Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crockpot Coffee Kitchen Soap--Tutorial

This is one of my favorite handmade soaps.  It works great for onion and garlic smells on your hands.  You can buy most of the ingredients at your local grocery store.

This process takes a while, but it is worth the end result.  I got 16 slices of soap and 4 decent size (but not pretty) soap balls.


Cold coffee
Olive Oil
Palm Oil
Coconut Oil
Ground coffee (not instant)
Almond or Castor oil
Lye* (see notes)


Crockpot (I use a crockpot from a garage sale that is just for soap making)
Stainless steel spoon (not aluminum!) -you can use a wooden spoon, just don't use it for food when you are done
Glass jar for mixing lye
Wooden skewer for mixing lye
Postal or kitchen scale that weighs in 1/10th of ounce increments
Phenoolphthalein or litmus strips (in the pool supply aisle)
Soap Mold (I use a pringles can!)
Stick blender (helpful but not necessary)


Weigh 12 oz. of cold coffee into a glass jar.  Weigh 4.8 oz. of lye into a small jar or bowl.  Slowly add lye into coffee (DO NOT add the coffee to the lye, it will erupt and can cause burns!), stirring with a wooden skewer.  DO NOT breathe the fumes.  This is going to get HOT!  Stir until all of the lye is dissolved.  Set aside.

Weigh 18 oz. of olive oil, 8 oz. of coconut oil and 6 ounces of palm oil into your crockpot.  I add each oil seperately and then reset the scale.

Turn the crockpot on high to melt the oils.
When the oils are melted, pour in the lye mixture and stir to incorporate.

Stir with the spoon constantly without splashing until mixture resembles thick set pudding.  This will take approx. 15-30 min. depending on the temperature of your oils.  If you have a stick blender, pulse in short bursts, alternating with stirring, you should reach the proper consistency in about 5-8 min. with a stick blender.

Once you have reached this stage (called trace), you put the lid on the crockpot and let it cook.  Check back in about 10  minutes.  The outsides should be boiling and it should start to look like a gel.

Stir and put the lid back on for another 5-10 minutes.  I like to check and stir every 5-10 minutes.  After about 15 minutes your soap should resemble applesauce, it will be gelled and chunky looking.
applesauce stage

close-up of applesauce stage, with a drop of phenolphthalein
(the red means it is not neutral)

Keep stirring and checking your soap, it will start to get smoother and will eventually resemble mashed potatoes.  Once it has reached this stage, take a small amount and cool it on a plate.  Rub it between your fingers, it should feel waxy.  Check the ph to see if it is neutral.  Continue cooking until the soap tests neutral on the plate. Usually it takes about 30 minutes of total cooking time (after you reach trace),  I will usually finish my soap after 30 min. even if I am not quite sure it is neutral.  You can check the finished soap to be sure it is neutral, and if it is not, all you have to do is let it cure for a week or two.
mashed potato stage
Once your soap is ready, add 2 tbsp. almond or castor oil and 2 tbsp. ground coffee  and  mix well.  I like to leave it a little swirled.
Place the finished soap into the mold of your choice.  I find it is best to put some soap in then tap the mold a few times to pack it in and repeat until full.  I had some soap leftover so I scooped it onto a plate and formed it into balls as it cooled (these are not pretty, but they still function).
Let soap cool completely and remove from mold.  In this case, I just tear the container off from the soap.

Slice soap into approx. 1/2" slices.  Enjoy clean and fresh smelling hands!


-This is NOT a child friendly project, lye is dangerous stuff.  Use caution and common sense.  I always made soap when my kids were younger, they knew they were not allowed in the kitchen when mom was making yucky stuff!
-Lye is a form of drain cleaner and can be found at many hardware stores and home improvement centers.  Read the labels to make sure you have 100% lye.
-Wear gloves when handling the lye.
-You can check your soap with phenolphthalein or litmus strips when it is done, it should be neutral. 
-Leave your bars out to air dry, flipping them over every day, for a week and they will be harder and store longer.
-If you want a plain soap, use water instead of the coffee and leave out the ground coffee.  You could add essential oil with the almond oil right before you mold your soap, just use about 1 tsp. of your favorite scent. 
-You could also make this other scents like lavender or peppermint and add 2 Tbsp. lavender or peppermint leaves.
-This is one of my favorite hostess gifts with a handmade dishcloth.


