Introduction: Simple Shortening Soap


This is my "Rebatch Soap Base." If you hurt yourself making this, it is not my fault... don't get me wrong; I do love you, but please follow the instructions very carefully. Why use Shortening? Because it's CHEAP and it provides a good medium for learning the process of soap-making.

This tutorial was designed to teach the soap-making process. It is also used for a 'Rebatching Base.' You'll see it used as a "Rebatch Base" in my other tutorials: Sexy Cinnamon Soap, and Orange Zest Soap.


Rubber Gloves
Glass Scientific Vessel (or Jar)
Stick Blender
Oven Safe Pan
Candy Thermometer


3/4 cup of Lye
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
3 pounds of Shortening

Lye is extremely CAUSTIC! It can cause severe chemical burns. If this is your first time using Lye, treat it as if it is radioactive... be respectful of this substance. ALWAYS keep a jug of Vinegar handy, as it chemically deactivates Lye. Use an expeditious amount of Vinegar if ever the "Lye Water" spills on the floor, you, or a kid...

ATTENTION!: If splashed with a LARGE amount of "Lye Water," pour water (a lot of running water) over the area, then apply Vinegar.

ATTENTION!: When splashed by a tiny amount of "Lye Water," it starts as a subtle itch; if your hands, arms, or face start itching; dowse immediately in Vinegar. If "Lye Water" is spilled on the floor Do Not Mop It Up Or Dilute It With Water. First... DEACTIVATE it with Vinegar, let it sit for a few minutes; this converts the Lye and Vinegar into harmless salt water, then mop it up.

If you have a scale, measure the Lye by weight (220 G). If not; VERY CAREFULLY measure out 3/4 cup and triple check it. Using your funnel, pour 3/4 cup of Crystallized Lye into your vessel, or jar. Use Gloves.They're Neat. Measure out 1 1/2 (330 Grams) cups of water (it's best to use distilled water, but purified or filtered water will do) and pour into your vessel.

Using a funnel, pour the Lye into the water vessel. Again, lye is Caustic. Don't allow Lye any opportunities to burn you.

During the initial chemical reaction between the Lye and water there will be fumes. I find these fumes disconcerting.. Don't let the fumes near your eyes (wear GOGGLES), nor allow yourself to inhale them. Place the "Lye Water" under the ventilation fan of your stove for a few minutes, when the water turns clear, it will stop 'fuming.' You will need to either agitate the water or stir it to keep chunks of lye from adhering to the base of the vessel.

Melt the Shortening (with glee swimming in your heart) at a Medium-High heat, and add 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil. The Olive Oil hardens the final soap product, it's very important; without it you will have a soft soap that will disintegrate quickly in water. When the Shortening is 3/4 melted; turn the heat off and remove from the burner. Check the Shortening for temperature with your candy thermometer, it should be close to 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check the "Lye Water" for temp, it should be around 175 degrees Fahrenheit. We will need to cool it down. Plug your sink and turn on the cold water, toss in a couple trays of ice cubes, then gently place the vessel of "Lye Water" in the ice bath. Make sure the level of ice water is on the same level as the "Lye Water."

When both "Lye Water" and melted Shortening are 97-100 degrees Fahrenheit, mix frabjously with a Stick Blender. "Shortening Soap" traces quickly. When it reaches "Trace" it becomes a somewhat thick pudding substance.

After "Trace" place the magical sludge into whatsoever mold you desire (Note: this does not include ANYTHING made of Aluminum or Cast Iron). This soap will "Set Up" quickly; you can usually cut it into bars within 3-4 hours. After cutting into bars, you must allow the soap to cure for 1-3 weeks before using.


SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-10-02

Here is Crisco fat with 55% and 45% butter oil in coffee (Not instant) again with cocoa. Another pic is Crisco fat in allspice-chili peppers type soap. Potassium hydroxide in wine 10 g for 150 ml is used.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-10-01

More fruit brandy wine attempts with cocoa and Crisco fat with 80% KOH and 20% NaOH. Here it is some pics. The solution of wine brandy has fruits that act like a base indicator. Neat.

Note that KOH (Potassium hydroxide) makes a slightly softer soap.

SHOE0007 (author)2017-10-01

3.33 g of Sodium hydroxide in 100 ml water with some other stuff added.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-10-01

I am trying this with cedar and lemon cherry with cocoa and esters of lemons. Most of the unreacted lye acts like this RCO2R′ + NH2R″ → RCONHR″ + R′OH forming a salt and alcohol. Yes the odors of lemons, for example, Ethyl formate converting lemon into rum like odor soap. 15 g butter and 100 ml of 3 g Lye NAOH.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-09-30

cedar soxhlex extraction 15g of 1% cedar Oil and 20% canola oil with 80% Crisco oil with palm oil soap. The soap pics are cocoa soap and I will make cedar water soap too.

