4 Methods to Make Your Own Unique Soap
Create handcrafted soaps for yourself or gift them to a friendBy Rue Reynold
Soapmaking can be a rewarding hobby to get into for gift-giving or a personal treat. To help get you started, here are four methods to create the soap of your dreams.
Melt and pour
The melt and pour method is the easiest way to make soap. You buy a premade soap base, melt it down and then add color, fragrance or oil. Once it hardens, it’s ready to use. This is a great method for absolute beginners, children and those who are hesitant to work with lye (the solution used to make soap from scratch).
The cold process is the most common method for hobbyists because you have complete control over what goes in your soap and how it looks. This is a made-from-scratch process that’s done by mixing fats (oils and butters), sodium hydroxide lye, fragrance or color. Combining fats with lye begins a chemical reaction called saponification which breaks down the fats for them to bind with the lye. After setting the soap mixture aside, saponification and water evaporation can take up to 30 days or more for handmade soap to dry and reach its maximum mild state. Always be in a well-ventilated room and wear protective goggles and gloves when working with lye, which is a strong chemical that can burn skin or cause harm if the fumes are inhaled.
This method mirrors the cold process almost exactly, but rather than wait for saponification to complete on its own, you significantly speed it up by applying heat. While hot processed soap should also be allowed to set before using, it takes much less time to complete compared to cold processed soap. The downside to this method is not being able to easily design elaborate patterns. To learn more about hot process soapmaking, check out “Hot Process Soap Making” by Heidi Villegas.
Also known as French milling or hand milling, this method combines cold process, hot process and melt and pour. Soap is first made using either the cold process or hot process method. Once complete, the soap is grated and then melted as you add additional color, fragrances or ingredients.
Milling is often alternated with the term “rebatching” because they follow the same process, but they have different meanings. “Milling” indicates creating your own soap starting from the cold process or hot process method. “Rebatching” refers to reshaping an old soap, taking a premade commercial soap and adding your own spin to it, or fixing a soap that may not have gone as planned during the original cold process or hot process attempt.
No matter which method you choose, research and prepare thoroughly before attempting to make soap. Take each step one at a time and you’ll soon have a shelf (and gift bag) full of amazing handcrafted creations.
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