The Basics of Making Handmade Soap

handmade_soapMaking your own melt and pour soaps can be a very rewarding craft. It allows you to use age-old techniques, work with essential oils and botanicals, and, in time, become a skilled kitchen chemist (or mad scientist, as the case may be). Basically, there are three basic soap-making recipes in use today: cold pressed, liquid, and clear.

Cold process soap is one of the oldest and best techniques, but is a time-consuming and labor intensive process. The resulting soap is a superior product to commercially available bath soaps. The soap is long-lasting, gentle when cured properly, and family-friendly.

The key ingredients are fat and sodium hydroxide. The fats are base oils that can include olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil, or if you really want to go old school, lard. Sodium hydroxide, when mixed with water becomes a caustic substance called lye. It is very dangerous to work with, so great care and precautions must be taken when working with it. You will need to be in a well-ventilated area with proper safety gear: goggles, gloves and an apron.

Weighing and measuring the ingredients are of the utmost importance. So, if you are a stickler for details, this is the soap for you. After hours of careful weighing, measuring, cooling and stirring, you can add essential oils and botanicals right before pouring the soap into your molds. It takes anywhere from four to six weeks for your soap to fully cure, but once it does, you are in for a treat.

For liquid soaps, you can use leftover pieces of bar soap, which you will melt and then add essential oils and floral waters. This process is much more forgiving and quick than cold process, and allows you to use small chunks of soap that might otherwise go to waste.

Clear soaps don’t have to be cured, don’t require lye, and come from a readily available base in pellet or block form. Essential oils and botanicals can be added easily. It’s a quick method that kids can master and have instant results.

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