Vegan Cold Process Soap Pictorial Method, Recipe and Giveaway

Did you know that most commercial soap on the market contains sodium tallowate? In case you don’t know, sodium tallowate is basically beef tallow, or fat that comes from cows, and a by-product of the meat industry. I find commercial soap pretty drying to my skin, especially in Utah, where if you forget to apply a heavy duty moisturizer, you can look like an alligator. So I’ve been making my own cold process soap for over a decade. Wanna join me?

The equipment you need

An accurate kitchen scale, 2 glass or stainless bowls (not pictured above), a wooden spoon, a stick blender, Soap Mold (a rectangular glass container is used here), 3 or 4 tupperware containers of various sizes for measuring lye, oils and water into (not pictured above) Plastic Wrap, Candy making thermometer (not pictured above), Long Chemical Resistant Gloves, dishwashing variety gloves will do fine in a pinch, cuff them to catch any soap that could run down your arm) and Safety Goggles.

Get ready: Put on your gloves, safety goggles, tie your hair back if it is long. Wear a long sleeve shirt, pants and closed toe shoes.

The safety equipment and long clothing may seem silly, but lye (or caustic soda) is a chemical that WILL burn your skin (it’s the primary ingredient in drain cleaners), and can cause blindness, so PLEASE USE CAUTION.

Ready? Lets make soap!

Now for the ingredients. I’m giving you a super simple recipe that will make a mild one pound batch of soap with really good lather. This recipe makes four 4 ounce bars. I typically make a 5 pound batch, but when you’re just getting started, it’s good to start out with a smaller batch for simplicity’s sake. PRETTY PLEASE use a kitchen scale, soap MUST be made by measuring by weight, not volume!

Somer’s Simple Soap

6 oz coconut oil (I used organic extra virgin)

10 oz olive oil (I use organic extra virgin, but light or pure is also fine for soap-making)

3 to 4 oz distilled water

2.23 oz. (or 62-63 grams) lye

2 t. organic or therapeutic grade essential oil (I use all kinds, but lavender and citrus oils are my faves)


I buy my lye at my local Ace Hardware Store, It is getting harder and harder to find, so if you have trouble, you can also source it here. Do not use Drano, Liquid Plumber or any other type of lye formulation that is not 100% pure lye.


Put a small round tupperware container on your kitchen scale, then turn it on, this will allow it to start at a zero weight without adding the weight of your container to the total weight.  Pour distilled water slowly into the container until you have 3 or 4 ounces of water in your container.

Add distilled water to glass or stainless bowl. Turn off your scale and put a different small tupperware container on the scale (not the same one you used the water for, you don’t want any lye touching water at this point). Turn it on and CAREFULLY weigh the lye. I like to measure the weight of the lye in grams for the greatest accuracy.

 Slowly Pour the lye into the water, this is (literally) best done outdoors with your free longsleeved arm covering your airways so you don’t inhale toxic fumes.

Stir quickly so the lye crystals don’t solidify at the bottom of the bowl

The temperature of the water at this point can be over 150 degrees (sometimes it even boils). So set the bowl cautiously aside with your gloved hands AND some pot holders.

Get your oils ready to measure

Using the same method as before, but with a clean container, Slowly add 6 ounces of the coconut oil to your tupperware (if it’s not all ready liquid, warm it up briefly for easier measuring).

DO NOT TURN OFF OR ZERO OUT THE SCALE THIS TIME, Immediately add the olive oil until it reaches a total weight of 16 ounces or 1 pound

Now heat the oil in the microwave in 15 second intervals until it reaches a temperature between 100-120 degrees farenheit. You can also heat the oils briefly on the stove-top (in a pot of course).

Next, check the temperature of the lye. If its anywhere between 100-120 degrees, you are good to go. If it’s still too hot, give it another minute or so to cool down. As long as the lye and oils are somewhere between 100-120 degrees they’re within an appropriate range for mixing and starting the trace process.

