How is soap made from oils and fats?

Soap made from oils and fats is a fascinating blend of chemistry and creativity, offering numerous benefits for the skin. This comprehensive guide covers everything from essential oils and fats, the step-by-step soap making process, the role of caustic soda, to advanced techniques, accurate measurements, sustainability, and the latest natural ingredients. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced soap maker, this article provides valuable insights and practical tips to enhance your soap-making journey.
soap made

Soap Made from Oils and Fats: A Comprehensive Guide

Soap making from oils and fats is an age-old craft that combines chemistry and creativity. This comprehensive guide delves into the essential aspects of soap production using oils and fats, exploring both traditional methods and modern advancements.

Introduction to Soap Making

Soap is created through a process known as saponification, where oils or fats react with an alkali to produce soap and glycerin. The most common alkali used is sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda. This process can be tailored to create various types of soap, from luxurious artisanal bars to industrial-grade cleansers.

Understanding the Ingredients

The primary ingredients in soap making are oils and fats, which can be derived from both plant and animal sources. Common plant-based oils include olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil, while animal fats typically come from tallow or lard. Each type of oil or fat contributes unique properties to the final soap product, such as hardness, lather quality, and moisturizing capabilities.

The Saponification Process

  1. Preparation: Measure and prepare all ingredients. Safety gear, such as gloves and goggles, is essential when handling caustic soda.
  2. Mixing the Lye Solution: Dissolve caustic soda in water to create a lye solution. This step must be done carefully as the reaction is exothermic, releasing heat.
  3. Combining Oils and Lye: Gradually add the lye solution to the oils. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens to a trace, a state where it leaves a trail when dripped from a spoon.
  4. Pouring and Setting: Pour the traced mixture into molds. Allow it to set for 24-48 hours.
  5. Curing: Remove the soap from the molds and let it cure for 4-6 weeks. This curing time allows excess water to evaporate and the soap to harden.

Role of Caustic Soda in Soap Making

Caustic soda, or sodium hydroxide, is a critical component in the saponification process. It breaks down the triglycerides in oils and fats into fatty acid salts (soap) and glycerin. Without caustic soda, the chemical reaction necessary to create soap would not occur. It’s important to handle this substance with care, as it is highly caustic and can cause severe burns.

Types of Oils and Their Benefits

  • Olive Oil: Known for producing a mild, moisturizing soap with a creamy lather. It is high in oleic acid, which is gentle on the skin.
  • Coconut Oil: Creates a hard bar of soap with excellent cleansing properties and a bubbly lather. It is rich in lauric acid.
  • Palm Oil: Often used to add hardness and longevity to soap bars. It contains a balanced mix of oleic and palmitic acids.
  • Tallow and Lard: Provide a dense, creamy lather and contribute to the soap’s hardness. These animal fats are traditional ingredients in many classic soap recipes.

Advanced Techniques and Innovations

Modern soap makers experiment with various techniques and ingredients to enhance their products. Techniques such as cold process, hot process, and melt-and-pour offer different benefits and challenges. Additionally, innovative ingredients like essential oils, botanicals, and exfoliants can be added to create unique and beneficial soap bars.

Environmental Considerations

The choice of oils and fats has significant environmental implications. Sustainable sourcing of ingredients like palm oil is crucial to prevent deforestation and habitat loss. Many soap makers now opt for certified sustainable or alternative oils to minimize environmental impact.

Comparative Table of Common Oils Used in Soap Making

Oil Type

Lather Quality

Moisturizing Properties


Environmental Impact

Olive Oil




Low (if sustainably sourced)

Coconut Oil




Moderate (depends on source)

Palm Oil




High (if not sustainably sourced)





Low (byproduct of meat industry)





Low (byproduct of meat industry)

Creating soap from oils and fats is a fascinating blend of science and art. By understanding the properties of different oils, the role of caustic soda, and the saponification process, you can craft high-quality soaps tailored to various needs. Sustainable practices and innovative techniques further enrich the soap-making experience, making it both rewarding and environmentally conscious.

Essential Oils and Fats Used in Soap Making

Understanding the variety of oils and fats available for soap making is crucial to creating high-quality, effective, and aesthetically pleasing soaps. Each oil and fat contributes unique properties to the soap, influencing its hardness, lather, moisturizing ability, and overall feel. This section provides an in-depth look at the most commonly used oils and fats in soap making, along with their benefits and roles in the saponification process.

Commonly Used Oils in Soap Making

  1. Olive Oil Olive oil is a staple in many soap recipes due to its gentle and moisturizing properties. It produces a soap that is soft and conditioning, with a creamy lather. Rich in oleic acid, olive oil is suitable for sensitive skin and helps maintain the skin’s natural moisture balance.
  • Benefits: Moisturizing, mild, suitable for sensitive skin.
  • Properties: High oleic acid content, produces a soft, creamy lather.
  1. Coconut Oil Coconut oil is prized for its ability to produce a hard bar of soap with excellent cleansing properties and a rich, bubbly lather. It is high in lauric acid, which contributes to its strong cleansing power. However, in high amounts, it can be drying, so it is often balanced with other oils.
  • Benefits: Creates hard soap, excellent lather, strong cleansing.
  • Properties: High lauric acid content, drying in large quantities.
  1. Palm Oil Palm oil is often used to add hardness and longevity to soap bars. It creates a stable lather and is a versatile oil that blends well with other oils. Sustainable sourcing is crucial due to environmental concerns associated with palm oil production.
  • Benefits: Adds hardness, stable lather, long-lasting bars.
  • Properties: Balanced mix of oleic and palmitic acids.
  1. Castor Oil Castor oil is used in smaller quantities in soap making to boost lather. It produces a rich, creamy lather and helps stabilize bubbles. Its high ricinoleic acid content provides moisturizing properties.
  • Benefits: Enhances lather, moisturizing.
  • Properties: High ricinoleic acid content, used in small amounts.
  1. Avocado Oil Avocado oil is rich in vitamins and fatty acids, making it a luxurious addition to soap. It contributes to a creamy lather and provides excellent moisturizing properties. Avocado oil is particularly beneficial for dry or mature skin.
  • Benefits: Moisturizing, rich in vitamins, suitable for dry skin.
  • Properties: High in oleic acid, contributes to creamy lather.

