How to Get Started in Soap Making

I have been making homemade soap for a couple of years. It is one of my favorite hobbies. You can start out with a small cost or a larger investment cost. To get started in homemade soap making, you can keep it simple or go high tech. It is varied in both cost and effort. Therefore, it is completely a personal preference. I will advise you though, that once you start, you’ll be hooked.

Who Can Start Making Homemade Soap?

Anyone can make wonderful handmade soaps. There are many ways to make soap, which means there is something that will fit everyone’s interest and ability. There are also a vast number of similar products for bath and body that can be added to your hobby interest. Homemade soap is a wonderful way to be creative, make some hobby income, and always have great gifts for family and friends.

Learn, Read, and Watch

Before you start any soap making, learn everything you can. Read books from the library, ( I honestly read every book on soap making in my local library ) Listen to tutorials, podcasts and watch Youtube videos. Soap making is a chemical reaction between lye and fat/oils. It does require knowing what you are doing. Fortunately, because of the internet, there is a huge amount of information available. Take advantage of it.

There are 3 basic kinds of soap crafting:

Melt and Pour. This is the easiest and least costly way to get started. This is a wonderful option, especially if you want to make soap for yourself, family and friends. Melt and pour soaps make really cute and thoughtful gifts. All you need to do is buy a soap base, a mold, a scent, and color. The simple procedure is melt the base, add the scent and color, pour the mixture in the mold and let it set. It will give you an idea and feel for the variety of colors, scents, shapes, and fun that soap making can provide. It is also a safe method for children to use (supervised), which makes it a great family night activity.

Where to get melt and Pour supplies

All the items for melt and pour soap can be found online as well as in your local craft supply store. There are a few varieties of melt and pour soap bases, including goat milk, glycerin, and shea based. So you can choose your own favorite.

Melt and Pour guests soaps

Cold Process. This is a start from scratch soap making process. It requires accurate measurements, and soap making does use lye ( which is used to make any kind of soap ). One of the two common ways to make soap is called cold process. However, this does not mean the soap is cold. Instead, it refers to the fact you mold the blend before the actual cooking phase. You pour the mixed soap into the molds at “trace” ( which is a stage of blending that is like a thin pudding ) Once molded, you should cover the molds, to hold the heat in, allowing saponification ( the actual cooking process of becoming soap ) to occur after the soap is molded.

Lye in soap

Every bar of soap on the market contains lye, it is what makes soap “soap”. There is no actual lye in finished soap, it gets completely used up in the soap making process (saponification). This means that even the gentle baby soaps, natural organic soaps, pure soaps, and melt and pour base soap were all made with lye. Without lye, there is no soap.

The More Steps, The Higher the Cost

Soap making is a chemical process. The number one rule is always safety first. After that, rule two is do research to learn what to do before you start. Cold process method requires more equipment and ingredients which increases the cost. Making soap from scratch is a longer process than melt and pour. It is a bigger job, and does of course, takes more effort. Although soap making can be expensive, there are a few cost effective hacks and tricks that can help cut costs. I will share these in another post soon.

Hot Process This process is similar to cold process. The major difference between hot and cold process is that the saponification or cooking phase of the soap making process is completed before you put the mixture into your molds. A second difference in hot process soap is that it is thicker and not as easy to work with if you want to make swirls, patterns, or intricate designs. While it takes longer to make soap with a hot process, the curing time is shorter. There is also an increase cost when using hot process soap to make soap. If you choose to use hot process soap for making, you will need just a little additional equipment. This includes either a large crock pot or large canning pot with a second stainless steel pot to cook the soap in.

What is Cure Time?

Cure time refers to the time it takes for the soap to dry and harden. It can range from 2 to 6 weeks depending on the recipe and process.

My first bar of hot process soap.

Tools of the craft

Digital scale
Measuring cups
Silicone spatulas ( I prefer one piece ones )
Rubber gloves and safety glasses
Large mixing bowls
Medium and small bowls
Molds, ( parchment paper for lining if you are not using a silicone mold)
A box to cover the soap overnight to allow it to process
Plastic spoons
Immersion blender
Infrared thermometer
Drop cloth or work space cover
A cutting tool. (such as a knife or a loaf cutter to cut the loaf into bars. (unless you are using form molds.)
I am sure I am forgetting a few, well maybe quite a few. There will always be things you can add. This is a basic starting list to give you an idea of what you will need.

Ingredients for a Basic Soap

To keep it simple, you will need the following for most soaps:
Distilled water
Scents (optional)
Colors (optional)

Making it Yours

After you learn to make a simple batch of soap, you’ll be ready to learn and experiment. First by using different scents. Second, by experimenting with different color methods. There is great variety of color, scents, swirls, techniques and ideas, therefore, the sky’s the limit in where you can go creatively. Be brave, let your imagination run wild, have fun and remember everything is a learning experience. There are no mistakes, I call them learning adventures. Just remember, safety first. Always wear long sleeves, gloves and safety glasses. Take your time, be open to learning something new every time you soap, and everything else will be good.

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