How to Make Soap

Some Important Chemical Ingredients (Additives) and their Uses

It is important to familiarized ourselves with the common chemical ingredients used and their uses. These ingredients give the desired quality and feature of the soap. Also, the quantity of these ingredients in making soap, dictates the cost of soap produced.

  1. Coco Diethanol Amide (CDEA) – foam or sud booster
  2. Sodium silicate – hardening and leavening agent; prevents separation or deterioration of ingredients in liquid products
  3. Sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) – cleansing agent; for thickening effect and a cheaper but effective foamer
  4. Sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) – a chemical that gives cleansing power
  5. Ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid (EDTA) – sequestering agent that makes the ingredients float; used as foaming stabilizer; also used to reduce hardness in water
  6. Caustic potash (also known as potassium hydroxide) – allows bar soap to harden
  7. Tergitol – binder used for powdered detergent
  8. Sodium phosphate – provides the abrasive strength; removes hard water minerals and this increase the effectiveness of detergents; prevents dirt from settling back into clothes during washing
  9. Sodium chloride or table salt – thickening agent; provides viscosity to the soap
  10. Methyl and propyl paraben – anti-microbial preservatives
  11. Triethanol amine (TEA) – emulsifier uesd in facial cleanser
  12. Caustic soda (also called sodium hydroxide) – neutralizes or adjust the acidity of other ingredients
  13. Benzalkonium chloride – disinfectant against bacteria, fungi and yeasts
  14. Carboxyl methy cellulose (CMC) – antiredeposition agent that prevents dirt from settling back into clothes during washing
  15. Sodium sulfate – provides proper flow or solubility to soap; cleans without leaving residue
  16. Glycerine – serves as moisturizer in facial cleaner


Commercial lye, potash lye and soda lye – even dampened wood ashes – are EXTREMELY caustic and can cause burns if splashed on the skin. They could cause blindness if spattered in the eye.

Use caution when adding lye to cold water, when stirring lye water and when pouring the liquid soap into moulds. If it is spilled on the skin, wash off immediately with cold water. Wash off any lye or green (uncured) soap spilled on furniture or counter tops.

Though some of the old recipes didn’t say so, always add lye to COLD water, never to hot water, because the chemical action heats the cold water to the boiling point. It also produces harsh fumes which are harmful if breathed deeply. Stand back and avert the head while the lye is dissolving. The use of a draft vent is recommended.

Because of these dangers, it is best to keep small children from the room while soap is being made.

Basic Equipments Needed

A container – A large iron soap kettle or a common wash boiler is great for making soap in large quantities over an open fire. For indoor soap-making in smaller quantities, pots that are granite or porcelain- covered are the best to use because of the corrosive character of some of the recipes’ ingredients. Dispose of soap-making wastes carefully outdoors, not in the drain. Never put lye or fresh soap in aluminum pans.

A Ladle – If an iron kettle is used a long-handled wooden ladle is needed to stir the soap. For indoor soap-making a wooden spoon will do. Once again – don’t use aluminum.

A Grater or Grinder – A kitchen grater or a meat grinder is need to make soap flakes for laundry use or to grind soap for some of the later recipes.

Molds – Flat wooden boxes or wooden tubs to mold the soap while it cooled and hardened. Laid pieces of cloth Over the wood to keep the soap from sticking. You can buy fancy molds in hobby shops, but for home use, discarded plastic bottles work just as well and are much cheaper.

A Plate – Some recipes call for a plate on which to cool a few drops of the liquid from time to lime to test for doneness. A glass plate is preferred because it cooled the liquid faster.

Basic Steps in Soap Making

  1. Sufficient mixing is important in soap making. Although mixing can be done by hand, the use of an electric stainless steel mixing tank makes work faster and gives better results.
  2. The basic soap ingredients (fat or oil and alkali) undergo the process of saponification. Here, the elements of the fat or oil called esters, separate and become fatty acids. Fatty acids, in turn, get mixed with the sodium elements of the alkali and this solidifies the soap.
  3. The soap now undergoes the cold process (the simplest technology applied in soap making). During the cold process, fat and water are mixed thoroughly to prevent the formation of sediments.
  4. The soap is left to cool and harden. This is called the cooling and solidifying stage.
  5. The bar soap is sliced and dried to remove moisture.
  6. The sliced soap is left to age, a process which removes the effects of caustic soda.
  7. Finally, the soap is packed for marketing and selling.

For more info, contact:

DOST Central Office
DOST Bldg. Gen. Santos Ave., Bicutan, Taguig
Telephone: (632) 837-20-71 to 82
Fax: (632) 837-8937


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