(From Scratch) How to Make Melt & Pour Soap Base

Learn how to make your own DIY melt and pour soap base using all natural ingredients.

melt and pour soap base naturally colored with madder root spirulina and indigo powder

Homemade soap base is perfect for creating shaped embeds for your cold process soap recipes, or if your kids want to make their own soap projects but aren’t old enough to handle lye.

It’s also just fun to do – I had a great time experimenting with these recipes!

I like to infuse melt and pour soap with herbs and flowers; I feel like it gives the beneficial herbal properties a better chance of making it through to the final product. Being able to use my own homemade soap base + homegrown herbs and flowers from my garden makes it extra rewarding. :)

Just like cold process soapmaking, you can 100% control the ingredients that goes into your soap base.

Some links on this site are affiliate links; I only recommend products I personally use and enjoy. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Dandelion Flower & Leaf Infused Soap + Easy Homemaade Melt & Pour Soaps Book

Looking for creative ways to combine your homemade base with natural colorants, herbs, and essential oils? Check out my newest print book, Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps.

(Side note: My teenaged son helped me make and fine tune most of the projects in the book and had a great time doing so – it’s fun for all ages!)

block of finished homemade soap base with photos of how it was made

Resources

For more information and DIY soap base recipes to play with, be sure to check out these wonderful articles and videos, which informed and inspired me while I was working on creating my own melt and pour base from scratch:

(Have more resources I can add to the list? Let me know in the comments below & I’ll check them out!)

Before You Begin – FAQS & Tips

1. Are these soap bases clear (transparent)?

No, they’re not. Clear melt and pour soap is usually made with propylene glycol, which I didn’t have or want to use, plus it’s not as easy to obtain as vegetable glycerin. I also use way more white soap base than clear, so that was my area of interest during my experiments.

If you want to make a clear melt and pour base, check the resource links at the top of this article.

My recipes will yield an off-white somewhat translucent (but not transparent) soap, unless you add zinc oxide, which will make the soap base a bit whiter and more opaque. (But still not as white as commercial base.)

Why add arrowroot powder to soap base?

This is optional.

When I was making my print book, Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps, I made a LOT of soap using ready-made soap base. Many of my personal favorite projects included a blend of arrowroot and aloe vera – I loved the creamy feel and boost to lather that it gave soap. As a bonus, I noticed that those soaps seemed to sweat less, or not at all, even when I accidentally left them unwrapped during a stretch of rainy days.

So, when I decided to make my own melt and pour from scratch, I knew I wanted to add arrowroot to the base itself, to hopefully help offset the large amount of glycerin added to make the soap dissolvable.

You can leave the arrowroot out of the recipe if you wish, or you might be able to swap cornstarch for it. (I haven’t tried that in from-scratch recipes, but it works with ready-made commercial bases.)

It’s possible the recipes will support more arrowroot, but I haven’t experimented with a higher amount to date.

Will this soap base sweat?

Yes, in humid climates.

Melt and pour soap is rich in glycerin (which is what makes it meltable) and will sweat (develop glycerin dew on the surface) in humid environments, even with added arrowroot – ‘tis the nature of the beast!

If you find your soaps sweat badly in your climate, investing in a dehumidifier for the room they’re stored in could be a great investment. You could also try DampRid containers in the area. (I often use two of these at a time during peak humidity in summer, and keep them beside soaps and bath bombs stashed in a small area, such as a closet.)

As with regular melt and pour soap, wrapping the finished soaps in airtight packaging will help prevent sweating. (Looking for biodegradable shrink wrap? Check out Biolefin at The Nova Studio.)

Cornflower & Calendula Soap Favors (a recipe from my print book)

Why beeswax or soy wax?

These were added for an extra bit of hardness. Soy wax is a palm-free source of stearic acid (87% stearic acid), which helps harden soap. Beeswax provides a less processed and different way of hardening the soap base. You could possibly swap this with stearic acid (running the new recipe through a lye calculator).

Should you cure homemade soap base?

It seems like most soapers use their homemade melt and pour soap base right away, but I wanted to see how it performed if it was well cured first. (HERE is an excellent article on why curing time is so important for soap.)

I made several batches of the following soap base recipes and wrapped half of each loaf in plastic wrap right away, leaving the other half of each to cure in the open air for 5+ weeks.

