Store-bought soap is cheap and gets you clean. It comes in fun fragrances, has lots of bubbles, and the packaging is pretty. So why on earth would you deal with making your own? Especially when everyone talks about how dangerous it is? Let’s discuss the many reasons you should try soap making… and a few reasons why you shouldn’t.
The most common reasons for making something at home that can be easily purchased are:
- Save money
- Get a superior product
- Have fun
Let’s attack these one at a time and see how soap-making stacks up.
Does making soap save you money?
Well, it depends. (How helpful.). A bar of Irish Spring soap is one dollar at Walmart. Even fancy Dove soap is about $3 a bar. Not so bad, right?
Homemade soap, in contrast, is about $7 per loaf to make. This accounts for the cost of the oils and lye needed. This can vary wildly, but I calculated the cost of one of my favorite recipes, which includes a good amount of more expensive oils and butters. To add fragrance and color, add about a dollar per loaf. This will make 8 good sized bars. So less than a dollar per bar. Interesting.
However, you can’t buy supplies for one loaf. The oils have to be purchased in relatively large amounts, a few pounds at least. You will also need a stick blender, a digital food scale, and a mold, at the bare minimum. These tools will be between $50-$100 all together. Let’s spread the cost over a few batches and say that the price between homemade soap with nice oils and store-bought Ivory Spring is exactly the same.
(I am not going to calculate *the hourly wage you could make* if you weren’t making soap because that makes zero sense and I hate when articles do that. Moving on.)
Conclusion: making nice soap is the same cost as buying cheap soap at the store. Making basic soap is cheaper than buying it.
Is homemade soap a superior product to store bought soap?
Now for the fun part. First of all, what you are buying at the store is probably not soap. Like how Kraft Singles are pasteurized cheese product… Dove is a beauty bar. Real soap is the result of lye and oil. That is the definition. If it doesn’t say soap on the package, it is likely a detergent bar.
This means it has things in it to mimic “soapyness”, like lathering agents and surfactants (these simply reduce the surface tension of water). Add in some fragrance and you are wet, smell good and are clean. It still works. But its not soap. It’s like a mild laundry detergent in bar form.
(Body wash is the same idea just liquified and insanely priced.)
So why should you care and why is homemade soap better than a detergent bar?
Well when real soap is formed by combining lye and oil, one natural byproduct is glycerine, a natural moisturizing compound. It is a major ingredient in commercial lotions. But it is not found in store-bought bars. They will be happy to sell it you separately though! We have very rarely needed body lotion since using homemade soap, and many people have that experience as well.
I am not going to get hysterical over the chemicals in store-bought bars and body wash.
(I mean, lye is a chemical that can literally blind you, so…), but if you are concerned about that type of thing… homemade soap allows you to control it. You can research the fragrances and colors you are comfortable with, you can leave them out, you can search for organic oils. It is entirely in your control.
Conclusion: homemade soap is a superior product to store bought detergent bars.
Is soap making fun?
Well, I think so! If you like baking, you will LOVE soap making. They are very similar in my mind. You start with a basic recipe and can customize the color, design, and fragrance. As you get more comfortable you can tweak recipes and then develop your own from scratch. Best of all, you have a practical product at the end that you can either use yourself or give as a gift.
So designing a soap is fun. The actual making of it… not as fun. (But I still like it.). You have to be very precise, weigh your ingredients exactly, and you have to be VERY careful. At many stages of the process you could injure yourself or someone else if you aren’t paying attention.
Of course there is nothing like the pride and satisfaction you get at the end of a project. And unlike sewing, it can’t hang over your head for weeks. You mix up your batter, it sets overnight, and in the morning you cut your bars and you are done. The sense of accomplishment from soap making is high, and that is fun.
Conclusion: soap making is fun for certain people.
Why should you not make your own soap?
If you are in dire financial straits, do not take up soap making as a way to save money. The upfront costs of the tools are a real consideration. It is still cheaper (short term) to buy the world’s cheapest soap.
People with small children who do not nap should not attempt to make soap. If you leave a glass of lye water to cool and don’t put it up high enough, it can be knocked over and blind or severely burn a child. If you are distracted, stressed out, or in a hurry, things will start to go wrong. When things go wrong while you are making soap, you can easily ruin the batch or hurt yourself.
If you like to make up things as you go and get crazy in the kitchen (I do not understand this), you probably won’t enjoy soap making. You need to follow the recipe exactly, even if it’s one you created yourself. Creating one yourself involves math and research. (Just a little!). So if that all sounds horrible to you, I totally understand.
If you want the fun without the scare, you can try melt and pour soap, where you add color and fragrance to pre-made soap bases and re-pour it into molds (Bonus: these are usually clear and allow for really fun designs.)
If you’ve determined that soapmaking is not for you, try making homemade lotion. There is no lye involved and it goes much faster!