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Miller's Homemade Soap Pages:



MOST Frequently Asked Questions! :-)

The Soapy Success section was created to provide a question and answer format for folks who were troubleshooting their soapmaking problems, or just wanted to read the experiences of others. Since I first started posting email questions and answers, that section has ballooned so much, that I'm sure many folks don't want to wade all the way through to look for certain bits of information. In order to cut down on "repetitive" email responses... I'm posting the most commonly asked ?s here... I hope this is helpful. :-)

Check this out! :-)

TROUBLESHOOTING Help! - As of May of 2005, I've added another page that can help you pinpoint what may have gone wrong with your soap. This troubleshooting page has a chart of the most common problems, causes and cures and also has suggestions on various ways to remelt your botched soap.

Soap without LYE?

Do you have a recipe for soap that does not use lye?

You generally cannot make bar soap at home without lye. Lye is not your enemy... it's a fallacy to think you can make soap without it (or some other caustic base substance to turn the fat molecules into soap compounds). Correctly made and cured homemade soap is milder than anything you can buy... even those fancy clear glycerin bars. Don't let the lye thing put you off. I think some of the marketers our there who claim their soap has no lye have confused the public. They are being misleading when stating that. It just means they didn't use lye in their portion of the manufacture... but in the beginning, it was used to saponify the fats. Notice on the soap labels that word, "saponify" ... or "sodium tallowate"... "sodium cocoate", etc.? That means tallow or coconut oil that have been made into soap with the use of sodium hydroxide (lye)... that's the sodium part.

I hope you give another look to make soap at home. It's wonderful stuff!


NOTE (September 2005): After receiving a couple of emails, I've finally come to believe that it's true... the company that markets 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 is 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.
Anyway, I'm having fun, that's the point and thanks again for all of your help :-)
Nancy M.
from the dry side, Clarkston, Washington

[No more lye!]

Graphic courtesy of About.com from
Soapmaking article by David Fisher



Hi. You have a FANTASTIC site filled with lots of awesome information. =) I haven't yet made soap but have definitely thought about it. I've ordered a couple of books just today off of amazon.com and have surfed the web for recipes, how-tos and other information. I'm a stay at home mom that would like to turn some spare time into some extra vacation money through something I love to use...great smelling soap!! Before I begin my adventure, however, can I ask you a question concerning lye??

I've been reading the dangers about lye, how I should wear safety goggles and gloves. Quite frankly it's scaring the snot out of me...LOL. If all precautions are taken is it relatively safe to work with...meaning should I set most of my fears aside and just do it and have fun with it?? Or are there other ways of getting around the lye while making great looking and smelling soaps??

You're not alone in getting paranoid about lye after reading all the precautions. You can't make soap without it so put that one aside. Yes... you need to handle it with care and respect... especially not spilling the undissolved crystals around where some child or pet could ingest them and you need to avoid breathing the fumes that first come off when you dissolve it. Be assured, your body will NOT let them in without a fight. You will start coughing almost instantly if you start to breathe them in. I usually mix the lye in my kitchen (since I mostly make soap at night)... crack the kitchen window slightly and mix the lye under the exhaust fan. I avert my face and hold my breath while doing the first mixing and once it's mixed enough for the crystals to be dispersed, I walk to the other room and get a nice big breath of clean air (just in case I would get a little drift in the kitchen). Then I go back and stir some more. Usually, the fumes dissipate within two minutes. You can mix this outdoors if you like, but the same care in staying away from drifting fumes should be taken... and GREAT care when you carry your open vessel of lye solution back into the house! I've heard stories of people tripping over the porch step, etc. and then having a real mess on their hands. =:o

