[Baby in the Bath]

"let dry"
...BOY, DID I TRY...
"using veggie oil"
"but as a result, and in the end"
Poem by Sherry Wersing! 

Miller's Homemade Soap Pages

Soapy Success! and FAQ's - Page 3

Subject: cooling lye
Date: 8/2/2001 7:06 AM
From: lori-e, lori-eNO@SPAMworldnet.att.net

Hi Kathy, I've found that the oils can be cooled fairly rapidly by setting the pan into a sink full of cold water and even by adding ice. The lye seems to take much longer, so I freeze bottles of water and place them all around the lye container. It really helps when I'm in a hurry. I also have those plastic blocks that you freeze and it's so much easier than using ice.



Thanks for your input. I would be reluctant to suggest this for cooling fats because it's possible for someone to end up with solidified fat particles in their soap pot before stirring and this would not be a good thing. (You can probably avoid this by keeping it moving... stirring often.) I often cool my lye solution in the sink if in a rush, by running cold water around the pan or pyrex cup that has the lye solution in it... the cold water comes up almost as high as the lye solution. I also keep a spoon in it (which pulls out heat faster) and if you stir it every so often when it's in the sink of cold water, it helps to speed the heat transfer (out of the container and into the cold water). Another thing I do for both fats and oils is to set the containers on a cool countertop or table top and every few minutes slide it over to another cool spot. This pulls heat out of the bottom of the pan faster than if you let it just sit in one spot that stays hot underneath.

Subject: cure time
Date: 7/31/2001 9:02 PM
From: lori-e, lori-eNO@SPAMworldnet.att.net

Hi Kathy, I've been making soap for about 3 years using the cold process.

Lately, I have been using my soap without any cure time and it seems to be very mild on my skin. Has anyone else noticed this? I'm not into using the ph strips (let skin be the judge) and several of my friends have tried it uncured with no problem. It seems to me that the 3 week cure time is a little much. I can't package the soaps, however, because of the shrink factor.

My dad is the one that made me not afraid to use it. He told me that my grandmother's lye soap would take your hide off (exaggerating of course). It made sense to me that granny couldn't have had the luxury of waiting 3 weeks. If it works for the old folks it works for me (she lived to a ripe old age).


Hi! I'm glad you are enjoying the homemade soap experience. :-) If you are making soap with a lot of olive oil in it... you won't notice it being very harsh... even before the full cure time. Also... the more heat the soap has during the mixing process (and in the mold), the faster the cure. With your own soap you can do whatever you want... but if I were giving this to others or selling it, I'd wait the full cure time to be sure there's nothing there to bother anyone. Some folks have really sensitive skin and might react when you don't. Also... the soap lasts longer in use when it's had time to dry out and get harder.

I never use pH strips... I don't think it's necessary and they don't always give a good account of how mild the soap is, since homemade soap tests a bit on the high side even when it is mild.

Many of our grandmothers cooked their soap outside in an old cast iron pot... the hot process method. With soap like that... the saponification is pretty much as complete as it's going to get after it's poured and cut. If the soap was too strong, it was usually because the recipe was not balanced or had harsh ingredients in it. They didn't have this down to a total science and probably didn't weigh their ingredients as much as measured by sight or volume (I'm guessing here... but suspect that to be the case). When you do cold process, you need to allow the extra time for all the saponification to complete itself. Maybe some of our grandmothers did the cold method, but I know mine cooked their soap outside and they tossed scraps in that pot with bits of connective tissue and everything on them! No wonder some of that soap had such a vile smell! ;-)

Subject: wonderful website. thank you. [Canada]
Date: 7/17/2001 11:44 PM
From: francesco m.

i am so very impressed with all the detailed information you've made available on your site.

I live in montreal and have just recently found some lye. i phoned _every_ company listed in my yellow pages under CHEMICALS. the best deal i found was a company that would let me buy 1 to 5 kg batches for ~$5cdn/kg (which i calculate to be ~$1.50US/lb). is this a good price? [Considering the difference in our exchange rate... that is probably pretty comparable with what I pay here. I think here it's close to $1.00 per pound when you buy in bulk.]

i have been wanting to make my own soap for so long now. i have finally tracked down all the ingredients. and then after typing "homemade soap recipes" into google i started reading your website. amazing. i'm am indebted to you for providing such a comprehensive resource. i think i'm ready. a fellow amateur and i will try our first batch ever this weekend and i'm so excited.

i think we'll try cocanolive with a stick blender. i think i have enough experience with chemical processes to go right for the modern method. i would like to use whole and ground herbs and spices but could not find any information about that at your site and the lather-group doesn't seem to be working? do you know of any basics rules to follow for herbs and spices? i was considering rosemary or cumin or coriander or mustard seed, milled in a mortar and pestle.

i am a chemical engineer. i used to work in a pharmaceutical company in product development. i quit to be an inventor a year ago. making my own soap is part of my whole effort to try to mitigate the damage i do to the planet. and i'm also planning on giving a lot of it away.

i will send you a note with how we make out.

thank you very much.


francesco m.

My only experience with herbs and spices is to use them for color or texture. If using for color, I put them in at the beginning so the color from them can seep into the base oils when they are melting... this would be true of paprika, turmeric, etc. Some are steeped in a smaller amount of oil first and the oil is used in the soap and the dregs of the herb taken out... that would be true of alkanet root. I discuss that on the "Modern Procedures" page.

For texture or a bit of scent... I toss in the herbs at light trace... after scenting usually. The stick blender can really labor with too many chunks of stuff to navigate... so I put those in after the scent is blended in and the soap is nearly ready to pour... then use the blender just enough to break up lumps and mix the herbs in if necessary. The ones I most often have used are orange peel, calendula petals, dill weed, rosemary, lavender buds ... that kind of thing. I did use some coriander seed in the "zesty calendula" recipe I have posted... that was interesting and gave the soap kind of a scrubby texture.

Glad you have enjoyed the page... thanks for your nice note and good luck with your soap! :-)

Subject: Soap making site
Date: 7/15/2001 5:45 PM
From: Carol L. McCrellias, dpearsonNO@SPAMuninet.com.cn

I ran across your soap-making site entirely by accident but was fascinated.

Before we lived in China, we became fans of Kirk's brand of Castile soap, which luckily we could find in our small town grocery store. When we moved here in 1996, we brought a few bars but figured we'd be able to adapt to the local brands of soap. Well, anything we've used thus far here seems to be much less clean-rinsing than we'd like, and I have problems with some fragrances, so for the past four years we've been dedicating a quarter of our precious luggage space at home leave to Kirk's, which we now have to order by mail and have shipped to a relatives' home. After visiting your site, however, I'm thinking of trying to make my own Castile. I have lots more studying to do, obviously -- not to mention attempting to translate English ingredients to Chinese, and American measurement to metric -- so it will have to hold in my head for a bit till I feel confident enough to try.

Speaking of fragrances, common bar soap on the shelves here is enhanced with, among other scents, peach, lemon, cucumber, and even a tomato-herb mix!

My attention was also caught my a correspondent at your site who'd mentioned soap-makers in the Philippines. If I remember correctly, Kirk's is manufactured there. Is there a long tradition of soap-making, or is this just coincidence? (Which reminds me, do you or your readers have any idea why Kirk's' formerly whitish bars of Castile now seem to be brown?)

Thanks for the entertaining Web moments, and for the view photo as well. Any peek at hills and green for a Shanghai city resident is heaven!

Carol McCrellias

Shanghai, China

I'm not really familiar with the type of castile soap you've been talking about. It's either because I don't buy soap commercially and am out of touch, or that it is not marketed where I live (the Pacific Northwest).

You can make your own castile soap. The lye calculator at Majestic Mountain Sage (online... I have them on my links page) has a converter for metric so you can work with your recipe there and get it in a way that works for you. You can also lay out your recipes in metric from scratch when you use the lye calculator as is.

I heard that tomato was the "in" scent a year or two ago... vegetable scents were really coming onto the market and Sweet Cakes was even carrying one for lettuce! :-)

I don't actually have an active forum... just post emails and such. If you'd like some instant feedback on this question, I suggest you post it on the Latherings Forum. They have been very helpful to me in the past and others as well and they have people who visit from all over the place! I have them listed toward the top of my soapmaking links page in the "General" section.

Thank you for writing! It's always exciting to hear from folks from all over the world. Soapmaking seems to have universal interest... I guess we all want to be clean! :-)

Good luck on your castile soap. :-)

Subject: Soap making help
Date: 7/12/2001 5:24 AM
From: Georgianna Gray, wgrayNO@SPAMusmo.com

On your "Modern Soapmaking Procedures" page, step #11, you talk about the soap reaching a gel stage after you pour it into the mold. I don't know what you mean by that. I have had what I thought were disasters with my 2nd & 3rd batches of soap, I'll explain. They were beautiful when I poured them. I used a 24x2.5x4 wood mold lined with freezer paper. The first batch I insulated very well, soon it heated up, became almost translucent and cracked on top. I attributed to over-insulating plus the milk and honey (which was very little) in the soap. The next batch (plain oatmeal) did the same thing. This time I hardly insulated at all, only two sheets of newspaper on top. My 1st batch of soap was Crisco soap that I poured into a square 8x8x4 wood mold. I insulated pretty well. None of this happened. What am I doing wrong? Is it the shape of the mold? Is the soap supposed to do that? Can you help me?

