I love using homemade soap. I love it even more because I can make it myself. Soap-making can be quite addicting! There are countless recipes and options allowing you to completely customize your soap to fit your needs and desires.
My husband, however, was not exactly thrilled about using my girly scented soap, so I set out to make some manly smelling soap just for him. He loved the result and has been using my homemade soap ever since.
This is a cold process recipe, however, if you prefer to make your soap using a hot-process method, this recipe should work well for that too.
Working With Lye
Lye is a necessary part of the soap-making equation. Soap is the result of a chemical reaction between lye (that has been activated by water) and an oil or animal fat. This reaction is called saponification. You cannot make soap from scratch without lye but with a properly calculated recipe, no lye will remain in your final product.
It can be intimidating to work with lye for the first time and it is definitely necessary to follow safety precautions, but don’t let that stop you from making your own soap!
Safety: When I work with lye there are a few things I do to ensure I am using it safely. These are the precautions I always take:
- Wait until children are in bed. Children or animals underfoot can cause distractions or spills and working with lye is a task that should be done when they are not around.
- Wear protective eyewear and rubber gloves as well as long sleeves.
- Have a clean workspace so that nothing is ruined in case of a spill.
- Mix lye in a very well ventilated area. I personally do it in my backyard so that I don’t have to worry about the fumes in the house and then if I were to spill it would be outside.
- Always add lye to the water. DO NOT add water to lye. This will cause a caustic eruption. Many veteran soapers use the expression “snow floats on the lake” as a reminder for the order they should be mixed.
Soap Making Ingredients
As I mentioned before, there are countless possibilities when you create your recipe. For this soap I wanted a hard yet moisturizing soap with a lot of lather for my husband so I used the following ingredients.
Tallow – makes a hard bar with high cleansing abilities. It is a great basic ingredient for soap. Most commercial soaps are made primarily with tallow. It is easy to render your own. If you want a pure vegetable soap you can substitute palm oil (sourced sustainably) but make sure you recalculate how much lye you will need before you begin.
Olive oil – this is another classic soap ingredient. It initially makes a softer bar but with age can become quite hard. It is very moisturizing but does not have the best lather.
Coconut oil – gives a wonderful, fluffy lather but can be drying so it is best kept to no more than 30% of your soaping oils.
Castor oil – I almost always include castor oil in recipes that contain coconut oil because it helps stabilize the lather made by the coconut oil. Use no more than 10% to avoid creating a lather that feels a bit slippery.
Beeswax – adds to the hardness of the bar.
Essential Oils – your choice for desired scent.
I used orange, patchouli, cinnamon, and clove essential oils to create a manly spiced scent. Patchouli helps to anchor other scents so that they last longer. I only used a very small amount of the cinnamon and clove because these oils are potent and can speed up trace, which can make it difficult to get the soap batter into the mold.
I have a set of supplies I keep on hand for making soap. You can use your kitchen tools if you are diligent about cleaning them thoroughly but I prefer to keep them separate.
- Glass jar or high quality plastic pitcher for mixing lye and water
- Second glass jar or disposable plastic cup for measuring lye
- Non-reactive pot or slow-cooker for warming oils
- Small glass bowl for measuring essential oils
- Digital infrared thermometer or 2 candy thermometers (one for lye and one for oils)
- Soap mold
- Immersion blender
- Digital scale
- Spoon for mixing lye
- Protective gloves and eyewear
- Vinegar for final clean-up
Spiced Soap for Men Recipe
- 10.9 oz distilled water
- 4.39 oz lye
- 13 oz tallow
- 12 oz olive oil
- 4.5 oz coconut oil
- 2 oz castor oil
- 1.5 oz beeswax pellets
- 1.5 oz orange essential oil
- .4 oz patchouli essential oil
- 22 drops cinnamon essential oil
- 15 drops clove essential oil
- Prepare your mold: If you are using a wood mold it will need to be lined with wax paper. Silicone molds are ready without any special preparation. You can also use any box if you line it with wax paper or a thick garbage bag.
- Wearing protective gear, place the glass jar on the scale, and tare the scale.
- Pour distilled water into the jar until it reads 10.9 oz.
- Set aside.
- Put the second jar on the scale and tare the scale. Wearing protective gear, carefully pour the lye into the jar until the scale reads 4.39 oz.