Most of the books recommend you don all kinds of protective gear, etc. I'm going to risk attack from certain camps and go on record here (I'm posting this) that I have NEVER worn any protective clothing when making soap. I wear OLD clothes, but no gloves, goggles, aprons, etc. I doubt any of our grandmothers ever wore that kind of thing either. They did use good sense when working with corrosive chemicals I'm sure. If a person feels better wearing protective clothing, I would not discourage them from doing that, but none of the few soapmakers I know personally do this. There are pros and cons. I guess if I'd ever had something blow up in my face in all the years I've done this, I would change my tune, but I have not. Only an occasional splatter when mixing, which I wipe off immediately when I can feel the slight burn of its presence. If I ever get the slightest bit of lye on my hands, or raw soap, I can feel that it's there (it's slippery feeling) and clean it off (a bit of vinegar close by is good for this while you wash your hands). When you are wearing gloves, you could have free lye on your fingers and not even think about it... possibly wiping your face with those fingers or touching some other surface in the kitchen. While my exposed arms might get an occasional splatter (rarely), I've also heard of people getting raw soap between their protective clothes and their skin and not noticing right away and getting a burn. I'm NOT trying to talk people out of taking precautions if it makes them less nervous and more steady during their soapmaking, but I just gotta' tell you that I don't.

There... I feel better. Let the chips fall where they may! ;-)

One last thing... one of the worst hazards of lye in solution is to have it sitting around and not identified as being something other than water. One of the worst things I heard was of a man coming into the kitchen and swigging down some water from a glass on the counter... turned out to be his wife's lye solution and he suffered severe damage to his esophagus. If you are going to leave your solution unattended, cover it or label it or put it in something a person would never think to drink out of, by all means!

Also... I am meticulous about taking care to clean up any tiny spilled granules when I'm measuring lye. On a good day, you can weigh the lye and have it all stay where it belongs, but sometimes those little grains respond to static... so always check around for little specks, wipe down your work area a couple of times with a damp cloth... or lay down newspaper if that suits you and toss it afterward. My children are grown now, but I'd not want a chunk of that laying on the floor or where a small child or animal might pick it up.

Hope that answers your question. Yes... make soap and have FUN with it! It really is a lot of fun and very practical to learn (also yields a milder product for your family's enjoyment and gives you a bit more self-sufficiency in your life).

Post Script: I had someone express concern that I was not taking seriously the hazards of working with lye... particularly in protecting the eyes. I have to agree that it's a wise idea to put some protection over the eyes. Of all the protective measures, I put that next to working with good ventilation. Most folks who have some fear of lye will also want to have protection on their hands. I feel more clumsy and apt to knock something over when wearing standard rubber gloves, but if you want hand protection and are not allergic to silicone, the surgical gloves you can buy (Costco has them where I live) are great for protecting your hands without getting in the way of what you are doing. I find they can be nice for working in the garden also... you can still feel those fine stems when you are hand weeding.

When I wrote what I did above I was just being totally honest in what my general practice is... and most of the folks I know personally that make soap are pretty much the same. Lye is terribly corrosive and dangerous to tender tissues, but I don't protect my eyes when I pour bleach into the washing machine either and that's not much better. Lye is probably worse in how it damages tissues but bleach is no fun either. When having a root canal performed one time, the assistant managed to spill some down my throat through the tiny hole they'd punched in the rubber dam. Believe me... without even thinking and while freaking out the endodontist... I sat bolt upright in my reclined dentist's chair to try to get rid of that stuff... but it was too late! I cleared my throat for two days trying to get rid of that feeling... it was NOT pleasant! =:-o I don't want to scare anyone out there who might already be afraid of dentists... I've had TONS of work done and love my dentist... and the endodontist was a great guy also. I just wasn't too impressed with the little bleachy snack. ;-)

Recycling Soap Scraps

My grandma ( and Mum) used to "remake" soap, from the little bits left from store-bought bars. I think they just grated them(?) added water(?) and boiled (?), but how did it set into quite firm tablets ? Did they add anything else ? Could I ?.....such as oatmeal, oils, essences etc. I've been collecting little slivers for years and now have a shopping bag full, so it's time to do something about it. I do hope you can help. I'm very new to the Net, so am not sure what happens from here - I guess you just email me, right ? I hope so.

I think they only added enough water to melt the stuff down (not too much to start). You can always add more as needed. You could also work in other stuff after it's melted, like you would in rebatching soaps you've made yourself. Then pour, or mash into molds and let harden. The less water you need to add, the firmer it will get without waiting for weeks and weeks!

You might try moistening your shavings with just enough to dampen them, cover overnight and then put them in a low oven for a couple of hours (covered) and stir every so often. On my oven I would set it around 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. You could also use a covered crockpot.

First time soap makers (for all newbies overwhelmed by too much information!)