Commonly Used Fats in Soap Making

  1. Tallow Tallow, rendered from beef fat, is a traditional soap-making ingredient. It produces a hard, long-lasting bar with a dense, creamy lather. Tallow is highly moisturizing and helps create a balanced soap bar.
  • Benefits: Hard soap, creamy lather, moisturizing.
  • Properties: High stearic and palmitic acid content.
  1. Lard Lard, rendered from pig fat, is another traditional fat used in soap making. It produces a hard bar of soap with a stable lather and excellent moisturizing properties. Lard is economical and widely available.
  • Benefits: Hard soap, stable lather, moisturizing.
  • Properties: High in oleic acid, similar to tallow.
  1. Shea Butter Shea butter is a luxurious fat that adds moisturizing and conditioning properties to soap. It produces a creamy lather and is rich in vitamins and fatty acids. Shea butter is especially beneficial for dry and sensitive skin.
  • Benefits: Highly moisturizing, rich in vitamins, conditioning.
  • Properties: High stearic and oleic acid content.

Comparative Table of Common Oils and Fats in Soap Making


Lather Quality

Moisturizing Properties


Special Notes

Olive Oil




Ideal for sensitive skin

Coconut Oil




Can be drying in large amounts

Palm Oil




Requires sustainable sourcing

Castor Oil




Enhances lather, used in small amounts

Avocado Oil




Rich in vitamins, great for dry skin





Traditional, highly moisturizing





Economical, produces stable lather

Shea Butter




Luxurious, rich in vitamins

Choosing the Right Combination

Selecting the right combination of oils and fats is essential for crafting the perfect soap. A balanced recipe often includes a mix of hard and soft oils to create a bar with desired properties. For example, combining coconut oil and olive oil can yield a soap that is both hard and moisturizing with a rich lather.

Sustainability and Ethical Considerations

When choosing oils and fats, it’s important to consider the environmental and ethical impacts. Opting for sustainably sourced ingredients, such as certified sustainable palm oil or fair-trade shea butter, helps reduce the environmental footprint and supports ethical practices in the industry.

Understanding the properties of various oils and fats is fundamental to soap making. By selecting the right ingredients and balancing their properties, soap makers can create high-quality, effective, and environmentally friendly soaps. This knowledge empowers both novice and experienced soap makers to experiment and innovate, leading to unique and beneficial soap creations.

Step-by-Step Process of Making Soap from Oils and Fats

Making soap from oils and fats is a rewarding and creative process that combines chemistry and craftsmanship. This detailed guide walks you through the essential steps involved in the traditional cold process method, ensuring you create high-quality soap safely and effectively.

Safety Precautions

Before beginning, it is crucial to take safety measures as you will be handling caustic soda (sodium hydroxide), which is a highly reactive substance.

  • Wear protective gear: Gloves, goggles, and long sleeves are essential to protect your skin and eyes.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area: This prevents inhalation of fumes released during the mixing of caustic soda and water.
  • Have a safety plan: Keep vinegar (an acid) on hand to neutralize any spills of caustic soda.

Materials and Ingredients

  • Oils and fats (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil)
  • Sodium hydroxide (caustic soda)
  • Distilled water
  • Essential oils (optional for fragrance)
  • Additives (e.g., colorants, exfoliants)
  • Soap molds
  • Mixing tools (stainless steel or heat-resistant plastic)
  • Digital scale
  • Thermometer
  • Immersion blender

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Preparing the Ingredients

Measure the oils and fats accurately using a digital scale. Each oil or fat has a specific saponification value, which determines the amount of sodium hydroxide needed to convert it into soap. Use a lye calculator to ensure the correct ratios.

  • Example Recipe:
    • Olive Oil: 500g
    • Coconut Oil: 250g
    • Palm Oil: 250g
    • Distilled Water: 380g
    • Sodium Hydroxide: 142g
  1. Making the Lye Solution

Carefully weigh the sodium hydroxide and distilled water separately. Gradually add the sodium hydroxide to the water (never the other way around) while stirring gently. This reaction is exothermic, releasing heat. Allow the lye solution to cool to around 100-110°F (38-43°C).

  • Caution: Adding water to sodium hydroxide can cause a violent reaction. Always add sodium hydroxide to water slowly.
  1. Melting the Oils and Fats

Combine the measured oils and fats in a stainless steel pot. Heat them gently until fully melted, then allow the mixture to cool to the same temperature range as the lye solution (100-110°F or 38-43°C).

  1. Mixing Lye and Oils

Once both the lye solution and the melted oils are within the desired temperature range, slowly pour the lye solution into the oils. Use an immersion blender to mix until the mixture reaches “trace.” Trace is the point where the soap mixture thickens and leaves a visible trail when drizzled from the blender.

  • Trace Check: The mixture should have the consistency of a thin pudding.
  1. Adding Fragrances and Additives

At trace, you can add any essential oils, colorants, or other additives. Stir these in thoroughly to ensure even distribution. Common additives include:

  • Essential oils for fragrance
  • Natural colorants like clays or herbs
  • Exfoliants like oatmeal or poppy seeds
  1. Pouring into Molds

Pour the traced soap mixture into your prepared molds. Smooth the top with a spatula, and gently tap the molds on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles.

  1. Insulating and Curing

Cover the molds with a piece of cardboard and wrap them in towels to insulate. This helps the saponification process. Allow the soap to stay in the mold for 24-48 hours.

  1. Unmolding and Cutting

After 24-48 hours, the soap should be firm enough to unmold. Carefully remove the soap from the molds and cut it into bars. Wear gloves during this step, as the soap can still be caustic.

  1. Curing the Soap

Place the cut soap bars on a drying rack in a well-ventilated area. Allow them to cure for 4-6 weeks. This curing time allows excess water to evaporate, making the soap harder and longer-lasting. It also ensures that the saponification process is complete, making the soap safe for use.

  1. Testing and Packaging

Once cured, test the soap for pH to ensure it is mild and skin-safe. Ideal handmade soap has a pH between 8 and 10. Once tested, your soap is ready to be packaged and used or sold.

