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So You Want to Make Soap?

At least once a month, I have to turn down a request to teach someone soapmaking. I get why so many people want to learn. Until you discovered handcrafted soap, it’s just this thing you buy at the grocery store made in a factory by some magical process. The thought of being able to make something 99% of people purchase is pretty awesome.  That’s how The Oakley Soap Co got started.  It was supposed to be a simple hobby born out of curiosity.

As much as I love spreading the gospel of saponification (the process that converts fats + lye into soap), I cannot teach soapmaking classes at this time. I have a tiny studio, it requires special insurance, and the liability paperwork alone makes my head spin. Teaching classes is in my future, but it will be several years before that comes to fruition.

Until I can manifest The Oakley Soap Co. Theme Park and Teaching Studio into existence, I’ve created a multi-part blog to help you get started on your soapmaking journey. 


There are several types of soapmaking, and it’s essential to know the varieties when you search for a class. Soapmaking isn’t cheap, so I’d hate for you to book a class or buy an online tutorial only to find out it’s not what you were expecting to make.

Melt and Pour- M&P soapmaking is just like it sounds. You melt soap from a pre-made base and add your choice of scents and colors before pouring it into a mold. Often referred to as glycerine soap, melt and pour bases can come in various types but are most commonly seen in those brightly colored translucent soaps you can purchase by the pound. It’s a great way to get into soapmaking as no lye is involved, but you do not create soap from scratch. M&P allows you to create gorgeous soap, but there is limited control over the ingredients used.

Cold Process- In its most basic form, CP soap combines oils/fats with sodium hydroxide (lye) solution. This causes the exothermic reaction of saponification, in which the lye and oils turn into soap. In CP soapmaking, you choose the oils/fats that go into your soap to create the perfect bar. Saponification is a slow-moving process in CP soapmaking. This allows skilled soapmakers to create beautiful designs in their soap. The downside is that soap takes anywhere from 18 hours-3 days before it is ready to be removed from the mold. They also require a 4-6 week cure time before they are ready to use. All soaps from The Oakley Soap Co. are cold processed.

Hot Process- HP soapmaking is a method of making soap from scratch where oils, lye, and liquid are combined and cooked slowly over a heat source- usually a slow cooker. The heat helps to “cook” the soap and speed up the saponification process. Hot process soaps take a little longer to make, but the soap is ready to use almost immediately upon cooling. Curing is suggested with HP soaps but requires far less time than CP. HP soaps tend to have a rustic look, and it’s much harder to create the fun designs and bold colors you find in CP soaps. 

Coming soon: Part Two.  Yes, you need lye and how to find a local class.

1 comment

  • I’m ready to delve in making cold process soap, specifically an herbal shampoo bar! I plan to order lye from Bulk Apothecary. Have you made hot process soap?


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