Thank you very much for your wonderful website, since I've been trying to make soap I bet I read your website almost daily. Thank you for your help :)

Georgianna Gray

A little honey goes a long way in heating up the soap... you won't need much insulation on milk and/or honey batches. Once the soap hits gel stage, I uncover it and try to get it to cool back down quickly to avoid the formation of oil pockets. When your soap became almost translucent... THAT was the gel stage! :-)

I want my soap to go through gel, but once it gels all the way to the corners... I lift the inverted box I have over the mold to allow some heat to escape... I don't want it to stay really hot too long because this can make the top get weird and also, I believe you might lose more of your fragrance that way. At any rate... your soap is doing good things. Your first batch might not have been as well blended/saponified when you poured it... could have had less temperature, any number of things. I hardly ever got gel in the old days when I hand stirred tallow soaps, but when I started with the stick blender and all-veg... it would gel every time and the texture of the soap was smoother and nicer than batches that did not go through gel.

Subject: castile soap- first time
Date: 7/8/2001 5:41 PM
From: RoadsideRubyNO@SPAMaol.com

Castile Soap experience. This was my first time making soap. Was never sure if I reached trace after 45 minutes of mixing. Poured it into the molds and left it as directed for 12 hours before I checked it. There were two distinct layers. One being oil and the other I assume lye/soap. Mixed it with wooden spoon. Did this twice. The next day I reheated to 115' and mixed it again for 45 minutes. Pored it into the mold again and it worked. I used only olive oil as the fat/oil.

Glad your soap turned out in the end. I've read that this often happens with 100% olive oil soap. If you get a stick blender and zap it with that... I think you'll get trace much quicker. Some folks like hand stirring though and if it turns out okay in the end... that's what really matters.

Subject: question about Crisco oil
Date: 7/7/2001 10:12 PM
From: Lisa

I am still one of those that hasn't gone beyond the lye phobia stage. Every day I get a little closer to actually making my very first batch. I actually have everything I need but I'm still convinced there's more I need to know. Anyways my question is regarding using Crisco oil not Crisco in the can. The ingredients say that it is soybean and canola oils. I am going to use your favorite sudsy all vegetable recipe as my first batch but was curious to know if the Crisco oil would work well where you list 18 - 20 ounces soybean or canola. I figured that because it was a combination of the two, it should have the same sap values, so it might work well. Have you used this before and if so did you like it? Also, I read that you get your soybean oil at Costco, I have looked and looked and can't find it. Is it located with all the other oils and if so what should I be looking for, for packaging?

Thanks for your time and help!


Hi! I'm glad you've enjoyed the site so much. Thank you!

First... the Crisco oil you mentioned should work fine. Soybean has a higher SAP than canola as I recall and I don't know which oil is in the higher percentage in that blend (I've not used it for soap), but it should work okay. I usually use about 18 oz. of canola in my recipe since some of my FOs appear to have some saponifiables in them so I don't want too much superfatting.

I got soybean at our Costco, but maybe yours doesn't carry it. I usually use canola oil as the lesser oil in that recipe (by "lesser" I mean cheaper!). I get that at Costco also, but the containers are not huge. There's nothing magic about soybean oil... use what you can easily find that lends itself to the recipe. (Comparing the fatty acid contents of oils is a good gauge when substituting... also comparing SAP values and adjusting as needed).

Good luck! Don't be afraid of the lye... you're smarter than it is. Just use caution when handling it and during the initial dissolving period when the fumes come off. I hold my breath while standing close to the pot (when I'm first dumping it in and stirring the crystals around) and turn my head to get clean air when I need it (or walk a few paces into the next room if necessary). That might not be needful, but in case the vent is not carrying all the air off and I might get a whiff (you won't breathe these fumes without knowing it... they will immediately cause you to cough them out).

Best wishes on the first batch. If it goes well... you have the danger of being hopelessly hooked. It's almost like magic that you can put those things together and come out with something so wonderful, smooth and cleansing (after cure). :-)


Just wanted to let you know that I cut the soap today and was astonished at how creamy and wonderful they looked! This is my very first batch and so far so good. The smell though isn't the peach that I wanted, I followed one of your mixes where you take a peach FO and add a little bitter almond. The smell seems more to be an almond but this is OK I don't think it was the same peach that you used, so maybe it didn't need the almond. Great peach color though....used paprika. Again, great site, if it wasn't for your site I would have never been interested in making soap! Maybe you should turn your pages into a book!:) Yours is far more interesting then Cavitch's, which is a great book but your information seems more realistic and seems to flow nicely from one topic to another.


PS. No need to respond, I'm sure you are inundated with emails but just wanted to let you know the progress of my first batch once I got over the Lye thing. The lye thing was not bad at all, I made it out to be far worse then what I actually experienced. I think it's the unknown and all of the literature that says to protect yourself. Protect myself I did, as my husband busted out laughing when he walked in the room to find me dressed like I was going to take a walk on the moon or something. I was decked out in goggles, a hat, a scarf around my face, a couple of long sleeve button downs, and of course oven mitts that came up to my elbows! Yep, funny site but at least it propelled me into actually making soap.

Subject: Mechanics/biker soap
Date: 7/5/2001 10:22 AM
From: Inna Smotrov, inna139NO@SPAMyahoo.com


You and you alone have actually plunged me into the world of soap making! It was only after reading ALL of your site that I actually made my first batch of soap. You are an inspiration! Now with about 5 batches in less than a month under my belt...I am looking for a mechanics/bikers soap recipe! The only one I have found was to shave down a bar of ready made soap and add turpentine....eeeeegads! I know that there are recipes that are "friendlier". Can you help me out or point me in the direction of where I can find some recipes? I also just recently bought a motorcycle and joined a bikers chat room and they are all interested in this biker's bar. Any info you provide would be greatly appreciated :D



THANKS! :-) I'm glad you've enjoyed the site and soapmaking so much!

Well... I checked a book I have here that I recalled had a Mechanics' Soap in it. Yep... for the recipe size I post on the site, they recommend the addition of 2 oz. of kerosene (added when you put in the fragrance... at light trace) and also 8 ounces of pumice (I think you can get this in the paint section of a good hardware store... go for the finer grade). The kerosene apparently acts as a degreaser.

The fragrance that was used in this recipe was balsam fir. You can add any kind of masculine scent, but I'd be sure it blends well with that slight kerosene odor. ;-)

Subject: coconut oils
Date: 7/5/2001 1:34 AM
From: Linda Eaves Willis, leavesNO@SPAMbeci.net

I'm new to soaping and have been puzzled by the different kinds of coconut oils. The first coconut oil I purchased had the consistency of lard; the last supply I purchased (fractionated?) is an oil. And then there's the virgin coconut oil. What are the differences and the effects of each type in soap making?

Thanks so much.

Linda Eaves Willis

My guess is that the first coconut you got is the standard coconut... probably the 76 degree stuff (melts at that temperature). It doesn't have much scent in it. The fractionated is probably only certain fatty acids from the whole coconut oil and I've not used that. I'm not sure how the SAP value for that would compare to the regular coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is cold pressed and it retains that wonderful coconut scent. It's also more expensive. That would be more often used in skin care products (creams, lotions, lip balms?, etc.) where the scent would be retained... seems like a waste to use it for soapmaking! :-)

I hope this is all good information... the best that I know. Good luck!

Subject: Swirling
Date: 7/3/2001 9:43 PM
From: Deirdre Martin, deirdre1114NO@SPAMworldnet.att.net

I recently emailed you about a lye-heavy batch of lavender soap. Well, I successfully rebatched it, but the lavender scent has all but disappeared. I've been getting more and more adventurous, and want to begin some swirling techniques. I have used a 2-foot-long, 3" diameter piece of PVC pipe for a mold. Is there any way I can do swirling in the pot and pour into this mold without it being a mess? Would there be any other swirling technique possible to use for this type of mold, or do you recommend using a mold that is more square-shaped?

Thank you for your response last time. It was SOOOO appreciated!

Deirdre Martin

I've not done this sort of thing, but I know I've read about people swirling in PVC pipe. I think if you have the soap at a light trace (pourable) and have part of the soap in the pot colored, you can pour it into the mold and maybe rotate the mold a bit while pouring to swirl it.

Check out the archives on the Latherings Forum and you might find some other tips on this kind of thing. I've just not done PVC. I have their link toward the top of my soapmaking links page.

