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Can You Make Soap Without Lye? | Yes and No

Soapmaking is a fun activity, and at the same time, an opportunity to make amazing products that you can use in your home, gift a friend, or even sell for profit. But working with chemicals (like lye) doesn’t settle well with some people, hence the common question of whether one can make soap without lye.

You cannot make soap from scratch without lye. If you’re making soap from scratch, you’ll require lye for the process of saponification. However, if you do not wish to handle the lye, you can make your soap using melt-and-pour soap bases.

This article is dedicated to showing you how to begin making your very own soap without having to handle lye. But before that, we’ll begin by defining soap and explaining the functions of lye in the soap-making process. Let’s jump right in.

Homemade Soap

What Is the Function of Lye in Making Soap?

Lye is one of the most important ingredients in soap making. There are two types: potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide. The lye you choose depends on the method of soapmaking you will use. 

Potassium hydroxide is used in the hot process method, which results in a paste-like soap. On the other hand, sodium hydroxide is used in the cold-process method of making soap, and it produces soap bars.

To make soap, the lye reacts with fatty acids or oils in a process called saponification. This reaction uses up the lye in the mixture; therefore, the resulting product does not contain lye.

As you can see, if you are to make soap from scratch, there is no other way to go about it. You just have to use the lye. So how can one avoid lye in making soap?

How to Make Soap Without Lye

We’ve established that soapmaking does require lye, but if you want to try out making your own homemade soap, you can still do it without handling this ingredient. 

But first, let’s look at why some people don’t want to handle this chemical when making soap? Here are a few reasons:

  • Because it is caustic, some people don’t want to store lye in their homes because of the kids. They may find it, and that can lead to a serious accident. So, of course, your kids’ safety comes first. 
  • Another greater concern is if soap making is an activity you want to do with the children. In this case, using the lye is really out of the question. 
  • Also, your concern may be that you want to make natural soap that doesn’t contain “chemicals.” If that is so, you don’t need to worry since the end product of handmade soap doesn’t contain lye. If you use the right recipe and make it properly, all the lye completely reacts with the fatty acids to make soap. Your final product is gentle and as natural as it gets.

What then do you do if you don’t want the hazards of handling lye in soap making? The answer is pretty simple: let someone else do the work that involves handling the caustic chemical. Then all you have to do is work on the final steps of adding colors and scents and molding your soap into creative shapes. 

This is the exact concept used in soap making using melt-and-pour soap. And this is how you can make your own handmade soap without using lye. Here’s our step-by-step guide to making soap without lye:

Related The 5 Best Types of Lye for Soap Making (And Where To Get It).

Get a Block of Melt-and-Pour Soap Base

Melt-and-pour soap base can be bought at a craft store or online on Amazon. 

There are many varieties to choose from. For example, Our Earth’s Secrets Honey Melt and Pour Soap Base is one of the common varieties containing pure natural honey. You can also try out Life of the Party Goat Milk Soap Base. This contains goat’s milk, which is believed to soften skin so your homemade soap will have that property. 

Measure Out the Soap Base

Measure out as much soap base as you need to make the amount of soap you want. But just as a reference, you can begin with one pound of soap base. 

Weigh the soap base using a kitchen scale or any other scale you may be having. Just make sure it is clean, so your soap base doesn’t pick up dirt, which will go into your final soap.

Chop Up the Block of Soap

Cut the block into about 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes. This helps to quicken the melting process.

Melt the Soap Cubes

Using a double boiler to melt the soap base is preferred since the heat reaching the soap won’t be too intense. If you want one of these, check out the SONGZIMING Stainless Steel Double Boiler Pot. It’s made of 18/8 Stainless steel, which is rust-resistant and sturdy so it will last long and serve you well.

That said, there are other ways of going about this melting process. One way is simply using a microwave. Another method entails putting the soap base in a Mason jar placed in a pan containing about two inches of water. Heat the pan on low heat, and the soap will melt.

Add Your Color and Scents

Once all the soap has melted, add in your colorants and scents. Begin with half a teaspoon of each for one pound of soap base. Then you can make adjustments gradually to your satisfaction.

Ground herbs make nice natural colorants. And for scents, you can use essential oils.

Pour Into Molds

Pour out the molten soap mixed with your additives into molds of your preferred shape. Silicone molds are the best for creating shapes because removing the soap from the molds is very easy once it’s cooled down.

Leave your liquid soap to set and cool for several hours. 

Remove the Soap

Once the soap has cooled and solidified, it’s ready for use. Remove the pieces and enjoy your homemade soap!

What Exactly Is Soap Anyway?

Soap is a substance used for cleaning. It enables the removal of oils and grime on clothes, objects, and skin. Soap is a form of surfactant, which means it’s made up of one end that’s hydrophilic (water-loving) and another end that’s hydrophobic (oil-loving). 

What is the difference between soap and detergents? Most of us assume that whatever cleaning product we buy at the store is soap, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, most of the bars and liquid cleaners sold today are detergents and not soap.

The difference between soap and detergent lies in how they are made. Soap is a natural product made from natural ingredients. Detergents, on the other hand, are made of artificial compounds. All in all, they both serve the function of cleaning.

So how does soap work? Based on its surfactant properties (mentioned above), soap’s work removes oil and grime from dirty objects and surfaces. The hydrophobic end can attach to the oil, while the hydrophilic end attaches to water. As you rinse the item being washed, the oil, grime, and dirt are washed away with the rinsing water. 

Check out this detailed video about the cleansing action of soap: 


As you can see, part of the soapmaking process involves the use of lye for saponification. But if you are hesitant about using this caustic chemical, there is a way you can make soap without lye. The solution to this is using melt-and-pour soap bases. 

This method of making soap is easy, straightforward, and safe; even kids can do it. You melt the soap base over low heat, add your scents and colorants, and pour it into molds where it can cool and solidify, forming handmade soap.

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