Silversmithing and Jewelry Stamping Classes in Manila 2017

via Flicker by Mountainmade WV Handmade Art CC BY 2.0

Jewelry making classes can range from beading and knots to creating professional wedding rings by melting gold down into bars and setting gemstones in it. Below are 4 classes that hit the whole range.

1. Pulseras ni Kim

Pulseras ni Kim offers workshops for crafters centering around jewelry stamping. It’s a quick and easy way of creating jewelry which doesn’t require a torch, which is a major stumbling block for most jewelry makers. Instead, you cut metal sheets and punch inspirational quotes onto it.

There is a monthly group session at Craft Central North Edsa and you can arrange a private session with friends (an idea I love). She also offers workshops through Craft Manila.

Cellphone: 0917-519-8125

2. Gemlab

Gemlab is a jewelry school in San Juan that was established in 1986, and continues to offer classes today. They have classes on jewelry manufacture, appraisal, design and plating for which a certificate is offered afterwards.

Their Jewelry Manufacture course is 66 hours every other day for 3 hours a day. The class size is 4 to 8 and starts from basics.

It’s pretty expensive at 100,000 for the class but it is the most professional of the classes that I have seen and they offer a more rounded curriculum, with an introduction to the equipment required and alloy composition. Projects are the basic ring, bangle, pendant, solitaire ring, dangling earrings, creolla earrings, and then a jewelry set. For the hours it offers, it is pretty packed.

To put what I wrote into perspective, a jewelry manufacture class abroad is often for at least a year (GIA in San Diego or artisan craft jewelry in Florence) and some of the more advanced projects can take 66 hours. My last 4 projects each took 2 or three weeks or about 60 hours each. Earlier projects weren’t so bad at maybe 10 to 15 hours.

The projects that they put together for the curriculum cover the essentials, but I think for gem setting it would take quite a bit more time. There is also no time for engraving or casting, both of which can really enhance the overall look of the piece.

Still, if I were doing it all over again, maybe I’d start here, in the absence of cheaper alternatives.

Also, they are pretty easy to talk to, and do respond to emails. A big plus for working people is that they do have saturday classes so they do pick up the phone on the weekends.

2. Tesda

It’s long been rumored that TESDA has a jewelry manufacture course. I see traces of it online and even my jewelry equipment supplier mentioned that an instructor of theirs comes by every so often.

However, as with many rumors, I haven’t been able to find the Jewelry II course in the TESDA Women’s Center website. Their contact information is below. I suggest calling, because when I sent them an email I never got a response.

What I’d love to do though is to see if I could get one of their instructors to offer private classes. I love the flexibility of that.

Phone: 887-7777 or 817-4076 to 82 local 278

3. Soul Flower

I’ve written about Soul Flower before here. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go because it was quite far and they didn’t offer stone setting. Still, I think for metal smithing hobbyists, they are the most reasonable and simplest class to start with.

I do love her idea of making your own wedding bands, which I think is such a personal, wonderful thing.

Metal Stamped Jewelry Resource Website in Manila: Haponesang Sunog

via Flicker by Edingburgh City of Print  CC BY 2.0


Haponesang Sunog or losely translated as the Sunburned Japanese Girl is a cute, generous, informative site.

This website has great information.

I was sucked into it when I was browsing Manila jewelry craft sites and one click led to another. It talks bout how to make circle blanks and rectangular blanks or where to buy them if you don’t want to make. It talks about metal stamp suppliers and her preparation for the metal stamping workshops that she was offering.

What I found interesting were a few pointers:

  1. The mention of a bracelet bending bar. A bracelet mandrel is used in metal forming which I’ve actually never used but which my teacher mentioned a long time ago.
  2. The advice to use a 16 oz or 1 pound hammer as lighter hammers wouldn’t impress on the metal as well.
  3. The recommendation to use 18, 20 or 24 gauge for aluminum and thicker for brass.
  4. The list of metal blank suppliers is also pretty, if you aren’t into making your own.
  5. The use of a paper cutter for rectangular blanks. I wouldn’t have thought it could take metal, so I’m surprised that such a low cost and easy hack works.

Some of this information is new to me while some of it are things that I practice myself. I’d add CKK Tools and Supplies as another really good supplier for jewelery makers because they have some serious stuff – roller mills, fantastic files, and drills. They’re expensive but they are the only carriers of jewelry supplies that I know. There may be others in Bulacan but I’ve never been so I can’t say.

In addition, the information is organized well and the writing is clear, which makes it a joy to read. I even stopped by her Etsy store, which I have not done for other sites.

In any case, it’s good to see another good resource for craft jewelry makers in Manila, and it’s nice to see information being shared.


4 Soap Making Classes in Manila 2017

via Pixabay


Making soap is easy and surprisingly fun.

There are tons of online guides and great books on it, and when I started I read tons of stuff to make sure that I was doing it right and to counter check with other sources since I noticed some inconsistencies. In fact, my own comprehensive guide on soap making developed from my notes.

Still, sometimes it is pretty comforting to have someone sit down with you and go through it step by step. People get especially nervous around lye and have several concerns handling it for the first time.

There are classes everywhere for aspiring cold process soap makers, no matter where you are based in Metro Manila.


Craft Manila is located in the Pamana Building on Pasong Tamo in Makati. They’ve tons of classes, which run the gamut from book binding to jewelry making.

Their soapmaking class is taught by the proprietor of Simoy ng Harana, an online shop of scents that have been featured on Real Living (the best interior design website in the Philippines), and is Php 5,500 with a maximum of 8 participants.

