Soap is kind of a necessary evil; it kills germs, fights off bacteria, but it’s not without its own faults. At least, traditional soap. Traditional soap often comes with a lot of plastic packaging — either in a plastic container with a plastic pump and even soap bars sometimes come wrapped in arbitrary plastic — and can even contain some shady chemicals and additives.
If you’re looking to skip the soap drama (and the plastic packaging and the potential toxicity), then a great alternative is to make your own all-natural soap at home. However, we do understand that during these times of being extra precautious during the current outbreak of COVID-19, we can’t necessarily be selective about our soap — the most important thing is that we’re thoroughly washing our hands. However, if you have access to the supplies, and you’re interested in learning more, it could be a fun way to pass the time while staying home.
Ready to learn how to make all-natural soap at home? Keep reading for the recipes!
Is All-Natural Soap Better for You?
When talking about soaps, there is traditional soap — the stuff we see sold in supermarkets and Target — and then there is all-natural soap, which is usually thought of as the “non-toxic” version. All-natural soap is made with all-natural ingredients and all-natural soap bases. In all-natural soap, there should be no lye or other potentially harmful ingredients, as well as any additives.
Traditional soap could include ingredients like parabens, which are one of the most toxic yet common beauty ingredients. Parabens help prevent the growth of yucky stuff like bacteria, mold, and yeast. However, parabens are typically not good for you, as they have been known to be endocrine disruptors, mimicking estrogen, and therefore, have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Another common toxic beauty ingredient in soaps is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This is the foaming agent in traditional pump soaps that causes soap to bubble and foam. It’s great for consistency purposes, but SLS and SLES have been linked to irritation of the skin, lungs, and eyes; if mixed with certain chemicals, it can form nitrosamines, which are a known carcinogen, or kidney and respiratory damage.
Many conventional soaps also contain triclosan, which is an antimicrobial chemical that is a known endocrine disruptor. Triclosan can negatively affect the thyroid and reproductive hormones, as well as cause skin irritation.
Knowing the potential negative impact of all of these ingredients commonly used in traditional soap, why wouldn’t you make the switch to all-natural soaps? All-natural soaps should not contain parabens, SLS, SLES, or triclosan. Make your own all-natural soap and then you really have control over which non-toxic ingredients are used.
Choosing an All-Natural Soap Base
There is a vast array of all-natural soap bases to choose from. Some all-natural soap bases include avocado oil, organic shea butter, glycerin, Aloe Vera, cocoa butter, olive oil, almond sweet oil, castor oil, coconut oil, vitamin E oil, and more.
How to Make All-Natural Soap
There are several different processes to make all-natural soap: regular or cold process, hot process, and melt and pour. According to Wellness Mama, regular or cold process soap-making is also called cold processing and entails mixing the soap mixture with the oil mixture, then pouring the combined mixture into insulated molds. The difference in hot processing is that it adds another step of adding heat; heating up the mixture makes the saponification process go faster. You can do this in a slow-cooker or on a stovetop. However, both of these processes require the ingredient lye, a caustic alkali chemical called Sodium Hydroxide, which is often a concern for many all-natural, non-toxic soap-makers.
Then, there's the melt and pour method, which is the only soap-making process with the ability to forgo the ingredient of lye. Because lye is exceptionally caustic, on its own and its pure form, it can cause very serious burns and irritation. Once it’s in soap, lye cannot cause you harm, but if you’re interested in skipping the step altogether, melt and pour might be the right method for you.
To make a basic soap using hot processing, you will need lye, distilled water, refined coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil, and sunflower oil. Start by weighing your ingredients to the right amount and ratio, then combine your liquid oils and set aside. Melt the coconut oil and shea butter on the stove and also set aside. Now, prepare the lye by adding lye to room temperature water or cool water in a glass container; never add the water to the lye. Lye gets added to the water. The mixture will release some steam; stir with a stainless-steel spoon until the lye has dissolved. When both the oil mixture and lye mixture reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit (you can achieve this using a digital thermometer), mix them together. Now, combine the liquid oils into the melted shea and coconut butters, stirring. The temperature should reach 105°F and be below 110°F. Now, pour the lye mixture into the oils, slowly; this is the starting of the cooling process, called bringing the soap to trace. Use an immersion blender to blend mixture until it is creamy and pudding-like. Add preferred essential oils. Pour your soap into molds and make sure to tap on them to release any air bubbles that have gotten trapped.
If you want a darker, transparent soap, you can insulate it (wrap it in a towel or by placing soap on a baking sheet in the warm stove overnight). If you don’t prefer dark, transparent soap, then you don’t have to insulate it. Leave soap to cool for two days in the mold.
More waiting ahead. Remove your soap from the mold, but let it cure by placing it on a flat, well-ventilated surface for one month. Throughout the 30 days, turn the soap over so it cures on every side.
How to Make All-Natural Soap Without Lye
That’s a pretty complicated recipe, huh? Luckily, making soap at home without lye is actually a lot less intense. After all, many people search how to make all-natural soap at home, but also prefer to skip using lye if at all possible. Lye is a caustic chemical, which means it can burn holes through fabric, clash with other chemicals, causing dangerous chemical reactions, and even damage and irritate your skin. While lye isn’t harmful once it’s added to soap, the handling and storing of the dangerous chemical can be tricky, so many people prefer to avoid it altogether. After all, if you store and handle a dangerous chemical, there is an inherent increased likelihood that it may spill, drop, or burn you.
To make all-natural soap without lye, you’ll be using the melt and pour method. Here’s what you’ll need: a soap base of your choice, a large Pyrex bowl, silicone mold, and essential oils. To start, measure one pound of your soap base of choice. Cut up the soap base into large pieces; put it in the Pyrex bowl and melt in the microwave. Now that your soap base is melted, you can add your essential oils. (Usually 30 drops of essential oil should do it per pound of soap base.) Mix well, then pour the soap into the silicone mold. Let the molds cool for several hours before cutting.
How to Make All-Natural Soap With Essential Oils
Any essential oil can be added to any all-natural soap recipe. About 30 drops of your preferred essential oil should be fine per pound of soap base. So, if you want to make one pound of lavender soap, you should use one pound of soap base and 30 drops of lavender essential oil. However, if you are going to add multiple essential oil fragrances, you’ll want to split those drops in half. If you’re making lavender peppermint soap, use one pound of soap base, 15 drops of lavender essential oil, and 15 drops of peppermint essential oil.