Anonymous said...

Wow - I have always wanted to learn how to make soap! This is the clearest instruction I think I've ever seen! Thanks for a great post! (I found you on the Raising Homemaker's link thing)

Sarah beth said...


WOW, this is amazing!!!! I really want to make my own soap, love this idea! I cannot wait to try. does it really smell like coffee??

where can i get lye? and how long does this process take??

thanks so much for sharing, too cool!

Sarah beth

Brooke said...

I have made soap, and this is so much easier than the way I usually do it, thanks for the tips.

Heart-Hands-Home said...

Sarah Beth, you can buy lye at a hardware store (like Ace) or home improvement store (like Home Depot). You have to read the containers as some brands are not 100% lye. The whole process takes 1-1 1/2 hours depending on how organized you are. I would plan extra time the first time you make it.
Good Luck!

hearthandshome said...

Sarah Beth, you can buy lye at a hardware store (like Ace) or home improvement store (like Home Depot). You have to read the containers as some brands are not 100% lye. The whole process takes 1-1 1/2 hours depending on how organized you are. I would plan extra time the first time you make it.
Good Luck!

Livinasimplelife said...

Great post. I just recently learned to make cold-processed soap & it's fun to get to design it yourself. I like your coffee soap. It looks really pretty. I am going to give it a try. Thanks!

Barb said...

I have wanted to make my own soap for a very long time but it's a process that has intimidated me terribly until now...You have given such a great walk through on how to make it that even I feel inspired to make some. Thanks so much!
Peace & Love,

Lani said...

And it is EXTREMELY important to test the pH before you give it to your friends for gifts!!!!

HeartHandsHome said...

Barb, I felt the same way when I started making my own soap. There are so many different ways you can make soap. This recipe is one of my favorite and most reliable! I would love to hear about your soap making adventures!

Lori said...

I have always wanted to try making my own soap (not the melt & pour kind) but was always so intimidated. Your clear directions make it seem doable. I can't wait to try it! Thanks for the tutorial & confidence boost.

Gabe said...

I think I'm going to give this a try in the next week or so. I'm wondering what size crockpot that is that you are using? Do you think a 2 quart on would work? I have an extra one of those. ;)

Hearthandshome said...

It is a 3 qt. crockpot and when the soap is foaming it reaches to the top. I am not sure a 2 qt. would be quite big enough. If you try it, I would watch it closely and stir often.

Glenda said...

Do you use fresh grounds or will the used grounds work?

Hearthandshome said...

I used fresh ground coffee beans. Instant coffee will dissolve and is not very pretty. I have never tried used grounds, I imagine they would work fine, just not have as much scent. You could always add some fragrance or essential oil to the coffee grounds.

Joanne said...

Can I use a stainless steel pot if I don't have a crack pot?

Hearthandshome said...

Stainless steel is fine, so is enamel as long as there are no cracks. You just want to be sure not to use aluminum pots--they can react with the lye and cause toxic fumes or your soap to turn awful colors.
Woul love to hear how your first batch goes!

decembersong said...

This is lovely! How long is it durable? That it, the best-before date, kind of. Months? Years?
Thanks again for this awesome recipe!!

Hearthandshome said...

Definately months, possibly years. A batch normally last our family 6-8 months depending on how many we give away. I have never had any problems storing it that long, so I imagine it would last longer. Whenever we have company and they ask about the soap I give them a bar to take home.

DanaesCraftyDesignsBlog said...

Hello- I found your wonderful Crock Pot Coffee Soap on Totally Tutorials- and LOVE it! I am in the process of starting up a new Craft Blog, to go along with my ETSY Shop Danae's Crafty Designs- and would love to feature this tutorial on my blog; along with a link back to your blog. If this is alright with you- please let me know, as I will wait for permission. Thanks again for a lovely project. :)

natasha said...

hi is there away to use the coffee recipe in a soap mix that doesn't have the lye init? 

Hearthandshome said...

