Longer lasting homemade bar soap

Longer Lasting Bar Soap

I was thrilled with my first batch of homemade bar soap, but found that it was used up more quickly than I expected (or wanted).  I set out to make a bar soap that lasted longer than my first batch, but still had the nice lather and silky feel.  Longer lasting soap means that the soap bar is harder.  I found All About Soap-Making Oils to have some very good high level information about selecting oils for making soap.  The Secret to the Absolutely Best Soap Recipe offered suggestions about increasing soap bar hardness, including increasing the ratio of hard to soft oils, and adding sodium lactate.  How to Make Handcrafted Soap Harder discussed ratio of hard to soft soaps, using castor oil, decreasing superfat %, adding sodium lactate or salt, all of which can increase the soap bar’s hardness.  I haven’t tried sodium lactate or salt in my recipes yet, but plan to in my next batch.  I’ll report on that after my experiments!


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you make a purchase through these links.  There is no cost to you. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 


After doing my research and raiding my closet to see what oils and butters I already had on hand, I went over to soapcalc.net and formulated this bar soap recipe.  It is fragrance free, 3% superfat, water as a percent of oils 38%, and I decided to use black tea in place of water.  I made this recipe cold process.

longer lasting homemade bar soap

Why use tea instead of water in soap making?  Maybe some of the antioxidants in the tea survive the soap making process and my skin can benefit from this.  Even if not, I experimented with something new, and ended up with interesting colored soap!  

This recipe is for a 2 kilogram batch of homemade bar soap.  You can adjust the amount of soap you make by keeping the same ratios I have listed, and using soapcalc.net to calculate the amount of water and lye needed.

Black Tea Soap
Fragrance-free soap made with olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, cocoa butter, and black tea
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17016 calories
58 g
0 g
1928 g
20 g
700 g
2774 g
45 g
2 g
1 g
1154 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
2774g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 17016
Calories from Fat 16902
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 1928g
2966%
Saturated Fat 700g
3501%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 157g
Monounsaturated Fat 997g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 45mg
2%
Total Carbohydrates 58g
19%
Dietary Fiber 33g
133%
Sugars 2g
Protein 20g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
16%
Iron
116%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 760.00 grams distilled water (26.81 oz) or liquid of choice (I brewed tea with 4 black tea bags)
  2. 290.20 grams Sodium Hydroxide (lye) (10.24 oz)
  3. 100 grams Castor Oil (3.53 oz) (5% of oil weight)
  4. 100 grams Cocoa Butter (3.53 oz ) (5% of oil weight)
  5. 600 grams Coconut Oil, 76 deg (21.16 oz) (30% of oil weight)
  6. 1200 grams Olive Oil (42.33 oz) (60% of oil weight)
Supplies
  1. immersion blender
  2. large glass, ceramic, or steel container for mixing soap
  3. glass, ceramic, or steel bowls or measuring cups for measuring ingredients
  4. microwave, crock pot, or stove for melting oils
  5. kitchen scale
  6. silicone spatula or wooden spoon
