3 Methods to Make Natural Soap

There is a number of ways to make natural handmade soap. In this blog post, I will go through three of the most common methods, namely Melt and Pour (M&P), Cold Process (CP) and Hot Process (HP). I will share the basics of each method, as well as go through some of the merits as well as limitation I have experienced. I will include links to the different posts I’ve written in the past describing these methods, and include simple instructions for the ones I’ve never written about.

Use the code CORNER25 and get 25% discount at Moksha Lifestyle Products, to shop the ingredients. Moksha is a leading wholesale supplier of 100% Pure, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils and other materials around the world.

Melt and pour

Melt and pour soap making (or M&P for short) uses meltable soap bases to customize handmade soap. While cold and hot process soap isn’t meltable, M&P bases are formulated to be able to melt when placed in a double boiler or microwave. This allows you to easily customize your soaps scent, color, properties, and shape through the additives and soap mold you choose to use.

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Merits:

  • This method uses no lye and is, therefore, a suitable project for children as well as beginners in soap making.
  • It’s a great way to experiment with scent, color, and shape with an option to remelt if it doesn’t turn out just the way you want it
  • 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 necessarily need any special equipment except for a soap mold
  • It doesn’t need any curing time and can be used immediately – which can also be relevant for small businesses that sell customized soaps on order
  • It has a wide variety of techniques from simple to advanced and can be used to make incredible pieces of soap art

Limitations:

  • To make a soap base melt-able, chemicals have to be added, which makes the soap less natural than cold or hot process soap
  • You can’t use fresh food items in M&P, which exclude a number of exciting additives that can be used in other methods
  • Scents and additives act differently in CP and HP soap than in M&P, so it won’t necessarily prepare you to use them in other methods
  • Certain swirling methods aren’t possible in M&P, because the soap base doesn’t harden slowly and evenly
  • The feel of M&P soap is different – this is a question of personal preference

Cold process soap

During cold process soap making, combinations of oils/fats are mixed with lye (or sodium hydroxide) dissolved in a liquid. When these three elements are combined, the mix is blended until it reaches trace (the moment it starts thickening). Thereafter 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 from scratch (cold process), How to form a solid soap recipe and Natural ways to colour soap.

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Merits:

  • Cold process soaps give you all options open when it comes to using different types of ingredients, including fresh foods (as long as its blended or juiced)
  • Because the process is such that soap can be poured in a number of thicknesses, 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
  • It’s less time-consuming than HP soap – so it’s completely possible to fit it into a busy day. It takes me around 1-2 hours to make a batch of soap.
  • Cold process soaps are generally harder and last longer than HP soap, and have better lather than M&P soap

Limitations:

  • Cold process soaps have to cure for 4 to 8 weeks, so patience is key
  • Compared to M&P, this method needs a lot of essential oil
  • Compared to HP, this method has less scope for damage control when it goes wrong
  • The CP process is quite fast paced after trace, and it takes practice to master this. I’ve experienced not being able to add scent, or the mass hardening so much I couldn’t pour it the way I had planned
  • It’s a bit unpredictable how colorants will act in the soap. And when it’s done there’s no going back

Hot process soap

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Hot process is basically CP, 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 about 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:

  • HP soap very rarely goes very wrong in comparison to CP and has a lot more options of salvaging the soap when it does
  • Since it takes a few hours you get time to manage everything, meaning that the chance for something to go wrong because of running out of time is less
  • In theory, the soap is ready to use after 24 hours after making it, because the heating accelerates the lye/oil reaction. Though in my 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 when it’s been cooked, making it hard to pour. It’s really more scooping than pouring. This makes it impossible to make certain designs that you can do when making CP soap.
  • 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 are other methods of checking, that are quite precise that you can use.
  • HP soaps in my experience don’t get as hard as CP soaps and doesn’t last as long.

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

//Louise

 

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How to make Natural Liquid Soap (with Recipes)

Making natural liquid soap from scratch can seem a bit intimidating to some people, but once you get down to understanding the process, it really isn’t much different than cooking a meal. In this post, I will guide you through the process of making Hot Process liquid soap, from formulating a liquid soap recipe to diluting the finished soap.

I will assume that if you’re reading this you have a basic understanding of what soap is and the process of making Cold Process or Hot Process soap (even if you only have experience with making bar soap). If you don’t, please start by reading the post How to make natural soap.

Solid & Liquid Soap – The Differences

Liquid soap, just like solid soap, consists of three elements: fats/oils, water and lye. The main difference between them is that solid soap is made with Sodium Hydroxide, while liquid soap is made with Potassium Hydroxide. Before we start, I would like to note some basic things

  • Natural liquid soap is a lot thinner than what you might be used to from commercial companies. There are ways to thicken natural soap, but I won’t be exploring any of them since those methods mostly involve adding extra chemicals
  • Just like it’s important for most solid soap makers to make a hard bar of soap, it’s important for most liquid soap makers to make a clear (non-cloudy) liquid soap. This is purely about aesthetics and doesn’t make the soap better. A common method to do this is to put excess lye and then neutralize the soap after its cooked. I won’t be doing that.

Now let’s get started from the start. Even though solid soap and liquid soap is quite similar in its process, there are some differences in how you formulate the recipe. Let me explain.

