It's easy to make handmade soap using a simple crock pot!
I remember standing there before my very first soap making session, all decked out in my HAZMAT gear (seriously--lol), and my husband is looking at me with his worried face. "Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked.
I took a deep breath, and said, "YEP. I'm going to do this. I AM going to make my own soap."
All that research. All the searching for great articles about the process. All the reading of the only book I could find at that time....And I was ready.
I remember that day like it was yesterday, even though it was many years ago. I also remember how little information about hot process soap there was out there on the web.
So I'm sharing a hot process recipe with you that just always works, along with super clear directions to help you get started on your own soap making, whether it's just for your family or you want to start a soap business!
The soap recipe in this instructional article is truly all natural. For fragrance, I use essential oils, and for color, I use herbs and/or clays. Once you've made a few loaves of soap, you'll want to start experimenting with your own natural additives!
For a comprehensive 93 page book on everything you need to know about hot process soap, here is a link to my popular Hot Process Soap Making book. Besides learning how to make hot process soap, the book goes into detail about how to use additives, along with 22 soap recipe variations. You can start getting creative with your own handmade soap making right away!
You should also take a look at this sister article: Lavender-Rosemary-Vanilla Hot Process Soap, which is also filled with very complete instructions for making hot process soap.
Here we go with the detailed instructions for my favorite hot process soap recipe!
Get ready to find out the various stages hot process soap goes through plus pictures so you can compare when you make your own soap for the first time. Hot process soap takes about an hour and a half to three hours, give or take; and you'll be able to use your hot process soap the very next day.
FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you click through and make any kind of purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you--Heidi. Full Disclosure Here.
A note about lye:
Lye (sodium hydroxide) is an alkaline chemical that reacts with the oils you use. It is what is responsible for turning the oils into real soap. In fact, according to the FDA, you can't call a bar of soap, "SOAP" unless it is made with oils and lye.
That's why, if you take a look at commercial bars of "soap" in the stores, you will not find many (if any) labeled "soap," because they are not made with the natural ingredients of lye and oils. They are now called "cleansing bars" or "beauty bars" or another tricky name. And they are filled with junk chemicals that are often toxic. Just saying.
Another nice thing about making hot process soap is that it will retain the natural glycerin, which is a by-product of the saponification (oil turning to soap) process. Glycerin is highly moisturizing and great for your skin. Most commercial cleansing bars have had the glycerin stripped out.
Making soap with lye means you do have to take some safety precautions. You need safety goggles or glasses, plastic gloves, and I like to even wear a long sleeve shirt. Always put your hair back too---it's just better to have it out of the way. You can get these safety items at any good hardware store! One last safety note: Keep your children and pets out of your soap making area while you are working.
Ingredients for My Hot Process Recipe---
This will make about three pounds of soap
1) 7.2 ounces of lye (I use food grade) See the links below to find out where I purchase mine.
2) 15 ounces of distilled water
1) 15 ounces of Coconut Oil
2) 15 ounces of Olive Oil (I like to use organic oils as much as possible, and I have found that Costco has the best price overall for good organic olive oil)
3) 12 ounces of Sweet Almond Oil
4) 6 ounces of Shea Butter
5) 1.5 ounces of Castor Oil
You will need to use a kitchen scale to measure out your ingredients, because they do have to be exact. In fact, the closer you get to the exact amounts, the better your soap will be. I usually try to be within hundredths of an ounce when measuring.
Tools You Will Need to Make Hot Process Soap:
1) A large crockpot
3) Safety glasses and plastic gloves
4) Heat proof containers--I like Pyrex
5) A hand blender
6) A soap mold
**See the note at the end of the article for more information about where I get my tools, oils and supplies.
Directions for Making Hot Process Soap:
Step 1) Get Set Up
Set your crock pot on LOW. For this 3 pound recipe you will need a large crockpot.
Step 2) Measure your oils and add to the crock pot
I get the solid oils (Coconut & Shea Butter) measured out first, so they will begin softening--especially in the winter when it's cold! Put these in the crock pot.
Step 3) Get the lye solution going while the oils are melting.
THIS IS IMPORTANT! ALWAYS MEASURE OUT THE WATER FIRST. THEN THE LYE. ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER! You never want to add the water to the lye because you may end up with a volcano---and this can be dangerous!
