Melt and Pour Soap: An Expert Guide to Making It at Home
Maybe it's a return to natural essentials, but bar soaps have come a long way since the heavy, overly fragrant ones your mother once kept next to her sink. Today, homemade soaps can be crafted with the same natural, skin-nourishing ingredients as your go-to store-bought varieties.
But does the art of soapmaking feel daunting? Enter the melt and pour method. While making soap from scratch can be a process, molding these luminous little bars is as easy as following a simple recipe. A clear melted soap base is colored, scented, and shaped as you wish, then they're ready to be used at home or given as gifts. Melt and pour is a great way for beginners to wade into the sudsy world of soap-making and spa crafts.
Why Melt and Pour Soap?
The cold process method of soap-making (a more traditional method) is done by combining oils and lye. This causes a chemical reaction called saponification. The benefit of melt and pour soap is that the soap base has already gone through that process, meaning you don't have to handle lye and there's no need to cure the soap-it's ready to use as soon as it's cooled and hardened. As such, this soapmaking method is more family-friendly, as well.
The base for this melt and pour soap is glycerin ($17.19, amazon.com), which is a natural byproduct of the saponification process. In it, the glycerin is distilled into a clear bar of soap that can be melted down, and customized with colors and scents to suit your personal tastes. These bases often contain super-nourishing components like shea butter, argan oil, or olive oil to enrich the skin.
Next, you'll need essential oils. These can be added to homemade soap for natural fragrance. Depending on personal preference, use anywhere from a few droplets to a few teaspoons for a noticeable, long-lasting scent. For a dash of natural color, try clays and botanicals such as French green clay ($9.95 for 8 ounces, amazon.com), rose kaolin clay, or indigo powder. Be sure to test the ingredients of your homemade soaps on a small area of your skin first (the inside of your elbow, for example) to make sure that you are not allergic. It's important that soap-making ingredients are measured precisely in order to craft a balanced bar of soap, so you'll need to have a digital scale ($49.95, williams-sonoma.com). All ingredients should be measured by weight rather than volume, since inconsistent measurements will yield unreliable results. Next up is a heat-proof container—always use glass instead of metal to heat, mix, and stir ingredients. Spoons and spatulas work well for mixing, while a bench scraper ($9.95, williams-sonoma.com) or serrated knife will cut your homemade soap into smaller portions.
As for a soap mold, use muffin tins, loaf pans, boxes, and cartons, many of which are likely already in your kitchen. Silicone molds for baking work well since you can bend them out of shape to pop out soap shapes.
How to Make Melt and Pour Soap
An important note: This is a base recipe, only. The step-by-step instructions of individual projects may vary. Before you begin, assemble your ingredients. If needed, prepare safety gear such as goggles, gloves, and long sleeves, and be sure to cover your work surface with newspaper.
Start by weighing the glycerin soap base in a heatproof container, chopping into smaller pieces with a cutting tool, if needed. Then, heat glycerin in a microwave on high, stirring at 15-second intervals, until it's completely melted. Add any extra ingredients—such as essential oils or color additives-stirring to combine. Next, carefully, pour the melted soap into mold. Try not to splash the soap or get too many bubbles. (Note: If you do get bubbles in the soap, lightly spray the top of bar soaps with rubbing alcohol.) Let cool and harden completely (anywhere from a few hours up to overnight) before popping from the mold.