Coconut Oil Soap: How to make it the easy way?

There are many commercially available formulations of 100% pure coconut oil soap and shampoo. The liquid soaps are available at most health food and local natural grocery stores. Look for large pump bottles in the …

coconut oil soap

There are many commercially available formulations of 100% pure coconut oil soap and shampoo. The liquid soaps are available at most health food and local natural grocery stores.

Look for large pump bottles in the bulk section of the shop, and bring your own containers to fill if you like. Remember to ask the cashier to weigh and mark your container ahead of time if the soap is sold by weight, which many of them are.

In today’s post, you will find an in-depth section on making coconut soap which you can easily make at home. Ready? Let’s dig in!

Coconut Oil Soap

For those who are too busy to make their own, there are loads of great coconut based personal care products now coming directly out of coconut producing countries around the world, and these products give small local producers a way to add value to their coconut oil production and improve their standard of living.

You can find these sellers online, starting with Tropical Traditions, which has worked with family producers in the Philippines for over a decade now and offers a full selection of unscented and scented 100% pure organic coconut oil bar soaps, shampoos and liquid soaps.

Making your own soap has become quite popular in recent years, and there are many resources available for the novice soap maker online and in local community classes and craft shops.

Coconut oil soap has also become quite popular, both as a homemade soap, and in the marketplace. It is now fairly easy to find.

Should you be interested in making your own coconut oil soap there are plenty of good reasons to give it a go. It is inexpensive and can greatly reduce your budget in the soap department; and coconut soap can be made into both laundry and bathing bars simply by adjusting the recipe you use.

The standard coconut oil recipe yields a soap that is well suited for laundry, being drying to the skin and extractive of oils (perfect for clothes washing.) To make bathing bars, you simply employ a process known as ‘superfatting’ which increases the coconut oil in the recipe by approximately 20%. This gives you a moisturizing, fluffy lathering body bar that is wonderful plain or can be enhanced with essential oils, herbs and other natural ingredients.

essential oil recipes
Use coconut oil soap with some essential oils to improve the effect.

Homemade coconut soap not only offers an excellent way to reduce costs, it allows you to have complete control over what ingredients are in your laundry and bathing soaps.

Soap making can be tricky though, especially if you’re doing calculations of oil and lye ratios on your own. Like any new skill, learning by following simple recipes and the guidance of a good teacher or mentor can make all the difference. Once you’ve done it a few times, soap making becomes fairly straight-forward. When mastered, it offers a creative and expressive outlet that can be elevated to true artisan status.

The science of soap making is all about the reaction between the active ingredients of the lye solutions and the fats, oils or butters they are combined with to make soap. The chemical process is called saponification. The lyes are composed of either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, which is first mixed with water, and then added to the fats according to specific guidelines with respect to temperature and time. Oils, fats and butters are assigned what are commonly called ‘SAP’ values which indicate how much active lye and how much water should be added for the best results.

As an example, coconut oil has a SAP value of 268.0, as compared to olive oil, which has a SAP value of 189.7 or almond oil with a value of 192.5. The SAP value is based on potassium hydroxide, and was established long ago as the amount of potassium hydroxide necessary to completely saponify one gram of the oil or fat in question, leaving no excess alkali and no excess oil. There are several factors involved in the chemistry of soap making which we will not go into here, but which include such things as iodine weight, peroxide weight and calculating SAP values for sodium hydroxide from the standard potassium hydroxide SAP values.

Saponification results in oils, fats and butters being transformed into hard or soft soaps depending on the process, ingredients and recipes used. Potassium hydroxide produces a soft soap, while sodium hydroxide produces a hard soap.

The hard bar soaps made with sodium hydroxide can be made using either cold or hot processing. In cold processing, the oils are melted and then combined with the lye and water solution which has been cooled to be within 10°F or 20°F of the oil temperature. In hot process soap making, the oils are melted and combined with the lye solution and then heated gently over a period of time until the mixture changes consistency and completes the majority of the saponification reaction process.

Cold processing requires the soap to be poured off and kept overnight in a wrapped mold, to be cut and then cured for an additional 30 days or so after the first day. Hot processing allows soaps to be poured into molds and cut the same day and to be ready for use within only a few days.

Traditional cold process soap makers may not even combine the two ingredients before a resting period overnight. However, most modern cold process soap makers combine the ingredients, blend them and then pour off into molds to set for 24 to 48 hours, then cut and store the soaps to complete curing.

Serious enthusiasts may want to pick up the works of Susan Miller Cavitch including The Soapmaker’s Companion 8 for your personal library and reference. Her books provide in-depth and excellent education on the specifics of soap making and include recipes and detailed instructions on many aspects of the craft. There are those who complain that Cavitch’s superfatted recipes are too rich in fats causing them to go rancid without additional ingredients she provides. Therefore, you may wish to use other authors’ recipes for your superfatted coconut oil soaps. Her recipes also include weights in both ounces and grams within single recipes, which can be frustrating to some soap makers. We use a scale which easily and accurately moves between these units of measure, so we do not find this to be a problem.

In general, the older methods may be less common in their use today, but the older books are quite good and have excellent reference tables, charts and explanations of the science which you may not find in more recent ‘trendier’ soap making books.

