How to Make Soap (With or Without Lye)

Katie Wells Avatar

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This post contains affiliate links.

Read my affiliate policy.

How to make soap- with or without lye
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Home » How to Make Soap (With or Without Lye)

Growing up, it never occurred to me that it was possible to make soap at home. I was born in a big city, grew up in another and soap was always a white-colored bar from Ivory that came in a package.

Why Make Soap at Home?

I’d always been crafty, and when I found recipes for soap making in an old-time homemaking book, I was intrigued. At the same time, all those years ago, I was unsure about some of the ingredients that the recipes called for, especially tallow and lye.

In fact, despite my intrigue with homemade soap, it took me a few years to work up the courage to make it, so I just bought handmade soap from a local vendor in the meantime. When I finally attempted to make homemade soap for our family, I was amazed at how simple it was, and how much money it saved!

While the process seems overwhelming at first glance, it is very simple, especially after you’ve done it once. Also, in less than an hour, it is possible to make enough soap for our family for months and months, and I was able to make soap for less than half the cost of buying it, even with organic ingredients.

Types of Soap You Can Make at Home

In general, there are several ways to make soap at home (with endless variations of each). These are:

In this tutorial, I’ll cover traditional cold process soap making. I’ll start broad with the basics and share my favorite simple recipe at the bottom. Check out the links above for tutorials on other methods.

Can You Make Soap Without Lye?

Often, the biggest concern with soap-making is the lye, and this was one of my biggest concerns as well before I researched it.

Lye comes with its fair share of warnings and with good reason, but that doesn’t mean that the finished soap product is in any way dangerous. The most often asked question on my soap recipes (like my basic slowcooker soap or my charcoal bars) is “can I make soap without lye?” The short answer is no, but the long answer requires a little science…

What is Lye?

Chemically, lye is Sodium Hydroxide, a caustic alkali. It can eat holes in fabric and skin and cause severe reactions with other chemicals. For soap, the crystal form of pure Sodium Hydroxide is used (this is important!) and the lye must be added to water, not the other way around.

Sounds dangerous… right?

Not so fast.

After all, table salt is made up of sodium and chloride, both dangerous on their own but edible once combined.

You Can’t Make Soap Without Lye

Soap by definition is an alkali mixed with fats. When combined, a process called saponification happens, creating soap. This not only allows the liquid and oils to mix (they don’t do this naturally, as you might remember from grade school science class), but also creates the action by which soap has its cleansing properties.

In other words, without Lye, you just have a bucket of chunky, fatty oils floating in water.

The important part is to make sure that the correct amount of Lye is used for the particular soap you make (more on that below) as different oils and fats require different ratios of lye.

Don’t Want to Handle Lye?

If you don’t want to physically touch the lye but still want the experience of making soap, all is not lost. There are ways that you can make and customize your own soap without handling the lye by using a pre-made melt-and-pour soap that has been pre-saponified (in other words, the lye has already been handled).

It is not lye-free, but you won’t have to handle the lye yourself.

This is the brand of melt-and-pour soap that I’ve used before, and it worked really well. You can add scents with essential oils, or add other ingredients like clays, salts, or other add-ins if you want to create a personalized soap. Again, it isn’t lye-free and you haven’t technically “made” the soap but it is a way to have the experience without having to handle the lye (but it is also much less cost effective).

How To Create Your Own Soap (With Lye)

As I explained, though Lye can be dangerous on its own, there is no lye remaining in soap that has been properly made and no reason for concern when using lye appropriately and in the correct ratio for soap making.

If you are ready to tackle the simple process of soap making using lye, here are some good resources to get started:

Soap Making Supplies Needed

Before you begin, it is important to have both a recipe and the necessary ingredients. You can make a custom soap with almost any variety of oils and fats, and a good soap calculator (like this one) will help you know how much of each ingredient you’ll need. The bulk oils I keep on hand for soap making (and general cooking and use) are:

Once you have a recipe and the necessary oils/fats, you’ll also need to get some pure Lye to use in the saponification process. I had trouble finding it locally, but I was able to order pure lye specifically for soap making here.

Kitchen Tools for Soap Making

I also found these kitchen tools helpful and I keep a specific one of each just for soap making and not for kitchen use:

It is best to have separate kitchen tools for soap making and not to use regular kitchen tools.