Tips for Success

  • Temperature Control: Keeping the lye solution and oils within the same temperature range is crucial for successful saponification.
  • Accurate Measurements: Precision in measuring ingredients ensures a balanced and safe soap.
  • Creative Additions: Experiment with different oils, fragrances, and additives to create unique soap varieties.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • Separation: If the mixture separates, it may not have reached a proper trace. Blend again until trace is achieved.
  • Excess Lye: Soap that feels harsh or crumbly may have excess lye. Always use a lye calculator to avoid this issue.
  • Soft Soap: Soap that remains soft may need more curing time or a different oil ratio. Adjust recipes and curing times as needed.

Creating soap from oils and fats through the cold process method is a fulfilling endeavor that results in high-quality, customizable soap. By following these steps carefully and experimenting with various ingredients, you can produce soap that meets your specific needs and preferences. Whether for personal use or as a business venture, soap making offers endless possibilities for creativity and sustainability.

Role of Caustic Soda in Soap Production

Caustic soda, also known as sodium hydroxide (NaOH), is a crucial ingredient in the soap-making process. Its role is fundamental to the chemical reaction that transforms oils and fats into soap, a process known as saponification. This section delves into the science behind caustic soda, its handling and safety, and its indispensable role in producing different types of soap.

Understanding Caustic Soda

Caustic soda is a highly caustic, white crystalline substance that readily absorbs moisture from the air. It is highly soluble in water, and the dissolution process is exothermic, meaning it releases a significant amount of heat.

  • Chemical Formula: NaOH
  • Physical Properties: White, odorless solid in pellets, flakes, or powder form

The Saponification Process

Saponification is the chemical reaction where triglycerides (fats and oils) react with a strong base (caustic soda) to form glycerol and fatty acid salts (soap). The basic equation for saponification is:

Fat/Oil + NaOH → Glycerol + Soap (Sodium Salt of Fatty Acid)

Role in Soap Making

  1. Catalyst for Saponification

Caustic soda acts as a catalyst, initiating and driving the saponification process. Without caustic soda, the oils and fats would not convert into soap. The hydroxide ions from the caustic soda break the ester bonds in the triglycerides, releasing glycerol and forming soap molecules.

  1. Determining Soap Qualities

The amount and concentration of caustic soda used influence the qualities of the soap produced. Accurate measurement is essential, as an excess of caustic soda can result in a harsh, lye-heavy soap, while too little can leave the soap greasy and soft.

  • Hardness: Adequate caustic soda ensures the soap hardens properly.
  • Cleansing Ability: Proper saponification provides effective cleansing properties.
  • pH Levels: Ensuring the right amount of caustic soda keeps the soap within a skin-safe pH range (typically 8-10).
  1. Customization of Soap Properties

Different oils and fats saponify at different rates and require varying amounts of caustic soda. By adjusting the types and proportions of oils and the amount of caustic soda, soap makers can customize the soap’s hardness, lather quality, and moisturizing properties.

Safety Precautions in Handling Caustic Soda

Due to its highly corrosive nature, caustic soda must be handled with care:

  • Protective Gear: Always wear gloves, goggles, and long sleeves to protect against splashes.
  • Ventilation: Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.
  • Storage: Store caustic soda in airtight containers to prevent moisture absorption and keep it out of reach of children and pets.
  • Neutralization: In case of spills, neutralize caustic soda with vinegar (acetic acid) and rinse thoroughly with water.

Mixing Caustic Soda with Water

The process of mixing caustic soda with water is critical and should be done with caution:

  1. Measure Accurately: Use a digital scale to measure the caustic soda and water precisely.
  2. Add NaOH to Water: Slowly add caustic soda to water, not the other way around, to prevent a violent reaction. Stir gently until fully dissolved.
  3. Cooling: Allow the solution to cool to a safe temperature before mixing with oils. The solution can reach temperatures above 200°F (93°C) upon mixing.

Innovations and Alternatives

While caustic soda is traditional and essential in soap making, innovations in the field are exploring safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives. Potassium hydroxide (KOH) is used for making liquid soaps, and some experimental methods use natural alkalis like wood ash, though these methods are less precise and consistent.

Comparative Table of Alkalis Used in Soap Making


Common Uses



Safety Precautions

Sodium Hydroxide

Bar soap



Highly caustic, handle with care

Potassium Hydroxide

Liquid soap


Very High

Highly caustic, handle with care

Wood Ash (Potash)

Historical soaps



Variable concentration

Environmental and Ethical Considerations

While caustic soda itself is not environmentally harmful, its production can have environmental impacts. Ensuring it is sourced from manufacturers with sustainable and ethical practices can help mitigate these effects. Additionally, proper disposal of waste and leftover lye solutions is crucial to avoid environmental contamination.

Caustic soda’s role in soap production is irreplaceable, driving the saponification process that transforms oils and fats into soap. Understanding its properties, handling it safely, and using it accurately are essential skills for any soap maker. With advancements and innovations in the field, there is also a growing interest in finding sustainable and safer alternatives without compromising the quality and effectiveness of soap.

Advanced Techniques and Innovations in Soap Making

The art and science of soap making have evolved significantly over the years. While traditional methods remain popular, modern soap makers continually explore advanced techniques and innovative ingredients to create unique and superior products. This section explores some of the most cutting-edge practices and discoveries in the field of soap making.

  1. Cold Process vs. Hot Process Soap Making

Both cold process and hot process soap making have their advantages and distinct characteristics.

Cold Process

  • Advantages: Allows for more creative designs and detailed patterns, smoother texture.
  • Process: Oils and lye solution are mixed at room temperature or slightly warmed, poured into molds, and allowed to saponify over time (4-6 weeks curing).
  • Innovations: Swirling techniques, layering, embedding, and intricate designs are possible due to the slower saponification process.

