How to make hemp soap at home?
Soap may be a mundane and everyday item, but the process of making it is a chemistry lesson in and of itself.
Soap is a salt, or a compound formed by the reaction of an acid and an alkali. In soap-making, oil (fatty acid) provides one half of the reaction, and lye (a strong alkali) does the rest. The reaction between oil and lye is known as saponification, from sapo, the Latin for soap. There are many different oils used in soap-making, each with their own set of properties. Hemp oil is known for being intensively moisturizing, as well as having protective and regenerative properties.
Techniques for making homemade soap
There are various ways to make soap at home: the most common procedures are the cold process and the melt-and-pour method. Of the two, melt-and-pour is by far the simpler, as it involves using pre-bought soaps which are melted down, mixed with new oils and scents, and then poured into new molds to set once more.
However, pre-made hemp soaps are still hard to find, despite the proliferation of hemp skincare products in recent years. Therefore, methods which allow more flexibility with the choice of ingredients are more suited to making hemp soap, and this is where the cold process comes into its own.
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Care must be taken to ensure safety at all times
It is important to note that when following this recipe, some highly dangerous chemicals are needed, most notably lye (also known as caustic soda). It is vital that correct safety precautions are carried out, including use of gloves, goggles and long-sleeved clothing to avoid alkali burns. The work area must be clean and dry, and the equipment used must be made from ceramic, steel, or good-quality, heat-resistant plastic. All dangerous chemicals must be clearly labelled, and stored safely when not in use. Most of the necessary equipment can be found in the home or from the hardware store.
- Gloves, rubber or similar
- Safety goggles
- Kitchen scale (must be accurate)
- Stove or other heat source
- Large, non-stick cooking pot
- 2/3 litre jug, pitcher or mixing bowl (x2)
- 2/3 litre pitcher or beaker with tight-fitting lid
- Long-handled spoon for stirring
- Soap mould
- Electric blender (handheld/stick)
- Measuring spoons/cups
- Small dishes or tubs to store ingredients
- Whisks, spoons, spatulas, cloths, napkins
Always use stainless steel, ceramic or heat-resistant plastic for mixing chemicals. Once all equipment is checked and ready, and the work-space is clear, it is safe to begin working with the ingredients. Although known as the “cold” process, some stages of the recipe require use of a heat source, so the kitchen is the obvious location. This is what you will need:
- Lye – NaOH (caustic soda) or KOH (potash – more commonly used for soft or liquid soaps)
- Water (distilled is preferred)
- Oils/fats (see below for more info)
- Fragrances/essential oils
- Dye, natural or synthetic
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Oil combinations and ratios
The choice of oil is the key to making a good-quality soap. Hard fats like tallow or palm oil provide a stable, long-lasting base for the soap, ensuring it sets correctly. Oils like castor or coconut oil are essential for lathering, and olive, sunflower and canola oil provide a softening and moisturizing effect. A fourth category of oils is informally known among soap-makers as super-moisturizing, or simply “luxury”. Hemp oil sits comfortably in this fourth category, due to its intensively softening and uniquely penetrative properties.
It is possible to make soap from just one or two oils, but experimenting with different ratios for various purposes is immensely rewarding. A ratio of 30% hard, 25% lathering, 35% moisturizing and 10% super-moisturizing oil is widely thought to be a sensible basis for a good-quality soap, although these percentages can be tweaked in numerous ways.
It is usually preferable to limit a heavy oil such as hemp to no more than 15%, due to the risk of greasiness and more rapid spoilage, although some recipes can work well with slightly higher ratios. An excellent resource on the properties of soap-making oils can be found here.
Determining the oil:lye ratio
Now that the work-space, equipment, and ingredients are ready, a recipe must be decided on, and the lye solution must be made and left to cool. The process for making lye-water is simple, yet care must be exercised. Simply stir the lye into boiling water until fully dissolved, then leave aside to cool.
The required amount depends on the combination of oils, and can be determined by using an online lye calculator – or for the arithmetically-inclined, Miller’s Homemade Soap Pages provide full saponification charts.
For beginners, there are plenty of soap recipes available online that can be tweaked to your requirements – this is sensible, as determining the lye/water ratio is difficult for those with little experience. Below is a standardized, basic recipe that will take very little skill or effort to follow:
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SIMPLE SOAP RECIPE
- 900g/32oz Palm Oil (34%)
- 765g/27oz Coconut Oil (29%)
- 450g/16oz Hemp Oil (17%)
- 425g/15oz Olive Oil (16%)
- 113g/4oz Blend of essential oils (4%)
- 1-2 tsps. of glitter, petals or seeds to decorate
- 370g/13oz Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
- 850g/30oz Distilled Water
The saponification process
The oils must be measured out by weight and placed in containers ready for use. In soap-making, all ingredients are measured by weight, whether solid or liquid.
