Good Oils: Homemade Soap

By using oils and fats readily available, soap can be made at home free from synthetic fragrances and colours and can be used to wash everything from your hair and body to household dishes.

There are only two ways to make soap using raw ingredients; cold process and hot process. Cold-process soap making uses heat at the beginning of the process only, while hot-process soap making continues to use heat beyond the initial stages to cure soap faster.

Soap is made from four basic ingredients: animal fat or oil, lye (sodium hydroxide), water and essential oils. This will produce a bar of soap with the colour properties of the fats or oils you use. For example, lard produces a very white soap while olive oil produces a light-green soap, and essential oils are added as fragrance.

Common kitchen tools can be used to make soap; there’s no need to buy anything particularly unusual. However, if using items that will also be used for cooking, then you must wash things immediately to remove any traces of lye (also known as caustic soda).

Lye is a very strong alkali with a pH level of 12. Protect your eyes with safety glasses and your skin with reusable gloves and an old, long-sleeved shirt. When washing cooking ware, add a dash of vinegar to your water to neutralise the lye.