Make Your Own Soap Without Lye (well, you’ll see what I mean)

Want to make soap but you're worried about caustic lye? Here's How to Make Soap - without lye! This Easy Homemade Soap Recipe is great for making your own homemade soap or for easy homemade gifts.

I get such satisfaction from making natural personal care products from scratch like my Nourishing Sugar Scrub, Healthy Lip Scrub, Homemade Foaming Soap, and Citrus Body Wash, but I have always been afraid of making Homemade Soap.  Now, thanks to Andrea of It Takes Time , we can all learn how to make soap — without lye!

Would you like to create an all natural product, free of harsh chemicals, that radiates your personality and taste? Consider hand-milled soap!

Also known as melt and pour soap, this method allows you to forgo the hazards of working with caustic lye, while enjoying the creativity of soap making.

Please note that there are affiliate links in this post. If you click on them and make a purchase, a commission might be earned. It helps keep this free resource up and running and is much appreciated.

Want to make soap but you're worried about caustic lye? Here's How to Make Soap - without lye! This Easy Homemade Soap Recipe is great for making your own homemade soap or for easy homemade gifts.

Again, the mold used in the above photo is this one.

Homemade soap - without lye!

7.  Allow soap to dry for several days or more. The more liquid you use the longer it will take to cure.

8.  Once you begin using your soap, be sure to dry it thoroughly between uses to extend its life.

That’s it!  Easy as–well, melting and pouring.

These would make a fabulous gift for almost any occasion.

Note that the top photo in the post is from Andrea’s store at Just So.  Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Have you made soap using the melt and pour method?

What herbal combinations would you like to try?

Andrea Fabry - A woman dedicated to detoxifying her family for health's sake.Andrea is a former journalist and the mother of nine children ranging in age from 28 to 12. Following a toxic mold exposure, Andrea and her family discovered the wonders of natural living. Andrea is the founder and president of momsAWARE, an educational organization designed to empower others to live healthy in a toxic world. You can follow her family’s journey at It Takes Time. She is also the owner of Just SoNatural Products.

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  1. Why would you buy made soap and then re-make it??? Why not just buy natural soap? There is no other benefit, not cost effective, not any safer, so why?

    • Hi Susan. I suspect it’s simply for those who don’t wish to deal with lye (say they have small kiddos around and such) but I am sure Andrea will drop by to share – thanks!

  2. Sorry, hit enter on accident.
    When using the lye, the lye changes chemically when it saponifies. Our grandmother’s grew up with giant bars of Ivory, soap used to be made with ashes and other elements that are not caustic. That would be something better than buying soap to re-melt into more soap?? That just seems like taking powdered sugar to mix with the store frosting to make it thicker??? Why not just make the whole sha bang? Thank you

  3. Susan,
    It can actually be very creative to combine various herbs, oils and liquids. A fun art project for kids too! Many people are nervous about working directly with lye either because they lack the time or they have small children around. This is a wonderful way to be creative. Most melt and pour soaps in craft stores are laden with chemicals. The idea here is to keep the soap healthy while having fun.

    • Better to pick up a soap base or glycerin soap base then incorporate your favorite essential oils and other additives. They have bases that you can microwave then put in you molds. Then you have a real nice product for yourself or as gifts.

      • Stephanie Dayle says:

        Even glycerin is made from lye – there is no such thing as “lye free” soap. I understand this may make people “feel” like they have made soap, but they have not, and further more they have missed out on learning an very important life skill! For the time and money spent with glycerin & melt and pour methods which is described above – one could just as easily make their own real soap.

        BTW – to the blog author. Making soap with lye is completely safe for kiddos with parental supervision. I made with my mom when I was young and as soon as my kids are able they will learn how to make it. How many kids can say they know how to make soap? It’s worth it – trust me. You can’t put a price on teaching your child a life skill. :-)

  4. I just did my first batch of ‘rebatch’ soap and couldn’t be happier. I didn’t get the melt and pour, but rather ‘rebatch’ – not sure if it would make a difference. I found one with only ingredients that I wanted and made different ‘flavors’ with only the oils/botanicals I wanted. I can also control the quality of the oils.

    Why not from scratch? Well… I’ve wanted to but never made the step and am currently living with my mom so that’s a no-go. This gives me another option.
    Even soaps at the health food store usually have something in it that I don’t want.

