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Four Ways to Make a Soap Base

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I have been fascinated with the moms who make their own household products. When my youngest son was little, he had so many allergies. He also had eczema, so I decided to ditch the chemical laden cleaning products and make a few simple recipes myself. What a difference!

About a year ago, I started researching homemade soap and started getting overwhelmed!  I stumbled upon four ways to make a soap base and got stuck for a bit.  I couldn’t decide the best one for me! 

Hopefully, this article that explains all four processes helps you make a decision without the overwhelm I felt.

how to make your own soap base

I was over paying the price for delicious smelling boutique soaps. I felt it would be not only economical to make them myself, but fun as well!

The Four Processes For Making Soap

I didn’t know there was more than one process to make your own soap, did you? Here are the four soap processes you can make yourself.

Melt and Pour Soap Base:

For me, the melt and pour process was the easiest soap method. This is the process I started with because it is perfect for beginners.

Melt and pour is a quick process and never needs curing to set. To make melt and pour soaps, you will purchase a pre-made soap base.

There are several varieties of melt and pour bases. You can use clear, goats milk, chamomile, honey, rose and many more. You can purchase them online or from a local soap or craft store.


The process itself is super simple! You can melt your soap base in a double boiler or in your microwave. Once the base is in a liquid state you can add your favorite scents and skin safe colors.

After this stage, you are ready to pour into your favorite mold. And talk about a variety to choose from! You can find flowers, fruits, cartoon characters and more. With supervision, even the kids can help!

There are a few cons about melt and pour soaps. Since the bases tend to have extra glycerin, your soaps will be prone to glycerin dew/sweating.  When adding natural ingredients like milk and purees, be wary that they may go bad.

Also, if you want to add cosmetic glitters or small embeds to your soap recipe, which are small decorative pieces of soap, they can sink to the bottom of your mold. If you use any scents or colors that are vanilla based, they will include Vanillin, which can make your soap turn brown. To avoid this, you can add a vanilla color stabilizer.

When does melt and pour soap expire?

The base should never go bad, mold, smell bad, or expire.  However, it might dry out over time. While still safe to use, it may become dry and brittle.  Simply add small amounts of glycerin to replace what was lost over time.

Can you mix melt and pour bases?

Technically, you can. However, it isn’t actually advisable. The bases are all made with exactly what is necessary to create a soap, minus dyes, essential oils, and fragrances.  THe more you add to a base, the more the consistency will change.

Does melt and pour soap have lye in it?

Yep, it sure does And it doesn’t.  The good news is that you don’t have to handle the lye, pour the lye, or add the lye.  In a melt and pour base, all the science stuff is already done for you.

But, why would I say “it doesn’t”?

Because, when the chemical reaction of making soap, called saponification, is complete, the lye and oil molecules have combined and chemically changed into soap and glycerin. If the soap is made properly, the lye is used up in the saponification process to turn oil into soap. — Chagrin Valley Soap

Melt and Pour Soap Recipes:

learn four ways to make a soap base at home

Cold Process Soap Base:

Many soap at home makers consider this process the next natural progression from making melt and pour soaps. This process is more complicated, but the result is more like the soaps you would pay top dollar in the high end bath and beauty stores.

The ‘cold process’ method of making soap involves the scientific process of saponification and includes oils and lye.

Saponification is when lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) combines with an oil or fat to form a chemical reaction that becomes soap. If you are a homeschool mom, this is a great lesson in chemistry!

Once the saponification reaction occurs, the soap maker is free to mix in their additional ingredients.

One note is about the gel phase. This is the part of the saponification process where the soap gets hot and it has a gelatinous appearance. When adding colors in this phase, they will be more vibrant and may look shiny. This is also a shorter wait period for your bar soap because the gel phase hardens more quickly.

You can prevent the gel phase. If you are using natural ingredients like milks, honey or fruits, they won’t scorch as they would in the gel phase.

Cold process is not quite as simple a handmade soap as melt and pour, but seems to be the most preferred method of soap-making. I feel with cold process, you have so much creative freedom with your soaps and soap molds. Also, it allows you to control the saponification, so adding fresh ingredients won’t go bad as quickly as with melt and pour.

In fact, cold process soaps are known for being the most natural. Also, because of their density, it’s easier to mix in heavier additives without them sinking to the bottom. You can make gorgeous swirls and other patterns and top your batch with soap frosting or embeds.

Be aware: cold process soaps take longer to set, about 4-6 weeks of cure time as opposed to the few hours for melt and pour. Moreover, the soaps must be made with sodium hydroxide lye. The lye water can be dangerous if not handled correctly.

How long does cold process soap last?

The soap base, with a preservative, can technically last forever.  However, that doesn’t mean that once you make a bar of soap that it will last forever.  The shelf life of homemade soaps depends on the shelf life of the included ingredients 

For example: Hazelnut oil only lasts approximately 3 months. So, if you include it in a soap recipe, the soap then will only last about 3 months.

Why does my cold process soap sweat?

I can get all scientist on you, but I won’t. The basics are that the soap doesn’t sweat! Instead the glycerin in the soap attracts moisture from the environment. To avoid the glistening, allow the soap to cure and harden fully, then store it in a cool dry place.

What causes cold process soap to seize?

