Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars
With the weather warming up (finally!) and summer approaching here in New Zealand, we also find ourselves battling some unwanted visitors in our dogs’ furs. Fleas love warm and humid weather, and it’s practically impossible to avoid them. It is a battle I fight every spring, even if our dog (see picture below) seems to be less disturbed by them than my thought of him having fleas.
I have been asked several times for a specially formulated dog soap, and knowing how expensive some of the dog shampoos and soaps can be, and that not all of the are good for our canine friends, I set about to find out more about dogs’ skins and coats, and what is good and not good for them. So after some research, formulating and tweaking, I have come up with a soap recipe that will not only keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy and shiny, but will also keep those fleas at bay!
If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.
Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!
ONE: To prepare the lye, first measure out the water in a heat proof Pyrex jug. Then, in a separate container (I use a little plastic cup for this), weigh out the caustic soda. Make sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves. Carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Add two teaspoons of sodium lactate, which will help harden the soap and set aside to cool.
TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter. Either heat in the microwave (if using a Pyrex jug) or on the stove (if using a pot), until the oil and butter has completely melted.
I’ve added shea butter to the recipe because it helps to condition and maintain a balanced skin. I find it also helps with dogs who have sensitive skins and those who have been over-treated with harsh shampoos. Dogs have a more alkaline skin than humans, which is why their skins can be quite sensitive and reactive, and why it is particularly important to use the right products on their furs.
THREE: Weigh out the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and shea butter, and give it a quick stir.
FOUR: Make sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and then using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (does not separate).
FIVE: Add your essential oils. I’m using only half-strength in this recipe, because not only are dogs’ skins sensitive, their noses are particularly sensitive to smells and dogs really don’t like strong scents. So I’m keeping the amount of essential oils I’m using in this recipe down to a minimum. Feel free to omit the essential oils if you prefer, or if your dog is flea-free.
The essential oils I’m using are lavender and lemon eucalyptus, both which have flea-repelling properties, plus lavender is also soothing for the skin. If you want to add different essential oils, make sure that they are not toxic to your dog, and avoid any photosensitive essential oils, such as citrus.
SIX: Add two tablespoons of neem oil to the soap. Neem oil is a well-known insect repellent, which is why you find it in many dog shampoos and soaps. What might be lesser well-known is that neem oil is also wonderful for the skin because of its anti-flammatory properties. Again, particular beneficial for dogs with sensitive skins. In addition, both neem oil and castor oil help promote a shiny coat.
SEVEN: Keep stick blending the soap mixture until it has thickened to a medium trace. Then pour it in your soap mold and leave it to harden in the mold for several days.
EIGHT: After 2 or 3 days, check if the soap has hardened and isn’t sticky and soft anymore. Carefully unmold, and leave to dry out for another couple of days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.
Please note that neem oil has a very strong scent, but this WILL mellow out a bit once the soap cures. You can also replace the neem oil with karanja oil, which has similar properties to neem oil and a milder scent.
Natural dog soap
- 500 g olive oil
- 250 g coconut oil
- 100 g sunflower oil
- 100 g shea butter
- 50 g castor oil
- 138 g caustic soda
- 270 ml water
- 2 teaspoons sodium lactate
- 2 tablespoons neem oil
- 10 ml lavender essential oil
- 10 ml lemon eucalyptus essential oil
- Measure out 270 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear.
- Add 2 teaspoon of sodium lactate to the lye water. Set the lye aside to cool down.
- In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter has melted.
- Add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and shea butter, and give it all a quick stir.
- If the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
- Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
- Add the essential oils and neem oil.
- Keep stick blending until the soap mixture has thickened to a medium trace.
- Pour the soap into the mold and leave to harden for several days.
- After 2-3 days, check if the soap is firm enough to unmold. Remove from mold and leave to dry for another couple of days, before cutting into bars. The bars will need further curing for about 8 weeks until ready for use.