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How to Make Homemade, No Cook Soap

Updated on February 7, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Over the past few years there has been renewed interest in learning to make homemade, no cook soaps. It takes accurate measurements, and careful attention to detail but making these soaps is not hard. Be sure to follow the safety precautions because you will be working with very caustic ingredients. Once you have learned how to make basic homemade soap then there are many wonderful variations that you can try.

What is No Cook Soap?

Another name for no cook soap is cold process soap. These soaps are made without heat.

While the soaps have many variations the basic ingredients always consist of lye, some kind of fat, and distilled water. These items, mixed together in the proper proportions will create a basic, gentle soap.

Why stop there?

There are a number of other things that can be added to the basic soap to create a fancy soap.

  • The fats can be varied or mixed in different ways.

  • Soaps can be molded into pretty shapes.

  • Soaps can be cut.

  • Soap can be used to make hand-milled soaps.

  • Herbs and scents can be added.

In fact, nearly every other type of soap that you can find is based on this simple base.


Like anything else there are some things that you will need to collect before you get started. You may have a lot of these items all ready, and you may be able to find the rest at garage sales and thrift shops for very little money. Where ever you get your equipment mark it for your journey into soap making only and don't use it for other things.

  • Sharp knife

  • Stainless steel ladle (available at restaurant supply stores)
  • Unchipped enamel or stainless steel soap pot.

  • Two plastic pitchers that you can see through.

  • Long handled wooden spoon

  • Two kitchen thermometers

  • Safety goggles

  • Heavy duty rubber gloves

  • Kitchen Scale

  • Large plastic container with lid, that will hold at least twelve quarts


It is important to know that different types of fats act differently in the process of soap making. Knowing the unique characteristics each one brings to the finished product allows you to control the characteristics of your soap.

  • Tallow makes firm soap with many soft bubbles.

  • Suet makes a very mild soap.

  • Beef fat causes the soap to be soft and slippery, making it hard to work with.

  • Lard in soaps cause them to be very mild without much lather.

  • Coconut oil makes a creamy lather but can be harsh on some skin types.

  • Palm oil makes soap with abundant, luxurious bubbles that last a long time.

  • Olive oil soaps are mild and brittle.

So, you can see that a combination of palm oil and olive oil would make a slightly different soap than either olive oil or palm oil alone. With this in mind you can create soaps with exactly the types of lather and mildness you prefer.

You must use pure lye. Red Devil Lye is available in almost all hardware stores. It happens to be the one that is recommended the most by soap-makers. Lye is very caustic and can burn you badly so be careful, follow directions and always follow all directions carefully.Wear safety goggles and gloves whenever you are working with the lye.

In addition you may want to add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. You can also buy artificial scents for your soaps. The essential oils provide healing benefits, however, which are a pleasant addition.

Some essential oils to consider are:

  • Myrrh

  • Lavender

  • Rosemary

  • Lemongrass

  • Tangerine

  • Rose Otto

  • Sandalwood

  • Ylang ylang

Making Olive Oil Soap

Olive oil soaps have been one of the most popular soaps ever made. They are mild, easy on your skin, moisturizing, and have a very luxurious lather. In Victorian times this soap was known as Castille soap and was used for everything from shampoo to laundry.

Use the scale to carefully weigh the following ingredients. Double check to make sure that your measurements are accurate.

  • 8 oz olive oil

  • 8 oz coconut oil

  • 8 oz rendered tallow

  • 3.49 oz Red Devil Lye

  • 9 fluid oz distilled water

Before you begin, put on the safety goggles and the gloves to protect yourself in case of splashing. Open windows and make sure you are in a well ventilated area.

  1. Carefully add the lye to the water in the stainless steel pan. Always add the lye to the water rather than trying to do it the other way around.

  2. Stir well with the wooden spoon.

  3. The mixture will begin to heat on its own.

  4. Leave it and let it the temperature drop to 100 to120F. Do not let it go less than 100F. Check the temperature with a kitchen thermometer to be sure.

  5. Now, combine the oils and heat them up slowly until they melt and blend together. Allow the temperature to drop to no less than 100 to 120F.

  6. The lye solutions and the oils must be at the same temperature when they are combined.

  7. Pour the oils in slowly and carefully. Do not let the mixtures splash.

  8. Stir about fifteen minutes, or until the mixture has the consistency of thick pudding. This thickening process is called tracing.

  9. Once tracing has happened, carefully pour the soap into the large,plastic bin.

  10. Set it aside for a few days.

  11. Before turning it out of the mold, visually inspect it for areas when ti looks like the lye did not get mixed in. These pockets of lye can be dangerous to you if you are cutting and they splash on you.

  12. Let the large block of soap dry for at least 24 hours before you cut it into bars.

  13. Wrap it and let it cure for about two weeks before using.

Mxing Water and Lye

Possible Problems

Because soap-making is a chemical process there can be times when things go wrong. Here is a list of the most common problems and solutions.

  • Streaks in bars are caused by either not mixing it enough or using too much lye.

  • Ingredients must be measured exactly. Poor quality soap is often a result of sloppy measuring.

  • The lye must be pure or the soap will not set up. Red Devil is the best.

  • The water should be distilled or the soap may not set up.

A Great Hobby

Learning to make soap is a fun hobby. Not only can it give you hours of pleasure, but it allows you to create something that everyone needs. It is a great way to always have a special gift for someone or even make a little money here and there by selling your creations.

Once you have mastered the basics gone on and learn some of the more difficult techniques to keep yourself challenged and interested.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hey, check out Essential Depot, i buy my Lye from them, it was so easy to place my order with them online, and if you use the code "ship30" at checkout you get 30% off shipping!

    • HannahRiley profile image


      7 years ago from Texas

      YOU ARE AMAZING! I have wanted to make soap FOREVER:) & here is the perfect explanation of the process. Great hub with great information.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      As far as I remember, when I was making soap, you can't buy Red Devil Lye anymore. You have to buy lye in bulk or special order through the internet.


    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 

      10 years ago from United States

      Great information! I used to love making my own soap, but it is a lot of work :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Your excellent instructions make soapmaking sound totally do-able. I've never tried to make soap, but this sounds like a fun thing to do before the holidays with a group of friends...a soap-making party, although I think I'd save the party drinks for after the soap is poured into the large plastic bin! Then when it's time to cut the bars, bring everybody back for a second party to cut and wrap the bars. After two cool parties, everyone will have gifts for everyone else. Thanks for the neat instructions.

    • sandhyap profile image


      10 years ago

      Very lenghty procedure, anyway great hub..

    • solarstories profile image


      10 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      This is fantastic information! I have wondered about this before and had been looking for answers at one point. This can be really useful for people who want to make their own soap, for financial, health, or whatever reasons.


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