Should Beginners Try Their Own Recipes?

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Well-Known Member
Jun 28, 2021
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Middle Earth or Metropolis
Hello all, I just introduced myself in the intro section and I'm ready to ask my first question. 🙂

So, how important is it to use a soap recipe that someone else has come up with already? I mean if I go to a lye calculator and put in the different amount of oils by percentage I'd like to use, is it possible for me to come up with a recipe that will turn out right? Or should I stick to a tested recipe?

There are some oils I have on hand that I'd like to put in my soap and I just wonder if I'm biting off more than I can chew trying to make my own recipe when I'm an absolute beginner.

I used the information off of this article: Free Beginner's Guide to Soapmaking: Common Soapmaking Oils - Soap Queen and soap calc to come up with this recipe:
Screenshot (23).png

Does this look any good?

I'm a very adventurous person and I really like doing things my way, but if this is just a bad idea, please let me know! Thanks in advance. 👍
I also say "yes!" to making your own recipes, and also agree to start with a smaller batch. A 500g/1 pound-ish batch will give you about four decent sized bars, which is plenty for testing but not so much to waste if you don't like the soap. Can't wait to see your creations! :)
Absolutely! That’s the fun part about making cold process soap. Make a small batch, let it cure for four weeks, test it. Let t cure some more and test it again. The more you make your own recipes, the more questions you will have about how to improve your craft. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make subpar soap. And have fun.
Yes! Make your own and try them out. Make lots of notes about what you put in, and how your soap performs after cure. Make changes one at a time so you know what each oil brings individually rather than too many new things at once so you don't know which one contributed to what.
Also - before using wheatgerm oil I would tend to try something a little more 'regular' and then sub in future with specialty oils to see if you do indeed like them.
But - do take advice from others who have been there before. We all wanted (and still want) to try new things and many have learned over time what works and what doesn't. There is a difference between personal preferences and things that are tried and tested as not being a good idea. So if someone says "I prefer not to use blah blah because my skin doesn't like it" then go ahead and try it if you want to, because your skin may love it. But if someone says "don't use blah blah because it is dangerous, it stinks, it goes rancid, or just plain does not make good soap (for a valid reason)" then do your due diligence before proceeding regardless. It saves waste, and money, in the long run.
Also - when using the lye calculator, don't use the water as a percentage of oils (default setting 38%) because this does not always make for good soap as a beginner. Instead, try the lye concentration setting and put in 33%. This is a good mid-range amount to start your trials with.
Many people find that 30% coconut oil is a little too drying (It gives lots of bubbles but it tends to strip the skin because it's too cleansing). I use at it 20% in my soap, but many use it at 10 or 15%. We have found that some of the men on here do like it at 25% or more though - they like more bubbles, and they don't care so much about it being too drying.
Lots to learn - we look forward to hearing about your new soap baby!
I mean if I go to a lye calculator and put in the different amount of oils by percentage I'd like to use, is it possible for me to come up with a recipe that will turn out right? Or should I stick to a tested recipe?
I'd say both! Looking back on my own “carreer”, there is no point to believe that I am naturally talented hence don't have to stick to time-proven rules and recipes, but refreshing some crusted stereotypes isn't wrong either.

If you can spare the lye and curing rack space, do both: classic simple recipes (castile, Basic Trinity, etc.), and whatever comes to your mind. Neither on its own is ideal for learning how to develop oil blends – until you can compare them! You'll learn a lot from designing own recipes, particularly why typical recipes look how they look. And well-tried recipes are good starting points for variations based on personal preference, intolerances, or availability.

In any case it is of great importance to understand what a soap calculator is telling you: why INS and the “hardness”, “cleansing” and “creamy” numbers are misleading on their own, and where to locate rancidity risks. Soap calculators, SoapCalc foremost, aren't very good at this.

To your recipe – it is okay, yet you have already noticed that some details on it are debatable ;). Much has been said already, let me just throw in a process remark: PUFA-rich “luxury” oils like wheat germ oil really don't like to float around freely, neither as such (store them in the fridge) nor in the soap (superfat!) – or they reward you with increased chances for rancidity.
One way to lower that risk is to make the soap in hot-process, but leave out some olive or coconut oil in the beginning, for post-cook superfat addition. You basically (pun intended) cook the soap batter with an oil deficiency, and ensure that all wheat germ oil is saponified. The late added superfat then ensures skin safety, and it's also a good moment to add lye-sensitive ingredients like EOs/FOs and colourants.
My very first batch and just about every batch since then has been of my own recipe. I highly recommend it too. Small batches are usually better when doing this. Two things of advise. 1. Keep an eye on your temps. 2. Skip the additional colors and fragrances until you are more comfortable with your skill level. Good luck!
I'm a very adventurous person and I really like doing things my way

I think that is important, and that is why I think you should create your own recipes. If you use other people's recipes, I don't think you will find it very fun and adventurous. And if you fail a few times, which can happen in the beginning, well, no problem, you learn a lot by failing too.
Thank you all for all the advice! I'm so amazed at all the responses I've gotten. This is clearly a very active forum! 😄

It makes sense that wheat germ could go bad. That wasn't even something I considered, but I do have it on hand so maybe I'll give it a shot at some point.

Small batches is good advice too. I probably would have jumped too far in with that and wasted a lot of ingredients!