How to Form a Liquid Soap Recipe

Again I will assume you have some basic knowledge of making soap recipes, but if not please start by reading How to form a soap recipe. Making a liquid soap recipe is a bit different than making one for bar soap. The basic differences and guidelines are this:

  • Liquid soap usually has a rather higher percentage of Coconut oil (unless its Castile soap which is pure Olive oil), to ensure the soap foams properly and doesn’t become sticky. You can use up to 90% Coconut oil in your liquid soap, but I prefer using around 50%.
  • In solid soap recipes it’s important to use oils that will make the soap bar hard, but since that’s not necessary for liquid soap, you can use higher percentages of soft oils like Castor, Safflower and Sunflower. Which is great, because they are much cheaper!
  • Liquid soap recipes are mostly made of oils with fewer un-saponifiables. What this means is that some oils have fats that can’t be made into soap. If an oil has a high percentage of un-saponifiables it will make the liquid soap cloudy. For that reason, Palm, Tallow and Cocoa butter are usually avoided added in very small amounts. I take this lightly because I don’t care if my soap is cloudy.
  • Superfatting liquid soap is pointless because the excess oil will just float on top of the soap once diluted since oil is not water soluble. You can superfat with vegetable glycerin at 1% of the full recipe.

I chose to follow the following basic recipe:

  • 50% Coconut oil
  • 25% Safflower – can be exchanged with Sunflower or Rice bran oil
  • 20% Castor
  • 5% Butter like Mango Butter or Kokum butter

or

  • 50% Coconut oil
  • 20% Safflower – can be exchanged with Sunflower or Rice bran oil
  • 20% Castor
  • 10% luxury oil like Sweet Almond oil or Avocado

I chose to use the first recipe in my example soap and used beer instead of water. For superfatting, I added Glycerin and then finally some natural colorant.

Use the code CORNER25 and get 25% discount at Moksha Lifestyle Products, to shop the ingredients. Moksha is a leading wholesale supplier of 100% Pure, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils and other materials around the world.

The Method

The method of Hot process liquid soap making is similar to cold process soap making, until the point where you would normally pour the soap into the mold. If you need a detailed list of instruction please refer to the link how to make natural soap. The basic instructions are the following:

1. Calculate the recipe

Unlike solid soap, your final amount of liquid soap will be at least double of your amount of oils, since the soap mass is diluted with water. So before you calculate the recipe you need to take into consideration how big your double boiler is, and then use the percentages above to calculate each oil amount. This is my recipe in the app Saponify:

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Instead of NaOH (Sodium hydroxide), I put KOH which is Potassium Hydroxide and then Superfat by 0%.

2. Measure out the oils, Melt the oils, Prepare Lye Water

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I measured out my oils. Since I had Mango butter I heated the oils straight in my double boiler until completely melted. Then measured out the lye and beer mixed it, keeping it aside until it turned clear. Note: some people measure the temperature if the oils and lye water, but I simply use the lye mix when it turns clear. 

2. Pour the Lye Water in the Oils and Mix

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When the lye water was ready I added it to my oils. I blended until it reached trace and then put it on the stove on medium heat. Don’t worry if it looks like its splitting, it will settle down as it’s getting cooked.

3. Cook the Soap Mass on Medium Heat. Stir less.

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Cooking the soap mass it actually quite relaxed. Many might feel like stirring the mass all the time, but it won’t burn if you don’t. Actually, it’s better to put a lid on the pot and let it heat. Check once in 30 min. to see what stage the soap has reached. 

4. Keep cooking for 2 to 3 hours

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The soap mass will start getting more solid and waxy. It differs a lot how long it takes to reach this stage. Be patient. 

5. Reaching the Final Stage

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When the soap starts turning a lit translucent, you can start checking if the soap is done. The stage is something like gel-phase, that some might know from solid soap making. The mass is sort of elastic and doesn’t clump anymore.
There are different options for checking if the soap is done – personally, I use a PH meter and wait for the soap to reach a PH between 9-10. Though I’ve heard of people using PH strips, or the chemical phenolphthalein which changes color if the soap is not done. Others use the method called the ‘zap’ method – where you put some soap on your finger and touch it to your tongue. If it feels like a small electric current, it’s not done. Though honestly, I don’t use this method, because I can’t feel the difference enough to trust it.

6. Start Diluting the Soap

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When you are sure your soap is finished, you can either dilute it straight away or keep the soap mass for diluting later. Different soap miss has different diluting points, which means some might need more water than others to turn liquid. Coconut soap, for example, has a low diluting point, which means it needs less water to mix with the water.

7. Dilute Completely or Leave Overnight

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So how do you figure out how much water to use? I really just take it as it comes, and dilute slowly to make sure I don’t pour too much water.
Start adding 1:1 (As much water as your oil weight) and let me mass simmer, while you mix from time to time. Then add 1/4 water of total oils until it’s diluted. Now I actually added 1:1 to my batch, turned off the heat and let it stand overnight. In the morning I added two times 100 ml over an hour and then it was diluted. It just makes the process a little shorter if it gets to stand on its own over some time.

8. Add your Essential Oils and Colorants if any

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Once it’s completely diluted you can add your essential oils and colorants. I’m a bit untraditional when it comes to essential oils, and I tend to add a lot. For 400 grams oils, I added 25 ml of Peppermint and Sweet Orange.  You can use bramble berries fragrance calculator that gives recommended amounts – or my favorite method, add until you feel like it’s enough. I’ve actually occasionally reheated a soap and added extra essential oil, and it’s worked well for me.

9. Voila! Look at it and Feel Happy

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My final soap – in the sunlight it looks red, but otherwise, it has a brownish color. Since natural soap is a lot more liquid than commercial soap, it’s perfect to keep in a soap pump or foam dispenser.

This was all I had for now on liquid soap. Leave a comment if you have any questions or corrections – no matter how long I do this, I still have a lot to learn!

Disclaimer: I personally don’t use preservatives because I only use this on myself, so I, therefore, don’t know enough about it to write about. So please do your research on how to use preservatives in liquid soap, and add at diluting stage. If you chose not to use any like me, be sure to ONLY to use it on yourself, and let it be on own risk. If never had any issues but better safe than sorry no?

//Louise

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