I don't think it is possible to make soap without lye. Lye is what reacts with the fat in the oils and turns them into soap.  You could use coffee grounds and add them to melt-and-pour glycerin soap(the shea butter kind would be especially nice) from the craft store, if you are looking for a simpler and safer way to make coffee soap at home.  You just melt the soap according to the package directions and then add the ground coffee or coffee scent to the soap and pour into prepared molds.

Stopnsmellchocolate said...

I love this!  I've never tried soap, but I think I could handle this and it would be so wonderful for gifts.  I'll have to look for another crockpot at the thrift stores just for this!  Thanks!

Joniesbanzuela said...

it is hard to do ..

Katie Pallen said...

It also depends on the shelf life of the oils you bought. I typically add three months to the shelf life the manufacturer tells me, just to be safe. Out of all of the above oils, sweet almond oil lasts the shortest amount of time, only about a year. Keep your oils that spoil quickly in the fridge.

Katie Pallen said...

I would use the stainless steel pot inside a larger pot of water (double boiler style)

Robert Goodman said...

How do you keep children from testing the :item in the crock pot thinking it is food like applesauce? I don't think I could make this with kids withing a 30 mile range.

Hearthandshome said...

When my kids were younger I only made soap when I had an extra set of hands to keep them occupied and away from it.  As they got older I included them in the soap making process.

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Anonymous said...

So I tried this today as a fun way to keep busy as I had the house free from kids and husband. I would like to ask what kind of coffee you used because my soap came out really dark. Not that it really matters I love it completely and had a great time making it. But it never got to that pudding stage. I figure it still works and I'm not going to complain one bit. Thanks so much for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

Great and very detail instructions :)

Amy said...

how is it safe to use drain cleaner to make soap to use on your hands??

nicole henke said...

also great to get crawfish and shrimp semmls off your hands after a boil/bbq!

Janers41 said...

Nearly all commercial soaps are made with lye -- look on the label for sodium hydroxide.  That's lye. During the soap making process the sodium hydroxide reacts with the fats, and the resulting chemical reaction makes the soap safe for use.  I made soap for years and will never buy soap from the store again.  Commercial soap has too many unnecessary additives.

Jessi Dutton said...

Sounds and looks wonderful, but I'm worried the lye will destroy my hands.  Is there anything I can use instead of lye?

Blackberryfarm said...

I think this sounds great. It will take some time but I am going to try it! I have to say that lye is used in many different products and has been for centuries. Lye is a natural occurring chemical. Not that I mean that all natural chemicals are a good thing, just an fyi. :)

ASan said...

You need lye to make actual soap. You won't actually come in contact with the lye. Also - wear gloves and goggles. Check out this link and youtube videos. I've made lots of soap over the past few months and not touched the lye at all.

ekayt1981 said...

Interested in trying this project, I had my chemist husband look over it because of the presence of caustic soda (AKA lye). He expressed concern that lye will dissolve glass if left unattended or used inappropriately. You should mix the lye/coffee mixture in a plastic container/beaker (which would obviously not be used for food) He also says that while the ceramic, coated crock-pot itself is fine, everyone needs to make sure that their crock-pot lid is PLASTC, becasue lye can volatize at high temps and as we have previously discussed, it dissolves glass. The last major concern we had was the step that has you test the waxiness of the soap before testing the pH. Of all the chemicals he works with on a regular basis, lye/sodium hydroxide is one of the more dangerous ones. There's no reason why you shouldn't do this project, but you should make sure to observe proper safety precasutions. And don't forget to wear safety goggles!!!

Jennie at Snapdragon Diaires said...

WOW this has blown my mind actually... so great to see homemade soap, and I love the fact that you can change the scents too ! As I was browsing your blog I wondered if you would consider linking THIS tutorial up with my Linky Party today... it's aimed at crafters just like you with a talent to share... I then choose the best of the best to showcase next week and pin onto my Pinterest board. Maybe you will consider the invite...
Jennie. x

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Melanie Lynch-Evans said...

Amazing, you are so helpful---thank you for helping me fulfill my potential!

Vic said...

What's the purpose of the coffee grounds?  Just an abrasive exfolliant?

Sherry Kotarski said...

I just found this through Pinterest. I just wanted to say that this soap would also be great for cleaning and exfoliating feet in the summertime.