Subject: I like your website
Date: 7/2/2001 8:37 PM
From: Margo Cherney, mcherneyNO@SPAMadacomp.net

Dear Mrs. Miller,

Hi. You have a nice website! I recently tried my hand at soap-making. I've made two batches so far. Here's the basic recipe I used:

1 1/2 cup melted tallow
1/2 cup olive oil
6 oz cold, soft or distilled water
4 tbsp lye

If you don't mind and if you have time, I wonder if you could answer a few question? I'd really appreciate it.

First, is tallow the same as lard? I found a large 8 lb. tub of lard at the grocery store, which I used in my soap-making. I'm just unsure of whether they're the same thing.

Second, since that recipe is kind of small, I just doubled the ingredients when I made the second batch. Is this right?

When I cut the soap into blocks (they're still in the box curing, by the way) it left a few little slivers of soap. I tried washing my hands with one small sliver and noticed it was kind of "dry." I guess I'm used to the rich soaps you buy at the store. Anyway, I've read on several websites that there are ways you can add emollients to your homemade soap. I bought glycerin and baby oil to do this.

So the third question is: how much glycerin do you add and when do you add it? I'm sure you must have this on your site somewhere but you have a pretty large site!

The baby oil I bought has Mineral oil, Aloe Vera extract, Vitamin E oil and fragrance. Could I use this in my recipe and if so, how much and when do I add it? I don't know if I've seen this in anybody's homemade soap recipes.

The fifth and final question is: how can I make liquid soap to use in my soap dispenser?

I visited your other pages also. I like your gardens. You make gardening look easy! I hope you don't mind my questions. Any help would really be appreciated. Thank you.


Margo Cherney

I didn't try to check your recipe for balance because I'm not sure how much 4 T. of lye would weigh. I usually stay away from recipes that have you measure the lye by volume because it's too iffy and can set you up for failure. For a starter recipe, one this small is probably fine... not a huge loss if it turns out lye heavy or too superfatted.

Tallow is usually from beef and lard is always from pork. Their SAP numbers are slightly different so you cannot substitute one for another without making a slight adjustment. Do some reading on the "Design Your Own Recipe" page and look at the SAP chart, etc. to find out more about this.

You can double recipes by doubling everything... but with one like this, I think I'd go with a recipe that is larger but calls for the lye by weight. You'll want a postal scale or some other finer scale for weighing lye if you are going to make very much soap. I got one at Costco here for about $25 and it comes in handy when it's time to mail things as well. :-)

Your soap should not be judged until it's cured for a month. At the beginning there is usually still free lye present in the soap and it will make it irritating or drying. Let it cure the rest of the way and then give it another try. If it's still drying then, it's probably slightly heavy on lye since the measuring technique leaves some doubt about how much you actually have there. Baby oil is really not an emollient the way that glycerin is. Baby oil just sits on the skin and seal in the moisture that is already there... it also cannot be used for soapmaking since it has a mineral oil base and that will not saponify. Glycerin actually soaks into and penetrates the skin and is much more effective as an emollient.

Since homemade soap is usually about 25% natural glycerin already (it's a soapmaking byproduct)... your soap may be just fine without adding more. When I do add more, I only put in about an ounce extra for the batch sizes I make. I don't usually add any though... I think sometimes when you go overboard with extra glycerin, it just wants to ooze out of the soap during storage.

I've never added baby or mineral oil to soap... I don't know if it would blend in that well. You might want to just give this to someone who can use it (or use it for something else).

To make the really nice liquid soap, you need to follow some elaborate instructions which I am not equipped to provide. There are a couple of books available on liquid soapmaking and you could fine those at Amazon.com. Catherine Failor wrote one of them. Liquid soaps use potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide (lye). You can read on the MOST Frequently Asked Questions page about melting soap scraps... add extra water, etc. but that will usually give you a jelly like substance... not smooth liquid soap. Also check out the Toiletries Library website I have on my soapmaking links page. They might have some liquid soap recipes there.

> You make gardening look easy!

Thanks! Part of the garden is really pretty right now and still a big chunk in back needs a lot of rework! Looks like a prairie. :-)

Subject: Alternative Sources for Supplies
Date: 7/2/2001 7:58 AM
From: I AM SCI FI .!, allgraiNO@SPAMdellepro.com

After reading through the suggestion pages for ideas I located a Vietnamese grocery store in a nearby community. While I discovered it was a wonderful place to purchase tapioca flour, dried seaweed, coconut milk, etc. the only palm oil they stocked was a dark red liquid which I found rather unappealing. Since I've only made eleven batches of soap (including the failed one) I was curious if the liquefied version was even suitable for soaps, since my only experience has been with coconut and palm oils purchased from Majestic Mountain and Snowdrift Farms. Also, several recipes on your site list soy oil as an ingredient, does it matter whether its liquid soy purchased at Sam's Wholesale or hydrogenated soy oil? Sorry to keep bothering you with such dumb questions.

I had the "burned soap" experience also, so the next time I wrapped the soap in a towel but didn't place it into a sealed cooler (my usual procedure) the discoloration around the sides of the bars was greatly decreased, next time around I intended to leave it completely uncovered (okay except for the wax paper across the top) and see what happens.


I've not used the liquid palm oil, but think it would work. It might not have as much of the palm stearic acid in it if it stays liquid at room temperature (palm tends to separate into a liquid portion and granular harder fats over time... if you have only liquid, it might only be the softer parts of the oil). You will have to contend with the color in soap if you use the red or orange colored palm... but the color doesn't hurt anything. If you use this and it is just liquid at room temp, you should be sure to have a fairly decent percentage of another hard fat in the recipe to have a nice hard bar.

The soybean oil I used was liquid at room temp (like salad oil), but you can use hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated soy oil and it should be fine. I don't know if that alters the SAP value at all... but I would start out using the same number as the liquid soybean oil.

Subject: Possible Source for Palm Oil
Date: 06/28 12:37 AM
From: Ariella Hoffman, ariellahoffmanNO@SPAMbigfoot.com

Dear Kathy,

Your website is great! I did a lot of research before making soap for the first time, and second, and third, etc... Anyway, I noticed that Palm oil seems to be hard to get for most people, so I have a suggestion. I live in Israel, and during the holiday of Passover, we (Jews) are prohibited from eating certain foods (and oils made from those foods), and you will find the grocery stores packed with Palm, Hazelnut, and Walnut oils. If people live in an area with a sizeable Jewish community, they may want to inquire at a kosher grocery store to see if they stock those oils in America as well. Just a thought.

Thanks for all your help and wonderful information,

Ariella Hoffman

What a great suggestion! If folks in the U.S. find this to be true... drop me an email and let me know and I'll confirm this as a good source. :-)

Subject: URGENT!!
Date: 6/26/2001 3:35 PM
From: pernell.oramNO@SPAMnf.sympatico.ca

I am very interested in getting into the art of soap making. Although I haven't ever seen it done or used homemade soap before I can't wait to start. I have found all the ingredients after some long searching. I haven't been able to start before this because I couldn't find all the necessities. I am very determined to start tomorrow! But I have one question...If I am substituting an oil for another, how do I determine the temperature. I have found a good chart to determine the SAP value and how much lye to use but nothing I have found seems to say anything about temperature. Please answer my very urgent question...Thanks!

Yours In Soap,


Hi! The temperatures are not as critical as calculating SAP values... there is a range of acceptability. I generally mix soap between 100 and 110 degrees... using higher temps if a high degree of my base oils have a high melting point (hard at room temp). The exception would be if making milk soap or soap with honey in it... those overheat, so starting about 10 degrees lower than normal is a good idea... and little or no insulation once it hits the gel stage.

Subject: A Funny Topic? [I certainly thought so!]
Date: 06/07 7:08 PM
From: Bunny Perez, caprilepidNO@SPAMhotmail.com

I was told by some folks in my favorite soap forum that I should email you this post I made, so you can post it on your website.