I was wondering what tracing is, and what it looks like. We'll be making all veggie soap (the herb shop carries a variety of veggie oils) if that makes a difference. Also, do you have any good recipes (small batches) or books you'd suggest for first timers?

All this is answered on my site, but you have to do some reading to find it all! My favorite books are Melinda Coss' Handmade Soap Book and Susan Miller Cavitch... The Soapmaker's Companion. If you can't find them locally, you can order online from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. The Coss book has lots of colorful pictures that are inspiring and helpful. The Cavitch book is loaded with technical info and line drawings. For starting out... you might like the Coss book more.

My recipes are tailored for using a 12 oz. can (the way lye used to come in the U.S. ... now it's in an 18 oz. size... a postal scale will be needed). You can divide those recipes (like cutting in half) as long as you measure properly. Real small batches are tricky because the lye measurements become more critical. A slight discrepancy in the lye amount can give you a lye heavy product or way too much fat. The larger batches are more forgiving. Many people think they'll make a big batch and rebatch it in small quantities for scenting. I would recommend scenting your first batch and then playing with the scrap pieces to decide if rebatching is for you. I HATE it! It's a pain and the finished bar is not nearly as nice and smooth as the original you grated up!

When the soap is close to the trace stage, it will usually start looking duller on top and form a bit of a fine ring around the edges of the bowl or pan it's in (the ring is more noticeable if you are hand stirring). It should have a satin finish and smooth texture... not be terribly grainy. If your soap starts looking grainy too soon, apply some gentle bottom heat to the bowl for a minute or two while stirring until the graininess disappears... be sure to turn the burner OFF after that brief heating period. I like to pour the soap when it the texture of gravy or thin pudding (I use a stick blender to mix now... those directions are on the Modern Procedures page.)


Here is a readiness to pour suggestion from Anne Watson, author of Smart Soapmaking (Shepard Publications, 2007):

Using an instant-read digital thermometer, I take the temperature of my mixture after I've stirred the lye solution into the fats. When I've stick blended for a short time, I take the temperature again. I've found that a 2-3 degree temperature rise is a reliable predictor of readiness to pour, whether I can see a visible trace or not. At five degrees, visible trace was always present. At ten degrees, I was about to get setup in the pot.

I checked with a chemist and he told me my results are valid. The temperature *change* is what's important, not whether the mixture gets to any specific temperature.

This works for my small batches (30 oz. oils). A friend who makes batches ten times the size of mine finds that the temperature rise is greater for her.


Also... check out some of the other links I have listed on my Soapmaking Links page. Many other sites give basic soapmaking instructions as well.

Happy soaping!


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You show some wonderful labels on the soaps. They go all the way around your soaps. I was wondering if you'd share how you buy them or how they're made. I have been playing with my computer to see if I could make them but I'm stumped. I started making soap about six months ago and love it. I would like to go to some craft shows but I'm having a problem with packaging my soaps.

My son laid those out in a page layout program, but they could be done in a word processing program as well, like Word or Word Perfect, etc. You just put the document in landscape format (on its side) and make the labels from left to right (we do four per sheet). You'll want to cut a strip of the paper ahead and wrap it around your soap to note where the text should fall... everyone's bars of soap can be a bit different in how the label will line up...then when you have your text boxes laid out, you can always go back and move them up or down until you like where they fall on the bar of soap. Anyway... the main part of the label is toward the middle of the bar and you will use a text box to put your text for the front of the bar. Another smaller text box is put toward the top of each of the labels that has your name or company name, contact information,etc. After you type in the text for the backside of the bar, you will need to flip it upside down (so it will be the right orientation after it is wrapped around the bar of soap). This sounds confusing, doesn't it? When you are looking at a sheet of labels printed, you will see four main areas of text running across the center from left to right, with the contact info toward the top part of the page (four of them) going from left to right but upside down. It's nice if when laying it out you put some lines somewhere to use when cutting the labels apart... small lines toward the top and bottom and between the labels will do for sighting on when you cut the labels apart. I usually use pretty preprinted paper I've gotten at Office Depot to print on, but on some of the labels, we have a simple piece of clip art background that is floral.

