In the mid-20th century, many homes made their own soaps. It was economical and compatible with the cleaning methods of the time. Even many other countries still make their own soaps!
However, as we upgraded our washing machines and began using dishwashers, and the work week became much longer, we no longer had the time or reason to make soap instead of buying it.
As of 2019, the average American spends approximately $87.15 per year on soap and detergents (which I imagine only went up in 2020).
Nowadays, many people are interested in making their own soaps again, whether it is to implement more sustainable household practices, or just to save a few extra bucks. That’s why so many are dying to know, is it cheaper to make your own soap?
Generally speaking, it is cheaper to make your own soap, as long as you stick to basic recipes, bulk buy ingredients, and get creative with some soap-making tools. This is especially true if you pick a soap recipe that can be used for more than just your hands.
A basic soap recipe you can use to save money is 100% olive oil castile soap, which can be used for cleaning a variety of things and is much more sustainable for the environment.
There are many details to take into consideration when deciding which soaps should be homemade and which should be store-bought. Keep reading, because we give you all the dirty details on what to expect cost-wise when making soap and how to get the most bang out of your soap bar.
Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own Bar Soap?
Bar soap is simply soap that comes in a solid form. To use it, you get it wet and lather it between your hands or a washcloth. Bar soaps are typically used for washing the hands and body.
What Do I Need To Make Soap?
Once you get into more complicated recipes, your ingredients list may change. However, there are set ingredients for the most basic bar soap recipe, and soap-makings tools that are an absolute must.
Ingredients for 100% Olive Oil Castile Bar Soap:
- 35 oz. olive oil
- 9.2 oz. distilled water
- 4.5 oz. soapmaking lye
- 2 oz. essential oil or fragrance oil (optional)
Do I Need Essential Oils To Make Soap?
The short answer is no. It is totally fine to have plain, unscented soap—especially for your first time and if you’re looking to save as much money as possible. This could also be practical for soap bars that are going to utilized for more than just hand-washing or for those who are fragrance-sensitive.
Soap-making tools are:
- Electronic food scale
- Infrared thermometer
- Stick blender
- Containers for mixing (made of stainless steel or plastic #5)
- Heavy-duty plastic or silicone spatulas
- Safety goggles and gloves
- Soap mold (preferably 10” silicone loaf mold)
How Can I Save Money On Soap-Making Tools?
There are a few ways to save money on soap-making tools.
You Can Use Tools You Already Have, Like Food Scales And Infrared Thermometers
If you’re a frequent baker, you may already have a food scale which can be reused (just make sure you have your lye in a container and not directly on the scale). Food scales can also be found second-hand online, which is worth checking out.
Similarly, during the 2020 pandemic, infrared thermometers became more common-place, so that’s another tool you may already have in the cupboard.
You Don’t Need To Buy An Expensive Stick Blender
If you’re new to soap-making and are unsure of your commitment level, you do not need to buy the most expensive stick blender. While a cheaper one may not last through as many batches, it’ll get the job done while you’re still getting the hang of it.
Containers And Molds For Soap-Making
If you have some of those large heavy-duty plastic paint buckets laying around, feel free to give it a good cleaning and reuse that! Additionally, you do not need to buy a soap mold. You can reuse a (clean) plastic container, or line a study cardboard box with a plastic trash bag.
Cold Process VS. Hot Process
There are two more popular processes used for making bar soap: cold process and hot process. Hot process involves heating the oils before adding the additives, while cold process relies on chemical reactions to internally heat.
Bar soap made via cold process needs to sit from 4 to 6 weeks before use, while bar soap made from hot process can be used immediately after cooling.
The same recipes can be used for cold process and hot process, but for hot process you will need a Crockpot or another slow cooker. If you do not already have one of these, then the cold process is the more affordable option.
How To Make A Basic 100% Olive Oil Castile Soap Bar Recipe
Using the listed ingredients and tools from above, you can get started on your homemade soap recipe.
Before getting started you should:
- Put on your safety goggles, gloves, and long-sleeves! Lye can be dangerous if not handled carefully. This should be done away from pets and children, as well.
- Pre-measure your ingredients on the electronic food scale in order to ensure accuracy and consistency.
Stir the 4.5 ounces of lye into the 9.2 ounces of water in a stainless steel or plastic #5 container, until fully dissolved.
Pour 3.5 ounces of olive oil into a separate bowl and heat until 120-130 °F. Check with infrared thermometer until both olive oil and lye are close to 130 °F and within 10 degrees of each other. Then combine into one bowl and thoroughly mix with stick blender.
Step 3 (Skip if You Are Not Using Fragrance Oils)
Add 2 ounces of fragrance oils to the mixture and blend completely with stick blender.
Blend mixture until it is a thin pudding consistency, then pour into soap mold.