Put the oils into a glass or stainless bowl (I used my 4 C. glass measuring cup) and Carefully pour the lye into the oils.

Now stir briefly with your wooden spoon (or in my case, wooden spork thingy). Then use the stick blender to bring your soap to trace, trace is the state where the oil and lye water are thoroughly combined. It will thicken, not quite as thick as pudding, but like a stirred custard.

Soap is fully traced when it can support a drop (you will see the outline of the soap drop and it won’t disappear). This should take less than 5 minutes with your stick blender on high speed and this particular recipe.

At this point you can add your essential oils or leave the soap unscented.  Just pour in a teaspoon or two of essential oil per pound of soap you are making and give it another whiz with the stick blender til fully incorporated.

Now quickly line the mold you plan to use with plastic wrap (it makes removal easiest) and pour the prepared soap into the mold.

 I used a glass rectangular container, but even a shoe box or drawer organizer will work.

Soap can form a weird ash layer when curing sometimes so I make a little soap burrito and cover it all up with plastic wrap to prevent the ash layer from forming. It doesn’t make for the prettiest soap, but hey, I’m not selling it.

Put soap in oven or microwave (weird I know) and close the door. You want to protect it from drafts and give it a nice cozy place to incubate. It will get really warm and go through several phases, including a gel phase while incubating. This is NORMAL. Just leave it undisturbed for 24 hours.

Now your soap is ready to cut! Just pull the plastic wrap off it and go to it! The recipe I gave you should make 4 bars. The photos of cut soap are from a 5 pound batch I made a few weeks ago.

I like using the cute crinkle cutter Erika gave me for my birthday.

Let soap cure for a week or two before using. Longer cure times will result in a firmer longer lasting bar, which is great, if you can stand to wait! Oh, and if I get my coconut oil on sale (like I always do) this soap costs less than a dollar per bar to make, which is a slam dunk compared to the fancy bars at Whole Foods.

If you’d like to formulate your own soap recipes, I suggest you visit The Sage Website for their lye calculator, and their Soap Blog for more detailed instructions and ideas. The Sage is also an excellent and affordable place to purchase soap-making supplies including soap moldsessential oils and fixed oils. You can go as extravagant as you like or you can keep it simple which is more my style.

A word about essential oils in soap-making: vanilla will turn the soap brown, peppermint will burn your naughty bits if you use too much (I suggest 1/2 t. or less for a batch this size) and cinnamon essential oils will not only burn your skin, but will also cause your soap to seize solid in the bowl. So stick to the basics 😉 I only use essential oils as I find fragrance oils to be artificial and cloying (same goes for artificial coloring) I’ve tried natural colorants but in the end, I always go back to plain soaps, bonus that they are also the least irritating. (FYI, lavender buds and most other herbs turn brown and will look like dead flies in finished soap).

Want to win a bar of my homemade soap? I will give away a bar to 3 lucky winners! This is my final and perhaps my favorite July Giveaway!

Rules of Engagement:

1- You must be a follower of this blog, if you don’t know how to do that, there is a “Follow blog via email” button at the top column to the right. This contest is open to all followers, ALL AROUND THE WORLD. Can you feel the love? 😉

2- You must like this post (click on the title name of this post, then go to the bottom of the post just above comments and push the like button), 

3- You must tell me in the comments below what kind of soap you are currently using and what kind of condition it leaves your skin in (tell the truth)!

Winners to be announced Tuesday August 7th, 2012. Yes, you have all week to enter.

And the Winner’s of the Giveaway are:

Cult Fit

Mark Twain Music

The Vegan’s Husband

Winners were selected by using the service. Please email your mailing addresses to me at and I will mail you your prizes!