I don't know if you'll like it or not, it is a little goofy. There had been a thread in our forum that was on the subject of "cost per bar of soap, blah blah" something or other, and it got ridiculously heated! It just amazed me how folks could get so hostile over a subject like that, LOL! So, me being the crackpot that I am, I made this post in that same forum:



By Bunny Perez

I am convinced that EVERYONE makes soap more cheaply than I can! After much deliberation and rumination, here's what I've come up with on my cost per bar of soap:

*Coconut oil:................................7 cents per ounce
*Palm oil:...................................6 cents per ounce
*cocoa butter:...............................18 cents per ounce
*shortening:.................................5 cents per ounce
*lye:........................................20 cents per ounce
*distilled water:............................005 cents per ounce
*pack of cigarettes (smoked while making a batch):.....................$2.99
*3 Michelobes (also consumed while waiting for soap to trace):...$2.29
*half a tube of Neosporin Ointment (for random injuries in kitchen, due to handling of cigarettes, beer and lye water):................$1.49
*3 Bandaids:.......................................25 cents
*Plumber (to unclog drain from beeswax accidentally spilled into sink drain:..............$60.00
*McDonald's Extra Value Meal #4: (self explanatory)............$4.59
*rawhides: (to keep the dogs busy so they won't stare at me)...$2.00
*cat toy: (to keep cat busy so I won't have to stare at him)...$2.99
*kitchen linoleum (don't ask)..................................$398.00
*cappuccino (from the Texaco station)...........................99 cents
*deck of Bicycle playing cards from Texaco: (to play cards with plumber while waiting for soap to trace)...$2.99
*miscellaneous damages:........................................$100.00


Price per 4oz. bar of Bunny soap...............................$29.42

I just wanna know, how do you all do it so cheaply? I'm looking into selling a kidney on the Internet so I can continue to make soap for awhile! Any takers?

CapriLepid's Bunny

This was delightful!!! :-) Thanks for sharing. It is pretty absurd how seriously some folks take themselves on forums... in the grand scheme of things how much does it matter down to pennies how much your soap costs?

In reading your creative assessment, I realize that being Mormon saves me a little money in the soapmaking department as well... but I'd have to tack on some added expense for the extra consumption of chocolate chips! ;-)

Thanks again... and Happy Soaping! (But not TOO happy! ;-)

Gosh! I forgot about the chocolate!...(mental note: better tack-on the Super WalMart Large Southern Family size packages of Snicker's Bars).


Subject: Something I like for coloring....
Date: 06/10 2:07 PM
From: Gail Hutchinson, bubblingblissNO@SPAMhotmail.com

I took a chance and tried icing gel coloring. It works WONDERFUL! Colors didn't fade, and came out vivid and VERY nice. I bought it to work with my shower gel, and it worked on that too, as well as lotion. You can find it at most craft stores( I have Pat Katans here) for about $1.75 for an ounce. Lasts forever too! Just wanted to share!

Thanks! I have no experience with this so would proceed with caution if one is going to experiment... I wasn't sure whether this was used in rebatching or cold process. The latter is a lot more fussy when it comes to colorants. It's also possible with food colorings that some will work and some not.

Subject: On Milk Soaps
Date: 06/04 5:57 PM
From: LKRabbitry/Katherine Reid, lkrabbitryNO@SPAMqwest.net

I've just started out with soaps and have done mostly milk based soaps. They are also cow's milk soaps as I have an abundant source of free milk. For others in to milk soaps, I offer some observations.

I work at a dairy and to clean all the stainless steel after straining the milk we use a very strongly basic/alkaline detergent. When I put the detergent into the sink if there is any milk in the sink it turns bright yellow!!! I realized that this is what milk does when it is mixed with a strong base. So for anyone who does milk soap and is concerned when adding lye because it turns yellow, that's what it's supposed to do. Also, milk can not be directly substituted for water in a recipe. Calculate the amount of milk based on milk being only 90% water. Like this: .9/amount of h2o=1/amount of milk.

For simpler formulary some recommend a 3:1 ratio of milk to lye as opposed to 2:1 water to lye.

Thanks for all the great info

Kate Reid

Thank you for the feedback on milk... it's always nice to share information from those who really have the knowledge (often not me!). :-)

Subject: Hello from Ohio
Date: 06/03 9:05 PM
From: Terri, icepartnerNO@SPAMyahoo.com

Hi! I've read quite a bit of your soap pages, I think it's really interesting. I've gotten most of the ingredients to make my own soap, but haven't had the time to do it yet, I hope to soon.

Just thought I'd pass along something I found, someone might want to try it out. I noticed in the 'colorants' section, crayons are mentioned, and it says some work, some don't. I'm assuming you mean Crayola or similar wax-based crayons, that's all most places carry.

Well, at the county fair last year they had a booth promoting soybeans, and one of the items they had on display were crayons made of soybean oil - no petroleum waxes at all. They had some free samples, so I got one. The brand name is Prang, made by the Dixon Ticonderoga company. I figure I'll try them when I make my soap, and see what the color comes out. I figure since they're oil-based, they might blend into the soap better.

I haven't looked around local stores to see who carries them, but they have a website (http://www.dixonticonderoga.com/default.cfm ), and a toll-free number on the box ( 1-800-824-9430 ). I would imagine most stores that carry Prang or D-T stuff could get them in if asked.

Well, anyway, thanks for such a great site! I've told other people about it who are interested in soapmaking.


Thanks for the info... I'll probably post it. I'm not sure if the real problem people have with crayons is the wax in them or the source of the colorant... they are not approved for cosmetics (soap is not classified as a cosmetic) and make some folks nervous. The wax blends into oils just fine when melted... but the soy might be nice... not sure. It's still possible that the various colors will work or not in the same way as the regular crayons... because that's dependent on what they've used for color. Certain of those don't appear to hold up when exposed to lye and other do quite well. I'll be interested in feedback if you try these. Also... I'm assuming they are non-toxic the way the Crayola crayons are?

Response: Yes, according to the box, they are "Environmentally safe, pure and non-toxic". Also says it conforms to ASTM D-4236.

Subject: making soap
Date: 06/02 7:21 AM
From: delsieNO@SPAMcswnet.com

I am just trying to learn how to make soap and I really appreciate your site. The information is wonderful and is the recipes. However, I have a question I hope you can help me with. I thought I could just go to the market and buy my lard (I had the local butcher save me beef fat, which I am rendering) to use in the recipes. I discovered when I got home and read the entire label that the "Pure Lard" I bought was followed by the description "Lard & hydrogenated lard BHD, propyl gallate and citric acid to help protect flavor". Can I use this product in soap making or do I need to get pork fat and render it? Thank you very much. Bessie

Hi! This lard will work just fine for soap. The hydrogenation just makes it firmer and the other ingredients are to help preserve it in the market... they will not hurt the soap. When you buy coconut oil in bulk it usually has an 'anti-foaming' agent in it and that raises eyebrows for people... but it's okay also. It's just to keep it from foaming as much when folks use it for frying foods... it doesn't suppress lather when you make it into soap.

Subject: canola oil
Date: 05/30 6:00 PM
From: Jane Harner, janeNO@SPAMsemo.net

Hi Kathy!

I want to first tell you how much I am enjoying your website. I am a beginner and have found it most informative.

I was wondering if a recipe called for Olive Oil if I could substitute with Canola or some other inexpensive oil from the grocery store. Besides that I live in a very small community and don't always have access to shopping without traveling 50 miles one way.

Keep up the good work!


Hi! Glad you've enjoyed the site. :-) Yes... you can substitute one oil for another, but you should always check the saponification values and substitute one with a similar SAP number. In the even that the numbers are not the same... adjustments need to be made to ensure that the substituted oil will use the same amount (or as close as you can) of lye as the original oil in the recipe. A calculator is helpful in this process. Other factors should be considered when doing substitutions also... a recipe will usually have a balance of factors from the oils in it... coconut is good for lather, olive for conditioning, palm makes a good hard bar, etc. Take a look at the oil properties when substituting and see if the oil you will be using still gives you a balance in the quality of the finished bar.

The Design Your Own Recipe page is helpful in these steps.

Subject: Please help me with my confusion!
Date: 05/24 12:16 PM
From: james samson, sagehavenNO@SPAMearthlink.net

I have been reading, reading and reading on your great website and wasn't going to bother you with this problem (or actually a little confusion on my part)...but I couldn't really find the answer....so...

I am fairly new with soap making..I have made about 10 batches....the problem I have had with just a few of them is AFTER I pour the soap in the mold. I made about 4 of these batches during the winter and had no problem with this...I just placed bunches of blankets under and around the mold and the soap always came out nice...but now that it is getting warmer ....two times now I have over insulated my soap and it looked like a volcano on top...I still saved it of course...just shaved off the top...but in one of my readings, it mentioned putting your mold in the oven with maybe just the light on...please explain to me in detail if possible..(I know you are very busy to answer all of those emails) about how the best way to "put my soap to bed" (so to speak) I know you have said that you use cardboard boxes. Do you ALWAYS use the boxes? Even during winter? I am not sure what state you live in...(I am in North Carolina)....anyway I would really appreciate your answer....I would like to start a little soap business....(I have sold some of mine and see the interest there)....but I want to make sure that I provide a good product EVERY time....

Thanking you in advance...


Hi! You really need to peek at your soap and decide how much insulation is good. I like the soap to reach gel stage, but don't like it to stay really hot after that... so I invert a cardboard box over the soap (except sometimes I don't do this with milk soap that tends to overheat by nature) and check it every ten minutes or so until I see that it is getting gelled in the center. When the gel stage has spread pretty much to the edges of the mold, I prop the box up on one edge of the box mold so that it doesn't trap the heat in, but still covers it loosely. I usually wait until the next day to remove the box or for several hours... then just uncover the soap and wait for the 24 hours or so to pass before cutting it.