While the most expensive of the classes I’ve found, it’s got a great track record and is centrally located, so you pay for convenience and expertise. They’ve partnered with Rockwell Malls and other well known companies to teach workshops on just about anything so these guys are pretty legit.

I find them really responsive on email while usually other businesses are more comfortable on cell or private messaging.


Quezon City

Negoskwela has a plethora of courses for people who want to turn their crafts into a hobby, and I wish they were located somewhere easier to get to. People who are crafty who’d love to develop their talents but have got work might have a hard time getting here.

They’re located in CMLI Bldg. North Ave. Cor Agham Rd Diliman Quezon City and their day long soap making course is Php 2,800. I like their thrust of empowering people through entrepreneurship.

Landline: 924-5111 and 208-7211 to 13
Sun: 09253685306| 09253685307 | 09253685308
Smart: 09088124223
Globe: 09175118019 | 09175117925


We’re getting further and further afield here. The Organic Artisan Lab runs Manila Soap Making, Cosmetic and Body Care Workshop on Facebook and are one of the most active presences on the web.

Their soaps look absolutely delicious, and they’re at 04 Asogue St, Tugatog, Malabon City. Their website and video tutorials are on the web, if you’d like to check them out. 

Sun: 0922-814-1867


Soap Central is also pretty active on Facebook, and is at the LaRychean Building at 176 Tunasan Road in Muntinlupa. If you’re from the South, this is the prefect place to start. I think they are a great resource, and they are open every day till 6pm.

If you are thinking about taking the class in 2018, they’ve got you covered: they’ve already released the schedule for the year. They have classes on formulations for Php 2,500 and hands on cold process soap making for Php 4,500. they’ve got a free soap mold for those that sign up a month early, so sign up early! 🙂

Landline: 519-6974
Sun: 0932-880-5668
Smart: 0999-882-9080
Globe: 0917-519-9830

Jewelry Studio Rental in Manila

Turquoise and silver rings by Mauro Cateb CC BY-SA 3.0


There were no silver smithing studios or classes in Metro Manila when I first started looking in 2014.

So I’m grateful – really I am – that when I started looking again, I actually found a silver smithing class in Metro Manila.

There is now one option for us desperate, passionate silversmiths instead of none, although of course the hours long drive to get to Soul Flower’s does kind of drive you nuts by the time you get there.

The only metal working class in Metro Manila is tucked into a 18 square meter room on Malingap Street in Diliman’s Teacher’s Village and is run by Soul Flower, a partnership between 2 friends.

They offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for silversmithing as well as other craft classes.

I’m excited.

I’ve trained as a metalsmith for a year aborad, and I do so love the work. I haven’t had a chance to get back to it since I’ve been preoccupied with other things, and have only lately started picking it up.

Will let you know how it goes.



Studio 925

Unit 2h, No. 22 Malingap Street, Teacher’s Village, Diliman, Quezon City

Hours: Mon – Sun / 11AM – 6PM


Landline: +63 977 805 28 06



Local Philippine formulation for Safeguard Pure White | Different formulations

via Pixabay

Safeguard is sold in packs of 6 bars with a label saying, save 37 pesos.

Everyone I know buys it.

On Saturdays, friends head to Cash and Carry and buy a multitude to stock up. They pile it up in their bathrooms behind their towels so that when someone runs out of soap – as is inevitable in a house with children – they’ve got  a bar to hand out.

So spoiler alert – not a fan.

Just too many chemicals in there for me to be excited.

For Safeguard Pure White, the Philippine formulation is: Sodium Palmate, Tapioca Starach, Water, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Fragrance, Talc, Palm Kernel Acid, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Pyrithione, Tetrsodium Etidronate, Zinc Sulfate, Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Citric Acid.

That’s the formulation for the Philippine market, and I am not sure if the formulation is the same for other markets. P&G has often developed local variants of popular brands.

When I type Safeguard in the EWG database, I come up with three anti-bac bar soaps. None, I think, are the equivalent of the Philippine Safeguard Pure White bar, and when I look at the ingredients, they differ.

These different formulations make it difficult for a consumer.

You can’t just pull up a score from EWG to assess a product, and it is tough for non-profits to grab information and create an assessment. Neither can you rely on a local formulation to remain stable – it changes over time as well.

So how do you assess a product?

  1. The less ingredients the better
  2. Go for products that are not made up of compound products such as soap bases or perfume, which are often made up of multiple ingredients themselves.
  3. Go for products where you are familiar with the ingredients.

These are really quick, really simple rules for assessing a product but they are by no means foolproof. It just that with an estimated 79,788 chemicals in daily life, it is almost impossible to know an avoid them all.

We rely on governments and businesses to keep us safe, but often with conflicting interests involved and weak regulation, it is pretty tough for consumer health to be at the forefront of product creation.



  1. A Chemical World. (2014) [online] Available at ed-in-Daily-Life [Accessed 06 August 2017].

The no-poo movement | Should you skip the shampoo?

The No-Poo Movement


There has been a no shampoo push recently, where more and more people advocate not using commercially made shampoos.

People are motivated by the belief that it’s cheaper, it’s free from harmful chemicals and that it’s better for hair since shampooing allegedly strips out our hair’s natural oils. These are great reasons, but it’s a bit strange thinking of going no-poo or making my own shampoo, simply because there also seem to be a lot of drawbacks. It’s unfortunately named the no-poo movement (Why would anyone think that was a good name? It’s as if you’re just inviting pun-ishment…) and the net abounds with personal anecdotes of going shampoo free for a year or even longer.