LYE CAN BLIND YOU OR BURN YOU! So please please remember: ADD LYE TO WATER, not the other way around. Add it slowly, and mix well. This solution will become HOT, so again, please be careful. And...remember your safety gear!
Also---be sure to use a heat proof container---I like a large Pyrex pitcher.
Unlike with cold process soap making, you do not have to worry too much about temperature. I usually let my lye solution sit for a few minutes (away from pets or children) while I get my oils melted down, but you don't have to be concerned too much with how hot or cool anything is with hot process---
That's just another added little perk to hot process soap making. You don't have to be spastic about temperature.
Step 4) Pour the lye solution into the crock pot with the oils
Once the oils are melted, gently pour the lye solution into the oils in the crockpot.
Step 5) Mix and bring to trace--
Get your stick blender (you really MUST have one of these for soap making) and begin to stir. BE SURE TO WEAR YOUR SAFETY GLOVES & GLASSES! The lye solution is caustic, and the soap mixture will be caustic until the lye is completely cooked out.
Stir until the mixture reaches "trace." This means it looks like thick pudding, leaving hills on the surface. **It is at this point that you can add any colorants like clays or herbal powders if you want. (I'll do an article later about different natural ways to add color to your soap.)
Step 6) Cook your soap---
Now put your lid on and "cook" the mixture. It will not take long, usually about 45 minutes to an hour.
Step 7) STIR, STIR, STIR!
In the beginning stages of the cook, you will see the cooking mixture rise up the sides of the crockpot, and if everything is REALLY hot, the whole mass will be rising up! This is fine---just STIR, STIR, STIR, and it will calm right down. Then continue cooking. If you see any opaque areas at all, then your soap is NOT ready.
Step 8) Keep cooking and stirring occasionally.
You will see it turn into a translucent mass with a gel like consistency. At this point, it is done. This usually takes about 45 minutes. I tend to let it cook a little longer, even after I think it's ready---Just to be sure the lye is completely gone.
Step 9) How to test to be sure it's ready--the ZAP Test
I've heard good and bad about this next part, but I am a believer in the ZAP test. I used to use fancy pH strips to test for the alkalinity of the soap, but IMHO, the ZAP test works best. All you do is take a little bit of the soap. It should feel "waxy" in your fingers and begin cooling quickly. Place some on the tip of your tongue. If it "ZAPS" you, it is NOT done. It should just taste like soap, with no tingle or zap.
If you got the ingredients measured wrong, your soap will definitely have a problem and "get" you! I actually burned my tongue pretty good one time when I got the measurement mixed up for one of the oils, so just be careful. If it looks "weird" then it's probably not right.
Step 10) Add your Essential Oils
At this point, while the soap is still in the crockpot, turn the pot off. Let it cool for a minute or two, then you can add your essential oils or scents if you want them. I generally use about 2 ounces or so for a 3 pound recipe, but you can play around with it. Essential oils are very expensive, so this will probably affect how much you want to use.
Step 11) Put the soap into your mold---
Now spoon or pour it into your soap mold! Tamp it down good to get rid of air pockets.
Step 12) Cool Completely, Unmold, and Cut to Use--
After it is completely cooled, several hours or even overnight, you can remove the soap block from the mold and cut it!
I actually don't cut my hot process soap right away. I have found that the longer I leave it uncut, the longer my scent lasts too!
You can use it right away! Enjoy!
That's IT! You have beautiful, moisturizing, natural soap!
I hope you enjoyed this complete tutorial, and if you are interested in another excellent step-by-step photo tutorial, check out: How to Make Lavender-Rosemary Soap.
There are several other articles for beginners on how to make hot process soap on the blog. You might also enjoy "How to Make Natural Soap in a Crock Pot," "How to Make Goat Milk & Honey Hot Process Soap," "The Secret to Making and Customizing Hot Process Soap," and "Hot Process vs. Cold Process Soap: Which is Better?" for some great information! There are lots of others on the website, too! Take a look! I recommend reading all you can about making soap before starting out. It builds confidence!
What are your experiences making soap? Leave comments in the comments section if you have questions, want to add anything, or have an experience to share! We love to hear from you!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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I like to use Food Grade lye (sodium hydroxide), but you don't have to.
I buy my safety gloves and glasses at Home Depot or Lowes---or any hardware store will have them. Hardware stores may also carry sodium hydroxide too, depending on the area of the country you are in!