Previous in this Soap Making series: How Do You Make Natural Soap At Home?
Cut the base into small cubes. Melt it in a double boiler. Add colorants and scent. Make a layered soap, a soap with inner flowers, or a soap that looks like a beach. This is exactly what you need to do to make soap by Melt and Pour: the term is English and it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s also what makes this method so simple to use and therefore, so widespread around handmade soap makers, especially beginners. You don’t have to use lye in it, it was already done for you.
Melt and Pour can even be a fun DIY project for kids, with some adult supervision (as the soap base needs to melt and one needs to deal with heat sources).
In this article, I am going to walk you through some concepts and then use a recipe to learn how to make soap bars by Melt and Pour.
This is soap already made for you so that you only need melt and decorate as you wish. No need to fear the usage of lye as you don’t need to. But don’t be mistaken: soap bases ALWAYS use lye, no matter what method you choose.
Technically, there is no such thing as “soap without lye”. In this case, the lye was used previously by a manufacturing company, along with oils and other ingredients, to produce a pre-made soap base. Pretty much like a pre-made pie base you now only need to do the filling and decorate.
There are several options to choose from when selecting a base, including bases with additives like shea butter, goat milk, or aloe vera. But clear or white melt and pour are the best options to start.
You wish to learn how to do them yourself?
Needless to say that you also can learn in this blog how to make your own soap bases!! Check out the category How To Make Homemade Glycerin Soap Base, showing you tutorials on how to make natural, crystal clear or white glycerin soap bases, very good to use in “Melt and Pour”.
Colorants and Fragrances
Soap colorants and fragrances for cold process may also be used in Melt and Pour. As I prefer natural ingredients for soap, I am going to encourage to use essential oils as fragrance and natural colorants like clays or spices, or even the mineral cosmetic colorants (oxides and ultramarines). Nevertheless, you can use whatever fragrance or colorant you prefer, as long as it’s cosmetic grade and adequate for soap.
Oils and Extracts
You can add oils or plant extracts to Melt and Pour. Adding noble oils like jojoba, or argan oil, or butters like shea butter or cocoa butter, will enrich your soap and turn it from good to awesome, giving it extra conditioning properties (or even some extra ones such as anti-inflammatory).
Plant extracts, bought or handmade, also add plants’ medicinal properties, like anti-oxidants, anti-bacterial/anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, etc. to your soap. As the saponification has occurred at this point, there is no danger of chemically altering plants properties.
Silvana Liviero, a brazilian cosmetologist, has a wonderful toturial on how to make plant extracts at home and she was kind enough to allow me to publish her video on my blog. She also owns a YouTube channel.
If you already have equipment for soap making, you’re ready for this. Otherwise, you will be good to go with a heat resistant bowl, soap molds, a digital scale, a spoon and a spatula. A small electric stove, or a slow cooker, and a double boiler would be preffered to make melt and pour soap but they are not mandatory.
You don’t really need safety equipment, and the soap base should never be scalding hot to caus eserious burns, but it’s best if you use gloves to prevent getting burned. Better safe than sorry!
Tips and Tricks
One could say it’s really easy to make melt and pour soap at home. Well it is but not without its set of tips and tricks, to make a really nice soap bar:
- Melt the base at SLOW HEAT. You can use the microwave, but the best way to do this is by using a double boiler and an electric stove, as you control the temperature much better. Heat it at 50ºC, just be patient and do not feel tempted to rise the heat to accelerate the process.
- Do not let the soap base to boil. Well, you can, but your soap will sweat and might not work generally as good as if you don’t. If the soap base boils be ready for a set of issues with your soap. It also might chemically change the soap base and weaken its properties.
- Respect and be strick about supplier’s recommendations regarding colorants and fragrances quantities. Colorants and fragrances very often contain allergens and other chemicals. Do not feel tempted to add “a bit more” after to reach maximum recommended percentages, as you can be risking several issues, like sweaty soap, too-soft soap, or even serious ones like skin irritation and allergies!! You do not want that to your customers and family, or even yourself…. See this post about Essential Oils to Make Soap, it uses the EU strick rules for maximum dosages in soap making.
- Soap sweating. This is the most common issue with melt and pour soap. The soap develops drops of water around it, and gains a “sweaty” looks. While it’s not an issue for the soap itself, it doesn’t look very good, and it gives a sense of “spoiled” soap (something is wrong with it as it is leaking water). To avoid it, the best way is to wrap the soap in shrink-wrap paper as soon as it gets solid; do not overheat the soap base; do not place the soap in the freezer to solidify. See this post in english from a famous melt and pour brand – Stephenson – or see this post in portuguese from a handmade soap blog.
Homemade Exfoliating Rosemary and Lemongrass Soap Recipe
This tutorial uses a simple and yet very complete melt and pour soap recipe: an exfoliating argan oil soap scented with rosemary and lemongrass essential oils. You can learn not only to work with meal and pour soap bases, but also to use essential oil blends, colorants and exfoliating seeds.
This recipe uses an argan oil soap base. Why argan oil? It is rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s popularly used to moisturize skin and hair. I’ve made an argan oil-based conditioner for my hair and I can state that it is truly conditioning.
The coloring is given by a yellow iron oxide a mineral colorant considered natural. The exfoliation is given by chia or poppy seeds.
The scent is a mix of rosemary and lemongrass essential oils, that give their names to the soap. I’ve made this with 4 ml of essential oils for 1 Kg fo soap base and it smelled good! For me, it was enough. But you can go as high as 30 ml (3% of soap base). In the recipe I choose a middle ground: 12 ml.
In any case, try to use a low quantity of fragrance/essential oils. Not only your soap will be more natural (fragrances, essential oils included, have allergens), but you will also spare a lot of money! Essential oils usually double the price of an entire soap batch…
You don’t believe it?
Let’s do some math: the cheaper essential oils are around 4€/10 ml or $6/0,33 fl oz. Assuming that your soap base is 10€/Kg or $16/32 oz, and that you can use a maximum of 3%, you go easily to 30 ml or 1 oz, meaning that your essential oil spending is around 12€ or $18!! More than the entire soap base!
With a lot or a little of essential oils, do enjoy your soap making and your soaps!!
Next in this Soap Making series: How To Store Soap
- Measure all ingredients first: the oils, the essential oils, the seeds, water and the colorant
- Mix the colorant with the water
- Cut the melt and pour soap base into small cubes (2 cm x 2 cm x 2 cm) into your bowl or pan, adding a little bit of water (not from the 3 spoons)
- Take it to an electric stove and set the heat to medium. Let the soap base melt completely. Spray with alcohol if you have a solid layer at the surface.
- Turn off the heat. Add the water with colorant and the oils and mix well.
- Add the essential oils and the chia seeds, when the soap is at its lowest temperature, and mix well. If the soap base hardens, heat it a little more.
- Pour the soap into the soap molds. Sprinkle the soap surface with alcohol to prevent bubbles and to clear the thin solid layer covering the soap surface
- Let it harden for around 1-3 hours. When fully solid, unmold the soap and cover it in thin plastic film. It's ready to store and sure!!