    So far I’ve made lemon/lemon grass; Thieves/activated charcoal; lavender/lavender buds; cinnamon/star anise. I started making them to sell but we’re enjoying using them so much that I haven’t even marketed them yet, lol.

  5. I assume you are not a soaper but ALL bar soap is made from lye. If you melted any bar soap it was made from lye. Lye is NOT caustic. It is simple pot ash or wood ash. That’s how soap has been made for ever. Telling your readers that buying a bar of soap, not matter how natural it maybe, and “re-batching”, which is essentially what you did, does not have lye is not correct. Now a liquid soap is totally different. There is plenty of information about lye and lye making soap.

    • She was saying that you don’t need to use lye to make the soap, which is correct, but I get your point Debbie. Andrea was just trying to have folks be able to make a homemade soap without handling lye b/c so many of us (like me) have been petrified of it, but I am glad I don’t need to be and now I can get on w/ a new project – thanks :).

    • amelia hopper says:

      From my understanding hard soap cannot be made without lye. I am new to the soap making process but am eager to learn more. I would think if you are repurposing soap in a recipe, it obviously already has lye in it. I don’t understand if you want to avoid actually working hand to hand with lye in the natural process? And so by repurposing soap you can avoid a certain contact with lye? Please advise!

      • Robbin Dillon says:

        Soap does NOT have lye ‘in it’ – lye is an ingredient that chemically bonds with the oils to form an entirely new product: soap, and it’s by-product: glycerine…. that’s what sets real homemade soap apart from any commercially made product. Your soap depends on the blend of oils that you employ to produce the soap thats right for you!

    • Actually, lye is caustic (very much so, in fact), but not for the reasons most people think when they think of “caustic” or “chemicals.” Lye is caustic, because it is extremely alkaline (a base, as opposed to an acid). Think the “baking soda” half of the baking soda volcano science project. Making soap from lye and oil is basically the baking soda volcano with a tangible byproduct (and a usually less exciting reaction).

      The lye is the base/alkaline half of the equation, and the oils are the acid (yeah, fat is an acid, believe it or not). When the two combine, they react and form a neutral compound (known by chemists as a “salt” — that’s right, soap is a salt!).

      In my opinion, there is no more reason to be afraid of lye than there is to be afraid of the stove or a lit candle. Yes, it can harm you, but that’s what the proper precautions are for — good ventilation, gloves/protection, spill response tools (in this case, vinegar), and knowledge of proper handling (like adding the lye to the water, not the other way around). I think most people are more afraid of it, because it’s something new and unfamiliar. We often forget about the dangers of the things we’re familiar with (seriously, take a minute and think about all the things that could happen when doing things you do on a regular basis if you’re not careful, and think about what you do to prevent those things).

    • Robbin Dillon says:

      Dear Debbie – as others have mentioned, lye IS caustic – its other name is ‘caustic soda’. The aboriginal methods of soap making did employ ashes from wood fires (hard wood ashes were the best), by a method that filters water thru the ashes – producing a caustic solution of varying strength, and depending on the quality of the oils when combined with this solution, a soap of equally varying consistency. … the contributor of this ‘how-to’ offers a crafting introduction to the amazing world of REAL soap making…. but I see a LOT of confusion here in these posts…..

  6. Debbie,
    I did not mean to imply there is no lye in hand milled soap. All soap is made with lye – but I would disagree that it is not caustic. I experienced arm burns one time. Caution must be used when dealing with it. I make liquid soap using potassium hydroxide which is a form of lye as well. It too is caustic, but the molecules are larger which lends itself well to liquid soap. I love the art of soap making and would encourage everyone to try making it from scratch as it is a wonderful process. But for those who can’t for a variety of reasons, hand milling is a great option.

  7. Ameila,
    Yes, by hand milling existing soap, you bypass working with lye. Absolutely, soap has lye in it!

  8. Tina Gibson says:

    I have been making cold process soap since 2001. Lye is extremely caustic! This is why when working with it you should always wear gloves, protective eyewear & a face mask isn’t such a bad idea either. It can burn very easily & the fumes are toxic to inhale. Which is why working in a well ventilated area is a must. Purchasing premade soap from companies like Brambleberry is great for someone who wants to make soap without dealing with lye directly. Yes, all soap starts out with lye but when the chemical process is finished there is no lye IF it’s been made correctly. FYI Brambleberry has excellent quality products. If you want to make soap from scratch get a good book on it & please do not use RedDevil lye!! It is no longer pure sodium hydroxide. I believe Brambleberry sells lye. But what they sell to rebatch is nice soap.

