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).
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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
- 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
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!
- 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
- 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.
Other soap related posts:
- The last three soaps I made (Neem, Ghee & Coconut butter)
- 3 Coconut Soaps – for hair, body and clothes
- Commercial vs. Handmade soaps