How to Start Soaping

So, you're ready to start soaping. Awesome, let's do this! 

There are two ways to make solid soap at home: melt and pour or cold-process. I highly suggest doing melt and pour soaps if you are a beginner, but feel free to jump right into cold-process too (that's what I did in college). 

Melt and Pour Soaping: 

To start melt and pour soaping, you'll need a few tools and supplies: 

  • Soap mold
  • Mixing bowls/cups
  • Spatula
  • Gloves
  • Melt and pour base 
  • Fragrance oil or essential oil 
  • Glycerin coloring (if you want colors)
  • Soap toppings (if you want - like rose petals, cranberry seeds, etc)
  • Spray bottle with rubbing alcohol

Melt and pour (mp) is pretty self-explanatory: you melt the soap base and pour into your mold. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help get you that perfect bar. 

Tip #1: Use more fragrance than you think you need. 

Mp bases have a pretty strong plastic scent most of the time. Even after using the recommended fragrance amount, I usually still smell that plastic. To get around this, I just add more fragrance! Adding more fragrance will not compromise your mp soap.  

Tip #2: Use glycerin-based colorants. 

I've used micas before for my mp soaps, but I always found that excess micas would fall to the bottom of my molds and leave behind a freckled look. Glycerin-based colorants are more easily dissolved into the mp soap and give a clean, shiny finish. 

Tip #3: Spray the tops of your mp soap with alcohol. 

If you've made mp soaps before, you've probably gotten those pesky air bubbles on your soaps. A little spritz of rubbing alcohol will easily get rid of those bubbles and give you a smooth, flat finish. Don't worry about the alcohol, it'll evaporate off.

Tip #4: Give your layers time to cool off if you're doing layered designs. 

Mp soap texture is not like cold-process. You really need to let mp soap fully cool down before you can add layers to your soap. If not, the mp soap base will just seep through to the bottom and mix evenly with your bottom "layer." Side note, sometimes if you find that happy temperature you can create little swirls with your mp soap :) 

Cold-Process Soaping: 

I'm going to make a more in-depth blog about cold-process soaping because there's so much behind it. Also, I'm a huge science geek and going through the saponification process is super fun to me. But, here's a brief guide for now: 

For cold-process (cp) soaping, you'll need the following: 

  • Gloves
  • Eye protection (for lye handling)
  • Mixing bowl/cups 
  • Stick blender
  • Thermometer/ temperature gun (I prefer the temperature gun)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Spatula and spoons
  • Distilled water 
  • Lye (100% sodium hydroxide)
  • Oils/fats (I personally use plant oils, but you can use anything from Crisco to olive oil to bacon fat) 
  • Colorants - micas, color blocks, or natural colorants
  • Fragrance oil or essential oil
  • Soap toppings (if desired)

Yes, I know...that's going to add up pretty quick. When I first started soaping (see picture of my cheap soaping setup haha), I would bargain hunt for my supplies. I got my oils from Walmart or Big Lots, my mixing cups from Ross, etc. If you just want to try out cp soaping though and not make the full commitment, there are lots of sites that sell cp soaping kits that include most of what you'll need. I love this one from Brambleberry

Basic steps to cp soaping:

  1. Add lye to water and allow to cool (ALWAYS add lye to water, never water to lye...if you add the lye to the water, the lye is diluted if it splashes in your face. If you add water to lye, you're getting 100% lye splashed up) Also note, lye and water react exothermically meaning it gives off heat. The solution will get very hot (around 160 degree F) at first so be careful!
  2. Heat up your oils/fats to 120-130 degree F. This temperature range is what most oils and fats will be liquid at, but you'll find that some will melt at lower temps and others at higher. 
  3. Once oils and lye solution are in temperature range and ideally within 5-10 degrees apart, slowly add lye solution to oils. Same reasoning here for adding lye solution to oils and not the other way around. Lye solution will be diluted with oil if there's a splash towards you. 
  4. Stir and blend with stick blender to trace. We'll talk about trace in more detail in my next blog, but for medium trace you'll want a watery pudding consistency. 
  5. Add fragrance and colors Note: some fragrances will accelerate your trace or rice it. Make sure you are using fragrances and essential oils made for soaping.
  6. Pour into mold
  7. Give it a knock to get out air bubbles
  8. Let cool for 1-2 days before cutting

Summary...

I know I threw a lot of information at you, but don't worry. You've got this! I'll be adding more in-depth blogs about cp soaping with tips and tricks to help. Happy soaping! Feel free to email me or send me a message on instagram if you have any questions. I'm happy to help :)