Jj said...

I just found your soap making page. I had no idea you could make soap in a crock pot…how fun…just another reason to love my crock pot. My Grandma made her own soap for years, but she made hers country style with cooking grease and did the cold process. You said if you want plain soap to just use water. I'm curious if you could infuse your water with an herb or fruit then add the lye. I've never made soap before (just helped Grandma grind her soap) so I'm wondering how you know what concoction is safe for lye to be added.---Thanks for the informative page!

corey412 said...

Would it be possible to mail homemade soap?

Haven Vrba said...

Please do not mix your lye in a glass container. Overtime, the lye will etch the glass and could potentially explode. Also, if you use a wooden skewer or spoon to stir, the lye will eat at the wood and result in splinters in your finished soap. Stainless steel or a plastic spoon that can withstand high temps is best. When you mix your lye, stir until the mixture is clear and no longer cloudy. Otherwise you could end up with undissolved lye and a caustic soap that will burn skin. Make sure to wear long sleeves, pants and closed toe shoes, gloves, and goggles and make sure to mix your lye in a well ventilated area, I mix mine outside and stand up wind so the fumes are blown away from me. Soap making is a lot of fun and you can get very creative but it is also very dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. Do lots of research before beginning this project.

Annathule said...

Well, we all seemed to think this was the clearest tutorial on how to make soap we've read. Who'd've thunk it? Homemade soap w/o a library full of books, a couple of old grannies and 3 or 4 great aunts in your house and w/ as little fear and trepidation as possible. Thank you for making me feel like it's an obscure art for the highly trained and I shouldn't get w/in a mile of trying. I like the clues about glass and lye, I'm sure she's made this for YEARS w/ a glass lid to her crockpot - when was the last time you saw a crockpot w/ a plastic lid? Not me and we (Mom, son's wives and I) have owned several since they came out. Personally - lye and plastic??? Talk about feeling like something will melt holding lye!! Indeed!

So now I know, once again, I need to be a fully trained, full time, multi-generational homesteader to even attempt this. *sigh* Well, it was fun while it lasted... smh

Courtney said...

Great and very detail instructions :)

Jessica said...

Please add goggles to your equipment list. Lye can BLIND if it gets in your eyes. Also, liquid soap is caustic until it hardens, so gloves should be worn throughout the whole process, not just when handling lye.

Annathule said...

Thank you for that info! That's something I wouldn't have known. Haven't tried this yet, but you know how "life" can but its nose into things more than you'd like! *rueful smile* Hubby's way better now tho. That's a "Thank God" moment there.

Shawn Rounsville Burkett said...

You can not make soap with out lye. The lye and the fats/oils chemically react so they are no longer the same things - they become soap.

Sorta like making gravy out of milk and flour. Once they are mixed together & cooked it is no longer milk or flour but becomes gravy.

Shawn Rounsville Burkett said...

Once they are combined and cooked it is no longer lye it is soap. All soap is made with lye. Even melt and pour soap is made with lye.

LeAnn McKenzie Lewis said...

Nice soap, but I would caution that Drain cleaners sometimes have metal shavings in them to aid in unclogging pipes. I would REALLY recommend using food grade lye, which I have only found online. I cant seem to find pure lye in hardware stores anymore, because of people who make meth :O/

jfz said...

Does this end up smelling like coffee? I tried it yesterday with espresso and as of yet it doesn't really have a scent (aside from that of the oils). I didn't use the same oils as you, I followed my own recipe, but I don't thin kthat should make a difference.

Anna said...

Hi LeAnn, I found 100% lye like this gal used in her recipe, at Ace Hardware in the plumbing section. I was told it was 100% lye, no metal shavings or additives to unclog pipes, plain ole lye! It works great.

soapykids said...

hello ekay I have been wondering if the fumes in the crock pot can be dangerous ?i just made a milk soap recipe and the honey in the pot smells pretty bad and i got a headache not sure if its just the smell or am i breathing in fumes ?should i wear a mask while in cooking soap . cause I see people on you tube not wearing one and mixing in there ingredients . And should I be cooking soap with crockpot in the house around children ! At what stage does the lye go away in the air ? it might be me im not a fan of strong smells .

Meghan said...