You have to be the judge depending on how warm it is in the room or how quickly the particular batch heats up... some FOs can cause overheating. Once the soap gels, keeping it tightly covered can cause some weirdness on top and the top will want to heave in the center... taking off the insulation will prevent this from happening.

I hope this helps... good luck on the next batch! :-)

Subject: Crystals on Soap
Date: 05/22 7:33 AM
From: Kampen, tayaNO@SPAMtelus.net

Hi there,

I am new at all this and have been playing around with melting down glycerin soaps. (I do not have all of the equipment and supplies YET for making CP soaps.) I have found that in storage, some of the glycerin soaps that I have added essential oils to get a salt-like substance forming on the outside. I do not throw them out. I just rinse them off before I put them in the soap dish. What the heck is that stuff?


PS... in doing a remelt, I have found a way to get purple... Blue food color breaks down and turns a nice purple. I am not sure if it would survive the saponification process, but in the remelt, it turns from blue to purple in the first few days after the soap cools.

Hi! I would be guessing... but I've heard of this before. Since there's sugar in most glycerin soaps... it could be sugar crystals. Have you ever gotten up your nerve to taste them?

>PS... in doing a remelt, I have found a way to get purple... Blue food
>color breaks down and turns a nice purple. I am not sure if it would
>survive the saponification process, but in the remelt, it turns from
>blue to purple in the first few days after the soap cools.

I think it probably wouldn't hold up the same in cold process... but I'm not certain. Food colorings are pretty iffy under those conditions. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Subject: question about lye calculator
Date: 04/27 7:41 PM
From: Sharon Brown, sharonlbrownNO@SPAMhotmail.com

Hi Kathy,

I am a beginner at soap making and I would like to know why the lye calculator at MMS alters your water calculation on your recipes for Favorite Castile II and Favorite Castile III? I am unsure how I should proceed and I am anxious to try your recipes. Thanks Sharon Brown.

The water amount at Majestic Mountain Sage is set for a certain percentage. It's higher than I like to use since I like the soap to cure faster, but sometimes it's not a bad way to go. If I'm using essential oils that cause no acceleration problems, I might use 24 oz. of water in a recipe, but when using FOs that might thicken too quickly or be prone to problems, I use something closer to 28 ounces... maybe slightly higher if I'm really worried. I think they usually suggest water addition closer to 32 ounces for my recipe sizes and you can do that... it will just take longer for the extra water to cure out. The exception to this is if you are working with tallow or a recipe loaded with really HARD fats... then I go with the higher water amount since the soap is too hard at cutting time if I don't do that. (I don't do much tallow soap these days, but it was what I got started with.)

Subject: stick blenders
Date: 04/23 10:16 AM
From: Puyallup8NO@SPAMaol.com

You can buy stick blenders at the Goodwill for $4.98.

Subject: Blue?? Is it possible???
Date: 04/12 8:29 PM
From: shelly, sidNO@SPAMrcvideo.com

Subject: HOW do I get BLUE????? please help...

Hope I picked the right link to email you. I know this is going to sound repetitive...but I just have to say it, like everyone else...THANK YOU so much for the site. I have read and read and read... so wonderful. So helpful...

But in the last hour and half of searching and reading, I've learned alot...the answers to so many questions and thoughts i've had, yet not the answer to the question i started with... (Although I'll bet it's there...)

How can I get true blue soap??? My tallow is VERY VERY white. My coconut oil is VERY VERY white. But the only vegetable oils I can find ALL have a bit of yellowish tint. I tried adding Titanium white...no real help(maybe I'm doing something wrong). I can get so many beautiful colors...usually just what I want or very close. But never a blue blue. Aqua, yes. teal, yes, lavender, yes. steel grey, yes. Never just plain, definite blue. Not light blue. Not dark blue. Never a plain true blue.



Hi! Usually this problem will be caused by fragrance oil that has a lot of yellow or amber color. If you use the grade A olive oil, it should not have very much color to it (at least, not green). I think you should be able to get blue soap by using ultramarines... the Pigment Lady on the Internet sells a starter package of different oxides and ultramarines. They are a mineral powder that you mix with water before adding to the soap at light trace. For some it only takes a small amount.. others maybe a teaspoon or more for a batch (the size I make). If you don't have added color from the fragrance... you ought to get a nice blue that way. Candle dye would probably work also, but some folks don't like to use it.

I hope this helps. :-)

And... I'm glad you've liked the site. Thanks!

Subject: Chest of Drawers and Soda Flats (For Soap Storage)
Date: 04/06 3:40 AM
From: Mona Whitney, elshadaiNO@SPAMmidmaine.com

Hi Kathy,

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...

Take care,


Subject: My first 2 batches
Date: 04/01 11:17 AM
From: Larry/Kerri M., kyle92NO@SPAMaptalaska.net

Hello there! You have a wonderful site! I just made cold process soap this week for the first time and am totally hooked already! I usually 'craft' melt and pour and had run out of base. I have always been paranoid about working with lye and so never wanted to make cold process but was so bored one night and had all the stuff in my kitchen so there I went, and the top soap is what I came up with. It is a olive oil, soybean, cocoa butter soap made with chocolate and tahitian vanilla fo's and colored with cocoa powder, (as per your idea!). It is about 5 days old and is pretty dark, wonder if it will lighten up? The bottom one is also olive oil, soybean, sunflower and I colored it with 2 chips red candle dye and swirled it in the pot. It is scented with Lebermuth's Santirini. LOVE it! But where does the yellow color come from? I just made the bottom soap last night and cut it right before I scanned it so it is still pretty 'raw'. Anyway.............what an addictive hobby! I work at a small grocery store and my boss is going to let me order from the 'food services of america' catalog. Yippee!! They have large buckets of coconut and olive oil for cheap. Kerri

The picture came through just fine.. that's pretty wild looking soap! The texture looks nice. I'm not sure about the yellow color... maybe some of the red or orange bleeding into the white and that's what you got... soap is always a mystery. :-) Thanks for sharing the photo.

The second batch might be a bit on the soft side in use with just olive,, soybean and sunflower oil (no harder fats)... but it should be soap. :-) When you get coconut oil and can add that to your recipes, the soap will suds nicely and have a harder texture. Palm is wonderful for that also. On the dark color of the first batch... that is likely from the vanilla fragrance oil... most of those turn soap dark... sometimes even as dark as a dark chocolate bar! Smell should be good though. :-)

[Chocolate and Santirini Soap]

Subject: What a great page
Date: 04/01 10:35 AM
From: Jim Gatteys, jgatteysNO@SPAMearthlink.net

Hello Kathy!

I just had to write a short note to tell you how great your page is.

I am blind and have been making soap for about 5 years. I am a part time massage therapist but support myself mostly through computer contract work. So, why have I never looked for soap making resources on the internet prior to this? Who knows*grin*.

Anyway, I have wanted to read books and other information about soap making but books are hard to scan because of tables and columnar information... but now I feel like I've died and gone to heaven. Thanks for the great page.


P.S. Friends have told me for years that lye is dangerous, "you might hurt yourself", that sort of thing. I was glad to read your comment that we are too fearful of lye. Everybody has accidents but fear does no good.

Thanks again,

What an inspiration! :-)

Subject: Soap in Norwegian
Date: 03/29 5:49 AM
From: Ryan Skinner, ryan.skinnerNO@SPAMgazette.no


I am a yank living in Oslo, Norway. Just made my first batch of soap (the basic vegetable recipe that you give) and it has, so far, turned out great. Was a little difficult getting all of the conversions right, finding out what lye is in Norwegian (Kaustisk Soda) and obtaining a suitable form, but I feel like this is something that I could do for a long time. Soap. Who knew?

Thanks for all of your online help.


Ryan Skinner
Oslo, Norway
Subject: Re: Newbies botched batch!
Date: 03/19 7:03 PM
From: Pansy Limes, plimesNO@SPAMisbe.accessus.net
I was making a batch of soap and the milk curdled so I took my trusty stick blender and CAREFULLY whipped the curdled lye together (didn't want to waste it!) before I added it to my fats - no separation, though this is my first batch with milk. Hope this helps others with similar problems!
Happy Soaping!!
Pansy Limes
Subject: coconut oil question
Date: 03/19 6:52 AM
From: Rahnny McGinnis, Rahn68NO@SPAMaol.com
I have found a coconut oil that has an anti-foaming agent in it, it was found at a popcorn shop. Would this additive have an effect on the final product? Isn't coconut oil added to help put the lather in the soap?
This anti-foaming agent seems to be added to most cooking oils, but it doesn't cause "anti-soap". :-) It will be fine. All the coconut oils I've used have had this added to them.
Happy soaping!
Subject: Journalism Questions
Date: 03/12/01 9:53 PM
From: Amanda Cutler, amandac51NO@SPAMjuno.com

My name is Amanda Cutler and I am a journalism student at [name omitted] University. I am writing a feature story on how to make soap without using animal products. For my story I need direct quotes from people who have a lot of experience making soap. If you could respond to one or some of the questions below, I would greatly appreciate it.

