Methods of Soap Making
Did you know that there are multiple ways to make hand-crafted soap? You know, those beautiful, fancy schmancy, custom looking bars that you typically find neatly packaged and displayed in specialty shops- yep, that kind of soap- can be made at home, in four different ways.
So what’s so great about that? Selection! If one version seems too involved, there’s another one to try! If you’re not big on handling lye, then you don’t have to! Don’t feel like pulling out all of the pots and pans and making a big mess? Just zap some melt-and-pour in the microwave, spoon it into the molds, and be on your way. Easy peasy.
With endless looks, scents, colors, and techniques in soap making, it’s only natural that you can customize your process choices as well. Today I?m going to give you a run down on the four techniques that can be used in making gorgeous soap at home. Since we already reviewed the basic terms, and I?m sure you’ve got them all memorized (right?!), the next step in your soap making journey is to decide which technique best suits your desires, needs, and experience level. As always- safety first. With any of the following processes, make sure you exercise the proper safety precautions (long sleeves, gloves, goggles?). Nothing like a little burn to suck the fun right out of your soap making day!
Melt-and-Pour: This is by far, the easiest of the soap making methods. If you’re a newbie soap maker, my suggestion is to start here. The melt-and-pour method eliminates the handling of lye and the process of saponification and trace because you start with a pre-made soap base. There’s less mess involved and the process doesn’t generate heat the way the other methods do, so it’s a kid friendly (with adult supervision and instruction) project. After choosing a base, you simply melt the soap in the microwave or on the stove top with a double boiler, and mix in your colors, fragrances, and additives. Once all ingredients are thoroughly blended, pour into the mold(s) and allow to set. This technique is wonderful because the soap is typically ready for use within two hours and doesn’t require any curing or drying.
Cold-Process: This method of soap making requires the use of Lye (sodium hydroxide). Lye is mixed with water, and then combined with one or more oils and blended until trace occurs (remember what trace is? The point of no return- pudding consistency!). Once trace is achieved, additives like color, fragrance, and dried botanicles can be blended in for a customized scent and appearance. After cold-process soap is poured into the mold, it will take two to three days to completely harden before it can be unmolded. This method is a process because after the soap is freed from the mold, it must continue to dry and cure for close to six weeks. This is necessary because as the soap cures, the oil and lye continue to react resulting in a milder soap that is gentle on the skin.
Cold-process soap does not require any outside heat source and is a popular method because of the flexibility to use whatever recipe you choose with ingredients you desire. Just remember when planning to create soap this way- Lye is used, so this is a no-kids-allowed activity, and it requires a lengthy drying time so you can’t plan on using it right away.
Rebatching: Rebatching is a variation of the cold-process method. I love this method because it produces a more rustic and organic looking soap bar than the standard cold-process method does and it allows for the use of delicate essential oils (which can sometimes be damaged by the higher pH of cold-process soap). Also, you don’t have to handle lye! To make rebatched soap, you simply shred a bar (or several) of premade cold-process soap (shreds should look like shredded cheese) OR buy pre-shredded cold-process soap (to make things super easy!) and melt with a double boiler or a slow cooker. When melting, you’ll add in a small amount of distilled water, and later add the essential oil, colorants, and additives once the base has melted and reached a consistency of mashed potatoes. You’ll stir the additives in with a spoon and then scoop into your mold(s). Allow to harden and dry for at least 2-3 days.
Hot-Process- This method is very similar to the cold-process technique since you start from scratch. Starting from scratch is great because this allows you to completely choose the ingredients you want to incorporate! The difference in this method should be pretty obvious from the name- it requires additional heat! During this process you will be cooking the soap, either on the stove top in a large pot, in a slow cooker, or even in the over (being super careful to keep an eye on it!). This soap requires more effort in the beginning, but it results in soap that you can use basically right away- no curing time. The downside? Without curing time the soap bars are softer and won’t last as long in the shower.
So- do you know which method you’ll try first? If you’re already an avid soap maker, what’s your favorite technique? We’d love to hear from you!