For instance, one option to no shampooing is the baking soda and water recipe. This recipe pops up over and over again with the combination working for some and not for others. Commentators on the DIY Network have reported that it strips color out, can bleach hair, and doesn’t work in hard water.

On the other hand, the New York Times reported 86% of 500 participants reported that their hair either felt the same or better after a no shampoo challenge hosted by Sydney radio host Richard Glover. One participant, 22 year old Emma Rowles, mentioned that her itchy scalp must have been due to previous shampoos and stated that she would never let a drop of shampoo anywhere near her head again.

Does going no-poo reduce oil production?

The advocates for the no ‘poo movement say that when you shampoo your hair too much, it strips out essential oils and causes our sebaceous glands to produce more than needed. So essentially, the more we shampoo, the more we need to shampoo.

“If you wash your hair every day, you’re removing the sebum,” explains Michelle Hanjani, a dermatologist at Columbia University. “Then the oil glands compensate by producing more oil,” she says. 1 (NPR)

The theory goes that less shampooing will result in our hair readjusting its oil production to correct levels. And yet, dermatologists do not all hold the same opinion.

But this simply isn’t true, says Dr. Rogers. “Our sebum production is affected by various things including hormones, diet, and genetics. But the simple act of washing your hair less is not going to slow it down,” she says. “That’s sort of like saying ‘If you shave your legs less often, the hair will go slower;’ there is no scientific basis for these statements.” 2

Generally, it does seem that most dermatologists do recommend not shampooing everyday, but the no-poo belief that it will somehow cause sebum production to normalize might not have basis in fact.

Everyone’s Scalp is Different

Personal care is called personal care for a reason: we all have different hair and skin types, and so what works for your best bud might not necessarily work for you. You might have an oily scalp or a dry one, and so you’d need to pick a hair care regimen that is tailored specifically to your hair.

So for no-poo, people have tried a ton of things:

  • Baking soda and apple cider vinegar
  • Co-washing or just using conditioner
  • Variety of natural shampoo recipes
  • Only water

Baking soda and apple cider vinegar is all over the internet as a viable alternative to shampoo but I’m pretty cautious by nature so I researched it first, and came across accounts of hair gone bad – brittle hair or hair falling out in clumps.

I already have pretty fine hair so this freaked me out. Apparently, going the baking soda route has a lot of risks because baking soda is pretty abrasive and is the wrong pH level for hair. (More on this later.) Plus, baking soda is used for cleaning tiles, scouring pots and pans, and de-clogging drains, so just thinking about it on my already sensitive scalp made me twitchy.

Co-washing is pretty simple. Instead of using shampoo, people only wash with conditioners. The theory goes that since conditioners are gentler than shampoos, it is actually healthier for hair.

I really don’t know how that theory came about. When I look at the ingredients list of conditioners, I find some of the same harmful chemicals that are used in shampoos. I don’t also necessarily believe that its only for thick, curly hair – I tried it myself for several months and I have fine sensitive hair that did fine without shampoo. I did think that my hair seemed smoother and better hydrated than before, so if you want to go out on a limb a bit but aren’t ready to go all out, then this might be the best option for you.

Natural shampoo recipes sound great. Bloggers have tried all kinds of things and reported good results, such as Nina Nelson over at Sustainable Baby Steps. Christina at the Hippy Homemaker has a several options that would likely cover anyone’s needs. At the end of the day, it really depends on what works for you. It’s just like haunting the corner drugstore until you find the brand that works.

And then we have the hardliners who wash their hair only with water.

This is not something that most people are comfortable doing off he bat. When I moved to the no-poo movement, I did so because I couldn’t figure out the right shampoo for my hair. It was always fizzy and sensitive and nothing I did seemed to be able to tame it. So I started shampooing less, about one shampoo every 3 to 4 days, then I gradually switched to co-washing, then washing with water for every other wash. I use product once a week, and the rest of the time I just use water.

Although washing less seems a bit strange, it seems to be generally believed among dermatologists that washing daily can dry out skin and hair. It’s really not recommended to wash hair daily.

My hair’s improved. It’s easier to manage, less frizzy and less limp, but I’m still looking for the perfect match and thinking of going for all-natural cleansers since shampoo chemicals read like a list of criminals.

Going no-poo might help avoid dangerous chemicals

Most people by now have heard of the possible dangers associated with 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, sulfates and methylisothiazolinone. What’s really the score?

  • 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde are human carcinogens and have an overall hazard score of 8 and 10 (10 being the highest) from the D.C. based Environmental Working Group (EWG). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms the classification of 1,4 dioxane and it has been linked to tumors in the liver, gallbladder, lung and breast while the Consumer Product Safety Commission identified its presence, even as a trace contaminant as cause for concern. Formaldehyde has even more data supporting the link between it and cancer, and everyone – including the industry funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel – considers its presence undesirable.
  • Pthalates are a group of chemicals that serve to make plastics more pliable and are in many plastics, finishes, detergents, flooring, wallpaper, food, and personal care products. Some of them – such as di(2-ethylhexyl) and di-n-butyl-phthalate – may affect the male reproductive system and be carcinogenic, while the others remain under investigation. They are also alleged to be endocrine disruptors.
  • Parabens are used as preservatives in many different products and are thought to be estrogen mimics, thus possibly fostering the growth of breast tumors. The FDA continues to study the problem but the European union has banned several (Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Phenylparaben, Benzylparaben, and Pentylparaben) due to lack of safety information and concerns about skin irritation. Methylparaben and ethylparaben are reputedly safe.
  • Sulfates are used to create lather and are estimated to be present in 90 of shampoos and body washes. They are considered safe by the FDA, the EU, and Health Canada as well as by the CIR. However, their method of manufacture often creates 1,4 dioxane which can only be partially removed and in higher concentrations, sulfates have been shown to cause labored breathing, diarrhea and death in animals.
  • Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative from the isothiazonlinone group and is used both in personal care products and in a wide array of industrial products, from boat hull paint to metalworking and plant manufacturing. It has been flagged by the EU as a skin irritant and worrisomely has been shown to be toxic to animal life.