Let your soap rest at room temperature until the silicone can be easily separated from the soap—this can take up to 2 weeks. After this, you may cut it, but let it cure for another 4-6 weeks in order to safely use it.
In total, your initial start-up costs (including ingredients and tools) will likely be between $50-$100. The large range is heavily based on whether or not you need to buy everything new. The best way to save money long-term is to buy items wholesale, as most of the ingredients can be purchased in large quantities for cheap.
If you make basic soap that lacks high-end fragrances, dyes, or any other additives you can make it for as cheap as a few cents per bar (the average store-bought bar of soap costs about $0.97 each).
However, nicer soap that includes all those special additives ends up making the cost approximately the same as just buying bar soap. It should be noted that even if making the bar soap costs the same as buying it, the other uses for castile soap may end up saving you money in other areas.
If you keep reading, we will tell you quite how much you can do with 100% olive oil castile soap!
Can I Make My Own Liquid Castile Soap?
While the bar soap is pretty nifty, some uses work best with liquid soap. Liquid castile soap can get pricey pretty quickly, unless you happen to know how to make your own.
All you need to make your own liquid castile soap is:
- Bar of castile soap
- Distilled water
- Glass bowl
- Food processor or cheese grater
- Metal or plastic spoon
- Glass or plastic container to store the liquid soap
It’s really that straight forward. Once you’ve made your castile bar soap, it is unlikely that you’ll need to buy anything besides a couple jugs of distilled water to make liquid soap.
Keep reading to find out what you can do with liquid castile soap.
Is It Cheaper to Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap?
Foaming hand soap may be one of the most expensive soaps, especially considering how many times it is used in a day. The benefit of 100% olive oil castile soap is that it gets sudsy, just like regular soap.
Which means, if you like to make large batches of soap, you can easily use some of those bars to make liquid foaming hand soap as well!
To make foaming hand soap, you need:
- 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap
- Distilled water (just enough to dilute the castile liquid soap)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar or rubbing alcohol (optional, but recommended)
- 15 drops of essential oils
- A foaming soap container (you can reuse an old one)
Additional Notes For Foaming Hand Soap
Essential oils are considered a necessity for foaming hand soap, because some are naturally germ-fighting. The best essential oils to put in foaming hand soap for disinfectant purposes are lemongrass, orange, and peppermint.
In addition to essential oils, we recommend adding vinegar or rubbing alcohol to make disinfectant soap.
Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own Dish Soap?
If you make your own castile soap at home, it is definitely cheaper to make your own dish soap. In order to make homemade dish soap, all you have to do is put 1 part liquid castile soap to 10 parts warm water.
Homemade VS Store-bought Dish Soap
The one benefit that some store-bought dish soaps have is their disinfectant abilities. Fortunately, by briefly soaking dishes in a vinegar mixture after being washed, it will help disinfect and remove any potential soap-scum.
Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own Bodywash?
If you make your own soap, it is cheaper to make your own body wash. If you aren’t interested in just using a bar soap, you can grate a few bars of soap into warm water!
This is especially good if you have fragrance-sensitive skin, because you get to control what chemicals your skin is coming in contact with. Additionally, when you’re ready, you can add ingredients like oats, honey, and other moisturizers to make your homemade body wash even more luxurious on a budget.
Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own Laundry Soap?
Making laundry soap is cheaper than buying laundry detergent. However, laundry soap is not the same thing as laundry detergent. Detergent helps the water clean the clothes more effectively, and therefore remove the oils and dirt. Laundry soap does not do that, especially since it usually has oils added to it.
If you use laundry soap in a modern laundry machine you will ruin both your clothes and your laundry machine.
However, if you are using an old washing machine with a strong agitator or you handwash your clothes, then using homemade laundry soap is definitely cheaper than buying laundry detergent.
Additional Ways To Save (Or Even Make) Money
You can also save money while making your own soap, if you use recipes like the 100% olive oil castile soap, by using it as an all-purpose cleaner or a pesticide for plants.
You’ll want to make sure you do the appropriate research so you don’t accidentally kill your plant, but the imagination is about the limit in regards to getting creative with homemade soap.
Another bonus, if you like to sell your excess soap homemade soap bars to friends, that can further increase your savings. Many people want the benefits of homemade soap without having to make it themselves, so that is something else to keep in mind for those with entrepreneurial spirits.
The overarching conclusion, is that it is absolutely cheaper to make soap. If you pick a basic recipe, buy ingredients in bulk, look for opportunities to reuse products or buy second-hand, and use it for liquid cleaning products as well—you can easily save tons of money.
100% olive oil castile soap is a great starting recipe as it uses minimal ingredients and can be repurposed for a variety of cleaning tasks.
Soap-making is the perfect hobby for health- and environmentally-conscious consumers who still want to save money and keep a clean, green household!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.