What kind of soaps would you suggest a beginner starts with, excluding soaps containing animal products?

What is the minimum amount a person would have to spend to begin making soap? supply costs.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to make soaps and sell them?

What step in the soap-making process is most difficult?

What is the most common problem with homemade batches of soap?

I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this and responding as soon as possible.

--Amanda Cutler

Hi! Sorry to take so long... it's been busy and I knew this would take a little longer than I had last night. I'll take a stab at it...

>For my story I need direct quotes from people who have a lot of experience making soap. If you could respond to one or some of the questions below, I would greatly appreciate it.

>What kind of soaps would you suggest a beginner starts with, excluding soaps containing animal products?

Starting with a recipe that uses only olive oil is probably a bad idea since it takes a lot longer to saponify and the poor new soapmaker could have their arm drop off with all the stirring! It can be discouraging. I suggest the use of a stick blender in soapmaking and that helps with this problem. I would recommend a recipe that incorporates some coconut oil and is a balance of several vegetable oils whose "properties" will combine to make an all around good bar of soap... one that sudses well, will be hard after cure and be non-drying to the skin. On my site, the "Rachael's Tried and True' is good for newcomers who want to use more easily obtained oils (like shortening, which I don't prefer). My favorite recipe and the one I sell is the "Sudsy All-Vegetable" recipe... which uses palm oil.

>What is the minimum amount a person would have to spend to begin making soap? supply costs.

When I first started the soapmaking site, I sat down and calculated some costs. It really depends a lot on whether you are buying oils and fats in bulk or using smaller containers from a grocery or health food store. In general, I would say that you can make an unscented batch of soap (about 28 4-oz. size bars) for anywhere from $8 to $12. If you scent the batch, you can tack on an additional $4 to $10... depending on your scent choice, how much of that scent is needed and your source (wholesale or bulk, local - retail). This is all off the top of my head and a general figure. That means each bar could ultimately cost anywhere (for scented) from 43¢ to nearly 80¢ each. If you use any specialty oils in your recipe, this could go up (things like cocoa butter, avocado oil, apricot kernel, etc.).

>What advice would you give to someone who would like to make soaps and sell them?

Don't plunge into business before you learn to make a good batch of soap! Do lots of reading and research on the Internet and get your feet wet as a soapmaker before hanging out your shingle. Don't plan to support your family on soapmaking... only a few will succeed in that, but if you want to pay for your love of soapmaking and make enough to cover costs and pay for some extras for yourself or family... you should be able to do that.

>What step in the soap-making process is most difficult?

For some newbies, the hardest step is to get over their lye-phobia! In general, I'd say the trickiest part when you get started is learning to recognize "trace" (when the soap is best poured). A couple of batches will usually solve this problem. I find the other trickiest part is when you add the scent. If you're using essential oils, this usually poses no problem, but many fragrance oils can cause instant thickening or in the worst case... a separated and ruined batch! If you've done some research ahead of time, you can avoid most of these problems.

>What is the most common problem with homemade batches of soap?

... Finding room to store them all when you get bitten by the soapmaking bug! :-) Seriously, the most common problem might be in accurate measuring so that you are sure to end up with a well balanced and mild bar (or starting with a good recipe in the first place... you should always double check the numbers before proceeding). The bad reputation homemade soap had gotten from previous generations is because of recipes that were lye heavy and harsh! This is not nearly such an issue with the availability of good scales and access to lye calculators (online or using the SAP numbers I have posted, for instance).

I hope this helps! Good luck with your article... Kathy M.

Subject: cheap coconut oil
Date: 03/07 2:09 PM
From: Tony Shindelar, shin77NO@SPAMnetins.net

Hi! First off, just let my tell you what a great site you have, with so much information to help the beginning soaper-truly an excellent site :)

I am still fairly new to soaping, but have had overall success so far-NO LOST BATCHES!! I chose to do ALOT of research before I made my first batches, so that I understood the properties of the oils and fats and what they contributed to the finished bar....how the chemical reaction takes place....and the different natural additives you could incorporate to change the whole purpose of the bar.....just to name a few.......it is just so great to understand and watch the amazing transformation that takes place as the ingredients of the "mixture' react and bond together to make that great all-natural bar of soap(and best yet...the pride that comes with knowing YOU were the one that made it!) :)

I wrote to let you and all other soapers in on a good way to get your oils in bulk, CHEAP, and shipping free!! Let me just say, unfortunately this might not be a possibility for everyone but for the ones it may help, I definitely thought it was worth passing on (I'm sure many have thought of this too-but newbies like myself might not :) ) I live in a small town and use a "small-town grocer" , so you get to know everyone.....I am an hour away from having ready access to the different oils etc.....so I asked my grocer about ordering it through his supplier and it wasn't a problem....for a 5 gal. bucket of coconut oil- 50 lbs- it was $40.80....and he didn't charge anything extra over his cost!! I just thought of asking about this myself, so the coconut is all I have gotten so far, but next week when the supplier comes, I intend to order my other oils as well, sure beats the heck out of having to drive and hour to get smaller amt at much higher costs! And of course, my grocer will get a nice big gift basket of soap in appreciation! I hope this is helpful to some of you out there :)

Happy Soaping To All !!!!!!

Cassie :)

PS-have only sent this to your website so far, but, if you think it would be helpful to others, pls fwd :)

Subject: A tip from Denzgal (prewarming plastic molds)
Date: 03/07 9:05 AM
From: Dennis & Jamie, djlemmerNO@SPAMhotmail.com
Hi Kathy,

I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the information, tips and recipes you share for soap enthusiasts like me. While reading through your FAQ page, I thought I'd share a tip I have found useful for all us soapers using plastic drawer liners for molds.

I found putting clean, dry molds in my dishwasher and running them through the "dry with heat" cycle warms them wonderfully. I hope this helps some of your other visitors.

Subject: Goat's Milk Soap Technique
Date: 03/07 6:28 AM
From: Beth Prosser, bethprosserNO@SPAMyahoo.com

Hi Kathy,

Thank you for sharing so much of your valuable information! Your site is wonderful and I appreciate all the guidance you've given me through it. Now I have something to give you back:

You mention on your site that you have about a 50% track record with milk soaps, and that you add the milk at the end, after trace. I have found that if you add it at the beginning, with the lye, it will not separate. Here's how:

  • 1. Put 12 ounces (by volume) pasteurized goat's milk (GM) in a plastic container and freeze it, at least overnight.
  • 2. At soapmaking time, partially thaw the GM in the microwave. Mash it up with a fork until it's slushy. Don't thaw it the whole way.
  • 3. Add this to 12 ounces (by volume) of cold, cold water, in your standard Pyrex measuring cup. Put it in the sink, fill the sink with cold water (almost to the top of the cup), and open the window (assuming you have a window over your sink).
  • 4. Add 12 ounces (by weight) of lye to the mix SLOWLY. Stir constantly. Spend at least ten minutes adding the lye, or you will risk scorching the milk. Don't let the mixture get below 80 degrees (although this would be difficult to do, you'd have to go away and do something else for a while, I guess).
  • 5. When you're done, you should have a yellow-orange, slightly thick (like light cream) mixture. If it's yellow and congealed, you did it wrong and need to start over. Add this to your oils as usual.

What I like about this method is that if you mess it up, it's obvious right away and you haven't ruined your whole batch.

I've used this method with your Sudsy All Vegetable Soap (which I love!) and it works every time. I read somewhere about adding the lye first turning the soap brown, but it's not brown. It's a very light tan, really not much darker than a pure water batch. (I use Canola instead of Soy so mine always turns out beige anyway). Actually it's more like antique white. Very appealing.

Thank you again for a wonderful site!


Thanks for taking the time to list out this technique. I've read about it before. I'll post this next time I do a major update.

I will probably not bother with regular goat's milk or the trouble this takes, but I'm sure it works and does yield a nice lighter color. I've found since my post about goat milk soap that if I lower my temps and don't insulate, the soap comes out pretty well. Think I'm getting this figured out! It's easier for me to use the evaporated.

Thanks again and happy soaping! :-) I love that Sudsy All-Veg recipe also... it's the main one I sell.

Subject: Cheap source for lye and coconut oil (California)
Date: 03/05 11:58 AM
From: Colleen Ray, WindemireNO@SPAMaol.com

Your site has been such a tremendous help in my soapcrafting, I can't thank you enough!