Safety information for personal care products is marked by lack of regulation and data. The FDA does not require cosmetics to be approved by them and only studies those that are raised as possible concerns due to lack of resources. The EU has banned 1,300 chemicals and raises concerns over lack of data but some of the chemicals are not used in personal care. It does seem that the industry motive is to use something and see if something bad happens, and until then to do just a cursory check on safety.

And what regulators might consider safe in small instances really fails to measure what a lifetime of exposure might do. A small amount taken daily is chronic and much more problematic than one time exposure.

Even worse, some ingredients are not listed on the product’s packaging, with fragrance being a prime offender. Industry concerns about trade secrets are to blame and so fragrance – which often contains troubling ingredients – manages to sneak into the homes of even the most well-informed customers. Even if all the ingredients are on the list, sometimes unwanted chemicals such as formaldehyde are released by other innocuous sounding ingredients.

A few years back, J&J was put under consumer pressure to remove 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. You would never have found those ingredients in their list though – formaldehyde was slowly released over time by ingredients such as quaternium-15 and 1,4 dioxane was an unwanted by-product of the manufacturing process.

That’s tough.

Even if you were the most educated consumer in the world, you’d never find things that were hidden and you’d never have visibility into the manufacturing process.

Kind of makes the decision to go all-natural so much more compelling, doesn’t it?

PH Matters!

The problem with baking soda and apple cider vinegar is that their PH levels are no where close to the natural PH of our hair or skin which is from 4.5 to 5 on the PH scale.

Baking soda is about 9 on the PH scale and its effect on hair is to open up the outer layer of hair called the cuticle. This allows the hair to absorb more but it also can cause the cuticle to weaken and eventually break.

According to no-poo advocates, the apple cider wash counters this. Since apple cider is an acid, the hair is brought back to its correct PH level and the cuticles closed to prevent damage.

I’d prefer not to experiment with my hair, and I personally have a lot of concerns about trying to find the correct PH balance by mixing my own baking soda and apple cider concoction. The internet talks about having 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 cup of water, but that results in a PH of 9.5. To get baking soda down to a neutral PH you’d need 1,418,439 cups of water. Most shampoos (aside from soap bars) are in the 5-7 PH range.

Plus, do you really think that the roller coaster ride from one PH level to another is all that helpful for our delicate hair? It’s kind of like shaking a baby upside down and then keeping him perfectly still so that you’d get the perfect rocking rhythm for him on average.

So what’s a girl to do?

I’m firmly heading in the all-natural direction, but then that seems to work with my hair and my personal preferences.

What’s your hair like? Are you comfortable risking all those chemicals or would you prefer to live without them?

Depending on your answers, you might head in totally different directions. Some prefer buying shampoos that remove some of the chemicals or use milder chemicals. Some want to create natural shampoos and still others might prefer sticking to completely natural hair treatments such as coconut oil or gugo.

What is clear from the no-poo movement however, is that not everything that is natural is good for you (baking soda and apple cider) and that not everything on the drugstore shelf is as regulated as we would all want.

It is also pretty clear that there are alternatives that are available and that range from clay shampoo to soap nuts to coconut oil treatments, which may be able both healthy and chemical free. It comes down to what you think is better for you and what your scalp says.

Phil FDA | Cosmetics Consumer Complaints

Lipsticks that cause allergic reactions? Mascara that causes eye irritation? If you’ve bought a product that has caused a health issue, it might be a good idea to file a consumer complaint with the Philippine FDA or with the DTI.

Regulatory environment

Many consumers believe that the government makes sure that the ingredients in their cosmetics have been thoroughly investigated and tested before they are ever used.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Philippine FDA is pressed for resources and manpower. The FDA itself notes this in its progress report, saying:

“…the current number of FDA personnel is inadequate and its expertise has remained virtually unchanged considering the rapid development of regulation in an array of products…”

It goes on to state that 1,200 people would be the optimum staffing and that the current staff is 300 technical staff and 179 inspectors.

That’s a pretty big shortfall.

And while we have a stringent set a requirements and a long list of banned chemicals, which I believe is taken from the EU Cosmetic directive 76/768/EEC, there is a need for better enforcement.

Earlier this year, the Phil FDA announced a partnership with the Philippine National Police. There was a joint training of the two departments but of the 111 personnel, only 16 were from the FDA.

In Mindanao, the appointment of personnel made the news in the article FDA’s enforcement unit now has 4 armed personnel. It also states that the head fears that 4 might not be enough to cover the entire eastern Mindanao.

Since Mindanao is 104,530 kmand eastern Mindano might conceivably be half of that, I can see his concern.

So, while there might be great laws and intentions, there aren’t enough resources to enforce.

Aside from that, the cosmetics industry has thousands and thousands of chemicals that are allowed in use without any safety information available or any testing. The attitude is that when something happens, then they’ll stop using it.

That covers those substances that are immediately fatal, but completely hides the bad effects that arise from the slow build up of toxins and daily exposure to subtle and harmful chemicals.

With weak enforcement of laws and a lot of unknowns, it is probably even more important that the consumer step up.

How to file a consumer complaint

Filing a consumer complaint in the FDA is pretty straightforward.

