Whether you want to do some hands-on chemistry or merely DIY your self-care products, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will lay out 3 carefully planned activities that will result in, well, nice little soap bars of your own making. In terms of scientific insight, they are best suited for middle- to high-schoolers. But they’ll be interesting for adults too!
Let’s make one thing clear, though. No matter what the internet says, the process of making soap is usually NOT all that easy. (Except in my third experiment.)
But if you follow the steps closely, you’ll be fine. Just make sure to wear protective goggles and gloves!
And if you’re after proper experiments with soap, check out my article on particularly bubbly science fair projects!
1. Making Hot-Processed Soap at Home
Age Range: 15+
Making soap at home shouldn’t seem like a difficult activity. It might need some preparation and a LOT of mixing, but the soap you’ll get is worth the effort!
Homemade soap has many benefits. It’s made without chemicals and synthetics, it’s beneficial for you and your environment, and it’s zero waste!
The most common way of making soap at home is by mixing oils, water, and lye, and it can be done in two ways.
- Hot-process soap: It unites the oils, water, and lye on high heat, usually coming from outside sources. The heat activates the lye, and the soap can be used right away after cooling down.
- Cold-process soap: It unites the oils, water, and lye without the need for external heat. The molten oils and the exothermic reaction between water and lye are more than enough to unite the ingredients. This temperature doesn’t activate the lye, so the soaps need to cure for at least 5 weeks!
I have chosen the hot process. Not everyone has the time and patience to wait for 5 weeks!
This recipe will give you 2.5lbs of homemade soap. But if you want a smaller amount of soap, you can try subtracting the 2.5lbs of homemade soap, and amounts of the ingredients for the desired amount!
- 4.5oz 100% sodium hydroxide (lye);
- 9oz distilled water;
- 10oz shea butter;
- 2oz almond oil;
- 16oz coconut oil;
- 0.5 oz essential oils;
- Soap mold;
- Wooden chopping board;
- Infrared thermometer;
- Stick blender;
- 1 large heatproof glass bowl;
- 1 medium heatproof glass bowl;
- 1 medium-sized cooking pot;
⚠️ Before conducting this experiment, make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area. You should also wear safety goggles, and plastic gloves.
- In a medium glass bowl, add 9oz distilled water and 4.7oz sodium hydroxide.
- Mix well with a stick blender and a stainless-steel spoon. When water is mixed with lye, they cause an exothermic reaction thus the lye water reaches temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Turn on the stove on medium heat, and melt 16oz of coconut oil, 10oz of shea butter, and 2oz of almond oil.
- With an infrared check the temperature of the oils. It should be ranging from 85 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After the oils have melted remove them from the stove and place them on the wooden board. The wooden board won’t allow the temperature of the oils to change.
- In the meantime, add the essential oils to the pot with molten oils.
- In a large heatproof glass bowl, pour in the oils.
- Turn on the stove on low heat, fill out a large pot with water, place the large glass bowl on top, and prepare the stick blender.
- When the temperature of the oils starts rising, turn on the stick blender and slowly, pour in the lye. The lye should be added gradually until the mixture starts solidifying.
- After everything has been emulsified, pour the soap into the soap mold.
- Let the soap solidify completely, cut it into equal slices, and it’s ready to use!
The process of saponification can last from 5 hours to 20+ days. It all depends on the way it’s made and the materials used. Hot-process soaps can be used right after they harden, while cold-process soaps need to cure for at least 4-5 weeks.
This soap contains oils that are good for dry, sensitive, and normal skin. After washing, the soap residue attracts and retains moisture in the skin cells, and it protects the skin from having different reactions to stimuli.
If you have oily or combined skin, try using jojoba oil instead of shea butter or almond oil. You can combine different oils to create a soap that will fit your needs!
The following are some combinations for various skin types.
Oily and Acne Prone Skin
These combinations of oils, butters, and essential oils have antifungal and antiseptic properties which will kill next to all bacteria present on the skin!
- 3oz castor oil;
- 6oz coconut oil;
- 8oz jojoba oil;
- 8oz olive oil;
- 5oz mango seed oil;
- 1/4oz tea tree essential oil;
- 1/4oz of lemongrass essential oil;
- 3.7oz 100% Sodium Hydroxide (Lye);
- 7.6oz Distilled water.
The combination of chamomile, lavender, rosemary essential oil, and rosehip oil will soothe the skin while giving it the right amount of moisture.