Hot Process

  • Advantages: Faster curing time, rustic appearance, suitable for adding delicate additives that might not survive the high pH of cold process.
  • Process: Mixture is heated (typically in a slow cooker or oven) to accelerate saponification, resulting in soap that is ready to use within a few days to a week.
  • Innovations: Hot process soaps can incorporate more heat-sensitive ingredients (like certain essential oils) added after cooking.
  1. Melt and Pour Soap Making

Melt and pour is a beginner-friendly method that allows for significant creativity without the need to handle lye directly.

  • Advantages: Safe, quick, and easy. Ideal for intricate designs and incorporating additives like exfoliants, embeds, and multiple colors.
  • Process: Pre-made soap base is melted, customized with colors, scents, and additives, then poured into molds.
  • Innovations: Using clear glycerin bases for transparent soaps, embedding objects or other soap pieces, and creating multi-layered designs.
  1. Liquid Soap Making

Liquid soap is versatile and increasingly popular for its convenience and ease of use.

  • Process: Typically made using potassium hydroxide (KOH) instead of sodium hydroxide (NaOH). The soap paste is diluted with water to create a liquid consistency.
  • Innovations: Formulating moisturizing and specialty liquid soaps for different skin types, incorporating natural thickeners, and using environmentally friendly preservatives.
  1. Syndet Bars and Melt-and-Pour Syndets

Syndet (synthetic detergent) bars are an innovative alternative to traditional soap, offering gentle cleansing properties ideal for sensitive skin.

  • Advantages: Mild, pH-balanced, often free of traditional soap components, suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema.
  • Process: Made using surfactants like sodium cocoyl isethionate, along with other conditioning agents and additives.
  • Innovations: Custom formulations for specific skin concerns, eco-friendly and biodegradable syndet bars, combination bars with moisturizing and exfoliating properties.
  1. Advanced Additives and Ingredients

Modern soap making often incorporates a variety of advanced additives to enhance the soap’s properties and appeal.

  • Activated Charcoal: Known for its detoxifying properties, often used in facial and body soaps for deep cleansing.
  • Clay: Adds color, texture, and beneficial minerals. Examples include kaolin, bentonite, and French green clay.
  • Botanicals: Herbs, flowers, and plant extracts for visual appeal and skin benefits. Examples include lavender buds, chamomile, and calendula.
  • Exfoliants: Natural scrubbing agents like oatmeal, ground coffee, pumice, and seeds.
  • Milk and Honey: Adding luxury and moisturizing properties, commonly used in combination with other nourishing oils.
  1. Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Innovations

There is a growing emphasis on sustainability in soap making, with innovations aimed at reducing environmental impact.

  • Sustainable Ingredients: Sourcing oils and fats from sustainable and ethical sources, such as RSPO-certified palm oil or locally produced oils.
  • Zero-Waste Practices: Utilizing every part of ingredients, minimizing waste, and creating packaging-free or biodegradable packaged soaps.
  • Upcycling: Incorporating waste products from other industries, such as spent coffee grounds or fruit peels, into soap recipes.
  1. High-Tech Equipment and Tools

Advances in technology have introduced new tools and equipment to improve efficiency and precision in soap making.

  • Digital Scales and Thermometers: Ensure accurate measurements and consistent results.
  • Soap Cutters: Provide uniform bars with clean edges, ranging from simple wire cutters to multi-bar cutting devices.
  • Silicone Molds: Allow for intricate designs and easy release of finished soap bars.
  1. Custom Formulations and Specialized Soaps

Soap makers are increasingly developing custom formulations to cater to specific needs and preferences.

  • Therapeutic Soaps: Formulated with essential oils and additives known for therapeutic benefits, such as calming, invigorating, or anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Artisan Soaps: Handcrafted with unique designs, scents, and ingredients, often sold at premium prices.
  • Functional Soaps: Target specific issues such as acne, eczema, or dry skin with tailored ingredients and formulations.

Comparative Table of Soap Making Techniques


Difficulty Level

Curing Time

Design Flexibility

Common Additives

Cold Process


4-6 weeks


Essential oils, clays, botanicals

Hot Process


1 week


Heat-sensitive additives, exfoliants

Melt and Pour



Very High

Glycerin, embeds, colors

Liquid Soap


1-2 weeks


Moisturizers, thickeners, preservatives

Syndet Bars


1 week

Low to Medium

Surfactants, conditioning agents, botanicals

Advanced techniques and innovations in soap making have expanded the possibilities for creating unique, high-quality soaps. From experimenting with new ingredients and sustainable practices to employing modern equipment and custom formulations, soap makers can continuously innovate and cater to diverse needs and preferences. Embracing these advancements not only enhances the soap-making process but also contributes to producing superior products that stand out in the market.

Measuring and Calculating Ingredients for Homemade Soap

Accurate measurement and calculation of ingredients are crucial for successful soap making. This ensures the saponification process completes correctly, resulting in a high-quality, safe, and effective soap. This section details the methods and tools for precise measurement, how to use a lye calculator, and tips for adjusting and scaling recipes.

Importance of Accurate Measurements

Precise measurements ensure that the soap has the correct balance of oils and lye, preventing issues such as lye-heavy (too much lye) or greasy (too little lye) soap. Accurate measurements also help in achieving consistent results, especially when scaling recipes.

Essential Tools for Measurement

  1. Digital Scale: A digital scale is essential for measuring oils, fats, and lye accurately. It should measure in grams or ounces to ensure precision.
  2. Measuring Cups and Spoons: Used for smaller quantities of additives, fragrances, and colorants.
  3. Thermometer: A digital or infrared thermometer helps monitor the temperatures of the oils and lye solution.
  4. Lye Calculator: An online tool or app that helps determine the exact amount of lye and water needed for a given amount of oils.

Basic Measurements for Soap Making

  1. Measuring Oils and Fats

Each type of oil and fat has a specific saponification value (SAP value), which indicates the amount of lye needed to saponify a given weight of oil.