Thought I'd pass on a supplier of relatively inexpensive products: GTF Labs, in Fresno, Ca. They sell 50 lbs of lye for $85, and 35 lbs of coconut oil for $50 (add $10 if you're east of the Rockies). These prices include shipping, handling, and haz-mat fees. This is the cheapest I've been able to find either product, and the staff is really nice, too! gtflabs.com

Thanks for all your wonderful information!

Colleen Ray
Raynbow's End
Antioch, Ca.
Subject: RE: Household uses for soap
Date: 03/03 4:27 AM
From: tracyclem, tracyclemNO@SPAMearthlink.net

Thanks for the info. I also followed some links from your site and found great household uses at luxurylane.com. Later in the day while following another link found some more for shampoo and general household cleaner at www.makestuff.com.

Hope you guys faired well from the earthquake. Pictures on the news looked bad.

Tracy Clem

Subject: dehydrator
Date: 03/02 8:09 AM
From: Brad Quinn, Brad.QuinnNO@SPAMtouchpc.com

Kathy, my mother and I were discussing the possibilities of using a dehydrator. I was using lime peels for the exfoliating properties and was also hoping for the green to stay in the soap. Nope, did not happen, just turned orangeish brown. She thought I should soak the lime peels in lemon juice then dehydrate them using a dehydrator. That's what she did for years with other fruits to retain color (i.e. apples, oranges). And this is when I thought maybe a dehydrator would speed up the curing process. What do you think? Has this been thought of before? Do you think this would work? I plan to use ph strips to see if knocks off any cure time. I'm curious to see what your thoughts are. As always, thanks for the inspirations!

Hope all is well in Olympia, [referring to our 6.8 earthquake!]


Regardless of how you treat the citrus peels beforehand, I suspect the lye will turn them brown. There are only a few herbal kinds of things that retain their color after exposure to lye solution.

People have thought of the dehydrator before and experimented with it. I think there's a risk of getting it too warm and warping the soap. Putting the bars in a room with a dehumidifier might work better.

pH strips I've never used. If the soap goes through a gel stage the first day or two... that does a lot to hasten the curing as far as mildness goes. Doesn't do much for the drying out period though... using less water is probably more effective in that. You have to be careful cutting the water when using some FOs though... you can end up with a seizure! ;-)

Read the pH Tome I have posted on the index page... the article was submitted by someone else. Regular pH strips won't necessarily give you the most accurate reading for soap.

>Hope all is well in Olympia,

I'm actually about an hour and 20 minutes north of there... things are pretty good here, but there is a lot of damage in Olympia of the state capitol and state office buildings. People there are not going in to work until they clean up the mess and finish assessing the damages.

Good luck!

Kathy Miller... catching up on email! :-)

SIDE NOTE: Speaking of our earthquake... here's what I sent to family and friends soon after things calmed down (sorry for "graphic" content!) ;-) ...

For any family or friends who might wonder... all is okay here. We just had an earthquake a few minutes after 11:00. I guess at this point they think it was a 6.2. It reminded me of the one we had when I was in 7th grade - 1965. I just happened to be in the bathroom at the time and believe me... when things keep shaking, you don't take time for niceties! I hit the floor on my knees as was and got under the bathroom door jam. I was staring at the new bookcase I recently filled in our room and wondered if any of that was going to come down. When it lasted too long to be someone stump blasting, I knew it was an earthquake and not just a tremor... it kept on going and crescendoed before the shaking stopped and it took a little for the house and ground to quit moving afterward [kind of like the residual shaking of jiggled jello... it was weird]. Amazingly... NOTHING came down from the shelves here. I could have the smelliest house in town right now... there are fragrance bottles on open shelves in the back room.

The poor bird was on top of his cage in front of my bedroom mirror and after the shaking got severe I heard him give a fearful and confused squawk. I called to him from the bathroom that it was going to be okay! My poor oldest daughter had come home from school and was in the shower downstairs getting ready for work. I was wondering how that was for her... guess she bailed out of there and streaked dripping wet into the hallway! No witnesses. ;-) By the time I decided it was safe to get up I walked out of our room and there she was in the hallway, dripping in her towel... "WHAT was that? An earthquake?"

Glad it's over and I hope it really is. The ferries are not running right now so I'm not sure when and how Diane will get back from work... hope Karen and Lynda are doing okay at school. Plenty of people there to talk to and gain assurance from.

Talk to you soon... on to what I was going to do when this hit! (Do I dare get into the bathtub?)

Love, Kathy

There is some building damage in Seattle, but not severe compared to the huge quakes that have happened in other places. We'll know more tonight. I think the epicenter was near Seattle, but there are still conflicting reports. They said you could feel this in Portland and Salt Lake City. Diane said that some file cabinets went over in her office in downtown Seattle. Robert fared better in Bellevue.

Subject: need your help once again - Unmolding Tip
Date: 02/28 10:43 AM
From: Elizabeth Shaffer, e.shafferNO@SPAMworldnet.att.net

Kathy, after reading through 8 pages of FAQ's decided I must get on with my life. So a simple question that I didn't find an answer to.....I am using the "sudsy all veg." soap recipe almost exclusively. It is fantastic and easy. Made a batch last night and used just a small bit of it to make a few vanilla soaps. This soap has turned out just fine. Then I added about a 1 1/2 oz.of Sweetcakes "Secret Garden" to the rest of it. Now I have these small globs of clear throughout the soap, and most of the oil was on the outside of the molds (needless to say they were easy to pop out of the molds). What did I do wrong, and will those globs (looks like cooked tapioca) change the effect of the soap? Needless to say, the soap probably lost most of the FO and will lose it's scent soon? Any suggestion on how to avoid this in the future?

Just a suggestion for unmolding blocks of soap. I use plastic utensil trays (Wal-Mart) for soap molds. To make getting the soap out easier, I purchase the cheapest clear plastic I can find at our local fabric store (by the yard) precut it to fit most of the bottom of the mold and overlap on two sides. Hold it secure with a little Vaseline. When soap is ready to unmold, just pull the overlapped sides of the plastic and it comes out nice and smooth and easy.

Hi! Thanks for the unmolding tip... I'll put that in the "pending" file and post it next time I update.

Sounds like your FO accelerated trace a bit and didn't get mixed in thoroughly before the soap started setting up. I used that one once but don't recall if I had trouble. When you are using fragrances that are a bit unknown in behavior, it's better to use a higher water addition rate in your base recipe... this buys you a little more time. I'd go with something around 28 oz. to maybe 30 oz.. For some FOs keeping the temps a bit lower helps also... maybe around 95?

Take a look at the fragrance oil tips on the Modern Procedures page.

Your soap might be okay, but if it looks kind of weird and slightly separated even after a couple of weeks of cure, you can always remelt/rebatch the Secret Garden portion... then you'll get everything mixed back in... get at much of the oily stuff in as you can if you do this.

Subject: oil for soap
Date: 02/24 8:23 AM
From: Dave, drescher3NO@SPAMyahoo.com


I really enjoyed your soapmaking pages. I have a question that may be answered on your site but I can't figure it out. Then again it may not be a good idea....I have a local restaurant that says I can have the frying oil when they are done with it. Is it possible to use this and if so, what kind of oil would this be classified as? If I can use this (or maybe even for part of the grease,) I will have an unlimited supply!


Dave Drescher - Annapolis, MD

You can recycle oil like this after "washing" it a time or two to clear out the impurities. Take a look at the traditional methods page and follow the general directions for cleaning rancid fats... it's a similar process to that. As far as what kinds of oils... find out what base they use for their cooking (coconut, soybean, whatever?) and go from there. If they are cooking meat in the oils, you'll also have a mixture with some tallow or chicken fat or whatever in it. Figuring the SAP value might be a bit of guesswork, but many of the values are close to one another so you should be able to get into the ballpark the first time enough to have soap. You might want to mix in other fats to give you a better bar... maybe some coconut? See what you are working with first and check the "Design Your Own Recipe" page to study the SAP numbers and properties of oils. [A similar question was asked below but I'd not posted it on the site yet.]

Thanks for your optimistic reply.....I had another person that I asked the same question to tell me in no uncertain terms that i was crazy to think of using such a terrible source!

I'll let you know what I come up with.

Thanks again,

Dave Drescher



Thanks for your help...I asked you about using grease from a restaurant a while ago.

I did what you said and here is the result. Tried to do a light blue with a darker blue swirl.....The light blue turned out quite green.

This scan doesn't look very green at all... I'll have to take his word for it. I think this looks pretty impressive for a first attempt... nice swirl! :-)

[Dave's First Attempt]

Dave's First Soapmaking Effort

Subject: Can't get no..Lather
Date: 02/20 6:22 AM
From: Jennifer Geoghan, JGeoghanNO@SPAMadamsmark.com


I've been enjoying your site very much. It's just jam-packed with useful information!!!

If you have a minute I have a few questions.

1. I made my first batch of cold process soap (basic recipe of Lye/Lard/Water) It came out pretty good except..... no lather. I have to admit I'm a lather lover and really want my soap to give a good lather.