Comparing the various soaps at various stages I found that:

  1. Soap bases wrapped in plastic wrap right away had a lower creamier lather than soaps cured in the open air for 5+ weeks. The cured soap bases had nicer bubbles.
  2. Soap bases that had cured 5+ weeks in the open air felt noticeably better on my skin.
  3. Visually, I couldn’t tell the difference between cured and uncured loaves of soap base.
  4. Melting-wise, base cured in the open air for 5+ weeks had a thicker texture, even when fully melted, and set up more quickly. My guess is that happens because of water evaporation during cure time.

In summary, I like the cured soap bases best.

If your soap develops glycerin dew on the surface while curing, you can dab it off with a paper towel or clean (non-linty) dishtowel. It will still melt up fine when the time comes to make projects with it.

homemade melt and pour soap base infused with dried calendula flowers
Homemade triple butter soap base infused with dried calendula flowers

Soap base recipe variations:

Here are a couple of ideas to add variety to your soap bases:

  • Aloe Variation: Aloe vera liquid can be used to replace part or all of the water. (Note: I’ve noticed more sweating in my soap base made with 100% aloe liquid, though this observation needs more testing.)
  • Milk Variation: Blend 1 to 2 teaspoons of milk powder (coconut, goat, cow) into the melted oils, along with the arrowroot powder, if using.

A note about zinc oxide:

Soap bases made without zinc oxide powder are more translucent (but not transparent) and an off-white color.

They work really great just like that!

However, adding a small amount of zinc oxide will give a more opaque and whiter color, and added colorants will be turn out a little more pastel-ish in color, closer to when you use commercial white soap bases.

I haven’t personally used titanium dioxide, so can’t be sure of an amount if you want to use that instead of zinc oxide. I believe it should work fine though; I’m just not sure how much to use compared to zinc oxide.

Please note that you may get a thin layer of whiter soap on the surface of your finished soap base, depending on amount of zinc oxide used and your mixing and cooking techniques. That layer will melt back into the soap base when you melt it for projects, so I always leave it on, rather than trim it off.

Rate I settled on: 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoon zinc oxide per pound (16 oz) of oils in the recipe. Using 1 tablespoon per pound of oils (PPO) just resulted in a thicker white layer of soap on the surface of the soap base, but no noticeable extra whitening compared to 1 1/4 teaspoon. I used Bramble Berry’s zinc oxide for all of these experiments.

homemade soap base mistakes

Mistakes were made!

For one experimental batch, I tried mixing the zinc oxide with the glycerin before adding it to the cooked soap base to further cook and dissolve. This was a big mistake!

The zinc oxide formed a thick gummy layer on the sides of my crockpot that was horribly difficult to clean off and stuck to my fingernails like nail polish while I scrubbed! It also left zinc oxide speckles all over the surface of the soap and did not whiten the soap base.

This is why I recommend adding the zinc oxide to the warmed oils before adding the lye solution.

Another mistake I made in a different batch was to use my stick blender too vigorously to mix the soap base into the glycerin. (I got impatient waiting for it to melt in!) I ended up with a loaf of soap base with a thick foamy whiter top. It still melted down okay to use, but it sure looked funny until melted!

What’s the difference between these homemade bases and commercial bases?

Honestly, they’re quite different!

You’re able to completely control the ingredient list in these homemade bases, and make them as natural, organic, palm-free, etc as you’d like.

However, I find that my homemade bases need higher temperatures to melt, plus they harden up faster, so you have to work quickly to get the soap colored and in the mold.

My homemade bases were also more difficult to strain after infusing with herbs. Difficult, but not impossible! It especially helped to stir in about 1/2 teaspoon vodka for every ounce or two of melted soap. This thinned it out and made it easier to push through a fine mesh sieve, but the alcohol might make things more difficult if you plan to remelt the soap yet again. (Which I normally don’t after infusing.)

At this time, it seems like homemade base doesn’t work well for whipped soaps. (I still need to experiment with this more though, to figure an optimal temperature.) I haven’t tried swirling with it either because of its thick texture; I’m not sure it will work well for swirls, though I may be wrong.

These soap bases work best with simple melt, color, and pour types of projects.

A main benefit of commercial bases are that they’re designed for ease of use. You can’t control ingredients and sometimes they can feel drying on your skin, but they’re more predictable than homemade base, and they are easier to work with in many ways.

So be aware that there are differences between homemade and commercial bases and adjust recipes and expectations accordingly.

Block (a half loaf) of homemade triple butter soap base – cured 5+ weeks

DIY Melt & Pour Soap Base Recipes

Here are three recipes that I liked best from my experiments.

My favorite is the triple butter soap base, but I realize not everyone has access to kokum butter, so created a double butter version, plus a simpler shea butter version.

Last fall, I also created a tallow variation, but I’ve misplaced the recipe since then! I believe it had around 40% tallow, but I’m not 100% sure on exact amounts. If I find it or remake it, I will update this space.

If you need to make any substitutions, use a lye calculator such as Soapee.

I found that anything over 15% castor oil made the soap sweat more easily, so go easy on the amount if you design your own recipe.

DIY Triple Butter Melt & Pour Soap Base

This is my personal favorite. Use a scale (weight) to measure the oils, butters, wax, lye (sodium hydroxide), water, and glycerin. Don’t use measuring cups (volume measurements) to make soap.

If you’ve never made soap before, check out my Soapmaking 101 article for more information and safety tips. I suggest starting with a simpler recipe, such as Oatmeal Honey Soap, before trying to make your own melt and pour soap base.

Yield: about 40 oz (1134 g) of soap base

  • 1.92 oz (54 g) cocoa butter (12%)
  • 1.92 oz (54 g) kokum butter (12%)
  • 1.92 oz (54 g) shea butter (12%)
  • 0.16 oz (5 g) beeswax (or soy wax*) (1%)
  • 4.96 oz (141 g) coconut oil (31%)
  • 3.2 oz (91 g) olive oil (19%)
  • 1.92 oz (54 g) castor oil (13%)
  • 2.25 oz (64 g) sodium hydroxide (lye) – 5% superfat
  • 6 oz (170 g) distilled water (abt 2.65:1 water: lye ratio)
  • 1 tbsp (9 g) arrowroot powder, optional
  • 1 to 1 ¼ tsp zinc oxide, optional for whiter soap
  • 14 to 16 oz glycerin (use less in a more humid environment)

*Omitting beeswax and replacing it with soy wax will slightly change the lye to 2.26 oz, which still equates to 64 grams.

The directions to make this soap base are below the recipe section.

DIY Double Butter Melt & Pour Soap Base

Use a scale (weight) to measure the oils, butters, wax, lye (sodium hydroxide), water, and glycerin. Don’t use measuring cups (volume measurements) when making soap.

If you’ve never made soap before, check out my Soapmaking 101 article for more information and safety tips.

Yield: about 40 oz (1134 g) of soap base

  • 3 oz (85 g) cocoa butter (19%)
  • 2.75 oz (78 g) shea butter (17%)
  • 0.25 oz (7 g) beeswax (or soy wax*) (1.5%)
  • 5 oz (142 g) coconut oil (31%)
  • 3 oz (85 g) olive oil (19%)
  • 2 oz (57 g) castor oil (12.5%)
  • 2.25 oz (64 g) sodium hydroxide (lye) – 5% superfat
  • 6 oz (170 g) distilled water (abt 2.65:1 water: lye ratio)
  • 1 tbsp (9 g) arrowroot powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp zinc oxide, optional for whiter soap
  • 14 to 16 oz glycerin (use less in a more humid environment)

*Omitting beeswax and replacing it with soy wax will barely change the lye to 2.26 oz, which still equates to 64 grams.

The directions to make this soap base are below the recipe section.

DIY Shea Butter Melt & Pour Soap Base

Use a scale (weight) to measure the oils, butters, wax, lye (sodium hydroxide), water, and glycerin. Don’t use measuring cups (volume measurements) when making soap.

If you’ve never made soap before, check out my Soapmaking 101 article for more information and safety tips.

I used sweet almond oil instead of olive oil in this recipe. You may wish to use olive oil instead.

