How to make base for home made soap.

Soap is one of the most used elements in the cleaning of our bodies and homes and has been present in our daily hygiene since 2800 BC. Its manufacture is massively generated at the factory level, but in this article I will teach you how to make base for home made soap by yourself from the comfort of your home. Soap is the result of a chemical process called saponification (described in detail below) that consists of a mixture of oils or fats, whether of animal or vegetable origin, a strong alkali such as sodium hydroxide and water.

Brief history of soap.

Nowadays it is quite simple and easy to get soap, just go to the nearest store and buy it. But in the past this was not at all simple. Roman legend has it that soap was discovered by mixing the fat of slaughtered animals with wood ash from campfires. This happened by chance because when hunters slaughtered wild animals to obtain their meat and skins, the remains, with abundant fat, were left near the campfires that these hunters made to warm themselves from the cold weather. When these bonfires were extinguished, only the ashes remained. All these elements, together with the water of a nearby river, created a pasty mixture that, when agitated with the moving water, created a kind of foam. This was the first indication of the creation of soap.

Other civilizations already used their own soaps, for example, Sumerian tablets were found where it was mentioned that 3000 years ago the Sumerians, by combining boiled oil with resins, potassium and salt, obtained an ingredient that had hygienic and medicinal uses. The Phoenicians made it with olive oil and caustic soda obtained from the combustion of saline plants.

On the other hand, the Egyptians obtained it in a very curious way, mixing a mineral extracted from salt lakes, a clay that absorbed fatty matter, with rainwater. In the same way, both the Germans and the Celts used goat fat and birch tree ashes to make their soaps. A very interesting fact is that the Gauls used to make their soaps with ashes and wild boar fat, but besides cleaning themselves with them, they also used them to dye their beards and hair. But it was not until the end of the 16th century that the Arabs built in Seville the first European soap factory that manufactured a product that four centuries later would be known as Castile soap because it was made with olive oil, water and caustic soda from laurel ashes instead of animal fats.

Today, since the chemist Nicolas Leblanc achieved a procedure that allowed obtaining sodium carbonate from sea salt some time later in 1823 Inchapel was who demonstrated that fats are formed by glycerol and acids and thus chemically explains the reaction of saponification that these cultures elaborated for centuries. Thus it was that since the 19th century coconut and palm oils began to be used to make soap as a substitute for animal fat.

How does soap work?

After this brief historical review, I will explain how soap works. The fat or dirt, when in contact with the caustic soda is divided into parts and the sodium carbonate reacts with this dirt, that is to say, the soap in a few words encapsulates the dirt in bubbles and this is then dragged by the water to finally disappear.

To continue talking about the soap manufacturing process, it is essential to define the process by which fats are transformed into soap. This process is called saponification.

Saponification process.

Saponification is a chemical process by means of which a fatty acid, together with an alkali and water, results in soap and glycerin. The fatty acid, depending on its physical state, can be an oil when in its liquid state, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, or it can be a butter when in its solid state, such as cocoa butter and shea butter, lard, and, as shown, it can be of both animal and vegetable origin.

For the saponification process to occur, it is necessary that the fatty acid, which can make an oil or a butter, joins an alkali that depending on the type of soap we want to elaborate will make sodium hydroxide better known as soda or caustic soda to elaborate solid soaps and potassium hydroxide better known as potash to elaborate liquid soaps.

For a fatty acid and an alkali to be able to join, a communicating element is necessary, which will be the water where we are going to dissolve the alkali to later add it to the fatty acid and produce soap and glycerin.

How to make base for home made soap.

In this article we are going to concentrate on how to make base for home made soap, but specifically on how to prepare the soap base. That is, a totally neutral soap, without additives such as colors and fragrances.

It is important to mention that there are two methods of saponification, cold and hot saponification. Cold saponification is generated when all the ingredients are mixed without heating the final mixture, this results in a waiting time before using the soap of approximately 4 weeks, this is in order to remove any remaining sodium hydroxide before using the soap. On the contrary, the hot saponification is done by heating the mixture for a period of 45 minutes at low heat directly and stirring the mixture in periods of 15 minutes, this in order to remove the remains of sodium hydroxide and thus be able to use the soap once we remove it from the molds.

Below, I show you a formula for a base soap made with coconut oil and olive oil.

We will need 800 grams of virgin olive oil, 300 grams of coconut oil, 384 grams of demineralized water and 150.3 grams of caustic soda. It is important that the water we use is demineralized, since, if we use tap water or any other type of water containing minerals, these can react with the caustic soda and can affect the final result in the creation of our soap.

