Have you seen soft, milky homemade soap and thought, “I wish I could do that”? You can! The simplest of homemade soap is very easy to make because all you do is melt the base soap, add the fragrance or color you want, and pour the soap into molds. That is why this is called melt and pour soap, and this is the simplest of introductions to this simplest soapmaking.
Some will tell you this isn’t really making soap, and they’re right. You aren’t making soap from scratch, but ignore them anyway. You’re just dipping in to see if you might want to learn more. This is just the beginning.
Why Make Soap?
If all you are doing is melting soap that is already made, why would you want to make your own soap?
Savings. You can save a lot of money. Depending on the ingredients you choose and how fancy you make it, it will probably cost you $.50-$1.00 per bar of soap. If you are trying to save money, this is one more little way to squeeze a few dollars from your monthly budget. It is only a few dollars, though, so saving money isn’t usually the first reason one thinks of to make soap.
Health is an even better reason to make your own homemade soap. Replace mystery ingredients and chemicals with whole, natural ingredients like olive oil and goat’s milk. Especially if you have sensitivities or allergies to chemicals commonly included in cosmetics, making your own soap can be a way to soothe your skin.
Taste and style are easy to match when you add your own color, scent, and texture.
The best reason to make your own soap is just the pure DIY (do-it-yourself) joy of it. It feels great to make something useful, healthy, and beautiful for yourself and your family.
Basic melt and pour soap couldn’t be easier. You buy a base, melt it, add a little fragrance or color, add texture (like oatmeal for soft skin or salt to exfoliate), pour into a mold, let it cool, then cut.
You will need base soap, fragrance and color (optional), a double boiler, a stirrer (a wooden spoon will work), and a mold. A glass thermometer will also help, and you may already have that for candy making. You may also want to wear gloves. Some molds require lining. You can use parchment or butcher paper to line a square mold, so there is no plastic required.
Look for a base soap that you like. If you can buy it in person, that’s even better because you can touch and smell it to get a better idea of what is available. Olive oil and hemp seed oil soaps will moisturize. Aloe vera and honey are soothing and healing. You will have plenty of choices for natural soap bases.
When you are ready, bring the water in your double boiler to a boil then turn it to low. Cut your soap base into small cubes and add to the top pan. Stir occasionally, and be patient. It takes a while to melt.
Once the base soap is melted, add fragrance oil or essential oil. You can add food coloring, including natural, powdered food coloring like turmeric for a bit of yellow, beet powder for rich red, spirulina powder for green, or cocoa for a light brown. These won’t add scent to the soap, so you are adding it more for the mild color or decorative effect.
It is fun to make clear soap for kids by adding bright colors and little toys. Notice: I wrote “for kids” not “with kids.” More on that below.
When your soap is melted and your fragrance and color is added, pour into a mold. A juice box coated with a light layer of oil makes a great size for a small bar of soap. You can tear your mold off the soap and send it on to the recycling bin after you are done. If you don’t get juice or milk in cartons, you can buy silicon molds fairly inexpensively, and you can make your own beautiful wooden mold quite easily. Try soap making before you jump in and make your own mold, but this is a great way to bring the spirit of DIY to your future soap making obsession.
Let your soap fully dry. If you were making soap from scratch, you would need to wait weeks for your soap to cure, but simple melt and pour soap just needs to cool and dry.
Caution: whenever you melt soap, it is very hot and can be dangerous. Only use with children when you know they won’t grab for it or distract you. That probably means only making soap with much older children. Especially for your first batch, make soap when your children are not around.
- SUPPLIES: Melt and Pour Soap Bases
- SUPPLIES: Organic Melt and Pour Base
- SUPPLIES: Soap Kits
- SUPPLIES: Soap Supplies in Canada from Suds ‘n Scents
- SUPPLIES: More Canadian Soap Supply Sources
- ONLINE TUTORIALS: Tutorials at Teach Soap
- VIDEO: Basic videos on each kind of soap making process at Soap Calc
- BOOK: Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson
Once you are hooked and confident with melt and pour soap, try cold processed soap making. This is real soap making. You use lye (caustic soda, sodium hydroxide) in the process of saponification, a chemical reaction in which the fats or oils react with the lye to create soap. You need to leave this soap to cure anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the ingredients you use. You will need more soap making and more safety equipment to make even basic cold processed soap, so melt and pour is a good way to try out soap making to see if you want to invest more time and money.
Don’t have DIY envy anymore. You can make your own simple homemade soap.
Image © Alla Shcherbak | Dreamstime.com