  • Olive Oil: SAP value ~0.135 (grams of NaOH per gram of oil)
  • Coconut Oil: SAP value ~0.183
  • Palm Oil: SAP value ~0.144

Example Calculation: For a recipe with 500g of olive oil, 250g of coconut oil, and 250g of palm oil:

  • Olive Oil: 500g x 0.135 = 67.5g NaOH
  • Coconut Oil: 250g x 0.183 = 45.75g NaOH
  • Palm Oil: 250g x 0.144 = 36g NaOH

Total NaOH Needed: 67.5g + 45.75g + 36g = 149.25g

  1. Using a Lye Calculator

Lye calculators simplify the process of determining the correct amount of lye and water needed for your recipe. Here’s how to use one:

  1. Input Oils and Amounts: Enter the types and amounts of oils you plan to use.
  2. Select Lye Type: Choose sodium hydroxide (NaOH) for solid soap.
  3. Superfat Percentage: This is the amount of extra oil left unsaponified to ensure the soap is not too harsh. A typical superfat level is 5%.
  4. Calculate: The calculator will provide the exact amounts of lye and water needed.

Example Using a Lye Calculator: For the previous example recipe with a 5% superfat:

  • Olive Oil (500g), Coconut Oil (250g), Palm Oil (250g)
  • Total NaOH: 142g (adjusted for 5% superfat)
  • Water: Typically, 2-2.5 times the weight of NaOH (e.g., 340-425g water for 142g NaOH)
  1. Measuring Water

Water is used to dissolve the lye and facilitate the saponification process. The amount of water typically ranges from 2 to 2.5 times the weight of the lye. Using distilled water is recommended to avoid impurities.

Scaling Recipes

Scaling a recipe up or down requires proportional adjustment of all ingredients to maintain the correct balance.

Example Scaling: Original Recipe:

  • Olive Oil: 500g
  • Coconut Oil: 250g
  • Palm Oil: 250g
  • NaOH: 142g
  • Water: 340-425g

Scaling by 50%:

  • Olive Oil: 750g
  • Coconut Oil: 375g
  • Palm Oil: 375g
  • NaOH: 213g
  • Water: 510-638g

Adjusting for Additives

When adding essential oils, colorants, or exfoliants, it is essential to measure them accurately to ensure they are evenly distributed and do not affect the soap’s balance.

  • Essential Oils: Typically added at 1-3% of the total oil weight.
  • Colorants: Measured in teaspoons or tablespoons, depending on the desired intensity.
  • Exfoliants: Added at 1-5% of the total weight of the soap batter.

Creating a Sample Recipe

Here’s a sample recipe for a basic soap:


Amount (g)


Olive Oil


Soft, moisturizing base oil

Coconut Oil


Hard, cleansing, bubbly lather

Palm Oil


Hardness, stable lather

Sodium Hydroxide


Adjusted for 5% superfat

Distilled Water


Dissolves lye

Essential Oil


Optional, for fragrance


As needed

Optional, for color

Tips for Precision

  • Use Tare Function: Reset the scale to zero after placing a container on it to measure only the ingredient’s weight.
  • Double-Check Measurements: Ensure all measurements are accurate to avoid imbalances.
  • Keep a Log: Record each measurement and adjustment for future reference and consistency.

Measuring and calculating ingredients accurately is the foundation of successful soap making. By using the right tools and techniques, soap makers can ensure their products are safe, effective, and consistent. Mastering these calculations allows for creativity and experimentation, leading to unique and high-quality soaps.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability of Soap Production

The environmental impact and sustainability of soap production have become increasingly important as consumers and manufacturers seek to minimize their ecological footprint. Understanding the full life cycle of soap production, from sourcing raw materials to disposal, is crucial for making informed decisions that support environmental health and sustainability.

  1. Sourcing Raw Materials

The choice of oils and fats is critical to the environmental impact of soap production. Sustainable sourcing practices can significantly reduce negative effects on ecosystems.

Sustainable Oils and Fats

  • Palm Oil: Palm oil is a versatile and commonly used ingredient in soap making. However, its production has been linked to deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss. Sustainable palm oil, certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), ensures that the oil is produced without harming the environment.
  • Coconut Oil: While coconut oil is often considered more sustainable than palm oil, its production can still have environmental impacts, such as monoculture farming and the use of pesticides. Sustainable sourcing from organic and fair-trade suppliers can mitigate these issues.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is a more sustainable option, particularly when sourced from traditional, organic, or regenerative farms that use environmentally friendly practices.

Alternative Ingredients

  • Local and Seasonal Oils: Using oils produced locally and seasonally can reduce transportation emissions and support local economies.
  • Upcycled Oils: Utilizing waste oils, such as used cooking oils, can reduce waste and create a circular economy.
  1. Production Processes

The production process itself can have varying environmental impacts depending on the method used.

Cold Process Soap Making

  • Energy Consumption: Cold process soap making requires less energy compared to hot process methods, as it does not involve continuous heating.
  • Chemical Usage: Proper handling and disposal of lye (sodium hydroxide) are essential to prevent environmental contamination.

Hot Process Soap Making

  • Energy Use: Hot process soap making consumes more energy due to the need for prolonged heating. Using energy-efficient appliances and renewable energy sources can mitigate this impact.

Melt and Pour Soap Making

  • Waste Generation: This method can produce more plastic waste from packaging if pre-made soap bases are not purchased in bulk or in sustainable packaging.
  1. Packaging and Distribution

Packaging and distribution play significant roles in the environmental footprint of soap production.

Sustainable Packaging

  • Biodegradable and Compostable Materials: Using materials such as recycled paper, cardboard, or biodegradable plastics reduces waste.
  • Minimalist Packaging: Reducing the amount of packaging material or opting for packaging-free options (e.g., naked soap bars) minimizes waste.

Transportation Emissions

  • Local Distribution: Selling soap locally reduces transportation emissions.
  • Efficient Logistics: Optimizing distribution routes and using eco-friendly transportation methods can lower the carbon footprint.
  1. Consumer Use and Disposal

The environmental impact of soap extends beyond production to its use and disposal by consumers.


  • Natural Ingredients: Using biodegradable ingredients ensures that soap breaks down naturally without harming aquatic ecosystems.
  • Avoiding Synthetic Additives: Avoiding synthetic fragrances, dyes, and preservatives reduces the potential for environmental contamination.

Water Usage

  • Efficient Use: Educating consumers on using soap efficiently can help reduce water consumption.
  1. Waste Management

Proper disposal of soap production waste is essential to minimize environmental harm.

