How to make homemade soap the easy way

This is a guest post by Debbie Olson

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

pic of a bar of homemade soapI am a professional soap maker, it’s my job, my business, it’s what I do. But I don’t make soap like most people do. Yes I carefully measure everything by weight and use the scary lye stuff. What I do different is make soap super cheap. I often hear people say they would love to make soap but using lye is scary. Well it can be but everything is scary and hard the first time you do it.

Just use safety precautions like plastic gloves and goggles and you will be fine. I always wear an apron as well.When I first learned how to make soap it was from my neighbors.They taught me all about cooling the lye water in a sink of cold water and measuring everything very carefully. They also used expensive oils to make the soap. At that time it cost about $20.00 to make a batch of soap.

Granted it is a 7 – pound batch that cuts up into about 30 bars but still, its more than I like to spend.After making soap the way I was taught for over a year I started to experiment. Why couldn’t I use used cooking oil to make my soap? My family all loved my soap by this time and about had a fit when I told them I was changing my recipe.

The first thing I did was go to a friend who owned a restraint and asked them to save me a 5 gallon bucket of oil when they changed the oil in the fryer. I brought a bucket with my name and phone number written on the top. When they changed out the oil they called me and I went and picked up my new treasure.

The first batch I made I was quite nervous as you can imagine. Afterall who is going to want to buy soap that smells like french frys?Add that to the fact that it takes 3 weeks to cure so I had to wait and wait before I could even try it.Finally, three weeks were up and I took a bar into the shower.Smelled just like my other soap did.

That’s a good sign. Wow, it really lathered. It made my skin feel softer and smoother too. But what would my family think?I took a few bars to the next family gathering, all of my extended family uses my soap. They all said I never should have messed with perfection. I begged them to just try my new formula.They did and guess what? They all said they like it better than the original formula. Well I’ll be. That is how I make all my soap now. No more expensive oils. Just lye, water and used cooking oil. Who would have thunk it?

If you would like to try making soap here is the recipe I use.First gather all your ingredients and supplies. Once you get started there is no turning back so be ready. Measure out your lye, water and oils before you begin in separate containers. I use empty cottage cheese or butter containers for the lye and water. Be sure to use a good scale and set you’re weight for the container you are using. For the oil I use the large ice-cream buckets Make a box to use as a mold.

My husband made mine. The inside dimensions are 8 inches by 9 inches. He used 1×4’s for the sides with a solid bottom and made a solid lid to hold in the heat. That way I don’t haveto use towels or blankets to cover after the soap is poured.All Purpose Soap.12 oz. lye (I use drain cleaner that is 100% lye)5 lb. oils I just hold a wire strainer over the container I am measuring the oil into 32 oz. (2lbs.) water(When I am making goats milk soap I use fresh goats milk instead of water,it needs to be very cold.

It will turn a beautiful yellow and then to a tan/brown. I wish it would stay the lovely yellow.) 2 oz fragrance½ to ¾ cup chopped oats (optional)2- thermometers (candy thermometers work fine)Measure everything by weight.Line molds with freezer paper (shiny side up) or parchment paper or use saran wrap or even line mold with a damp cotton cloth, like a torn up sheet or pillow case.

Have some vinegar close by in case any of the lye mixture splashes on you,if that happens quickly pour vinegar over the affected area and it stops the action of the lye.Prepare all ingredients before starting process.Run sink part way full of cold water and set plastic container of water or partially frozen goats milk into sink.

Slowly pour measured lye into water or goats milk while stirring. I use plastic or wooden utensils to stir with, do not use metal. One thing that helps with the discoloring is to partially freeze the milk if using that instead of water and very slowly pour the lye into the cold milk stirring constantly.When lye or goat milk water is at 140 degrees, slowly add lye water/milk to oils while mixing with stick blender.

When mixture comes to trace add fragrance, color and other add ingredients desired. Trace is when you can turn off the blender, lift it up and make an impression that stays in the mixture. It will look like thick brown gravy.You need to work quickly because for some reason when you use used cooking oil trace comes quickly.

Be sure all added ingredients are mixed well into the soap.Cover with parchment or freezer paper and a couple of towels or a blanket orif you made a solid wood lid just use that.Let sit undisturbed 24 hours.At this time remove soap from mold and slice into bars of the desired size.When I remove the soap from the molds I cut it into 4 bars 2 inches wide. Or3 bars 3 inches wide.I then slice it into 1 inch pieces.I use a miter box, to cut the soap into one inch pieces.

Let cure for three weeks before using. I just place the cut bars so they don’ttouch on a rack somewhere out of the way where they won’t be disturbed.This recipe makes approx. 30-36 bars of soap and fills one 8X9 inch mold.Go ahead and try it yourself.Tip- if you use used oil from home it most likely won’t be as broken down as oil that has been used in a fryer and will take longer to come to trace.

I love used cooking oil.I have a friend who is a chemist so I run my crazy ideas by him before I get too far gone with them. My husband has a love/hate relationship with my ideas. He knows many are good ones but there have been a few….well letsjust say they didn’t work out nearly as well as this one did.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Once again I have read a title too quickly, and thought this was a recipe for easy homemade SOUP. (Imagine my surprise when the recipe called for lye.)