Any suggestions of things I can add to improve my soaps lather quality/quantity?

2. I saw listed on one of your pages a list of ingredients for glycerin soap that included glycerin and alcohol, but I didn't see a set of instructions. Where can I get a good recipe for making clear glycerin soap from scratch? (a good lathering one that is! HA HA HA)

3. O.K. This will probably sound stupid, but what is Tallow? I've seen it listed around but have no idea what it is.

If you could point me in the right direction for some of my questions, I'd really appreciate it a lot.

Thank You!


You will find help with this problem on the "Design Your Own Recipe" page. The chart on the properties of oils will show you which oils make what kinds of lather. Also... how old is your lard soap? If it's not done curing, there will be a huge difference in the amount of lather you get. It's not profuse even when done, but in the first few days... it's almost nil with some batches! If you want a lard recipe with more lather, check out the Beef Shortening with Coconut Oil recipe on the animal fats recipe page... you can substitute lard straight across for the beef shortening in that recipe and your soap will have more suds than it does with straight lard.

>2. I saw listed on one of your pages a list of ingredients for glycerin soap that included glycerin and alcohol, but I didn't see a set of instructions. Where can I get a good recipe for making clear glycerin soap from scratch? (a good lathering one that is! HA HA HA)

If you buy Susan Miller Cavitch's book, "The Soapmaker's Companion" it will have all kinds of good information, including this process for glycerin soap. You can check out that book at Amazon.com.

>3. O.K. This will probably sound stupid, but what is Tallow? I've seen it listed around but have no idea what it is.

When you read that in most soap recipes, it usually refers to beef tallow, or rendered beef fat. Our grandmothers used this in their soaps most often since lard was often used for eating in the old days (shortening... made really flaky pie crust).

I hope this helps. The pages below are good places to start reading... good luck!

Miller's Homemade Soap Info: <http://homepages.donobi.net/timer/index.html>
Kathy's Soapmaking Links: <http://users.silverlink.net/~timer/soaplinks.html>
Design Your Own Recipe: <http://users.silverlink.net/~timer/soapdesign.html>
Modern Procedures: <http://users.silverlink.net/~timer/soapproc.html>
MOST Frequently Asked Questions: <http://users.silverlink.net/~timer/SoapFAQs.html>
Subject: swirling
Date: 02/19 4:12 PM
From: Bloodworth, ronchrisNO@SPAMjps.net


I have found swirling (most often in the pot) a complete blast. It is so much fun to match a swirl color,or colors, to a scent. Even a white swirl is dramatic. Thanks again for your great ideas and information!


You're welcome... and thanks! I'm glad you've had so much fun with it. I'm getting to where I do most of my swirling in the pot also... it's quite reliable and the outcome is always interesting.

Happy soaping!

Date: 02/15 2:04 AM
From: Nancy Forester, NFore87281NO@SPAMaol.com

Just visited your soap web site very nice.

I have been making soap for a short time now. I was reading about how to clean fats, would like to know how to make a harder bar of soap using old used veg. oil? what if any thing do I need to add to the oil. I have old used oil donated to me for recycling in to soap for a fundraiser for veterans. Funds are very limited. I have only strained the oil and am keeping it cool, do I need to clean it with Just plain water?

Please help any information would be greatly welcomed

Nancy Forester

You can use the cleaning directions on the "Traditional Methods" page... the ones they suggest for cleaning rancid or impure oils from rendering (with boiling water, etc.). To make the soap harder, you can add some salt per the recommended addition rate on the "Design Your Own Recipe" page (the bit about salt and sugar toward the end), or invest in getting some palm stearic from a supplier like Majestic Mountain Sage. That will cost a little money, but a tiny bit of that goes a LONG way. A couple of teaspoons per batch would make a big difference in the hardness of the finished bar.

Good luck!

Guestbook Entry: Beeswax Source
Monday 02/05/2001 12:24:58am
From: Drew Johnson, didgeridrewNO@SPAMhotmail.com

Thank You for a great site! Just a few comments, as a novice soaper and son of a beekeeper I can tell you the easiest and best place to get beeswax is straight from the source. If you don't know any local beekeepers contact your state Dept. of Agriculture. If you still don't have any luck contact Steve and Sandy Forrest at Brushy Mt Bee Co. (www.beeequipment.com), on page 11 of their Candle Making Supplies they sell pure beeswax for $3.75 /lb (much better than the $10-$15 /lb charged at craft stores).

Thanks Again, Drew Johnson

Subject: insulating soaps....do we need to?
Date: 02/02 11:28 AM
From: Lucas and Jami Hespe, huskerzNO@SPAMsouthwind.net

Hi Kathy,

I have been scanning your website for about the last 1/2 hour looking for information on insulating cold processed soaps. I didn't see anything....so here I am. Eager to learn from the "Master" *smile* I frequent a soapmaking forum which has provided a wealth of information and a support that is just awesome, however, I searched for info on the necessity of insulating and found nothing. Some soapers say they swear by it...and others say they don't insulate at all. (like me) I make mostly goat milk soaps, which I have heard don't require insulating because they heat up more than other soaps. I also make a foot bar and a kitchen bar which I've never insulated. It seems like my soaps take a long time to cure. 5-6 weeks. Does insulating shorten the cure time? I don't understand the whole thing about soap going through stages. I make soap, pour it in the molds, cure it for 4-6 weeks and it's good soap! Am I just lucky? *smile*

What exactly is the benefit or necessity of insulating? Some ladies have asked me to teach a basic soap making class this summer and I want to know the specifics when I try to instruct someone else. I make soap like I cook...I just experiment and then stick with what works, but I know I need to be knowledgeable to teach someone else. I can't seem to figure out this insulating thing. (sigh) Your help and suggestions will be most appreciated. I look forward to your reply.

Thanks in advance,


Hi! Well... here's another person's opinion! I like my soap to go through the gel phase. It not only hastens the curing, but seems to yield soap with a smoother texture (the stick blender really aids in this). In order to be sure this happens, on regular batches, I insulate until the gel stage has been reached (I peek every so often... especially when I start to smell the soap scent more strongly in the room... a tip-off that it's heated up). I just invert a cardboard box over my soap mold and if it's not as warm in the room, set a newspaper on top of it. Once the soap gels and gels nearly to the edges... I lift the box up enough to allow some air to get in. If it gets too hot under there, the top can get the "alien brains syndrome" on many batches. I hate that!

For milk and/or honey soaps... getting the soap to gel is not nearly such a challenge... it gets really hot all on its own if it's been blended well. With that... I try to not let it get too hot and when it's nearly at gel... I strive to start cooling it off by giving it good circulation. My molds are about 4 inches deep and if milk soap gets too hot for too long in them, it wants to develop a "cavern" effect like what I show on the Botched Batches page. That means rebatching... which you've probably gathered that I HATE! ;-)

Well... that's my take on it. Hope this helps.

Subject: Ms. Miller
Date: 01/29 11:40 PM
From: Rashunda Tramble, rashundaNO@SPAMmindspring.com

Hi there,

I don't have a botched batch...but it's a hoot just the same. Just in case you didn't know....it's a good idea to NOT shove your soap pots in the dishwasher after making soap WITHOUT wiping out the raw soap first.:-)(sheepish grin).

I have suds all over my kitchen floor.

Anybody got a mop?

Take care, Rashunda


I've heard of this before... a little REAL soap in the dishwasher goes a LONG way. I'll bet your kitchen floor is really clean now! ;-)

Thanks for the laugh. I'll try to post your email soon... might be helpful to others and humorous for those who have also discovered this on their own!

Subject: Palm source (Seattle, WA Area)
Date: 01/29/01 4:36 PM
From: Mary Pearson, res042ruNO@SPAMgte.net

I happened to be in Whole Foods recently and noticed that their all vegetable shortening was all palm (something about using an oil that was solid at room temp so it didn't need to be processed). I'm afraid I didn't notice the price, but it may be more convenient for some people and certainly easier for the newbie who doesn't want to invest in bulk mail-order ---yet.

Thanks for your site!


Well, I finally got down to Seattle and the Whole Foods store! I had previously written to tell you that I had seen palm sold as shortening, but I didn't have any details-- now I do. The shortening is Spectrum's Organic Shortening. It is 100% palm and 42 oz sells for $7.89.I don't think this is a great deal, but it's readily available if there's a Whole Foods around. Of course, that's not the answer if you're at the Whole Foods on Roosevelt because Zenith Supplies is a block down the street and sells palm for $11/gallon! .

Hope this is useful info!

Mary Pearson


I'd like to read some more...take me to PAGE 4!


This page last updated 30 June 2001.

Baby in tub photo courtesy of Print Artist 4.0 Platinum by Sierra Home.
If you still have questions, please read through the information on the Troubleshooting Help page, MOST Frequently Asked Questions, Design Your Own Recipe 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! :-)