Recycling and Reuse

  • Soap Scraps: Reusing soap scraps in new batches or creating products like soap balls or laundry soap reduces waste.
  • Recycling Packaging: Implementing recycling programs for packaging materials helps reduce landfill waste.


  • Organic Waste: Composting organic waste, such as leftover botanicals or biodegradable packaging, supports soil health.
  1. Innovations in Sustainable Soap Production

The soap industry is continually evolving with innovative approaches to sustainability.

Zero-Waste Production

  • Circular Economy: Adopting a circular economy approach, where waste products are reused or recycled, minimizes waste.
  • Waterless Formulations: Developing concentrated or solid soap products that do not require water reduces the environmental impact of shipping and packaging.

Eco-Friendly Ingredients

  • Plant-Based Surfactants: Using surfactants derived from plants instead of petrochemicals reduces reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Natural Preservatives: Opting for natural preservatives, such as essential oils, extends the shelf life of soap without synthetic chemicals.
  1. Certifications and Standards

Certifications help consumers identify sustainable products and encourage manufacturers to adopt eco-friendly practices.

Key Certifications

  • RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil): Ensures sustainable palm oil production.
  • USDA Organic: Certifies organic agricultural products.
  • Fair Trade: Ensures ethical labor practices and sustainable farming.

Comparative Table of Environmental Impacts


High Impact

Low Impact

Sustainable Practices

Raw Material Sourcing

Conventional palm oil

RSPO-certified palm oil, local oils

Use of certified sustainable and local oils

Production Process

Hot process with non-renewable energy

Cold process, renewable energy

Energy-efficient methods, renewable energy


Plastic, non-recyclable materials

Biodegradable, minimal packaging

Use of compostable, recycled materials


Long-distance, non-optimized routes

Local distribution, optimized logistics

Local sourcing, eco-friendly transport

Waste Management

Landfilling, non-compostable waste

Composting, recycling

Implementing zero-waste practices

Consumer Use

Synthetic additives, high water use

Biodegradable ingredients, efficient use

Educating consumers on sustainable practices

The environmental impact and sustainability of soap production encompass every stage, from sourcing raw materials to consumer use and disposal. By adopting sustainable practices, such as using certified sustainable oils, minimizing packaging, and educating consumers, soap makers can significantly reduce their ecological footprint. Innovations in eco-friendly ingredients and production methods continue to advance the field, making it possible to create high-quality soap that is kind to both the skin and the planet.

Latest Discoveries in Natural Soap Ingredients and Their Benefits

The field of natural soap making is continually evolving with new discoveries and innovations that enhance the quality, efficacy, and sustainability of soap products. This section highlights some of the latest natural ingredients being incorporated into soaps and their remarkable benefits.

  1. Moringa Oil

Moringa oil, derived from the seeds of the Moringa tree, is gaining popularity for its exceptional moisturizing and anti-aging properties.

  • Benefits: Rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, moringa oil helps to nourish and hydrate the skin, reduce inflammation, and improve skin elasticity. It is particularly beneficial for dry and mature skin.
  • Innovations: Incorporating moringa oil into soap formulations not only boosts its moisturizing qualities but also adds a luxurious feel to the product.
  1. Baobab Oil

Baobab oil, extracted from the seeds of the Baobab tree, is known for its high vitamin C content and regenerative properties.

  • Benefits: Baobab oil is excellent for improving skin tone, elasticity, and hydration. It is also rich in vitamins A, D, E, and F, which help to rejuvenate and repair the skin.
  • Innovations: Soap makers are using baobab oil to create high-performance soaps that cater to sensitive and aging skin, promoting a healthy and youthful appearance.
  1. Turmeric

Turmeric, a well-known spice with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is being used in natural soaps for its skin-enhancing benefits.

  • Benefits: Turmeric helps to brighten the skin, reduce pigmentation, and combat acne. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it suitable for soothing irritated skin and reducing redness.
  • Innovations: Turmeric-infused soaps are becoming popular for their ability to impart a natural glow and even skin tone while providing gentle exfoliation.
  1. Sea Buckthorn Oil

Sea buckthorn oil is derived from the berries and seeds of the sea buckthorn plant, known for its high omega-7 content and healing properties.

  • Benefits: This oil is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids that promote skin regeneration, reduce inflammation, and protect against environmental stressors. It is ideal for repairing damaged skin and combating dryness.
  • Innovations: Incorporating sea buckthorn oil in soap formulations enhances their therapeutic benefits, making them suitable for users with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.
  1. Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a powerful ingredient used in soaps for its detoxifying and deep-cleansing properties.

  • Benefits: Activated charcoal effectively removes impurities, excess oil, and toxins from the skin, making it ideal for acne-prone and oily skin types. It also provides gentle exfoliation, leaving the skin feeling clean and refreshed.
  • Innovations: Soap makers are creating visually striking bars with swirls and layers of activated charcoal, combined with other natural ingredients for enhanced benefits.
  1. Spirulina

Spirulina, a nutrient-dense blue-green algae, is being incorporated into soaps for its impressive array of vitamins and minerals.

  • Benefits: Spirulina is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and essential amino acids, which help to nourish, detoxify, and revitalize the skin. It is also known for its anti-aging properties.
  • Innovations: Adding spirulina to soap not only imparts a vibrant green color but also enhances the soap’s nutritional profile, making it beneficial for maintaining healthy and youthful skin.
  1. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera, known for its soothing and healing properties, is a staple in natural skincare and soap making.

  • Benefits: Aloe vera hydrates, soothes, and repairs the skin. It is effective in treating sunburns, minor cuts, and skin irritations. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it suitable for sensitive and problematic skin.
  • Innovations: Soap formulations with aloe vera provide a cooling and soothing effect, making them ideal for after-sun care and for individuals with sensitive skin.
  1. Neem Oil

Neem oil, derived from the neem tree, is renowned for its antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Benefits: Neem oil is effective in treating acne, eczema, and other skin infections. It helps to soothe irritated skin and promotes healing. It is also rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, which nourish and protect the skin.
  • Innovations: Neem oil is being used in soaps to create potent antibacterial and therapeutic products that cater to users with various skin conditions.

