Thursday, October 16, 2014

Working with Melt and Pour Soaps

Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated at the idea of making my own soap. As I grew older, I forgot about that desire for a while, and then along came that magical entity we all know as the internet. It took a while for the net to become populated with enough links and resources for soapmaking, and there was also the issue of recipes that used lye.

Eventually, with the rise in DIY and the renewed interest in crafts that had long faded from popularity, I lucked out with the discovery of the melt and pour kits at Walmart. I had a lot of fun for a while, especially when I experimented with some dried basil as an additive.

Once again I had a new interest in making soap, and though the melt and pour kit was fun for a while, I still wanted to make soap from scratch. After discovering soap lilies, I'd hoped to grow some of those, but life often gets in the way of one's passions and pastimes and I haven't had the opportunity as of yet.

As an avid crafter, I was excited to share what I had learned via a Helium article on soapmaking basics, as well as an additional article (to be posted to this blog shortly) on homemade molds for soapmaking.. Originally published in October of 2011:

Basics of Melt and Pour Soapmaking

Melt and pour soap making is a gratifying hobby that is easy to do and allows for the creation of custom soaps that can be personalized to any preference. At the basic level, all a person needs to be able to do is melt the soap cubes and pour the liquid into a waiting mold. It’s as simple and as basic as that; though there is some essential equipment needed to get started.
A good way to get started with melt and pour soap making is to purchase a kit. A basic prepackaged kit will contain glycerin cubes, a mold, coloring, and fragrance. Of course, there’s no rule that the coloring or fragrance provided has to be used in making the soap, and candy molds could be used to make small, decorative, guest soaps.
Because the glycerin cubes in the kit break apart easily, much like chocolate, melting is much easier than buying glycerin in bulk and having to cut it down into smaller pieces. Also, the smaller cubes make it easy to create as much or as little soap as desired at one time.
Though melt and pour soap can be heated in the microwave, the best way to melt the glycerin soap cubes is in a stainless steel bowl that has been placed in hot water double-boiler style. Once the soap is completely melted it is time to add the fragrance and or coloring. The best fragrance to use will be a pure essential oil, though dried herbs can also be used for fragrance as well as color. Gently stir in a few drops of oil, or add the herbs a little at a time until the desired color is achieved.
The melt and pour soap will have to cool over several hours before they are completely hardened all the way through. Once it is completely cured, the glycerin bar should pop out easily from the mold. Using individual molds, while not necessary, eliminates the need for cutting the soap into bars once it has cured. A variety of household items can be used for molding soap in addition to the plain molds that come with melt and pour kits, from ice trays to mini muffin tins.
Once the basics of melt and pour soap have been mastered, a variety of fun, fanciful or decorative soaps can be created with a little imagination and experimenting (much like cooking and creating recipes). Any additions used with the glycerin, especially for color, should be those proven to be safe for the skin.

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