Make Your Own Soap Without Lye (You’ll See What I Mean)

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If you’ve always wanted to make soap but are worried about working with lye, here’s your answer. This homemade lye-free soap is truly the “I’m scared to work with lye” version of How to Make Homemade Soap.

three bars of soap without lye with text overlay

Homemade soap is great for many reasons, but it can be a bit daunting to make. One of the reasons is the need to work with lye. It’s definitely not something you want to be working with when you have little ones running around.

Thankfully there’s an answer for that and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how gorgeous the results can be.

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I Was a Lye Scaredy Cat

For years, I’ve wanted to make my own soap–but I’ve never done it.

I’ve drooled over others’ homemade soap creations and felt deficient in my thriftiness, my craftiness, my domesticality…simply because I’d never. made. soap. 

I have fond memories of a dear friend in the Chicago area who made HUGE batches of olive oil soap that was TO DIE FOR.  She had enough money to buy whatever soap she wanted, but she just LOVED making soap and well, her soap was skin nourishing gorgeous.  

She gifted me this soap when I was pregnant with our first child, but I wrote off making it because no way was I going to use lye in a kitchen where I’d have to time things so I didn’t have a busy and inquisitive infant or toddler underfoot.  

So I basically gave up all the soap-making dreams, and they never really came to be.

I even found the very book that my friend’s soap recipe came from at a second hand store (and bought it), but I STILL never made soap.

So when a friend approached me about sharing a recipe for melt and pour soap that was easily made into “homemade soap” style, I was thrilled.

I assumed many other busy “lye scaredy cat” moms would love the chance to be crafty without being around something that might be a problem for their children’s safety.

Lye-free Soap–For Real?

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.

This is why the title of the post includes the words “you’ll see what I mean.”  The lye work has been done for you already in making the melt and pour soap base.

Why You’ll Fall In Love With This Soap

There are simply so many reasons to love this soap. Let’s count the ways, shall we?

Ditch These Additives

So many soaps on the market are loaded with artificial colors, artificial fragrances, and preservatives. If you make your own melt and pour soaps, you can use quality ingredients without the toxins.

Save Lots of Money

Of course if you make your own melt and pour soap, you will save a bunch of money over store-bought fancy soaps. With all the great melt and pour bases, you can make exquisite soaps to rival any “artisan” type homemade soap.

Avoid Allergens

More and more people have sensitivities these days. Making your own soap allows you to customize ingredients to your needs.

Choosing the Best Ingredients

1. Soap Bases–Including One That Really Stands Out

First of all, look for soap that is free of chemicals and fragrances. The simpler the better when it comes to hand milling. White or cream colored work best.

Some of the more trusted online sources include:

  • Brambleberry
  • Bulk Apothecary
  • Amazon

Here are some options for melt and pour soap bases with my favorite highlighted at the end.

I Recommend
Shea Butter - 2 Pound Melt and Pour Soap Base

Shea Butter - 2 Pound Melt and Pour Soap Base

This Shea Butter Melt and Pour Soap Base is one of the cleanest soap bases out there. Plus it helps you create soaps that look very close to artisan soaps -- all without handling lye!

It's made from 5% refined shea butter, and is soy free, lathers well and is made in the USA.

2. Molds

A simple bread loaf pan will work depending on how much soap you’re melting. Line the mold with parchment paper for easy removal.

Silicone molds work really well too. These come in fun shapes and sizes like this flower mold (similar to the one used for the soaps in this post).

Note that you’ll need parchment paper if you choose the bread mold pan option.

3. Herbs and Plants

Do you love lavender? Dried lavender or even fresh lavender makes a perfect addition.

Roses? Dried rose petals or even fresh rose petals work beautifully.

Plant powders can add not only skin benefits, but double as natural colorants. Turmeric, for example, turns the soap a lovely orange while adding nourishing anti inflammatory qualities. Spirulina powder makes a lovely green. Beet powder makes for a great pink soap.

4. Pure Fragrances

Forgo the petroleum-based fragrances and add scent using 100% natural essential oils. Essential oils carry through the hand milling process quite well –  so pick a scent you enjoy and have fun!

Herb/essential oil combinations that work well include:

Here is Adrienne’s source for “the best” essential oils, or click here to read the whole series about how she chose them.

How Much Essential Oils Should You Add to Soap?

