By: Dinah Wulf
Soap making is a creative art that has been around for thousands of years. The beauty of crafting your own soap is that you can choose the scent, color, and size, and it’s much more cost-effective than buying soap at the store. The soap-making process takes about an hour; however, the cooling and curing process takes around four weeks. So, if you are making a batch for yourself or for gift giving, take that time into consideration. Here is some basic information on soap making and how to make scented bar soap using the cold process.
The cold process is the most common, basic soap-making process. You can make soaps in a variety of different shapes thanks to the abundance of molds available on the market today. Flowers, ovals, shells – if you can name it, there’s a soap mold for it. Wooden molds are ideal for cold-process soap making. You can not only play with the shape but also customize your soap by adding dried flower petals, dried herbs, and fragrance or essential oils. With a few ingredients and the proper equipment, you can make your own handmade bar soap.
Working with Lye
Before you begin, it’s important to know a little bit about working with lye. You can’t make soap without it. Lye is also known as sodium hydroxide. The chemical reaction between lye and fats produces a solid soap, also known as the saponification process. Therefore, you have to be careful and protect yourself during projects like this. Wear rubber gloves, goggles, and an apron to help protect your skin. Some fumes may rise when mixing lye with water, so be sure to move your face away. The fumes will only last one to two minutes. You cannot typically buy lye in a grocery store anymore, but you can find it online or in a hardware store near the drain cleaning supplies. When you purchase it, make sure it is 100 percent sodium hydroxide.
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♣ 1. Protect your work area with newspaper, put on your protective gear, and measure your water and lye.
♣ 2. Combine the coconut oil and palm oil, and place them in a preheated pot until they melt. You can use different types of oils; however, remember that for this step, the two oils you choose must be solids.
♣ 3. While the oil is melting, pour water into a bowl, and then slowly pour the lye in the water. Don’t forget, there will be some fumes and heat! Stir the mixture for about five minutes to ensure that it is mixed well.
♣ 4. Now it’s time to add your liquid form oil. Measure your olive oil and then add it to the melted solid oils. You want the temperature to be about 110–120 degrees F.
♣ 5. Once both the lye mixture and oil mixture reach about 110–120 degrees, pour the lye mixture into the pot with the oil mixture. Blend with a hand blender for a full five minutes.
♣ 6. Add about a teaspoon of the essential oils of your choice. You can also add colorant and/or herbs if you’d like.
♣ 7. Carefully pour your mixture into your mold.
♣ 8. Cover your mold with plastic wrap, and then put a towel over it to keep the heat in.
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Curing Handmade Soap
Allow your mold to set for at least 24 hours. When you check on it, the soap will be hard and opaque. If the soap is still warm, allow it to cool for a few more hours. Once the soap is completely cool, remove the mold. Cut the soap into thick bars. Allow it to cure for about one month in a dust-free area before you use it. You can turn the bars over frequently during curation.
Storing Handmade Soap
You can store it in a shoebox. Be sure to place a space in between each bar standing them up to allow them to breath. Shoeboxes work well because they allow your soap to breathe, unlike a sealed plastic container. Keep them out of direct sunlight in a cool place. Handmade soap should store up to 12 months, some longer. Depending on the type of essential oil you use, the scent may fade after several months. Be sure to store similar scents together if you are making it in bulk. For example, store citrus scents in one shoebox and minty scents in another shoebox.
More about Additives
Once you get the process down, you can play around with different additives, such as coffee grinds, oatmeal, or cocoa powder; herbs such as lemongrass or mint; and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, or cloves. You can also use different oils and butters. To scent your soap, you can use essential oils and fragrant oils. They both work well if you choose good-quality oil. The main difference between the two is that essential oils are natural, whereas fragrant oils have chemical components. For an interesting look, you can get creative and mix colors to swirl your soaps in different color combinations, stamp your soap, color block it, or even infuse it.
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As you can see, numerous possibilities and combinations of oils, butters, and additives are out there for soap making. The finished product, handmade bars of soap, make great DIY gifts because soap is an inexpensive craft that you can make in bulk and personalize. You can wrap your bars in textured papers, tie it up with twine, and add a tag for a special touch.
Dinah Wulf is a DIY expert. She runs a successful home décor, crafting, and DIY blog that has been recognized by Parenting.com, Circle of Moms, and Mashable. She holds a Masters of Arts in Speech Communications from California State University Fullerton. Fix.com