Learn how to make your first soap bar ever using dandelions! Soap making can be tricky, but lye isn’t as scary as it sounds!
I’m finally doing it! I am learning how to make soap… Dandelion Soap to be exact! it is spring after all. This process has been on my to do list all year and utterly terrifies me. If you don’t know, you use lye in soap making. If you get lye in your eye, you’ll go permanently blind. But I think I am going to put on my big girl pants and give it a try.
Soap Making Basics
Soap making is actually a fairly complicated process compared to other DIY projects that I normally do. Unlike a lot of my cooking, you actually have to carefully measure out ingredients and make sure to follow the safety guidelines. Soap can be finicky, so follow a tried and true recipe your first few attempts.
For my first attempt, I was risky and made my own recipe (luckily it worked out okay, but not perfect). I bought all of the ingredients a long time ago for a certain recipe… and I cannot find it anymore! Instead, I decided to combine two recipes for my own creation: This beginner soap from soapqueen.com and this dandelion soap from thenerdyfarmwife.com. I wanted to use dandelions to capture the essence of the spring season.
Types of Soap Making
There are generally two types of soap making for the at home DIY-er: Crockpot Method or a Cold Pressed Method. After researching a bit and me being overly cautious with lye, I decided I did not want to ruin my crock pot and I definitely did not want a crock pot solely dedicated to the soap-making cause. Therefore, I decided to make cold pressed soap. It is basically the same process, but with cold pressed, you have to let your final product cure for several weeks. Not a big deal to me!
Soap Safety 101
As you know, I am no expert on ANYTHING over here at The Homestead Challenge, but I did do a lot of research for this one. If you are not experienced, I highly recommend you also watch some soap safety videos on YouTube before you start. For now, here are the basics:
- Wear goggles and long gloves/long sleeves when working with lye
- Don’t do this project around small children or crazy pets
- NEVER add water to lye. Always add the lye into the water (or dandelion tea). Doing it the wrong way can cause a lye eruption… and we don’t want that.
- If you don’t want the lye to etch your glass or ruin your kitchen gear, use a #5 plastic (this type of plastic doesn’t react with lye).
Watch How I Made Dandelion Soap
Dandelion Soap Ingredients
NOTE: I did not have shea butter on hand, so I substituted with Cocoa Butter and it worked just fine. I don’t really recommend making swaps like this until you are an expert soap maker, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
- 7 ounces olive oil (47%)
- 4 ounces coconut oil (26.5%)
- 1.5 ounces sunflower oil (10%)
- 1 ounce shea butter (or mango butter) (6.5%)
- 3/4 ounce jojoba oil (5%)
- 3/4 ounces tamanu oil (5%)
- 5 ounces dandelion tea (instructions below)
- 2.035 ounces lye (sodium hydroxide) (6% superfat)
- 1/4 oz raw honey
- Digital scale
- Soap molds
- #5 plastic container or glass you don’t care about and will reuse for soap (can etch glass)
- Immersion blender
- 99% isopropyl alcohol
This is a lot to measure out! Allow yourself some extra time, especially if you aren’t used to using a kitchen scale. All hard butters and oils must be melted before weighing.
Dandelion Soap Recipe
- Prepare the dandelion tea by filling a mason jar with dandelions and pouring over with steaming hot water. Let sit anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. Strain and reserve 5oz for recipe.
- Prepare your molds and surfaces. I am using a silicone mold. If you are using a pan or a box, line with freezer paper or similar. Because this is a serious process, make sure you lay out all of your tools and ingredients in advance. Cover your surface if you think you might get messy and make sure no pets or toddlers are lurking about.
- Become a mad scientist. Get on your apron, long sleeves, long gloves, and goggles.
- Slowly add your lye to your cooled dandelion tea. NEVER add water into lye. This can cause a minor eruption and get lye everywhere (we don’t want this). I am doing this step over the sink to be safe. This process will create a reaction that produces some heat and you will need to allow your lye water to cool before you continue.
- Portion out all of your oils and shea butter on your digital scale and combine. Make sure shea butter and coconut oil are melted into liquid form before weighing.
- Place your immersion blender into the oils and slowly combine until there are no more bubbles.
- Once combined, slowly add in your dandelion tea – lye mixture
- Slowly alternate between pulsing the immersion blender and simply mixing it with the immersion blender wand. After 30 seconds, test for trace. Trace is when the oils and lye water have emulsified and begin to thicken. Once the soap has reached thin trace, it will continue to thicken over time. Click here to read more about trace, including what thin, medium and thick trace look like.
- Keep alternating pulsing and stirring until the mixture becomes lighter in color and the soap is hard enough at the top that it supports the drippings from the immersion blender, which should settle on the top.
- Add in honey by drizzling and stir gently.
- Pour soap into soap molds and gently tap against your counter to release any bubbles.
- Lightly spray with isopropyl alcohol and cover with wax paper or similar.
- After they have hardened in the molds for 3-4 days, remove them from the molds.
- Let cure for 4-6 weeks before use (you can use it before then, but it won’t stay hard or last as long).
- Lather up, dandelion!
Soap Lessons Learned
- Don’t over-mix. Unless you are going for a textured look, you want the trace to be thinner so it pours into your molds better
- Add Essential Oils. Dandelions kind of smell like grass.
- Lye is not actually as scary as it seems. If I can do this without harm, I am fairly confident that anyone can!
If you try this recipe, make sure to let me know below by commenting or chat with me over on Instagram!
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About the Author:
I’m Brittany, totally modern and mainstream turned crunchy mama!
Read more here about how I went from a totally incompetent cook and hyper-consumer to striving to live a more meaningful life from scratch.
I can’t wait to share my modern homesteading journey with you and I hope I inspire you to join along!