Comparative Table of Latest Natural Soap Ingredients


Key Benefits

Ideal For

Unique Properties

Moringa Oil

Moisturizing, anti-aging

Dry, mature skin

Rich in antioxidants, fatty acids

Baobab Oil

Skin regeneration, hydration

Sensitive, aging skin

High vitamin C, regenerative properties


Brightening, anti-inflammatory

Dull, acne-prone skin

Natural glow, even skin tone

Sea Buckthorn Oil

Skin repair, anti-inflammatory

Damaged, dry skin

High omega-7, healing properties

Activated Charcoal

Detoxifying, deep cleansing

Oily, acne-prone skin

Removes impurities, gentle exfoliation


Nourishing, anti-aging

All skin types

Nutrient-dense, revitalizes skin

Aloe Vera

Hydrating, soothing

Sensitive, irritated skin

Anti-inflammatory, healing properties

Neem Oil

Antibacterial, antifungal

Acne, eczema, skin infections

Rich in fatty acids, vitamin E

The latest discoveries in natural soap ingredients offer a wealth of benefits that cater to diverse skincare needs. From exotic oils like moringa and baobab to potent botanicals like turmeric and neem, these ingredients enhance the quality and efficacy of handmade soaps. Incorporating these innovative ingredients not only elevates the soap-making process but also provides consumers with high-performance, natural skincare solutions. By staying informed about these advancements, soap makers can continue to create products that are both beneficial and appealing to a wide range of users.


Soap made from oils and fats represents a perfect blend of tradition and innovation in skincare. Understanding the ingredients, processes, and sustainable practices ensures the creation of high-quality, effective soaps. Petro Naft, a leading producer of Caustic Soda (sodium hydroxide), invites you to visit our specialized Caustic Soda page for more information and to place your product orders through our contact channels.

Top FAQs: Expert Answers to Your Common Queries

  1. How is soap made from oils and fats beneficial for sensitive skin?

Soap made from oils and fats, especially those derived from natural sources like olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter, offers numerous benefits for sensitive skin. These ingredients are rich in fatty acids and antioxidants that help to nourish and protect the skin. Olive oil, for instance, contains oleic acid, which is gentle and moisturizing, making it ideal for sensitive skin types. Coconut oil adds hardness and lather to the soap while providing antimicrobial properties that help reduce skin infections and irritations.

Scientific studies have shown that soaps made from natural oils and fats maintain the skin’s natural barrier, reducing the risk of dryness and irritation compared to commercial soaps that often contain synthetic detergents and harsh chemicals. Additionally, the process of saponification, where oils and fats react with an alkali like caustic soda, results in glycerin production, a natural humectant that attracts moisture to the skin, further enhancing its hydration levels. Thus, using handmade soaps from oils and fats can lead to healthier, more resilient skin, particularly for individuals with sensitive or problematic skin conditions.

  1. What are the environmental benefits of using natural ingredients in soap making?

Using natural ingredients in soap making significantly reduces the environmental footprint associated with conventional soap production. One of the primary benefits is the reduction in harmful chemicals released into the environment. Natural soaps avoid synthetic additives and preservatives, which are often derived from petrochemicals and can be toxic to aquatic life and ecosystems when they enter waterways.

Sustainability is another key advantage. Ingredients like sustainably sourced palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil ensure that the production does not contribute to deforestation or habitat destruction. For example, RSPO-certified palm oil guarantees that the oil is produced following strict environmental and social standards, preventing deforestation and promoting biodiversity. Additionally, the use of local and upcycled oils, such as used cooking oils, can further reduce the carbon footprint by minimizing transportation emissions and promoting a circular economy.

Natural soap production also often involves biodegradable ingredients, ensuring that the final product breaks down easily without leaving harmful residues. This biodegradability is crucial in reducing pollution and maintaining clean water systems. Furthermore, natural soap makers frequently use eco-friendly packaging, such as recycled paper or biodegradable materials, reducing plastic waste and contributing to a more sustainable consumer cycle. By choosing natural ingredients and sustainable practices, soap makers can significantly contribute to environmental conservation and promote a healthier planet.

  1. How is soap originally made?

Soap was originally made by ancient civilizations through a process that involved combining animal fats or plant oils with an alkali substance. The earliest known soap makers were the Babylonians, around 2800 BC. They used a mixture of water, alkali, and cassia oil. The alkali was often derived from wood ashes, which contain potassium carbonate. The process was simple yet effective: fats or oils were heated and mixed with the alkali solution, causing a chemical reaction that resulted in soap. This method evolved over time, with different cultures adding various herbs, fragrances, and ingredients to improve the soap’s quality and properties.

  1. What are the 3 ingredients in soap?

The three main ingredients in soap are:

  1. Oils or Fats: These can be from animal (e.g., tallow, lard) or plant sources (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil).
  2. Sodium Hydroxide (Lye): This alkali is essential for the saponification process, where it reacts with the fatty acids in oils to produce soap and glycerin.
  3. Water: Used to dissolve the lye and help in the mixing of the ingredients.
  1. How can you make soap?

To make soap at home, follow these steps:

  1. Gather Ingredients: Oils (e.g., olive, coconut), sodium hydroxide (lye), water, essential oils, and optional additives.
  2. Safety Precautions: Wear gloves, goggles, and work in a well-ventilated area.
  3. Prepare Lye Solution: Slowly add lye to water (never the reverse), stir until dissolved, and let cool.
  4. Melt Oils: Heat oils in a pot until melted, then let cool to the same temperature as the lye solution.
  5. Mix Lye and Oils: Slowly pour the lye solution into the oils, stirring continuously. Use an immersion blender until the mixture reaches trace.
  6. Add Additives: Stir in essential oils and other additives at trace.
  7. Pour into Molds: Pour the mixture into molds, cover, and let it set for 24-48 hours.
  8. Unmold and Cure: Remove soap from molds, cut into bars, and let cure for 4-6 weeks.
  1. How soaps get made?