It’s mainly sending an email through the FDA email, although there is also a customer complaint form that is present on the FDA website.

There are guidelines for its processing, and are fairly basic. A report is filled up either by the consumer or an FDA officer if notified through the phone, with laboratory testing to follow if the criteria for acceptance is met.

For cosmetic products, criteria for acceptance is:

  1. A notified cosmetic product,
  2. Registered household hazardous substances and pesticides,
  3. Sample is not yet expired,
  4. Suspected presence of adulterants and contaminants, as specified by the CCRR, and
  5. Adverse reaction occurred despite use of product as directed (to be accompanied by a medical certificate, or as certified by the CCRR or the CDRR.

While I’ve written what I know about the process of filing the complaint, I wonder whether the agency is able to address these complaints quickly.

I’d love to know if anybody’s filed one and what has happened to it – there doesn’t seem to be much information on it yet.

DIY Soap | Easy Homemade Soap for Beginners

handmade soap – castile shampoo bars by Kim CC2.0

This Easy Handmade Soap Guide for Beginners is for people like me who want to make soap but get confused because they come across lot s of contradictory information.

So I wrote a guide to try to help other people. I explain how to make soap here, but I also try to resolve questions you might have come across yourself.

I’ve got things like whether to use tap or distilled or whether you really should put vinegar on that lye burn, and I’ve put my sources if you’d like to check them out yourself. I’ve also split up the post so that people can go back and forth and choose how much they want to read.

I’ve made 4 sections, and written down problems or info I offer right after.

Ingredients: Different olive oil classifications and which to choose, lye grades and what to buy, and whether to use distilled versus tap water

Equipment: Should you use water or vinegar for emergencies?, Is glass better than plastic for our lye water mix?, and stick blender and equipment specs

Process: An discussion of why Castile soap doesn’t require oils to be heated, and the different types and uses of trace

Cleanup: which is so unglamorous no-one talks about it


The easiest handmade soap for beginners is Castile Soap.

Made of only 3 ingredients, this DIY Soap is a traditional recipe composed of olive oil, lye, and distilled water. It is very mild and gentle and is often used for babies and those with sensitive skin. It’s also inexpensive.1

It does take a while before it can be used. Unmolding takes 2 weeks and curing is another 4 to 6. Veteran soap makers say that best results are after 10 months, which I’ll admit is a heck of a long time to wait.2,3

We’ll make a small test batch of 1 pound batch of soap, making 4 bars of 4 ounces. There’s a little allowance since you’ll never get all the raw soap out of the containers and there’s some water shrinkage. It’s a short ingredient list:

It really can’t get simpler than that. Plus, it’s an oldie but a goodie, tried and tested through centuries of use since its inception in the Middles Ages. What else could you ask for?

For those who want to get going, skip ahead to the Equipment Section but for those who have questions on the ingredients, I’ve written a few things about olive oil grades, the kind of lye, and the debate on water.

Olive Oil

If you are a perfectionist, this is where you start to worry.

Should I buy extra virgin? What about pomace olive oil? What is pomace olive oil?

Based on the USDA4, there are 2 main types of olive oil and several subcategories under them. We are most familiar with food grade olive oils such as extra virgin, virgin, refined and regular olive oil and less familiar with pomace olive oils, which are intended for further refining for human consumption or technical use.

But here’s the thing – let’s keep it simple.

Since the fatty acid structure of the oils are the same, the soap produced is going to turn out pretty similar. Some soap makers will avoid pomace olive oil since it can produce a bar with a stronger smell, but the properties of the bar will be the same as other olive oil grades.

Buy the grade you prefer. Choose a reputable supplier since some groceries stock olive oil with other oils mixed into it or have old stock.

Just to illustrate my point, Soap Queen5 tested Olive oils from the grocery shelf and soon found that they exhibited rancidity – this is when the oils go bad and ruin both odor and appearance with little orange spots.

So, make sure you get fresh 100% Olive Oil without any additives and you’re good to go.

Sodium Hydroxide or Lye

There are two types of lye. Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) is used for making bar soap while Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) is used for making liquid soap. Liquid soap and bar soap have different formulations by the way so if you plan on making a liquid version, don’t just substitute one for the other.

Since this is a bar soap recipe, we’ll be using Sodium Hydroxide.

Usually, Sodium Hydroxide can be found in hardware stores at tech grade or sometimes food grade. Tech grade contains more impurities and some say they can tell the difference in their soap.

But tech grade is commonly used by big suppliers and several crafts people have reported using it, so grades seem to be a matter of personal choice. Buy 100% lye without additives and your soap should turn out well.

Also, a word on safety.

Lye is pretty caustic so it can hurt if you don’t take the proper safety precautions and wear the correct equipment. I’ve included a mini-homily on lye down below and the right safety equipment because I can’t stress safety enough – soap making should be fun, not hazardous!


This is self-explanatory.

Okay, actually there is some debate on this.6

Yes, I know. Yet another lengthy debate about ingredients!

Tldr: you can use tap.

Some people only use distilled water because they say that some hard water has such a high mineral content that impurities abound. They say distilled is better if you don’t know the qualities of your water because it ruins a soap batch. Others say that they’ve used tap and the bars turn out fine.


Tldr: you should be fine with tap. 😊


It can be tempting to use items from your kitchen, but remember that once you’ve used them for soap you should never use them again for food.

Below is a list of basic soap making gear for Castile soap or really simple recipes. There’s a lot of other auxiliary stuff you can get for fragrances, essentials oils and colors, but it’s really not needed for Castile.