Hard fats can be placed directly into the cooking pot to be gently heated; once they are liquid the remaining oils (except fragrance and essential oils) can be added.
When the oils are fully mixed and liquid, and the temperature is at around 100° C (212F), the heat must be turned off, and the lye-water may be added slowly to the pot. Remember to stir the pot constantly throughout.
As the mixture cools and the lye reacts with the oils, the liquid in the pot will become cloudy and increasingly viscose – this is the saponification process beginning. At this point, blend the mixture in short bursts (around 5 seconds) with the electric mixer, gently stirring and scraping the sides in between each burst. With every blend, the mixture will become ever more viscose.
The finishing touches
When the mixture is almost cool, the essential oils and fragrances can be slowly mixed in, using the spoon rather than the blender. After this, any decorative items such as petals, seeds or even hemp leaves can be blended in. By now the true scent of your finished product will be apparent.
Finally, colorants can be added, with a range of techniques and methods for added visual appeal. To achieve a marbled effect, pour a little of the soap into a mould, and add dye to it, mixing well. Then gently pour more soap from the pot into the mould, using a spatula to achieve the desired level of intermixing. Soaps may be left in the mould for a few days until they fully set, and must be cured for up to three weeks more to remove all traces of lye from the saponification process.
The simplicity and flexibility of this method has won many fans, and there much benefit in having control over what is contained in skincare products used everyday by ourselves and our families. The recipe above does not contain any of the worrisome additives such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is ubiquitous in commercial products and has been implicated in health and environmental problems.
As well as peace of mind, making one’s own skincare products can represent a substantial yearly saving, and can be a rewarding experience to share with friends and family. Once the soap-making technique has been mastered, there are plenty of recipes for hemp-based shampoos, lotions, massage oils and moisturizers to try. With a little time and effort, it is possible to create an entire skincare range, and avoid ever having to buy commercial products!
How to make hemp soap at home? Soap may be a mundane and everyday item, but the process of making it is a chemistry lesson in and of itself. Soap is a salt, or a compound formed by the
How to Make Hemp Soap – Easy Step by Step DIY Recipe [VIDEO]
If you are someone who is naturally drawn to DIY projects and you like to treat your body with natural homemade beauty products then you may like the idea of making your own 100% natural hemp soap.
Why Make Your Own Hemp Soap?
Hemp soap is one of the best soaps that you can use to clean and nurture your body while taking full advantage of the benefits that hemp seeds have to offer through your largest organ, your skin.
Hempseed oil contains vitamin E and essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) and it does not just soothe and moisturizes your skin but also has anti-inflammatory properties and slows the ageing of the skin cells.
This hemp soap is also perfectly suitable for people with sensitive skin.
I won’t go into a whole lot of details, if you want to learn more about the benefits of using hemp soap, we have an article just on that here.
Soap making is a very easy and fun project and only requires a small initial investment as most ingredients and tools that you’ll need are usually available in most households.
Before I made my first batch of soap, I spent countless hours on the internet reading blogs and watching videos to learn everything that I could and to find the best method and recipe.
Based on my research and experience, it is actually very common that after you made your first batch of soap you fall in love with the process. You just can’t help yourself but make another batch.
No wonder, because the possibilities to experiment with the recipes and ingredients, shapes, colours and fragrances are basically endless, you can let your creativity shine through your beautiful handmade soaps.
They also make fantastic gifts for friends and family. These days people tend to value handmade presents, especially if they are made by someone they know and contain only natural ingredients.
On top of that, you certainly don’t want to miss out on that wonderful feeling when you are using your own homemade soap for the first time.
The enjoyment of the labour of your own hands, all the love and care that you’ve put into making it and of course not to mention the peace of mind of knowing that it is all 100% natural and clean without any nasty chemicals.
Even if you only make soap once, it is likely that you will get a good return on your money and time investment. You will surely have a few beautiful bars of soap to enjoy or give away and no-one can take the learnings and experience away that you gain from your own DIY soap making project.
What is Saponification?
Before we get to the ‘how to’ bit, let’s just quickly look into the science behind it.
Soap making is based on a process called saponification which involves the transformation of the oily components into soap with the aid of lye, also known as sodium hydroxide.
Lye is a caustic substance that can cause serious damages, such as skin burn or even blindness if it gets into your eye. It is very important to keep in mind to use safety equipment (goggles, gloves and mask), long sleeves and pants and closed footwear at all times when working with lye.
The main chemical reactions happen during the first 24 – 48 hours, however, you will need to cure your soaps for 4-6 weeks for the saponification process to fully complete. By then you can be assured that there won’t be any lye left in your final products.
