Most of the tools you need to get started in soapmaking can be found already in your kitchen. The important thing you need to remember is that all the tools that will be in contact with the raw soap or lye should be made of heat-resistant glass or stainless steel. Other metals, especially aluminum, will have a strong reaction to the lye and wood will chip. Strong plastics will last for a while but will eventually need to be replaced. Here is a breakdown of the most important tools you’ll needs
- Digital scale : All soap recipes are in weight because it’s easier to get consistent results that way. A 10% error can change the final product a lot and even make your soap unsuitable for use. Since you will likely make very small batches at first, you’re better off with a scale so you can get the best measure possible.
- Mixing bowls : You’ll need bowls for measuring and mixing the oils and additives used in the soap. Any old plastic bowl will do, but make sure you get one that’s microwavable so you can warm hard oils.
- Lye pitcher : Choose a strong heat-resistant glass or plastic pitcher that will only be used to mix the lye. I bought an old coffee carafe at the thrift store for this and only ever use it for soapmaking since it’s in direct contact with the lye. Check the pitcher carefully every time you use it to make sure there is no chips or holes in it and that the bottom is not wearing out.
- Soap pot : This is the bowl or pan that will be used to mix the oils and lye together to make the raw soap batter, so it needs to be big enough so you can stir it. Since the raw soap is still very caustic, you need a stainless steel or heat-resistant glass bowl so it won’t break down after a few batches.
- Spatulas and spoons : I like to keep a few spatulas and spoons handy to mix and handle ingredients as needed. A few measuring spoons are also nice for additives that don’t need to be weighted since they will only be used a teaspoon at a time.
- Molds : Many things can be used as a mold for you soap. To get started, a clean juice or milk box can make a nice mold : you only need to rip the box to get to the soap. Some people also use PVC pipes to make round soaps, but I have not tried it yet. I use small handmade wooden molds myself.
- Safety Equipment : Lye can burn the skin so you need to be careful. Rubber gloves, safety goggles and a long-sleeved shirt and pants are a very good idea. Make sure you store you lye away from children and pets, and always put your lye and water solution in a safe place when it’s cooling. You don’t want to it to be mistaken for something edible…
Homemade soap molds, one side can be unscrewed to remove the soap. Using painted wood was not a good idea though…
When you’ve done a few batches, you may also want to get a stick blender. It will allow you to mix your soap a lot faster and less painfully than with the spatula, but you should still make your first batches by hand so you can see what’s going on.