Linked to I did it Tuesday


93 thoughts on “Vegan Cold Process Soap Pictorial Method, Recipe and Giveaway

  1. As a dude … Thank you for all the pictures, I needed them!!!
    I use soap that my wife buys for me, nothing more. It seems to do the trick. 🙂

    • Hey, it’s a complicated science project…. Not, but it’s a bit tricky making soap the first time or so around so I thought I’d give a special photo hand.

      Um, maybe it’s the ladies that need specialized soap, but hey I’m glad you entered! You might like my bar better!

  2. I am having a real issue with soaps lately. I had been using dove unscented for quite a while, but even that is massively irritating my skin lately. I just started using Johnson’s baby wash & it’s not great but at least I’m not crawling out of my skin ALL the time anymore. I’m excited to make some of this soap – but it will be VERY hard to wait to use it, so I hope I win some!! 🙂

    • It is very mild, but if you have super sensitive skin, use this recipe instead: 4 oz coconut oil, 4 oz grapeseed oil, 8 oz olive oil. The lye amount and water will be the same. It will have just slightly less lather (you’ll never notice), but will be more healing. Melaleuca or tea tree oil would be an excellent essential oil to add since it has really beneficial healing properties for irritated skin.

      Thanks for entering and good luck!

    • That’s because you are smarter than me. My scrubbies have all been destroyed by one or the other you know who’s 😉

  3. I really like the idea of knowing what goes into my soap! I’m going to have to try this soon.

    Right now I use ivory soap. I think it does okay – but I live in Arizona so I slather on moisture lotion every day – so it’s hard to tell the cause and effect of different products.

    • Pretty cool eh? Give Christina a hug for me since I can’t and have a blast making soap together. Wish I could join you!

  4. This is awesome! You never fail to take it to the next level. Right now the guy and I are using vegan olive oil soap with shea butter made by a local couple – coconut lime for me and bay rum for him. Miami is humid enough to help with most dry skin problems which is good because the guy and I are both victims of sporadic crusty dry patches (ew). Good soap (and lotion) makes a huge difference as you point out.

    • Thanks! And way to support your local soap-maker! Those bars sound awesome!

      I still buy vegan castille soap occasionally if I run out between curing times. Shhh 😉 It’s awesome stuff, but there’s nothing like cranking out 2 dozen bars of soap for the next six months in half an hour. LOVE IT.

      • I do like supporting my local independent vegan friendly businesses. Feels good… to be lazy and socially/environmentally conscious at the same time.

      • Radical. Unfortunately other than the chicks on this blog, I don’t know any hippie vegans around here. It’s good we’ve banded together.

        I like lazy and environmentally conscious. I wish I could afford the lazy side a bit more 😉

      • Most of my friends are carnists and [mostly] vegan friendly. Blogging is where my backup comes from. (That includes YOU! Thank-you, seriously.)

  5. This sounds awesome! Our former neighbor made her own soap and I LOVE it, and was just wondering where I’ll get my next batch when I run out. She uses beef fat but it’s been so much better on my skin than any soap I’ve used in the past couple of years. I would love to try your recipe, or even try one of your homemade soaps! Thanks for the recipe, and the awesome tips (don’t want dead flies in MY soap, haha!)

    • You are so welcome! Good luck on the contest, if you don’t win, you must make it, but please without beef tallow, just for me 😉

      It’s not as complicated as it looks 😉

  6. I love how easy this soap recipe is. Thanks for sharing. I’m addicted to handmade soaps, so I really should start making my own.

    • I always felt like the liquid soaps didn’t get me clean enough. I probably needed a scrubby thingy! But I’m glad I’m using a more natural variety! Did you get your soap in the mail?

  7. What a great step-by-step! I’ve always wanted to make my own, but dealing with lye scared the pants off me. Maybe I’ll give this a whirl, though.

    I’ve been using a Yardley oatmeal and almond soap bar, which is quite lovely, except I just checked, and yep…there’s sodium tallowate in it. Eww. Adding “soap” to the grocery list.

    • As long as you wear the protective gear, you will be fine with the lye. Honestly! Ya, sodium tallowate is pretty gross!

