Too many years ago I did a lot of soap making. I was a lot younger then, and so many new books on soap making were coming out then (OK, I’ll date myself…it’s the year 1998).
I was really into it – I taught soap making classes through the school district, sold at the farmer’s market on the Island I lived on…all while I made time to macrame hemp twine necklaces weekly. (Ouch. Now I am really dating myself….) Even had a great article about my soap, posing in my sage garden, in the local paper.
Back then, I made all of my soap from hand. No cheating with bases. But then…it was a different time. There were only a handful of companies, all mail order catalogs. You couldn’t shop for obscure craft items yet as you can now. So yes, I am perfectly capable of making castile soap, tallow based soap (it’s amazing, especially when you render the tallow yourself), and coconut soap (it lathers in salt water), but at this point in my life? I just don’t have enough time, or really…wanting to deal with lye/water/fat and waiting for it to cure, then grating it, then french milling it into bars. It isn’t hard, but I have to be kid free (lye is very dangerous to work with), so the bases make it a snap.
Instead, I just start with an organic base, like the one from Our Earth’s Secrets. It is easy to melt, easy to pour, and easy to customize with add-ins. There are other brands out there, just be sure to read the ingredient list to avoid things you might not want on you! I prefer to use these bases, however, in a pinch? You can use plain glycerine soap, sold in bars, at the local store. It isn’t quite as nice, but still works fine. Look in the bar soap section, usually on the bottom row.
I came across these silicone molds on Amazon, by Baking Fun, which are the perfect size for a hand bar. They mold “100% Hand Made” on the top. And at $12.99-13.99 for 24, yes 24, of the molds, they beat the price point of nearly all soap molds. Silicone molds work the best of all soap molds (well, OK, for me they do!). They pop out easily, the details can be great, and unlike plastic molds, they don’t crack, or you end up with finger nail gouges in them.
They are not always affordable, but I’ve found buy a number of plain ones, and a few fancy ones:
Once you have soap base and molds, you just need to think what to do with it. Some bases are clear, others are opaque white. Do you want to color it? Scent it? Add in scrubbing agents? Cleanup is easy after. After all, it is soap!
I find the easiest way to melt it is to cut it up into small pieces. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer, in a pot. Place the soap into a heat safe glass bowl (such as Pyrex), and let it gently melt, stirring with a silicone spatula as needed. Once melted, add in any scent (essential oils work great, depending on what you like, 1 pound soap may need 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon), dyes, or other ingredients, till mixed in, then gently pour into molds. I prefer a ladle to do this. For ease in moving, have your molds on a rimmed baking sheet. Let the soap cool and set up, walk away over night for best results. Don’t remove the soap from the molds until you are ready to bag it up. Glycerine soaps like to ‘sweat’ if exposed to air. It doesn’t affect the soap, but isn’t as attractive. I love the soap bags you can find on Amazon, however, if you are not feeling fancy, a snack bag zip top bag also works.
Seal tightly, and enjoy for many months! For best results, tuck your soaps into an opaque storage box, and keep in a cool and dry area.
I will be posting recipes for melt and pour soap in the coming weeks, so be sure to check them out.