Make Your Own Homemade Soaps

Learn how to make homemade soaps from herbs and flowers, including a recipe for rosemary lavender soap.

| June/July 1998


Add lovely, fragrant lavender soap to your bath to ease stress and insomnia.


Sandy Maine made her first bar of soap in her kitchen. She loved making soap so much, she eventually went on to found a small business, SunFeather Soaps, which occupies three buildings and employs 15 people. When MOTHER’s intern, Jennifer Barros, saw a copy of Maine’s recent book, Soothing Soaps for Healthy Skin (Interweave Press, 1997), she was inspired to fill some muffin tins with homemade herbal soap. 

The recipe I chose for my homemade soap was lavender and rosemary soap, which is found under a section called “Soaps for Blemished Skin.” Maine gives a brief description of each soap and explains that both lavender and rosemary are “antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and beneficial for treating wounds, blemishes, boils, dermatitis, herpes, fever blisters, and more!”

The first step, and probably the most difficult part, was finding the ingredients. I needed lavender flowers, rosemary leaves, lavender oil and rosemary oil. For those who can get their hands on fresh herbs, Maine explains how to dry them yourself and also how to extract the oils. It was February, so I was forced to opt for dried herbs rather than fresh ones. Unfortunately, dried herbs and oils are not exactly sold at every corner store, but at least you can obtain herbs, oils and glycerin by mail order. After I arrived home, glad to have completed my shopping mission, I began the actual process of making a healing soap.

I made an infusion with the dried lavender flowers and rosemary leaves. This only took about 10 minutes, and gave me a sneak peak at what my kitchen would smell like all day. Then, I used a double boiler to melt the soap base into liquid form. After this was done, I added the infusion, the oils and some pulverized rosemary leaves. I stirred a little to ensure even distribution, and then immediately poured the liquid into molds. Altogether, this took about 30 minutes.

Because I couldn’t wait to send away for a good glycerin soap base, I used what I found at a local pharmacy. I don’t know whether it was the quality of the soap or the molds I used, but the one problem I came across was removing the soaps from their molds after they had hardened. The soap is supposed to harden after one hour, but I left mine overnight to ensure that prying them out of the molds would not harm their shape.

For molds, I used small ridged muffin tins. When the soaps hardened, it was very difficult to maneuver them out. The longer I let them sit, the easier it was to get the soap out. Lining the molds with plastic wrap or using a plastic soap-mold might facilitate this procedure.

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3/28/2016 11:26:07 AM

I had to make this a few times because i think i over cooked it or something. but finally i got it right, and i got some super cute molds from and they look and smell wonderful! thanks for the fun recipe. i am excited to give them out at a baby shower i am throwing!

3/15/2016 5:10:49 AM

I am having a ball making my own soap and other spa products using - I'm making all sorts of things for friends! It's great for learning how to make luxurious spa products (especially soaps) at home immediately and it's easy :) I save a lot of money not going to the spa and the products are exactly the same, if not better. I have used my friends and family to try out the products I've made and they have been absolutely delighted! I'm thoroughly enjoying working my way through the recipes and then adjusting them to my own design. I really wish I had started this years ago.

