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     Zenda's Soap and Beauty Recipes

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Home > Features > Living Well > Eco-Tips > Zenda's Soap and Beauty Recipes


Homemade Soap and Beauty Recipes


Soap Recipes - Soap Tips - Bath Oil, Salts and more - Soapmaking Q & A
Soap Recipes

Vegetable Soap

Bathe by Candlelight...
Soy Wax Candles
Better than paraffin, these all-vegetable wax container candles are guaranteed soot free!

50 Ounces Olive Oil
17 Ounces Coconut Oil
18 Ounces Any All Vegetable Shortening
11.5 Ounces Lye
32 Ounces Soft Water

Temperature -

Lye Water 95-98 degrees
Fats 95-98 degrees


2 thermometers
wooden spoons
ceramic, glass, heavy plastic(tupperware or rubbermaid) containers
stainless steel pan
plastic gloves
mold - to begin with, use a milk carton (when time to cut bars, just cut the end off and make cuts through the carton, releasing the soap from the cardboard outline. Make the cuts at 1 - 2 inch intervals) After you make 1 or 2 batches, you can experiment with pvc pipe and other fun molds.


The night before you make soap, measure the lye and soft water into a container. The lye water will emit fumes for 30-45 seconds, so turn your head away while stirring. The water temperature will rise to 250 degrees immediately. Stir until lye is completely dissolved. Put in a place where "no one" can get to it. **I put mine in the top of a closed closet.

Looking for a book?
The Soapmaker's Companion
Susan Cavitch Miller...
is the classic reference work. It has recipes for vegetable soaps, transparent soaps, natural colors, troubleshooting, and an in-depth look at the chemistry and natural history of soapmaking ingredients.

The day you make soap, heat a pan of water to boiling and place cooled lye water in it. Place thermometer in lye water and heat to specified temperature. Place the fats in a pan and heat to specified temperature.

When the lye water and fats are at the correct temperatures, pour fats into a bowl and pour lye water into fats, stirring constantly for 15-20 minutes. Then stir thoroughly every 10-15 minutes until the soap traces. Bring the spoon up over the liquid soap and drizzle some on top. If the drizzled line stays on top for 1 or more seconds, the soap is ready to pour. This is the time you add dried flowers, herbs, essential oils. Stir until completely mixed.

Pour into liberally greased mold. Cover top of mold and place blanket over the mold. Let sit for 12-24 hours. Check to make sure soap is still soft enough to cut. Cut soap and stack where air can circulate between layers. Place in area that will stay at room temperature. Leave for 3-4 weeks. Remove the white layer of ash on top. Soap is ready to use.

Glycerine Soap

1 1/4 cup tallow or lard
1/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup glycerine
3/4 cup distilled or Spring water
4 tbsp. lye (not Drano)
1-1 1/2 cups vodka or isopropyl alcohol(70 percent)
1 1/2 cups table sugar(not powdered)

Grease molds liberally with 1/4 cup of the lard. Melt tallow or lard and coconut oil until the fats register 90 degrees. Stir lye into water until dissolved. Cool until water mixture registers 90 degrees.

Pour lye into fats, stirring until thick and creamy. Add glycerine and stir until well mixed. Pour into mould and cover until set hard (3 days). Grate into a large stainless steel bowl. Be sure soap is grated finely and any large pieces are regrated or cup up into smaller pieces. You are looking for uniform sized pieces so they melt at the same rate.

The Next Step...
Making Transparent Soap
Catherine Failor...
has step-by-step instructions + equipment & mold selection, dyeing & fragrancing ideas, inexpensive tools, and even how to formulate your own recipes.

Add Alcohol to soap stirring to moisten. Using alcohol alone will sometime create a cloudy glycerine soap, the sugar will help with this problem. Make a simple syrup by mixing the sugar with 1 cup water in a separate pan, making sure the sugar completely dissolves. Be sure and wash down the sugar crystals from the sides of the pans. Add sugar solution to the soap mixture, stirring until thoroughly mixed. At this time add coloring to the soap. Place bowl over a pan of gently boiling water.

Be very careful at this stage. Keep alcohol away from the flame, as to not ignite it. Stir constantly until the soap melts. The alcohol will evaporate. Continue stirring until the soap is actually clear. When a ropy thread forms as the spoon is lifted from the liquid, the soap is almost ready. Remove the bowl from the heat for a minute or two. If a skin begins to form, the soap is ready, if not, return back to the heat.

Pour into molds. When the soap is hard, you may grate, melt, and add herbs, dried flowers, fragrance and other additives.

