DIY Soap Research

If you’re anything like my inner hypochondriac, you check the toxicity of your skincare and cosmetics products in EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. And if you’re tired of being disappointed time and time again by the amount of harmful chemicals in your soap (or that most soap companies removed the best part of soap from the soap: the glycerin), this is a post for you about my research and experiments in making my own soap.

Basically, there are two general processes for making soap:

  1. Melt and Pour Soap: making soap from a pre-made base, fragrance/essential oils, and color additives. Analogous to baking a cake from a box mix. Short cure time due to the fact that you’re using a pre-made base (after your pour the soap into the mold, you just have to leave it alone for 1-2 days before you can use it.
  2. Cold Process Soap: making soap from scratch with lye, oil, water, fragrance/essential oils, and color additives. Analogous to baking a cake from scratch. Longer cure time due to the fact that you’re making soap from scratch. The water has to evaporate out of your soap, which takes about 4-8 weeks before you can use it.

If you’ve never made soap before, it’s recommended to start with the Melt and Pour Soap process. The process is exactly what the name describes: you melt the base, add scented oils or color additives, and pour into a mold. My experiment in making Melt and Pour Soap is here: Lemon Chamomile Oatmeal Melt and Pour Soap. I’m happy with how it turned out, but I want more control over ingredients in the process. My next project is making Cold Process Soap. Where to begin?

There are so many informative and excellent soapmaking resources available online:

These are the materials I had to purchase for melt and pour:

  • separate pyrex mixing container
  • soap base
  • soap mold
  • essential oils

These are the additional materials I had to purchase for cold process:

  • infrared thermometer
  • soap cutter
  • soap loaf mold
  • scale
  • lye
  • oil bases
  • stick blender

Stuff I already had:

  • safety goggles and gloves
  • stirring utensil

Making soap requires an upfront capital investment in equipment and materials, but I think it’s worth it in the long run. You have more control over which ingredients are in your soap, general satisfaction from making something yourself, and in the long term, it’s less expensive to produce 1 bar of handmade soap ($1-$3 a bar, depending on ingredients) than to purchase 1 bar of handmade soap ($4-$10 a bar, depending where you shop).

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