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I’ve always wanted to make my own soap but was hesitant to add yet another craft (and expense) to my already large list. But when I decided to design a twisted knit washcloth pattern, I wanted some cute homemade soap for the photos. The easiest thing to do would have been to buy some from a local soap maker, but it was a good excuse to dive into soap making myself 😊 So I researched, bought some supplies, and learned how to make melt and pour soap.
There are two basic methods for soap making: melt and pour, and cold process. Contrary to what you might read, BOTH types of soaps contain lye (you cannot make soap without lye). It’s just that in melt and pour, the lye has already been saponified, so you do not have to handle the lye raw chemical. Since I have a small child, I chose melt and pour so my daughter could help and I would not have to take the more extreme safety precautions related to cold process.
Because soap making was new to me, I am approaching this as more of a beginner’s introduction to melt and pour soap. Learn from my research, experiments, and mistakes. If you want to try more techniques or projects right now, check out Bramble Berry. They are an online apothecary retail store, but they also have a project library with tutorials. If you can wait a little while, stay tuned here because I have a couple of melt and pour soap video tutorials coming for you soon. 😊
Melt and Pour Soap Material Considerations
If you just want to dip your toes into the soap making waters with minimal investment, you can choose only a few basic supplies. Much of what you need can be purchased from your local grocery, dollar, or big box stores. Or you may already have some of it on hand. Just remember that if you use any of your existing kitchen supplies for soap making, you should never again use them for food. They need to remain soap making/crafting tools only. If you decide you want to stick with soap making, you can make further investments to upgrade your tools and supplies.
Materials for Basic Melt and Pour Soap
Melt and pour soap base. This is just soap. If you wanted, you could use melt and pour soap base as soap by doing nothing more than cutting it into useable pieces. The craftiness of melt and pour soap comes from melting it down, adding colorants, scents, other additives/customization, and pouring it into molds. There are many brands and types of soap base you can buy. I chose SFCI from Bramble Berry for a variety of reasons, including price, quality, and ingredients. I tried both the low sweat clear and goat milk bases. I prefer the goat milk’s texture and workability, though the clear is useful as well.
There is a sampler set of bases on Amazon that looks interesting, though I plan to do more ingredient research before I order.
Glass or plastic microwave-safe container. You could use just about anything here, but a liquid measuring cup is nice for both the quantity markers and pour spout. Especially the pour spout. The one pictured is plastic. I bought it at my local hardware store for less than $3. You can find similar on Amazon. Since I plan to continue soap making, I’ll be investing in a larger capacity cup for pouring loaf molds.
Soap cutting implement for chunking up the soap base. It’s also necessary to cut bars if using a loaf mold. It can be as simple as a large sharp knife from your kitchen that is rarely-used – remember that it should not return to cutting food after you use it for soap. You can upgrade to using soap cutters. I bought a set of the brand linked with a loaf cutting box for less than $20 on Amazon. I’ve enjoyed the quality of the blades, but I am not impressed with the box. The guides are not evenly spaced, which means your soaps are not uniform. But I guess quality is always a risk when choosing a super cheap option 😊
Cutting board. Again, you could use an old one already in your stash. Or purchase one. It should be at least medium size. I used one I’ve had for years – I believe I originally purchased it at Target.
Rubbing alcohol and spritz-type spray bottle. The rubbing alcohol goes in the spray bottle to prep surfaces and tools, as well as pop bubbles after pouring. Choose a spray bottle designed for toiletries; not one for things like spraying cleaning liquids. The larger ones spray more forcefully than you want. I bought mine at my local variety store for less than $2.
Mold(s). This is an area where you can get really fun and creative. You can go for a classic loaf (I purchased this 2-pack), bar, circle, or just about any other mold you want. The mold needs to be pliable, so silicone is best. If you choose silicone, it does not have to be labeled as a ‘soap mold.’ I have tried molds classified as baking, candy, and resin. All with great success. To get started, you can usually find inexpensive sale or clearance molds at Michael’s. That’s where I bought all my Easter molds – they were on clearance after the holiday for less than $1 each. Marked down from $5. Oh, yeah. 😊
Pictured : Mydio Mini Cube, Mydio Mini Ball, SourCeton Large Round, Easter Chicks & Lamb/Bunny/Pig (Michael’s – discontinued), Marine Theme (in pink), and Unicorn. The marine theme molds were originally used for my daughter’s Bubble Guppies birthday cake.
Microwave or double boiler. I used a microwave, but you can also set up a homemade double boiler by placing a pot of water on the stovetop, then placing a smaller pot of soap base in the water. Remember to dedicate the soap pot to soap/crafts only.
Fragrance oil. I’m unsure why you would not want to scent your soap, but if you do not have any, you can certainly leave out the fragrance. Be selective when choosing your fragrance oil. You want one that has been approved for cosmetic/skin product use. I ordered mine from Bramble Berry because I felt the quality and safety assurance was more reliable. Plus, their price per ounce is comparable to what you’d find elsewhere.
Colorant. There are a wide variety of colorants out there. Again, be cautious with your choice as it needs to be cosmetic grade/skin safe colorant. For my initial testing batches, I used Alritz mica powder I had bought for resin. Once I use it up, though, I will buy future colorants from Bramble Berry because I feel more comfortable with their quality assurances and their prices are extremely competitive.
