How I make Soap

In response to your requests – here is my soap recipe and cold press method. I only know one method and would class myself as a beginner. But this soap works every time so far.  I make soap using Lard from the pigs I raise myself in my own fields.  I use the cold process to make the soap.

First: Render (cook really slowly until melted),  the lard.  Sieve out all the solids. Reheat and strain through a cheese cloth three times. The more you strain it the whiter it gets. (You can also buy lard in some supermarkets.)

When the lard is finally clean and still warm add three sliced vanilla pods, sit the pot on the back of the woodstove for a while where it will stay warm and allow the vanilla pods to infuse the lard.

When it is time to make your soap – prepare your space. Get absolutely everything ready. Put the dogs, cats and pigs outside. cold-process-soap-1

Tell anyone in the house to keep out of the kitchen. Arrange everything you need exactly where you will need it. Set up little stations. A stirring spoon and the blender on one side on a cloth. Containers for water and lye, etc.

Put on your apron, kitchen gloves and serious face. Wear glasses.

1. Measure 1000 grams of lard (take out the vanilla pods and discard) , 300 grams of olive oil and 50 grams of coconut oil into the bowl of a crock pot. (This is my standard recipe). Measure to the gram.  Sometimes there is a little less lard or a little more of something else so note all your measurements.crock pot for soap making

2. While your fat begins to heat in the crockpot go to your Lye calculator plug in the amounts of fats and it will tell you exactly how much lye and how much water.  cold-process-soap

Measure your lye and water into seperate plastic containers. Then open the windows and set the container of water in the kitchen sink and pour the lye into the water, (‘snow onto the lake’.. can’t remember where I read that but it helps to remember the order) stir until dissolved. Do NOT breathe in the vapor. This stuff burns. (Some people do this outside but the cats and dogs and pigs are outside in observation mode! – not the place for burny lye.)


3.  While the lye mixture is cooling, get your soap box ready or whatever you are going to use as a mold. I line the box with a white rubbish bag, keeping everything in place with pegs. Your fat is heating and your lye is cooling. Allow them to come to around about the same temperature.

4. When both mixtures are within 10 degrees of each other (usually about 120F) I take the inner bowl of fat and oils out of the hot crock pot and place it next to the stick blender. At this station I also have a spoon for stirring and a cloth to place the blender on when you are resting it. (Blenders are not made for continuous use so you have to swap the spoon and blender often so it does not overheat).  Have your fragrance at hand. Have all this prepared ahead. When I start stirring I do not stop until it is done.

5. Ready? Pour the lye mixture into the fat. Stir and blend. Pulse,  Pulse all over. Stir and blend. Keep going. It will slowly thicken to trace. Trace is when it is so thick that you will leave stir marks in the liquid. Sometimes this takes 10 minutes, sometimes 30 – who knows why – every batch is different.  You want it as thick as instant pudding.  When you pick the spoon up it will leave obvious traces in the mixture.cold-process-soap..-78

6. Then I add the dried ingredients (oatmeal and coffee grinds and a little sugar to make up 1/3 of a cup) and whatever essential oil you have chosen. Add and Stir quickly.  Then pour your essential oils in and combine.


7. Pour into mold. (This is not called Ugly Soap for nothing.) The coffee grinds give just the right amount of scrub – with the oatmeal and sugar delivering some softness. This is every dirty farm girls favourite soap.


8.  Cover the box with a lid or chopping board and pile on towels and sweatshirts. It needs to stay hot for as long as possible to set.  Do not disturb for 24 hours.


9. Cut and lay out onto a rack to cure for 6 weeks. (I am taking some of these to New Zealand with me so I will attach labels with the date on them so no-one tries to use them too soon and burns themselves.) The longer they cure the better and every cake of soap lasts three times as long in the shower as a commercial brand.


I used up the last of a batch of lard yesterday so I had just under a 1000 grams – here was that recipe calculated at 5% superfatting.   (I began soap making because my daughter and I have skin that needs extra moisturising so 5% works well for us.)   The bars on the right in the above image have no added dry ingredients and are scented with Rose Oil sent to me by Linda in Colorado. It is my current favourite scent!

Yesterdays Soap Recipe

835 grams sweet pasture raised lard

280 grams olive oil

45 grams coconut oil

I entered those amounts into the calculator and –

157 grams lye

394 grams distilled water

at TRACE I added

1/3 cup filled with oatmeat, coffee grinds and sugar. 1/3 cup in total.

3 teaspooons home made lavender oil

It has set beautifully by this morning so at lunch time (24 hours later) I will slice it and set it on the racks to cure.

*The olive oil, coconut oil, oatmeal,  sugar and coffee grinds  are all optional,  even the fragrance is optional. All you really need is lard, lye and water (and the lye calculator – I am NOT a chemist.)

