A Recipe for Handmade Vegan Bar Soap

You all know that I love handmade soap.

The moisturizing lather. The clean skin and hair. The ability to control the ingredients.

But most of all, I love that by making it myself I remain connected to all of the amazing women before me who learned the necessary homemaking tasks of cooking from scratch, gardening, mending, preserving, herbal crafting, and soap-making.

Soap-Making Basics

As I’ve shared with you all before, my journey into soap-making began a couple years ago. Thanks to the Internet and amazing people that are willing to share their wisdom so freely…I was able to learn the skill.

  • Wardeh, who runs Gnowfglins, on her personal blog Such Treasures gives the clearest, most easy to follow directions ever! This is the exact post that got me started. She uses the hot processed method and I highly recommend that you read her recipe if you are even the slightest bit interested in making your own soap.
  • Renee of Fimby was also very inspirational and such a great resource! Watch her awesome video that describes the cold processed method for making a simple soap by clicking here.

Yes, I had to overcome the fear of blowing up our house when working with the lye, but I finally decided that if generations and generations of women before me could do it, well then…so could I.

Nowadays, making soap has become second nature and very much a part of the routine here in my home.

Handmade Vegan Bar Soap

I actually call the following soap recipe my Vegan Rescue Bar Soap — because it’s crazy amazing at nourishing the skin and helps to heal problem skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

By using plant-based, all-natural, and organic ingredients, I have confidence that this soap recipe is one of the best for use on the body!

As an added bonus…for those with skin sensitivities, the soap has been formulated to be wheat-free and non-allergenic — omitting all perfumes, fragrances, and dyes. But not only that, it’s great for:

Ingredients
*Measured by weight using a kitchen scale

-10 oz. coconut oil
-8 oz. palm oil
-6 oz. avocado oil
-4 oz. almond oil
-4 oz. shea butter

-4.5 oz. lye (7% excess fat)
-10 oz. water

Hot Processed Method

1. Measure the lye and water — each in separate bowls — using a kitchen scale. Note: Always run your recipe through a lye calculator to be sure that you are using the proper amount of oils, lye, and liquid.

2. Carefully combine the lye and water by pouring the lye into the water (never pour the water into the lye) and stir liquid until lye is completely dissolved. The liquid is caustic and not to be touched in anyway. The outside of the bowl will be extremely hot as well. Note: Be careful when working with lye and follow all of the recommended precautions. Note: What I’m trying to say is, I can not be held responsible for any craziness, mishaps, explosions, etc. that may happen when making this recipe.

3. Allow the lye mixture to stay under a vent and cool down while you prepare the oils.

4. Measure the oils by weight and then place in a crock pot to melt on low heat.

5. Once melted, add the lye/liquid mixture to the oils in the crock pot and stir. Note: Any equipment the lye touches needs to be neutralized in a mixture of white vinegar, soap, and water.


6. After a brief stir, grab your stick blender and get to work! Blend the oils and liquid in the crock pot for at least 3-5 minutes. We are working toward ”trace.”

7. Blend until the mixture becomes a thick, pudding like consistency.

8. Once the mixture is pudding-like, cover the crock pot and “cook” the soap for approximately 1 hour.

9. Prepare your mold. I just use a standard loaf pan lined with parchment paper and it’s always worked perfectly.

10. Spoon soap mixture into molds.

11. Allow soap to cool and harden for 24 hours.

12. Remove from mold on to cutting board and cut into bars.

13. Place bars on a tray with good airflow so that they can harden further. But go ahead and feel free use your first bar!!!

Notes

-If you are new to soap-making I strongly suggest you read through these very informative articles and find what will work for you:

-I would also recommend borrowing a few of these books from the library if you really find yourself wanting to know more:

-Looking for the raw materials mentioned in this post? The Soap Dish has some of the best prices on soap-making ingredients you can find — not to mention it’ s a small family owned business. I also recommend searching Mountain Rose Herbs!

Be sure not to miss a post, click this link to receive my free eBook and Frugally Sustainable tips by email.

