Miller's Homemade Soap Pages:
Where to Find Ingredients
The suggestions on this page have accumulated over the years and been added chronologically... so be sure to read down, since the latter suggestions might be more pertinent.
Fats: I usually get pure beef kidney fat from a local butcher, who can order it in 40# quantities (quite a bit, but it freezes well). If you tell a butcher why you want it, they will often save fat scraps for you for little to no charge (it would be a nice gesture to bring them a piece of soap after it's cured). These are a bit smellier to render, but not too bad. If you are counting your pennies or don't want a huge hunk of fat, that might be the way to go for beef tallow. You can also save drippings from frying meat (in the freezer between additions) and eventually "wash" them (not my preference, but directions are given on this page). I wouldn't recommend saving poultry fat...it's too soft and spongy. If you know anyone who has ordered a side of pork or beef, you can have them give you the ground lard or a piece of kidney fat, if it's available. The butcher usually doesn't have people who want to keep the kidney fat, but if it's part of the animal they purchased, they are entitled to it. Otherwise, he sells the leftovers to a rendering outfit.
You can get vegetable oils and *shortenings at the supermarket. Also, lard is usually available either in the dairy case or near the shortenings and baking goods. If you can't find it at the store, ask someone and they can order it for you. I've purchased it usually in one pound packages, but it is also available in a 5# pail. If you have a nice supermarket with a health/organic section you might be able to purchase unusual oils and coconut oil there for a cheaper price than if you go to a health food store (the other source for vegetable oils...particularly coconut). We have a nice market for this in Poulsbo, WA - a neighboring town to me (for the locals who might visit this page...Central Market). They also have some essential oils there. Also... check out a new source for coconut oil at your local Wal-Mart (below)... in nearly 2 pound containers. Other oils like palm will probably need to be mail ordered and there are some sources listed in the links section, although some of you can find local sources for this in ethnic sections of your grocery stores (look in Middle East, Asian or African sections). In that instance, it will probably be packaged as "Vegetable Ghee."
Source for COCONUT OIL (December 2004)! :-) I'm told you can find it near the PAM cooking spray at your local Wal-Mart. I've had two people tip me off to this, but I think Jeanette was the first:
"And get this... they are selling coconut oil at the local Wal-Mart now, and it's only $2.76 for 31.5 oz.! So far, that's cheaper than buying it in bulk online and I don't have to pay shipping."
When searching for PALM OIL, here's another possibility sent by a soapmaker from Israel:
"Dear Kathy, Your website is great! I did a lot of research before making soap for the first time, and second, and third, etc... Anyway, I noticed that Palm oil seems to be hard to get for most people, so I have a suggestion. I live in Israel, and during the holiday of Passover, we (Jews) are prohibited from eating certain foods (and oils made from those foods), and you will find the grocery stores packed with Palm, Hazelnut, and Walnut oils. If people live in an area with a sizeable Jewish community, they may want to inquire at a kosher grocery store to see if they stock those oils in America as well. Just a thought." -Ariella Hoffman
Here is another anonymous suggestion... listen up if you live in DETROIT, Michigan! (March 2003):
I found coconut and palm oil in
the Arab grocery store near me. I live in Metro Detroit, so there is
a large Arab population. These little stores are jam-packed...skinny
little aisles with stuff stacked from floor to ceiling! If you have
trouble finding the oils, just ask....they are so helpful and it's
really just a pleasure to shop there. Look for vegetable ghee --
which is the palm oil. The coconut isn't labeled so obviously, but
just read the list of ingredients. =)
Sorry, I can't find the exact weight, but I think I'm pretty close from memory:
Coconut 62 oz. 14.95
Palm 70 oz. 6.95
The cans I have purchased don't come with lids. So unless you're making an awfully large batch of soap and plan on using all the oil, save the lids from your coffee cans to put on the opened oil cans. =)
If you live in the Detroit burbs,
the store I'm referring to is
Arabic Towne in Sterling Heights at 15 & Dequindre -- (586) 264-0510.
Here's one more from Adam C. (August 2003)...
I found palm oil at a local store called WHOLE FOODS. It's kinds a health food grocery store. The palm oil was labeled organic veg. shortening, but it was 100% un-hydrogenated palm oil. It's a nice white...unlike some of the other palm oils I've received that were a opaque orange color.
So sorry, I've taken way too long to post this wonderful suggestion sent at the end of 2005! Thank you to Sara Gorecki Stone of Urbana, IL :
After a bunch of research on the internet, I came across a product called organic shortening which is a white shortening that is 100% palm oil. The brand-name is Spectrum and all of my local organic/health food stores carry it. These were the same stores that said that they didn't carry palm oil when I called inquiring about it over the telephone. The product does not list palm oil on the front of the tub...hence the misinformation. You may want to share this tip with your readers who just want to get white palm oil locally instead of ordering it online.
I have gotten OLIVE OIL at a very good price at our local Costco warehouse store. For soapmaking, get the cheapest and lightest in color (usually pressed with heat after the initial cold pressing, which yields a tastier and higher priced oil). They also had huge containers of soybean and canola oil, if you are using those for soapmaking. There's a recipe that calls for this on the "Soapy Success" page. I read that soap made with soybean oil cures to a nice white and canola will cure to an off-white pinkish color. Some people prefer to use those oils over olive because of the olive oil smell that often lingers in the finished bar. If you can pool costs with other soapmakers, you can probably get most of these things cheaper by mail order if you get HUGE quantities. The shipping is what can kill you!
*Some soaps made with mostly shortening can turn out kind of a yucky gray color. Try to mix different fats together and use sources that are as free from additives as possible. Shortenings made with soybean, canola and/or cottonseed oils are said to be the best.
Something to check out!: If you have a restaurant/business supply in your area (often called a "Cash and Carry") you should check that out as a source for materials. Our local Cash and Carry allows the general public to purchase things whether or not you own a business. You just have to have the folding green stuff in your hot little hand! I just looked at our Cash and Carry and there were several things there of interest to the soapmaker. I brought home a 45# bucket of processed white coconut oil for about $46 (1/3 the cost of getting the small jars at the market/health food store). That's a LOT of coconut and if you do this you might want to split it up with others. They also sell coconut oil prepared for corn popping. There were a couple of kinds and a common one is "VO-POP" (thanks to Rachael of the Latherings Board for this tip). It came in a 25# bucket for about $25. They've added flavorings and beta carotene to the corn popping coconut oil so your soap will have a yellow color, but she said it was quite pretty. They also had olive oil and LARGE containers of cooking oils. Be sure to check the labels for the type of oil content. There were some other corn popping preparations that were not coconut oil based. While there, I found a plastic tub that looked just right for my size batch of soap ... the depth of the dish below the lip was about a bar of soap wide. It's a somewhat rigid plastic, but with the use of Saran wrap, it should work just fine getting the soap to come out. I asked if they could get palm or palm kernel oil and the woman who waited on me said she would find out if it could be special ordered. If you find an outlet like this, it will save you a lot of shipping. In our state, there's no additional tax on food products, but that can vary from state to state.
Rachael is concerned that if the Cash and Carry folks find out there's a demand for coconut oil by soapmakers, they might up their prices. Just to be safe, you might want to conceal your glee over finding the stuff there! :-) You can jump up and down after you lug it to the car!
Glycerin: Can be ordered from any soapmaking supplier or purchased in smaller quantities in the pharmacy section of most drugstores (where you can also find some oils, like peppermint, cinnamon, clove and eucalyptus). You will probably find it in 4 or 8 ounce sized bottles. Some drugstores carry larger sizes near the cosmetics/lotions and creams section.
Beeswax: This can be ordered from any of the companies listed in the links that sell soapmaking and candle supplies. I'm told that you can purchase it at Ben Franklin Craft Stores in the candlemaking section (along with candle dyes...thanks to Tina for this information!). Michael's craft stores (in the Northwest) also carry it in several forms. Other suggestions: "A lot of times, you can find bees wax at honey stands at Farmer's Markets. I prefer buying the wax there, as it is usually more fragrant than what you can get at a craft store." (Jeff)
"Just e-mailing about beeswax. I've found it for sale in hardware shops to use for polishing. It comes in one big solid disc (quite hard to cut it for measuring!) There was also dyed sticks of wax for coloring. I haven't tried using the beeswax in any soap yet, but I used it in a cream and it worked just fine. I've also found beeswax sheets sold very cheaply at a horse shop. (Amy Bridger)
Cocoa Butter: This can also be ordered from any of the companies offering soap supplies and oils. From another soaper... "BTW, if you ever need cocoa butter, I found some at K-mart in the African American beauty supplies section...and it was pretty cheap too. It smelled just like chocolate." -Michelle :)
In response to the most frequently asked question! This banner was generously and humorously contributed by Chris McClusky :-) For a more detailed explanation, browse through the questions on the "Soapy Success" pages.
Sources for Lye : Thank you to Zehra B. for sending this GREAT LINK for a site that will ship lye to soapmakers. :-) If you can't find anything, check this out (they are located in Illinois): The Boyer Corporation
NOTE (September 2005): The company that marketed Lewis Red Devil
Lye has pulled it from the market and has
replaced it with a liquid drain opener that contains no lye.
My suspicions are that it's due to its use in the illegal
manufacture of methamphetamines. This has been very sad for the
home soaper! :-( I've been buying my lye in bulk for quite
awhile now, but for the average person that wants to make
one or two batches and has gotten accustomed to buying it
locally... this will need to be addressed. Here is a helpful
link sent by Nancy M., whose email comment is
underneath: When I bought the two remaining
containers from the local Albertsons, I was told it's
popular in this community in the production of meth. When I
mentioned it to a clerk at the JoAnn's fabric store, where I
was fruitlessly trying to find any kind of other soapmaking
stuff, I found out she's a soapmaker and that she got her
lye at the local Grocery Outlet, in bulk. They don't have it
out where anybody can see it, but if you ask and show ID,
you can buy it. Graphic courtesy of About.com from Here is a
possible alternative: Subject: Red Devil
Alternative!! Check out http://www.roebic.com/catalog/clog.htm They have a drain cleaner with the
following description: ROEBIC Heavy Duty Crystal
Drain Opener: Where you can
purchase it: OTHER SUGGESTIONS ( different brands): Graphic courtesy of Roebic Laboratories: MORE... no specific brand : (May 2006): I just got my order for Sodium Hydroxide from Fenner Chemicals in Saginaw, Michigan and it cost $24.00 for 8 lbs. but the shipping added another $13.97 for a total of $37.97 for 8 lbs. in four plastic containers. They have a website at: www.fennerchemicals.com. You will have to fill out their chemical release form at your time of purchase or they will not ship it to you. I do not know what their policy is about Canada but they are extremely nice and helpful. -Lorraine Eddy (California) Lye: (In the U.K. this is
marketed as "Caustic Soda." Be sure it's 100% Sodium
hydroxide.) Another alternative to the old Red Devil Lye that is harder and harder to find is a brand called "Rooto." Some folks prefer that to the Roebic brand. I'm told it's 100% sodium hydroxide and comes in one pound containers. Keep your eye out for those brands in stores near you. :-)
IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT RED DEVIL
LYE IN THE U.S.!
Anyway, I'm having fun, that's the point and thanks again for all of your help :-)
from the dry side, Clarkston, Washington
Soapmaking article by David Fisher
Heavy Duty Crystal Drain Opener contains 100% Sodium Hydroxide (caustic soda) and clears tough clogs from pipes and drains. Heavy Duty Crystal Drain Opener destroys grease and other kitchen clogs and will keep drains clear.
I hope that this is helpful to folks making soap in the US as I didn't have much luck finding lye around where I live for as cheap as this was. Though it is cheaper at Ace Hardware, at approximately $4.00 for a one pound plastic bottle, they only had two left when I got there, about 10 days ago, and though they were very nice about ordering it for me, they still have not called to say that it has come in. Fenner Chemicals specializes in helping the soapmakers. You can buy very large quantities of it if you want to and very small quantities if that is all that you need.
Lewis Lye can be purchased here
(U.S.) at almost any grocery store near
the drain openers in the household/cleaning supplies
section. Be sure you buy 100 percent lye (or
nearly so!) and NOT drain opener that is a
combination of lye crystals and aluminum shavings, such as
Drano. If you can't find it for some reason, ask if they can
order it for you. You'd be amazed at how many uses for lye
there are...I've even used it in making hominy before and
know a German lady who used a weak lye solution in making
her soft pretzels. Some of the suppliers on the soapmaking
links page may still sell bulk lye, for serious soapmakers,
but there is a hazardous materials fee tacked onto the
NOTE (September 2005): The company that marketed Lewis Red Devil Lye has pulled it from the market and has replaced it with a liquid drain opener that contains no lye. My suspicions are that it's due to its use in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines. This has been very sad for the home soaper! :-( I've been buying my lye in bulk for quite awhile now, but for the average person that wants to make one or two batches and has gotten accustomed to buying it locally... this will need to be addressed. Here is a helpful link sent by Nancy M., whose email comment is underneath:
When I bought the two remaining
containers from the local Albertsons, I was told it's
popular in this community in the production of meth. When I
mentioned it to a clerk at the JoAnn's fabric store, where I
was fruitlessly trying to find any kind of other soapmaking
stuff, I found out she's a soapmaker and that she got her
lye at the local Grocery Outlet, in bulk. They don't have it
out where anybody can see it, but if you ask and show ID,
you can buy it.
Graphic courtesy of About.com from
Here is a possible alternative:
Subject: Red Devil Alternative!!
Check out http://www.roebic.com/catalog/clog.htm
They have a drain cleaner with the following description:
ROEBIC Heavy Duty Crystal
Where you can purchase it:
OTHER SUGGESTIONS ( different brands):
Graphic courtesy of Roebic Laboratories:
MORE... no specific brand :
I just got my order for Sodium Hydroxide from Fenner Chemicals in Saginaw, Michigan and it cost $24.00 for 8 lbs. but the shipping added another $13.97 for a total of $37.97 for 8 lbs. in four plastic containers. They have a website at: www.fennerchemicals.com. You will have to fill out their chemical release form at your time of purchase or they will not ship it to you. I do not know what their policy is about Canada but they are extremely nice and helpful.
-Lorraine Eddy (California)
Lye: (In the U.K. this is
marketed as "Caustic Soda." Be sure it's 100% Sodium
Another alternative to the old Red Devil Lye that is harder and harder to find is a brand called "Rooto." Some folks prefer that to the Roebic brand. I'm told it's 100% sodium hydroxide and comes in one pound containers. Keep your eye out for those brands in stores near you. :-)
If you are buying lye in Canada... the brand most often used is "Gillett". I received the following email in regard to its availability in Canada:
My name is Andrea and I am a
Canadian soap making novice! About two years ago I purchased
Sandy Maine's book and I've never looked back! One of the problems I've
encountered making soap in Canada is the availability of
Lye. I thought I'd offer some tips you could post on your
site if you want too. It's true that the lye here is
under the brand name Gillett but I've never heard of it
being sold at True Value stores as stated on your site. I've
called plenty of grocery, drug and hardware stores in the
Toronto area and none of these sell lye. Just before giving up I decided to
ask a soap maker I met at work. She told me that she gets
her lye from Home Hardware which is a major chain
here. Sure enough, I found it there and in every Home
Hardware store I've been in since. Yesterday I called the Gillett's
Clueing Supply Co. to inquire where else I can find it. The
guy there said that Home Hardware was their only major
distributor but some IGA stores sell it too. I've had
no luck at IGA. I've attached a picture I scanned
of what the bottle looks like. (half my problem was I didn't
know what to look for). It comes in small quantities of 9.5
oz or 269g. and retails for about $5. In case anyone needs more info the
customer service contact on the back of the bottle is as
follows: I hope this info helps someone,
Thanks. -Andrea Here's MORE feedback for
Canadian Soapers: I
often read your feedback page. I find purchasing LYE from
the grocery stores to be expensive. I was in Calgary
recently and found a company that sells 100% sodium
hydroxide for a more reasonable price in large quantities..
1 kilogram, 5 kilograms......etc. Chemfax also sells potash
(potassium hydroxide). Their website is www.chemfaxproducts.com
or 1106 - 46th Ave. S.E, Calgary, Alberta T2G
2A6... Hope this is helpful to
someone. Ophelia Spencer Here is
another: We live in Canada, and I purchased
our Lye from Home Hardware as noted on your web site for
$4.79 for the 9 1/2 oz bottle of Gillett's. It would appear
that Home Hardware doesn't sell a lot of Lye, and therefore
only stocks a couple of bottles at a time. Could you please include this info
in your Canadian info page? Thanks again for such a helpful
resource. Paul Tadros (Sept. 2005):
You could mention on your site. I
bought my lye at Lepine's cleaning products here in
Quebec,anywhere through out the province -had to buy a 20.7
kg bag for 56.00 dollrs but it is the only place that I know
where to buy .Thanks I learned how to soap with your site.
~Mary G. of St. Félicien
Quebec Helpful feedback on
Home Hardware: (Spring 2003)
There is quite a bit of information about Gillettes lye on
your web-site. You might want to put on your site that if
people talk to the folks in their local "Home Hardware" they
will order in 3 kg containers of lye if they don't stock it
on the shelf (our local one does). It works out a lot
cheaper than buying the little containers of Gillettes. Wendy S. Hi Kathy, Just a further note about lye in Ontario. Home Hardware,
which sells Gillats, also has a product called Home Lye
Crystals for use on farms, etc. It is sold in 3 kg plastic
containers and retails for about $18 CDN - much cheaper than
the other. Some places insist that you order a box of 4,
others (beginning with Aurora on Yonge St. north of Toronto)
sell it by the container. Wendy S. (Oct. 2003) I
love your site Kathy and just had to send this info in i was
buying my lye at TSC stores in Ontario 38oz can for 16.00
well they ran out so i went to Home Hardware and discovered
they had a 3kg pail of lye (3times as much) for 20.00
dollars what a saving. Just wanted to let everyone know. Patricia
My name is Andrea and I am a Canadian soap making novice! About two years ago I purchased Sandy Maine's book and I've never looked back!
One of the problems I've encountered making soap in Canada is the availability of Lye. I thought I'd offer some tips you could post on your site if you want too.
It's true that the lye here is under the brand name Gillett but I've never heard of it being sold at True Value stores as stated on your site. I've called plenty of grocery, drug and hardware stores in the Toronto area and none of these sell lye.
Just before giving up I decided to ask a soap maker I met at work. She told me that she gets her lye from Home Hardware which is a major chain here. Sure enough, I found it there and in every Home Hardware store I've been in since.
Yesterday I called the Gillett's Clueing Supply Co. to inquire where else I can find it. The guy there said that Home Hardware was their only major distributor but some IGA stores sell it too. I've had no luck at IGA.
I've attached a picture I scanned of what the bottle looks like. (half my problem was I didn't know what to look for). It comes in small quantities of 9.5 oz or 269g. and retails for about $5.
In case anyone needs more info the customer service contact on the back of the bottle is as follows:
I hope this info helps someone, Thanks.
Here's MORE feedback for Canadian Soapers: I often read your feedback page. I find purchasing LYE from the grocery stores to be expensive. I was in Calgary recently and found a company that sells 100% sodium hydroxide for a more reasonable price in large quantities.. 1 kilogram, 5 kilograms......etc. Chemfax also sells potash (potassium hydroxide).
Their website is www.chemfaxproducts.com or 1106 - 46th Ave. S.E, Calgary, Alberta T2G 2A6...
Hope this is helpful to someone.
Here is another:
We live in Canada, and I purchased our Lye from Home Hardware as noted on your web site for $4.79 for the 9 1/2 oz bottle of Gillett's. It would appear that Home Hardware doesn't sell a lot of Lye, and therefore only stocks a couple of bottles at a time.
Could you please include this info in your Canadian info page?
Thanks again for such a helpful resource.
You could mention on your site. I bought my lye at Lepine's cleaning products here in Quebec,anywhere through out the province -had to buy a 20.7 kg bag for 56.00 dollrs but it is the only place that I know where to buy .Thanks I learned how to soap with your site. ~Mary G. of St. Félicien Quebec
Helpful feedback on Home Hardware:
(Spring 2003) There is quite a bit of information about Gillettes lye on your web-site. You might want to put on your site that if people talk to the folks in their local "Home Hardware" they will order in 3 kg containers of lye if they don't stock it on the shelf (our local one does). It works out a lot cheaper than buying the little containers of Gillettes.
Just a further note about lye in Ontario. Home Hardware, which sells Gillats, also has a product called Home Lye Crystals for use on farms, etc. It is sold in 3 kg plastic containers and retails for about $18 CDN - much cheaper than the other. Some places insist that you order a box of 4, others (beginning with Aurora on Yonge St. north of Toronto) sell it by the container.
(Oct. 2003) I love your site Kathy and just had to send this info in i was buying my lye at TSC stores in Ontario 38oz can for 16.00 well they ran out so i went to Home Hardware and discovered they had a 3kg pail of lye (3times as much) for 20.00 dollars what a saving. Just wanted to let everyone know.
I purchase lye from my local chemical company. I just looked up chemical companies in the Yellow Pages and called the ones listed until I found one that carries lye. Another way I have managed to save money on oils is to use the Yellow Pages to find wholesale oil distributors. I buy palm oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil and rice bran oil instead of olive oil. Since these oils come in 35 lb containers I save and the company only charges 3.00 to deliver. It was costing me an arm and leg to continuously go to Sam's and Wal-Mart to buy oils. Most large cities have these companies. Another source is to call local restaurants and ask who they buy wholesale oils from.
I noticed the section on "where to buy the ingredients" with a portion of it dedicated to Canadians looking to buy Sodium hydroxide. Would it be possible to add my info that follows:
I have been purchasing my Sodium Hydroxide in 2 kg bottles from a supplier in Mississauga, ON. Last time I was there was May 2006 and I purchased 4 kg for $ 22.00. I ordered it from their website and drove down to pick it up. They will not ship it.
The place is called "Canwax", it's at 5320 Timberlea Blvd, Mississauga, ON.
Toll-free Phone number: 1-877-302-1500; Website: www.canwax.com
(August 2006 ... not sure if this lye will still be available at Home Hardware per comment below... it took me way too long to update this page!):
I am from Canada and I would like to let you know where to find soap ingredients/tools here. I found your website through Google, and it helped me a lot, so may be others will find it helpful if you post it on your website? Thank you.
1. Lye: any Home Hardware (only in Canada), http://www.homehardware.ca/. I bought a 3 kilo jug for about $18CAD; smaller sizes also available. This is the cheapest I have seen so far.
2. Palm Oil – any middle eastern/Indian store (Halal) will have 100% palm oil vegetable ghee. 2Kilo = $7.99CAD or less. You can also get coconut oil there. I paid $3.99 for a 500ml jar.
3. Other: *VERY* good website http://www.canwax.com/ - wholesale prices but sell to anyone. They carry almost anything you want for candle/soap making. You can also pick it up for free if you live in the Toronto area, or get it delivered, even to the States. They have free classes for soap/candle making and are extremely friendly!
Good luck everyone and thank you Kathy!!!
(January 2007 ... things keep changing. Some of the older info may no longer be true):
Hi there. i was reading your website about where to obtain soap supplies. I inhabit northern nova scotia and i found out recently that Gillett's Lye has been discontinued. Now if one wants lye from Home Hardware they have to ask them to order this other product. They have it on their website as:
Model: HH 3KG
HH Item Number: 3226-431
I bought one recently for $23.00 cdn. good luck.
Fragrance: Essential oils and high quality fragrance oils make the nicest fragrance in soap and you can find them at a health food store or at many mail order companies, some of which are listed below (Sweet Cakes sells wonderful fragrance oils. Two more I have personally used and liked are Brambleberry and Lebermuth if you have a business license and can meet the minimum order requirement). Whatever you use, be sure it's an oil-based agent with no alcohol in it. Liquid candle scents can be used in soap (more is usually needed) and I have purchased those in the past from the Pourette Company (no longer in business). Wax based candle scents such as you typically find at a craft store are useless for soapmaking. They are hard to incorporate without melting into the fat when it is at its hottest and by the time the soap is finished, the scent is shot! Another possible source for a few essential oils is in the pharmacy. Some oils have pharmaceutical value and can be purchased reasonably...I'm thinking of clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus and peppermint oils in particular. Again, read the label and make sure they have not added alcohol to the oil. Another good source of essential oils and blends at reasonable prices is A Garden Eastward. As a general rule of thumb, you will need from 1.5 to 4 ounces of fragrance or essential oil to scent an 8 pound batch of cold processed soap, depending on the strength of the oils used (2 T. is equal to one ounce of oil). True essential oils tend to be stronger and you will probably only need from 1.25 to 3 oz. of essential oil for an 8 pound batch (another rule of thumb is 1-2 tsp. essential oil per pound of soap).The strongest common essential oils are peppermint, rosemary, cinnamon, clove, spearmint and bitter almond. I probably left some out, but those are the ones you will use less of. Here are a few more rules of thumb in chart form, although you may not want to use this much. The first three EO recommendations with the asterisk (*)I believe were suggested by Majestic Mountain Sage. I like lower addition rates since I'm not into really strong smelling soap (see my preferences above). The last two are my suggested rates when using FO's. There are other folks out there that would use twice as much. It's up to your nose which you would like (.5 oz. = 1 T/Tablespoon.):
*Average Essential Oil
.7 oz. per pound of oils used in soap
* Strong Essential Oil (like cinnamon, clove, mint, etc.)
.4 oz. per pound
* Citrus Essential Oils
.9 oz. per pound
Average Fragrance Oil
.5 oz. (1 T./Tablespoon) per pound
Strong Fragrance Oil
1 - 1.5 tsp. per pound
If you want to create some of your own blends, here's a great tip from the Latherings Soap Forum:
From Toni of Countryside Soap: "Here is how I create blends. Take a coffee filter and fold twice in half so you have a nice pointed end. Now take oils that you would like to blend and a dropper. WRITE DOWN everything you do!!!! Try 3 drops for top note 2 drops for middle note and 1 drop for bottom note (this just to get you started). Now place the coffee filter in a jar (I use a jelly jar). Place in your cabinet and check it in a couple of days and see how you like it. You might want to go back and a drop of this or that. I write everything down on a label and place on jar."
To learn more about the properties of the various oils, which combine well together, and which note they are, check out this wonderful resource at A Garden Eastward.
Color: Candle color works very well for soap when mixed into the fats before the lye solution is added (if it's wax based - melted first, separately, in a few tablespoons of the fat and then poured into the rest of the melted fat). You can find these at a hobby store or from a mail order company specializing in candle supplies. Some people use CRAYONS in the same way, but it takes more since they are rather dilute and you don't always get the end color you are expecting. Some experimentation might be in order. Generally I will suggest you use 1 to 3 regular crayons for the size of the recipes you will find on this site, depending on how strong a color you desire.
Here's some good info from Rachael Levitan (the queen of experimentation) on which crayons do and don't work!:
The only crayons that work are CERULEAN blue, yellow, orange, neon pink (from the neon box), brown, black and white... so you have to mix your own from these.
Prussian blue and red DON'T ...so purple, reds, violet-reds, burgundies, navy, blue, midnight blue, green (yellow and Prussian blue) and anything with red or Prussian blue (just blue in crayola language) don't work, so all the violets are out too. (I have heard from a couple of people that got a nice pink from red crayon...so the jury might be out on this or red crayons may vary by brand...Kathy M.)
Any color made with the Cerulean blue is great, the blue-greens, teals, forrest green, jungle green... and I mix them - or the Cerulean blue with a yellow for a great bunch of green variants. Only neon pink works for pink, and added to Cerulean blue, makes lavender.
Here are a few colored soaps to illustrate what can happen when you are not sure of the results! The one on the left used a small amount of purple candle dye and was about what I was wanting. The middle bar was colored with four crayons...2 teal blue and 2 blue/green, which I now know work just fine! (My previous experience with one navy blue made me think I just needed more.) Yipes! The yellow one on the right was colored with one cube (1/4 pound) corn popping coconut oil...which is colored with beta carotene. I think one or two PATS or tablespoons would have given me the color I actually wanted. I post these for your education! :-)
Liquid food colorings are not very effective when coloring soap and will tend to fade in storage. Liquid chlorophyll is supposed to be nice and also natural cosmetic colorants, such as those you can purchase from the Pigment Lady. I have not tried these yet. Certain spices can be used for coloring. Here are some other suggestions...you can use up to 1/2 teaspoon per pound of soap if you like, depending on desired shade. Mix the powder into a bit of the soap and the mix that back in to the rest of the batch. Here are the colors:
Just remember with color in soap that it will look much darker and warmer when poured than after it sets. Think of how fat changes from gold to white and you can guess how your color can change in appearance and lighten up (and sometimes change shade). If you hit on something you like...WRITE IT DOWN! :-)
Here's some more inspiration on using natural substances for coloring from the Latherings Soap Forum.
From Rachael: "I have good luck with yellows, golds, tans, browns, oranges, greens, yellow-greens, pinks, salmons, greys and whites. I have no luck with natural purples, or blues. The powders can be mixed into the raw soap, into the lye water when hot, infused into the oils and strained, or mixed into a portion of the raw soap, and swirled into the rest of the soap, for designs. They vary from leaving pinpoint color dots throughout the whole block of soap, to simply staining the whole block of soap, to dramatic swirls and can look awesome. Start with a teaspoon to a pound of fats, alot of them are mixed to achieve a certain range of color. The reds-pinks-reddish tans-salmons are cinnamon, paprika, some ground rose petals(some go brown), pink clays. The yellows-golds-to tans are milk soaps (nonfat milk instead of water), turmeric, calendula, peanut oil soap, olive oil soap, beta carotene is tiny amounts. The tans-browns slippery elm(which I love because it smells sweet and agreeable), cocoa powder (which will have a dirty lather, but an awesome color, and cocoa butter soap just aches to have cocoa added to it), alot of the ground roses and dried flowers turn brown, cloves. The greens are baby food spinach (strained) gives a clear celery green, chlorophyll from grass clippings, seaweed, sage, green clays. The white is titanium dioxide, its all natural, just doesn't sound like it. Orange is baby food (pureed) carrots, beta carotene in small amounts, milk soap in high temp. range, (with whole fat, not non-fat, cows milk)."
From Sandy: " I ordered some purple soap colour from cranberrylane.com out of Coquitlam, B.C. I got the ground rattanjot which is from an East Indian herb (I think), and a liquid form called "passion for purple" which is probably made by infusing oils with the ground rattanjot. I think I'll try making some of that myself. Anyway, I use 1 T. of liquid and 1/8 tsp. of ground in a 1 lb. batch. It gives a pale purple with purple speckles. Then I add passionflower FO and call it purple passion. Hope this is helpful. "
From Cindy: "I use alkanet root for purple, it will go from rosy purple to blue-purple depending on the ph of your mixture. You soak your main oil in it, I add one cup alkanet root to two cups olive oil, heat gently for a minute, then let sit for a few hours, then strain and incorporate in total weight of olive oil before adding lye. It will look bright red until the lye hits it! "
A Note about Benzoin: I have had people ask about using benzoin in their soap. Apparently there's a popular soapmaking book out there that lists it as an ingredient. Mother Earth Herbs (they also supply it) describe benzoin in their ingredients list this way: BENZOIN - gum/resin comes from styrax benzoin in Sumatra - used as preservative in soaps and lotions using fresh fruit or vegetable ingredients (use 2 tsp. powder per pound of soap) - also acts as fixative in holding fragrance.
In another forum, I came across a reference to this:
"I ordered benzoin from Soap Crafters Co. They have a website, because that is how I found them - doing a search for benzoin. Soap Crafters is located in Salt Lake City. The benzoin is powdered - taupe colored. I ordered it because it was listed as an ingredient in a remilled soap recipe. Since then, I've failed to find it listed as a necessary ingredient in any other recipes. The stuff is expensive and I have not used it as yet. Apparently, the author of the book I have which lists it in remilled recipes believes that it preserves certain organic add-ins to remilled soap, i.e. cucumber pulp, etc."
Here's another suggestion from a fellow soaper (Nov. 2001):
"I've noticed on your website that some of your customers have had a hard time finding powdered benzoin. I have found a great resource for benzoin and a GREAT price at most occult supply stores.....might freak out some of your customers, but believe it or not, they are always a great supplier of benzoin. It's also used in the making of incense and such. I use a great site called Mystic Unicorn at http://www.mysticunicorn.com/index.html"
"I hope this helps out some of your customers in their soapmaking search. And benzoin also has some antiseptic and antibacterial properties as well as making the soap hold onto scent better."
"Thanks for the great site!" -Wendi DuVall
I have not used benzoin yet, but have purchased some of the powder. Some people think the powder leaves a scratchy texture to the soap. Blending it into the oils when melting them might help, but I'm not sure if it takes care of the problem. There is a liquid form called "Tincture of Benzoin" and it can be found in the drugstore or pharmacy near the merthiolate and oils (like peppermint, eucalyptus, etc.). I've steered people away from it because it contains alcohol, but I've just noticed that Melinda Coss recommends it for her recipes in "The Handmade Soap Book." Maybe in such small quanitites the alcohol will not cause problems. It is used in the same proportions as the powder. If you have used the tincture and have experience with this, email me and let me know how it worked for you. In reading on soaplists I have gathered that some people think the powdered benzoin is scratchy in CP soap. Apparently the liquid benzoin has some color or darkens the soap, so keep that in mind if you are going to try using it...probably better for soaps that are already earthy colored or darker colored (like vanilla).
Stearic Acid: Most of the folks who sell supplies and are listed in the supplies section on the links page will also have Stearic Acid. It is often used in making other cosmetics and toiletries, like creams and lotions. You don't have to put it into your soap, but if you use it, it can help to make soap harder...especially nice when making some all-vegetable recipes. The rule of thumb is to use 1/8 oz. per pound of fat in the soap recipe. It is melted in with the fats.
Some tips on Inexpensive Soap Molds: "My sister gave me her Jello Jiggler molds to use for soap and they turned out very cute. Little cars, football helmets, hearts, etc. These can be purchased at the grocery store, by the Jello , or specially ordered. Sure beats paying $4.99 per mold at the candle store. Also, save the containers from Pringles potato chips or refrigerated cookie dough and use as disposable soap molds. Peel or cut the cardboard away after the 24 hour setup time and then cut soap into 1 inch wide circles. " -Cindy Bennight
" Have you ever tried using 1 litre milk cartons (1 quart?)? They come off easily, and the soap can be cut up into nice square bars." -Marleen Caswell
"I found snap-together drawer organizers at Target for $1.99 each. They measure 3 x 2 x 9...and are the perfect shape for bars I think. (I've been having trouble cutting my bars consistently so I was looking for a bar shaped mold.) We'll see." -Michelle :)
Here's a great tip on using ABS pipe for molds, taken from the old Latherings Soap Forum and posted by Glenda:
" Just a comment on plastic pipe...I bought 3" black ABS pipe- commonly used for sewers, bought a 2 foot section, used a saw to cut off the top to it resembles a large letter C. Used plastic food wrap and masking tape to cover the ends and poured in my soap (greased mold with Vaseline-petroleum jelly). I use to heavy cans or bottles on either side to keep it steady while the soaps solidifys. Have a nice sized bar when cut 1" through. I also bought a couple of 1 foot sections and intend to add the end caps as were previously discussed, stand upright on the cap and end up with a round bar. Have not done that as yet. What I really wanted to say, is that the petroleum jelly is an inexpensive way to grease your molds, any type, especially if you buy the store brand, not Vaseline."
From Sarah D.: "Hello, fellow soapers: looking for molds as i always do? ( i see molds everywhere!) go to your local bakery or to your supermarket that has a bakery, and ask if you can buy some of their plastic pastry/cake containers. these are pretty cheap- about 25 cents to $1.00, depending how big the containers are. however, regardless of how large these containers are, don't pour your soap more than one inch deep or you will end up with a very warped soap and a container that you will have to discard. i usually spray these well with a non-stick cooking spray for easy release of the soap. also, freezing doesn't hurt this process a bit. if you are reasonably careful with these "molds", they will last through several batches and give the edges of your soap a nice look. oh, one more thing ..they usually come with lids, which the use of can help control/eliminate that pesky "ash" problem. incidentally, this is more of a blemish, than an actual health hazard, and can usually just be wiped off with a soft cloth. for my own personal use soaps, i don't even bother and none of my family (which is quite numerous and many with sensitive skin) have suffered any ill effects from it.' -sarah
Here is another suggestion from a fellow soaper (March 2007):
I just found a great idea for molded soaps.You might like it too. For rectangular soaps with neat corners (and no paring!!) pour the soap into Folger's Cafe Latte containers. When the soap is ready to cut, slide it out of the container and just cut it into bars. You can pare the cut edges if you want to, but the basic bar is already very neatly molded.
The size of the container is about 2 1/4" x 3 1/2" and is just over 5" tall, so it would cut into 5 - 1" thick soaps. The Cafe Latte is much too pricy for my heart, but my daughter gave me a bag full of the containers that she had saved years ago for her Sunday School class projects!! :-)
You can get real creative in the molds department. People have recommended Hershey's cocoa containers, all manner of PVC pipes, plastic downspouts with fluted corners, etc. Another alternative to Pringles cans that makes larger soaps is the container in which you buy badminton shuttlecocks ("birdies"). I suppose tennis balls might yield a similar container, but I haven't bought any for a long time. Another packaging material that is supposed to make durable molds and beautiful soaps is the one you get with Sheba Cat Food. If you are laughing, it's because you haven't been hopelessly smitten with the soapmaking addiction yet! Once that happens, you will eye any type of plastic material with soap molds in mind! Anyway...if you want to use them as molds, the milder flavored foods, like chicken, etc. are better (for getting out the smell). You can wash a bunch of them in your clothes washer and use a little bleach in the soapy water to clean them thoroughly (they are very durable and flexible plastic). When you use them as molds, carefully grease each one lightly with Vaseline petroleum jelly first. Supposed to make a beautiful bar! Think I'll look at these next time I go shopping since I've never bought the stuff...our cats are not very pampered and have access to loads of mice in the pastures.
Another suggestion is vinyl window expanders. I read that you can often get them for free from someone who puts in vinyl windows. They can be cut to length ... about 2' long is probably a good suggestion (someone posted about this on a digest). You can put plastic on each end and duct tape it in place - in a similar way that some folks seal PVC pipe molds.
Silicone baking "pans" make wonderful soap molds and have been successfully used by quite a few people who have emailed. I'd not exactly call them "cheap" but you can use them again and again and unmolding is quite simple, since they are so flexible.
A note about plastics used in conjunction with soapmaking: I have had a problem in the past with a certain set of molds I'd ordered and used for soapmaking. The soap would look fine, but after curing for a few days, it would become discolored and yellowish on the outside (and whatever color it was supposed to be, would almost seem to be leached out). I finally quit using those particular molds. Someone else just reported a similar incident when using a plastic sheet other than food grade to line her litter pan. If you use some sort of plastic other than food grade, you could have this problem. I don't know what chemical the plastic is imbued with, but it seems to have a reaction with the soap during the curing process...UGLY!
Salt and Sugar?: Some people have achieved good results by adding salt and sugar to their soaps in small quantities. Salt is reported to increase the hardness of the bar and sugar will improve lathering. I am not sure of exact amounts, but one person suggested using 3 T. of either one for a 6# batch. Do not try to add these to the lye solution. I know that in the case of sugar, if you do this, you'll end up with a taffy-like lump in the bottom of the container that you'll have to fish out. You should probably dissolve the sugar/salt ahead of time in a small amount of hot water and then stir it into the lye solution after the lye has been completely dissolved. If you use much water for dissolving the sugar or salt (and someone recommended this procedure for borax as well, if you use that), you should discount this from the water you are using in the recipe for dissolving lye.
March 16, 2001 - Here's an email I received on this subject and my response:
Just a comment on adding salt to soap. A very few people today claim that salt helps harden a bar. Most that I know who have experimented have found no particular difference. There are of course historical reasons why salt was added to soap. Wood ash lye is mostly a potassium based solution of potash and so gives the softer potassium soaps. I believe that early American soapmakers usually made a soft soap which was stored in crocks. If they wanted to make a hard bar of soap, they would add a few handsful of salt to the soap kettle. This would have several effects. First of all, the salt was a source of sodium ions and this would cause formation of the harder sodium soap crystals instead of the softer potassium soaps. Secondly, depending on how they processed the soap, it was also possible to salt out the glycerin and water--make it separate from the soap which could be poured or skimmed off into flat molds and later cut into bars. -Bob McDaniel
Thanks for all the info on the use of salt in soapmaking. If you don't mind, I'll post your comments near that entry on the web page. I have tried this myself and did think it made the soap a little bit firmer, but certainly it is not as effective as if you used stearic acid for hardening purposes. It's not such a great thing that I add salt to soap everytime I make it... I don't. I'm also using a lot of coconut and palm in my base recipe so the soap is firm enough already. The idea is there for folks who want to give it a try and for some, it does seem to make enough difference that they do it (they are probably using very soft fats or oils for their base recipe). Kathy M.
This page last updated 21 August 2007.
If you still have questions, please read through the information on the Troubleshooting Help page, MOST Frequently Asked Questions and Modern Procedures. More can also be learned through the Botched Batches and Soapy Success pages. Many common problems have already been addressed on the site and it's difficult for me to keep up with emails these days and get anything else done. If your question involves my looking up information that you can also research, or going over numbers and recipe calculations, I might not respond if in the middle of a project around our home and garden. I apologize for this, since I've enjoyed my correspondence with people and don't like to ignore emails of any kind. Thanks! :-)