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How to make your own soap at home - DIY mini course

See also Soap and detergents recipes

What exactly is soap?

The basis of every soap is a fat, an oil or a mixture thereof. If you smeared your hands with that greasy base, you'll regret it the next moment. The greasy gunk is hard to get off your hands.

If - under the right circumstances - you were to add caustic soda to that greasy sludge, you would get a chemical reaction and thus an enormous change in the properties of that greasy mix. Your greasy gunk has been saponified and turned into a cleaning agent that has removed grease and grime. And that's exactly what we're going to do.

In principle you can make soap from all fats with which you can give the soap different properties.

Caustic soda is a solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) in water and commercially available as a drain cleaner. Note that the packaging says 'Sodium hydroxide 99%'.



Sodium hydroxide is highly corrosive and can cause severe burns. It is a white hygroscopic solid and very soluble in water. During the dissolution a large amount of heat is released and caustic soda is formed.
Dangerous vapors are also formed during the dissolution of the NaOH. Wearing a dust mask as some soap makers do makes no sense at all, the fumes go right through it. Be sensible and work in a well-ventilated area.

Wear suitable gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and safety goggles when working with sodium hydroxide and NEVER add water to sodium hydroxide.

An incorrect order is dangerous because of the chemical reaction that can then occur!

The right order: Put sodium hydroxide in water, not the other way around!

As mentioned, process sodium hydroxide in a place with good ventilation and preferably on an old worktop because you don't want to irreparably destroy your beautiful kitchen worktop.


Good soap is ehhh..... soap

Soap is not fat, soap is not caustic soda either. The fats and the caustic soda have reacted against each other. The caustic soda no longer exists, the fat has been 'saponified' The ratio between fats and caustic soda is therefore very important and depends on the type of fat(s) used. Good soap tastes like soap. Soap in which caustic soda has been left behind tastes tingling on the tongue, which you can compare a bit with your tongue on a 9-volt battery. You do the tasting entirely at your own risk!

To exclude all risks of caustic soda remaining in your soap, you can decide to add a little more fat than necessary. We call this 'overfatting' Often 5% excess fat is maintained. You then get a somewhat greasy soap and this is usually experienced as pleasant.

Soap that has 0% overfat degreases so well that it not only cleans but also wants to remove all the fat from your skin. You can safely maintain an overfat of 5%.


Basic soap consists of:

  • Oil or fat
  • Lye
  • Water

You can add a few things to this, such as herbs for the scent or with an anti-bacterial effect and (preferably natural) fragrances and dyes. Even substances such as brown tar. Traditionally known are the pieces of tar soap that were missing in every household because of the anti-bacterial and also medicinal effect.

The equipment you need:

  • Heat-resistant measuring jug or stainless steel pan (not glass because it is slowly affected by the lye and can therefore eventually break. Remember that NaOH is a substance that you should not take any risks with.)
  • Wooden ladle or stainless steel whisk
  • Stainless steel pan
  • Accurate scales (handy if you can set it to zero with the empty measuring jug on it)
  • Thermometer (preferably two)
  • Hand blender
  • Mold

How to do

Work according to a clear recipe with an accurate statement of weights and work sequence.
  1. Start with the caustic soda solution.
    Use an accurate scale and first put the correct weighed amount of cold water in a heat-resistant measuring jug. No glass because it is slowly affected by the lye and can therefore eventually break. Remember that this is a product that you should not take any risks with.

  2. Then, while stirring well with a wooden spoon, gradually add the sodium hydroxide (often in granular form) and stir until the granules have dissolved.
    Caution! There is a chemical reaction, heat, harmful vapor and it can even splash. So work in a well-ventilated place. Also wear good household gloves, a shirt with long sleeves and a pair of safety goggles is also recommended.

  3. Measure the temperature of the solution, which can get quite hot, and keep an eye on it.

measuring jug of soda

  1. Meanwhile, heat up the fat (or the mix of fats) prescribed in your recipe in a pan and use a thermometer for this as well. Try to match the temperature of your fat with the temperature of your caustic soda. The more similar, the better.
    Take it easy because before you know it the temperature of your fat will rise super fast. I always use two digital thermometers myself, that works very easily.

  2. When the temperatures are (approximately) equal, the real soap making can begin.
    Try to arrive at the ideal temperature of 55 - 60 ° Celsius.
    While stirring well with a wooden ladle, pour the caustic soda into the fat mixture in the pan. You will immediately see the effect and the start of soap formation. But ... it is not that easy this way, because you will have to stir for at least an hour. But there is a very nice solution for that...the hand blender.


  1. After mixing and stirring well, your hand blender will take over and after about fifteen minutes the mixture should be thick enough to pour into a mould.