  7. soap mold (can be as simple as a box or pringles tube lined with wax paper)
  8. gloves, safety glasses
Instructions
  1. 1. If using tea in place of water, the day before you plan to make soap, brew the tea. Measure slightly more water than needed in your recipe, and heat to a boil. Remove the water from heat and place tea bags in the water. I used 4 regular size tea bags, and let steep for about 1 hour. I wanted dark tea for the color. Remove tea bags, and leave the tea at room temperature, or place in the fridge to chill. From my 2 batches, chilled tea resulted in darker finished product.
  2. 2. Prepare your soap molds.
  3. 3. Measure the tea by weight, pouring into a glass, ceramic, or steel vessel. If you do not have enough tea, add distilled water until you reach the desired weight of liquid. Ensure that your tea is room temperature or cooler (see note below).
  4. 4. Place the container with the tea in a well ventilated area where it will not be disturbed. I use my sink with the nearby window open. Wearing safety glasses and gloves, carefully measure the lye. Slowly pour the lye into the tea and stir gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to dissolve.
  5. 5. Measure the oils into a large glass, ceramic, or steel container. Heat slowly until the solid oils are fully liquefied. I use the ceramic pot from my crock pot, and heat either in the crock pot on "warm" or "low", or I microwave the pot with oils.
  6. 6. Carefully pour the lye solution into the oil solution. Using an immersion blender, blend the solution until achieving trace, typically 3-5 minutes. Trace means that all of the lye is fully mixed in with the oils, and is achieved when the solution has a cake batter to pudding-like consistency; when the blender is lifted out of the soap and drizzles on the surface, traces of the drizzles stay on the surface.
  7. 7. Pour the soap into molds and place somewhere that the molds can be left undisturbed for 24 hours. I have used a closet and my microwave. At this point the lye is still present in the soap, so use care not to touch it.
  8. 8. After 24 hours, you may test the soap to determine if it has fully saponified. I use the "tongue test" - touch the tip of your tongue to the soap. If you feel a zap - like touching your tongue to a 9 volt battery - the saponification process is not yet complete, and you should leave the soap for several more hours.
  9. 9. Remove the soap from molds and cut to your desired size. The soap is still somewhat pliable at this point, so be careful not to make undesired marks with your tools or fingers. You can also use this time to smooth edges on your soap.
  10. 10. Place the soap bars to dry. I line a large shallow box with waxed paper and stand the bars up on end with space between each bar. Allow the soap to dry at least 6-8 weeks before using. Longer dry times should result in harder soap bars that last longer.
Notes
  1. If the tea is chilled in the refrigerator before combining with the lye, it will result in a darker bar of soap. If you use room temperature tea, the bar will be a tan color, but lighter than cold tea soap. Please NEVER use hot tea as the reaction of water (or tea, in this case) and lye is exothermic (produces heat), and starting with hot liquid could result in boiling lye-water, increasing the danger of working with lye.
beta
calories
17016
fat
1928g
protein
20g
carbs
58g
more
My Greener Living https://www.mygreenerliving.com/
Ingredients