Let cure for 2-3 weeks minimum.

Soap Recipes - Soap Tips - Bath Oil, Salts and more - Soapmaking Q & A

Soap Tips

Get a good scale to measure. Measuring cups are for liquid and there is a big difference between dry and liquid weights.

Don't use Drano. It has added chemicals. We have Red Devil lye down here.

Always pour lye water into fats, never visa versa

Always have vinegar at your side when making soap - it neutralizes the lye if you happen to spill some on you.

Always use glass, stainless steel, or ceramic containers to mix and measure and wash thoroughly afterwards. If you use a container more than twice to make soap, don't use it for food again.

Always stir with wooden spoons and ONLY use for soapmaking (the lye has seeped into the spoons.

Good molds - Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers, pyrex containers, pvc pipe, smallest plastic flower pot liners.

Always grease(most books say to use Vaseline, but vegetable shortening works better) liberally. If using a pvc pipe, overgrease! Don't use the end piece. A vacuum forms and you can't remove. Cover end with 2 or 3 layers of plastic wrap.

If using a pvc pipe - use 3 inch pipe and cut with a cheese cutter or dental floss.

Making soap is very easy. The recipe above only takes 3-4 hours total. Make lye the night before. Reheat by setting lye container into hot water bath.

If you use a recipe that uses tallow, it will take a lot longer to trace. Sometimes up to 18 hours. The coconut oil makes a very lathery soap. The olive oil makes a harder bar that lasts longer.

FYI - The lye will kill mosts colors. The only thing I find works are candle dyes, tumeric, paprika, cinnamon and cocoa.

Same goes for scents. Peppermint, lavender, cinnamon, clove are among the best.

If you want to add cucumber, carrot, or strawberries do the following:

grate 2-3 cups for the above recipe of the vegetable or fruit. heat with fats for 30 minutes, then follow recipes as directed


You are working with lye and it is highly caustic. After complete saponification, the lye has chemically changed and is no longer caustic.

A white powder will form on the top of your soap as it dries. Cut or wash off. It is the last remnants of the lye and will irritate the skin.

To make almond/oatmeal - grind almonds to the finest powder you can; grind oatmeal (not instant) and add to soap. I ususally add 1 cup per pound

Honey Soap - I mix 2-3 tbs honey with lemon essential oil and a little oil together. At tracing, add and mix thoroughly before pouring.

Goats Milk - Reduce your water by 4-6 ounces, then before pouring add room temperature goat's milk.

Buttermilk/Lavender - Reduce water by 4-6 ounces, then add buttermilk and lavender essential oil at tracing.

Any other scents - I usually infuse my oil with the herb for 7-10 days in the refrigerator, then strain and use as directed in the recipe. I also add essential oil, because the oil will only retain the herbal properties, not the scent.

Aloe Vera - Again, I reduce my water by 2-3 ounces, then replace with aloe vera juice at tracing time.

I also make carrot soap and cucumber soap. I grate a cup per pound of either or both and heat the oils very slowly(30 minutes) with the grated vegetables in it. The heating cooks the vegetables, so they don't spoil in the soap. The green and orange flecks in the soap look pretty. I add lemon and honey to the carrot and mint and milk to cucumber.

I have been told that Grapefruit Seed Extract(not oil) makes the soap trace faster.

Soap Recipes - Soap Tips - Bath Oil, Salts and more - Soapmaking Q & A

Bath Oil, Salts and more
Bath Bombs

1/4 cup baking soda
2 tbs. citric acid or absorbic acid (powdered vitamin C)
1 tbs. borax powder (for softening) (20 Mule Team)
2 tbs. powdered sugar(for binding)
2 tbs. sweet almond oil (this oil is absorbed into the skin easily)
1 tsp. Vitamin E oil(preservative)
1/4 tsp. fragrance or essential oil (you can use your favorite perfume)

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and stir until well blended. Drizzle in almond oil and stir until mixture is moistened. Add Vitamin E oil and fragrance and stir until well mixed.****

Looking for a book?
Making Natural Liquid Soaps
Catherine Failor...
Has recipes for liquid soap, conditioning shampoo, dog shampoo, shower gels, bubble bath and more...

Take teaspoon size globs of mixture and form into ball shapes with fingers. The mixture will be VERY crumbly and fragile, so do the best you can. Place the balls on a sheet of wax paper and leave alone for 2-3 hours. Reshape balls. Let the balls air dry and harden for 10 days. Store balls in a closed container to protect from moisture. To use, plop a ball into your bathtub in warm water.

