Let's clean up the world, one bar of soap at a time



Here you will find interesting bits of information, plus answers to questions I received - and continue to receive - from customers, those who are interested in the craft, and the beginner crafter.   


Not everyone will agree with my ideas,  and that's ok;  no-one needs to take what I share as the word.

What I will be sharing with you are my personal experiences and observations, all of them collected through a journey of some 23 years and through years of tough, formal education. 

I hope you will find the content interesting, useful, and sometimes funny!




I would like to make soap but I don't like the idea of using lye.  Can you teach me how to make soap without lye?

You cannot make soap without lye. Well, let me clarify that! You could use ashes as your lye, but the process is rather tedious and really not worth it. Personally, I do not know any soaper who uses ashes to make soap!  Also, the soap made with ashes (instead of lye) will be softer and will not last as long.  Another drawback for many is that such soap will not lather much at all and will feel greasier.  I don't know about you, but I don't find it very appealing.


Is lye dangerous? 

Lye can be very dangerous, even deadly if you do not know how to use it properly and with respect. That is why it is so important to use protective gear when you make soap.  If you are not careful, if you really do not know what you are doing, you could experience lye exploding, turning your soap mixture into a volcano that will quickly spill out of the pot and cause great damage.


If lye is so dangerous, why would I want to use it on my skin?

Once the lye has stopped reacting with the fats in your soap recipe, it neutralizes.  A properly made soap will contain no lye and will be perfectly safe to use.  Always use a lye calculator when formulating your recipes!


What is a lye calculator?

The lye calculator is used to determine how much lye you will need for a specific recipe. Each oil and butter has a saponification value, which tells us how much lye is needed to turn that butter or oil into soap.  Suppliers who cater to soapmakers usually list the saponification value of the oils they offer. It will be listed as the oil/butter "SAP" value.

You do not have to use a lye calculator.  You can calculate the amount manually, as long as you know the saponification value of your oils and know the formula for deciding how much lye you'll need.

Example: coconut oil has a SAP value of 0.190

Olive oil has a SAP value of 0.134

Suppose you want to make a soap containing only olive oil and coconut oil.  You have 800 grams of olive oil and 350 grams of coconut oil (it's always best to measure in grams rather than ounces - it's more precise).  Ok, so now for the olive oil you take 900 x 0.134 = 120.6g  This is how many grams of lye you need to turn the olive oil into soap. Do the same with the coconut oil:

0.190 x 450g = 85.5 g of lye to saponify the coconut oil.

Now add 85.5 + 120.6 = 206.1g    This is the total amount of lye you will need for the recipe.

Most soapers do not bother doing the manual calculation.  Instead, they plug in the weight of each oil/butter and let the lye calculator do the work.


Is 100% olive oil soap called Castile or Bastile?  I have seen both Castile and Bastile to refer to olive oil soap.

The jury is still out on this and the arguments continue.  Some, myself included, will tell you that Bastile soap is not 100% olive oil but will contain relatively small percentages of other oils such as coconut oil, palm oil, etc.

100% olive oil soap is Castile soap which dates hundreds of years back; it was made using just olive oil and salt water.  Castile soap is considered the mildest of soaps, mild enough to use on baby's skin.  It does not bubble a lot, but produces a creamy lather.  One drawback of 100% olive oil soap is that it takes a long, long time to cure; it's not unusual to wait a year or more before the soap can be used. You could use it sooner, but it would not last very long! One way to help harden the soap (besides the curing time) is by adding salt.  I don't think it would be cheating as the original recipe used salt water :-) 


Can I use tap water to make soap?

You can but it is not advisable. Spend $1 for a gallon of distilled water and use that instead of tap water.  The problem with tap water is that it may contain minerals and other impurities that could react with the lye.  Use distilled water. 

I used milk and my lye water turned orange and smelled bad!

Making soap using milk is a bit more involved.  You water turned orange and smelled bad because the lye reacted with the milk.  The sugars in the milk were scorched by the lye, which is why it ended up smelling bad and turned orange.  You can still go ahead and make your soap; the smell will evaporate but your soap will not be a nice light color. 

When making soap using milk, you need to freeze the milk first.  When ready to make soap, weight the amount of frozen milk and then slowly add the lye granules, a little at a time. This will help prevent scorching.  Be patient, it will take some time. 


What is the difference between cold process and hot process soap?

Cold process means that the oils and the lye water are roughly at approximate room temperature.  When you use the hot process method, you apply heat to the oils/lye mixture.  The heat speeds up the saponification process, and your soap will be ready within an hour.


A bought a soap at the store, but after using it for about a month I notice a big crack in the middle.  Why is it splitting?

I don't know which soap you bought and I did not see a picture of it, but in most cases this is due to forced drying.  Many companies will use forced air over the new bars of soap because they are in a hurry to put them on the market.  Unfortunately, this causes the splitting of the "soap". I find this irritating as I see it as another example of quantity over quality. :-/