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Handmade Soap – No Lye?

Hi everyone,

Today, I just thought I’d touch on one of the questions I get asked occasionally at markets: Do I sell soap without lye? Mmmm.. let me think!

There is a saying in the soap making world – No lye, no soap! This is totally true if you’re making real soap, handmade soap, not the cheap chemical infused bars you might buy at the supermarkets (check the ingredients). Soap is made by a process called Saponification, which is the chemical reaction that occurs after the lye solution is mixed into the oils and butters you have chosen to make your soap with. The lye solution is a mixture of your lye (common name: Sodium Hydroxide) and your base liquid ie water, goats milk, coconut milk, coconut water, even beer…yes beer lol! The oils and butters you use will vary depending on your recipe, and these will have an effect on how the soap feels on your skin, the cleanliness, the bubbles, the creaminess and hardness of the bar.

The lye will only saponify a certain amount of oils, which can be calculated using a soap calculator. When designing a soap recipe, I ensure there are more than sufficient oils in the recipe so that after saponification there are free oils. This ensures there is no lye left in my soap. In fact, I usually use 7% more oils than is required…just to be sure. These extra oils are called Superfat and will have a lot to do with how your skin feels after washing. When you make cold process soaps you can’t choose your superfat oil, but with hot process soaps you can. Most soaps made will have a superfat of some percentage (except soap made for washing, as you don’t want extra oils in your washing).

However, there are different soap making processes and one of these can be a bit confusing when it comes to saying the soap is made with or without lye. My soaps are made using the Cold Process Method, and i usually work at room temperature for both lye solution and oils. There are other processes such as Hot Process (done in a crockpot) and Melt & Pour that you can explore. Hot Process is similar to cold process but it is a cooked soap, and the lye is cooked out during the cook.

Melt & Pour however is a different matter. There is no lye solution and you can’t choose your own base oils. You just buy the soap already made and add colour, scent and other additives. So basically yes, there is no lye in the soap when making it, but this process has already been done for you. Originally the soap was made with lye, but you don’t have to handle it. Great for children wanting to make their own soaps.

How soaps are labelled can also contribute to the confusion about lye in soap. I label my soaps with all the ingredients that went into making them, even though there is no lye left in the finished product. However, others may choose to label their soaps with what remains in the soap after saponification. This can be a bit deceiving as it appears the soap was made without lye. But rest assured, if it is real soap, it was made using lye.

I hope you found this an informative read. I enjoyed writing it for you! Check out my Facebook, Instagram or website if you’d like to see my awesome soaps.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janellessoapsandsucculents/?ref=bookmarks

Instagram: www.instagram.com/janelles_soaps_and_succulents

Website: www.jsas.com.au

In the Beginning…


I just thought I’d share how Janelle’s Soaps & Succulents began. It was quite by accident really! It wasn’t planned, it just happened. I know this sounds quite unusual, but it’s true! Here’s the story…

I love handmade lemongrass soap, but every time I went to the local markets, I couldn’t get any! I even asked my Mum to look when I couldn’t get up there, but still no soap! So I bought a cold process soap making kit and made my own. I shared it with my family for Christmas that year and they loved it!

My first batches kept us in soap for quite a while, but it did run out, right about the same time that I ended my job and career of 16 years in childcare. I planned to make some more soap batches for us, but I had this brilliant idea…if I like handmade soap and can’t buy it, maybe there’s others in the same boat! So then and there I decided I would make some soap and sell it.

I have also always loved succulents and already had quite a few. I had a pallet, sitting out the side of the house, just waiting for someone to do something with it. After about three days work, I had the pallet pulled apart (lol) and ready to make something out of it. My husband Peter, showed me how to make the first box, and from then I was on my own. I made planter boxes manually, using a handsaw, drill and hammer. It was hard work, but I enjoyed it. I filled the boxes with succulents and posted photos on Facebook. People seemed to like them and I sold my first batch.

Janelle’s Soaps & Succulents was born. Since then I have improved my soap making skills and now my tool collection includes drop saw, bench sander, reciprocating saw and nail gun. I sell mostly at the markets, and I have a couple of stockists. I love what I do and that’s half the battle!

Photos show my first soaps and first planter boxes.

Thanks for reading! Cheers