Introduction to Soapmaking

This is the start of a small series of posts about making your own soap. I’ve been experimenting with soapmaking for over a year, creating soaps from vegetable oils and various additives. It’s not as complicated as it looks if you measure everything properly and follow a few simple steps. The only part where you need to be careful is when mixing the lye if you’re making you own soap base, but even that is manageable. Just wear a long-sleeved shirt with gloves and protective glasses and you will be fine.

Castille and green clay soap leaning on a goats’ milk and ground cloves soap

Handmade soaps have many advantages over commercial soaps : they are often milder and more natural since you can choose which ingredients should go into it. You can create the best soap for your particular skin type and tastes by varying the oils and additives that goes into it. Handmade soap also make a great gift for your friends and family.

There are three main techniques used to craft your own soap :

  • Melt and pour : With melt and pour, you buy a soap base and melt it down to add colours, fragrances and various additives, and pour it into the mold of you choice. The big advantages of this method is that you don’t have to handle any chemicals and the soap can be used after a day at most.
  • Cold process : With cold process soapmaking, you make your own soap base from vegetable or animal oils and lye. As with melt and pour you can mix in additives, but you have to be more careful : you’ll need more fragrance or essential oil to get the same effect, and some additives can discolour when added to cold processed soap since the lye is very strong. Also, while it can be removed from the mold after a day or two, it will need to dry for a month at least to be at its best.
  • Hot process : This starts out the same as cold processed soap, but it is heated up so it can be used after a few days of hardening. The additives are usually added at the end of the process so you need to add less than for cold processed soap, but it is harder to put in a mold since it harden a bit during the heating process.

I make all my soaps are with the cold process method, which gives a nice soap without all the extra processing of the hot process method. I like the idea of making my own soap base from scratch, customizing it so it fits best with my needs and tastes. Here are the other posts in the series :

Cold Process Soapmaking Tools
Cold Process Soap Making Supplies
Figuring Out a Castille Soap Recipe
Making Your Own Castille Soap

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2 Responses

  1. CINDY!!!! It was excellent to see you last night and I am really enjoying your website. Can’t wait to read MORE!!!!!! I’ve always been intrigued by soapmaking and have wanted to make my own for years but am too afraid to try. You inspire me!
    Love, Alison

  2. Cindy says:

    You should try, it’s not so hard! I’ll have the next article in the serie up tomorrow morning, I hope you enj0y it.

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