I can't wait to get started! I will certainly share with you guys what I create since you've all been so helpful!
As a beginner, I used some recipes I found in books or online, but usually changed them a little in a soap calculator because I did not have or did not want to use certain oils. So most recipes were not totally someone else's recipe.

So I strongly encourage tweaking recipes to fit your circumstances, which includes what is available to you as well as what you prefer in terms of ingredients. Keeping it simple to start with is best, of course, so I do suggest simple recipes to start and small sized batches. By small, I mean like something that makes about 4 bars of soap. About 350 to 400 grams of oils plus the lye solution will generally give your 4 or 5 bars of soap.

Unless you already have soap molds, I suggest using something you have on hand or can get fairly cheaply for your first trial batches. You can use individual molds (like small yogurt containers) or a mold that will hold the entire batch, then cut into bars. I suggest using inexpensive or free things as molds to start, like empty milk or juice cartons (the waxed paperboard ones) or plastic containers like one can buy for food storage or small cardboard boxes line with plastic wrap or freezer paper (or parchment paper).
So, how important is it to use a soap recipe that someone else has come up with already?

There are some oils I have on hand that I'd like to put in my soap and I just wonder if I'm biting off more than I can chew trying to make my own recipe when I'm an absolute beginner.

I guess I'm going to be the dissenting opinion here. I used to teach Loom Knitting; I started all my students with a skein of Worsted Weight yarn, a 10"-3/8" gauge loom and a very simple pattern so when they came to class the following week, they could show off the beautiful scarf that they had made and it made them want to learn more.

I went a bit further when I started out, I bought a kit. Mind you, I had just spent several months researching soap makings...articles, books, videos...and I had a notebook filled with all kinds of recipes. While I was confident, I wanted to be certain...and I'm an accountant and buying a kit was logical and cost effective if you're not sure if this is something you're going to like or be good at. That was over two years ago and I don't regret being conservative about my approach, knowing I could make a good batch of soap, made the times I made a really, really bad batch of soap easier. But that's just me.
Welcome! I started out using a simple recipe that was a small batch. I had done a lot of research before I made my first batch and I wanted to make sure I had a chance of it coming out. I am glad I did that because it helped me see what the process looked like hands on without being over complicated. :) For me, this helped me understand the basics before I started experimenting with my own recipes.
I hope you have a lot of fun with your first batches! Looking forward to seeing pictures!
Yes! Experiment! Trust me you will have many batches that are meh to yuck BUT that is how you learn. You can make other people's recipes and the bars may or may not be what you are looking for personally.

Agree with 100% @ResolvableOwl get lost in the rabbit hole of soapcalc and its numbers and learn everything about soaping numbers and what they mean. Here is a website that gives a good overview:
I tend to be a risk taker when it comes to trying new hobbies, but soaping was the first time I felt the need to be cautious. Not least because of the lye. I watched a few videos on YouTube, especially Soaping101's channel, and though she is phenomenal as a teacher, she also emphasizes safety. That gave me pause. The gloves, the long sleeves, the glasses. Needing ventilation. I was living in an efficiency apartment! I felt lucky to have a large window!
Anyway, to cut myself off before I get too chatty, I watched video tutorials and read blogs dedicated to making soap. I learned that there were some good sources of info, and some sources you had to look at with side eyes (the ones still telling you your hot process soaps don't need to cure). And then I found this forum, and the Great soap calculator. Which is another way of calling a lye calculator. The learning curve is a tad steeper but once you get used to using it, you find it gives you so much more information, it's amazing! You can't go back to using the other calculators.
My first soap recipe was someone else's very basic Bastille. It came out great. My eyes and throat burned because I only had the one window. But it was awesome. And I learned. And I was hooked.
Welcome to the soap addicts forum.
Also, it kinda goes without saying but I’m gonna say it anyway….when you’re making your own recipes, take very, very detailed notes, both during the soapmaking process and afterward, as they cure and as you try them. I mention it because this does not come naturally to me, and I keep having to remind myself to take notes (and/or organize them). And then if I forget, I try a bar later and then kick myself because I do or don’t like something about it, and I don’t remember what I did! Oh, the pitfalls of being absentminded. 😁
If you want to try your own recipes, go for it. But if you do a little homework before hand, you may learn things that will save you money on ingredients (wheat germ oil goes rancid quickly). If you look through the beginner section and the recipe section, you will find lots of our opinions on other people's recipes. It may save you time and money if you look over some of those to learn what not to do, as well as our explanations of why not to do it.

I made other people's recipes until I found a recipe my skin liked more than the others. Then I tweaked it. Then I played with all the other major groups of soap (goat's milk, expensive oils, hot process, etc) and figured out what I liked making as well as using.

Most importantly, be safe and have fun!
I have been doing loads of research since I started this thread and I am definitely going to be trying my own recipes as well as tested recipes of others. I'm currently gathering all my supplies and I'm planning on making a bunch of different recipes to start out and test, in order to find what I like and what works. I bought a note book too, so I will hopefully take lots of notes.
And then I found this forum, and the Great soap calculator.
That is the soap calculator that I have been using. I love the interface. I like seeing the graph as I try different things. I think I have three pages of hypothesized recipes saved without even ever trying any of them yet. 😅

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