SHOE0007 (author)2017-09-29

I plan to make Lard/butter Oil soap in the future. I found by using the soapcalc that using additional coconut oil hardness the soap to much.

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-09-27

I have made Lard with sodium hydroxide and burned nutmeg. Half of it turns into carbon by heat but the soap by air exposure turns into a hard soap. If you can buy 100% sodium hydroxide makes hard soap. Has anyone tried this with Potassium hydroxide? This is Nutmeg carbon soap.

gizmologist (author)2016-06-17

I treat my lye with greater respect than I treat my radioactive stuff...

gizmologist made it! (author)2016-06-09

Yup, It's soap! A fascinating science experiment with a useful result!

Verfurth (author)2014-08-16

I was wondering if I could use another oil besides olive to harden the mixture. I'm looking to make my own soap because I have developed an intolerance to coconut, olive, and almond. So I can't use any soaps with these ingredients either. They irritate my skin. I am going to try making my own soap without any of these ingredients.

evecruz420 (author)Verfurth2016-04-01

You can use coconut oil mix with vegetable shortening and canola oil it makes great soap Palm and coconut oil makes a harder soap. Olive oil takes longer to cure.

BarbaraH made it! (author)2014-11-21

I made 2 batches of this today. First is scented with Birthday cake fragrance oil and colored with pink, blue and purple ultramarines with glitter on top. Second is a batch of oatmeal, milk and honey scented with ground oats and organic honey added at trace. I will post pictures of it cut tomorrow. Thanks

missyvanwinkle (author)2014-02-16

I've made a few batches of soap a few years ago <hands on hips proudly> and I am running out so I am jumping back into the fray!

As I recall, shortening soap is pretty friendly, pretty easy to get along with - aside from the hours-long stir I did *by hand* years ago...but what I don't remember is if it seizes up with fragrance oils. Do you recommend putting them in early and losing some aroma or putting them in later because it will dash headlong to hard trace and leave you panting as you pour frantically?

I'm gettin' happy just thinking about it!

geezergdad (author)2012-11-15

How much coconut oil would i have to add to this .

IconicIdea (author)geezergdad2013-02-18

I already responded to you comment. Please see your answer below.

IconicIdea (author)geezergdad2012-11-15

Good question, I don't have an answer for you. This recipe is balanced to use only the oil/shortening indicated. If you want to make your own soap, using oils you prefer, I suggest looking up the saponification value of the oil and the lye/water ratio necessary to convert it.
Such as this place:

geezergdad (author)2012-11-15

Can i add coconut oil & how much do i add.

lbremer (author)2012-04-15

This is a Wonderful tut. I think it's just the thing for regular people to get into making their own soap easily and without fear. And I think your idea on bacteria is a good one. You know yourself that hand sanitizers are no substitute for good handwashing. In today's day and age, being frugal and green is ok.

IconicIdea (author)lbremer2012-04-16

Thank you for your comments. My first attempt at making soap resulted in a loss of 40 dollars. I bought some expensive Olive Oil and name brand Lye... and it failed, I felt like an idiot...

Most people don't know it's best to learn using inexpensive ingredients, then, once you have a good 'working knowledge,' move on to more expensive and luxuriant products. Nothing wrong with making amazing soap.

cschab01 (author)2012-01-01

I have a mustache mold just *dying* to be filled with soap, so I tried out your method (this being my first attempt at making soap).

However, my mixture never really became "pudding-like." The store only had 3lb "butter-flavored" shortening. Thinking about it for a minute, I thought it might be okay since you can make soap out of either shortening or butter, but maybe it had too much oil in it. My other problem was that I don't actually have a stick blender, so I used a hand-mixer. Does that make the difference in consistency? I gave it almost 15 min of blending.

Also, the mixture was a tan, "butterscotch" color throughout the process. When I melted the shortening, it was very "butter-yellow" (shocking!). So, I think the color is a result of the butter shortening, but I want to be sure it isn't the brown lye separation you wrote about. When you say soap is a "bad batch," do you mean that it is dangerous to use? You pretty much put the fear of God in me about the lye, so I'm interested to know when the lye is no longer dangerous in this process. You mean we make something we wash our hands with from something that we should never touch? The world never ceases to amaze me...

Thank you!

IconicIdea (author)cschab012012-01-01

cschab01 first of all let me state... I envy your mustache mold and now I'm going to make one myself.

I've made soap successfully with "Butter Flavored Shortening" it gives it a nice color when you're done, no harm there. I commend you sir on your find choice.

I recommend using a Stick Blender, you technically can use any blender, but they are not as effective and they take much longer to get the same results.

"When you say soap is a "bad batch," do you mean that it is dangerous to use?" Yes, it can be used for 'dangerous' or just disgusting looking, either way you can usually use different rebatch methods to save it.

