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.
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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.
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
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 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
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
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!
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
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.