Getting Started With Handmade Soap – A Tutorial For Beginners
Are you ready for a time-tested craft that’s been practiced and perfected through the ages? Well welcome to the world of homemade soap! This is gonna be way better than just churning out white or brown boring rectangle slabs like what you may be used to on your bathroom sink.
This is going to be, well, a lot like art 🙂
Sometimes I would take a break form what I was doing and try out soap since I use to eyeball cute shape soaps everywhere I went and wish I had some just like it. (By now you know I have tried out everything out there)
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Learn How To Make Soap That’s Better than the Store Kind
Homemade soap can’t be beat in terms of quality, smell, appearance, and ingredients, and it’s the most fun natural beauty product you can make on your own. Glycerin is good for your skin, one reason homemade soap is so much better for you is the fact that commercial soaps you might see on the market have been stripped of glycerin.
Many people are afraid to take the first step into soap making due to the big cautionary notes about using lye. Which is understandable – as lye is a caustic chemical that can be hazardous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Truth be told though, the use of lye is on a par with using some of that crystal drain cleaner on a clogged drain!
If you’ve ever done that, you took precautions, right? Well you will pretty much do the same thing here with making soap! If you’re still a bit nervous about taking that first step, that’s OK.😊
Can You Make Homemade Soap Without Lye?
I remember reading the famous novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” in school and a couple of characters were bathing with lye soap…to which I was like “What??” I always thought lye was caustic (it is) but realized how much I DIDN’T know about what goes into soap making then.
But to answer that question, surprise, surprise: No, you can’t make soap without lye because ALL soaps have lye in them. Lye is actually one of the chief ingredients, the others being water and oil.
Lye is the base, and the fatty acids that are included in the makeup, when combined, lead to the process called “saponification” in which they are converted to glycerin.
When lye reacts with the oils in the mixture ….no lye will remain in the finished product. Whew…So I’m glad I was finally demystified about lye in soap!
The Melt and Pour Method – Best for Beginners
There are three main types of homemade soap craft – first is the hot process method (which involves mixing lye and water with fats and oils over heat),
Second is the cold process method (which is similar but doesn’t use heat), and third, the “melt and pour”, which I think is the best!
“Melt and pour” works pretty much like its name. It involves a packaged base product that has already undergone saponification. This process is the best one for beginners if you want to jettison the whole deal with active lye if the thought of having to use it makes you a tad anxious.
It’s also a great method to share with kids too! You can cut to the fun parts of dying and adding pretty colors or scents sooner rather than later, and once poured into molds the cure-up time is not too long. These I have selected here have a cube/grid pattern making it a cinch to cut off the amount needed.
Melt and pour soap bases come in a good range of base types…everything from glycerin, to shea butter, goat’s milk and aloe, the latter two of which are great for your skin and very nourishing, too!
Soap Making Supplies
For the melt and pour, I used glycerin bricks just like the ones above. they are sold in pound sizes and I pretty much would take a sharp knife and cut off the amount needed so I would only melt what I needed for 1 or 2 bars.
You can add various color dyes to it and make that particular soap any color you want!
You will also need access to some well known kitchen implements such as measuring cups, a kitchen scale, and a cooking thermometer to check the temperature while mixing the ingredients.
Lastly, you will also need a good mold for the soap to set up in. For molds, popular materials include plastic and silicone. Silicone may be the best choice because it handles heat well and it’s easier to extract the soap after curing.
Melt and Pour Method
Tip: A 2 lb glycerin brick will make approximately 8 regular sized soap bars.
If you use the glycerin bricks I recommend here, you can melt it one of two ways. one is the use of a double-boiler.
The second way is, guess what, the microwave! You have to watch it carefully, though (I had a near miss spillover one time – yikes ) and that is why I prefer the use of a double boiler. Even though it is a little slower, you’ve got more control over the mixture and it’s easier to keep an eye on as the bricks melt.
After it’s thoroughly melted pour the mixture into your chosen mold. If you want to spray the inside with cooking spray you can, but it’s not necessary.
Letting Your Soap Set Up
The curing process is fairly cut and dried. (No pun intended!) Melt-and-pour soap is fairly expedient to cure; at most, it probably needs about 6 hours max to set up for good before you can unmold it.
Personally, I just leave it alone, but if you want to be expeditious, you can put the molds in the refrigerator. You will want to turn over the mold and gently push on it to release it when it is fully set. That is when you can slice the loaf into slices (bars), or just pop them out if you’re using a mold with individual bar sized openings.
Voila, you’ve got soap! Presentation and storage is up to you; for awhile I just put all my little bonbon sized soaps in a pretty clear jar because for awhile I just enjoyed them as a decoration and no need to use them.
Once you get the hang of these steps and how the process works, you’re certainly going to want to expand on your creativity no doubt.
One thing that was a lot of fun to do is to swirl the colors a little, I usually waited until I had some fragrance in and poured it in the mold, then I added a few drops of different colors and using a toothpick, gently let the colors swirl around. To get that effect you have to be very subtle or the colors will definitely bleed together.
Well that was a lot of ground to cover…..I don’t have anything to conclude other than making handmade soap is fun! So don’t hesitate, get started today! Make some soap and keep some for yourself but don’t forget that these will make great gifts too!
Creative Commons Attribution for third and fourth photos : Images by Debbie Chialtas
This post was updated on April 30, 2019