[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: DIY Inspriational Tips ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company
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We tend to take soap for granted. It comes neatly packaged in a box or wrapped in colored tissue and little thought is given to how this magic bar makes suds day after day. Soap doesn’t occur in nature either, which deepens the mystery. But like wine, bread and cheese, the accidental discovery of how a few natural ingredients can come together under the right conditions, soap is yet another invention of antiquity that we can’t live without today.
In terms of human history, soap has been around almost as long as dirt. In fact, there is evidence that several ancient civilizations learned how to produce soap independently of each other. Unfortunately, most modern soaps are petroleum-based and full of chemicals and artificial fragrances that do little to promote clean living. Armed with a few simple ingredients and the following tips, however, you can easily make soap at home for family and friends!

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Rain, Ash, and Tallow ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

a. a slippery soap

Before manufactured bars of soap became widely available in the U.S. in the late 19th century (much earlier in France), soapmaking was a routine household chore accomplished with the collection of rainwater, ashes from the hearth and tallow, or rendered animal fat.

When combined, these ingredients create a chemical reaction called “saponification,” which breaks the fat down into free fatty acids that combine with the alkaline solution (lye) resulting from the leaching of rainwater through wood ash.

homemade soaps with natural ingredients

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Melt and Pour - Cold Process Method ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

b. running hot & cold

Although a gratifying art form, this hot process method of soapmaking is a bit tricky, time consuming, requires specialized equipment, very precise measurements and a good deal of safety precautions in terms of handling liquid lye (think drain cleaner).

Below you will find recipes utilize the cold process made easier by the melt-and-pour method starting with a glycerin soap base (either purchased or made from melted, clear glycerin soap bars). You still “cook” the soap mixture to create a finished product, but you’ll have beautiful soaps ready in hours instead of waiting weeks for them to cure.

make your own soap
using either the hot or cold
process method
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[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Soap Making Tips ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

c. helpful tips

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Keep a close eye on things while heating your soap base —slowly over low heat and just until liquefied. Do not overheat.
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If a film develops over the soap base as it heats, carefully skim it off.
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If bubbles form on the liquid soap after pouring into molds, spray the tops with a fine mist of rubbing alcohol (away from open flame!).
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Experiment with molds of different shapes and sizes. You can purchase molds from a craft store, or creatively upcycle non-porous containers found around the house.
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Consider decorating your finished soaps with colorful tissue paper, raffia or ribbon, or pretty stickers and labels.
add powdered herbs
or spices to your
soap as a natural
homemade soaps with natural ingredients

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Herbs to Add ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

d. herbal additions

If you wish to add color (and extra fragrance!) to your soaps, don’t use food coloring . Instead, use powdered herbs and spices like: annatto cinnamon, paprika, sage, etc.

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Herbs to Add - Cinnamon Powder for Natural Color ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Herbs to Add - Powdered Sage for Natural Color ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Herbs to Add - Annatto Powder for Natural Color ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Herbs to Add - Paprika for Natural Color ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Melt and Pour Oils ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

e. melt & pour moisturizers

Saponification occurs because lye creates heat, which allows water molecules and fatty acids to bond together. Melt-and-pour soap has already gone through this process, so there’s no need to add additional oils to your soaps or the quality of the soap may be adversely affected. Similarly, the oils or butters included in the melt-and-pour soap base will determine the character of the soap in terms of hardness, lather, etc.

Oleic Acid — Conditions skin. Fats high in oleic acid include cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado oil and sweet almond oil.

Stearic acid — Promotes lather and hardness. Shea and mango butters provide high levels of this acid.

Linoleic Acid — Soothes and moisturizes skin. Concentrated in apricot kernel oil and hemp seed oil.

Lauric Acid — Contributes to lather and hardness. Coconut oil (solid) is an excellent source.

essential oils for homemade soap for natural aroma

[ Homemade Herbal Soaps: Essential Oils to Add for Aroma ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

e. adding essential oils for aroma

Essential oils not only lend fragrance and a certain energy to your soaps, but they also contribute antimicrobial properties. Tea tree essential oil, for example, is highly antifungal and smells earthy, while lavender essential oil is antibacterial and provides floral notes.

You may prefer to use a single scent like orange or lemon, or express your inner perfumer by combining oils to create custom scents. There are lots of great books on aromatherapy that can guide you. Alternatively, experiment with different combinations of oils by adding a few drops to a small container of witch hazel extract and giving it the sniff test. When you hit on a combination that pleases you, don’t forget to write down which oils were used and how much!

Energizing: Basil, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus
Calming: Lavender, Rose, Vanilla
Refreshing: Rosemary, Peppermint, Sweet Orange
Balancing: Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vertiver

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add essential oils
like vanilla or
eucalyptus to your soap
to make your experience
sweet and soothing;
or zesty and energizing