This soap — and many other of my handmade goodies — may be purchased in my little Etsy Shop by clicking this link.

Comments

  1. Thanks Andrea! Your shampoo bar has become a regular thing around my house. I knew I had scored when my husband said, “Honey, we need another bar in the shower.” Success!! Anyway, I will be making this soon…..thanks for the recipe!!

  2. That soap looks lovely…I think I’m going to have to get making!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing! May I ask where you get your ingredients?

  4. Thanks for the link love. Time to make some soap around here also! I’ve used up all the bars I made this spring (before the frenzy of summer).

  5. Diana Robinson says:

    Thank you , thank you ! Have always wanted to make bar soap , but it seem too intimidating . You have calmed my confidence with this post . I will hopefully get some made up , soon !

  6. Can essential oils be added at the end to scent the soap?

  7. I make cold process soaps and I never cook it in a crock pot after it comes to “trace” or thicken after stirring 15 minutes or so. Also I allow my bars of soap to ‘cure” for 8 weeks before using. No one uses my soap as soon as it’s cuts into bars.

  8. I was just curious. Isn’t Lye bad for you? I’m asking out of ignorance. I know you wouldn’t put anything that wasn’t pure into your products, but it just always seemed like a bad word before?

    Thanks!

    • When it’s mixed with the oils and fats, it sponifies and essentially is removed out of the soap. Lye isn’t something you want to come into contact with in it’s raw state but after 24-48 hours the bars are safe to use. Hope that helps. :)

    • Lye is necessary for making soap. Lye + Fat and/or Oil = Soap and Glycerine. Yes, they lye by itself will cause chemical burns if you touch it, so proper precautions should be taken (wear gloves, goggles, etc.) However, if you use proper measurements, then there will be no remaining lye in your soap. There are many calculators online that tells you how much lye to use with a wide variety of oils. Also, most soaps are made to be what is called “superfatted” meaning more fat is used than is necessary to neutralize the lye.

      Hope that helps clear things up for you.

  9. I was just reading an article written by animal activist, Chris Hoar. He says never to use or buy any product containing, Palm Oil as it comes from Orangutans, they are killed for palm oil. I googled it also and saw that some does come from an actual palm tree, how can you tell which you are getting, I am sure you don’t want to use the animal version, one it won’t be vegan anymore and an animal died for it, so I would love to know. thanks!

    • Palm oil comes from palm trees, not from animals. I don’t know about animals being harmed or not harmed in harvesting the oil but it does not actually COME from animals.

      • Palm oil is an animal fat. It does not come from palm trees. This is NOT a vegan soap.

        • Are you kidding me? Wiki it will you – here is the link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_oil. In Asian countries that farm palm oil also have orangutans eating the fruit from the farmed trees. Unfortunately they are considered pests and as a result, tortured. One would have to source palm oil that isn’t from Asia. Unless the oil is clearly labeled, I’m not sure how you can do that.

    • I looked this up because I was interested in what you were saying, but was a little confused. Palm oil doesn’t come from orangutans, it comes from palm trees. But I found that orangutans are often shot on site as humans clear the rainforest for palm plantations. So you do have a good point that avoiding palm oil might be something to consider. There’s information about this on the TED blog, but it is from 2005, so I wonder if any improvements have been made. I’ll have to look for some newer articles. Thanks for this information! http://blog.ted.com/2009/03/05/orangutans_and/

      • check out Chris Hoar, he’s on facebook, and very dedicated, he says never to use palm oil, perhaps it’s the connection with orangutans as you stated. I am very anxious to know as well.

        • Palm oil is most definitely NOT vegan.

          • True! It’s fine in a plant based diet but not a vegan one, if only more people googled it

          • Some palm oil is if you buy it from a place that has got it from a sustainable source.

            • Palm oil is “vegan” – it does not come from an animal. However, animals, particularly orangutans, are being killed and losing their habitat due to the demand for palm oil from the trees that produce the oil. This is why many people are boycotting the use of palm oil which is found in thousands of food and personal care items and the list is growing. But palm oil is not derived from an animal or animal products therefore it is considered vegan.