    • Eva Salas says:

      Heck ya lye is caustic! I’m a CP soaper but recently had the pleasure of making M&P with a couple of young kids. They came over with small toys to embed. I nuked the soap and they got to add colorant, scent and best of all the toys! Such a great activity for young ‘uns and can start them thinking DIY! Soap was ready to unmold by the time they left so didn’t have to leave them. Big fun for all! Um, but not homemade soap.

  9. Thanks for all the research you do especially on oils. I am very impressed with your web site. I would like to print some of your articles but can not print the whole article and the sentences are cut off on the right side. Can you help me fix this problem? Thank you for sharing all of this info.

  10. Thank you so much for this recipe, I was looking for a fun and simple recipe to make with my 16 month old daughter. I have some dried organic tea in the house, and wanted to find a soap that I can add oils to for the winter months as we both suffer with dry skin during the winter. This is also a simple recipe that we can use to make christmas gifts out of and place the ingredients for anyone who is curious what is in it. Fortunately Ivory is one of the safest bars of soap, for those who have skin allergies or other skin problems so the reuse of soap sounds excellent to me.

  11. Debbie is clearly an angry and confused woman. She should be on menopause blog instead of a soap-making blog. Lighten up man.

    • Very funny! Thanks for making me smile, Ginger :)!

    • Hey Ginger. I just got a comment from someone saying that I offended them by saying your menopause comment made me smile. I can see how Debbie might have been having an “off” moment or an “off” day and I want to be charitable to my readers unless they are obviously being malicious. So anyhow, thanks for the encouragement but wanted to set the record straight. Hope to see you around again!

  12. Ivory Soap is one of the worst soaps someone with sensitive allergic skin.

  13. No disrespect but you all know that melt and pour soap you buy at the store and hand milled (or rebatched) soap are two different things, right? Melt and pour soap is usually full of surfectants. Or it’s originally real soap that has been boiled in alcohol to make it transparent and easily meltable.
    Hand milled or rebatch soap is made from a pure base of handmade cold process soap that is shaved down and re melted (sometimes you have to add a liquid- it’s harder to melt than melt and pour) and then re poured. Most hand milled soaps are rebatched because of a mistake the soaper made the first time. But there are some who only make hand milled soap. It’s a lot of work if you’re making the original cold process soap yourself and then hand milling it, although you can buy pre made rebatch blocks of soap (brambleberry has a rebatch and then several melt and pours)
    I hope I don’t come across as rude but I see the terms “melt and pour” and “hand milled/rebatched” interchanged so often and it’s frustrating. And then a lot of people hear “hand milled” and think of the soaps that big companies sell that machines mill up and they remove the glycerine and I feel like that gives it a bad name. In reality genuine hand milled soap made from scratch is a real treat. Some say it’s gentler on the skin and some people purposely make it for that reason. Also when you rebatch you can add other ingredients that may not have fully survived the saponification process and you can use less EOs or FOs to scent as the smell will be stronger.

    Also I think it was kinda rude how Debbie’s comment was received. She may have come across as a little rude-but you know that soapers are constantly being asked if there’s lye in their soap, can’t you make soap without any chemicals at all etc etc and maybe she was just frustrated because there are people that genuinely believe their melt and pour soaps are lye free, maybe she thought you were one of those people. But she didn’t attack you or anything and then Ginger said she should be on the menopause blog and you said thanks for making me smile which seems disrespectful to me. And saying she should be on a menopause blog is very sexist, it’s like asking every woman who’s upset if she’s on her period…I know it’s your blog and you can run it how you like but comments like that and your approval of them doesn’t make this blog look very welcoming. If she had cussed you out or personally insulted you Id understand but she didn’t, she just wasn’t overly polite but we all have days like that and it’s hard to tell exactly how people are saying things over the internet.
    Just something to think about, I do appreciate your blog but wanted to speak up. Thanks for your time!

