Of the many things that used to intimidate me, few were as high on the list as soap. All of the instructions I’d read seemed really complicated and I kept putting it off. Until last year.
I finally worked up the nerve to try it and I’m so glad I did. Because it wasn’t near as complicated as I thought it would be. Just like soup. Yes, I used to be intimidated by making soup from scratch.
Now, after a few batches, I thought I’d share my recipe for homemade herbal bar soap.
Why Infuse with Herbs?
I love herbs. They have so many great properties and I love the idea of infusing that into my soap.
I’ve made a few batches of soap so far, and my favorite bars have been the ones infused with calendula and marshmallow root. Here’s why:
Calendula – Calendula can be used for soothing inflammation, dressing sprains, eczema, soothing rashes and irritated skin and reducing body scars.
Marshmallow root – Marshmallow root soothes, lubricates, softens and heals. Marshmallow root also has pain-easing properties.
I originally found this recipe on Small Notebook. I’ve personalized it a bit and double-checked the quantities like she says to do, but that’s where the original recipe came from.
Ready? I suggest reading through the rest of this post a couple of times before you get started.
Be sure to gather all of your supplies before you get started. It is no fun to go hunting for things in the middle of this process, especially when you’re working with lye.
- Digital Scale – It is crucial to get the right measurements on the ingredients. I like one with ounces and grams and use a digital scale for weighing postage, too.
- Immersion Blender
- Deep Stainless Steel Pot – Other materials can react with the lye.
- Bowls – I use stainless steel bowls and glass Pyrex bowls in my kitchen. Both can withstand high heat, which is essential for the lye.
- Spoons – Stainless steel is great for soap making.
- Soap Mold – Some use bread loaf pans, others buy special soap molds. My husband made me a wooden box.
- Freezer Paper
- Cardboard Box with a Lid – Your soap mold will be going in this, so keep that in mind when you pick it out.
- Eye Protection
- Gloves (longer ones are great to protect you from accidental lye spills)
- Quart-size mason jars
You must get the ingredient weight just right so that the lye saponifies. It’s not so important on the herbs because they’re being infused before you make soap. But the resulting infused water and oils definitely need to be weighed.
- 18.5 ounces Olive oil
- 12 ounces Coconut oil
- 9 ounces Palm oil
- 1 ounce Shea butter
- 5.8 ounces powdered lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
- 13.5 ounces water
- 1/2 cup marshmallow root
- 1 cup calendula petals
- Mesh strainer
- Quart-sized mason jars
- 3 Tbsp Essential oils – use the same essential oils or a blend. I typically do a citrus blend. Next time, I’m doing lavender and lemongrass.
How to Make Soap
Put 1/2 cup of the calendula petals in a quart-size jar and (carefully) fill it with boiling water. Cap and carefully put somewhere to let it steep. I do this night before I make the soap.
Using your mesh strainer, strain the infused water into another jar and clean the other jar for later.
Measure the olive oil needed for the recipe and pour it in one of your heat-resistant bowls. Add 1/4 cup marshmallow root and 1/4 cup calendula petals. Stir and stick in the oven.
Measure out the coconut oil needed for the recipe and pour it in one of your heat-resistant bowls. Add 1/4 cup marshmallow root and 1/4 cup calendula petals. Stir and stick in the oven. You can melt the coconut oil first if you want, but it will melt in the oven.
Let it all steep for at least 4 hours.
Using your mesh strainer, strain each infused oil into it’s own jar. Do not mix them yet. Clean out your bowls and get them ready for the next step.
Place your stainless steel pot on your digital scale and zero it out (tare). Pour in your infused olive oil, then add more (slowly) until you get the amount required for the recipe. Tare the scale.
Add your infused coconut oil, plus a little extra to equal the amount called for in the recipe. Tare the scale.
Add the required amounts of palm oil and shea butter.
Put the pot on the stove but don’t turn it on just yet – wait until after you mix the lye and water to start melting the oils. Now’s a good time to line your soap mold with freezer paper.
Put on your gloves and eye protection and put a glass or metal bowl on the digital scale and tare it. Very carefully add the lye until you have the required amount.
Should you get lye on yourself, do not rinse it off with water! Read what you should do instead before you get started.
Place another bowl on the scale and tare it, then add the required amount of herb-infused water. Put the bowl on your stove and turn on the hood fan.
Carefully pour the lye into the bowl of water (not the other way around), then stir with one of your metal spoons (put the spoon in the sink and rinse it when you’re done).
The mixture will start heating and putting off fumes. Make sure you still have your gloves and eye protection for this..
Fill your sink with cold water. Carefully put the bowl with lye solution in the water to cool it down to 110 degrees.
Start warming the oils on low on your stove until everything melts and reaches 110 degrees.
Once the oils and lye solution are the same temperature, carefully pour the lye into the pot of oils. Grab your immersion blender and start blending the mixture, being careful not to bring it out of the mixture and stir in a bunch of air bubbles.
It takes a few minutes of blending and stirring before you get trace. Trace is simply when the soap mixture has thickened. At this point, add your essential oils, stir them up, then pour the mixture into the soap mold.
Rinse all dishes and wash them very well with hot, soapy water.
Put the mold in the cardboard box, put on the lid and put the soap somewhere safe for the next 48 hours.
Carefully remove the soap from the mold and using a sharp knife, cut it into bars. My husband does this so they look nice – he’s a little more concerned about that than I am.
In the same box you put the soap mold in, stand up the soap bars in rows and carefully put them out of the way … for 3 weeks. Yes, 3 weeks! Ok, you can take out one bar now to use, if you want. Aging the soap helps it harden and completes the saponification process.
It’s a long wait, but definitely worth it.