We love ourselves some homemade soap around here. Over the years we’ve made almost every kind of soap we can think of (herbal, flower petal, soap on a rope and pink clay soap to name a few) and we’re not even close to calling it quits just yet. That’s because melt-and-pour soap takes the pain out of soap making and lets you focus on the more creative aspects, like choosing colors, scents, shapes and more. The sky’s the limit! But despite its simplicity, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that make melt-and-pour soap even easier.
Here’s our complete guide to using melt-and-pour soap.
Guide to Using Melt-and-Pour Soap
What is Melt-and-pour Soap?
Melt-and-pour soap (often referred to as “soap base”) is simply pre-made soap that you can melt down, add scent and colorants to and let harden using your own molds. It’s an easy way to make customized soap at home without handling some of the more caustic chemicals (like lye) or purchasing safety gear. Because it’s already been through the full saponification process (the chemical reaction that makes lye safe for skin) you can enjoy your soap immediately, rather than waiting 4-6 weeks for it to completely cure.
Melt-and-pour soap is especially great for beginners because it allows novice soap makers to focus on the more fun aspects such as scents, colors and designs, without worrying about making soap from scratch.
Choosing a Soap Base
The first step to using melt-and-pour soap is choosing a base. All melt-and-pour soaps primarily consist of coconut oil, palm oil, safflower oil, glycerin, water and sodium hydroxide (lye). From there, things like goat milk, shea butter and other natural ingredients are added to make the different bases.
Glycerin melt-and-pour soap is a clear soap base that doesn’t contain any of the other additives such as shea butter or goat’s milk. Because it dries clear, it’s perfect for coloring and for embedding objects such as flower petals, herbs or other kinds of soap. However, without the moisturizing additives, it has a tendency to dry out sensitive skin when combined with dry air and super hot showers.
Here are some of our favorite glycerin soap recipes:
Most shea butter soap bases contain about 5% shea butter, which gives it a smooth, creamy consistency and an off-white color. Because it’s so creamy, it doesn’t always lather as well as other bases, but it’s still just as potent. It holds colors and scents well, but I’ve found that it’s naturally soft, so adding too much additional oil (even essential oils) can make it dissolve more quickly.
Here are our favorite shea butter soap recipes:
- Flower petal
- Rosemary eucalyptus
- Activated charcoal
- Soap on a rope
- Caffe mocha
- Cocoa mint
- Rose and vanilla
- Coconut sand soap
- Rosewater pink clay
Goat milk soap is a soft white soap base that has been infused with real Goat’s Milk. Since it uses real milk, it’s chock full of vitamins, proteins and minerals that nourish dry skin and support overall skin health. Although it melts the same as glycerin soap, its opaque color can make it more difficult to achieve a deep, rich hue using some natural colorants.
Here are two goat milk soap recipes we swear by:
Specialty Soap Bases
Honey, oatmeal, aloe, hemp and olive oil are considered more “specialty” forms of glycerin soap base. They’re easy enough to make yourself simply by adding those ingredients directly to melted glycerin soap base. Or you can save a step (and maybe some money) by buying a base with it already included. It’s up to you!
There are plenty of options for coloring melt-and-pour soap. Micas and herbs are easy to use and they look great in the finished soap. They’re also natural, so you don’t have to worry about toxins or skin irritation when using your soap. While there are artificial colorants to choose from, they may irritate skin and aren’t usually recommended for bath and body products.
My favorite natural options are herbs and spices that you can add directly to your melted soap base. Because they’re powders, they sometimes sink to the bottom as the soap cools and don’t always give you uniform color throughout. That doesn’t bother me (even when I’m giving soap as gifts) and I much prefer it to artificial colors. Here’s what I use most often:
- Turmeric (yellow)
- Beet root powder (pink or red)
- Matcha Powder (light green)
- Spirulina (dark green)
- Iron oxide powder (rusty red)
- Micas (there are lots of different ones to choose from)
You should never use crayons or food coloring for your soap. Not only are they toxic and shouldn’t be applied directly to skin, but they’re not color fast so the color may fade quickly.
Fragrances aren’t a necessity, but they can make your soap more enjoyable to use.
My personal favorite, essential oils give your soap skin-soothing and aromatherapy benefits. Choose your oils based on your particular skin type (if you’re giving your soap as a gift, tailor the fragrance to your recipient) or the aromatherapy benefits you’d like to enjoy. Some of my favorite essential oils are:
- Lemon balm
- Sweet orange
A good rule of thumb is to use about 2 teaspoons (0.3 oz.) of scent per pound of soap base. If using essential oils, make sure to let your base cool slightly before adding your oil, otherwise you might degrade the fragrance.
Fragrance oils are skin-safe fragrances made specifically for use in bath and body products. While most are said to be “all natural”, brands don’t often disclose their ingredients so I’m skeptical. I prefer to stick with essential oils since it’s easier to tell exactly what’s in them.
Note that potpourri, craft, or candle fragrances should never be used in soap.
You’ll need to choose a mold that can withstand higher temperatures so it doesn’t melt from the heat of your soap base. Metal baking tins, muffin pans, silicone molds and wooden soap molds are most often used in soap making.
I prefer silicone molds with individual bar-sized cavities because they’re flexible, meaning you can easily pop out the cooled bars. They also come in fun shapes and sizes, which are perfect for storing in a glass jar in the bathroom or giving as gifts during the holidays. While they do have silicone soap molds, I often look for silicon baking or ice molds as well.
Wood and metal molds
Baking or muffin tins are perfect for making your own soap. Simply pour your melted soap base into the individual tins and allow it to cool completely. If your soap doesn’t pop out easily, place the tin in the freezer for 20 minutes then try again. You can also use large wooden or metal soap molds if you would like to create bars of soap with layers, marbling or patterns.
How to use Melt-and-Pour Soap
Like the name suggests, it’s as simple as just melting your soap base and pouring it into a mold. But there are a few basic supplies you might need:
- Microwave-safe bowl
- Soap base
- Essential oils and herbs/pigments
- Mold of your choosing
- Cut your soap base into small chunks and place them in a microwave-safe bowl or a Pyrex measuring cup
- Microwave your base in 30-second intervals until melted
- Let cool for a couple minutes before adding your fragrances and colorants. Stir to combine.
- Pour the soap into your mold of choice and let cool completely.
- When the soap is hardened, pop it out of your mold and enjoy right away!
Other helpful tools
- Scale – for measuring the exact amount of soap
- Cutting board and knife – for cutting your soap base into manageable cubes
- Measuring spoons – for adding oils or colorants
- Metal whisk – for mixing your additives
- Mixing bowls in various sizes – for keeping bases and colors separate
- Rubbing alcohol in spray bottle – a light spritz can help keep bubbles from forming in your soap
- Rubber spatula – to get the last little bit of soap out of your mixing bowl
- Cloths and paper towels – for cleaning up spills
One last thing…
Is Melt-and-pour Soap Safe?
Absolutely. But like other types of soap, melt-and-pour soap is only as safe as its ingredients. You should look for a high quality soap base that uses natural oils without any alcohol, artificial colors, scents or harmful products that may dry out your skin. I love this one because it uses natural ingredients without any fillers or chemicals, but there are lots of other brands out there. Feel free to try a few and see which one works best for you.293