What are the best ingredients for soap making when you are just starting out?
Does it matter what soap recipe I use when I first start making soap?
Making your first batch of soap is often very daunting. There are so many different things to think about. What butters and oils should you use? What difference does the recipe make? Should I use fragrance oils, essential oils or neither? What about using colours? Micas? Oxides? Natural colourants?
Firstly, congratulations on making the decision to make your own soap. And welcome to THE BEST hobby.
Secondly, and this will be rather annoying probably, it really does not matter what recipe you use as long as you get on and make it but there are some pointers that are useful to know.
- The recipe you use will determine how quickly it thickens up and therefore how long you have to work with it
- In general harder butters and oils will thicken up faster once you reach trace and therefore give you less time to work with it. ie A 100% coconut oil soap will reach trace and then quickly become a blancmange like consistency if you hang around too long whilst working with it. A recipe high in olive oil for example will move quite slowly and you will generally have more time to work with it
- The recipe is not the only deciding factor however. Temperature is too. The higher the temperature of your lye, butters and oils, the faster saponification will start after reaching trace .
- It is more important to recognise trace than worry about your recipe as blending for too long before beginning to add colours etc will slow down the time you have to work with your batter regardless.
It is for the above reasons that I say the actual recipe does not matter too much - the combination of recipe, blending and temperature is far more important.
Let me put that in perspective.
In my soap making workshops we use a coconut oil, cocoa butter and olive oil recipe. It is 50% olive oil which gives us a batter which should remain fluid and easy to work with for some time.
However, let's imagine I use my lye at 130f my butters and oils are around 120f and I then blend to a medium thick trace. By the time I have added any colours and fragrances I will almost certainly be spooning, not pouring, this in to the mould. Don't get me wrong - this is not a problem. You will still have lovely soap and for some designs a thick batter is a must but it does not give you a lot of flexibility for anything.
Now lets look at making 100% coconut oil soap. In theory this is harder to work with and gives you much less time however, if you keep your coconut oil cool, below 100f and the same with your lye solution AND blend to a very, very light trace, you will have just as much time to work with it in a fluid form as with any other recipe.
So what is important when choosing my soap making ingredients?
I am all about soap making made easy as you know so my views on this are around choosing a recipe that makes soap making accessible for you.
Use butters and oils that are readily available to you and cost effective.
When you are starting out consider making an unperfumed bar. Essential oils are expensive. Far better to nail the process first and then worry about taking it up a level.
Choose a recipe that has a maximum of 3 or 4 butters and oils. Quite honestly you do not need 7 different ingredients, a fancy essential oil combination and contrasting colours to make a great bar of soap. It is just a bar of soap!
Compare it to baking - it is unlikely that you would make a fancy gateaux on your first go - you would maybe start with cup cakes. You get my drift?
The only other thing I would stress is please do run your recipe through a soap calculator first to make sure it is safe. If you are not sure how to do this I have an instructional video HERE.
If you are looking for a very simple 3 ingredient recipe try this one