3 methods of making soap (solid)

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I’ve been making soap for a few years now, and have slowly but steadily tried out a number of different soap making methods (for solid soap). Each method has its merits and limitation, that I would like to explore in this post. I will include links to the different posts I’ve written in the past describing the methods, and include simple instructions for the ones I’ve never written about. Here we go.

1. Melt and pour

This method can be a great way to start your soaping adventure. In fact, it was how I started too! Melt and pour is the method of melting specially melt and pour soap bases, either in the micro oven or in a double boiler. Once the bases has been melted, powders and scents can be added to the bases, before its poured into a soap mold. This way you can design your soaps scent, color, additives and shape – as long as none of the additives are fresh foods (since they will rot in the soap).

Merits:

  • This method uses no lye (since the soap base has already been made) and it is therefore suitable for children to participate in. It can be a great project to make a home with little ones, and once they become bigger they would even be able to do it on their own
  • It’s a great way to experiment with scent combinations and different types of powders to add color or properties to the soap
  • Melt and pour needs very little amounts of scent (essential oils or fragrance) making it much more economical than other methods
  • It takes a lot less time than any other soap making method and doesn’t need any special equipment except for a soap mold. Even this can be worked around by using muffin molds

Limitations:

  • To make a soap base melt-able, chemicals have to be added, which makes the soap less natural. Cold process soap cant be melted easily, so to use this method, you will have to use the special soap bases
  • The feel of melt and pour soaps just can’t compete with natural soap made from scratch. In my opinion at least!
  • You can’t use anything fresh (food items) in melt and pour, meaning many additives are excluded that can be added during other methods
  • Even though this is a great way to experiment with scents and additives, both of these act differently in cold and hot process soap, so it wont necessarily prepare you completely to use them in other methods
  • Melt and pour limits the number of designs you can make, because the soap base hardens quite fast. It’s possible to layer with colors but its very difficult swirl together

2. Cold process soap

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Cold process soap making was the second method I ever tried, and is till today also my favorite. During cold process soap making, combinations of oils is mixed with lye dissolved in liquid (sodium hydroxide). After these three elements are combined, the mix is blended until trace (the moment it starts thickening), where-after scent and other additives can be added. Finally the mixture is poured into the mold, and left to cure for 4-8 weeks. If you want to give this method a try you can read more here: How to make natural soap, How to form a soap recipe and Coloring soap naturally.

Merits:

  • Cold process soaps gives you all options open when it comes to using different types of ingredients, including fresh foods (as long as its blended or juiced). This is what I always loved about it – its like an empty canvas, waiting to be filled
  • Because the process is such the soap is poured while quite fluid, it gives many options in design. It’s possible to layer colors, swirl them together, “paint” with soap, embed older soap pieces into a new soap and much more
  • This process doesn’t take as little time as melt and pour but not as long as hot process – so it’s completely possible to fit it into a busy day. It takes me around 1-2 hours
  • In my experience cold process soaps are harder and last longer, while still maintaining good lather

Limitations:

  • Cold process soaps has to cure for 4-8 week, so patience is key
  • Compared to melt and pour this method needs a lot of fragrance or essential oil for the scent to stay in the soap
  • Compared to hot process this method more often goes wrong without possibility of damage control (at least not one that leaves the soap pretty)
  • This method is all about timing, so you will have times when you just run out of time – I’ve experienced not being able to add scent, or the mass hardening so much I couldn’t pour it like I wanted. This can be minimized with practice though
  • It’s a bit unpredictable how colorants will act for example. And when it’s done there’s no going back

3. Hot process soap – solid

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Hot process is basically cold process, but with the added element of ‘cooking’ the soap for a few hours (2-4 hours). I’ve never written a post on hot process soap making, except for liquid soap (How to make natural liquid soap), but there is a lot of info on it online. I’ve tried the process a few times, and find it a lot less ‘scary’ that I thought. It’s a lot like cooking a meal really!

Merits:

  • Hot process has a lot more options of salvaging the soap, and very rarely goes very wrong in comparison to cold process soap
  • Time! You get time to take manage everything, meaning less goes wrong because of running out of time
  • In theory the soap is ready to use 24 hour after making it, because the heating accelerates the lye/oil reaction. Though, in experience the soap is still quite soft at this point, so I usually still give it at least 2 weeks to harden

Limitations:

  • Hot process soaps get a lot thicker and stickier, making it hard to pour. It’s really more scooping than pouring. This makes it impassible to make certain designs that you can when making cold process
  • If you want to be 100% certain all the lye in the soap is gone, you will have to get a PH meter which is quite pricey. Though there is other methods of checking, that are quite precise that you can use

This way all for now. Feel free to ask anything or comment.

//Louise

Other soap related posts:

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5 ways to use oil for health and beauty

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1. Oil pulling

Oil pulling has been practiced in a number of indigenous cultures, including in India, for centuries. Oil pulling is the practice of keeping oil in your mouth for 15-20 min., allowing the oil to ‘pull’ out toxins from the gums and thereby leaving them and your body healthier. I was never one to get too much into the science of such methods, but in general go with my gut feeling on whether it sounds credible or not. I have a lot of faith in practices that have survived generations, but make sure to keep a balance according to the seriousness of the situation. Meaning I uses natural methods to prevent illness, but never take the chance if I get seriously ill.