- Take both jars and a spoon outside.
- Still wearing protective gear, slowly pour the lye into the water.
- Stir the mixture. It will become quite hot so keep this in mind if you need to move it.
- Let the water/lye mixture sit and cool until it reaches about 100°F.
- While the lye is cooling, measure all other ingredients EXCEPT the essential oils and warm them together in a pot or slow-cooker. The beeswax will take the longest to melt.
- Once everything is melted, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool to 100°F. I use the infrared thermometer about every 5-10 minutes to test the temperature, which works really well. A candy thermometer placed in each container also works. If one is cooling faster than the other you can put your oils back on the heat source or the water/lye mixture in a warm water bath to slow the cooling process a bit. Ideally, you want the lye-water and the oils to both be within 10°F of each other and around 100°F.
- When the temperatures match, slowly pour the lye-water into the oils.
- Use the immersion blender to bring the batter to a light trace. It should be slightly thick and resemble cake batter.
- If you are adding essential oils now is the time to do so.
- Blend essential oils in by pulsing the immersion blender a few times. This should bring the mixture to a medium trace. You can tell when you have reached a medium trace by lifting your blender up out of the mixture (in the OFF position) and observing how the drips behave. They should sit on the surface without sinking back in.
- Pour the soap batter into your prepared mold. Remember that the soap is not fully “cooked” yet at this point and could still irritate your skin so you should still be wearing your gear.
- Place an upside-down cardboard box over the soap and cover it with a towel. If you live in a warm climate the towel may not be necessary.
- Let sit for 24 hours.
- Un-mold your soap and cut it.
- Stand bars up in a dry area with an inch or so of space in between to allow for air circulation and let them sit for 4-6 weeks. This will allow the soap to complete the saponification process and also dry them out a bit so they last longer in the shower.
What essential oils do the men in your life prefer? Have you ever tried them to make a soap for men?
Discussion (32 Comments)
Love this! Can it be made with melt and pour base, either shea butter or goat’s milk? I’m just starting out and really like the ease of using melt and pour.
You could probably melt down 3 pounds of melt and pour soap and stir in the essential oils before pouring it into your molds.
Please don’t advise going outside with the lye water mixture.. if a person trips or a door slams on them , they will be covered !
it’s SOOO much easier to just stir under a stove vent.
I recently made a castile type hand soap with instructions I followed on you tube, turned out fine except I am disappointed with amount of lather produced, even after 4 months curing. My question is, could I follow your
directions and add sugar to the mix to produce more lather? Very good website! Thanks!
Pure olive oil soap won’t make a good lather. It will most likely be thin and slimy.
If you add about 15% coconut, and 5% castor oil, you’ll have a bar with much better and stable lather. But, yes, adding sugar or honey to your recipe will also improve the lather but not as much as changing the oil content.
I have a question. I used red palm oil instead of tallow. My finished product does not lather at all. I used 4.39 lye and 10.9 of water. Does it gave to sit 24 hours before it will lather?
Almost every, if not EVERY, cold process soap does much better if left to CURE for at least 6 weeks. Unmolding, if making regular soap and not salt bars, should be possible in about 24 hrs, but some high soft oil soaps, like olive oil or almond, can take several days. Or if you used full water.
It’s not about how much lye you used that determines how much and/or how stable your lather will be but the total kinds of oils you used.
Run that recipe through a lye calculator and notice the levels of suds you might get from your recipe. Change up the oils, or change the percentages used to get the kind of lather you want. Also try looking up “properties of oils used in soap making” (w/out the quotes) to geta better idea of which oils will give you better results.
Note: most veteran soapers will use a combo of coconut (usually no more than 30%, but I use 15-20% in mine), and castor oil at no more than 8% for good, stable, lather.
How much soap does this make? I’m trying to cost-effectively make this DIY soap for gifts, and so far, (outside of entry costs for extra pans and spoons and stuff for the lye), I’ll spend $40 or so on ingredients alone. Fancy soap at Whole Foods runs from 2-10$ a bar, so how cost-effective does this soap run?
I have made this soap and sold it with some of my other soaps at a craft fair recently so I had to figure my costs up. I bought all high quality ingredients – most from mountain rose herbs, so I tried to include all costs in my configuration, including online shipping, etc. I cut one batch of this soap recipe into about 10 good sized bars, so came up with each bar costing me about $5.75. Hope this helps.