Here is a picture of one of my layouts:

[Label Sheet Layout]

Once you work the bugs out of your basic label, you should save it as a "template" or "stationery." Then when you want a new set of labels, you open up your template, type in the new info, save it and it will never save over your basic template. When I did the template, I had things like "Soap Name Here" , etc. on the label and I would just highlight over it and type in the name. That way, the text formatting like font and size, are kept intact. By the way... once you get one of your text boxes done, you can copy and paste the whole box with text inside to get your other three boxes. You just have to move them to the right spot on the page after pasting. Aren't computers great?

I hope this is not totally confusing... good luck!

Packaging and Storing Soaps

I am wondering how best to store my soaps after they are ready to use. Can you shrink wrap homemade cp soaps or does this adversely affect them? I have searched all over trying to find out if this is ok to do or if leaving them out in the air is the better method.

I would not shrink wrap them for long term storage because they could either sweat, or continue to shrink and the wrap will get loose. Complete open air storage makes really hard bars, but they will lose a lot of scent. What I've been doing is storing the soaps in a drawer-like affair I got at Costco pretty cheap (it's plastic)... and having them in a semi-open environment after they get a few weeks of open air curing under their belts. The drawers allow me to arrange the soaps with a bit of space, but crack them open to let some air in... but not total open air. When I am ready to sell bars, I label them and place each in a Ziploc style plastic bag (4" X 4" works well for the average bar). This way customers can open the end to get a sniff and close it back up.

As far as shrink-wrapping, I would shrink wrap the soaps when you are ready to give them away or sell them, but not too far in advance. You might post your concern on an online soapmaking forum and see what other folks who use shrink wrap recommend and what their experience is.

Here is a suggestion from fellow soaper, Mona Whitney:

It's been some time since I talked to you. I read that you stored your soaps in plastic curio containers. I found that an old chest of drawers is quite helpful. Also, soda flats [low sided cardboard boxes that soda cans come in] lined with tissue paper and then another soda flat on top for a cover works great. This way they are easily stackable and they don't cost anything...

Moisturizing Soap Recipe

I truly appreciate your site. It has been extremely helpful to me so far! I have no problem getting my soaps to lather or to clean. My last hurdle to making that perfect bar of soap is finding a recipe that will leave an emollient layer on my skin. It's a phrase I see a lot, but after making about nine batches so far, I'm still not able to say that my soaps will leave an emollient layer on my skin. I have superfatted my soap with one tablespoon of castor oil/16 oz. of oils with no luck (was that enough?) and have tried cutting back on the lye, only to result in a sweet smelling pile of mush. Is there a recipe from your all veggie collection that you could recommend? Any suggestions you have will be so appreciated.

I don't know that any soap will leave your skin so soft that you won't need to moisturize a bit after (unless you have oily skin), but some do better in this than others. For gentle moisturizing soap, I would use one with a high percentage of olive oil for starters. These soaps are really gentle, but they do have a way of turning into ooze if you let them sit in a puddled soap dish for too long! Also, adding a little bit of glycerin at trace is nice on the skin. I don't think it takes much... maybe one or two ounces?

The other thing that can make a difference is the age of the soap. I've used some recently when they were about one month old, but they continued to get milder with a few more weeks of aging. You really need an adequate amount of lye to fully saponify the fats, so going overboard with superfatting can be counterproductive, as you've seen! Have you looked at the properties of oils chart on the "Design Your Own Recipes" page? The oils that are high in oleic and linoleic acids will probably be easier on the skin. Of the recipes I've been posting and using, I think the Favorite Castile II (harder bar...doesn't mush as easily in the dish as the Favorite Castile) is probably the mildest for using on a sensitive face. For all-purpose face and shower use, I personally prefer the Sudsy-All Vegetable recipe. It holds up better with exposure to moisture than the Castile bar and is still nice for facial use. Again... you could add a bit more glycerin to your recipe at trace. You want some percentage of oils with hard bar qualities, but keep those on the low end and the conditioning type oils high.

By the way... some people think soap made with beef tallow is milder on their skin than the all vegetable ones. A mixture of beef tallow, olive oil and about 15% coconut would make a very mild soap. Don't know if you have feelings for or against tallow, but thought I'd mention it.

I hope this helps a little.

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Cutting Recipe Sizes

While I was reading all about soapmaking I came across a remark that said I can double the recipe but I cannot cut it in half. Well, I was wondering what can happen if I do cut it in half and if this is true for all soap recipes. I want to try out some recipes before making them in big batches, and since the costs of the materials are not exactly cheap I want to make sure that the recipe is good. Yep, that's me, a "cheapskate". But, honestly, soapmaking materials are not easy to find or afford here in my place. I can't even find beeswax here. There are only three stores I can locate that sell essential oils.