760.00 grams distilled water (26.81 oz) or liquid of choice (I brewed tea with 4 black tea bags)
290.20 grams Sodium Hydroxide (lye) (10.24 oz)
100 grams Castor Oil (3.53 oz) (5% of oil weight)
100 grams Cocoa Butter (3.53 oz ) (5% of oil weight)
600 grams Coconut Oil, 76 deg (21.16 oz) (30% of oil weight)
1200 grams Olive Oil (42.33 oz) (60% of oil weight)

Supplies

immersion blender
large glass, ceramic, or steel container for mixing soap
glass, ceramic, or steel bowls or measuring cups for measuring ingredients
microwave, crock pot, or stove for melting oils
kitchen scale
silicone spatula or wooden spoon
soap mold (can be as simple as a box or pringles tube lined with wax paper)
gloves, safety glasses

Instructions
  1. If using tea in place of water, the day before you plan to make soap, brew the tea. Measure slightly more water than needed in your recipe, and heat to a boil.  Remove the water from heat and place tea bags in the water.  I used 4 regular size tea bags, and let steep for about 1 hour.  I wanted dark tea for the color.  Remove tea bags, and leave the tea at room temperature, or place in the fridge to chill.   From my 2 batches, chilled tea resulted in darker finished product.

    Room temperature tea made the bars on the left, chilled tea made the bars on the right
    Room temperature tea made the bars on the left, chilled tea made the bars on the right
  2. Prepare your soap molds. 
  3. Measure the tea by weight, pouring into a glass, ceramic, or steel vessel.  [Measurement by weight is critical for soap making, to ensure you do not end up with unsaponified lye in your soap.  If you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, I personally love and recommend this American Weigh Scales digital kitchen scale.]  If you do not have enough tea, add distilled water until you reach the desired weight of liquid.  Ensure that your tea is room temperature or cooler (see note below). 
  4. Place the container with the tea in a well ventilated area where it will not be disturbed.  I use my sink with the nearby window open. Wearing safety glasses and gloves, carefully measure the lye.  Slowly pour the lye into the tea and stir gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to dissolve.  
  5. Measure the oils into a large glass, ceramic, or steel container.  Heat slowly until the solid oils are fully liquified.  I use the ceramic pot from my crock pot, and heat either in the crock pot on “warm” or “low”, or I microwave the pot with oils.  
  6. Carefully pour the lye solution into the oil solution.  Using an immersion blender, blend the solution until achieving trace, typically 3-5 minutes.  Trace means that all of the lye is fully mixed in with the oils, and is achieved when the solution has a cake batter to pudding-like consistency; when the blender is lifted out of the soap and drizzles on the surface, traces of the drizzles stay on the surface. I didn’t get any pictures of this, but if you’re unsure if you’re there, read this SoapQueen post.  
  7. Pour the soap into molds and place somewhere that the molds can be left undisturbed for 24 hours.  I have used a closet and my microwave.  At this point the lye is still present in the soap, so use care not to touch it.  
  8. After 24 hours, you may test the soap to determine if it has fully saponified.  Several methods are described here; I use the “tongue test” – touch the tip of your tongue to the soap.  If you feel a zap – like touching your tongue to a 9 volt battery – the saponification process is not yet complete, and you should leave the soap for several more hours.
  9. Remove the soap from molds and cut to your desired size.  The soap is still somewhat pliable at this point, so be careful not to make undesired marks with your tools or fingers.  You can also use this time to smooth edges on your soap.  
  10. Place the soap bars to dry.  I line a large shallow box with waxed paper and stand the bars up on end with space between each bar.  Allow the soap to dry at least 6-8 weeks before using.  Longer dry times should result in harder soap bars that last longer.  

    black tea soap drying
    black tea soap drying

Note:  If the tea is chilled in the refrigerator before combining with the lye, it will result in a darker bar of soap.  If you use room temperature tea, the bar will be a tan color, but lighter than cold tea soap.  Please NEVER use hot tea as the reaction of water (or tea, in this case) and lye is exothermic (produces heat), and starting with hot liquid could result in boiling lye-water, increasing the danger of working with lye.  

Cost

Castor Oil- $9.49 for 16 fl oz (470.6g) on Amazon. (100g/470.6g)x$9.49=$2.02
Cocoa Butter- $15 for 1 lb (453.59 g) on Amazon. (100g/453.59g)x$15=$3.31
Coconut Oil – $14.99 for 54 oz (1458.99 g) at BJ’s Wholesale Club. (600g/1458.99g)x$14.99=$6.16 (or $16.99 on Amazon)
Olive Oil – $13.99 for 1.82 liters (1688.96 g) at BJ’s Wholesale Club. (1200g/1688.96g)x$13.99=$9.94 (or Amazon)

Distilled water – $0.98 for 1 gallon (3,785.41 grams) at Walmart.  (760g/3785.41g)x$0.98=$0.20

Tea Bags – $3.99 for 100 black tea bags at Ocean State Job Lot. (4 tea bags/100 tea bags)x$3.99=$0.16 (Amazon)

Total cost is $21.79 for 2 kilograms or 70.5 ounces.  This equates to $0.309 per ounce, or $1.24 for a 4 ounce bar of soap.  For comparison, I can get Kirk’s coco castile soap for $3.28 for 3-4oz bars at Walmart, which is $1.09 for a 4 oz bar.  A 6 pack of Dove 4 ounce bars is $6.88, or $1.15 per 4 oz bar.  This soap costs marginally more, but feels nicer on my skin, and has only high quality, chemical-free ingredients.  Well worth the price, to me!

Have you ever made soap?  Do you have any favorite recipes?