What oil pulling can have an effect on is:

  • Whitening the teeth
  • Preventing bad breath
  • Reducing tooth decay and improving health of gums
  • Detoxifying the body and reducing inflammation
  • Relieving headaches and hangovers
  • Clearing sinuses
  • Improving sleep
  • Clearing troubled skin such as acne and eczema
  • Improving hormonal balance

How to ‘oil pull’

  1. Choose an oil – I use whatever is handy, and taste all right. I have used coconut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and olive oil. Coconut oil, with it’s antibacterial properties and pleasant taste, is a clear favorite.
  2. Take a spoon full of oil, and put it in your mouth. Preferably on an empty stomach. Try to fit it into a routine, such as when you are preparing breakfast. You might feel uncomfortable at first keeping the oil in your mouth, but give it some minutes to see if it settles in. You can take small amounts the first couple of times to get used to it.
  3. Keep it in your mouth, swirling it around occasionally, for 10 to 15 min.
  4. Spit the oil out in the sink. Don’t swallow it.
  5. Brush your teeth like you normally would.

Voila, easy peasy! It’s good to make it a routine over a longer period of time. I believe nothing will fix anything if only done once or twice. Give it a try over a couple of weeks, and see for yourself if you feel any differences.

2. The oil cleansing method

Unlike ‘oil pulling’, this method might give you more visible results faster. This is a method to clean your skin, using only oil, warm water and a wash cloth. Over the last years I’ve had a lot of issues with blemishes and irritated skin, and this method has really helped calm my skin when it was particularly inflamed. I’ve used a number of different oils, and haven’t seen a major difference in result, so I usually just use what I have at hand. Some possible choices are: almond oil, flax seed oil, olive oil and coconut oil.

How to use the oil cleansing method

  1. Apply oil on your face in a generous amount
  2. Either let the hot tap run until the water is really hot or keep a pot of hot water aside before starting
  3. Soak your wash cloth in the hot water. It’s a little tricky to get the water hot enough to steam, but not so hot you burn your fingers, but practice makes perfect
  4. Place the steaming wash cloth over your face
  5. Repeat once or twice

The steam in combination with the oil, cleans out the pores, and leaves your skin moist at the same time. I usually don’t need to use a moisturizer after I use this method, since some of the oil is left on the skin.

3. Face & Body oil

There was a time when I used to make body butters to use on my skin, and I still occasionally do so, but I generally just use oil straight on my skin now. If you want to try making body butter, you can read how to here: Whipped Body Butter (with 2 to 4 ingredients). Well, there isn’t much of a trick in using oil on your skin, except for the fact that you can. I think many, including my former self, have a feeling that oil will make your skin oily and maybe even cause it to break out. Though in my experience, once your skin gets used to it, the oils soaks in within a minute and leaves the skin soft and moist. I try to use oils that are more light in texture such as sweet almond oil, flax seed oil and avocado oil, especially on sweaty summer days. In winters I sometimes use heavier oils, such as neem oil and a bit of castor oil, which are both much thicker in texture. To choose an oil that suits your skin, you can research the different properties of oils you have at hand, or just experiment. Personally I use oil after my morning shower and after cleaning my face in the evening.

4. Natural hair conditioner

A few years back I started questioning whether commercial products, was really as healthy as most of them claimed to be. Once I started reading up on the labels, and decoding the many ingredients that goes into for example shampoo or conditioner, I concluded that most of the same was if not unhealthy then at least unnecessary. I figured that had to be a simpler and more natural way to clean my body. When it came to conditioner, I turned to a traditionally practice of India, namely the one of ‘oiling’ hair. Oiling hair is as simple as it sounds, to apply oil to the scalp and hair before washing it, to make it soft and manageable. For me it has worked like a charm, and is also a very enjoyable tradition I share with some of my indian friends. To read more on how to oil you hair you can read: How to oil your hair (natural conditioner).

5. Toothpaste

When I started out making my own products, toothpaste was of course one of the products I got around to making. At first I was a bit doubtful on whether natural ingredients would be able to clean my teeth as well as a commercial toothpaste, but three years later and still no cavities, I’m not in doubt anymore. The first natural toothpaste I made was oil based, but I have later gone over to using tooth powder – which you can read about here: Trashy Toothbrushes. Though I wanted to include the oil based version in this post, in case some might prefer it over the tooth powder.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 10-20 drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil (optional)

How to make it:

  • Depending on where you are, and the temperature there, your coconut oil might be fluid or solid. If needed, put the coconut oil in a water bath to melt it
  • Put the two tsp coconut oil in the container you want to store your toothpaste
  • Mix baking soda in and stir
  • Drop the essential oils in, and taste to determine how much you want to add

How to use it:

  • If the paste is too solid, you can keep under hot water for 30 sec, and if it’s too fluid you can put in the freezer for a little while. Mostly I don’t fuss, and have just used it as it was
  • Dip your toothbrush to add a little and brush as you normally would

That was it for now. Hope it gave you some inspiration! This is just a fraction of how many different uses oil has, with tons of info online just waiting to be discovered.

//Louise