Digital Kitchen Scale. This is used to weigh out soap base and fragrance. I designated my old one (that they don’t make anymore) for soap, though I have a new, more accurate one from Brifit that I absolutely adore.
Other additives. So many options here. You can use skin-safe, biodegradable glitter, honey, real oats, additional oils, soap embeds, etc. If adding anything additional, you’ll want to research and experiment with how they impact the final product. For example, extra oils should be added sparingly due to the calculated superfat in your melt and pour soap base. You would also need to play with when to add more solid items (like oats or embeds) and/or whether to do layers if you want suspension.
Whew! That seemed like a lot, but I didn’t want to leave anything out. Let’s finally get to the process!!
Basic Melt and Pour Soap Instructions
Step 1: Gather & Prep Tools & Materials
Place everything you need on your work surface. Spritz all tools, containers, and molds with alcohol, then wipe dry with a paper towel. You don’t want to introduce anything undesired into your soap.
Step 2: Cut Up Soap Base
Place your measuring cup on a scale and tare the weight. Using your knife or cutter, chunk up the base into roughly 1″ cubes. Put your cubes in your measuring cup on the scale until you have your desired amount. Make note of the soap base weight because it will determine your colorant and fragrance amounts.
Step 3: Prepare Colorant
Melt and pour soap base quickly begins to cool and set up once melted, so you need to be ready to work with purpose once it’s melted. Using your weight, calculate how much colorant you will need. Typically the vendor/manufacturer of your colorant will have recommended usage amounts, especially for liquid and color blocks.
For mica power, put your powder in a small cup, then gradually add rubbing alcohol until you have a liquid with no chunks.
*True honesty moment: I never measure my mica powder. I just mix up an amount I feel is appropriate for the saturation I’m looking for.
Step 4: Prepare Fragrance
Based on your weight, determine how much fragrance oil you will need. Bramble Berry has a fragrance calculator on their website to make everything easy. If you have a different fragrance, check the bottle or the manufacturer’s website to see if they have recommendations. Put the needed fragrance oil in a small container.
Step 5: Prepare Additional Additives (Optional)
Again, based on the weight, measure out and set aside any other ingredient additives. If using embeds, have them ready to go.
Step 6: Melt Your Soap Base
Microwave – Place your melt and pour soap base in the microwave, then slowly melt with 30-second bursts. Stir between each 30-second cycle until the base is completely melted. When it’s getting close, you may want to use shorter cycles because you do not want to overheat and boil your melted base.
Double Boiler – Place your melt and pour soap base in the double boiler on medium heat. Stir semi-frequently until the base is completely melted. Try not to overheat and boil your melted base.
Step 7: Add Colorant & Fragrance
Pour in your colorant and stir until almost completely incorporated, then add your fragrance and stir until you feel it has been evenly distributed.
Step 8 (Optional): Add Additional Additives
Now is the time to add things like additional oils. Ingredients like oats or glitter can also be added now. Just realize that if they are heavy (like extra-fine craft glitter instead of beauty product glitter), they will likely sink to the bottom of the mold. Which is the top of the soap. Ask me how I know about the glitter 😉
Step 9: Pour Into Molds
Using a steady stream, gently pour your soap into your molds. Continue doing so until your melted soap base is gone. I like to have tiny cube and sphere molds ready for any minimal extras at the end. If you took a little longer than expected and you have soap base that is hardening in the measuring cup, you can melt it again in the microwave for a short amount of time (think 5-10 seconds). You can use a spatula to get out as much soap as possible.
Step 10: Spritz With Alcohol
Lightly spritz the soap base in the molds with alcohol to pop any bubbles that have risen to the surface. You may need to repeat this a couple of times if more bubbles make their way to the top.
Step 11 (Optional): Add Extra Additives
After the melted soap base begins to cool and set, you may want to add other items, like embeds, oats, glitter, etc.
Step 12: Wait
This one is my least favorite. Let your soap cool and completely harden in the molds for 1-6 hours depending on the size of the mold. If you want to accelerate this process, you can pop your mold in the refrigerator. After doing this once, I will personally never do it again. The fragrance in the fridge was not worth the short amount of time I saved by putting the soap in there.
Step 13: Demold
Yea!! Once your soap has completely hardened, you can finally take it out of the molds. With silicone molds, gently pull the sides of the mold to release the soap edges. Then push up from the bottom of the mold to dislodge your soap.
Step 14: Package
If you will personally use your soap immediately (within the next two weeks), you do not need to package it. If you are gifting, selling, or holding onto it for longer than two weeks, you need to preserve it. For home use, simply take cling wrap and fold it snugly around your soap. Then heat it gently with a blow dryer or heat gun while pressing and adhering the wrap to the soap. For a more professional finish, you can use shrink wrap bags or rolls. Check out this Royalty Soaps video for an excellent soap shrink wrap demonstration.
Step 15: Enjoy Your Soap and Sign Up!!
Use your handmade soap as you would any other soap. If you’d like to see future melt and pour soap tutorials from me, sign up for my free membership program 🙂 I’ve currently got a red, white, and blue embed soap in the works. And after that is a goat milk, honey, oatmeal, and almond version that is hands-down the most amazing soap I’ve ever used.
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