How to Make Your Own Shaving Soap

Made + Remade celebrates MovemberI’m part of our Made + Remade Movember team, raising awareness of men’s health issues this month through the art of mustache cultivation. We’re a week in, and so far I’ve allowed my razor to gather dust, but the time has come to decide on a stylish ‘stache. I’m torn between the Robert Goulet and the BJ Honeycutt (although given just a month, I may be too optimistic).

Whatever the mustache, a truly good shave begins with a thick, rich lather of shaving soap. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve mixed up a batch of my own. Using a blend of oils (each serving its own purpose), lye, and a healthy dollop of bentonite clay to give the lather a razor-friendly texture, homemade shaving soap is fairly easy to make and delivers a clean, close shave using ingredients that are actually good for your skin.

This recipe is a “cold process”, which means it doesn’t take long to put together, but must cure for 5 or 6 weeks before it’s ready to use. Lye is used for a chemical reaction to saponify the oils (turn them into soap) and must be handled with care to avoid burning. Gloves and eye protection are recommended.

The soap I made last month is ready to go and my razor is poised. I wonder if I could pull off a Sam Elliott.

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Step 1

 Open Galleryingredients for homemade shaving soap

Gather ingredients and tools. The oils used in this recipe provide a blend of properties that both moisturize and provide the thick lather one looks for in a good shaving soap.

Step 2

 Open Gallerymaking homemade shaving soap

Combine 4.5 oz lye and 12 oz of distilled water in a Pyrex container. Stir carefully to completely dissolve lye. The temperature will quickly rise to nearly 200 degrees. Set aside to cool to 110-120 degrees as you prepare oils.

Step 3

 Open Gallerymaking homemade shaving soap

Combine 11 oz palm oil, 9.5 oz coconut oil, 6.5 oz castor oil, 3.25 oz shea butter and 1.5 oz olive oil in a pot and warm over low heat to a temperature of 120 degrees.

Step 4

 Open Gallerymaking homemade shaving soap

Once oil and lye are both at temperatures between 110 and 120 degrees, pour slowly together to combine in pot or Pyrex container.

Step 5

 Open Gallerymaking homemade shaving soap

Using a stick blender, blend together until soap becomes opaque and, when drizzled, leaves trails on the surface of the soap (this is known as “trace” state).

Step 6

 Open Gallerymaking homemade shaving soap

Add 1 heaping tablespoon of bentonite clay to the soap and blend to thoroughly combine. Color should be uniform and texture smooth.

Step 7

 Open Gallerymaking homemade shaving soap

Shaving soap is usually poured into round molds or cut into discs to fit into the bottom of a shaving mug. Here we take a shortcut by pouring the soap directly into the bottom of some ceramic mugs we picked up at the dollar store.

Use a wooden or stainless steel spoon to fill ceramic mugs one quarter to one third full of soap. Wipe excess soap from the mug and smooth the surface of the soap. Soap may also be poured into soap molds or a plastic lined box and later cut to size, if preferred.

Place mugs in a cool, dry place to cure for 5-6 weeks before using.

Materials

  • 4.5 oz lye
  • 12 oz distilled water
  • 11 oz palm oil
  • 9.5 oz coconut oil
  • 6.5 oz castor oil
  • 3.25 oz shea butter
  • 1.5 oz oilve oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon bentonite clay
  • Ceramic mugs or plastic lined tray

Tools

  • Pyrex container
  • Saucepan
  • Wooden or stainless steel spoon
  • Stick blender
About Mick Telkamp 

42Posts

A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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37 Responses

  1. new year says:

    realy nice article thanks for sharing tyhat usefull content very nice from you ..new year 2016 happy new year 2016 gfhg

  2. I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome web site!

  3. Mary says:

    About how many mugs can you fill with this recipe, allowing for head room as you did?

  4. John Benos says:

    Hi Mick, that's a great recipe. Just a quick question. How's the lather with this soap?

  5. Heather says:

    Moving to the mountains, we are getting back to basics. We've gone to safety razors and love them. To top that off, I want to make our own shave soap to go with my body butter. Love the idea of using mugs instead of pucks. After using puck shave soap for several weeks, my biggest frustration is how they move about in the cups. Letting the soap set directly into a cup would eliminate that. Thanks a lot!!

  6. Bill says:

    You can make a round loaf mold out of 3 inch pvc and line it with parchment paper. Then just cut it into pucks. Brambleberry.com is a great source for all things soap

  7. Holly says:

    Crystal ,
    You can find palm oil in your natural grocers ( Whole Foods etc…) and also on Amazon, Brambleberry, and Bulk Apothecary online.Be careful if you buy Red Palm oil, your soap will turn yellow but its other properties won't change.Drain Cleaners are not always 100% lye ( sodium hydroxide ) so read your labels to make sure.I'm in Colorado and I find 100% lye at Big R( like tractor supply).But you can also order it at most of the websites I mentioned.
    Good luck !