  2. You can check the correct thickness by using your ladle to draw a line across the surface of your soap mixture (this is called tracing).
    If the line immediately closes again behind your ladle, your mixture is not yet thick enough.
    If it takes a while before the line slowly closes again, you can pour the mixture into the mold.
    Unless you want to add things that you quickly stir through now.
    Think of colorants or fragrances , herbs or Stockholm tar. This is a natural brown tar with which you can make a good tar soap.

  3. A professional wooden mold is of course beautiful, but it also works with plastic containers from the takeaway restaurant. A silicone baking mold for cakes is also useful, as the end result immediately has a certain shape.

  4. You can of course also use a homemade wooden mold or loaf pan lined with baking paper. Then you can cut the soap bread into handy soap pieces later.
Stockholm Tar

Silicone baking mold as mold
  1. Let the soap harden for one to several days before removing it from the mold. Then you let it ripen for a few more weeks.

    Put your patience to the test and feel free to take about six weeks for this, it will definitely benefit the quality of your soap.
    During the ripening period, the very last residual sodium hydroxide is converted and the rest of the remaining water evaporates, resulting in a nice hard bar of soap.

soap cutter
Soap cutter

Soap recipes


Always add the sodium hydroxide to the water and never the other way around to avoid a violent chemical reaction! Make your soap according to the instructions on this page.

Basic soap

Just to try it out, you can start with a basic soap made from a block of frying fat from your local supermarket.
  • 1000 gr. ox white (ox fat)
  •   372 gr. water
  •   134 gr. natriumhydroxyde

Basic soap (vegetarian)

Make a plant based soap with a simple olive oil from your local supermarket.
  • 1000 gr. olive oil
  •   356 gr. water
  •   128 gr. sodium hydroxide
If you find working with the stated quantities a bit on the large side, feel free to reduce the stated quantities. Keep exactly the same ratio of the ingredients because this ratio is quite accurate for a good result.

More about the composition:

A good soap often uses several types of fat with their own different properties. Soap from one type of fat degreases better, soap from another type of fat is more skin-caring and soap from another type of fat produces more foam. And so a good block of hand soap is composed of different fats.

Many standard soaps that you buy in the store are made from beef tallow, olive oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil or coconut oil.

Feel free to experiment with various compositions. A frequently used combination is palm fat, coconut fat, olive oil in the ratio 2:1:1

If you want to add fragrances, dyes, spices or tar, do so at the time described in the recipe.

When adding tar, add a weight of 5% of the total weight of fats or oils used.

make your own handsoap

Soap calculator

Calculate your own soap recipes
You can easily compile your own recipes with the soap calculator below.
The calculator is set to an overfat of 5% by default.
This way you know for sure that all sodium hydroxide has been compensated by the fats.

The amount of caustic soda indicated at the end is very precise. So weigh accurately.
The amount of water is of slightly less importance, you can use a 25% lye solution, but 33% is also possible.

The lye solution is set to 27% by default. Feel free to adjust these slightly. Realize that if you want to reduce the lye solution in percentage, you will need more water and that the process of making and ripening will take longer.
With an increased percentage of lye solution, you run the risk that the whole process will go faster than you actually want. So leave the default setting the first few times 'as it is'.

Do you find your homemade soap too greasy? Then you can always set the overfat a little lower next time.

Always keep a minimal overfat, so that the soap does not degrease your skin too much. Also to make sure that no caustic soda is left behind.

Select fat(s), oil(s)

Amounts & ratio of fat(s)

Recipe properties

Overfatting %
Lye Solution %

Fat weight :  0 gram
Total weight :  0 gram


The amount of NaOH :  0 gram
The amount of water :  0 gram



Soap, raw materials and recipes

Which fats
You can make soap from any type of fat or oil, such as:
  • castor oil (castor oil, castor oil)
    Provides a soft bar of soap with lots of creamy lather and moisturizing effect. Use a maximum of 30% as base oil, or add later as a superfat.
    Application 5% to 8%
    Saponification factor 175-187

  • coconut oil
    Perfect oil for making soap, which already melts at about 35'. Soap made from 100% coconut oil is very hard, foams properly and also degreases strongly. Therefore, over-greasing with about 7% is recommended in order not to dry out your skin.
    Application 30% to 40%
    Saponification factor 250-264

  • rapeseed oil
    Good soap flavoring oil. Nice creamy foam. Moisturizing.
    Application 10% to 15%
    Saponification factor 173

  • Neem oil
    Oil from the bark of the neem tree. Antiseptic. Mildew resistant. Insect repellent. For skin conditions such as athlete's foot.
    Application 25%
    Saponification factor 175-205

