Natural Soap Making 101
Hand-made natural soap is a simple luxury many people can appreciate. It’s better for skin than commercially made soap and can help to alleviate many skin conditions, including eczema and acne, without the use of harsh chemicals. I’m excited to share with you all my love for natural soap making and how you can get started too, but first, a little back story as to what inspired this post.
I was taking part in a blog challenge called NaBloPoMo and the writing prompt for day 2 was as follows:
What did you think was the coolest job in the world when you were younger? Do you still feel that way now?
I’m going back to when I first moved to Atlanta. I was at my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) house and he flung his mail onto the couch where I was sitting hitting me with one of the mail circulars. I picked it up and glanced at a class called “soap making 101: Intro to melt and pour soaps,” and thought it sounded like the coolest class ever!
I took the class, actually a series of classes, and fell in love with the craft of natural soap making. Making soaps became my peace and my happy place and even a source of extra income for me on occasion. When we’d travel, I’d imagine becoming a full time soap maker and opening a little soap shop in the local village. Plus, I thought, if I were to ever make this into a career, how cool would it be to say it just fell into my lap…literally!!!
I’ve made soaps only a few times since I had my kids, partially because my art room became the nursery and partially because of the constraints of my real job. However, I told my husband that now that I’m home, I was going to whip out my soap supplies and get back to one of my first creative passions outside of writing- soap making. It’s the most peaceful and relaxing hobby for me, only comparable to back in the day when I used to develop my own black and white film. So yes, I still feel like this would be the coolest job in the world!
Also, since blogging is technically my full time job, I’m gonna share some natural soap making tips with my readers too!
Natural Soap Making with Melt and Pour Method
What is the Melt & Pour (M&P) Natural Soap Making Method?
The Melt and Pour Method is one of the 2 processes of soap making; the other being Cold Process Soap. With the Melt and Pour soap making process, you use a pre-made, ready to use base. These include a standard glycerin soap base, olive oil, goat milk, honey, shea butter and several more. They can also be clear, white or other opaque colors, which only really affects the final color of the soap. When adding color to the clear base, you can get a more solid final color, whereas the white base will give you pastel-like color. Melt and Pour is the simplest process, as you get to really play with these to create some fun soaps since the hardest part is already taken care of. You can find these at most craft stores like Michael’s or buy wholesale online.
The best place to find glycerin for use in melt and pour soaps is online. Molds and colors are easiest found online as well. When searching for glycerin, often soap making kits are found, which include glycerin, molds, herbs, essential oils and coloring for soaps. These are nice for beginners. Another place to look for glycerin or essential oils would be a local natural foods store.
See Also: How to Use Essential Oils
How to Make Natural Soap with the Melt and Pour Method
Gather ingredients and set up a double broiler, adding one inch of water to the lower pan. Make sure the double broiler is air-tight between pans. Set the heat on the stove to medium-low and wait about ten minutes. Steam should be escaping from the bottom pan before placing glycerin into the top part of the double broiler. The easiest way to cut glycerin to fit into the pan is to use a butter knife. Wait for glycerin to begin melting before stirring with a wire whisk. For a half pound of glycerin to melt completely, it usually takes about ten minutes.
Once glycerin is fully melted, add essential oil, about three drops per half pound of melted glycerin. After stirring thoroughly, add more essential oil if desired. After this, add herbs. Finely crushed herbs which have been deemed appropriate for external use should not exceed more than two tablespoons for a half pound of glycerin. Stir with the wire whisk to ensure even disbursement of herbs.
Add coloring, if desired. Some food coloring can stain skin, so be sure to use coloring approved for soap making. Add about three drops, stir thoroughly, and add more if desired for darker color.
Pour liquid glycerin slowly into molds. Pouring too fast can result in air bubbles in soap. Do not move molds for a half hour to an hour, until soap is hardened. Carefully remove soap from molds, using a butter knife to trace around the outside of the natural soap to assist in popping soap out.
Store natural soap in an airtight container to ensure loss of moisture does not take place.
Natural Soap Making with the Cold Process Method (made with Lye and Oil)
Cold process soap making is sort of the real deal. It involves mixing lye and oil into a chemical process that ultimately makes soap. Of course, this process takes a lot a lot longer and because of the lye, you don’t really want to do this inside of the house or in any poorly ventilated space.
What is Cold Process Soap Making?
The cold process soap making method begins with lye and oil essentially. As you can imagine, making natural soap beginning with lye is a much less popular method, as a lot more steps are involved and can be a pretty intense process. It’requires very precise tools and ingredients, as well as a designated open-air space to perform this method. It can be a fun activity, though, especially for those with an interest in science.
As I said earlier, this process begins with lye. Lye can be purchased commercially (sodium hydroxide) or made from wood ash and water (potassium hydroxide). Be aware that lye is caustic and will burn bare skin, so when handling lye, bee sure to use rubber gloves and safety glasses. Never add water to lye- always add lye to water- and do not make lye soap in an aluminum pan, as the lye will eat away at the aluminum. Use a stainless steal pan instead. Since lye is caustic, making natural soap with lye should always be done in a well-ventilated area, away from small children.
To begin making soap with lye, add the lye to water. Use about twice the amount of water as lye. Then heat up the desired oil, such as olive oil, vegetable oil, or coconut oil. Use about twice the amount of oil as water. Add the oil to the lye mixture when both are about the same temperature. Add essential oil and herbs.
If using potassium hydroxide, add common table salt to ensure the natural soap hardens. Mix well with a hand mixer or blender until soap begins to trace, that is, become stiffer. Pour soap into molds. Leave the soap in the molds for 24 hours, then move the soap bars onto a wire rack to harden for three to four weeks. At the end of this time, soap may be used for washing without the lye harming skin.
Whether making natural soap from lye or prepackaged glycerin, soap making can be a fun and rewarding experience. Melt-and-pour soap is better suited for the novice, whereas lye soap is best for an experienced soap maker.
Natural Soap Recipe with the Melt and Pour Method
Natural Soap Making Supplies: What you’ll need:
Heat resistant containers (ex. Pyrex cup)
Soap base. (I recommend this vegan olive oil soap base)
Colorants, such as food coloring
Fragrance or essential oils (This is what gives it the scent you desire. Lavender is one of my favorites)
½ teaspoon Vitamin E (acts a preservative for the soap)
Spoon for mixing
Rubbing Alcohol (in a spray bottle)
Castor oil (gives a little extra lather)
Directions for how to make Melt and Pour soap:
1. Cut the melt and pour soap base into chunks and place into the heat resistant container.
3. Add colorants, fragrance, Vitamin E, and Castor oil (optional). Stir mixture.
4. Steadily pour mixture into the soap molds. Fill each mold one at a time.
5. Spritz some alcohol to the top of the mixture in the molds. This helps remove any excess foam or clumps.
6. Allow mixture to cool and harden for several hours.
7. Remove soap from molds, lather up and enjoy!
Note: My daughters got a chance to learn the natural soap making process today too and helped me out with this. They continued on in the process as we experimented with these cute bunny soaps for their bathroom. What do you think?