If the soap reaches trace before the saponification processes, you can get real seize.

The main culprits are fragrance oils and alcohol. Both have been known to cause trace acceleration. If you’re making organic soap and using essential oils, neither of those should be a problem. A third possible cause is the original temperature of your lye and oils. A prudent, commonly recommended  range is 80-100 degrees. With the possibility of other factors, prudence in chemistry is wise, especially given the consequences of haste. – Botanie Soap


Hot Process Soap Base:

The ‘hot process’ is a quicker version of the ‘cold process’ method. Essentially, through ‘hot process,’ you are speeding-up saponification.

When ingredients are heated through a bowl, it goes through the saponification stages quicker. Once everything melts and excess water evaporates, it’s poured and shaped.

The curing process is much faster than in ‘cold process’ soaps – so no more waiting! This process only takes about 24 hours.

Soaps that have gone through the ‘hot process’ are much thicker and harder to make swirls or layers. If you wanted to do layers in this phase, the lines between will not be as straight as I the cold process phase.

Moreover, they are not as smooth as ‘cold process’ soaps. Many soap makers also claim that the process tends to burn off any fragrances that have been added to the mix.

We have included some frequently asked questions about hot process soap to help you in your soap crafting.

Why is my hot process soap crumbly?

There are actually many reasons that could cause this.  Soap making can be a bit of trail an error, but once you figure things out you can make tyons of different homemade soap recipes.

  1.  Your soap batter could be overcooked. This causes it to be too dry and hard.
  2. Your soap recipe could contain too many hard oils.  It is easy to save this by rebatching (which we discuss later) with some soft oils.
  3. Possibly, you didn’t add enough water.
  4. The most obvious reason would be that you forgot an ingredient.
  5. If you have too much additive (like sodium lactate), the hardness can be increased to a point where instead of slicing or holding the hardness, it becomes crumbly.

Why is my hot process soap soft?

Alternatively, your soap could be too soft and mushy!  Again, the reasons for this are plenty.

  1.  The most obvious reason is that you used too much water. That is not a big deal! Simply allow it to cure, uncovered, for a longer period of time. You may need 3-4 weeks for it to cure completely.
  2. You could have used too many soft oils and need to add more hard oils to your recipe.
  3. Maybe you didn’t use enough lye for the amount of liquid you used.
  4. Your recipe could be wrong!  You may need to reformulate it, can be made easier with the  SoapCalc

Why is my hot process soap separating?

The main reason is that you simply didn’t cook it long enough.  This is an easy fix! Simply put it back into your pot and cook longer.  You don’t need to rebatch just yet. 

However, if you cook it longer and it still has the separating issue in the mold, you may need to check your formula again. 

how to make a soap base

Rebatching Process Soap Base:

The ‘rebatching process’ is a like giving your old soaps new life. If you have a batch you didn’t like, you can recycle it! Essentially, you are saving unsuccessful batches of soaps and attempting to create something new.

Rebatching involves shredding your cold process soap and melting over a very low heat. Although you could use a microwave in this phase, I do not recommend it. With a double boiler, you have more control and keep an eye on the consistency. and then adding more ingredients to make a new one.

The rebatching process is a lot quicker to cure. It only takes about 1-2 weeks. Also, since it has already gone through saponification, you are not required to use lye for it. This is a boon if you wanted to add ingredients that may turn brown or gray with the lye or would melt, like delicate jojoba bead.

One thing I do not like about this batch is because the saponification process has already occurred, it is a lot harder to customize. Much like the ‘hot process,’ fragrances with low burn points eventually fade in the rebatching process.

Also, your soap will not completely melt, so adding it to a mold is a bit different. Instead of pouring your soap in, you must really press it into the mold. Even in doing this, the details of the mold will not be as sharp as in melt and pour soaps.

Can I Use a Crockpot for Rebatching?

Absolutely! In fact, most home soap makers recommend this way and have a slow cooker especially for the purpose of rebatching messed up soaps, extras, weird ends after cutting, etc. 

Simply set your crockpot on low, shred or chop the mess failed soap or extra pieces as small as possible into the slow cooker. 

Then, check it every hour mixing and mashing until all the content of the pot are pourable.

Can I rebatch store bought soap?

The technical answer would be yes, but be careful. Also, remember that this defeats the entire process of making your own soap! You get all the “bad things” from store bought soap that you hope to avoid when you make your own.

Here is an article that tells you step-by-step about Rebatching Ivory Soap.


More Homemade Soap Recipes:

Calming Lavender Essential Oil Soap Recipe

Soothing Homemade Oatmeal and Honey Soap Recipe

Invigorating Peppermint Soap Recipe Using Essential Oils

Whew! So, there are your four options to make soap. Which process do you think you would use?

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Disappointed

Monday 27th of April 2020

Really you should really change the title of this people are getting on thinking you know how to make the actual soap base what you're telling people is different ways to make soap

Kelli Miller

Wednesday 29th of April 2020

I am sorry that you are disappointed, but I completely disagree with your opinion.... I think it discusses the why and HOW TO of each of the four types of soap bases.

Temitope

Saturday 11th of January 2020

I do more of cold process soaps. I hope to master hot process soaping. I don't really like the idea of melt & pour soaps so I have never tried it. Thanks for sharing dear

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