  10. Andrea,
    Is this recipe for a 4lb loaf? Just curious about the size of the mold. Thanks!
    Heather

    • Great question Heather. This recipe will fit perfectly into a standard loaf pan (no special soap molds needed). Not sure exactly on the dried weight.

  11. Thanks for posting. I made soap years ago and made it by rendering suet to tallow. It was a messy job and using pre-bought oils would have to make a huge difference. Appreciate all the info and will check out the resources as well. Thanks again!

    livininthegreen.blogspot.com

  12. I’ve been reading a lot about making my own bar soap and have already tried you receipe for liquid dish soap (by the way.. I LOVE IT!!) What I am wondering is if there is a substitute for the palm oil?.. I would like to avoid palm oil because of the destruction of gorilla habitat. Thanks in advance for the tips you’ve already given and any that you can give for my palm oil dilema.

    Tracy

  13. Can I sub extra coconut oil for palm oil or olive oil for Shea butter if I keep the ounces the same weight…4oz of one oil for 4oz of another oil ( or more of one of the listed oils).

    • No. All fats/oils saponify (the chemical process by which fats and lyes transform into soap) at different ratios and there are calculations that need to be done to determine how much of everything to use. Look online for a ‘soap calculator’ to make substitutions.

  14. Looks like a great recipe, but this isn’t vegan…… Veganism isn’t just about avoiding any animal products, it’s about avoiding anything that has animal exploitation involved in its production. Monkeys are killed to save palm oil for humans, which is why vegans don’t use it. Is there any alternative to palm oil that can be used for this recipe?

  15. Thank you so much! I am going to read up and purchase the ingredients.

  16. Andrea,
    I, too, have been making soaps. I render my own tallow and lard from our home-raised animals and have made plain, goat-milk, and donkey-milk soaps.
    I was surprised about the statement to use the soap right away. All the books and websites I researched before starting my soap-making (7 years ago) and my own experience make it clear that the bars need to ‘cure’ for a minimum of 3 weeks before use to allow ALL of the lye to saponify. To use the soap before then is to risk skin irritation.
    I find it very interesting that the hot process might lessen that waiting time, and yet, I think caution is a good idea.
    Thanks for the article. I have been enjoying reading your blog posts!

    • Hmmm, everything that I have read has said that it should be safe after 48 hours. The only reason for letting it cure for 3-6 wks would be to harden the bar and have it last longer in the shower/bath. We have actually used a bar 48 hours after making it with no ill effects. Where did you see this information?

      • You’re right Heather. It can be used within 24-48 hours due to the use of the Hot Processed Method. “Cooking” the soap speeds up the saponification process…eliminating the need for a longer cure time.

  17. Andrea, THANK YOU so much for all your work on recipes and sharing so freely with the rest of us. I LOVE your blog. I make many of the things you have shared.

  18. Is there a substitute for coconut oil? I would love to make this but I am allergic to coconut :(

  19. Can I still make soup without using lye? do you have receipes for this please share. Thanks.

    • Soup can be made without lye, but not soap ;-)

      Soap is made by a chemical reaction called saponification, that occurs between lye and some sort of fat or oil. One will not without the other make soap.

  20. Hi

    Thanks for the great recipe for soap. My daughter and i want to make homeade soap for Christmas presents this year.

    Regarding the palm oil, I think it’s a great idea to substitute coconut oil for palm oil.

    The issue with palm oil is that the forests of Borneo and Malaysia are being cleared at an alarming rate so that palm oil plantations are developed. This is leading to endangerment of many animals, including orangutans :(

    Palm oil is cheap and versatile. It’s used in just about everything: biscuits, potato chips; cleaning products etc. I think it’s one in seven supermarket products contain palm oil. Kentucky Fried Chicken even use it.

    When they clear the forests, the peat seaps into the waterway, polluting the environment and killing marine life.