*I always use the lye calculator. Always. And so far – touch wood –  in two seasons of soap making I have not had a bad batch.  (But usually I start with 1000 grams of fat and 300 grams of olive oil and 50 of coconut oil.)

There now.  I love this soap and have not bought a bar of soap in three years. All the left over bits and pieces are melted down for laundry soap.. I wrote a post about that once but I cannot remember what I  called it so I cannot find it.

Once again I cannot pretend to actually know what I am doing, but this recipe works for me.

I hope you have a lovely day.

Your friend on the farmy


71 Comments on “How I make Soap

  1. Soap from pig to bath tub! I think you’re above beginner level as your soap looks lush and I know that it’s not easy to make even when working from a starting point of old soap suds. Brilliant recipe. Maybe I’ll try with lard from my dad’s butcher shop and lavender.

    • The curing does take up a lot of space for quite a while, though you can gently stack them in a cardboard box.. c

  2. Looks lovely. I like the “ugly” soap tho I’m sure the rose scented soap smells divine. I took a soap making class once and it was very fun. I think we made one with rose hips in it. Haven’t made it since, but it is on my very long “to do” list. 🙂 Have a good day on the farmy today.

  3. Lovely simple recipe – I’d like to try it with dried lemon scented geranium leaves, or lemongrass and bergamot, or lime zest and ginger (which I know you hate!)… I think the post where you talked about making laundry soap was the one about the nuns and ‘wayward girls’. I’d look it up for you, but I don’t see a search facility for readers. It was since I started following you, which is about 15 months or so, if that helps to narrow it down a bit!

  4. I follow along and enjoy your posts every morning for about a year now – thank you! I’m always in amazement and wonder, just how did you learn all of this? How do you know how to take care of all the animals? I depend on the internet for a lot of what I learn these days, but I can’t even imagine the google searching I would need!

    • Um..I think a lot of what I do as a farm person is common sense.. I certainly use the Mr Google as a source of info (though you have to sort out fact from opinion) .. c

  5. Your soap looks as good as any I have seen in any health store or artisan craft show. I love the look of the ugly soap. We have an artsy little coffee shop close by that makes and sells a similar oat and coffee ground soap. I think you are past the beginner level. You should start a farmy etsy shop.

  6. Thank you Celia for the soap recipes and all the lovely pictures and explanations. You have covered it well. I was so pleased today when I saw that you had put this into your blog as I had so much desired to see how you did it. I loved that you make your own lavender oil. I hadn’t thought of making my own fragrance oils for soap. Now I’m thinking of all the aromatic herbs I grow with new interest. I can think of a few – lemon grass, mint, lavender (as you suggested), rose petals, oregano and thyme, calendula flowers, rosemary, etc. BTW, you can tell people that the flowers and leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace when added to the lye and water (remove the solids before adding it to the oil, just before combining them) at the beginning of the process will give your soap a lovely yellow color. Oatmeal needs to be broken up a bit for an exfoliating agent, in a mortar and pestal or coffee mill. Anyway, how inspiring and what lovely soap.
    Diann Dirks – The Garden Lady of Ga (blogsite – Permaculture Designer

    • Thank you Diann. I was hoping ypu would chime in with ome of your soap making wisdom. .. I am actually making lemon grass oil today!.. I grew calendula flowers for oil this last summer but did not have nearly enough, my favourite so far is spearmint oil believe it or not but not for soap! I hope to grow great rows of it this year.. thank you for the tips! c

  7. Thank you! I am going to try this as soon as I can gather up the ingredients. I have been wanting to make soap for a long time and never worked up the courage. This I think I can do…

    • The maths is what scared me off for a long time – the lye calculator saved me.. such a useful tool. (If you do add oils check their life.. some oils (like grapeseed oil) go off. I have three year old olive oil soaps that are still good. c

  8. I thought you might be, wondered if you could be, and you are! Oh how I wish you could inject my laziness with your lush, beautiful energy Ceci!

  9. I love the IDEA of this, but quail at the word lye! You are such a good, green, girl to go to so much trouble. Tima is saying something like “what on earth is she up to. It smells nice, but I don’t think it’s edible, so I’ll go and find some food.”

    Please what are coffee grinds? Is that ground coffee that you make the drink with, or the stuff that’s left in the cafetière after you’ve drunk the coffee (which goes on the compost heap here).

    Do you have moles where you are? I’m looking at our tiny lawn, which is almost obliterated by mole hills.