**** I put all the ingredients in a mason jar, put the lid on and shake until mixed.

And here's a tip from a reader...

I have read that when making bath bombs you can mix all the dry ingredients together then take a bottle of Witch Hazel and find a nice spray top, spray the mixture continually until it will hold the desired shape. Make sure not to spray until it fizzes... you want it to do that in the tub :0 ) Let them dry for 24 hours and your done :) This way the mixture doesn't crumble as much. Good Luck!

-Lisa Hawkes (lisahawkes@mindspring.com)

Bath Beads

1/4 cup powdered milk
2 tbs. powdered sugar
2 tbs. borax powder(20 Mule Team)
1/4 cup rose water or orange water
2 tsp. vitamin E
10 drops essential oil

Combine the dried milk, sugar, and borax in a bowl, stirring until well mixed. Add the water, vitamin E, and fragrance. Stir until you have a thick dough. Depending on the humidity in the air, you may need to cut the water amount back. Try adding a little at a time until you get the thick dough. Roll dough into a ball, one teaspoon at a time with your hands. Repeat until all of the dough has been used. Place the balls on a sheet of tin foil or waxed paper and let dry for twenty four hours.

Bath Oil

Sweet Almond Oil
Essential oil or Fragrance

Mix 20 drops fragrance or essential oil per 1/2 cup of almond oil.

Bath Potpourri Bags

For each bag, combine equal parts dried chamomile, mint, and lavender. If you don't have access to muslin tea bags, cut squares of muslin and tie with jute or kite rope. Throw 1 or 2 bags into warm bath.

Variation -

3 or 4 chamomile tea bags
3 or 4 fresh oranges (sliced)
Equal parts lavender and lemon rind or dried lemon

Add to warm bath.

Bath Salts

Mix equal parts Epsom Salts and Rock Salt(Ice Cream) in a jar with a lid. Add essential oils or fragrance. Shake capped jar to mix.

Dusting Powder

Add 15 drops essential oil or fragrance to 1/2 cup cornstarch. Mix until well blended. Store in old dusting powder box or in glass salt shaker.

Variation -

Add powdered mint leaves, or powdered orange or lemon zest
1/2 cup cornstarch
5 drops lemon oil
3 drops peppermint oil
3 drops grapefruit oil

In a spice grinder, crush the mint leaves to a fine powder. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients, add oils and stir until distributed.

Spray On Body Oil

1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup scented water**
3 tbs. sweet almond oil

Pour all ingredients into a spray pump bottle and close. Shake the bottle until well mixed. Shake before each use.

**to scent water - pour boiling water over dried or fresh herbs or zest, let cool, strain.

Easy Fragranced Soap

1 bar Ivory Soap (grated)
dried orange peel, fragrant rose petals, other herbs or flowers
10 drops essential oil or fragrance

Mix all ingredients in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Be careful when molding soap as it is very hot. Roll into round soap balls.

Sugar and Spice Spa Mixture

1/2 cup baking soda
2 tbs. borax
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Mix together all the ingredients until well blended. To use: add 2 tbs. of the bath mix to a warm tub of water. Store the mixture in a clean, dry container.

Okay, one last 'unusual' recipe!

Bath Cookies

2 cups finely ground sea salt
1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup dried milk
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbs. light oil(canola, sunflower)
1 tsp. vitamin E oil
2 eggs
7-8 drops essential oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix together all the ingredients. Roll dough into a ball 1 teaspoon at a time. Place balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool completely.

To use: Drop 1 or 2 cookies into a warm bath and allow to dissolve.

Basket ideas -

I line a basket with a bandana(glue to sides) and include a scented candle, soap, and one or two of the toiletries.

Another idea -

Buy a square basket. Glue paper napkins to the basket to cover. Let dry. Add soap, bath powder, bath oil, and one or two of the other fun toiletries. I use raffia as a filler and wrap basket in cellophane using the rafia as a tie.

**to scent candles, place parrafin in a can and place can in a pan with water. Heat gently until parrafin melts. Use colored wax or a crayon to color. Add liquid orris root(to fix scent) and essential oil. Place a small amount of the parrafin in the bottom of a milk carton, press kite string into it until it sticks. Pour remaining wax into milk carton. When hard, tear away milk carton.


z (Zenda)

Editor's Note: Like fabric crafts? Be sure to visit Zenda's new website, Sunflowers and Snowflakes!


Soap Recipes - Soap Tips - Bath Oil, Salts and more - Soapmaking Q & A

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