When it comes to crafting, making your own soap is popular for so many reasons. It’s super easy, cheap, fun, pretty, environmentally friendly, and fulfilling. It’s a great craft to do with kids, and homemade soaps make great gifts for every occasion. There are also lots of different ways to do it, so you can get really creative!
There are a few ways to make your own soap, and they’re all relatively simple. You’re basically mixing some ingredients, adding some essential oil for scent and possibly some colorants, and pouring it into a mold. That’s it – that’s all there is to it! Once you have the basics down, you can start to experiment with different things to make interesting, new kinds of soap.
Melt-and-Pour Soap Making
The melt-and-pour method is the easiest and quickest way to make soap at home.
Ingredients to Make Melt-and-Pour Soap
- A block f clear, unscented soap base (such as a block of clear glycerine soap base or a white block of goat’s milk soap base)
- A clear countertop in your kitchen
- A double boiler, or a microwave
- A heat-resistant bowl
- A wooden spoon, rubber spatula or whisk
- A drop or two of your favourite essential oil for scent
- A drop or two of natural colorant for color
- Any additives you would like to include, such as flower petals, soap flakes, etc.
- Soap molds
Once you have gathered everything together, it’s really simple to make soap using this method.
Instructions to Make Melt-and-Pour Soap
- Cut up the clear soap base into even chunks for melting in the double boiler or microwave. Stir often to prevent overheating.
- When it’s fully melted, add in your essential oil and colorant, but be careful not to add too much. It’s far better to add one drop to start and then add a little more if needed, than add too much and have to start all over again.
- There are lots of fun ideas for additives if you want to get creative with your soaps. You can buy soap flakes or use different color soap shavings or even small pieces of colorful tissue paper to create a confetti-like look in your soap. You can also use flower petals, fresh coffee grounds or activated charcoal. Raspberry seeds make a pretty and natural exfoliant.
- Once you have the color and scent you like, pour the soap into your molds. Soap molds come in all shapes and sizes, from full bath bars to fun little silicone molds with shapes or patterns for hand soaps. There are also large soap molds that allow you to form a large block and then cut the soap into bars or shapes. If you are using wooden molds, note that they need to be lined with a silicone sheet or wax paper before they’re used. For added fun and texture, you can add a little more of your additive to the top of your mold.
- If you’re making soaps for kids, you may opt to put a little toy inside for them to play with once they’ve washed their hands enough. Just make sure the toy is a safe and sturdy plastic, like a small toy dinosaur or animal, and that it doesn’t have any sharp edges which could hurt little hands. If you’re doing this, pour half the soap into the mold, and let it set for a little. Then place the toy where you want it, melt the remainder of the soap and pour it on top. This same method works if you want to insert a pretty dried flower or a fun sugar decoration, like a sugar daisy or googly eyes, into your soap. You can get as creative as you like!
- Once you’re done, just let your soaps sit out on the kitchen counter until they cool fully and set. This will usually take a few hours, but it’s even better to leave them overnight. Once they’re set, just pop them out of their molds, and package them up as you like!
Cold Process Soap Making
This method is much more complicated, but it grants you more control over everything that goes into your soap. It allows for more natural and organic ingredients; however, it takes longer to make and set, but the result is a bar of soap that will last longer.
You’re also working with lye, so you need to take some serious safety precautions. Don’t use this method if you’re looking for a fun craft to do with the kids. These soaps also need to cure for up to six weeks before you can use them.
The basic principle behind cold process soap is a chemical reaction called saponification. You’re mixing a fixed oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil, with lye (sodium hydroxide), an alkali, to get this reaction.
Lye is highly corrosive and must be handled with care. Even the fumes can burn your skin and eyes, so you need to take safety precautions.
Safety Tips for Working with Lye to Make Cold Process Soap
- Keep kids and pets away from the area.
- Make sure your work space is clear of any bumping or tripping hazards.
- Safety goggles are a must. Glasses do not provide enough protection – you need googles that protect your eyes on all sides.
- Wear rubber or latex gloves as well as long sleeves, pants and shoes. Cover as much skin as possible to protect against possible splashes.
- Consider wearing a mask to prevent inhaling fumes. At the very least, be prepared to open windows to minimize fume inhalation.
- Keep a bottle of white vinegar handy as this will neutralize the lye if it spills on anything.
- Do not use any of your soap making tools for anything other than soap making. Do not use bowls or tools, mixers or thermometers you use for food preparation, and make sure to hand wash your soap making tools. Do not put them in the dishwasher. Make sure to label them with a skull and crossbones or a large label saying LYE, so you don’t make a mistake.
- Aluminum will react with the lye to create a toxic fume, and corrosive lye can melt some plastics, so use only heat-safe tempered glass bowls, wooden spoons and stainless-steel mixers.
Ingredients to Make Cold Process Soap
- A digital kitchen scale
- Glass bowls
- A kitchen thermometer
- A hand blender (sometimes called a stick blender)
- Stainless steel or wooden spoons
- A rubber spatula
- Soap molds
- A recipe
- Access to an online lye calculator
There are thousands of cold process soap recipes online, so you have lots of options when making them.
Instructions to Make Cold Process Soap
- First, pick your recipe and run it through your online lye calculator. Different oils take different amounts of lye to turn into soap, so it matters if you’re using olive oil or shea butter. All you do is put your recipe into the calculator, and it will tell you how much lye to use.
- Then, you’ll need to weigh out all of your ingredients, including your liquids. Amounts must be exact. When you are mixing the lye into the water in the amounts found on your lye calculator, pour slowly and make sure your water is room temperature at its warmest.
- Add the lye to the water in small amounts. Don’t add the water to the lye. You don’t want any splashes or spills.
- When you’re done, wipe up with a damp paper towel immediately in case of any stray grains of lye. Do not breathe in any of the fumes, and make sure your windows are open or that you wear a mask.
- Stir with a heavy-duty rubber spatula until the lye fully dissolves. Put the lye water in a safe place, out of reach where it won’t spill, and wait for it to cool.
- Weigh out your oil, butter or fat.
- Melt any solids, and combine with your liquids in a double boiler or a microwave, and let them cool to about 90 to 120 degrees F. You want to mix your oils and the lye solution when they’re close to the same temperature, within about 10 to 20 degrees of each other.
- When it reaches the right temperature, slowly add a bit of the lye water to the oils at a time, and blend with your hand blender in between adding the lye water.
- Use the blender in short bursts of a few seconds each, and then mix by hand in between. If you use your blender continuously, the soap will thicken too quickly.
- As soon as you see the faint patterns on the surface of your mixture, you’ve achieved the stage called “trace.” This is when you can add your colorants, essential oils or any additives.
- Keep blending and hand stirring until all your ingredients are incorporated.
- Pour your soap into a soap mold, and tap it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Your soap is still caustic, so be careful at this stage as well.
- Cover and insulate your mold, leaving it undisturbed for 36 hours.
- Take your soap out of the mold, and slice into bars as desired.
- Leave your soaps on a sheet of wax paper in the open air to cure, turning occasionally. You need to allow them to set like this for at least four weeks before use.
Making soap at home can be fun and fulfilling as long as you follow the right procedures and make sure to take safety precautions when handling dangerous ingredients.