All of my soap recipes require some basic soap making ingredients & equipment, let’s take a detailed look at what you need & where to buy supplies at reasonable prices.
Soap Making Ingredients
Many of these items can be found in your local stores and Amazon also offers a wide variety, or you may already have them to hand.
But for the sake of convenience, I wanted to give you my thoughts and tips on each item, along with some direct links making it easy to purchase your soap making ingredients from my favorite places.
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide/Caustic Soda )
Lye is a necessary ingredient used in the cold process soapmaking recipes, it has become a little more difficult item to buy throughout local retailers.
However, I have managed to buy lye at Nurture Soap, which is a specialist online soap store. I have purchased it specifically for cold-process soapmaking, and yes it works beautifully.
With many of my projects calling for natural oils as ingredients, I’ve developed a comprehensive essential oil guide and a carrier oils guide to help you choose what to use. If you want your soap to be totally natural, these both show a wealth of information on the uses and properties of many soapmaking oils.
For Fragrance oils
I recommend Nurture Soap. They have a dedicated page on all of the fragrance oils you will need, and their oils are specifically designed for soapmaking.
For Essential oils
I recommend Mountain Rose essential oils, they have a huge selection of quality organic oils, and I’ve not found better anywhere else.
Peppermint, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Clove and Spearmint are probably the strongest of all the essential oils.
Using Fragrance and Essential Oils
You can adjust the scent volume in soaps. I recommend starting at 2% of all the oils and water added together. Depending on your preference you can increase it up to 5%, that however would be very strong depending on what oils you are choosing.
Soapmaking dye is easy to use and comes in a variety of colors. Many varieties can be found here on Nurture Soap. These should produce a very reliable color, and tend to be more vibrant than their natural alternatives.
Titanium Dioxide is good for producing a fresh, white color for your soaps. With all the oils and additives that soap recipes require, soap usually comes out a beige color, Titanium Dioxide is used to combat this.
Titanium Dioxide use rate in cold & hot process soaps is .25-1 teaspoons per pound of oils. You can mix it with a little warm water before, using a ratio of about 1 TD to 1/2 water. This usually works well, but you can use a little more water if needed.
Natural Colorings & Scents
If you want To give your homemade soap a pleasant fragrance, color or texture, why not try adding some of these natural ingredients.
Simply add a little when you have reached the “trace” stage until you are satisfied with the look and aroma of your soap blend.
- Brown – Use Raw Cocoa Powder
- Salmon Pink – Use Cayenne Pepper
- Yellow – Use Turmeric
- Peach – Use Paprika
- Beige – Use Cinnamon Powder
- Yellow/peach – UseOrganic Curry Powder
Bear in mind, the color will look much darker and warmer when first added to the liquid soap mixture compared to after it has set.
Take into account how the fat changes from gold to white and try to imagine how your color might change in its appearance by fading or lighten up. More natural herbs, spices can be found on my organic herbs page but here’s the bottom line, if you stumble on to something you like then make a note of it!
Natural Soap Textures
When it comes to herbs and spices I always try to find the best quality at reasonable prices, you can see all of the organic herbs that we use here at Mountain Rose.
- Oatmeal is great for the skin and makes an excellent facial soap; different amounts of grinding will give different effects from course to mild.
- Cornmeal and Poppy Seeds and mustard seeds will all produce a good exfoliating soap.
- Tea tree oil is good for anyone that’s suffering from acne.
- Geranium oil makes a great moisturizing soap for dry skin.
- Grated orange or lemon peel gives a wonderful aroma appearance and texture.
- Almonds and finely ground walnut shells give a good look and feel.
- Lavender buds, dried comfrey Leaves and eucalyptus leaves (ground or they may feel a little abrasive) make wonderful soap ingredients.
- Flower petals look lovely in soap; although most petals darken or become black they still give a really nice effect. Try sprinkling a few on the top of the soap as well as within. Try dried calendula flowers and dried lavender flowers, both have a nice effect.
- How about slicing, shredding or grounding a loofah for a unique look and feel, see my homemade loofah soap for more info.
- For a really good effect try Coconut Flakes – sprinkle some on top or incorporate in the soap.
Check out topping your castile soap with flowers or herbs like in the photo below.
Sodium Lactate – While this ingredient does not make a noticeable difference to the texture of your soap, it does allow it to harden much more quickly. I recommend adding this to any soap that you know to be a little on the soft side, and you can find this easily on Amazon.
