I am going to talk about where one could find the supplies needed to make soap.
One primarily needs oil/butter, lye, essential oil, molds, butter paper, non reactive utensils, a hand-mixer, weighing scale, hand gloves and thermometer.
Olive, Coconut, Castor, Palm, Almond : Any grocery store
Jojoba, Neem, Avocado, Linseed : Special stores. I buy it from Falcon Essential Oils, Bangalore – they deliver supplies home.
Shea butter(unrefined), Mango butter: Falcon Essential Oils again. There are a few other industries that do deal with this.
Lye is caustic soda (NaOH). Available in flake form.
One may buy lye from a chemical industry in one’s own locality. Just google map for “Chemicals” to find a few. Make sure the lye is 99% pure and white without impurities. The seller would/should warn on how dangerous it can be! CAUTION: lye is dangerous and should not be handled without gloves.
Find them in stores like Health & Glow, that stock from the company called Aroma Magic (15ml bottles). Alternatively, buy them online – for brands like Khadi, Soulflower, Aroma Magic and a few others. I ordered all of mine from Falcon Essential Oils.
Molds & Utensils
Molds: Use non-reactive molds. Use wood, silicone or stainless steel. Tin/Aluminium or other metals might react with lye, hence pay attention. Use PVC pipes as molds to get circular soaps. As a simpler option, use simple card board box or biscuit carton (mentioned in butter-paper section below).
1. A cup to hold lye flakes.
2. Another cup for water/liquid.
3. A heat resistant vessel for oils.
4. Spoons for mixing.
Don’t use your cooking vessels for soap making. Go for stainless steel, porcelain, good quality glass or thick plastic mugs. Non-stick vessels not to be used. I use porcelain cups for holding lye flakes and liquid, do the mixing in porcelain with plastic spoon, heat oils with a stainless steel bowl and transfer them to a thick plastic mug. Do this your way as far as it is safe.
If you are thinking an ordinary hand-mixer with a low wattage is just sufficient, then hold-on. My suggestion is to go for a high power mixer. Do not go for blenders.
Why molds? if one could just use a cardboard box, a shampoo carton, a biscuit paper box or any such. All one needs to do is line the box with butter-paper and pour in the soap mixture.
Kitchen weighing scale/machine
This one is a MUST. Go for the machine that shows weight in grams (good if there is oz option). It would be wonderful to have a reset to zero option. That way one could work with containers, with ease.
MUST have. Get this in the cleaning supply section of a super market or a medical store. For really sturdy & safe ones, ask your lye supplier.
I really don’t use a thermometer and my soaps turn out to be good enough. Bio/body-thermometers don’t work for beyond 100+/-3 F. Invest in a food thermometer.