    • ground coffee, yes, I should have written ground coffee and ground oatmeal .. I will go back and fix that.. and there are moles in this area, but none here.The fields surrounding us are so empty of bugs due to pesticides, i think a mole would stave to death trying to get to our garden. But of a misery having them dig up your garden though..c

    • I could not go back to store bought soap now, this soap is so gentle on dry fractious skin like mine.. c

  10. You’ve mapped it out fabulously Celi! Thank you! I do believe I will try it as well. We will butcher a pig this month and will have lots of lard. Oh, I remember a blog where you talked about making laundry soap using borax. I will try to find it and let you know if I do! 🙂

    • I did do that for a while, but in the end the borax was the killer, having to find it, it is not renewable, and you have to grate soap into it anyway. So I just use my own old soap ends..grated and melted, it lasts ages, smells divine and you don’t need much at all.. c

  11. Amazing. The describing of it is every bit as arduous as the making of the soap. You have extraordinary patience. I use store-bought soap and my hands show it.

    • It is not arduous really, would you like to try a little bar of the ugly soap? In a month or so it will be ready, (and I am rendering the last of the fat today so there will be plenty) to see if it helps your hands.. I can send you a piece?.. c

  12. I love good-quality soap. Have never made my own though — I can buy lard in a Mexican market, but I’d have to go looking for lye. No projects for now: I’ve been sick for nearly three weeks with a sinus infection.

  13. My question for as long as I’ve known how soap was made—who ever thought, “Let’s put this fat and this chemical together and then let’s wash with it.” ? So many things like this in our world make me wonder how it first happened (beer, blue cheese, wine, etc).

  14. Back when our kids were much younger and I didn’t have a stick blender, I used “kid power” to do all that blending. Took hours of constant stirring to get the fats and lye to change chemically. I think it’s called sopification. I loved all the different kinds of soap you can make, limited only by your imagination, milk, honey, scents and textures. I would love to know how you make your essential oils!

  15. Glad to be back after two weeks traveling and entertaining out-of-state family! Being the ever so practical girl, I have always wondered at the effect of soaps on our septic and sewer systems. As a young man, my husband FD, was a plumber. He has mentioned that soap – regardless of use – is not plumbing-friendly as far as our modern day waste management systems go. We are on a septic system and regardless of homemade or commercially produced soaps, they all have a negative impact on home plumbing and disposal. I too wonder how these products came to be (as Carla pondered) and if anyone thinks about the effects on Mother Earth? I was looking at a “Back to Basics” book just now and I see where you can even make your own lye. Goodness! So much to learn here, and ponder!

  16. Celi, I think this might be where you tell us how to make laundry soap: If anyone is ever trying to find something on Celi’s site, I’ve figure this much out: you scroll down past all the comments until you get to a black bar (the footer) and just under the part that says “YOU ARE FOLLOWING THIS BLOG” on the left is a little white box where you type whatever you’re looking for. At least on my computer, I can’t see any words saying “search” but this is what this little white box is. I just plopped in “laundry soap” and it gave me several posts as options. It’s based on content not post titles, so you can find it!

  17. P.S. Meant to say, the soaps are Beautiful! The white rose one is luscious…but that ugly one is spectacular. It reminds me of a cookie here in Italy called “brutto ma buono,” ugly-but-good. And they are really good, so I know this soap is too.

  18. Your soap is beautiful! If you use a lye calculator, measure properly, and mix until trace (which it looks like you did all three), it will be safe to use within 48 hours, and you’re right that the longer it cures the longer it lasts (and the gentler the soap).

  19. I have almost all my supplies to make soap, but I’m fearful of working with lye. I would really like to take a class sometime so someone can by there to walk me thru the process. One day it will happen.

    • You can always pop up here on a fine day and i will walk you through it, but you will be absolutely fine .. after all you will be wearing gloves and your glasses.. and it does not spit or fizz, it just dissolves with a gentle hiss ..all very civilised and you stir at arms length, with the kitchen window open – i always do it in the sink as a precaution (if there is an earthquake and it spills it will not be over me) but i have never had any trouble.. Just keep those inquisitive girls out of the rooom for that portion of the procedure.. c

  20. Thank you for the best reason to give up instant coffee and rear pigs I ever read. Filter coffee is something I have tried to teach Grumpybuilder for twenty years, usually without success. I am inspired to never buy his favourite brew ever again, worse, to go shopping for a pig and four hens at the A & P show at the end of this month. C. you are a bad, bad influence 🙂

  21. Hi Cecilia, I love this recipe – it looks very easy!! I can get liquid lye here in France, am wondering how that might compare to the lye you use?

  22. Coffee grounds! Who knew? I’m so tempted to try soap, but my husband guards his lard very jealously. Happy new year, Cecilia!

  23. I am working up to another go making my own lye from wood ash. Needs to be hard wood for this to work apparently and it is difficult to get a really hard soap with potassium hydroxide which you get from ash compared with sodium hydroxide which is what you use.

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