How much essential oils you use in homemade soap depends on several things–how strong of a scent you would like, and the oil you are using.

For a strong scent, 0.7 ounces of essential oil per pound of cold process soap is a good amount. For melt and pour, you can typically add 0.3 ounces per pound.

Cold process soap is more of a harsh process and there are a number of chemical changes that occur when making the soap, so you can use more oils.

To avoid skin irritation it’s important to not use too much of an essential oil in your soap. This fragrance calculator can help you choose the right amount of essential oils to use.

5. Liquids

You’ll need to add a slight amount of liquid to keep the soap from burning during the melting process.  While water works fine, possible liquids that add some nice benefits and make your soap special include coffee, green tea, kombucha, infused herbs, coconut milk and floral hydrosol.

6. Fun Add Ins

Besides things like herbs and plants, there are so many other fun add-ins–the sky is truly the limit!

How about:

  • coffee beans
  • cacao nibs
  • coffee grounds–smells great and is great for exfoliating too
  • citrus peels
  • seeds (chia, poppy, apricot, flax)
  • matcha powder–adds a lovely green color
  • himalayan salt-adds a really nice pink hue
  • tea leaves
two bars of soap without lye
homemade soap bar

How to Make Homemade Soap Without Lye

5 from 5 votes
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Ingredients

Instructions

  • Grate 8 ounces of the soap base (two regular size bars.) A cheese grater works well, as does a salad shooter. A food processor also works.
  • Sprinkle 1-2 ounces water or other liquid over the grated soap, if desired, to help the soap melt. It will evaporate when heating.
  • Heat on low setting in a double boiler or crock pot. You can also place in oven-safe pot and heat in the oven at lowest setting. Stir frequently to avoid burning. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
  • When soap is liquefied, remove from heat. It will be somewhat lumpy and translucent.
  • Add desired ingredients.
    (For the main photos here, I used Pink Himalayan salt and dried rose petals from my daughter's wedding. I added Rose Geranium essential oil which created a lovely rose scent.)
  • Stir to desired consistency. Pour (or spoon) soap mixture into molds.  I placed some dried rose petals on the bottom of this flower mold.
    side by side images of homemade soap in mold and soap out of mold.
  • Cool the soap and remove from mold (place mold into freezer for up to 1 hour to make this easier). Cut into desired sizes and shapes using a soap cutter or a food scraper/shovel.
    The mold used in the above photo is this one.
    Homemade soap - without lye!
  • Allow soap to dry for several days or more. Note that the more liquid you use the longer it will take to cure.
  • Dry the soap thoroughly between uses to extend its life.
Tried this recipe?Mention @wholenewmom or tag #wholenewmom!

More Easy DIY Personal Care Products You’ll Love

How about trying out the following DIY Personal Care Products too? These are great ways to take more steps towards clean living.

Nourishing Sugar Scrub

customize your scrub to your liking–makes a great gift too!

This Nourishing Sugar Scrub is great for making your skin silky smooth. It's super simple, and frugal, and you can add your own fragrant essential oils as you like. Makes a great easy-to-make gift!

Healthy Lip Scrub

your lips will love this

homemade lip scrub in small glass jar next to honey dripping off small wooden stirring stick

Homemade Foaming Soap

a super frugal alternative to store-bought foaming soap

bottle of homemade foaming hand soap

Homemade Body Wash

smells and works great

homemade body wash in bottle with towels and citrus fruits

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

These would make a fabulous gift for almost any occasion.

Have you made soap using the melt and pour method?
What herbal combinations would you like to try?

Andrea Fabry

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.

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297 Comments

  1. I have no idea why you would say you need to add water to keep the soap from burning. I have never had my melt and pour soap burn. I melt it in the microwave in 30 second increments. You can add some butters or oils to it also for shampoos.

    1. Hi Adrienne – nice name, LOL!
      So actually this post was written by a good friend and not myself. I’ve edited it over the years to add a good source for the soap base, make it more user-friendly, etc., but I haven’t made melt and pour soap myself.
      I reached out to the author and she said that she uses the liquid to help it melt better, so I guess that could be interpreted as preventing burning, but I edited the post to reflect that new information.
      Thanks for reading and for commenting and I hope that helps you understand her thinking. I like the idea of the other alternative liquids for more benefits. :).