  • Personal Protective Equipment or PPE such as safety goggles and rubber gloves and practical measures such as wearing long pants, long sleeves and closed toe shoes. Also, always work in a well-ventilated area near a source of running water in case of spills.
  • Stick Blender with a stainless steel shaft
  • An accurate scale with ounces, grams and pounds which can handle at least 5kg unless you’d like to make even bigger batches of soap. A Tare function is definitely recommended.
  • A thermometer which is preferably no-contact and handheld
  • A lye water container of polypropylene (PP 5) with a spout and handles. Others have recommended glass or stainless steel but both are problematic.
  • A long handled, stainless steel spoon for stirring lye solution. Avoid wood.
  • Stainless steel large pot or polypropylene plastic (PP 5) to mix lye solution and oil
  • Silicone spatula for scrapping soap batter into mold. Avoid wood.
  • Soap mold lined with freezer paper, although some say parchment or wax paper works fine.
  • Knife for cutting soap with a smooth edge
  • Cleanup Supplies such as paper towels, dish cloths and black garbage bags for dealing with the mess.

Eager to start? You can skip ahead to the soap making process but I would strongly suggest reading the PPE section. Safety should always come first!

Below, I’ve added a few tips on what to look for in equipment. Before I bought anything for soap making, I spent a month reading up on what to buy so it’s chock full of my notes as I made my way through soap making.

Personal Protective Equipment or PPE

Okay guys – this is where we get serious.

Lye is the number one reason that most people are wary of making their own soap.

Lye is a caustic base meaning that it is corrosive when it comes in contact with skin and several metals. It eats away at hair and can cause blindness. It’s a pretty harsh chemical by all standards.

There’s a lot of conflicting information about how to handle lye spills or what to do if solid flakes come in contact with your skin. Some people say flush with vinegar while others say not.

But think about it.

What happened when you were in the 1st grade and you put baking soda and vinegar together for the volcano science project? Do you remember the eruption?

When you put an acid like a vinegar and a base like lye together – even weak ones like these –  you get an explosion.

Not good.

Water will also cause a reaction but it will be weaker than one with an acid.

To be extra sure, check out the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control7 or the Canadian Center for Disease Control and Prevention8.  For contact with eyes or skin, use water and irrigate for 60 minutes. If a lot has been inhaled, move to an area with lots of fresh air. In all cases, get medical attention promptly, especially if ingested.

So that’s why I’m stressing safety right here.

Be careful when handling lye. There’s no way to make soap without it unless you do a melt and pour, so it’s really important that we treat it with respect.

There will be some inevitable spills but hazards can be quickly reduced if you have the proper PPE. Always choose equipment that is a tight fit – a lot of accidents occur simply because a sleeve was snagged or a loose glove caused a container to fall.


According to OSHA9, Neoprene, Latex/Rubber, Butyl, and Nitrile glove are graded VG for both sodium and potassium hydroxide.

Always check before starting for leaks and tears and replace as needed. Always use gloves with a good fit, since many accidents happen because the gloves didn’t allow a firm grip.


Cover up!

Wear thick, tight fitting jeans and long sleeves to make sure there’s an extra layer if lye does spill on you. Use close toed shoes to protect your feet. Some people also wear a leather apron.

And move fast! Remove the clothing immediately and continuously flush with water if you do get a spill.


Goggles are necessary.

Others may prefer full face shields and I can understand why! I came across a soapers forum where someone had nearly been blinded when lye splashed into her eyes.

Use safety goggles – prescription glasses are not enough. Safety goggles that seal completely around the eye. This way, if something splashes from the side, you’re covered.

Well ventilated area

Always work in a well-ventilated area with running water. In case you do get a spill, you can immediately start washing with water.

Stick Blender

I don’t have personal experience with all the brands – who does? So instead I read up massively on them and tried to figure out what I needed before spending a penny.

What I learned is that they will break and there is a lot of personal choice.

I found that a stainless steel shaft of a single piece construction is preferable because it wears well and is more sanitary. A detachable shaft is easier to clean. I also found that the deeper it could be submerged without liquid touching the motor allowed for bigger batches of soap and less spillage. A longer cord is preferable so you can move around easily.

Don’t spend too much. Buy something that will do the job and then as you get more confident (and when it breaks 😊) buy something else.

An Accurate Scale

I remember thinking that since I had measuring cups, I really didn’t need to buy a scale.

That couldn’t be more wrong.

I definitely needed a scale. A scale measures weight or mass and it is mass that that determines how much lye is needed.

Each oil has a different mass because it is made up of different fatty acids. Long chain fatty acids need less lye since they have less carboxylic functional groups per gram than short chain fatty acids.

Since it is mass that drives how much lye to use10, a scale is needed. Measuring cups would measure volume and we would make big mistakes in our soap.

Get a scale that is sturdy, has a flat top that can take at least 5kg of weight and can measure in ounces, pounds and grams. A tare function is also helpful since it allows you to disregard the container’s weight and just measure the contents of the container.

Splurge on this – you’ll need it as a serious soap maker!

A thermometer

Temperatures are important!

Too hot, and the soap can rise up out of the old like a volcano or have a puckered, wavy surface. Too cool, and soda ash forms on top of the soap.

The usual range for soap making is 120 to 130°F or 49 to 54°C mainly because this is where most butters and oils melt and where lye traces at the right speed.

I find there are pages and pages on the effect of temperature on soap – controlling it can be useful depending on what you want to accomplish.

Temperatures needed vary, especially for advanced soap making. You might want to add milk or avoid gel phase. You might want to intensify colors or work with solid beeswax. These are all examples of what you can do with temperature control, although they should be done for later projects.