      Thanks for entering!

  8. Do I want to join you? DO I WANT TO JOIN YOU? Of course I do!!!! You know, this is one thing I have never done. It’s high time I do this. Will you make sure I do? It’s time. Really. Amazing!!

    • Yes, please do it! You will love it and feel like a little scientist in your own kitchen! Once you get going you can make ginormous batches! My five pound batch makes 24 bars of soap and takes the same amount of time to throw together as the 1 pound batch (about 30 minutes total).

      Did I mention it makes an awesome gift, guess what all my neighbors get for Christmas? 😉

  9. Pick me! I want some. (pause) Yay, I won! I haven’t pulled it out of its container yet – I’m that lame, but I’m really excited to. And I’ll do at least one giveaway in August and one in September, we’ll see what other sponsors I get!

    • Hurry and cut it NOW! Otherwise you may not be able to later! Plus, it needs to be aired out for proper curing! I’ll work on sponsors too. I want a dang box of Pamona’s pectin and I want to test hemp, macadamia and almond cheeses.

      • BUT I DON”T HAVE A CRINKLE CUTTER! Do I really want ugly soap? DOn’t know if I’ll get a post up tomorrow – just not feeling it lately, but I’m trying. Hemp seeds at our Good Earth were 8.49/lb or something. Call yours and call ours about cashews and then come up and visit us!

      • I’ll bring the crinkle cutter on Thursday 🙂 And check out Good Earth.

        Don’t worry about your post. If you want I have an awesome one waiting I can schedule. It’s called vaPOOrize.

        Or, I’m equally happy to wait for Saturday since I’m sure to run out of awesome material VERY soon.

      • Drat! I picked up the kitchen scale (ghetto version- actually uses weights instead of electronic) last night and spaced a crinkle cutter. Picking up lye, hopefully today, kids cooperating.

    • You my darling are the superhero! I’m so behind on blog reading! I can’t wait to catch up with your awesomeness that is surely awaiting me! Xoxo!

  10. Dude, you make your own soap? You’re so hard core, I freakin love it! You’d be so disappointed by my daily habits. Sigh. Oh well. I use costco brand bar soap and my skin is oh so soft, but it always has been no matter what I use. So there you have it. Mike says I’m a walking ‘woo'(that’s what my kids call their silky blankets. Ha ha!) anyway, super intrigued over here at midnight reading your picture directions on homemade soap. Wowza! Xoxo

  11. Homemade soap, huh? Between you and Jason my bathroom is going to look like a science fair. Right now I use Shea Naturals African Black Soap from Target. It’s vegan, and smells awesome. My skin, except for one weird, dime-sized patch on my elbow, is pretty good, with the occasional breakout on my shoulders and neck.

    I wonder if i can convince my science teacher friends to make soap with their classes. . . Then it would be even cheaper and easier!

    As always, you=superstar.

    • Yay! Another entry! That soap sounds radical. I’ll have to check it out!

      I read Jason’s post yesterday too. We were surprised that we were on the same wavelength and that I made something that could be used for his something. Haha!

      I think it’s an excellent idea to get the science class to make it. Free Soap!!! It’s a science project for sure!

      Put some melaleuca (or tea tree oil) on that elbow patch. The stuff clears up most skin conditions (including acne)

      Thanks as always for commenting!

  12. Gorgeous looking soap! I also make my own soap, one of my favourites replaces the water with pureed cucumber – it turns out a nice yellow colour and is sooo moussy 🙂

  13. I’m a huge fan of making my own soap. At the moment my favorite is my homemade Guinness soap. Boil the Guinness (to make the alcohol go away), then freeze it (so that the lye doesn’t scorch it when you mix it in), and then use whatever oils you have. It’s even better with a little clove or cinnamon oil – it smells like gingerbread!