Cold saponification

The first thing we must always do is to put on protective or safety equipment such as a mask, gloves, goggles and apron. We must be in a well ventilated place since the union of the water with the sodium hydroxide emanates toxic gases that if breathed can cause respiratory lesions. First we always pour the sodium hydroxide to the water, never the other way around because it could splash us (take into account that this is the riskiest step since it becomes a caustic solution with an extremely high PH and can burn our skin). Another important fact when making our soaps is, never use aluminum implements because the sodium hydroxide reacts with this element creating hydrogen and can be very dangerous (always use stainless steel, glass or plastic containers resistant to high temperatures).

We stir well this mixture of water with sodium hydroxide, it can be with a glass or stainless steel rod, or it can be with a wooden stick or a wooden spoon, immediately the temperature will reach approximately 80 or 90 degrees Celsius of the thermometer. Next, we must mix constantly until the sodium hydroxide is completely dissolved in the water, this we see when the mixture is totally crystalline and we let the solution cool down until it reaches 40 degrees.

Meanwhile in a container we will pour the olive oil and coconut oil and mix them well by heating them in a bain-marie until this mixture is also approximately 40 degrees so that the two phases are at the same temperature. Then when we have the caustic soda and the oils at 40 degrees Celsius we pour the solution of caustic soda and water over the oil.

Then we beat with the mixer and stir manually, also until we get a texture like a kind of custard (at this point we have gone from a liquid phase to a pasty one). This is the so-called trace point, which is where we have the ideal consistency to place our mixture in the molds.

After having our soap placed in the mold, we must cover it well with lids and blankets, since even in this state the reaction continues to take effect. Once in this stage of the how to make soap process we must let the mixture rest for a period of 24 to 48 hours and then unmold our soap bar.

Once this time has passed we unmold and cut the bar into bars which we will leave in the open air to dry well and dissolve the caustic soda completely. Once the time of at least 4 weeks has passed, we can use our soap.

Hot saponification.

Hot saponification takes place when we proceed to heat the mixture after we reach the trace point (when we obtain the pasty consistency after integrating and beating all the phases with the mixer). This heating is achieved by pouring the mixture into a container and heating it either in a pot with a direct flame or by heating it with a glass-ceramic stove. The important thing in this process is to maintain a constant low temperature from the beginning of the heating until the end of the process.

During the heating process, approximately 45 minutes’ elapse and the soap goes through several phases that transform its appearance and are easily identifiable. The first one is the volcano stage, in this stage it can be observed that small volcanoes are generated making small soap eruptions. In this stage we must remove all the mixture and then put the lid back on. Then the second stage is the gelling stage, where the soap acquires the appearance of a gel. It is also necessary to stir and cover again. And finally the applesauce stage appears, here the soap acquires the appearance of a puree and it is where we can say that the process has concluded.

After all these stages we can mold our soap and wait for it to dry. This takes approximately 24 hours. After this time, we can unmold our soap and cut it into bars and it will be ready to use.

PH Measurement

After preparing our soap it is necessary to measure its PH. The PH is the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a substance, it varies from 1 to 14, being 7 the optimal permissible scale admitted as neutral. For example, a substance less than 7 is considered acidic and one greater than 7 is considered alkaline.

There are several ways to measure the PH, usually with soaps it is very common to measure the PH with measuring tapes, which depending on the degree of acidity or alkalinity turn one color or another. This is achieved by wetting the surface of the soap and placing the measuring tape on it.

No matter what method we use for the preparation of our soap, if we use cold saponification we can measure our soap bars and if after the optimum time has elapsed they are still alkaline we can leave them longer. And if we use hot saponification and after measuring they still show alkalinity, we give them more cooking time.

Soap formulation.

Initially I gave you a clear example of how to make soap, but there is a way to do it yourself depending on the characteristics you want your soap to have. Knowing that depending on the oil you use you will have different characteristics in your soap bars. For example, coconut oil provides hardness to the bar, generates a lot of foam, olive oil provides softness and moisturizes the skin, combining these two oils you will get a long lasting soap bar, with a high foam generation, and also softens and moisturizes the skin.

Using this same analogy, you can formulate your soaps according to your requirements. For this we rely heavily on the saponification table. This table provides you with specific values according to the quantities of each component to be prepared for your soaps. Knowing that each oil has a saponification index, you only have to define the amount and the oils you are going to use in your formulation and the table provides you with the amount of water and sodium hydroxide to use for these amounts.

Once you have defined the quantities of each component, you only have to apply the method described above.


Whether for medicinal, aesthetic or environmental reasons, we have provided you with a how to make base for home made soap methodology. With all the above mentioned concepts you are fully capable of making your own handmade soaps. You have a universe of properties, fragrances and colors to play with by creating your own soap bars.

It is a very fun and ecological method that also gives you the possibility to make your own soaps and even market them.

So far I have described the initial way to prepare a soap base, but, later in other posts, we will see different types of soaps which can be used for different purposes, such as moisturizers, soaps for simple skins, for dry skins, clay soaps, different types of fragrances and essential oils, etc.

I hope this article will be of great help and that it will be the key to introduce you to the immense world of handmade soaps.