Temperature control matters and so, buy a good thermometer if you plan to be a serious soap maker. For Castile, you really just need to check that the lye is at 120°F or 49°C.

You might use a candy thermometer but I’d like to suggest a temperature gun. This is so much easier than cleaning your thermometer all the time, and I really can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t like a little shortcut.

A lye water PP 5 plastic container with a lid

Buy something larger than needed with a handle and a spout to control pouring and reduce possible spills. A lid also helps to prevent spills. This is still lye that we are working with, so any spill or splash can be dangerous!

In addition, avoid aluminum, magnesium, zinc, tin, chromium, bronze, brass, copper, tantalum11, cast iron and Teflon since lye reacts with them violently. Stainless steel can be used, but lye water is going to be hot – it may become too hot to handle easily and cause an accident.

And surprisingly, avoid glass as well.

Heat resistant glass is recommended by more than one website. Less commonly known – but apparently true – is that Pyrex shatters after many uses12 since the lye can etch small scratches in the glass, which causes it to break. Apparently, lye reacts with the silicates in glass – although this is a sloooow process –  and scratches the glass causing it to shatter or even explode.

I’d just skip it.

I’d use heat resistant plastic as polypropylene can handle boiling water and wouldn’t chemically react with lye. Find the PP 5 stamp which is usually at the bottom of the container, and you’re set13,14. Remember to use just PP 5 since others are graded for lower temperatures.

A Stainless Steel Spoon

A long handled stainless steel spoon or whisk for stirring lye solution. Avoid wood since the lye eats away at the wood and you’d have wood splinters in your soap.

A Stainless Steel Pot

I’d go for a stainless steel soap pot for mixing my oils and lye solution in since this allows me to melt my oils in it after measuring and then add in the lye. I completely avoid having to transfer to a new container, so automatically less cleanup and much more convenience.

Also, grab something with good strong handles so that you can easily transport it from one area to another and avoid accidents.

A Silicone Spatula

Silicone Spatula to remove all soap batter from the soap pot. Again, avoid wood as splinters may end up in your soap.

Soap mold

There are tons of soap molds. You can use wood, plastic, silicone or many items around the house.15

Wood molds can used for hot process as well as cold process soaping and have great insulation. The only thing is they must be lined since wood is porous and absorptive.

There’s quite a bit of debate around what liner to use since people have reported differing results16. Wax paper is reported to melt into soap and parchment may not be too durable. I have not heard any complaints about freezer paper however, so that is what I would buy.

If you don’t want to line your molds, silicone molds might be a good option. It is easy to take soap out and they are also easy to clean though soap might take longer to unmold.

Plastic molds also do not require lining but are often less sturdy than silicone. They also take a longer time to unmold.

Recycling a container is also perfectly fine and just require lining. Also make sure that there is a little “give” in the mold so that you can remove your soap. One of the saddest things is having a perfectly formed bar and then realizing that it’s impossible to remove from the mold.

In any case, you’ve got options. So long as you line your mold and can remove the soap easily, you should be fine.

Soap Knife

Knife for cutting your bars of soap which should not be serrated so that you’ll have a nice smooth edge.

Cleanup Supplies

Paper towels, dish cloths and garbage bags to deal with the mess.

For more complicated recipes, you’ll find that you need to have mixing bowls for fragrance, essential oils and different colors of batter; mixing spoons, spatulas and whisks as well as other tools such as funnels, squirt bottles, small mixers and coffee grinders. It all depends on how far you want to go.


Finally, we’re ready to go!

If you’ve read the ingredients section, you’ll have found your 100% olive o­il, your sodium hydroxide and decided on your water.

The equipment section will have put to rest the confusion you might have felt on deciding on the materials for your lye water pot and the correct materials for your stirring tools. I hope the emergency procedures for lye accidents and personal protective equipment or PPE were also clearly understood – be careful when working with lye since its corrosive.

I’ve written down a super duper easy to follow procedure below with several pro tips and quick explanations to help us beginners along. Keep safe!

Step 1: Prepare your workspace by making sure you’ve got enough space to work, covering it with newspapers or cardboard, and setting out your equipment. Make sure it’s clear of tripping hazards, well ventilated and near a source of running water in case of accidents.

It’s also really helpful to set out your equipment and pre-measured ingredients in the order that you’ll need them. I’d also line the mold with freezer paper so that you can immediately pour the soap. I’d reserve bringing out the lye until you are ready to start – just to be on the safe side. 😊

Step 2: Put on your PPE. This includes safety goggles, gloves, tight fitting pants and long-sleeved shirts, closed toed shoes and an apron. Please do read the PPE section to make your you’ve got the right protective gear!

Step 3: Measure your water and place in the chemical resistant PP 5 plastic container. Measure your lye and add to the water slowly. Stir and then wait till the solution is clear.

Pro tips:

  1. Always add lye to water because otherwise it explodes.
  2. Add lye slowly to water to ensure control and minimize splashes.
  3. Water should be at room temperature and not hot or even lukewarm to avoid over-heating.
  4. To speed up the cooling down of lye, you can use cold water, use ice cubes for half of the water, or put the lye solution in a sink of cold water. Don’t put the lye solution in the ref – it’s fumes are dangerous.
  5. Use every bit if lye – saves clean-up after!

Step 4: Measure your oil into a large stainless steel or PP 5 plastic pot.

Step 5: Add the lye solution into the oils when your lye water solution is 130°F or 54° Minimize bubbles by pouring the solution slowly or by pouring it down the shaft of your stick blender.