Hi! You can cut recipes in half, but the concern is that the smaller the recipe the more touchy it will be as far as the balance of lye to fats ratio. Your margin for error gets tinier and tinier as the batch gets smaller. It means you have to have a really good scale (with decimal points) and be very accurate in your measurements. If measuring carefully, you should be able to cut my recipes in half and have it work out okay. (If you have an even finer scale that weighs to a couple of decimal places or in grams, you can even cut them more than that.)

Something else you can do (particularly with a soap that is part tallow and doesn't get thick too fast) is make a batch and at light trace, divide it into portions (or pour off one bowl at a time so that the rest stays warm) and scent them differently... then pour each. Might help to have another person on hand for that, but it's doable. Just another option. In doing that, take care not to let the soap lose too much heat.

Stick Blender vs. Hand Blender (Mixer)

I am very intrigued by your directions and testimonials of making soaps with the stick blender. I wonder though, can a regular hand blender be used also? Or would the soap be beaten up too much? The mixers on mine are stainless steal, so they shouldn't react with the lye. It also has varying speeds, so maybe that will make it easier to blend thoroughly without hurting the soap? I am willing to buy a stick blender if that's the way to go, but of course I want to avoid spending the $20 if possible. :)

I hope that isn't too silly a question. I tried to find an answer on my own so I wouldn't have to bother you, but I can't seem to find anyone who says, "No, don't use hand mixers" or "yes, hand mixers work almost as well."

These are not the same and YES... it's worth spending the $12 or so for the stick blender (see photo on Modern Procedures page). It really whips things at high speed and works magic in the soap pot. The electric mixer (used for cake mixes, etc.) can be used, but doesn't have the same effect and is more likely to incorporate air into the mix if you are not careful to keep the rotating blades immersed. The same can happen with a stick blender, but it's easier to keep it toward the bottom or center of the pot because of the ways it's designed. Some folks still like to hand stir, but I've seen such an improvement in the texture and quality of my soaps since switching to the stick blender, that I will NEVER go back! :-)

How long will the soap last?

I was wondering how long my home made soap will last? I make soaps with milk and oats, and sometimes fruit and veggie juice. I was reading some soap pages on the net and it said that a lot of veggie made soaps (olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, etc) don't last as long (a few weeks or so). I wanted to make some soaps as gifts for the family and I want them to be able to last at least a year or more, how would I accomplish this???

You're talking about how long they will stay good in storage? At first I thought you meant in use... but I think you mean how long before they might go bad when stored. If you are making gifts, I would not make them way in advance because the fragrances will fade over time. It's better to time your soapmaking so that the soap is well cured but not old when you give it if possible... maybe make it two months in advance of giving it (you could do six weeks, I'm just tossing out a number there). If you want soap that will keep longer in storage, the following will help that to happen:

Don't go overboard with lye discounting/superfatting... Personally, I would not go higher than 5% lye discount. Accurate measuring is important here.

Don't fill your soap with too many unsaponifiable ingredients... like plant or vegetable fiber, fruits, etc. Those can go bad in storage and sometimes even mold if the chunks are very large. Small bits of dried herb should be okay if you don't overload the soap with it.

It would appear that you should avoid superfatting at trace. If fats added then don't get well blended before the soap is poured, they may be more inclined to go bad during storage. I prefer to put all my oils in at the beginning and only add fragrances and additives (like color, herbs) if needed at the end.

Don't store your soaps in airtight conditions. A semi-closed environment that gets a bit of air is good. That way they will be less inclined to sweat in storage but won't lose so much fragrance as they can if given total open air. I would not wrap them until it is close to the time you are going to give them as gifts. They continue to lose moisture for a long time and will keep shrinking (less and less but enough for labels to loosen, for example).

Soap that was made with no lye discount (and we are assuming is still balanced and not lye heavy) will keep for a LONG time without any rancidity. It might lose its smell over time and get hard as a rock, but will still be good soap. Whenever you add extra fat for mildness, you are lessening the longevity of your bars. If you plan to use them in short order, this is not a problem and most people use their soap within a year or two. I've heard of boxed up soap being found in old houses and still being good after who knows how long! Amazing.

