Soap making for our ancestors required rendering beef fat, combining with lye and a long, laborious process - or they did without!
Natural soap is a lovely thing to have and you can make it yourself at home.
You can use herbs or just the essential oils to perfume it to make your own handmade soap.
It's important to use glass and wood for the caustic soda mixture.
A word of caution here - some countries have very strict guidelines about selling home made soap, so you need to just look at making this for your own pleasure or as gifts.
Watch this video to see how easy the process is - there's a great recipe below which will make a few bars of soap for you to have a try yourself.
The following recipe is quite easy - it's still a long process, but a very interesting one.
It is essential to use the ratios of ingredients as listed.
Work in a ventilated area and use gloves and goggles as a safety precaution.
If you do spill the lye solution on yourself, then do not rinse off with water - use some vinegar to get rid of the spill, so make sure you have some vinegar on your working area.
Also, you need to use caustic soda crystals and not any gels you find. It's plain, old fashioned drain cleaning stuff and I always have some around the house for tough cleaning jobs.
Some people use all olive oil to make soap - that is OK, it will not lather as well as if it had other oils and it will be softer, but it's perfectly acceptable to do this.
Put the water in a glass bowl - add the caustic soda and stir with a wooden spoon until it dissolves. It will turn cloudy and give off fumes and possibly steam. It will become clear again once it has all dissolved.
The soda will heat because of the chemical reaction - do be careful with it.
Set it to one side and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Heat the oils gently in a pan until they're about room temperature.
Give the caustic soda mixture a good stir to make sure it's combined then pour it into the oil slowly, stirring all the time.
A stick blender is a great way of mixing it quickly and thoroughly.
Add the herbal oil and continue to beat until the mixture thickens and turns opaque.
Pour it into moulds - you can use small boxes, pots, jelly moulds - whatever you like.
Allow it to set for about 24 hours.
Remove from the moulds, wrap in greaseproof paper and leave it in a cool place to harden for about 2 or 3 weeks.
You can use any oils you like - lavender, sage, jasmine - you choose.
You can use herb infused oils if you prefer - check out this page to see how to make them
You can make an oatmeal soap by adding 3 tablespoons of oatmeal to the mixture at the same time as the oil.
Soap making can be very complex, but this is a simple way to start by making a small quantity.
Where would you like to go next?The Herb Guide › Natural Cosmetics › Soap Making