You have to let the soap sit for at LEAST a week before using, usually after a week it is safe to use. If you notice your skin itching severely or turning red... your lye mix is wrong and it's a 'hot' batch.

That's okay, you can use it for laundry, I'm going to be posting an instructable soon on how to make laundry soap.

"You mean we make something we wash our hands with from something that we should never touch?" Yea Verily we do. But the interesting thing about "Lye vs Fat" is when the process is done the lye has destroyed itself and there is almost no oil left... the chemical process has created: SOAP!

SarahAppleworth (author)2011-12-31

"NEVER pour water into this substance; when dissolving or diluting always add it slowly to the water."
From the International Program on Chemical Safety
You will find these instructions on every Safety Data Sheet.
Please change your video to reflect the correct procedures in using this chemical; Goggles, protective clothing and gloves, not to use glass or aluminium in preparing this hazardous solution and to POUR THE LYE INTO THE WATER.
This is not an option.

Again... thank you EVER so much for spamming my youtube account and now here. Wonders never cease. Go away Troll, if I decide to update my videos, that is my business.

SeaSkyShore (author)2011-12-02

Help! I did something wrong but I have no idea what.

1. My soap turned purply-brown when I added the lye.
2. After cooling for several hours my "soap" was completely soft in places (like cream cheese) with large hard nuggets of white solid soap within it.

After I discovered the nuggets I tried to reheat the soap and then remold it, only when I tried to reheat it, it separated. There was a brownish liquid (the lye?) that sweated out of the soap. I couldn't incorporate it back in, no matter how much I mixed, so I just put the whole mass in the trash.

Any idea what I did that screwed this up so bad?

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-02

I've a few ideas, don't feel bad this happened to me A LOT when I started making soap; these are normal things that every 'Soaper' goes through. Fortunately you're learning using a very inexpensive oil :)

You must VERY carefully measure out all thing ingredients Lye vs. Water vs. Fat. If they are not balanced correctly (too much Lye) the Lye can seperate.

If you don't have a Candy Thermometer, Please Go Get One. I didn't use one for the longest time and made so many mistakes... it really is a life saver. It sounds like you added a very Hot lye water mixture to a rather Cool oil. Don't use re-used fats (used Crisco, used Canola Oil), just use new Shortening & Olive Oil.

Don't over, or under mix your raw soap mixture, too much... and it separates, too little and you don't get soap... and it still may separate.

Anytime you get a brownish liquid that separates, this is Lye, and the batch may very well be bad. Most 'Soapers' throw this type of batch out, I know a few tricks to save batches like this; let me know if you're interested. Hope this info helped.

SeaSkyShore (author)IconicIdea2011-12-02

Thank you!

I tried the recipe again, paying very close attention to the temp of the oil and lye. I think that in the last batch while I gave the lye it's ice bath the oil got too cool and I didn't bother to check it again after the initial melt.

The new batch is sitting in the mold and so far it looks to be setting just fine. The old batch went down the disposal along with the separated lye.

One thing is still odd, it's all purply-brown again as soon as I add the lye. I don't mind the color (it looks kinda cool) but I am concerned that it might be an indicator of having done something wrong. Has this ever happened to you?

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-03

No, I've never experienced that... Are you adding anything to the mix? Scented oils, honey, oatmeal, biscuits, chicken hearts, etc?

The only discoloration I've had is directly due to something I've added, just straight Lye Water vs Shortening has never made an odd colour for me.

SeaSkyShore (author)IconicIdea2011-12-04

Nope, no additives. I wanted to start simple with the basic recipe, then move on to the re-batching method that you outlined.

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-04

I'm pulling a bunch of question marks on this one. Make sure that the raw soap does not come into contact with ANYTHING made of Aluminum, as that will quickly cause a negative reaction and discoloring. Aside from that... I don't know why, I'd have to be there to correctly diagnose it. Let me know how the end result is. Does the soap have a metallic scent to it? Does it foam up, or not at all? Things like that might help me narrow it down. I'm glad you're having fun with it, and are willing to try again. You're awesome.

SeaSkyShore (author)IconicIdea2011-12-04

No metallic scent at all. It foams a little but still seems to leave a fair bit of oil on the skin afterwards. I'm wondering if it might have something to do with the brand of "Crisco" I used. I bought a different brand and I am going to try another batch tomorrow but I need to go out and get some more lye. I'm concerned the CoOp is going to think I'm cooking meth now :(

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-08

I used "Western Family" brand shortening in the video. There are some bad brands of generic shortening that turn into shmutz, instead of soap. You may have a bad brand?

SeaSkyShore (author)IconicIdea2011-12-08

Woot! I am triumphant with success. I used a Western Family off-brand equivalent (Best ValU) and a different wand-mixer. It is BEAUTIFUL! Like the creamiest vanilla pudding, I almost wanted to eat it. Don't worry, I exercised restraint.