Yield: about 40 oz (1134 g) of soap base

  • 5 oz (142 g) shea butter (31%)
  • 0.5 oz (14 g) beeswax (or soy wax) (3%)
  • 5 oz (142 g) coconut oil (31%)
  • 3.5 oz (99 g) sweet almond oil (22.5%)
  • 2 oz (57 g) castor oil (12.5%)
  • 2.21 oz (63 g) sodium hydroxide (lye) – 5% superfat
  • 6 oz (170 g) distilled water (abt 2.65:1 water: lye ratio)
  • 1 tbsp (9 g) arrowroot powder
  • 1 to 1 ¼ tsp zinc oxide, optional for whiter soap
  • 14 to 16 oz glycerin (use less in a more humid environment)

The directions to make this soap base are below.

Steps to make soap base from scratch – you will need a slow cooker (crockpot)

Directions to Make Soap Base from Scratch

Step 1 – Melt the butters, wax & oils.

Turn your crockpot or slow cooker on high. Add the wax and butters, making sure the butters are broken up in small pieces first, for ease of melting. Add the coconut oil, olive oil, and castor oil, and any other liquid oils (like sweet almond) that the recipe calls for.

Cover the crockpot with its lid.

Step 2 – Make the lye solution.

After the wax, butters, and oil mixture have been melting for about 10 minutes, start the lye solution.

Wearing gloves and goggles and using proper safe soapmaking procedures (see Soapmaking 101), carefully sprinkle the lye into the water, using heavy duty plastic or stainless-steel containers. (Glass can shatter, and aluminum or cast iron can react negatively with the lye, so are not recommended.)

Stir until the lye is completely dissolved. Avoid breathing in the momentary strong fumes and use caution when handling lye. Set the lye solution aside for a few moments in a safe spot, such as your kitchen sink.

Step 3 – Blend in arrowroot & zinc oxide, if using.

Check the wax, oils, and butters mixture. If needed, use a fork to break up any unmelted bits, to help them melt faster. They may need another 5 or 10 minutes to finish melting.

Once those are melted or almost melted, add the arrowroot powder and zinc oxide if using, then blend into the oils with a stick blender.

Step 4 – Combine the lye solution and oils.

Turn the crockpot to low.

Pour the lye solution into the oils/butters/arrowroot mixture. Using a combination of hand-stirring and brief pulses with your stick blender, bring the mixture to trace.

Step 5 – Cook.

Cover the crockpot with its lid and set a timer for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the soap, between the 15 minute intervals, since it may expand up to the top of the crockpot. If that happens, just stir it down until it behaves again.

After 15 minutes, check the soap and stir it.

Set a new timer for 15 more minutes, then check and stir again.

Set the timer for 15 more minutes of cooking.

At this point, your soap has been cooking for around 45 minutes. You might notice it turning more translucent and Vaseline-like because it’s gelling, though it will be harder to see with zinc oxide added to the batch.

Because crockpot temperatures vary widely, your soap may reach this stage sooner, or later than 45 minutes. These photos just show how my crockpot runs.

Cook for 15 more minutes, for a total of 1 hour cook time.

Step 6 – Add the vegetable glycerin.

Weigh out 14 to 16 ounces of glycerin and stir into the hot soap paste in the crockpot.

Mix well.

Glycerin is what makes the soap base able to be remelted. If you live in a humid climate, you may want to use less glycerin, but the less you use, the less easily the soap will melt. It’s a bit of a trade-off!

Step 7 – Dissolve the soap paste into the glycerin.

Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If needed, sparingly use your stick blender to gently and briefly pulse floating chunks of solid soap so that they blend into the glycerin better. Don’t overuse your stick blender here, or you’ll get lots of unwanted bubbles and foam on top of your finished soap base.

Cook until the soap paste has completely melted into the glycerin. This depends on your recipe and crock pot temperature and might take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or longer.

Tip: You can spritz the top of the soap generously with rubbing alcohol to help decrease bubbles & foaming on top while melting the glycerin and soap together.

Step 8 – Finishing up.

Pour the finished soap base into a soap mold and generously spritz the top with alcohol.

Tip: The mold I used for this project is Crafter’s Choice Regular Silicone Loaf Mold 1501.

Leave the soap base undisturbed and uncovered overnight or for 12 to 24 hours, to allow the soap time to completely cool and harden.

Remove soap base from the mold.

If you added zinc oxide to the oils for a whiter soap base, you may notice a thin whiter layer of soap on the top of the soap base. That’s normal for these recipes and will melt together nicely when you make your projects.

