Crafty clean DIY soap

G Magazine

Try your hand at making soap.


Credit: Carolyn Barry


Step one.


Step two.


Step three.


Step five.


Step seven.


Step eight.


Step nine.

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“This recipe is just so easy,” says Eddie Goncalves, from Sydney-based natural raw material provider New Directions. “Anyone can try it at home, to whip up a batch of soaps that are great for gift giving or for just using yourself. Once you use your own hand-made soap it’s definately hard to go back to store-bought!”

Goncalves and the New Directions team shared their best tips and tricks with G for this quick and simple soap making method. While some of the ingredients, like sodium hydroxide, can be hazardous when handled incorrectly, with a little bit of caution the process is as easy as baking a cake. You can buy most of the basic ingredients at your local supermarket and the rest are readily available at natural beauty stores or markets.

What you need

The raw ingredients to make a 1 kg batch, or about 10 bars:
250 g sustainably sourced palm oil
250 g virgin coconut oil
240 g extra virgin olive oil
155 g ice-cold water
103 to 107 g of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) from the detergent section at the supermarket
2-3 teaspoons of blue Australian clay (or some red and blue food dye)
30 mL certified organic lavender essential oil
A handful of dried lavender flowers

A dedicated set of soap-making utensils:
Kitchen scales
1 L heatproof mixing bowl or jug
2 x 500 mL heatproof mixing bowls or jugs
Hand-held electric mixer
Long wooden skewer
Thin wooden spoon or spatula
A soap mould – we used a 1 L milk carton, but old jelly moulds, cake tins or cups also work well. Be creative!
An old towel
A sharp knife

Protective gear:
An apron
A pair of safety goggles
A dust mask
Disposable latex gloves

Optional extras or substitutes:
Dried flowers
Shredded oatmeal
Almond meal
Unscented moisturiser


1. Prepare your well-ventilated work area (the kitchen bench or laundry table near an open window are good choices) and don your apron and gloves. Make sure all surfaces and utensils are sterilised by spraying and wiping with a mix of water and ethanol or water and vinegar.

2. In the 1 L bowl place the palm oil (hard at room temperature), coconut oil and olive oil and microwave for 2 – 2½ minutes, as the oil needs to be hot in order to mix properly with the other ingredients. Set aside.

3. Time for the goggles and mask! Make sure you are near an open window (move to the window ledge, if you can), put on your protective gear and add the water into one of the 500 mL bowls. Slowly sprinkle the sodium hydroxide into the water and stir. Be careful – the resulting chemical reaction can be volatile, and is like a volcano if you add the water to the sodium hydroxide instead of the other way around! The water will become hot and fumes will be released. Sit the bowl on a windowsill so the fumes and heat of the mixture (now known as ‘lye’) can dissipate.

4. Both the oil and lye mixtures need to cool back down to, ideally, between 38 and 40ºC in order to be combined. Use the thermometer to periodically check their temperatures until they are roughly within this range. If one or the other is cooling too fast, sit the bowl in a bath of hot water. Now’s a good time to have a cup of Fairtrade tea and prepare your mould. Sterilise and coat with a bit of canola oil or baking paper so the soap will be easy to remove. Skip this step if you’re using a milk carton, as they’re already wax coated.

5. When the oil is at the right temperature, give it a quick buzz with the electric mixer to thicken it. While still wearing your protective gear, slowly add the lye to the oil, mixing continously. Be careful of splashes, as the lye will sting if it makes contact with your skin or eyes. Keep mixing until the contents, now called ‘trace’, are completely combined and form a thick, but still runny, custard-like mixture.


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