Soaps are made through the process of saponification, where fats or oils react with an alkali. The basic steps are:

  1. Mixing Lye Solution: Sodium hydroxide is dissolved in water.
  2. Combining Oils and Lye: The lye solution is mixed with melted oils or fats.
  3. Reaching Trace: The mixture is blended until it thickens to a trace.
  4. Pouring and Setting: The mixture is poured into molds and allowed to set.
  5. Curing: The soap is cured for several weeks to harden and complete saponification.
  1. How is pure soap made?

Pure soap is made by combining natural oils or fats with sodium hydroxide (lye) and water. The process involves:

  1. Mixing the Lye Solution: Sodium hydroxide is carefully dissolved in water.
  2. Heating Oils: Natural oils or fats are melted and brought to a specific temperature.
  3. Combining Ingredients: The lye solution is mixed with the melted oils until the mixture thickens to trace.
  4. Molding and Setting: The soap mixture is poured into molds and left to set for 24-48 hours.
  5. Curing: The soap is cut into bars and cured for 4-6 weeks to ensure it hardens and is safe to use.
  1. What is soap made of?

Soap is made of fats or oils, an alkali (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide), and water. These ingredients undergo a chemical reaction called saponification, which results in soap and glycerin. Additional ingredients such as essential oils, colorants, and exfoliants can be added for fragrance, color, and texture.

  1. What is the raw material of soap?

The raw materials of soap include:

  1. Fats and Oils: These can be from animal sources (tallow, lard) or plant sources (olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil).
  2. Sodium Hydroxide (Lye): An essential alkali used for saponification.
  3. Water: Used to dissolve the lye and help mix the ingredients.
  1. How is soap produced today?

Today, soap is produced using both traditional and industrial methods. The key steps are:

  1. Sourcing and Preparing Raw Materials: High-quality oils, fats, and lye are measured and prepared.
  2. Mixing and Saponification: Ingredients are mixed in large vats and heated to speed up saponification.
  3. Molding and Cutting: The soap mixture is poured into molds, set, and then cut into bars.
  4. Curing and Packaging: Soap bars are cured for several weeks, then packaged for sale.
  1. How to make organic soap at home?

To make organic soap at home:

  1. Ingredients: Use organic oils (e.g., olive, coconut), sodium hydroxide (lye), distilled water, and organic essential oils.
  2. Safety: Wear protective gear and work in a well-ventilated area.
  3. Prepare Lye Solution: Add lye to water, stir until dissolved, and let cool.
  4. Melt Oils: Heat organic oils until melted and cool to the same temperature as the lye solution.
  5. Combine and Mix: Pour lye solution into the oils, blend until trace, add essential oils.
  6. Mold and Set: Pour into molds, let set for 24-48 hours.
  7. Cure: Unmold, cut into bars, and cure for 4-6 weeks.
  1. How to make soap formula?

Creating a soap formula involves calculating the right proportions of oils, lye, and water. Use a lye calculator to determine the correct amounts. A basic formula might include:

  1. Olive Oil: 500g
  2. Coconut Oil: 250g
  3. Palm Oil: 250g
  4. Sodium Hydroxide: Calculated based on oils (approximately 140g)
  5. Water: 340g

Adjust these amounts based on the desired soap characteristics and use a lye calculator to ensure safety.

  1. What are the ingredients in simple soap?

Simple soap typically contains:

  1. Oils or Fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil.
  2. Sodium Hydroxide (Lye): Essential for saponification.
  3. Water: Used to dissolve the lye.

Optional ingredients include essential oils for fragrance and natural colorants.

  1. How to make soap without chemicals?

Making soap without synthetic chemicals involves using natural ingredients:

  1. Ingredients: Natural oils (e.g., olive, coconut), potassium hydroxide or wood ash lye, water.
  2. Method: Create a natural lye solution using wood ash, mix with oils, and follow traditional saponification steps.

Note: Even natural lye is a chemical, so “chemical-free” soap is a misnomer. However, using natural ingredients minimizes synthetic additives.

  1. What is the main ingredient in homemade soap?

The main ingredient in homemade soap is the oil or fat used. Common choices include olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. These oils form the base of the soap and determine its properties such as hardness, lather, and moisturizing ability.

  1. What is the safest way to make soap?

The safest way to make soap involves:

  1. Protective Gear: Wear gloves, goggles, and long sleeves.
  2. Ventilation: Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.
  3. Accurate Measurements: Use a digital scale and lye calculator.
  4. Controlled Environment: Carefully mix lye with water and oils, avoiding splashes.

Following these safety protocols minimizes risks and ensures a safe soap-making process.

  1. How to make herbal soap at home?

To make herbal soap at home:

  1. Ingredients: Oils (olive, coconut), sodium hydroxide, water, dried herbs (lavender, chamomile), essential oils.
  2. Preparation: Infuse oils with dried herbs for enhanced benefits.
  3. Process: Follow standard soap-making steps, adding herbs and essential oils at trace.
  4. Molding and Curing: Pour into molds, set for 24-48 hours, and cure for 4-6 weeks.

Herbal soaps combine the benefits of natural oils with the therapeutic properties of herbs.

  1. Which homemade soap is best for skin?

The best homemade soap for skin is typically made with a combination of moisturizing and gentle oils, such as:

  1. Olive Oil: Moisturizing and gentle.
  2. Coconut Oil: Cleansing and lathering.
  3. Shea Butter: Nourishing and conditioning.

Adding essential oils like lavender or chamomile can enhance the soap’s skin-soothing properties.

  1. What spices are good for soap?

Spices can add fragrance, color, and exfoliation to soap. Good options include:

  1. Cinnamon: Adds warmth and a natural exfoliant.
  2. Turmeric: Provides color and anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. Clove: Offers a rich, spicy scent and antimicrobial benefits.

These spices not only enhance the soap’s sensory appeal but also offer additional skin benefits.

  1. What herb can be used as soap?

Certain herbs can be used to enhance soap with their beneficial properties:

  1. Lavender: Known for its calming and antiseptic qualities.
  2. Chamomile: Soothes and reduces inflammation.
  3. Calendula: Offers healing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Using these herbs in soap can provide therapeutic benefits and enhance the overall user experience.

Prepared by the PetroNaft Co. research team.


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