Basic 3-Oil Soap Recipe

Homemade Cold-Process Soap Recipe for Beginners

Overhead view of spoonful of cold coconut oil on jar
RUSS ROHDE/Getty Images

Here is a super-simple cold-process soap recipe that uses only three oils. It's a marvelous starter recipe that will get you started making soap in a reliable way. Cold-process soap requires making a lye mixture, which is the most difficult part of the process. Read through the recipe, gather the equipment and ingredients and read the cautions about working with lye before you begin.

The oil mix is:

  • 50 percent olive oil
  • 25 percent coconut oil
  • 25 percent palm oil

Ingredients for Making Basic 3-Oil Soap

This recipe makes about three pounds of soap.

  • 16 ounces olive oil
  • 8 ounces coconut oil
  • 8 ounces palm oil
  • 10.5 ounces water
  • 4.5 ounces lye
  • 1.4 ounces of fragrance oil or essential oil blend

Assemble the Equipment for Soap Making

  • Kitchen scale
  • 2 heat-resistant plastic or glass pitchers
  • 1 lid for a plastic or glass pitcher
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Spoon
  • Large pot 
  • Several small glass containers 
  • Stick blender
  • Soap mold
  • Thermometer

Mix the Lye Solution

The most challenging step in making cold-process soap is mixing the lye solution. Lye is a dangerous chemical that can cause severe burns. Observe all cautions and safety measures when working with lye and work in a well-ventilated area.

Everything is measured by weight when making soap, even the liquids. You need an accurate scale for the measurements.

  1. Put a container on the kitchen scale and zero out the weight.
  1. Put on rubber gloves and safety goggles and keep them on throughout the process. 
  2. Weigh 10.5 ounces of water and transfer it to a glass or plastic pitcher.
  3. Open the container of lye and gently shake the lye into an empty container on the scale until you weigh out 4.5 ounces of the chemical. 
  4. Close the lye container and put it away in a safe place.
  1. Slowly add the lye to the pitcher of water (not the water to the lye), being careful not to splash. Don't breathe in the fumes. Use a fan or open a window during the process. 
  2. Stir the mixture gently until the lye is totally dissolved. The mixture may bubble or steam, but that is expected. Just stir until the solution is mixed completely.
  3. Rinse the spoon you used to stir the solution with water immediately.
  4. Cover the container containing the lye solution and put it in a safe place to cool. It is ready when it cools to about 100 F.

Make the Soap

Now that you've made the lye solution, you've completed the hard part of this recipe. Next comes the fun part.

  1. Weigh and heat the solid oils until they are completely melted using glass containers and the kitchen scale.
  2. Put the melted oil into a large soap pot over low heat. 
  3. Weigh and add the liquid oils to the melted solid oils in the soap pot.
  4. When both the lye and the oils are at about 100 F, slowly pour the lye solution into the oils.
  5. Stir the mixture with a stick blender, alternating short blasts of the blender and stirring.
  6. Mix the soap until it reaches a light trace. "Light trace" in soap making refers to the point at which the soap is about as thick as thin cake batter and there are no streaks of oil left in the mix.
  1. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the fragrance oil. Mix it into the soap thoroughly.
  2. Pour the raw soap into the mold and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours until it cools completely and is hard enough to cut.
  3. Remove the soap from the mold and slice it into bars. Let it cure an additional two to four weeks before using the soap.