Lots of recipes mention that the oil and lye should be within 10°F or roughly 6°C of each other, but so long as the oils are above their melting point – i.e. they are liquid – you’re good.

Pro tips:

  1. Avoid air bubbles by tapping the stick blender on your container’s bottom. When no more air bubbles rise to the surface, you’re good.
  2. Run your stick blender in short bursts to avoid overheating the motor.
  3. Submerge your stick blender as far as it can go so that soap doesn’t end up flying around. Lye’s still pretty harsh at this point so it’s best to be safe.

Step 6: When everything is thoroughly mixed, it begins to thicken to the consistency of cake batter. In soap making lingo, this thickening is called trace. Trace indicates that soap has begun to form.

There are 3 types of trace:

  1. Light trace is the consistency of light cake batter
  2. Medium trace has the texture of heavy cake batter and is when we add ingredients that we’d like to remain suspended.
  3. Thick trace is when the soap holds its shape after its been poured. Like frosting, it can be used to make decorative tops and textures.

Beware of false trace or of using soap batter before everything has been fully mixed.

In false trace, thickening occurs because the oils have started to solidify. Oils solidify when they’re below their melting point so keep an eye on temperature!

Sometimes soap will be poured into a mold when it hasn’t properly mixed. Streaks of oil indicate you should keep on mixing since if used at that stage, pockets of harsh lye may appear in the final soap. This would be dangerous to use.

For Castile, our oil is liquid at room temperature and all we need to hit is medium trace, so we just have to make sure that we mix really well. Castile takes a while to trace, so don’t worry if it takes longer than you’d expect.

Step 7: Leave the soap in the mold for 2 weeks, since this is an especially soft soap. Unmold and cut and cure for an additional 4 to 6 weeks. It can already be used after this, but best results will really come after a 10 month cure time.

And that’s a wrap!


Cleaning up

Clean up’s boring – but necessary! The lye is still active and needs to be disposed of properly.

When you use as much batter as you can, there is less clean-up plus more soap, so use that spatula when you’re emptying your soap batter into the mold.

Oh, and don’t put things in the dishwasher – there’s still lye on it so you should avoid mixing food and soap making equipment. Better safe than sorry!

Step 1: First, make sure you still have your protective gear on. You’ll need it since the lye is still harsh.

Step 2: Make sure the area is still secure from small marauders like children and pets.

Step 3: Collect your equipment and move it to the sink. I would deal with the raw lye water items first and then the containers that have the oils and raw soap batter.

Step 4: Rinse items that have lye water solution residue such as your lye water container and lye water stirrer.

Step 5: Remove as much raw soap batter and oil from your equipment with rags to prevent pipes clogging. Put the rags in a plastic bag when done. Rinse with hot water and a strong degreaser or detergent.

Alternatively, you can leave your rags for 24 hours in the plastic bag. It will then become soap and should be easy to launder. Personally, I don’t do this simply because I think it might not be good for my washing machine, but that’s just me.

Step 6: Strip your working surface of newspapers or cardboard and wash with water. Wipe down and spray with vinegar.

You made it (In more ways than one; that was a long guide)! Congratulations!


  1. Cavitech, Susan. 1997. The Soapmaker’s Companion. United States: Versa Press
  2. Faiola, Anne-Marie. 2016. Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.
  3. Gail, Amanda. 2008. Saponification Versus Cure Time in Soap Making. Lovin’ Soap [Weblog] 6 May 2016. Available at %5BAccessed 22 June 2017].
  4. Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil Grades and Standards. n.d. [online] Available at l-and-olive-pomace-oil-grades-and-standards [Accessed 11 June 2017]
  5. Faviola, Ann-Marie. 2007. All Olive Oils are not created equal. Soap Queen [Weblog] 12 Feb 2014. Available at [Accessed 22 June 2017]
  6. Fisher, David. 2017. Do I need to use distilled water in my soap recipes? The Spruce. [Weblog] 04 April 2017. Available at [Accessed 22 June 2017]
  7. Sodium Hydroxide. 2016. [online] Available at %5BAccessed 12 June 2017].
  8. Sodium Hydroxide. 2016. [online] Available at %5BAccessed 12 June 2017].
  9. Personal Protective Equipment. 2004. [pdf] n.p.: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Available at %5BAccessed 13 June 2017].
  10. Saponification Value. 2017. Wikipedia. Available at [Accessed 13 June 2017].
  11. Caustic Soda [online] Available at [Accessed 13 June 2017].
  12. Gail, Amanda. 2008. Private Soapmaking Class, Pyrex and Lye, Essential Oils and Plastic [Weblog] Lovin’ Soap. 5 December 2015. Available at g-class-pyrex-and-lye-essential-oils-and-plastic/ [Accessed 15 June 2017]
  13. Gail, Amanda. 2008. How to pick containers for soapmaking (What is safe to soap in?) [Weblog] Lovin’ Soap. 17 December 2015. Available at %5BAccessed 15 June 2017]
  14. Can A Polypropylene Container Hold A 10% Solution of Sodium Hydroxide (lye, NaOH)?. 2012. [online] Available at r-hold-a-10-solution-of-sodium-hydroxide-lye-NaOH [Accessed 22 June 2017].
  15. Faiola, Anne-Marie. 2016. Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps. North Adams MA, USA: Storey Publishing.
  16. Freezer Paper Vs Wax Paper. 2012. [online] Available at [Accessed 22 June 2017].
  17. Grosso, Alicia. 2013. The Everything Soapmaking Book 3rd Edition. Avon MA, USA: Adams Media.
  18. Trew, Sally with Gould, Zonella. 2010. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soap. New York NY, USA: Alpha