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The Green Life: DIY Natural Soap: Head-to-Toe Shampoo Bar

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September 05, 2012

DIY Natural Soap: Head-to-Toe Shampoo Bar

Head-to-Toe Shampoo BarHeidi Corley Barto started dabbling in soap-making when her younger daughter started to experience skin issues. The Natural Soap Chef is the product of those experiments. Homemade soap allows you to control what goes into your soap, so that you can get clean while keeping nasty chemicals out of the environment and away from your skin. This week, we'll share some of our favorite recipes from The Natural Soap Chef  — just follow the step-by-step directions for make your own eco-soap at home!

Soap #2: Head-to-Toe Shampoo Bar

A shampoo bar is great for many reasons: It’s a total body cleanser, it’s portable for travel, and it means there’s one less bottle to fall on your foot in the shower. I do still recommend using a conditioner. Lather the bar in your hands and smooth the lather from the roots to the ends of your hair. This will minimize tangling. A shampoo bar will raise the cuticles of the hair, so I suggest using a vinegar rinse made with 1 part apple cider vinegar to 9 parts water.



  • 142 grams castor oil
  • 142 grams coconut oil
  • 142 grams palm oil
  • 85 grams olive oil
  • 57 grams shea butter

Lye mixture

  • 79 grams sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
  • 215 grams chilled coconut milk

Add at trace

  • 17 grams ocean rain fragrance oil


1. Measure your fragrance into a small glass container and set aside. Measure the oils into a plastic container. Place the container in a larger pot and pour in enough hot tap water that the container begins to float. Set the pot on the stove and turn the heat to warm. Insert a thermometer into the oils.

2. Goggles and gloves on!

3. Measure the chilled coconut milk into a heat-safe glass container; set the container into an ice water bath. Measure the lye crystals into a separate small glass container. Slowly add the lye crystals to the coconut milk, stirring with your spatula as you do so. Insert a thermometer into the lye mixture. The coconut milk will darken in color and thicken; keep stirring. If you notice the temperature rising above 140°F, add more ice to the cold water bath. Do not inhale above this container!

4. Monitor the temperatures of the two containers. You want both to reach 90°F. As needed, refresh the hot water bath or turn the stove burner higher to raise the temperature, or add ice to the cold water bath to bring the temperature down.

5. When both the oils and the lye mixture are at 90°F, pour the lye mixture into the plastic container with the oils. Blend with your stick blender until the mixture reaches a light trace stage (it will drizzle like pancake batter and leave a faint trail that stays on top for a bit before sinking down). Add your fragrance. Blend until the mixture reaches medium trace (it will be like thick gravy, and drizzled trails will stay on the top).

6. Pour into your chilled mold (or a clean, dry, quart size milk carton with the top cut off) and refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator; spray the top with isopropyl alcohol, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

7. Remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature.

8. Unmold 24 hours after pouring into the mold. Cut into bars, spritz with isopropyl alcohol, and place in your curing area or a cardboard box for 4-6 weeks.

Makes 8 3½-oz bars


Mixing lye with a liquid causes an exothermic chemical reaction. This means that lye will heat up any liquid to which it’s added. A room-temperature liquid can heat up above 200°F with the addition of lye.

Always add the lye crystals to whatever you’re using as your liquid. Never add liquid to your lye crystals! Adding liquid to the lye will cause a volcanic reaction—the surest way to get burned. This is a major no-no in soap making!

Always store your lye container tightly closed in a cool, dry place out of the way of animals and small children.

Saponification (the chemical reaction in the soap-making process) uses up the lye, so that there is no lye left in the finished soap. You need to leave your soap to cure in order to make sure all the lye has reacted, and that you have a sturdy finished bar of soap.

It is a good idea to reserve a few tools for soap making, such as an immersion blender, and any containers you use for lye and mixing your soap. You don't want to contaminate food with lye or fragrance oils (despite how tasty they may smell!).

--recipe by Heidi Corley Barto; reprinted from The Natural Soap Chef / image courtesy of The Natural Soap Chef 


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