How to Customize Your Soap

At this point, you can also decide on any add-ins for your soap to customize the color, scent or texture. In the past, I’ve used:

Basic Soap Recipe

Don’t want to create your own recipe and ready to jump in? Try this simple recipe to get started. Before you start, make sure you have the equipment and ingredients on hand, including a digital scale. This is not optional for making homemade soap!

This makes a 1 pound (454 gram) batch with 5% superfat and 33% water reduction.


  • 62 grams Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
  • 124 grams Distilled Water
  • 150 grams Refined Coconut Oil
  • 25 grams Shea Butter
  • 225 grams Olive Oil
  • 100 grams  Sunflower Oil

What to do:

  1. Get all all of your ingredients and weigh them out to correct amounts. It is important to do this before you begin as soap making is a time sensitive process and there isn’t time to stop and measure in between.
  2. Combine liquid oils: olive oil and sunflower oil and set aside in a small jar or bowl.
  3. Melt coconut oil and shea butter in a small pan on the stove until just melted and set aside.
  4. Now you’ll need to carefully make the lye solution. Make sure pets and small children are not in the room and always wear goggles and waterproof gloves. Measure and weigh each separately first. Never use hot water when mixing and never ever add water to the lye. Mix by adding lye to room temperature or cool water in a sturdy glass container. Again, never add water to the lye! This mixture will get very hot and release steam at first. Stir with a stainless steel spoon until the lye is completely dissolved.
  5. Now is when your digital thermometer comes in handy. you’ll want to mix the oils and the lye mixture when they both reach 105 degrees. There can be a slight difference but the lye solution should be under 110 degrees and within 10 degrees of the oils temperature.
  6. Once the lye is mixed, combine the liquid oils into the melted butters and solids and stir to combine. Check the temperature. You’re aiming for 105 and might need to heat them back up slightly if they’ve cooled. You’ll mostly be waiting for the lye to cool to 105 so you can begin mixing (called bringing the soap to trace).
  7. Slowly and carefully, pour the lye mixture into the oils.
  8. Use an immersion blender to blend the soap until it reaches trace. This means the oils have saponified. Keep blending until it is creamy and like pudding. If you want to add essential oils or any other ingredients, this is the time you’ll add them. I usually add about a teaspoon of a gentle essential oil like lavender. Work really quickly so the soap doesn’t harden too much in this stage.
  9. Quickly transfer into molds and tap a few times to release air bubbles. I like to use individual silicone bar molds because they are easier. This mold is the exact right size for this recipe.
  10. Insulate (or not). Insulating soap will lead to a darker and more transparent finished soap. Not insulating will result in a lighter and more opaque soap. I’ve insulated two ways: by carefully covering and wrapping in a towel, and my placing on a baking sheet and placing in a warm but cooled (110 degree) oven and leaving overnight.
  11. Wait two days and remove soap from the mold.
  12. Now for the patience… your soap needs to cure! It isn’t ready yet. Place on a flat and well ventilated area for 30 days. Turn it over a few times during this time period.

Other Soap Recipes

Want to mix it up? Try these recipes:

Ever made soap? What is your favorite variation?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


83 responses to “How to Make Soap (With or Without Lye)”

  1. Tammy DiMuccio Blanton Avatar
    Tammy DiMuccio Blanton

    I have been making goat milk soap a long time, but have a question… this batch was tracing, getting thick… I added my essential oils and put in my mold… the soap is not getting hard to cut and let breath this time….
    I am warming the smaller mold back up to hopefully get it to set… any other suggestions?
    Thank you

  2. Ana Carvalho Avatar
    Ana Carvalho

    Hi, I loved your post and the calculator you direct me to. I am looking for a recipe for shampoo bar for my son who has eczema/ atopic dermititis, I would like to use kombucha and oatmeal in the recipe, do you have any suggestions?
    And I am also would like a recipe for me, I am 49 and my hair is thinning very rapidly, I tried vitamins and special shampoos but my condition is not improving, my hair is mixd very oily at the roots and dry at the bottom.



