Possibly the most often expressed sentiment I hear, when it comes to soap making, goes something like:
“I want to make soap, but I’m really scared of the lye!”
That is a completely justified fear and one that I shared for a very long time. It took months of research before I felt comfortable enough with the idea and even then, I had my husband handle it for the first few batches. (Here’s an article I wrote about why we need lye, so you can learn more about why it’s necessary for soapmaking.)
I would like to tell you that if a complete chicken like myself can now handle lye like a pro, then you should be able to do so too, one day!
However, until you’re ready, or if you just aren’t interested in that kind of soap making – I’m here with a work-around to help you create your own unique herbal soaps, without handling the lye part. It’s so safe, your children can help you!
What Soap & Cake Have in Common
Making soap can be compared to making cake. You can either go to the store and buy a ready-made cake from the bakery section OR you can buy a box of cake mix to whip up at home OR you can buy the individual ingredients to make one from scratch.
In the same way, you can buy ready-made bars of soap OR you can buy a pre-made mix (melt & pour soap base) OR you can buy the oils, lye, etc needed to make your own from scratch (cold process or hot process soap.)
Each step you take further away from the made-from-scratch version, you have an added price to pay. Convenience is not only more expensive, but you also have to accept less control over the ingredients. For example, it’s difficult to find palm-free melt and pour base.
Let’s do a quick comparison of ingredients between my Shea Butter Bastille Soap Recipe and SFIC Shea Butter Melt & Pour Soap Base and Dove Beauty Bar (just because that’s a random one I remember using as a kid):
Shea Butter Bastille (Cold Process) Soap Recipe: Olive oil, distilled water, shea butter, sodium hydroxide (lye), castor oil.
SFIC Shea Butter Melt & Pour Soap Base: Coconut oil, palm oil, safflower oil, glycerine (kosher, of vegetable origin), shea butter, purified water, sodium hydroxide (saponifying agent), sorbitol (moisturizer), sorbitan oleate (emulsifier), soy bean protein (conditioner), titanium dioxide (natural mineral whitener).
Dove Beauty Bar: Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, stearic acid, sodium tallowate or sodium palmitate (that’s animal fat or palm oil that has been reacted with lye), lauric acid, sodium isethionate, water, sodium stearate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocoate, fragrance, sodium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium etidronate, BHT, titanium dioxide.
See that they all have lye (sodium hydroxide) in the ingredients? Making soap without lye isn’t really possible, whether you are a large corporation or home hobbyist! However, you can have someone handle that part for you, which is what we’re doing here today by using ready-made melt and pour soap bases.
The Fun Part
Okay, now it’s time to get creative!
These projects revolve around SFIC melt and pour soap bases. I like them because their motto is: “As natural as we can make it.”
1. Melt The Soap Base
To melt the soap base, cut it into roughly one-inch chunks and place them in a glass measuring cup. You can either create a makeshift double boiler by putting the cup down into a saucepan with a few inches of water, and heating on low heat until melted. Or, you can heat it in your microwave for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, until it turns to a smooth liquid. (Tip: Cover the melting container lightly with a saucer if using the double boiler method, or a piece of plastic wrap if using the microwave method. This helps it melt more evenly and so it won’t dry out.)
2. Prepare Your Molds
I picked up a pack a little square molds at my local craft store for just a few dollars, but you can also try silicone muffin pans, candy molds, paper cups, frozen juice containers… look around your kitchen and get creative!
If you have a detailed mold, spritz it with rubbing alcohol before pouring in the melted soap, so the details stand out better.
3. Add Colors, Scent, Herbs & Flowers
Now that you have a liquid base to work with – you can add colors and other fun ingredients!
A few ideas for natural colorants (Where to buy):
- green: French green clay, chlorella powder
- yellow: finely ground safflower
- orange: annatto seed powder
- pink/red: rose clay, alkanet root powder
Start with about 1/8 teaspoon per pound of soap base. For best results, mix your colorants with a small amount of rubbing alcohol before blending into the melted soap.
If you’d like to add honey and/or oatmeal, try adding two to three teaspoons per pound of soap base. Make sure your soap has cooled below 135°F (57°C) or thickened up a bit, before stirring the oatmeal in or it will all settle to the bottom of your mold. Poppy seeds and flecks of vanilla bean can be handled the same way.
Essential oils can be used to add a lovely scent to your creations. (Look for quality essential oils at Mountain Rose Herbs.)
- Cinnamon (use sparingly)
- Ylang Ylang
If you’d like to add flower petals to melt and pour, know that most will turn brown or discolor. Calendula petals will hold its color, and bachelor buttons (cornflower) will keep their pretty blue when sprinkled on top.
4. Finishing Up!
Once you’ve colored and added and layered to your heart’s content, then it’s time to pour your soap into your selected molds.
You might notice a few bubbles across the top. If you spritz them with rubbing alcohol, they’ll magically disappear!
Once poured, let your soaps completely cool, about an hour or two, before trying to unmold.
Once your soap has completely cooled, wrap it up tightly (plastic wrap will work great.)
This is just an overview of melt and pour soap! There are so many other things you can do with it.
Did you enjoy this soap tutorial? If so, be sure to sign up HERE for my newsletter, so you can get my latest soap ideas, herbal projects and other DIY recipes sent straight to your inbox each month!