    • Brilliant! I tried to make translucent soap with everclear one time and started my kitchen on fire. Literally. That ended soap making with alcohol for me! I do a gingerbread sorta soap for Christmas presents! Awesome! Thanks for entering!

  14. Hi I hope I’m in the right spot. Ive never commented before, I’ve just kinda been stalking this site for two weeks. I love this blog. You all do an amazing job. I’d love to try some new soap. I use Kirks Castille soap and also Dr. Bronners soap for my shampoo. I’d love to find a vegan/ cruelty free conditioner, if anyone has ideas.Keep up the great job.

    • I use a vegan brand that isn’t as natural as I would like, but I hear others use coconut oil straight up on the ends with great success. Use just a little and don’t rinse or use more, let it sit while doing everything else for deeper conditioning then rise.

    • I have a secret for you. It really is easy! This is the post where I had you completely in mind when I was putting it together. I figured you’d busted out soap making many a time by now but found nary a post about it on your blog. If you will kindly email me your mailing address, I would love to send you a bar, no contest needed 😉

  15. I can’t wait to try this! I’ve been meaning to buy essential oils to make homemade deodorant and it looks like I will be making soap now too 🙂 Right now I have some kind of vegetarian/lavender soap. I got the cheap kind and it kind of dries my skin out but I love it when I can get my hands on castile soap. @cimmelli…i might be a crazy hippie but I’ve been using baking soda for shampoo and apple cider vinegar for the past 1.5 years and it works great. Definitely vegan/cruelty-free!

    • Oh man, you are so much braver than me, I have really really long hair with oily roots and dry ends that require lots of maintenance. I’m terrified of the “no poo” movement. However considering the amount I’m spending on fancy vegan shampoos and conditioners at the moment, I really ought to consider trying it out. Do you have a post on your method anywhere?

      I love homemade deodorant! I hope you can easily source your essential oils. Thanks for entering the contest for the soap! If you don’t win, promise to make it as your skin will love you for it!

      • I will definitely make the soap and tell you how it goes! I’m really excited to try it out.

        I don’t have a post on by hair cleaning regimen yet but I will definitely get one up. I tried “no poo” for a week and I just couldn’t hack it but my hair is naturally dry and since I’ve been using the baking soda/apple cider vinegar I can actually brush it without it frizzing out. It is so nice! It keeps things wavy.

  16. Pingback: Winners of the Cold Process Soap Giveaway « Good Clean Food

  17. I just found your blog from Frugal I Did it Tuesdays … but I love this post! I just started making my own soap too … loving it!! I used to use Irish Springs soap, but you are right — it would really dry out your skin!! Even the “moisturizing” kind! Your soap looks great – I like the crinkle cutter!

  18. Great idea Somer I love it. The instructions are photos are very good. Well done !!! When I travel I carry soap with me, even when I go to the shopping mall lol. So many nasties in soap for vegans and many non vegans that are not aware what they contain.

    • You are right, lots of bad stuff in soap! It’s like a chemical laden cocktail! That’s before you even get started on the animal products!

  19. Pingback: 20 Reasons Why Going Vegan Sucks | Vedged Out

  20. Pingback: Guest Blogger: Vedged Out – 20 Reasons Why Going Vegan Sucks «

  21. Reblogged this on GiRRL_Earth and commented:
    In light of my recent post about soap, Somer (my favorite vegan blogger) commented that she makes her own soap and shared with me, the link to her recipe, which I am in turn sharing with all of you. If your like me and have been thinking about making your own soap, to use and to give as gifts, now is your chance. And please, please, PLEASE, be sure to thank Somer and give credit where credit is due.

    Thanks Somer!
    -Susan a.k.a. GE 🙂

  22. Pingback: 20 redenen waarom veganisme niet leuk is « Veganist of niet

  23. I like the helpful information you supplpy for your
    articles. I will bookmark your weblog and take a look
    at agaijn right here frequently. I am quite ertain I will learn maany
    new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s