    Animals, such as oragutans, have nothing left to eat. They then venture into the palm oil plantations to look for food. They are often killed by farmers. It’s really sad.

    Given it’s a vegan recipe, It would be great that those who cared for the welfare of animals avoided palm oil.

    cheers

    Donna

  21. Andrea , I am confused about Palm oil and Palm kernal oil . I used Palm kernal oil when I made this recipe , it turned out very nice , it was a hard oil out of a container, reading again it says Palm Oil . What is the consistancey of Palm Oil ? Does it pour out of a bottle ?
    Thank you

  22. I am a homemade soap lover myself…make my own and have tried many others!! Please, everyone out there ,find a replacement for Palm Oil, find or make up your own Palm Oil free soap recipe. Save the orangutan! Go ahead and read up on how Palm Oil production is killing off these soon to be extinct animals if we do not help out!

  23. Looking at the soap dish site you listed for supplies I see sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide, which do you use? Your recipe says 7% excess fat, but I’m not sure which one that is.

    Thank you

  24. WildWing – she’s using sodium hydroxide. the potassium is used in liquid soaps.

    I’ve never tried a hot process soap. I’ll have to give it a whirl. thanks!

  25. How many bars of soap does this make?

  26. do u was mass or liquid for when u say oz

  27. You lost me at Palm oil.
    The palm oil industry is responsible for the nearing extinction of the Orangutan and now you’re promoting it.
    NOT VEGAN!

    • very disappointed about the palm oil as an ingredient, not sustainable or vegan.

      would you consider using another ingredient for this recipe? that would be much more lovely.

  28. So I am going to def find a replacement for the palm oil, poor monkeys =( has anyone subbed anything for the palm oil yet? if so, how much and what type of oil? Also how long do these bars keep? I am just a mom with 2 little boys so I dont know how long it would take me to use all this up. THANKS so MUCH FOR THE INPUT.

  29. Billie menier says:

    I feel like the addition of palm oil makes this less than vegan or at least not very environmentally friendly. Rainforest/ old growth forests are destroyed to plant these trees. Animals lose their habitat and die in the process. I love this blog. Just wanted to bring awareness to the destruction of palm oil.

  30. Can you add poppy seed to the mixture?

  31. Hi there… You now here in my country it’s actually way too expensive coconut oil so I want to know if there is an alternative ingredient and so I want to know why it is used in greatest quantity

  32. Can I use something else to substitute lye?

  33. What can I replace the palm oil with?

  34. Hello, Andrea. My husband and I found you, first, on Etsy and were very impressed with your shop. We are Herbalists and have realized you need to sell online if you’re gonna make your living in this field. At least, in Ohio. So props to your shops! Who knows why I just read through every comment on this page.. We’re vegan and would love a substitute for the palm oil, too, but if 30 people are asking for one- perhaps one of US should just look it up.. I’m a soap making layman, but i’ll try. I don’t like the harshness toward Andrea, in some comments, for using the palm oil.. almost anything we touch in this world is tainted somehow with violence or greed and until you happen to click on the right guys facebook page or sign up to a certain newsletter.. is it not difficult to keep up at times? I feel I’m in the loop but perhaps have been so distracted by GMOs that I missed another article.. Is it not obvious by reading any of her other pages that if she were fully aware something were being exploited or slaughtered for a product she would not endorse it? If we believe we know something more than another and feel the need to share it- why must that need sound like judgement from superiority.. being blessed with knowledge is a privilege, however feeling conviction to spread the word is best destroyed by allowing anger (that sure sounds like its to a person and not about an act) absolutely RUIN the good we could have done. Lord knows Andrea has a lot on her plate and people giving us detailed information on how to make something is clearly an extraneous task just to be helpful. My apologies for length. Anyway, Thank you for all the resources linked up for us to easily follow and I promise not to name drop you if my basement blows up!
    God Bless,
    Susan Short
    Birthright Botanicals

    • Well said Susan Short!

    • Reading your comment today was the richest of blessings! You have written things my heart has sung quietly for months now. Peace and overwhelming goodness toward you Susan!