- 14oz olive oil;
- 4oz rosehip oil;
- 6oz jojoba oil;
- 6oz coconut oil;
- 1/4oz of chamomile essential oil;
- 1/8oz of lavender essential oil;
- 1/8oz rosemary essential oil;
- 3.3oz 100% sodium hydroxide (Lye);
- 6.8oz distilled water.
Other Ways to Customize Your Process (and the Final Product!)
There are many ways to modify this soap-making process. One of them is using a cold process instead of a hot process. So rather than using the double-boiler method to mix the oils with lye, you can remove the oils from the stove, pour them into a large glass bowl and just mix in the lye very slowly.
Another thing you can do to modify and personalize this soap is to use different kinds of essential oils which have different properties. Some are good for calming the skin, some are antibacterial and antifungal and some will add a specific note to the smell of the soap.
If you want to know more about the use of essential oils in soaps, head down to the “Essential Oils In Soaps” part of this article!
You can use different kinds of oils and butters. Some alternative oils for making soaps are olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, apricot kernel oil, rosehip oil, and even tallow (animal fat).
Animal fat is a great substitute oil for making soaps because it helps with skin cell growth and regeneration while getting rid of dead skin cells and dirt present on the skin.
You can add activated charcoal, oats, and Himalayan salt to make an exfoliating soap!
These types of homemade soaps can be used for washing baby clothes since they don’t contain harmful chemicals like perfumes, parabens, formaldehyde, and sodium sulfates!
To sum things up, replacing store-bought soaps with homemade soaps could be very beneficial for you and your skin, while saving you tons of money. They might seem expensive at first, but the soap you make can last more than a year!
2. Plant-Based Liquid Soap With Just 2 Ingredients!
Age range: 13+
Natural soaps have been part of many cultures in history. People have used all kinds of fruits and berries rich in saponins to wash their hands, skin, and even surfaces.
There are many plants rich in saponins:
- Hibiscus flowers;
- Buffaloberry, and many more.
And before you ask how the heck can Hibiscus flowers be used as soap, know this.
ALL plants that are capable of growing bigger flowers are rich in saponins. So you can drink them as teas, and use them as natural soap!
The best way to extract these saponins is to boil the plant for a few minutes or until they form a syrupy liquid!
I have chosen to use soapberries because they have proven to be the most effective, and they are reusable when the soap is prepared the right way. You can find them in most health/ organic stores or online!
- 10 soapberries;
- 5oz distilled water;
- 1 small pot;
- Soap dispenser.
- Fill out the pot with 5oz of distilled water.
- Add in the soapberries.
- Turn on the stove on medium heat.
- Bring the water to a roiling boil, and let it boil for a few minutes until the solution becomes syrupy.
- Allow the solution to cool down.
- Remove the soapberries and pour the liquid soap into the soap dispenser.
- After cooling down completely, the liquid soap is ready to use!
This soap will last you for a few weeks, but if you want to preserve it for longer, add a few drops of rosemary essential oil and vitamin E oil!
Ways to Customize
You can try this out with the other plants I mentioned above. The procedure is pretty much the same, and most of them can act as soaps without the need of boiling them. Just dampen your hands and rub in the plants until they form a soft foam!
You can experiment with different essential oils, which will give it an interesting smell but also different properties. Some of the most popular essential oils used with soapberries are lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil.
Soapberries can be used as a washing detergent. Just put them in a cotton sachet and place them in the washing machine. Soapberries are activated by high heat, so it’s best to turn up the washing machine or medium heat. Or, if you’re washing your clothes by hand, soak the soapberries before washing your clothes.
You can make surface cleaning liquid by adding white vinegar, and tea tree essential oil into the solution. This liquid will act as a disinfectant and it can be used on surfaces like glass, metal, wood, etc.
The only downside of using natural plants as soaps or cleaning detergents is that they can stain white clothes if the solution is not prepared correctly.
These all-natural soaps are safe to use on children and pets. They do not contain harmful chemicals and they can benefit them in many ways. All-natural, plant-based soaps can hydrate the skin, regenerate skin cells and increase the production of new skin cells. Furthermore, they calm the skin and protect against skin irritants.
3. The Easiest Way to Make Soap at Home!
Age range: 10 - 13 years old
Making soap should be interesting for everyone, even if they are too young to learn about complicated soap-making processes and saponification.
You can make soap at home without involving chemistry and mathematics in it, by using a small number of ingredients.
One of the most versatile ingredients is glycerin soap base. It can be molten into different shapes, and it can be personalized!
It has many health benefits, it’s non-toxic and suitable for all skin types but especially useful for dry skin. Moreover, it hydrates the skin by attracting moisture, protects it from irritants, and softens it!
