If You Enjoy Crafts and Nicely Scented Soaps, You Can Make Your Own

In our grandmother's day, soap was made from leftover fats and lye, as soap wasn't readily available in stores as it is are now. Since there are many different shapes and fragrances in soaps, it was just a matter of time before someone decided to introduce soap-making as a craft or hobby. If you enjoy making your own candles, enjoy having fragrant soaps and giving them as gifts, you might also have an interest in making your own soap. You use molds and fragrant oils, and you have a choice of several types of soap-making processes: Hot Process soaping, Cold Process soaping, and Melt and Pour. We give you basic information on these three processes, a general list of supplies you will need, and of course online and other sources where you can get more information, instructions, and purchase what you need. Many people today enjoy this fine hobby, and of course as with many other hobbies, you may not save any money by making your own soaps, but you will get a lot of pleasure out of giving a gift you made yourself.

Getting Started

First, you should know which type of soap you'd like to try your hand at, so we're going to give a brief explanation of the 3 types in the following lines.

Melt and Pour Soaps
This is by far the easiest method of making soaps. If you're a beginner and not sure if this hobby will be for you, give this method a try first. It's much easier, and you'll see the finished results of your efforts sooner than with either of the other two. Melt and Pour soaps (sometimes referred to as "M & P") are made by melting soap chunks, adding your fragrance and dye, pouring into the soap molds, and letting set until hardened.

Hot Process Soaps
As the name implies, Hot Process soaps are "cooked." Ingredients involved in this process include lye, oils, fragrances, dyes and pigments, and water. You can make your Hot Process soaps in a crock pot. When all the cooking has been completed, dyes and fragrances added, the soap goes into molds, where they cool until hardened and you get to take them out. Depending on what you use for molds (some people use bread pans), you may need to cut them into smaller bars.

Cold Process Soaps
This process takes longer than the Hot Process, but no cooking is involved. The chemistry between the ingredients is what will make the ingredients turn into soap. Cold Process soaps take longer to cure but the soap bars are smoother.

No matter which process you use, there are some safety concerns to making soap. Since lye is used in the last two processes, you should remember that lye can burn, and to wear rubber gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself. Keep animals and children away from the area while you are working. And be sure that you are not interrupted during the process, as your full attention must be on what you are doing. Peak Candle Supplies gives very clear and concise instructions on how to make all three types of soaps on their web site.

Supplies You'll Need

No matter which type of soap you'll be making, there are certain supplies and utensils you'll need for the process. Be sure these are gathered together and accessible to you before you begin, as once you have started, you must stay with the process and let nothing interrupt you. Here are the basic supplies you'll need for each soap type.

Melt and Pour Soap
You'll need your "melt and pour" soap, soap dyes and fragrances, soap molds, a glass measuring cup for melting and pouring, popsicle sticks for stirring, and optionally, a squirt bottle filled with alcohal to spritz the soap to keep bubbles from forming. Some people would rather deal with the bubbles than with alcohal added to their soap.

Hot Process Soaps
You'll need the following supplies to make your Hot Process soaps. Keep in mind that nothing should be made of aluminum. Interaction between the lye used in soap-making and aluminum will turn your soap black. You'll need a wooden spoon, glass pyrex measuring cup (2-cup size), a digital scale (correct measurements are important when making soaps), molds (can use bread pans), rubber gloves, face mask and goggles for safety purposes, crockpot, hand blender, and a plastic or ceramic bowl. This is in addition to the hard and soft oils, dyes and fragrances, and lye you'll need as ingredients for your soaps.

Cold Process Soaps
Since you won't actually be cooking your soap with this process, your choice for soap molds can include cardboard boxes and containers as well as metal ones. You'll be lining your molds with freezer paper or with heavy duty garbage bags, so add these to your list of supplies. You'll also need a thermometer, measuring cups and spoons, a soaping pot to hold your oils, a cup to measure the lye and another container to hold the lye-water mixture. You'll also need rubber gloves and safety goggles for safety's sake with this process as well.

Sources For Recipes and Supplies

Now that you have a vague idea of what you'll need to begin making your own soaps, here are some sources for your supplies and recipes for soaps. We've already mentioned Peak Candle Supplies as a very good source for soap making supplies and complete instructions on making these three soap types. Soap Crafters sells everything you need to begin making your own soap, including Melt and Pour soaps. Bramble Berry is another online source for all the supplies you'll need for your soap-making hobby. And if you have a Michael's craft store near you (even if you don't, they have a web site), you'll also find supplies and directions here for making your own soaps.

Soap-making isn't quite what it was in our grandmothers' day. And aren't we glad? Have fun with your new hobby.

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