I just made this soap! Great tutorial. My husband and I have made cold process soap before, but not hot process soap. It was so fun! Thanks very much. Also, for those of you concerned about the lye, I keep some vinegar on hand in case I spill it (the acid neutralizes the base) but I haven't had any troubles with it so far. I also haven't had any trouble at all with keeping the lye in a glass container while I'm melting my oils. I don't think it's in the glass container long enough to cause any troubles. Thanks again for the wonderful tutorial!

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Ginger Griffin said...

could I do this with the soap blocks that you just have to melt down?

the country ducks said...

In the "olden days" before lye, they used wood ash from their fires. So if you wanted to make soap without lye, you could theoretically collect your wood ashes and consult the internet about how to process it from that point... :)

the country ducks said...

Also; people concerned about the caustic nature of lye: you gotta understand that once the soap is finished, the process has "saponified" the oils and lye and changed the nature of the soap chemically so that there is actually no longer lye in it..... that's why a cure time of several weeks is necessary. i'm not sure why she says you can use the soap immediately. That is something I've never heard before. I have never used any fancy chemicals to test the ph of my cold pressed soaps. Seems like a waste of money. Jjust let them cure several weeks to a few months (olive oil soaps take longer to cure)- when they're done they will be mild. If you used them immediately they would be harsher on your skin because the process isn't complete yet.

Elizabeth Anne Curless said...

You absolutely CAN make soap without lye. I've done and there are numerous tutorials out there on how to do it as well.

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B. Taylor said...

No, you cannot make soap FROM SCRATCH without lye. You're talking about melt and pour.

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citymouse said...

If it's made with wood ash, you're making your own lye.

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Jo said...

the soap looks great. I've read that because phenolpthalein is toxic the better way is to remove a little at the applesauce stage, test it with the litmus and then discard that piece of soap, do not return it to the pot. I love your range of soaps they look fantastic, better than most of the hot process jobs I have tried

Angelwings2 said...

No M'am... You Cannot make soap without lye. . . its just not possible! The lye (caustic soda) must make a chemical reaction with the oils/fats to become soap.

If you have managed a way to be able to actually make a solid bar of soap without the use of lye, then Congratulations!! Because, you are the 1st person in history that has!

Even Melt & pour soaps, were made using lye, then other non-natural chemicals were added to make it so one could melt it, and pour into molds.

Also, there is no such thing as real "glycerin soap". Glycerin in its natural state is a liquid. Plasticizers and chemicals are added to make it a solid. Some people call melt & pour soaps, glycerin soaps.

ALL handmade soaps contain glycerin, naturally.

This is just my 2 cents worth, and years of soapmaking. . .

Angelwings2 said...

Yes, please post at least the complete list of ingredients, for us to see. . .

Angelwings2 said...

LOL--- Soap does not have an expiration date!

I have soaps that I made years ago! To me, soap is like a fine wine. . . It gets better with age!! The older the soap is, the milder or smoother it is on your skin! I have friends that have soap bars that are over 10 years old!

ErinElizabeth said...

That's still lye, it's just Potash or Potassium Hydroxide instead of the Sodium Hydroxide commercially made now. Potash makes a softer soap though I've read that old timers used to throw in a handful of salt to help make harder bars. While making my own potash and soap from it is on my to-do-someday list one still has to be just as careful with it as the sodium hydroxide stuff.

ErinElizabeth said...

She says you can use it immediately because she's made a hot process soap, the heat accelerates the saponification and as long as your recipe is correct and you cook it fully, it is ready to use immediately. I like the way my cold processed soaps look better but sometimes I've procrastinated too long and I just need soap NOW so I use both techniques.

RaeS said...

I tried making this soap, and I followed the recipe exactly. I had no problems with the process, and the soap has cooled and set up nicely. However, it doesn't smell at all like coffee. It sudses great and leaves my hands feeling nice, but frankly it doesn't really smell very good at all, and I really don't get any coffee scent. Did I do something wrong? Is there a way to make it smell more like coffee? Or does it just need to cure for a week or two for the unpleasant smell to go away and the coffee smell to come through? Thanks!

LL said...