Good luck! I hope this helps!

...It's possible that thing you read was in reference to how long the soap lasts when being used. Some all vegetable soaps will soften and melt down quicker in the dish than soaps made with beef tallow, for instance. Palm oil helps all-vegetable soaps to be hard and longer lasting. That in addition to coconut are good to blend with a conditioning oil such as olive.

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Toiletries (Recipes) Questions

Do you also make lotions and bath salts and things? I just started. I was having fun, but running into problems and questions. Where can I find answers? Need to know about oils used in lotions. Do they spoil? Do I need a preservative and which one? Also, does it make a big difference which kind of salts I use in my bath salts, sea, Epsom, rock, and baking soda(not a salt)? Also what do I add for sun protection in my chapsticks? I read that sesame oil is good for that. Is that true? Also zinc oxide?

Here is a revised list of other recipe sources that discuss things that I don't make!

Easy Recipe for Kids

Do you have a recipe for soap kids can make for a science fair project?

Probably your best bet for this is the tiny batch recipe that is included in the U.S.A. Today article I have posted at the top of many of my pages. Just link over to the article and look for that small recipe. Be sure to measure really accurately... the smaller the batch, the easier it is to get it either too lye heavy or too greasy.

Science Projects

Hi, I am a freshman in high school and I am doing my science project this year on bar soaps. I am doing my project on this subject because whenever I use a bar soap (usually a commercial bar soap such as Ivory, Caress, or Jergens) it seems to leave a dry, sticky sort of feeling to my skin. I have always wondered why.

I would appreciate it if you would write back to this e-mail address ASAP and answer these few questions that I have:

What makes your soap different from commercial products?
Does your soap moisturize skin? Why or why not?
What are the moisturizing ingredients?
Do you know why most bar soaps leave the sticky, dry feeling?

Well, that's about all that I can think of right now. Please right back as soon as possible. I would appreciate any other details or info that you can give me.

Thanks again!

Hello, Sarah. You will find more info on homemade soap on my website... so I'll let you check there to glean more information, but I'll try to answer your questions...

> What makes your soap different from commercial products?

Is is not chock full of additives, has all the natural glycerin still intact after the soapmaking process, and is TOTALLY milder on the skin than any commercial soap I've ever tried. It can often help clear skin conditions on people who have problems with commercial products. (I'm speaking of any well made homemade soap... not just my own.)

> Does your soap moisturize skin? Why or why not?

Depends on the recipe, but it can a little. What is more important is that it doesn't dry it out and leaves a bit of emollient behind when you use it (the natural glycerin which has not been drawn off as a by-product as they do in commercial soaps). I wash my face with my soap, but always moisturize the dry places afterward as well... cheeks and eyebrows on me! What you notice is that your skin doesn't feel tight and drawn after using homemade soap... just clean and nice. I am so spoiled, I have to use commercial once in awhile to remember how that felt. Blah!

> What are the moisturizing ingredients?

You can add special oils to soap like shea butter, vit E., jojoba, etc. but the main thing that is moisturizing about homemade soap (made properly) is that is has all the natural glycerin left in (which comes from the original fats and oils... coconut, palm, olive, tallow, etc.). Glycerin is a by-product of soapmaking and in commercial products, they usually draw most of it out. This is why commercial soaps are more drying to the skin than the natural homemade kind. The average bar of homemade soap is approximately 75% soap compound and 25% glycerin.

> Do you know why most bar soaps leave the sticky, dry feeling?

Not sure... but most "soaps" you buy over the counter are not truly soap at all, but detergent bars (synthetic detergents). Real soap will be made from fats and oils such as palm, coconut, tallow, etc. They have been blended with lye or sodium hydroxide and that chemical process makes soap (called "saponification" which you are learning about in Chemistry). When you find these on the label, they will usually read... "sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, sodium palmate," etc.

For more information that will help with your science project, read the information on the following pages and also check out the links in the information section of my Soapmaking Links page. At least one or two pertain to this subject.

Hope this helps a little. You should go to your local market and read some soap labels. If they have some homemade types, read those as well and compare the ingredients.

Good luck with your project!

This page last updated on 5 January 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! :-)