Beginner's Guide to Making Cold Process Soap: Simple Recipes and Safety Tips

Beginner's Guide to Making Cold Process Soap: Simple Recipes and Safety Tips

Cold process soap making is a rewarding craft that allows you to create custom soaps using natural ingredients. In this guide, we'll walk you through the basics of cold process soapmaking, including simple recipes using just 2-3 oils and butters. Remember to prioritize safety by wearing proper protective equipment (PPE) and using a soap calculator to ensure accurate measurements.

**Safety First:**

Before you begin, it's essential to prioritize safety:

  • Wear protective gear, including safety goggles, gloves, a mask, long sleeves and an apron, to protect yourself from accidental splashes and spills
  • Work in a well-ventilated area to minimize exposure to lye fumes
  • Keep vinegar or citric acid nearby to neutralize lye spills if they occur
  • Never leave lye or prepared soap batter unattended, especially if there are children or pets in the vicinity

**Basic Equipment:**

Gather the following equipment before you start:

  • Heat-resistant containers for measuring and mixing oils and lye solution
  • Digital kitchen scale for accurate measurements
  • Stick blender for mixing soap batter
  • Soap molds for shaping the soap
  • Thermometer to monitor temperatures
  • Soap cutter for cutting finished soap bars

**Understanding Superfat**

Superfatting is a crucial aspect of cold process soap making, adding an extra layer of moisture and luxury to the finished product. Essentially, superfat refers to the percentage of oils and butters in the soap recipe that remain unsaponified, or unreacted with the lye. This excess of oils ensures that the soap is gentle and moisturizing on the skin, as the leftover fats provide nourishment and hydration. Superfatting can be adjusted based on personal preference and skin type, with typical ranges falling between 5% to 10%. Incorporating superfat into your cold process soap recipe not only enhances its conditioning properties but also contributes to a creamy lather and a luxurious feel.

Remember, if you’re using a recipe that only calls for Coconut Oil, it is a good idea to increase the superfat as the oil has a high cleansing factor which can be very drying. Personally, when making a 100% Coconut Oil soap, I’ve increased my superfat to 20%.

**Simple Soap Recipes:**

When creating your own recipe, you can keep it simple by using 1-3 oils and butters. With the following recipes below, always run the recipe through a soap calculator which you can find here: or 

Here are two simple cold process soap recipes using just 1-3 oils and butters:

1. **Bubbly Coconut Oil Soap:**

  • 8oz/226.80g Coconut Oil
  • 1.50oz/42.52g Shea Butter
  • 0.50oz/14.17g Castor Oil
  • 39.04g Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
  • 78.09g Distilled Water
  • Fragrance or Essential Oil (optional)
  • Superfat 20%
  • Water to Lye Ratio  2 : 1

2. **100% Coconut Oil Soap:**

  • 200g Coconut Oil 76 deg 
  • 29.32g Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
  • 58.64g Distilled Water
  • Fragrance or Essential Oil (optional)
  • Superfat 20%
  • Water to Lye Ratio 2 : 1 

**Soapmaking Process:**

1. **Prepare Ingredients**: Weigh out the oils and butters using a digital scale and set them aside. Measure the lye and water separately in heat-resistant containers (NOT GLASS).

2. **Safety Gear On**: Put on your safety goggles, gloves, and long sleeves before handling lye.

3. **Make Lye Solution**: Slowly add the lye to the water while stirring continuously. Allow the solution to cool to around 100-110°F (38-43°C).

4. **Melt Oils and Butters**: Melt solid oils and combine them with liquid oils in a heat-safe container. Heat the oils to around 100-110°F (38-43°C).

5. **Combine Lye Solution and Oils**: Slowly pour the lye solution into the oils while stirring continuously. Use a stick blender to mix until the mixture reaches trace.

6. **Add Fragrance (Optional)**: Stir in fragrance or essential oils of your choice, if desired. You should always follow the IFRA guidelines of your fragrance to make sure you’re using a safe amount. When calculating your fragrance, you are calculating it by the weight of your oils and not the entire batch. EX: If your batch has 10oz of oil and you want to use 6% of fragrance, then your fragrance should weigh out to 0.60oz.

7. **Pour into Molds**: Pour the soap batter into prepared molds. Tap the molds gently on a flat surface to release air bubbles. Once molded, you can spray the top with alcohol (preferably 99%) to help prevent soda ash. 100% Coconut Oil soap will be best in individual cavity molds as it can get very hard to cut.

8. **Cure the Soap**: You have the option to leave your soap mold uncovered or cover it with a lid or plastic wrap, then insulate it with towels or blankets. Be cautious to prevent overheating, which could cause cracking. Let the soap sit in the mold to harden for 12-18 hours, then unmold and cut it. Allow the soap to cure for 4-6 weeks before use. During curing, the soap will lose water weight, resulting in a firmer, longer-lasting bar.

Avoid curing your soap on metal or aluminum as it can react to your soap and cause dreaded orange spots.


With just a few simple ingredients and basic equipment, you can create beautiful, handmade soap bars using the cold process method. Remember to prioritize safety at every step of the process and use a soap calculator to ensure accurate measurements. Experiment with different oil combinations and fragrances to create your perfect soap recipe!

(Side note: If you’re replacing an oil or butter in a recipe, always run it through a soap calculator first)

Feel free to adjust the recipes and instructions based on your preferences and expertise level. Happy soapmaking!

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