  • olive oil
    The best is the oil from the second pressing. This gives hard, white bars of soap with a very moisturizing effect. Olive oil soap gives little foam and is often combined with oils that do give a lot of foam. The well-known 'Castille soap' and 'Marseille soap' contain at least 72% olive oil
    Use up to 100%
    Saponification factor 184-196

  • palm oil
    Commonly used in soap making, gives a hard soap with a lot of creamy lather. However, there is much to do about palm oil, for which large areas of jungle are being destroyed. We therefore try to avoid this raw material as much as possible.
    Application 30% to 40%
    Saponification factor 190-205

  • shea butter
    A natural vegetable butter, which is extracted in Africa from the nuts of the Shea Tree. It is a very good skin conditioner if you use the unrefined, cold-pressed version. For example in African Black Soap made from 50% shea butter, 25% coconut oil and 25% palm kernel oil.
    Application up to 50%
    Saponification factor 182

  • sunflower oil
    Soap made from sunflower oil alone produces little foam and does not keep for long. So not ideal. Therefore always combine with other oils such as palm oil and olive oil.
    Application 25%
    Saponification factor 185-198
Commonly used oils in commercial soaps are palm oil, olive oil, castor oil and coconut oil. A combination of these oils gives a soap with a long shelf life.

Additions such as essences and sometimes extra skin conditioners are often added.

If you want to get an idea of ​​the fats or oils you can use, take a look at the soap calculator elsewhere on this website.

The art remains to find the best combination of fats in the right proportion and that remains a matter of experimentation. If you discover the golden formula, keep it to yourself and take advantage of it. As far as we are concerned, it is much better that you become rich than that the soap industry runs off with your work. And you probably feel the same way!

What additives
Of course natural additives! Be careful with any fragrances or dyes. Because you want a natural look for your product.
    use for example:
  • oils that have a special skin care effect such as cocoa butter, shea butter and castor oil
  • brown tar, for example pine tar, also a skin conditioner
  • natural essences such as lavender oil

Some recipes

The following are a few more recipes. If only raw materials are given in percentages, you can calculate the recipe yourself in the soap calculator.

Basic soap 1

overfatting: 5%
  • 260 grams of sunflower oil
  • 195 grams of coconut oil
  • 195 grams of palm oil
  •   95 grams of NaOH
  • 264 grams of water

Basic soap 2

overfatting: 5%
  • 325 grams of olive oil
  • 195 grams of Palm oil
  • 130 grams of Castor oil
  •   83 grams of NaOH
  • 234 grams of Water

Basic soap 3

overfatting: 5%
  • 81 grams of coconut oil
  • 90 grams of sunflower oil
  • 99 grams of beef fat (ox white)
  • 30 grams of olive oil
  • 3 grams of NaOH
  • 38 grams of Water
Tar Soap
To make tar soap, use a simple basic soap recipe. Before pouring the soap mass into the mold, stir in a maximum of 10% brown tar. We ourselves use Stockholmer Tar from the Rapide brand, which we buy by our local shop.

Basic soap 4

overfatting: 5%
  • 34% olive oil
  • 33% coconut oil
  • 33% palm oil

Basic soap 5

overfatting: 6-8%
  • 100% coconut oil

African Black soap

overfatting: 5%
  • 50% shea butter
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm kernel oil

Aleppo soap

overfatting: 6-8%
  • 400 g olive oil
  • 200 g bay berry oil
  • 100 g coconut oil
  • 235 g of water
  • 92-94 g NaOH

Avocado soap

overfatting: 5%
  • 260 grams of sunflower oil
  • 195 grams Avocado oil
  • 130 grams of Palm oil
  •   65 grams of coconut oil
  •   86 grams of NaOH
  • 243 grams of Water

Cocoa butter soap

overfatting: 5%
  • 358 grams of olive oil
  • 195 grams of coconut oil
  •   97 grams Cocoa Butter
  •   93 grams of NaOH
  • 260 grams of Water

Castille soap

(100% olive oil) overfatting: 5%
  • 650 grams of olive oil
  •   85 grams of NaOH
  • 205 grams of Water

Marseille Soap

(72% olive oil) overfatting: 5%
  • 72% olive oil
  • 28% coconut oil
marseille soap handmade
Marseille soap handmade

Lavender soap

overfatting: 5%
  •   72 grams of coconut oil
  • 108 grams of olive oil
  •   30 grams of sunflower oil
  •   15 grams of cocoa butter
  •   54 grams of Palm oil
  •   21 grams Castor oil
  •   42 grams of NaOH
  • 114 grams of water

  • Before the mixture goes into the mold, add:
  • 3 teaspoons lavender oil
  • 3 tsp lavender flowers (optional)
  • food coloring (optional)
natural lavender soap
Natural lavender soap

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