    Well, that sounds like a pretty easy process. Although I will print out your directions, I truly hope I never have to make my own soap (or soup). I’m the laziest prepper there is, and I’m too lazy to deny it.

    Thanks for the easy-to-follow instructions.

  2. JO (Georgia) says:

    Thank you, we were just talking the other day about what we would do when we ran out of soap! I’ll try this then next on our list to find is home made shampoo that doesn’t contain baking soda as I suspect we’ll want the stores of that for things like bread.

  3. I’m not sure I would ever make my own soap, but I am surprised at how easy it sounds. Thanks!

    You brought back some memories here. When I was a kid my teacher had us all bring in soap scraps, the thin slivers of soap which remain after a bar has been used many times. After thirty students supplied a soap scrap he literally cooked them in a small pot and poured them into a mold to make a new bar. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a big usable bar of soap.

  4. Hunker-Down says:

    Thanks Debbie,

    I also printed a copy for our survival book. Thanks for such a cost effective recipe.

    Can all the mixing be done with big wooden spoons instead of an electric mixer?

  5. I am still trying to figure out how to can in my kitchen.
    And I know for sure making soap would foul up my disorganization. But sure seems it could be worth while if you get 30 bars out of the deal. And the fact you can use previously used oil is a good thing.

  6. That’s usin your ole noggin. I thunk. lol! Great idea and thanks for sharing.

  7. Vienna (Soggy prepper) says:

    So would canola oil substitute for the restaurant oil? I’ve looked at some recipes calling for it but they always have it mixed with other stuff. (coconut for lather, shortening or lard) Because if this soap would work with canola oil I would never have to worry about storing mass quantities of oil and it going bad ever again! Between soap and burning it in lamps and cooking it would become an incredible resource.

    • Well just do like I do and experiment. But do it now while you still have other resources. That’s how I figured all this out, I just experiment.

  8. frank sherman says:

    one of your more practical articles. i printed this out to go in my how to file (it is getting pretty thick) don,t stop now and maybe we will get through what is sure to come.thanks

  9. Twigenberry (Eastern Iowa) says:

    This is a bit like the system we use in our household. Used oil is utilized to make bar soap that is then grated for laundry with no superfat. For our bathroom bar soap the fats we store get rotated when we need more soap. The bathroom soaps can have different additions and superfat than the stuff for laundry. This system makes use of dirty oil that would be wasted otherwise and allows us to keep larger quantities of fats without fear of them going rancid before we rotate through. Nice article.

  10. SrvivlSally says:

    Thank you for sharing your easy recipe and for telling how to counteract the lye mixture. I have read several soap making articles but nothing quite like yours. In my opinion, it is one of the best so far because the rest do not tell people what to do in case of an accident and they scare the bujeebers out of them.

  11. Great Post, I have been making my own soaps for a while now, and I was so pleased to see you talk about needing the goats/sheep milk to be very cold, its so true.

    I have never thought to use cooking oil that has been screen out, but I will give it a try, thanks for the details like trace coming quickier then normal.

  12. chemman says:

    Very good post (I’m going to add to my files). And she is oh so correct on warning about slowly adding the lye to the cold water or partially frozen goats milk. If you do it to quickly it can generate a lot of heat and blow up into your face. Not a good thing since bases (lye) dissolve proteins. Also she is correct about not using a metal object to stir with in the initial process it will transfer heat and can cause burns to your hand(s) even through the gloves you use.

  13. I forgot to mention the main reason I developed this method was so I could make soap with no heat source. I actually make it outside on a picnic table. I am always trying to think what if….

  14. If you live in a part of the country where a lot of the ingredients grow wild …….thats even better 🙂

  15. Papabear says:

    There was a woman who did soap making demos at history/culture fairs. She made a point of telling people not to use an aluminum container to make the soap in. She also said not to use Drano but to use plain lye. The Drano has aluminum in it. Never did get to ask why the aluminum was a problem. She cooked her mix and stirred almost constantly. She said that early settlers also discovered a cold method. They would dump fat from cooking in the same place as the wood ashes from the fireplace. The rains that fell filtered through the ash, became alkaline and reacted with the fat. She also said never ever add water to the lye, that it will splatter at you. Keeping vinegar near by sounds like a very good precaution.

  16. AZ Rookie Prepper says:

    Good article Debbie. I’ve also printed and added it to my “how to” collection. Thanks.

  17. Interesting twist to making soap, Debbie. I have easy access to used restaurant oil (read: buckets of it) so I will give this a try after the summer garden season wanes. I’m unsure what type of oil but I’ll ask. Do you know what the oil is that you use? Also, do you know the superfat%??

    When I make goat milk soap, I use frozen milk cubes and after the lye has been added, I’ve never gotten the mixture higher than 96-degrees.

  18. susan sullivan says:

    Wow! I am so impressed. I have never had problems with dry skin like I have had this summer. We are living in Colorado and my skin is so dry! So I am very anxious to try the types of oils you suggested. I won’t try to make it myself. I now know what to look for!

  19. I never learned how to make soap using “fresh/new” oil… We make them only with used oil, but I’m from Brazil

  20. Henry Bowman says:

    Is there someone who knows how to do this when you don’t have the convenience of a commercial lye or vegetable oil? I mean old school primitive. The poop has hit the fan and I ran out of stuff kind of recipe.

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