Thank you for all the encouragement and input. I certainly feel awesome and giddy with accomplishment.

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-09

Congratulations! You ARE awesome!

SeaSkyShore (author)IconicIdea2011-12-09

Ok, the scientist in me had to lay the discoloration problem to rest and I had to recreate the "problem". It wasn't any of the variables I had considered before. It wasn't the "Crisco" or my wand-mixer.

It is the container the shortening came in! The brand I started with came in a paper/foil lined can and my secondary shortening has in a plastic container. The veg-oil must leech some of the aluminum from it's long stay in the container. This explains why it seems to magically change color when the lye is added.

So my difficulty with my first batch was 2-fold. 
1. The "Crisco" was contaminated by aluminum
2. I didn't pay close enough attention to the temperature of my lye water and oil.

Here are a couple pictures from the batches this morning to illustrate the difference.

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-16

SeaSkyShore, can I use these pictures in my next video tutorial? I'll be filming it this coming week and they would be very helpful. Do I have you permission to use them? You'll be furthering SCIENCE!!

SeaSkyShore (author)IconicIdea2011-12-16

Of course! They are yours to use as you will.

Thank you again for your feed back and for providing such a awesome set of Instructables. I have successfully rebatched all the soap I made into different "flavors" for Christmas gifts. I made the Citrus and Cinnamon soaps but I also improvised with some Oatmeal Vanilla, Coffee, and Jasmine. I have over 50 bars of luscious soap now so I think I will have plenty left over for myself!

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-16

You are a Rockstar. Consider adding two ounces each of castor oil, honey, and almond oil to your original crisco batch.

Castor oil - More Suds
Honey - More Lather, Moisturizing
Almond Oil - Creamy Lather, Smooth texture on skin.

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-09

Thank you for that info, I'll be replacing the current video with an updated one in the next week or so and I'll include that information. I naturally stay away from anything aluminum because I already know it messes up soap; but beginners don't know that, good info.

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-03

What kind of pan are you mixing it in? Stainless Steel? Ceramic? Aluminum?

SeaSkyShore (author)IconicIdea2011-12-04

First I used stainless, then my enameled stock pot. Same color each time, as soon as I added the lye and mixed. Is it possible that it is reacting to the metal mixer blades?

IconicIdea (author)SeaSkyShore2011-12-02

"After I discovered the nuggets I tried to reheat the soap and then remold it, only when I tried to reheat it, it separated."

I'd advise not rebatching any problem soap until it has cured for a week. If the soap remains 'solid' (even if portions are soft) with no lye leakage, you can likely rebatch with no problems. Please see my other instructable "Preparing Soap For Rebatching."

MacTGR (author)2011-11-14

How strong, if that is even the right word, its this soap?

What are its uses? Is it antibacterial? If not, how do you make antibacterial soap?


MacTGR (author)MacTGR2011-11-14

Also, very cool and very funny!

IconicIdea (author)MacTGR2011-11-14

Thanks! I'm glad you like it. As far as strength, it's a medium/high strength soap. This soap has no additives, so it's very convenient for someone with skin conditions. Uses...? You can use it for anything you'd use soap for? It's not any more antibacterial than any other home-made soap. I've no interest in making antibacterial soap for several reasons.

A: Any bacteria is doesn't kill, gets stronger and then resilient to the "anti-bacteria."
B: The term "Anti-Bacterial" is kitsch, and overused and not understood.
C: I like bacteria the way it is, fighting it with normal wholesome soap will not mutate it.
D: Pie.
E: Caramel Piglets eating magical papaya.
F: Monkeys... not the flying variety, but the vicious ones that have red glowing eyes in the night and swing from branches.

MacTGR (author)IconicIdea2011-11-15

Thanks. I agree with you on the antibacterial soap, we do not need to continue promoting super bacteria; I was only asking out of curiosity. There are many instances where antibacterial soap is warranted, like after you cut yourself shucking an oyster that time at the New Years Eve party at my mothers...

IconicIdea (author)MacTGR2011-11-15

Agreed, a balance of everything is needed. Society doesn't need to slather "ANTI-BACTERIAL" smutsz on everything from sunburns to mosquito bites. We just need common sense, and balance... (and orange juice).

IconicIdea (author)IconicIdea2011-11-15

However the following are "Naturally" antibacterial and all go very well in soap:

Raw Honey
Goldenseal Root Powder
Tea Tree Oil
Lavender Essential Oil

I guess this makes me a hippy.... or at least a hipster. YAY!

gaf1 (author)2011-11-11


About This Instructable




Bio: I love creating things. I like pie, kittens, and cute babies... alternatively I hate heartbreak, rabid dogs, zombies, and death.
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