While cold process soap tends to be on the hard side anyway (especially after the curing weeks), I find it is very useful for hot process soap which can be quite soft unless you leave it to harden for a while. Sodium Lactate just allows hot process soap to be more stable as soon as it comes out of the mold.
Soap Making Equipment
Now you have an idea of what ingredients are required to make soap, take a moment to check out some of the basic equipment. You may already have some of the following naturally in your kitchen, but some you will need to find.
I also did a quick calculation and if you needed to buy every item here, the total cost of your soap making supplies kit would be just a few dollars. You would then be set up to make lots of soap and will just need to gather some of the soap ingredients for each recipe.
Whether you’re considering creating soap for gifts or simply for your own individual use. I’m relatively confident that when you begin to use your soap, the shop-bought products will be a thing of the past.
So an inexpensive stick blender will be really worth the investment. When I started I bought the cheapest hand blender I could find on Amazon and it works great.
When making your own soaps and butters in smaller quantities it’s much easier to work in grams than ounces.
There’s a host of well-priced soapmaking scales available these days. But basically, all that’s required is an affordable digital kitchen scale with grams and ounces that’s not too difficult to work with. Digital scales are extremely precise, consistent and are by no means difficult to work with.
The only other consideration would be if you also get into making some of my face care recipes, they sometimes require a scale that measures under one gram, for this, I have a pocket-size jewelry scale, again from Amazon.
I couldn’t find a scale that covered both adequately, the kitchen scale doesn’t register under one gram and although it’s possible to measure everything with the jewelry scales I find it a bit small for soap making bulk quantities.
If anyone finds a scale that works well for both at a reasonable price I would love to know.
Recently I bought one on Amazon, it’s a silicon soap mold that comes with a wooden box. This is working great for my soap loafs, the silicon is very flexible so I have no problems removing the soap and the wooden box keeps the loaf in shape while it sets.
There are literally hundreds of soap molds available online. I recommend Nurture Soap for this, they have all shapes and sizes of mold available here.
But if you don’t have a specific soap mold any good size container will do.
Durable plastic containers that possess a little ‘give’ in order to ease the soap out once it has set will make the best molds. There’s also no need to line these, a swift grease around using some solid oil from your recipe, and they are ready to go.
When I started making soap I used a ‘really useful box’ that I had to hand. This was plastic and worked great and I’m still using it today for some recipes.
I also found that this 6 cavity silicone loaf pan from Amazon had some great reviews and is working well for making soap. With this, you can make individual soap bars so you won’t need to cut a loaf.
Glass, wooden, ceramics, and even cardboard all lined with freezer/butcher paper will also make ideal molds. Stay away from any kind of metal molds unless you are sure that they are stainless-steel.
I make a lot of soap and I found a great little tip that helped out. Buy a simple, cheap plastic 4 compartment cutlery bin. As you can see in the photo below, it’s a great half-moon shape and was perfect for the goats milk soap.
Soap Mold Liner
In the event that you would like to line a mold the easiest way is to use freezer/butcher paper. Cut 2 pieces, one to go across the width of your box and another to go down the length, allow sufficient paper so that you can then fold it over the sides and secure it with tape.
I cut a lot of my soap by hand and I’m actually getting a nice homemade rustic feel to the soap.Plus I don’t always want my soap to be the same loaf shape and size. So I would advise that you pass on these items until you get a little more serious and/or you want a more polished product.
Do a search on amazon for a ‘soap cutter’ and there you will find many options.
I purchased a soap cutter and later I got hold of a separate soap cutter box to hold my soap in place while I cut. Knowing what I know now it’s probably better and cheaper to buy them as a set.
The box isn’t really anything special; it just holds the soap in place and has a slot in it to cut down through on a straight line.
Update: Infrared Thermometer Guns
Update: Recently I purchased an infrared thermometer gun on Amazon, I’m so impressed with how easy it is to use in the kitchen! I honestly can’t understand why I didn’t get one sooner, we live and learn!
Safety Glasses & Gloves
Again it’s important to be safe when making soap, therefore safety glasses and rubber gloves are an essential part of your soap equipment. You can buy these safety glasses fairly cheaply on Amazon. Safety Glasses, Long Rubber Gloves
Other Soapmaking Equipment
- PH strips for testing the acidity of your finished soap.
- Double Boiler for melting oils and wax.
- Large stainless steel pan
- Large plastic /glass jug or plastic bucket
- Plastic spatula