8/6/2015 8:57:04 AM

I learned a lot from your site. It is great feeling now I can play my liquid soap making. I use cooking oil and KOH to cook detergent. It is easier than looking around for safe detergent for garden veg irrigation (you have no control what they put in). If you use hard water for washing, you can add mono potassium phosphate as a PH buffer (similar use and amount as borax, used here as a substitute of borax). Add a little bit of milk seems help to emulsify the paste especially when you use some olive oil. To make it a shampoo just adds a bit more milk. There is nothing can be wasted in the game of soap making. The worst scenario is you made the paste water hating wax (I did it by adding way too much mono potassium phosphate); but even that can be rescued by putting a couple of table spoon of KOH in 1 kg of soft water and heat it up then add the wax bit by bit into the solution and mix them up. Add a bit of (1 %) milk seems help it emulsify. Fine tuning the paste (by adding the wax bit by bit) until the PH reaches 8 to 8.5. Done. Good as new. The separated water solution I keep it as fertiliser for garden). I never put anything unnecessary into my detergent. I like washing cloths by stamping in a basin, it is quicker (15 minutes) and cleaner and not hurting the fabric. Also I recommend using sea water for cooking seasoning instead of salt, you need all elements in the ocean (what is the proportion? The element proportion in your body are nearly the same as they are in the environment as scientist found. We are not only made of star dust but also the proportion of the star dust) but not only sodium (don’t call it table salt, call it poison). Make your own drinking water by breaking lava rock and sediment rock and soak them in collected rain water. The main source of minerals you take in is by drinking water but not by food. When your urine stinks, your blood PH is no good, when your body fluid PH is good, your urine will not smelly. Keeping your mouth fresh and odourless by using tooth pick to scrape your teeth, never use tooth paste (it wear out your teeth surface layer and unbalance the microbes that make your mouth stink). Natural and healthy teeth are ivory coloured but not white. Teeth grow layer by layer from outside just like clam grow its shell or pearl). Leave it natural (and do not drink “drinks”), your teeth can heal small damages by itself just like a clam will do to its shells. Never use mouth rinsing water which will cause your mouth smell worse only, bacteria would not make your mouth stink, but unbalanced bacteria make your mouth stink. Naturally secreted oil on your skin and hair are the first line of defence, if just dust and sweat, rinse it with rain water it will be shine and smooth. What ruin your skin and hair is those tap water, shampoo and conditioners. I use 2 natural gas fermenter (imported poly gas fermenter tank for $ 500 each) as septic tank which is a closed system never leak out into environment, when one is filling the other is maturing. Gas for cooking, the matured sediment and liquid for fertiliser in garden. The important thing is never let any unhealthy and unnatural stuff gets into your septic system in the first place. As a general principle, get rid of all your household chemical products. Air deodorant, disinfectant, bleach, hair dye, insecticide, etc. they are all unnecessary waste of natural resources and harmful pollutants to a home and the environment. The so called modern life style makes us sick, makes environment sick, the rat race of making money and getting rich is fundamentally contradictory to sustainability. Use as little as possible natural resources but contribute as much as possible effective information that is my understanding of a good Earth villager. That is the only way to reach future. Green life is good life. It is a real civilised life. Want to hear other’s opinions. Regards Jackluny

2/24/2015 6:53:05 PM

I have never made my own bar soap. is it ok to buy a used stainless steel stockpot at a thrift store or should I get a new one? also what size should I get? ty

5/1/2014 5:21:47 AM

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8/22/2013 5:29:30 AM

Going "green" is quite popular, as are natural beauty products such as ””. It can be helpful for people who want to avoid harsh detergents, artificial fragrance, and other synthetic ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin. Many people also get comfort knowing they are using simpler and more natural ingredients.Shop online for Soap, Makeup, Pumps Picks, boots, Slimming Coffee at ””

4/25/2013 4:21:55 PM

The lavender soap picture is very pretty, but this actual recipe will turn out much different.  It would be ideal to use a natural glycerin soap base which I have yet to find for sale in a local craft store or pharmacy, etc.  You really need to check the ingredients to see what's in it.  A lot of the bases for sale out there have propylene glycol, SLS, etc. and other online stores have all natural glycerin bases (SFIC) for sale.  You just have to look for "natural."  They also sell pigments and oxides which can turn your soaps purple or whatever shade you like.  Lavender essential oil is excellent and smells so lovely, and much easier to use than doing an infusion.  Adding botanicals to a melt and pour glycerin base can make your soap turn brown and funny-looking over time.  I learned that the hard way after I had a beautiful soap with hibiscus petals mixed in.  It looked like moldy cheese after 3 weeks, but was still perfectly functional, just ugly.  It's best to sprinkle herbs and flowers on top.  You can mix in oatmeal, ground almonds, and other things like that with no problems whatsoever.  There are so many ways you can make your own beautiful soaps and so much creativity, like with cooking!  If you don't care to make your own soaps you can check out .  They have several all natural glycerin and hot process olive oil soaps available.