    • Thank you for this comment! Too many people today, especially in comments on the internet, get so caught up in proving others wrong or saying mean things when they disagree. We have to remember that speaking with understanding and kindness will get us farther in solving our problems than anger and superiority ever will. It can be difficult to keep anger in check, especially when speaking about something you care about deeply, but it is important to have a mastery of ourselves. I hadn’t heard about the issues with palm oil before, even after taking a primate conservation class in college recently, so I’m interested to research it to learn more. I think it’s also important to point out that today, vegan-ism, vegetarianism, and other dietary and lifestyle choices come with so much stigma and varying opinions and definitions that it can be difficult to use them to describe your homemade products without someone telling you that you are wrong. I think the most important thing is to remember that others have values and beliefs different from your own, and that is generally okay. What is important is to research products and items to see if they are appropriate for your choices. While this soap may not be truly vegan, it is still much more environmentally friendly than commercial many commercial products. I think the people simply asking for an alternative or nicely pointing out what they know about palm oil are on the right track.

      • I would also just like to add that speaking nicely about a topic to spread awareness will do much more in promoting said awareness than taking a mean or judgmental tone! It’s good to spread awareness, but bad to do so in a negative way. If you want people to care, rather than dismissing your ideas as well as the entire thing you are trying to bring awareness do, be nice!

  35. davidjosephscott says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share this information with us all! I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe out!

    And whilst I’m here… can I also point something out to the righteously indignant… An Orangutan is not a ‘monkey’, it is a great ape – your regurgitated bashing a of such a helpful, obviously quite decent individual would hold so much more ground if not full of such glaring errors.

  36. I’m a little confused about this recipe, being on a website named ‘frugally sustainable’. It is widely known that palm oil is not obtained using sustainable methods and contributes to animal genocide and catastrophic deforestation. Massive areas of pristine rainforest is slashed and burned each year in order to make way for palm oil plantations and orangutans and other wildlife are killed in the process. Sadly, orangutans are on the verge of extinction as a result of this process, along with other wildlife species.

    Unfortunately, palm oil is used in over 50% of our everyday products including confectionery, baked goods, cosmetics and cleaning products. Companies will usually hide palm oil under the name ‘vegetable oil’ in the list of product ingredients. There are many more names palm oil is labelled as, but I’ll leave that up to you to do some research rather than listing them all. If this is an issue which you care about, make sure you take a look at the products you’re using to ensure you are not supporting this unethical product.

    If you have soap recipes that do not use palm oil, I would love to see!

    Thanks.

  37. Almost everyone I know loves vegan bar the most. Thanks for sharing. These are lovely.

  38. Hello,
    I’ve a online store of glycerin soaps from Brazil and I’ve found your website very interesting, with lots of very good ideias and informations. Feel free to visit my website at: http://loja.fabricadearomas.com.br

  39. Wolfcreekartistry says:

    You can use a wide variety of oils for soap making, but if you replace any oil in a recipe you should always run it through a soap calculator online to make sure you have the correct proportion of lye.
    Each oil does something different, something to take into account when messing with a recipe. You can use canola, soy, peanut oil, and of course, olive.
    People choose to be vegetarian and vegan for different reasons. Choosing to be rude and unreasonable though, is choosing to be ignorant. Isn’t that why we all love animals to start with- they are forgiving and love unconditionally? If we are willing to go so far for our animal friends why would we choose to treat our human relatives more harshly? It makes no sense to me…

  40. Jennifer Buddy says:

    Hi, I was wondering what about borage oil, or evening primrose, I am sure it would be expensive but I am interested in finding out. I am wondering if you want to mix oils like, shea, avacido, coconut, borage how do figure out the precentages? I know someone said a soap calculator. I am new tk this so I was wondering. I like the page a lot but was discouraged by all the comments, I think everyone kinda wigged out about the palm oil, I don’t think anyone wants to harm animals or their enviroment, and all that negative comments do is divide is. Anyway, many Blessings and much t hanks

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