As mentioned above in the tips section, I let my soap base cure for a few weeks in the open air before using, but that’s optional. You may also use the base right away if you wish!

Using Homemade Melt & Pour Soap Base

So how does our homemade soap base compare to commercial base?

The photo above shows an example of soaps melted and colored with:

On the left, are soaps made with SFIC palm free white soap base purchased from Soap Goods, and on the right are soaps made with my homemade melt and pour soap base.

As a bonus, I noticed that homemade base is a lot less likely to get speckles from the colorants, likely because of the thicker texture.

Please note that the homemade base will thicken up a little faster than commercial base. Also, because the commercial white bases contain titanium dioxide, they will have more pastel tones than homemade base.

Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps Book by Jan Berry – available now!

For more natural colorant ideas, essential oil rates, blend ideas, and more helpful information about combining natural ingredients + melt and pour soap base, be sure to check out my print book, Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps!

You may also enjoy visiting my new website devoted to melt and pour recipes and tutorials, EasyMeltandPour.com.

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Jan
 

Jan Berry is a writer, herbalist, soapmaker, and bestselling author of three print books: 101 Easy Homemade Products, Simple & Natural Soapmaking, and Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family and a menagerie of animals, where she enjoys brainstorming creative things to make with the flowers and weeds that grow around her.

  • Kathyinozarks says:

    Wow this is amazing! thanks for all the work you out into the recipes

    • Jan says:

      Hi Kathy, I’m so glad you like the post! It’s been a lot of fun experimenting with homemade melt & pour! :)

      • Ana says:

        Hello!
        Thank you so much for the recipe! I’ll definitely try it!
        What do you think about adding half of Glycerine and half of Propylene Glycol? Would it make remelting easier? I love the fact that you didn’t use any alcohol!
        Ana

        • Jan says:

          Hi Ana! I think you could definitely add some propylene glycol, though I’m unsure of the best amount/ratio. It should make remelting easier! :)

  • Jenny says:

    Thank you so much for this! I definitely want to try. I’m especially interested in a tallow recipe, as you mentioned, since we live on a farm and have abundant tallow. 🙂

    • Jan says:

      Hi Jenny! So glad you like the recipe! I believe you could swap out the butters for tallow (and even add an extra 5% or so of tallow if you’d like) and get pretty close to where my recipe was. :)

  • Chris says:

    Jan, this is amazing. Thank you for creating these recipes for those of us DIYers that would rather not rely on commercial products. Pinned for later.

  • Connie Graham says:

    An you please tell.me where you got the molds that you used (Top picture:. Pink, green and blue soaps)? They’re lovely!!

  • Anne says:

    I’m hoping you can help me out with an alternative to castile soap in liquid and foaming soap recipes. My daughter is allergic to coconut everything! I have made so many of your recipes using avacado or olive oil and love them, but I don’t know if they will work with soap recipes. Any ideas would be great! Thanks so much for your help and all of the things I have learned from your blog 😊😊

    • Jan says:

      Hi Anne! You can make liquid soap that includes olive and avocado oil and leave out the coconut. In liquid soap, the oils do funny things that you have to keep in mind. For instance, olive oil makes a very thick soap that needs lots of water to dilute, while coconut oil can make a thinner soap. It’s good to balance several kinds of oils together whenever possible. Can you use babassu oil (to replace the coconut)? How about castor oil? What other kinds of oils do you have available to work with? Being allergic to coconut is definitely challenging – it’s one of those things that seems to be everywhere! I’ve long wanted to do a coconut-free soap article or series; it’s still on my to-do list. Hopefully this year!! :)

  • Lori says:

    Hi Jan! I make CP goat milk soap. I am going to try this but would like to use milk instead of water. Have you tried that? I saw where you could add powdered milk. I love all of your books and your soaps are beautiful! Thank you for doing what you do and sharing it with us. Lori

    • Jan says:

      Hi Lori! Thanks for the kind words about the books and soaps! <3 I suspect using fresh milk could overheat as it cooks and darken the soap base, but I haven’t really experimented with the idea yet, so am not 100% sure on that. It might work out! If you give it a try before I get a chance to, I’d love to hear how it goes for you! :)

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