  3. J. Chambers Avatar
    J. Chambers

    I just hate when people sell what they call handmade soap when it is actually made from melt and pour soap base. They didn’t make the soap. They just added to already made soap. And no, the soap no longer contains lye unless you have lye heavy soap. Although soap cannot be made with out the addition of lye. The chemical make up changes when added too water and fat.


    have learn a lot from your website .Could you please explain for me the ration of lye to fat and what temperature should you add lye to the fat . have also started a soap making cottage industry at home .

  5. Jennifer Avatar

    I love using soap without lye. I’m not sure why, it just grosses me out. Maybe i”ll have to give lye another try.

  6. Glenn Pallast Avatar
    Glenn Pallast

    Hello, I am new to soap making and I am trying to find out if anyone can advise on a replacement for all coconut products. I have severe life threatening allergies when I get within 10 feet of anything with coconut in or on it. I have ask some other people who are online showing soap making and have been told to find a new hobby, is there no replacement or are they just being rude? Thank you for your time and have a blessed weekend.

  7. April Avatar


    I read that it is no longer advised to pour vinegar on your skin if it comes in contact with lye – is this true? The alternative is to run your hand under cold water. Apparently, lye and vinegar will cause a burning reaction.

  8. Robin Avatar

    I am looking for a recipe to make Shea butter liquid soap/body wash with lye. Do you have a recipe for that? I have used your recipes for different things over the years and have ALWAYS been so happy with the finished product. I’d love to know if you can help me out. Thanks!

  9. Kora Avatar

    Hello! I wonder if you have any concern about the titanium dioxide used in the soap base you recommend for the melt and pour method. I am reading mixed information regarding it’s safety. I realize it’s in a lot of natural sunscreens and beauty products. But I have concerns about using it regularly on my two year old, as the soap would be for him. Do you have any input on this? Do you use it on your children?

  10. Lubega Ivan Avatar
    Lubega Ivan

    Hi there,
    I have followed the instructions but my bar soap has become very hard.
    How can I reverse it to become soft.
    I will be happy when you answer me please

  11. Adrienne Brayshaw Avatar
    Adrienne Brayshaw

    I have been very ill with several things and the medical profession is having problems with me. I am a child of the 60s where we had everything naturally make and I go to the local markets to buy my homemade soap, dish liquid and so on. It would be wonderful to be able to make my own. I love all that I saw on this page.

  12. Jill Avatar

    I just found out I am allergic to a number of items and coconut, sunflower, safflower,sesame to name a few and I can not find personal products with out these. Do you have any suggestions?

  13. Donna Avatar

    Thank you for sharing!! There is a product on Amazon that uses Goat milk pre mixed for soap base. All you do is add what ever you want to it such as essential oils, herbs, and even toys for kids.
    I would much rather go this route because it’s much easier and quick to make.
    I’ve used Goat Milk lotion before and it works wonderful for dry skin.

    Thanks so much for sharing!! Xx

  14. Misty Geistert Avatar
    Misty Geistert

    I’m unsure if you realized this or not, (and I’m sad to inform you) :/ , but every Soap Base Ingredient List I looked at from the website has
    *Propylene Glycol*,
    ( )
    “Irritates the Skin
    Propylene glycol has been reported as a skin irritant that can cause dermatitis, an eczema-like rash (source). When added to skin, body care, and cosmetic products, it can really aggravate skin problems. (Ironically, it is often an ingredient in topical medications to treat these skin conditions! How does that make sense?!)”

    Some have *Sodium Laureth Sulfate*,
    ( )
    “not recommended for cosmetics or skin use”
    ( )

    & *Yellow 5*, *Green 5*
    ( )

  15. Ivan Avatar

    Hi, I really like this post. I’m trying to use natural products as much as I can, and many of them I made by myself. I wonder, if You could write a post about black African soap?

  16. Ronda Everson Avatar
    Ronda Everson

    When I lived in Romania, the women were making soap with pig fat and bones. Have you heard of it? I didn’t listen very well, but now a few years down the road, I wish I had. Do you know how to make the soap the made? –Also, my Aunt Billie used to make soap with ashes from the fire in Oklahoma. Do you know how to make that kind of soap?

  17. Lawrence oluwaseun Avatar
    Lawrence oluwaseun

    I like this because I want to empower myself on DIY at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *