How to Make Simple Soaps

Create your favorite herb-scented cleansers with essential oils and botanicals.

| October/November 2002

  • These soaps make perfect gifts. Just wrap cooled soaps in plastic wrap before gift wrapping.
  • Photo by Dawna Edwards
  • These soaps make perfect gifts. Just wrap cooled soaps in plastic wrap before gift wrapping.
    Photo by Dawna Edwards
  • These soaps make perfect gifts. Just wrap cooled soaps in plastic wrap before gift wrapping.
    Photo by Dawna Edwards
  • Photo by Dawna Edwards

Goat’s milk was one of the main ingredients in the soap my aunt used to make. While I loved her homemade soap and hoped to make my own, I’m lacking in two things: a goat and a large kitchen to facilitate such intense efforts. Luckily, there are much simpler ways to make soap than milking a goat or dealing with lye. Soaps made with a glycerin base require little effort and a few basic supplies. Let your nose lead the way to using your favorite essential oils and herbs and then mold soaps into shapes and sizes of your liking for use in your own home or to wrap and give as gifts. Follow these simple instructions or experiment and find your own favorites.

These recipes were created so you could make a few bars of each from one 2-pound brick of soap base. If you’d rather make a large batch of a particular soap, simply double or triple the recipe and pour it into a larger pan. Also, consider experimenting with colors and shapes, pouring soap into cookie cutters, or adding hardened colored cubes to a clear soap base. Remember to add any botanicals just before pouring the mix into the mold, because prolonged exposure to heat may darken or change the color of the soap.

When selecting a soap base, make sure that you choose one made with natural vegetable products. Many glycerin soap bases also contain additives such as coconut or olive oil. Experiment with different bases to discover which type you like to use. Preparation will remain the same with each variety.

Selecting A Mold

If you don’t already have plastic soap molds or don’t want to go to the added expense of purchasing them, use pans and dishes that you already have in the kitchen. A loaf pan works great for any of these recipes, allowing you to cut the bars into whatever size you like. I also like to use small ceramic ramekins or a muffin pan—this creates decorative, rounded soaps that look nice in the guest bathroom or wrapped for gifts.

If you’re using plastic molds, you should be able to simply wiggle the solid soaps out of the mold when they’re cool, but just to make sure they come out easily, lightly spray the molds with olive oil before adding the soap. If you’ve selected a metal or ceramic pan or dish, it’s absolutely necessary to spray it with olive oil before you begin. This is the best way to get the soap loose from the dish when you’re finished. The slight amount of oil will not affect the nature of the soap.

Making The Soap

Melt the clear or white soap base in a double boiler or in the microwave in a glass dish until completely liquid. Pour or spoon the soap base into a separate glass or metal bowl and add essential oils and coloring. Mix thoroughly. Mix in additional coloring if you prefer a darker soap. Add botanicals and stir until they’re dispersed throughout the mixture.

Pour the mixture into molds or a greased pan. Allow it to cool until solid. Remove from the pan by flipping the pan upside down onto a clean surface, loosening the sides with a knife if needed. If you’ve molded the soap in a large pan, cut the big piece into individual bars.

Layered Soaps

Making interesting layered soaps is easy to do. Simply pour a thin layer of one soap mixture into a mold. Allow it to cool to a solid before pouring a different colored soap on top. Make as many layers as you like, cooling until solid after each one. When you remove the soap from the mold, you’ll have a fun, striped soap.

Wrapping Soaps

Once the soaps have cooled to a solid and you’ve cut them to the desired thickness, wrap them in plastic wrap to store or before gift wrapping. This will prevent the strong scent from overwhelming your storage area or giving away the surprise of your gift!

How To Make Simple Soaps

1. Lightly spray the bottom of two small dishes to be used as molds (ramekins or muffin cups work well) with olive oil and set them aside. Melt the glycerin soap base in a double boiler over medium-low heat or in the microwave in a glass dish checking every 40 seconds, until melted to a liquid. Pour half of the base into a small metal or glass bowl. Add half of your essential oil(s) and all of the soap coloring(s). Mix thoroughly. Add more coloring if you prefer a darker pink/red.

2. Allow your mixture to begin cooling without hardening completely. Check it regularly until it begins to solidify but is still pliable. When the consistency is similar to that of cookie dough, pull about half of the pink soap from the bowl and roll it between your hands into a long, thin tube-like strand about 1/2-inch thick. Curl this strand in a spiral on the bottom of the greased mold. Repeat with the remainder of the pink soap mixture in the bowl and add it to the other mold. (If the mixture has cooled too much and is no longer pliable, simply warm it for about 10 seconds in the microwave.) Set these spirals aside to cool.

3. Add the remaining essential oil(s) to the white soap base. Pour the white liquid soap base over the pink spirals in their cups. Cool, remove from molds, and use or wrap in plastic wrap.

Peppy Swirl Soap


• 12 ounces white glycerin soap base
• 8 drops peppermint essential oil
• 4 drops red soap coloring

Lavender Oat Soap


• 8 ounces clear glycerin soap base
• 8 ounces white glycerin soap base
• 10 to 12 drops lavender essential oil
• 1 drop red soap coloring
• 1 drop blue soap coloring
• 2 tablespoons oats

Citrus Lemongrass Soap


• 8 ounces clear glycerin soap base
• 4 to 6 drops lemon, lime, or grapefruit essential oil (or a combination of them all)
• 2 drops yellow soap coloring
• 1/2 teaspoon dried lemongrass

Refreshing Rosemary Eucalyptus Soap


8 ounces clear glycerin soap base
4 drops eucalyptus essential oil
2 drops rosemary essential oil
1 drop blue soap coloring
1 drop yellow soap coloring
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Soothing Lavender Chamomile Soap


• 8 ounces clear glycerin soap base
• 6 drops lavender essential oil
• 2 drops blue soap coloring
• 2 drops red soap coloring
• 1/2 teaspoon dried chamomile

11/9/2013 7:00:29 AM

anonymous, Would you share your true soap recipe - it IS exactly what I want. Please and thank you in advance.

11/7/2013 8:47:09 AM

While this is scenting soap it isn't making soap. And no, it really doesn't take a big kitchen. Goat's milk soap does take goat's milk and you can usually find some in your area. What a "dumb down" this is. Unfortunately it is what the masses want - and easy way not a true make it yourself way.



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