  8. Penny says:

    If you sub palm for lard is it still the same amount?

  9. Crystal says:

    Hi, I'm having a little trouble finding lye and palm oil. Where do I find them? I'm seeing lye as drain cleaner, is this the same stuff I would need?

    • George says:

      yes the lye drain cleaner is the same stuff. you can use it. but if you go to essential oils.com you will be able to buy everything there.

    • Joan says:

      Try Amazon, to Essentials Depot…Bulk Apothecary is another reputable site for soap making products.

  10. Steph says:

    How many mugs of shave soap will this recipe make? (I want to make sure I have enough ready before starting!

    Toni and weng, Spectrum Organic vegetable oil spread is 100% palm oil, if you can find it in your area. Get the unflavored one in the blue container.

  11. Mick Telkamp says:

    Hi, Toni and weng. – I know many folks are moving away from palm oil for soap making. If you aren't turned off by animal products, lard or tallow can provide the same hardness and stable lather that palm oil provides. And, Toni, you can add essential oils after the trace, but go easy until you have seen the results. A little can go a long way.

  12. weng says:

    hi, is there a substitute for Palm Oil?

    • Joan says:

      Any oil is a good substitute for palm. Jojoba, sweet almond, (I find almond to be a great oil to speed up trace), castor, grapeseed, as well as many other oils.

  13. Toni Teague says:

    Mick, I cannot find Palm oil anywhere in my area. Can I use vegetable oil as a substitute? Also can essential oils be added after trace is reached?

  14. Carolyn Polk says:

    How is the lather on this soap. I made a great recipe and the lather was weak.

    • Joan says:

      If you want a richer lather, use stearic acid. It helps with creating a foaming kind of suds, but like a creamy consistency, myself, when it comes to shaving.

  15. Sarah says:

    Can i cut this recipe in half? I thought I would ask since I am unfamiliar with using lye and I want just a small batch to try for my husband. Also, where do you get the bentonite clay? I have never bought any. Thanks!

    • Toni Teague says:

      Try your natural food stores or find a store that sells soap making ingredients. If you can not find it locally you can buy it on Amazon.com. You can also substitute other clays such as White Kaolin Clay. You can buy this buy the ounce or pound. This recipe called for a heaping tablespoon.

    • Joan says:

      You can purchase all, or at least a fair amount, of products on line, like Amazon, or more esoteric soap/candle making distributors. I go to Artemisia Botanicals, in Salem, MA, because Iive the next town over in Beverly, and Terry has a wide array of ingredients for soap makers.

  16. defensesoap.com says:

    Best part is homemade shaving soap is also better for men’s faces, as it is more gentle on skin.

    • Joan says:

      Precisely why I started making soap. I am sick of the harsh chemicals and heavy scents of the standard store-bought products. I care what is in the soap that touches my skin.

  17. Jacques says:

    why try to take the soap out of the cup, use your shaving brush to lather up the soap in the cup , we make shaving soap for ourselves, thats what I do.

  18. Dave says:

    Billy, of course you can get the soap out of the mugs….It certainly isn't welded in…

    Ron, There is no more lye after the soaponification process, especially if you use a bit (5%) of superfat mixture (more oils than Lye).

    Kris, You most certainly can use the hot process, it will allow you to use the soap more or less immediately instead of waiting 5 weeks for the soap to dry and harden.

    Dave

  19. Billy says:

    Will the soap come out of the mugs? Or will they be stuck? If not, I will look for a different mold. Thanks for the info.

    • Henry says:

      The soap will stick to the mug unless you line it with butcher paper or equivalent. You could use silicone molds.

    • Guest says:

      The idea of using the mugs is that it is the container that you use (like they did in the 50's etc). It is the traditional way to use a solid shaving soap. Just wet the brush and run it around the solid soap to form lather, apply to face.

    • Joan says:

      I believe the mug is the main component for holding the soap in place to help create the later. If you want a soap not in the cup, that's different.

  20. Kris says:

    What happens if you use Hot process?

  21. Marilyn says:

    Ron, the shaving soaps will last longer than the chemical cans of shaving cream. Lye is not a big deal if you handle it with respect. Homemade soaps are so worth the time and mess and your skin will thank you for it. When you suffer from dry skin due to SLS, there is no other choice….

  22. ron says:

    Barbasol costs about $1.50. I used to try to make my own beer and it was never worth the time and mess and was not dangerous. Stay away from lye mixtures.

    • Joan says:

      I was scared of the lye factor at first when I started making soap, but it's not as bad as one would think.

    • Colauhu says:

      And Barbasol is full of who-knows-what kind of unpronounceable chemicals. Making soap is not hard, and lye is not dangerous if you use just an iota of common sense. I make my own wine and it is worth every bit of the time and mess.

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