  2. 5 stars
    It is grate sharing such information, how best can one make homemade facessrub to be sold on local market

  3. If I wanted to use Plumeria blooms do I just let them dry out for a few days or do I have to bake them? Thanks

    1. Hi there! Is there something special about Plumeria blooms that makes them different from other flowers for soap making?

        1. I would think you should just be able to dry them really well and use them. Wish I could smell them! I bet your soap is going to be amazing!

    1. Hi Jackie – Good question! I just updated the post with more information on that. Hope that helps!

  4. 5 stars
    I make Melt and Pour Soaps all the time. My Ultimate Favorite to make is Oatmeal Coffee. Oatmeal base with ground Coffee and I add a little liquid coffee to the mix.
    I have also made Eucalyptus Spearmint (Eucalyptus and Spearmint EO in an Aloe Base) which my friends LOVE.

    1. Those sound sooo great! What base do you use? I don’t like the ingredients of some but that shea butter one in the post is pretty clean….

  5. Depends on the soap base on whether this is a lye free soap. Make sure the additives do not have lye in their base if you want a true lye based soap.

    1. Hi there! Actually all real soap needs lye to process but that’s why I named the post the way that I did. It’s so the person making the bars doesn’t have to touch lye. Hope that helps :).

    1. GREAT idea. I have a skin issue currently and was thinking about using oatmeal! I have this post about making oat flour – would be another option since ground up oats have more surface area. Makes a great paste for skin too!

      Thanks again for the tip!

  6. To add to my last comment, Turmeric, Activated Charcoal, Oatmeal, and Coffee beans/ grounds are ok to add along with cornflower pedals. Those will not mold or rot.

  7. I read in your other comments that you didn’t write this post but I wanted to share some info on using natural plants for colorant or adding dried or fresh flowers. The makeup of melt and pour is different than cold or hot process soaps, which cause the pedals and other herbs to re-hydrate and will mold.
    Thank you for taking the time to read my comment 🙂

    1. Hi there. Thanks for this! I just did a quick bit of research on the internet but I didn’t see this. Can you tell me where you saw / heard this? Thank you!

        1. Hi there. Thanks for the link–it appears that they are saying that they will turn brown, but I don’t see any discussion about mold. Am I missing something? Not that I want decomposed stuff in my soap, but they seem to be only concerned about appearance and not toxicity of mold. Thanks again would love to hear your thoughts.

  8. I am intrigued your recipe is for Lye free soap, however soap can not be made without Lye, the melt and pour base already has lye (Sodium Hydroxide) added to it, it is not without it, it just takes the hard work out for you. Don’t want people being falsely informed

    1. Thanks! Yes, I made that clear, I thought, in the title saying that “you’ll know what I mean” – it’s a way to not do hard work but also not be exposed to the lye in the caustic form. Thanks for reading!

  9. I am not being mean or rude here however please Do NOT ever add water to any melt and pour soap. It will not turn out correctly and it will possibly spoil and rot in a very short amount of time. Never never add water to melt and pour soap!

    1. Hi there. I didn’t write this post but am happy to adjust it–however I see other melt and pour sites talking about adding water….why are your thoughts different? Thanks!

      1. Melt and pour soaps have the correct amount of Lye per other ingredients to make the soap adding more water will throw this out of whack so to speak and not end up with proper quantities of the final product.

      2. Hi,
        Melt and pour soap is just that, yes it has lye in it. The whole procedure has been done for you. I’m not sure where you have seen add water, but you have no need too add any. Yes, if you leave it over the double boiler too long, the water will disappear, but the soap then goes like leather. To combat this, put plastic wrap on the top, so the steam doesn’t escape.
        I do however sometimes add a couple of teaspoons of cocoa butter.
        You only need to add your essential oils or fragrance, dried petal leaves etc and colour if you want it. I add pink clay to mine and rose essential oil, for a fantastic face soap.
        Melt And pour soap, Is designed to be used straight away once solid, there is no need to cure it. That has already been done.

  10. Melt and pour is another way to make soap without going through the saponification process therefore it has lye in it until it’s completely process into soap which doesn’t have lye anymore.

      1. Hi there – it depends on the size of bar that you want. In the post it mentioned 8 oz of soap base to make 2 4 ounce bars. The soap base is the main ingredient that is most of the resulting soap. Enjoy!