How to make bar soap

I was a self-proclaimed liquid soap/liquid body wash girl until I started shaving with a double edge safety razor (that’s a topic that I will post about later).  Short story is I decided I wanted to use a double edge safety razor last summer, because it is 100% metal (no plastic to eventually throw away), no disposable cartridges, and the steel blades are recyclable.  Oh, and did I mention it’s WAY cheaper than using disposable razors or disposable cartridge razors?  Right, right, this article is about soap, not my awesome razor.  Back to that point.  So, upon purchasing my razor, I read that bar soap is the best thing to apply to skin before shaving with a double edge safety razor.  The previous Christmas my aunt had given me an all natural bar soap.  No artificial ingredients, no chemicals.  I tried it an no allergic reaction. Yay!  I told her how much I love that soap, and now I have about a 3 year supply.  But, me being me, decided that I have happened across enough soap making recipes in my Pinterest perusing that I want to make it myself.  Because, I like making natural products, I like the price of home made natural products, and chemical reactions are cool.  CAUTION: making soap requires lye.  Lye is extremely basic, it is caustic to the skin – it will burn you on contact; and the fumes are toxic.  Use extreme caution, and keep kids and pets away for their own safety.  


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you make a purchase through these links.  There is no cost to you. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 


how to make bar soap

I have found countless recipes and instructions online.  My main inspirations were from offbeat & inspired and Veged Out.  If you want to read others’ recipes and instructions, check out those posts about the cold process soap making that I used when making my soap.  You can also check out the Prairie Homestead for a hot process/crock pot recipe.  The hands on time for cold and hot process soap making is about the same, but cold process soap needs to sit for 4-6 weeks to fully harden, whereas hot process soap only needs to harden for 1-2 weeks (it actually can be used immediately but is very soft and will get used up much more quickly). 

Since I like to be difficult, I decided to use my own selection and ratio of ingredients (ok, I am sure there is a blog post out there making the same soap, but I haven’t found it).  Lucky for me, there are some great resources out there that have already calculated the amount of lye required to saponify each oil type.  Saponification is the chemical reaction in which the combination of water and lye plus fat (oil) turns into soap, that awesome necessary cleaner that is safe for skin – no more caustic lye!  All I needed to do was determine my amount of oil (by weight – everything is done by weight in soap making), plug it into this handy calculator, and I had the amounts of each ingredient, by weight, that I needed to make my soap.  

I chose to use a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to coconut oil.  I wanted a simple, few-ingredient recipe, and chose olive oil for its moisturizing properties, and coconut oil because it’s great for cleaning, and I just love coconut oil.  Referencing Nature’s Garden Soap Oil/Butter Properties sheet, I followed the suggestions of 5% superfat (5% more oil than needed to saponify lye), and 38% water for bars of soap.  I went to soapcalc.net’s soap calculator, which Nature’s Garden suggests using, and selected 10 ounces coconut oil, 20 ounces olive oil, 6% superfat (for extra moisturizing), and 38% as my water as a % of oils.  The results yielded the following ingredient amounts, all by weight:

10 ounces (283.50 g) coconut oil
20 ounces (566.99 g) olive oil
11.4 ounces (323.18 g) water
4.27 ounces (121.03 g) lye (NaOH)

bar_soap1

If you’re trying to judge sizes of containers needed, this is roughly 4 cups oil, a little over 1+1/4 cup water. 