You can find it in your local pharmacies, skincare shops, markets, or simply buy it online.
⚠️ This activity should be done with the help of an adult!
- 1lb of clean glycerine soap base;
- Food coloring of choice;
- Essential oils of choice;
- Heatproof glass bowl;
- 1 Pot;
- Stick blender;
- Interesting soap molds.
- Prep your environment! Remove everything that won’t be used while making soap.
- Cut the soap base into little cubes, and put them into the glass bowl.
- Fill out the pot with cold water. Make sure the glass bowl fits perfectly on top of the pot.
- Turn on the stove to medium heat, place the pot, and put the glass bowl on top of the pot.
- Wait for the soap base to melt completely.
- Add the desired amount of food colors, and essential oils.
- With a stick blender, mix the soap until everything is combined.
- Allow the soap to cool down until it’s safe to pour into the molds.
- Allow the soap to cool down for 5 hours. And it’s ready to use!
Ways to Customize
A clear base is optional, instead, you can use other types of colored bases. For a more opaque color, try using a white base, and add your color of choice. You can even try layering different colored soaps on top of each other to create a layered look:
- Separate the amount of soap used into multiple batches.
- Melt every batch separately.
- In a rectangular cake mold/ bread mold, pour one color, and allow it to cool down.
- After it cools down, scratch the surface of the soap with a fork, and spray Ethanol alcohol.
- Prepare another batch of colored soap, and repeat the process until you get the desired layering.
With this, you can create soaps with a theme!
Try making a watermelon soap:
- Layer a thin layer of green soap.
- A thin layer of white soap.
- A thick layer of red soap.
You can even add watermelon essential oil, chia seeds, or poppy seeds to make the soap smell and look like real slices of watermelon!
Feel free to get creative and make all kinds of soaps.
You can use biodegradable body shimmers, or glitter to make magical body soaps!
If you’re making a see-through soap, you can add different kinds of rubber toys to make toy surprise soaps: In blue soap, add rubber ducks to make a small duck pond soap! You can make gift soaps for different holidays!
In a nutshell, this soap-making activity will be interesting for everyone, and it can be molded to everyone’s wishes. The results will have a fascinating look and a lot of health benefits!
Bonus: If You Want to Spice Up Your Soap, Consider Adding These
Exfoliants have a very important role in soaps.They remove dead skin cells, and they prevent breakouts and ingrown hairs while giving your skin the perfect peeling.
Many store-bought soaps, whether liquid or bars of soap, contain ingredients that have an exfoliating role. But most of them contain microplastics or hard chemicals.
Many types of exfoliants can be incorporated in soap, from things you can find in your kitchen to things you can find on beaches.
Some of the best all-natural exfoliants you can find in your home are:
- Coffee grounds;
- Lavender buds;
- Coconut flakes;
- Poppy seeds.
Overall, all types of teas will work as exfoliants. But each and every type of tea will have different benefits. For example, chamomile and lavender will give the soap a calming effect, while green or black tea will give your skin a little bit of caffeine, making you more refreshed to start the day.
This list may seem like a recipe for a cake! (Albeit not a very edible one!) But these ingredients can be used in many ways, bringing you soft, and smooth skin.
Some other all-natural exfoliants are
- Icelandic black sand;
- Natural loofahs;
- Volcanic sand.
Soaps with exfoliants should be used once a week. Their overuse can result in skin damage and rashes. So to prevent that, you should use the soaps carefully and wash the soap with warm water and a soft towel.
Altogether, soaps with exfoliants are great for your skin if used properly.
Essential Oils in Soaps
While making the soap, you can add diverse types of essential oils. Not only will they provide a TON of benefits, they will add a distinctive smell to the soap. Here you have essential oils you can use for different kinds of soap:
Soothing essential oils:
- Lavender oil: It calms the skin and prevents acne breakouts;
- Bergamot oil: Soothes the skin when the skin is irritated, and it prevents irritations;
- Lemon oil: Clears your skin and prevents bacterial and fungal inflammations:
- Lemongrass oil: It Detoxifies the skin and leaves it looking and feeling clean;
- Orange oil: It reduces acne pain, and it helps with blemishes;
- Rosemary oil: It unclogs blocked pores, moisturizes the skin, and keeps the skin elastic.
- Sage oil: It heals the epidermis, and reduces inflammation.
- Chamomile oil: It tightens the pores and reduces discolorations, and acne.
- Patchouli oil: It moisturizes the skin and helps with dermatitis.
Antifungal and Antibacterial Essential oils:
- Tea tree oil: It’s antifungal, and It helps with dandruff, nail fungus, and acne.
