Soap making is a fun and economical craft that the young and old alike can enjoy. Custom made soap – especially for special occasions or holidays such as Valentine’s Day – is a great way to customize a gift basket or create that extra special gift that the recipient can use as a decoration or get use out of.
The old-fashion way of making soap using wood ashes or lye takes some skill, however today you can buy melt-and-pour soap base that makes creating your own soaps fun and easy.
Tip: You can even use bar soap from the store, grate it, add goat milk or water and melt it back down.
I have made soap using wood ashes, lye, numerous types of melt–and-pour and yes, even bought soap to grate, melt and add my own scent, color or floral additives to.
I have a soap pot now, but in the beginning I used a double boiler. Many types of melt-and-pour soap are microwaveable. This makes it easy to make custom soap without all the expense typically associated with making old-fashion lye soap.
You Will Need:
- a soap pot (or double boiler)
- soap mold (or silicon molds)
- soap base
- glass measuring cup
- coloring (or pure essential oils fragrance, or both!)
- additives, if you wish (like pumice, apricot seeds, etc)
For this particular project, I used the melt-and-pour goat milk soap base. I also used my soap pot because I prefer it to all the other soap melting methods I have tried. The metal pot does get hot, so if you are doing this with your kids, take precautions and don’t let them lift or touch the metal pot. It does come with a plastic dipper that is ideal for dipping the soap out of the pot and pouring it into the molds.
This is what the soap looks like when you open the container. This is a small piece I had left over from another project. As you can see, it is scored. This makes it easier for you to cut off just the right amount of soap for your project.
I use a large, sharp kitchen knife and carefully cut along the scores. The soap base is pretty soft and cuts easily. I find the soap base melts faster when it is cut into little chunks like this. If you are using homemade lye soap or soap from the store, grate it. I use a dedicated Salad Shooter to grate my soap with and then store the grated soap in Ziplock bags. Chunks of hard soap take too long to melt in my opinion.
The next step is to place the soap chunks in the bottom of the soap pot, pan or glass container if you are microwaving it. The soap pot has an option that says “melt” and once the soap is in the pot, I turn it to this option. If you are melting soap in a double boiler, make sure the bottom pan does not boil dry.
I use a lid on the soap pot because it melts the soap faster – you do not need to use a lid in the microwave or on the double boiler. I do not stir or disturb the soap at all during this time. I do keep an eye on the pot to make sure everything is going as planned.
Once the soap is completely melted, it is time to pour the soap into the molds. Check carefully before you begin to remove the soap to make sure there are no large chunks that did not melt.
Tip: Tilt the entire soap pot from side to side.
Stirring it causes bubbles and that causes bubbles to end up in the soap molds which means the finished, molded soap is going to have imperfections that you don’t want.
Once you know the soap is completely melted, pour it into a glass container. I have used measuring cups or coffee carafes that are dedicated to soap making. Adding scent or color to your pot is not a good idea because the color or fragrance can linger. It is much easier to clean glass and get rid of all traces of coloring or fragrance than it is to do that on metal.
Add in the color first, a few drops at a time. If you get the soap too dark, the color tends to wash off onto your hands or colors your bath water even after it is cured.
Use an approved soap making color if at all possible. I prefer the liquid colors instead of the powders. The powders are – in my opinion – a little harder to work with. I have used food coloring in a pinch.
There are many techniques you can use when coloring soap.
Tip: A light swirl of the coloring creates a marble effect.
Stirring the coloring all the way in creates a solid colored soap. Color the soap as you wish. You can even use more than one color and create a multi-colored swirl soap.
Once the soap is colored, you can add other additives such as pumice, apricot seed, soap glitter or even fragrance. These additives are available in the soap crafting section of your local craft store.
Tip: When it comes to fragrance, always use 100% pure essential oils.
These oils are safe to use on the skin. Fragrance oils are not. A good place to look for essential oils, other than your local craft store, is your local health food store. Add the fragrance a few drops at a time until you are satisfied with how the soap smells. A good aromatherapy book will give you scent combination suggestions and amounts.
Pour the soap into the molds. You can see I ended up with bubbles during the coloring and scenting process.
Tip: Remember to gently tap the mold (similar to the way you tap cake mix in a pan) to help release some of the bubbles.
Once all the soap is poured into the molds – and the tapping is done – set the mold aside. Keep it at room temperature. Melt-and-pour soap is generally ready to remove in a day’s time – and in the case of these guest soap molds, a few hours.
To determine if the soap is ready to come out of the molds, gently touch the top of the soap. If it is cool to the touch and does not indent, pick up the soap mold. The bottom of the soap should be cool as well.
Gently turn the mold over and lay it on a flat surface. I like to use napkins or paper towels to turn my soap out onto. Very gently press the center of each mold working your way around the mold until the soap pops out.
In rare cases, the soap will not release. You can put the mold into the freezer for 15 minutes and try again. I have also placed the mold under warm running water but you must take care not to get the soap itself wet.
Melt-and-pour soap is now ready to go – but here is a final tip for those who want to go the extra mile to make your gift even more special!
Tip: Cure it just like old-fashion lye soap or store bought soap that you melted back down.
Place the soap on paper toweling and turn it once or twice a day every day for four weeks. This cures the soap making it harder which means it will last longer and have an even better lather.
Of course, you do not need to cure the soaps, but if you had the time and patience, the wait is indeed worth it!
Sheri Ann Richerson is a leading pioneer in the self-sufficiency movement. For the past 19 years she has been living, teaching, and promoting organic gardening, natural health and self-sufficiency through all forms of media. She has been featured in The New York Times, Woman’s World Magazine and Ladies’ Home Journal. Ms. Richerson’s best-selling books include:
Sheri lives in Marion, Indiana. For more information, please visit her writing website at SheriAnnRicherson.com, her gardening and homesteading website at experimentalhomesteader.com or subscribe to the Experimental Homesteader podcasts on iTunes.
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