When mixing the lye with water, it starts a chemical reaction that produces a lot of heat and even fume.
Therefore, always make sure to add lye to water, not the other way around to avoid any danger or even potential harm to yourself. If you allow the lye to clump at the bottom it may even explode on you. This is the part you MUST pay attention to!
Equipment You Need
- Safety goggles
- Measuring jug
- 2 Mixing bowl/saucepans
- Wooden or silicone spoon
- Stick blender
- Soap mould
- Newspaper to cover your workbench
- Clinging wrap and an old towel to cover the soap in the mould
- Knife/soap cutter
The measuring jug, mixing bowls, blender and anything else that comes in contact with the lye or soap mixture is best not to be used for food making again.
In the end, you will be able to clean everything nicely however, the best practice is to have these equipment dedicated to soap making only and other similar projects.
Glass, stainless steel and enamel are safe choices when working with lye as some other materials (such as aluminium and some plastics) may react with lye.
When it comes to deciding on the mould, silicone soap moulds can be purchased very inexpensively online or in your local craft and dollar stores. If you are just starting out, and prefer not to spend on the mould at all, you can get creative and make your own wooden mould or just use an old loaf pan.
When mixing the lye and water solution into the oils it is essential that they are both in the same temperature range (35 – 40°C or 95 – 105°F). That is when you will need to use a thermometer to compare the temperature of the two liquids until they are the same.
Makes 12 x 100g/3.5 ounce bars
- 1 ⅓ cup cold pressed coconut oil
- 1 ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ⅓ cup hemp seed oil
- ½ cup lye
- 1 ½ cup cool/icy filtered water
- essential oils, colouring, dry herbs and decorative items of your choice
I prefer to use organic ingredients only and try to source them in bulk online.
Here is a short video to follow along the entire process:
Step 1. Prepare your work area and put your safety gear on.
Step 2. Add ice water to mixing bowl.
Step 3. Measure the right amount of lye and slowly mix it into the cold water.
Stir it continuously until it starts to clear, then let it sit while it cools down. Remember to apply extra care when working with the lye. Always wear protection, stir gently and try to stand back as much as possible while stirring to avoid the fumes.
Step 4. Add all 3 oils into a saucepan or mixing bowl. Gently heat the oil mixture to 35 – 40°C (95 – 105°F) on the stove or using a microwave.
Step 5. When the lye and oils are at the same temperature (between 35 – 40°C/ 95 – 105°F), slowly pour the lye into the oil mix and stir it well.
Step 6. Use a stick mixer/immersion blender to mix it until it becomes lighter and thicker in consistency. Lift the blender out of the soap mixture and if it leaves a trace, then it is ready. If you don’t see a trace yet then you will need to keep mixing it a little longer.
Step 7. At this point, you can add colouring, essential oils, dry herbs or decorative items of your choice.
With this batch, we added 40 drops of lavender essential oils and about ⅓ cup of dry lavender flowers.
If you prefer you can also leave your soap unscented and don’t put anything into it.
To alter the original light yellowish/greenish colour of the soap that it gets from the oils, there are a lot of natural colouring options available, such as using cocoa powder, turmeric, beetroot powder etc…
You can also add dry herbs to the mixture for their additional benefits and for exfoliation purposes.
And of course, this is also the time to add your favourite essential oil blend to make your soaps smell lovely.
Whatever you decide to add to your soap, make sure you mix it in evenly.
Step 8. Once you are happy with the final product, pour the mixture into the mould.
Cover the top with plastic wrap and wrap the mould into an old towel to keep the heat in allowing the saponification process to happen. Let it sit for 24 hours.
Step 9. By the next day, your soap should cool down and become nice and firm. If you find it still warm and soft, allow it to sit for another 12 hours to a day. When it is fully set, remove the soap from the mould.
If you are using a loaf pan-like mould, cut your soap into bars at this point. To do that, you can use an old knife, pizza cutter or a soap cutter if you have one.
Then place your soap bars to a baking rack or to a tray laid with parchment paper and let them cure for 4-6 weeks turning them regularly to expose all surfaces to air.
Step 10. Once your soap bars are completely cured they are ready to be used and enjoyed.
To best way to store them is to wrap them into waxed paper or cling film because over time they can sweat and leave a mark on regular wrapping paper.
This is just a simple hemp soap recipe that you can simply half if you only want to experiment with smaller quantities to start with. You can also replace hemp oil or some part of it with other oils such as almond oil and add other ingredients like vitamin E, clays or oatmeal, to make your soaps even more nurturing.
Once you start and experiment with making your owns soap, you may find that it is actually quite simple and quick to make perfectly natural and healthy soap for yourself and your family.
If you are into DIY projects and like to treat your body with natural homemade beauty products then you may like to learn how to make hemp soap.