3/2/2013 5:47:35 PM

they have those new rubber/plastic reusable muffin cups in a variety of shapes and sizes, maybe these might work as well? i know you can put them into the oven for upto 425. i was wondering though, i purchase a soap bar for my skin that is an oatmeal bar, my skin after i moved became very dry and i think it was because of the water, the only thing that helped was this oatmeal bar. i would love to be able to make them. can you from homemade like this??

alice bond
2/25/2013 10:52:03 PM

I make homemade soaps. But I do not use a pre-made glycerine base. I make it with lye, water and olive oil, cocconut oil and the old fashioned sapponification process. Glycerine is a by-product of this method, no need to add it. I find essential oils are easily obtained on line and the most ecconomical seller I've found is San Francisco Herb Co. I use 'Glad Ware' small plastic containers for the soap, so there is no errosion of metal from the sodium hydroxide of the lye. If it is humid, and it often is in Louisiana, I place the soap in the freezer overnite and it works like a charm they slide right out. You can also use spray vegetable oil in the mold before hand.

marla hanna
2/25/2013 10:51:37 PM

I see where someone used a paper wrap as a soap cover, what do you recommend and where do you find them? As for the clear wrap, any suggestions with what brand to use?

maria bessette
6/6/2011 10:56:37 AM

Heidi, I also make large quantities to sell at Farmer's Markets and Artisan Shows. Always try to use all natural ingredients and also organic if possible. The melt and pour soap base you refer to is probably the clear base which is not glycerine but a product whereby lots of alchohol and additives were used to make it clear. That base is no better than any commercially made soap. Don't bother with infusions which in the end add very little natural fragrance. You can find organic and wild essential oils to add to your soap recipe for fragrance. An all natural totally handcrafted soap is the product that is the most sought after. You can find many natural soap recipes on the internet and elsewhere. Soap can be poured into sprayed or lined cardboard boxes, and pyrex of all shapes. Oats, lavender flowers, dried botanicals and herbs can be sprinkled on the soap before it hardens to add a decorative touch. I am really surprised you submitted a soap recipe to Mother Earth that perhaps was not natural. I hope you have been able to make the natural product and it was successful.

3/15/2011 12:49:37 PM

Cekoons- The article indicates that the author of the soap book (Maine) describes how to extract your own oils from herbs. I am intrigued, as I too had always understood essential oil production to be a difficult process that required commercial equipment. I may try to locate the book just to see how she does it. Maybe her end product is not actually a purified essential oil but is adequate for the soap-making process? Just imagining the smells of lavender and rosemary in my kitchen makes me want to try the recipe...

3/14/2011 5:24:50 PM

How do you propose to "make your own oils"??? Do you simply mean infuse the herbs in olive, grapeseed or peanut oil? It's not possible to make essential oils at home.

3/14/2011 2:16:35 PM

Unless you have EXTREMELY oily skin you should not use glycerin soap at all. People from Greece, Italy and the middle east do fine but the rest of us need to make soap with lye and olive oil. Very simple.

3/14/2011 8:33:38 AM

I make soap in large amounts to sell and I have some tips. That is a melt and pour soap base. It may have contained SLS. You can buy organic soap bases on line next time at New Directions. Spray your molds lightly with a spray olive oil, I use organic cooking spray. If they still are hard to get out, put the mold in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Remove and set on counter for 5 minutes. Flip over.The molds will just pop out. Next time you can speed up the hardening process by putting your soap in the freezer to harden. Always try to unmold your soap the same day, it's easier.

3/8/2011 12:46:58 PM

I think it is a safer bet to use an essential oil vs. an infusion. By adding water to a pre-made base, there is a risk that the finished product will mold.

8/25/2010 2:00:23 AM

Another trick for getting the soap bars out of the muffin tins is to use paper muffin pan liners. Just as with muffins themselves, they should slide out of the tin easily, and the paper can be peeled off. Voila!

marie pelland_1
8/24/2010 2:37:12 PM

Thank you Heidi

marie pelland_1
8/24/2010 11:55:18 AM

I don't understand this comment. * Infusion, are made he pouring steaming water over plant pans. three tablespoons of clued or fresh her]) per Cup of water steeped It'll minutes. Non water is best. I would really love to try this soap. I hope you can re-word it another way, so I can understand.

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