- Peppermint oil: It’s effective against pathogens present on the skin.
- Oregano oil: It’s effective against Candida, and other types of infections.
- Eucalyptus oil: It’s an alternative to store-bought antifungal and antibacterial creams.
- Cinnamon oil: It’s effective against bacteria formed in makeup products.
- Thyme oil: When used as steam inhalation, it helps with infections in the lungs and throat.
- Clove oil: It helps with viral and fungal infections in the mouth, it’s used as a natural toothache reliever.
- Garlic oil: It has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and antimutagenic properties.
- Frankincense oil: Just like clove oil, it helps with gum and teeth infections.
Bug Repelling Essential oils
- Peppermint oil: It helps get rid of more minor pests and moths.
- Cedar oil: It kills insects and prevents bug bites.
- Eucalyptus oil: It’s one of the most effective bug-repelling essential oils. When combined with lemon essential oil, it’s proven that it kills and affects all kinds of bugs.
- Vetiver oil: It’s the most long-lasting, and it kills 100% of germs and bugs.
- Geranium oil: It’s effective on mosquitos, fleas, and ticks.
Essential Oils Safe For Pets:
- Sweet basil oil: It improves blood flow, cleans the respiratory tract, and has calming effects on animals.
- Cedarwood oil kills and repels insects, disinfects the fur, and strips any dirt.
- Ginger oil: It helps with immunity and skin problems, it’s anti-inflammatory.
- Glory sage oil: It helps with healing wounds and any minor cuts, and it helps with inflammations.
- Myrrh oil: It helps with rashes, it’s an antihistamine and it helps with mild skin allergies.
- Carrot seed oil: It helps with dry skin and fur, hydrates the fur and it balances the water levels in skin and fur.
- Lavender oil: It has a calming effect on pets,
Stain Removing Essential Oils:
- Lemon oil: A few drops can remove 100% of the stains on clothes, counters, and glass.
- Lemongrass oil: Just like lemon, it removes all types of stains from all types of surfaces.
- Eucalyptus oil: Another oil effective against stubborn stains, it will disinfect your clothes, and it will add a nice refreshing smell to your laundry.
Many of these essential oils have multiple uses. So even if you choose to add just one type of essential oil to your soap, it will have many extra benefits.For example, eucalyptus essential oil has both antifungal and antibacterial properties and stain-removing properties.
To sum up, essential oils have many uses and benefits, and you can create combinations that will give you the desired effect in soaps.
And if you’re big on essential oils AND science, be sure to check out how you can use essential oils in your next science fair project!
Natural Coloring Agents
Let’s face it: a DIY soap bar looks nowhere near as luscious as your average store-bought bar.
In fact, it will usually have this unsavory, earthy color. Not exactly the thing you’d want to pack up and give away as a gift!
But there are ways to add some oomph, and they are already lying around your home.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, you should consider purchasing some of the items listed below. Trust me, it pays off! Not only will you get the desired color but also a great amount of product that can be used more than once.
|Dragonfruit juice or powder|
Red cabbage juice
Purple Brazilian clay
|Butterfly pea flower|
Slate kaolin clay
Poppy seed powder
Keep one thing in mind, though. Unlike fruits and vegetables, many fresh flowers are known to change their color when used as dyes. To prevent that, you should always allow them to dry out, and their natural color will stay preserved.
Store-bought dyes may not be the best choice for natural soaps. They can cause many allergic reactions, or will inflame your skin if you have sensitive skin. Another reason why it’s good to go all natural!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I involve my child in making soaps?
The best way to involve kids in making soap is to make it an interactive family activity!
You can make different themed soaps, soaps with a small gift in them, and soaps with interesting shapes.
Allow them to use their creativity and they will make their own soaps, which will spark some interest and they will be washing their hands in no time!
What’s the acceptable pH level of ordinary soap?
Soaps should have a pH level ranging from 7 (neutral) to 9 (mild alkaline)!
Most store-bought soaps have a pH level ranging from 9 to 12, which means that they are highly alkaline and unsafe to use.
On the contrary, homemade soaps have pH levels ranging from 6 to 9, which means that they have lower pH levels than most store-bought soaps. Homemade soaps are safer to use.
After buying or making soap, you should always test its pH level with pH testing strips or drops!
Which natural soaps are the best stain removers?
Soaps containing lemon essential oil or eucalyptus essential oil have proven to be the best stain removers!
Soaps with lemon essential oil can get rid of any type of hard stains, they act as disinfectants, and they have antiseptic properties.
Overall all soaps can be good stain removers due to their alkaline nature.