Soap making can be such a fun hobby to learn. Soap making gives you the option to be able to control everything you put in it. There’s countless of combinations of ingredients you can use for soap. Glitter, tea leaves, fruit purees, or even beer–the possibilities are seriously endless!
For this month’s hobby, we’ll explore the fundamentals of soap making. You’ll be introduced to the many methods of soap making such as the cold process, hot process, melt-and-pour, and rebatch methods. We’ll start with the easiest so that you can decide if you enjoy this hobby before investing in it too far.
You may have heard that working with lye can be really dangerous. It’s true, but you can take enough safety precautions to minimize those risks. Both the cold and hot process methods will utilize lye.
If you want to avoid lye during soap making, it’s definitely possible! There’s a few soap making methods you can explore to do so, such as the melt-and-pour and rebatch method. These are both just as fun and with the melt-and-pour method, you can still control a lot of the ingredients you want to put into your soaps.
If you have interest in soap making at all, I highly recommend The Everything Soap Making Book. This book has been my go-to reference guide throughout the whole month of exploring soap making. I must have gone through 20+ books and this one was the most comprehensive but also easy to read. It covers every single soap making method but also has whole chapters on important topics like herbs, fragrance oils, essential oils, color, and even how to start your own soap business!
SOAP MAKING SUPPLIES & INGREDIENTS
Before we dive into this month’s hobby of soap making, you’ll need to make sure you have the right supplies. Different supplies are required for the different methods. In my guide, each method is also specified in each of the tools listed. More tools are needed for the cold and hot process method. Since we’re starting the easier method of soap making, you won’t need to collect all the necessary tools right away.
You’ll also need to check out all the ingredients you can use in the soap making process. More ingredients are required for the cold and hot process method.
WHAT DOES THIS MONTH’S HOBBY OF SOAP MAKING INCLUDE?
There are four different methods of soap making – rebatch, melt-and-pour, cold process and hot process. We’ll start with the easiest so that you can decide if you enjoy this hobby before investing in it too far. There’s pros and cons to each methods that you’ll definitely learn about if you explore them all.
The rebatch method is also known as hand-milling. It’s involves melting down pre-made cold process soap. Because of this, you don’t have to work with lye or wear any of the protective gear that is associated with protecting yourself from lye. It also requires a lot less tools and supplies, especially since you already have many of them in your kitchen!
It’s also a great method for beginners and it doesn’t require waiting 4-6 weeks for the final product of soap (like the cold process method does).
The downfalls of the rebatch method is that you won’t be able to customize the ingredients as much as the other methods. The final soap products won’t have the smoothest texture to it either. It will also be difficult to create cool designs by swirling or layering. In addition to all this, some fragrances can be challenging to add to the soap. The high temperature of the rebatch soap mixture may cause the fragrance to fade.
The melt-and-pour method is one of my favorite methods to soap making. It’s also great for beginners and you can even involve the kids in this one too. It doesn’t use any lye since you’ll be working with soap bases that already has gone through saponification (the process of mixing lye and fats to make soap).
This method of soap making is pretty quick as the soap doesn’t need to cure (the process of allowing the water to evaporate to create a hard and long-lasting soap bar). Although you won’t be able to control the ingredients in the soap base, you still have the opportunity to throw in a wide-range of additives like essential oils, glitter, or coffee beans! It’s not fully customizable but you can definitely do your research to find soap bases that have the ingredients you would have liked in your soap (like shea butter, honey, goat’s milk, etc).
Melt-and-pour methods also have its disadvantages. Since it hardens quickly, you are limited in creating certain designs like swirls. The soap can also become too hot, which makes it pretty difficult to work with. Although there are a few drawbacks, this method is definitely worth it if you want to avoid working with lye.
The cold process method is essentially creating the entire soap from scratch. You’ll be working with lye and can control every single ingredient that goes into the soap. Since you’ll use lye for the cold process method, you’ll have to make sure that you take the necessary precautions and minimize the risks that come with using this dangerous chemical.
Besides having an infinite amount of possibilities with your ingredients, you can also explore a variety of cool techniques like swirling or layering. You’ll be able to suspend ingredients inside the soap easier than the melt-and-pour method since the mixture is a lot thicker. This method also allows you to add fresh ingredients like fruit purees.
The downside to this method (besides working with the lye) is that the soap will need to take 4-6 weeks to cure. Curing the soaps will allow you to have stronger, longer-lasting soap bars to use. You also will need to be more careful with adding certain ingredients. You’ll need to know how each ingredient may interact and how it may effect your soap bars. This method also utilizes way more tools and supplies than the melt-and-pour and rebatch method.
The hot process method is very similar to the cold process method. You’ll be making the soap for scratch and you also have the opportunity to customize all the ingredients. It utilizes a crockpot or double boiler in order to speed up the saponification process. You won’t need to wait 4-6 weeks as the soap can pretty much be used the next day. Another great thing about this method is that it takes way less clean-up than the cold process method since the crockpot will already be full of soap. Awesome, right?!
The disadvantages of the hot process method of soap making is that the bars won’t have the smooth appearance as the cold process method does. Since the texture of the hot process soap can be thick, you can’t really explore fun techniques like layering and swirling. It will also be difficult to add fresh ingredients like fruit purees since they burn quickly in this process. You’ll also need to guard your soap mixture pretty closely.
LET’S GET STARTED!
Work at your own pace to explore each method of soap making! I’ve organized it so that you explore one method a week but you don’t necessarily have to. Make sure you check out our ultimate soap recipe index for a list of 100+ soap making recipes!