    • I had no idea about that. I have been wanting to make soap for along time and have never done it or read much about it.So the melt and pour is full of surfactants — why is that? If it’s a real soap that is boiled in alcohol is it the boiling that produces the surfactants?

      I don’t think you sound rude. I love learning but don’t always have time to do all of it :).

      I understood how Ginger thought that Debbie was being rude but I see your point as well so I responded to Ginger. I will respond to Debbie as well.

      Thanks for your comment and I will try to be more careful :).

  14. How nice of you. Thank you for being respectful, it really means a lot!
    And yes, there are two different kinds/ways to make it. So if you buy melt and pour at say, hobby lobby it’s going to have sodium laureth sulfate in it along with other synthetics and surfectants. It isn’t real soap.
    However, you can buy melt and pour from a place like bramble berry (or other places online I’m sure) which from looking at their ingredients list is actual soap made with lye. So I wondered how they made it meltable and transpernt and I looked around and apparently you can make your own melt and pour by boiling cold process soap in alcohol (I’m sure there’s a little more to it than that but that’s the gist). So if I personally did melt and pour I would make sure the ingrdients list either says “lye”, “sodium hydroxide” or “saponified oils of” and does not say sodium laureth sulfate or anything similar. That way it’s as close to the real thing as possible!
    I personally don’t have anything against melt and pour I understand why people do it and I think it can be very aesthetically pleasing. I just don’t make it because I have the dryest skin on earth and need that superfat! haha But a lot of people begin learning with melt and pour. For me as long as they understand that melt and pour is made with lye too then I don’t care! Whatever you like doing and whatever makes you happy.

  15. Rosie Zummo says:

    I have been wanting to make soap, but I have been afraid to use the lye, and I am so glad I find your site. I can’t wait to make my soap now. Thank you, and have a Happy Thanksgiving. Rosie

  16. How many specific drops will I put? I am using peppermint, so how many will do if I will make a bar big as an ordinary soap bar?

  17. Robbin Dillon says:

    Sorry, this is soap crafting – NOT soap making….. AND , there is no lye in soap! Lye & oils are combined in an exacting balance to create a chemical reaction that produces soponification and the by product, glycerine. …. which commercial manufacturers extract to make lotions to sell back to you, because soap is drying ….. NOT! Thank you for allowing to share my knowledge, as a Tallow Chandler for many years with a Living History organization, I made sure I was well informed on the history of soap making, and the commercialization of the industry. The finest, purest soap to be had is homemade, from scratch – there are lots of online calculators to help you formulate the soap of your dreams!

    • Hi there. and thanks for commenting. I don’t think the statement was made that there is lye in soap, but that lye is typically used in making soap. Perhaps I am mistaken? Maybe I am confused. I’m not sure what you mean by NOT about the soap being drying. Thanks in advance for your explanation :).

      • Robbin Dillon says:

        There have been commercials and advertisements for years touting that ‘soap is drying to your skin’ or that ‘soap leaves behind a film’ – which is accurate for commercially produced soaps (because they’ve removed the glycerine to make body lotions to sell you because the soap is drying your skin). The by-product of soponification is glycerine – which in homemade soap is retained in the final product, thereby helping your skin to be clean & soft! The comment has been repeated in many of the postings in this thread, that there is lye ‘in’ the soap – which there is not. Do you offer a friend a slice of raw egg with sugar & flour? No, those items are combined in a balance that produces CAKE (and its by-product: calories!) – just like soapmaking….

        • HI Robbin. I just went though all of the comments (I think) and I only saw one by the post author that talked about lye being in soap – so perhaps I am missing something? Thanks!

      • Pure soap, with all of its naturally occurring glycerine, is not drying.

        Many soaps on the market have their glycerine removed, which is what makes them drying. And, as Robbin stated, they sell the extracted glycerine back to you in the form of lotions.

        So they’re essentially creating a need for a product, then selling it to you twice.

  18. I think all this back-and-forth on the issue of what this article is really about could be solved by a simple renaming of the page.

    Instead of “How to make homemade soap without lye” or “Make your own soap without lye” it would be accurate, and helpful to your readers, if it was labeled “How to hand mill soap” or “How to craft personalized soaps”

    Just my two cents.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I am not sure what that would do – in any case, my point, and the author’s, was to help those who are nervous about using lye. Does that make sense? Thanks again.

  19. I love the idea!! It sounds fun and crafty!!