I tried this recipe. I'm not sure what went wrong, but something sure did! I cooked and cooked the soap, but the phenolphthalein was never clear (the drop might be clear at first, but it always turned bright red once I stirred it). I think I cooked the soap too long--maybe 1 1/2 hours or more?--trying to get the phenol to stay clear.

The consistency at the end was kind-of a "whipped" texture and it won't seem to harden in the molds--it's still crumbly and soft.

I'm sad because I was really excited about trying this. Any advice or help would be MOST appreciated :)

Allison said...

your instructions were the easiest for me to follow! Thank you so much.I am using yours to make soap from now on(before that I had followed someone else's,and my soap did NOT turn out well at all!) I like how my coffee soap isn't loud smelling,it's kind of subtle.I have a family that loud scents bother them,so it really works well for us! And Also,thank you for providing us with pictures,I know I am doing it right when my soap looks like yours in the step-by-steps!

AndyA121 said...

I'm a beginner I ad read that using things like "Draino" or " Liquid Plumber" have other chemicals in them that don't change their chemical structure and can be damaging to your skin. It can render your soap no longer "organic" or natural.
But I have this reciepe on my next list of soaps to make. Thanks!

Donna Weiss said...

Would love to see a recipe not using lye! Have to say lye scares the heck out me, but, this year I will be going outside my comfort zone and making soap! :) If there's a recipe NOT using lye, it will be my first try!

Lora Dugan said...

The Cooking process speeds up the chemical reaction between the oils and the lye. I make all of my soaps in the crock pot and they are ready to use when they cool enough to take them from the molds. Some need to harden for a week or two but all are usable when done cooking.

Lilly Lee said...

Hey, thanks a lot for pointing out that you should turn the heat down to LOW after it reaches the trace stage. The soap overflowed waaaaaay before 10 minutes had elapsed and I had a HUGE, UGLY mess to clean up. Luckily it still came out in the end or else I would have been really p-ed off. Now, you have a real nice day.

chicagomom14 said...

ACE and only get the one that say Sodium Hydroxide, I would not trust it if it doesn't say that even though it says 100% lye - Many soapers use the ROOTO because ti DOES say it

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Jodi Williams said...

First, she never said a word about the glass lid of the crockpot. She only referred to the jar, and yes, if you take a lackadaisical view of making it, you can lose a lot. Most soapmakers have at one time or another learned the hard way when they got a little too cocky, but good luck with yours.

Jodi Williams said...

Melt and pour already has already passed the lye process, but lye is still used, unless it has detergents and other synthetic ingredients.

Jodi Williams said...

Would love to see her ingredient list. If there is tallowate, cocoate, palmate, etc, the lye process occurred before your mother got the final or near final product, which is usually melt and pour.

Jodi Williams said...

Simple. The chemical process called saponification that occurs, is where the reaction splits into fatty acids and salts. No lye is left after the molecules split. Of course one wants to be careful not to touch it beforehand, but after, it is certainly safe.

Jodi Williams said...

What exactly is your problem? If you really want to try soapmaking, do it. Your posts don't really make sense unless of course, your degree is in sarcasm; and it sounds like you're yelling.

Annathule said...

Yay, you recognize sarcasm. Huh. Imagine that. (Ya think???)

All except for the melting-wax/don't-burn-your-house-down thing, I was serious about that.

Soaper said...

Purple do NOT, NOT, NOT (!!!!!!!!) add the phenolphthalein to your soap!! This is a highly toxic substance (part of making soap is to get away from all that commercial toxicity right?)
Instead, remove just a tiny bit of soap, placed on a napkin or paper towel, put your drop of phenolphthalein on that and check the color. IMMEDIATELY throw it away after testing.
I can not say strongly enough, do NOT, add the phenolphthalein to your entire soap batch!!!

Soapy said...

I don't think she's nuts at all, but I do think you don't know what you're talking about.
The ONLY way she is "making soap" without handing lye is by using Melt & Pour (which already has the lye mixed in it).

Christina Hagerman said...

For the abrasiveness and for the scent absorption. Coffee is great for absorbing unwanted smells. I sometimes make little sachets of coffee to put in the car. :-)

Doug Linn said...

Is there a way to NOT use Lye in the soap making process, if going for all natural why use it?

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