A great starting place for beginners is Jan Berry’s Natural Soap Making eBook.

oil soap

Steps to Making Coconut Oil Soap

The steps to making cold process coconut oil soap begin with the gathering of the tools which will be required (note: no aluminum should be used in the soap making process for any of the below):

  • Soap molds
  • Stainless steel, glass and/or plastic containers for the ingredients
  • Accurate kitchen scale
  • Immersion blender
  • Protective clothing, gloves and glasses

Next, prepare your soap molds. Either lightly oil and then wipe away excess oil in silicone molds, or line wooden or cardboard molds with freezer or parchment paper. Next, measure out the ingredients, including the water, lye powder, coconut oil and any essential oils which are going to be added to the mixture.

Coconut oil can be melted in plastic or metal buckets or deep stainless steel cooking pots. The lye powder is measured into a plastic or glass dish. Filtered water is measured and placed in a tempered glass or stainless steel bowl and can be set in an ice bath to maintain a cooler temperature as the lye is added to the water very gradually with plenty of stirring until it is completely dissolved. Caustic lye requires protective clothing, gloves, and eye-wear to be worn and fumes should be drawn off by an exhaust fan or by conducting the process outdoors.

Then the liquids are measured and cooled to the appropriate temperatures for mixing. Mixing is accomplished by gradually adding the lye mixture to the oils while stirring gently. Once all the lye solution has been added, the mixture is stirred until it is ready to be poured into the molds.

Most soap makers today use immersion or ‘stick’ blenders to mix and stir their soap mixtures. This speeds up the process of reaching what is known as ‘trace’, the point where the stirring tool leaves a ‘trail’ or ‘trace’ in the soap solution as it blends and stirs. Another excellent way to describe trace is ‘pudding-like’. It also becomes slightly dull on the surface.

At this point the blender is removed and the soap mixture is poured off into a prepared soap mold. In hot processing, the solution would have been mixed in a pot or crock pot over low heat and at the point of reaching ‘trace’ it is covered and allowed to heat further until the outer wall of the soap solution around the rim of the pot begins to rise up and then roll or wave into the center. This generally takes something in the neighborhood of 45 minutes to an hour for coconut oil soap.

  • Cold processed soap will harden overnight, and can be cut at this time, but, as mentioned above, must cure for another 30 days to become free of excess lye and hardened enough for regular use.
  • Hot process soap is poured into the mold directly after it becomes translucent and has risen and ‘waved’ to the center of the pot and is cut soon after. It hardens quite quickly to the point that cutting becomes difficult.

In both cold and hot processing, protective gloves must be worn for all handling of the ingredients and raw soaps as they are processed and cut.

Coconut oil soap allows us to make a health supporting soap and to add essential oils for specific benefits as well.

You can also use coconut milk in soap making, in which case the milk is used in place of the water in the lye solution. However, changes in the types of liquids used in soap making also cause changes to the final result and chemical reactions, so it is best to follow proven recipes when first experimenting with new ingredients.

adding scents

Adding Scents to Your Coconut Soap

In general, synthetic fragrances will last longer than essential oil derived scents. The tradeoff is that fragrances are synthetic, which means they are chemically derived, and not from natural plant based substances. Essential oils are derived directly from plants and will not last as long as chemically derived fragrances.

However, it is possible to improve the longevity of essential oil scents by incorporating certain ‘fixative’ essential oils to the soaps which will help extend the life of fragile plant based scents.

A few examples of fixatives are ambergris, cedar wood, musk, oakmoss, patchouli, vanilla, ylang ylang and sandalwood or ho wood. Be sure any sandalwood essential oil you purchase is from Australian sandalwood farms and not from rapidly disappearing sandalwood forests in other parts of the world.

Basic Soap Making Recipes

Soap making ingredients should always be measured by weight using an accurate kitchen scale. You can measure essential oils by volume or weight, but all other ingredients require more accuracy than volume measurements can provide.

Basic Coconut Oil High-Lather Bath Bar

This is your basic 20% superfatted coconut bathing bar.


  • 33 oz. (936 g) coconut oil
  • 4.83 oz. ( 137 g) lye (sodium hydroxide)
  • 12.54 oz. (356 g) water
  • 0.5 to 1 oz. (14 to 28 g) essential oils

Basic Coconut Oil Laundry Soap

This is your basic 1% superfatted laundry bar.


  • 33 oz. (936 g) coconut oil
  • 5.9 oz. (167 g) lye (NaOH)
  • 12 oz. (340 g) water
  • 0.5 – 1 oz. (14 – 28 g) essential oils

Coconut, Olive and Shea Butter Soap

This recipe is very simple and contains coconut and olive oils as well as shea butter to provide moisturizing and firmness of the bar without the need for superfatting the recipe.


  • 21 oz. coconut oil – for good lather, scent and healing properties
  • 18.5 oz. olive oil – moisturizing, and healing
  • 1 oz. shea butter – helps to ‘firm’ the bars when they are completed
  • 5.8 oz. sodium hydroxide (check your local hardware store)
  • 13.5 oz. filtered or distilled water

Originally posted 2020-07-19 00:34:48.

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