Olive Oil Coconut Oil Bar Soap
Homemade soap made from olive oil and coconut oil.
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7580 calories
0 g
0 g
864 g
0 g
324 g
1188 g
24 g
0 g
0 g
507 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1188g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 7580
Calories from Fat 7580
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 864g
1330%
Saturated Fat 324g
1622%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 67g
Monounsaturated Fat 440g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 24mg
1%
Total Carbohydrates 0g
0%
Dietary Fiber 0g
0%
Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
2%
Iron
18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 10 ounces (283.50 g) coconut oil
  2. 20 ounces (566.99 g) olive oil
  3. 11.4 ounces (323.18 g) water
  4. 4.27 ounces (121.03 g) lye (NaOH)
Supplies
  1. immersion blender
  2. large glass, ceramic, or steel container for mixing soap
  3. glass, ceramic, or steel bowls or measuring cups for measuring ingredients
  4. microwave, crock pot, or stove for melting oils
  5. kitchen scale
  6. silicone spatula or wooden spoon
  7. soap mold (can be as simple as a box or pringles tube lined with wax paper)
  8. gloves, safety glasses
Instructions
  1. 1. Prepare your soap molds. I use wax paper lined cardboard boxes and pringles tubes.
  2. 2. Measure the water by weight, pouring into a glass, ceramic, or steel vessel. Ensure that your water is room temperature or cooler (Combining lye with water is exothermic - the solution gets hot. If you start with hot water the reaction can get so hot that it boils, increasing the danger of working with lye).
  3. 3. Place the container with the water in a well ventilated area where it will not be disturbed. I use my sink with the nearby window open. Wearing safety glasses and gloves, carefully measure the lye. Slowly pour the lye into the water and stir gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to dissolve.
  4. 4. Measure the oils into a large glass, ceramic, or steel container. Heat slowly until the solid oils are fully liquefied. I use the ceramic pot from my crock pot, and heat either in the crock pot on "warm" or "low", or I microwave the pot with oils.
  5. 5. Carefully pour the lye solution into the oil solution. Using an immersion blender, blend the solution until achieving trace, typically 3-5 minutes. Trace means that all of the lye is fully mixed in with the oils, and is achieved when the solution has a cake batter to pudding-like consistency; when the blender is lifted out of the soap and drizzles on the surface, traces of the drizzles stay on the surface.
  6. 6. Pour the soap into molds and place somewhere that the molds can be left undisturbed for 24 hours. I have used a closet and my microwave. At this point the lye is still present in the soap, so use care not to touch it.
  7. 7. After 24 hours, you may test the soap to determine if it has fully saponified. Several methods are described here; I use the "tongue test" - touch the tip of your tongue to the soap. If you feel a zap - like touching your tongue to a 9 volt battery - the saponification process is not yet complete, and you should leave the soap for several more hours.
  8. 8. Remove the soap from molds and cut to your desired size. I found that a meat cleaver worked really well. Hey, I finally found a use for this knife! What else do you expect a vegetarian to do with a meat cleaver? The soap is still somewhat pliable at this point, so be careful not to make undesired marks with your tools or fingers. You can also use this time to smooth edges on your soap.
  9. 9. Place the soap bars to dry. I line a large shallow box with waxed paper and stand the bars up on end with space between each bar. Allow the soap to dry at least 6-8 weeks before using. Longer dry times should result in harder soap bars that last longer.
beta
calories
7580
fat
864g
protein
0g
carbs
0g
more
My Greener Living https://www.mygreenerliving.com/
Supplies
  • immersion blender
  • large glass, ceramic, or steel container for mixing soap
  • glass, ceramic, or steel bowls or measuring cups for measuring ingredients
  • microwave, crock pot, or stove for melting oils
  • kitchen scale
  • silicone spatula or wooden spoon
  • soap mold (can be as simple as a box or pringles tube lined with wax paper)
  • gloves, safety glasses
Instructions
  1. Prepare your soap molds. I use wax paper lined cardboard boxes and pringles tubes.
  2. Measure the  water by weight, pouring into a glass, ceramic, or steel vessel.  [Measurement by weight is critical to ensure that you do not end up with unsaponified lye in your soap.  If you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, I personally love and recommend this American Weigh Scales digital kitchen scale.]  Ensure that your water is room temperature or cooler (Combining lye with water is exothermic – the solution gets hot.  If you start with hot water the reaction can get so hot that it boils, increasing the danger of working with lye). 
  3. Place the container with the water in a well ventilated area where it will not be disturbed.  I use my sink with the nearby window open. Wearing safety glasses and gloves, carefully measure the lye.  Slowly pour the lye into the water and stir gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to dissolve.  