Yes! Thank you. Just made some and not only does it smell amazing, but Christmas gifts this year are gonna rock!! This was my first time making soap, and your post was not only clear but covered all the bases! Thanks!
If I shop around and buy in bulk I can make a bar that cost me about $0.44 an ounce. I try to use oils that I can buy in large quantities at Sams club, Costco or Walmart at a cheap price, like coconut, lard and olive oil. Olive oil can be pricey per ounce, you can replace part of it with a less expensive oil like canola oil to reduce cost. I avoid Shea and other expensive butters and oils. I use 5% aloe juice for extra bubbles, and about 5% almond for nourishment. I wouldn’t use more almond because it drives the price up. Putting in about 0.5% clay makes a bar better for shaving. Bees wax is expensive as well, you can leave it out. Look for a good lye calculator online and run the recipe through it before making it. I use a site called http://soapcalc.net/calc/soapcalcwp.asp The really great thing about this site is it gives you the individual oils properties of each oil, which makes it so you know what can be substituted with what. (how much bubbly, cleansing, conditioning, hardness, creamy, Iodine and INS#). It makes it so a beginner can change the oils around and still get a good soap. Also see if you can buy the Essential oils in larger quantity for less. buying 3 x .5 oz bottles of oil is going to add up. The oils in this recipe are not to expensive. Use caution with citrus since as they are known to fade. That might be why this recipe calls for so much citrus, you can look up how to fix oils in soap . Check out your local natural grocers for pricing or look online for good deals. I find whole foods to be expensive, see if there is another provider in your area. Make sure to do a background check on who you are buying from as not all oils are of the same quality. I have found NOW oils to be of good quality for a good price. Artificial fragrances can be much less expensive than some essential oils, they are worth checking out. Check out Brambelberry. There oils are at a competitive price and of good quality and they do a test batch for you so you can see how there oil behaves in soap.. Brambelberry also is one of the few sites with a cent calculator telling you how much to use. This is super nice because you can get the right amount of smell from the get go. Good luck.
Hi Wellness Mama,
A few things. Just made this two nights ago and unmolded last night.
– Why does your soap in the picture look creamy white while mine turned out a dark yellow/brown color? Was it supposed to turn out white/cream?
– This may sound dumb, but: Are the amounts of essential oils by the fluid ounce? I’m fairly new to soap making but have made quite a few recipes of soap so far and have always been puzzled by adding essential oils. A recipe seems to always call for a huge amount of oils. This can get expensive quickly! 1.5 oz. orange essential was three of the small half ounce containers from mountain rose herbs! Did I do this correctly by going by the fluid ounce? I used all the same amounts as you except I only used 1 oz. of orange because it seemed SO excessive. The bars have a very strong scent when I unmolded. Will this dissipate as the bars cure?
– I’m not sure if you meant to put parchment paper instead of wax paper in your recipe, but the wax was a huge pain in the rear end! I knew that i had only ever used parchment to cover my molds before, but I said ok, if Wellness Mama says to use wax, I’ll use wax! But it stuck horribly in small pieces to my soap, and the wax kind of melted into my mold so it was a big pain to even pry the wax away from the soap mold. Eek!
THANK YOU for your help! I love your site and go to it as a major health resource…yay self-advocacy! You empower your readers by giving us research-based insights, so it makes it easy to find answers to our problems or at least spark ideas to give us a great starting place for our own research.
Maybe she did intend to say parchment, but I KNOW you don’t use wax paper for lining soap molds because the wax from the paper melts and allows the soap batter to permeate it. If you’re not able to use parchment, use a grocery shopping bag with the ink side out. Cheap and easily available. Plus it can be reused in the same mold.
Note: I don’t reline my molds every time I make soap. If I don’t tear it, I just leave it for the next batch after giving it a good cleaning with an almost dry damp microfiber cloth.
Wow! This should smell so nice I could almost perceive the scent right here! Lol.
Well done Katie.
Could you do something on homemade air fresheners please?
I can’t use coconut oil in my soap. What would a suitable replacement be, that provides a similar lather? Also is it possible to use the warm process instead of the cold process on a recipe? What would need changes or is it best to stick with the cold process. Thanks for your time.