    how to make bar soap
    weighing lye
  4. Measure the oils into a large glass, ceramic, or steel container.  Heat slowly until the solid oils are fully liquefied.  I use the ceramic pot from my crock pot, and heat either in the crock pot on “warm” or “low”, or I microwave the pot with oils.  
  5. Carefully pour the lye solution into the oil solution.  Using an immersion blender, blend the solution until achieving trace, typically 3-5 minutes.  Trace means that all of the lye is fully mixed in with the oils, and is achieved when the solution has a cake batter to pudding-like consistency; when the blender is lifted out of the soap and drizzles on the surface, traces of the drizzles stay on the surface. I didn’t get any pictures of this, but if you’re unsure if you’re there, read this SoapQueen post. 
  6. Pour the soap into molds and place somewhere that the molds can be left undisturbed for 24 hours.  I have used a closet and my microwave.  At this point the lye is still present in the soap, so use care not to touch it.  
  7. After 24 hours, you may test the soap to determine if it has fully saponified.  Several methods are described here; I use the “tongue test” – touch the tip of your tongue to the soap.  If you feel a zap – like touching your tongue to a 9 volt battery – the saponification process is not yet complete, and you should leave the soap for several more hours.

    make bar soap
    bar soap setting in a makeshift cardboard box mold
  8. Remove the soap from molds and cut to your desired size.  I found that a meat cleaver worked really well.  Hey, I finally found a use for this knife!  What else do you expect a vegetarian to do with a meat cleaver?  The soap is still somewhat pliable at this point, so be careful not to make undesired marks with your tools or fingers.  You can also use this time to smooth edges on your soap.  

    make bar soap
    cutting the soap
  9. Place the soap bars to dry.  I line a large shallow box with waxed paper and stand the bars up on end with space between each bar.  Allow the soap to dry at least 6-8 weeks before using.  Longer dry times should result in harder soap bars that last longer.  

I let this soap dry for 6 weeks.  I separated the soap bars to allow maximum surface area to be exposed to air for faster drying, and tucked it in a closet to keep it out of my way.  After 6 weeks and 2 days I tried it out.  Good lather, smooth feeling, and doesn’t feel like it leaves a soap scum on my skin like standard commercially available soap.  It does seem to get used up faster than other soaps.  I’ll try letting the other bars dry longer, and see if it makes my soap last longer!

make bar soap
soap drying and hardening
Cost

Organic coconut oil, melting point 76º Fahrenheit, 54 fl oz (1459g) for $14.99 at BJ’s Wholesale Club. (or Amazon)(283.5g/1459g)x14.99=$2.91

Organic extra virgin olive oil, 1L (928g), $6.99 at Ocean State Job Lot. (566.99g/928g)x$6.99=$4.27 (or Amazon)

Lye, sodium hydroxide, 1 lb (453.59g), $4.49, after tax, $4.80. (121.03/453.59)x$4.80=$1.28 (or Amazon)

Distilled water, 128 fl oz (3,785.41 grams), $0.98 at Walmart.  (323.18g/3785.41g)x$0.98=$0.08 

This recipe yields about 30 ounces of bar soap, and costs $8.54, which is about $0.285 per ounce or $1.14 per 4-ounce bar.  For comparison, I can get Kirk’s coco castile soap for $3.28 for 3-4oz bars at Walmart, which is $1.09 for a 4 oz bar.  A 6 pack of Dove 4 ounce bars is $6.88, or $1.15 per 4 oz bar.  My soap is just about the same price (sometimes less expensive, as I try to purchase my ingredients with coupons), PLUS I know that I used only high quality ingredients safe for my body.  And, I got to do a fun science experiment!

Note that when I calculate cost of my recipes, I assume that all of the product will be used, therefore the cost per recipe uses only the fraction of the product used in the recipe.  I know that I will be using the rest of the product in other recipes, so I can justify calculating cost in this way.