Sunday, July 22, 2007

How To - Working with a Melt & Pour Glycerin Soap Base

Handcrafted Soaps

make a very personal and thoughtful gift. Be sure to experiment and try all of the wonderful variations of oils, butters, aromas and additives to personalize your very own soaps. You will never purchase 'store-bought' soap again!

To prepare melt-and-pour soap base, cut it into 2" cubes with a large kitchen knife. A heavy, wedge-shaped blade provides more control than a thin or serrated one. Use a cutting board. BE CAREFUL when cutting soap. Soap is slippery!

Fill a spray bottle -- a recycled travel-size hair spray container is perfect -- with ordinary rubbing alcohol (clear 70% isopropyl), and keep it handy when pouring your soap. You will spray your soap just after putting into molds to eliminate any bubbles that may form.

Place soap in a microwave-safe glass (like Pyrex) measuring cup and cover with plastic/cling wrap. This is important--it keeps moisture from escaping.

When melting your soap in a microwave, use the 50% setting, checking and stirring every few minutes until nearly all of the soap has melted. Remove from the microwave and let it sit (covered) until the remaining pieces melt. You may continue to stir gently, but try not to introduce bubbles.

A candy thermometer is highly recommended for melt and pour soapmaking. The soap should not be overheated or boiled!!! Also, many soap making molds should not be used at temperatures above 140 degrees.

If you're using colorant, goat's milk, tea infusions, oils or butters in your glycerin soap recipe, add them now and stir gently
(see below for help on adding ingredients to your base).

Do not add fragrance or essential oils until the mixture has cooled slightly.

Pour your soap into your molds (watch that temperature). Lightly mist the surface with rubbing alcohol to burst bubbles and prevent new ones from forming.

You can let your soap harden at room temperature, or you can put it into the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes. Freezing will not hurt the soap, but can make some soap molds brittle and prone to cracking.

Your soap is ready to be unmolded when the soap is cool and easily pulls away from the mold. Don't rush it. Gently release the soap onto a wax paper-covered surface, then cover it with more wax paper and a kitchen towel. Let it sit for 24 hours to ensure that it hardens properly.

Wrap your soap with plastic/cling wrap or smell through shrink wrap and label. It is recommended that you list the ingredients on your label and store away from direct sunlight. A bedroom closet is perfect, the scent will greet you each time you open the door.

Adding Other Ingredients:

Water: When using glycerine soap base and water is called for, always use distilled water.

Liquids, in general: Do not add more than 1/4 cup of liquid per 1 lb of soap base.

Oils and Butters: Up to 2 tablespoons of oils and/or butters per 1 lb of soap base.

Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils: ½ to 1 oz per 1 lb of soap base (subject to personal taste).

Goat's Milk Powder: 1 tablespoon per 1 lb of soap base. Before adding to melted soap base, reconstitute goat's milk powder by gradually combining it with no more than ¼ cup lukewarm water. Begin by making a paste, mixing a small amount of warm water with the powder. Continue mixing and adding the remaining warm water until the desired quantity and consistency is achieved.

Dye Colorant: A wide range of color depth may be achieved with less than ½ oz of liquid dye per lb of soap. For best control, gently blend 10-20 drops at a time into your melted soap base and watch the results.

Dried Botanicals: (Lavender Buds, Calendula Petals, Chamomile Flowers, etc). Add these as late as possible--right before pouring into molds (as the soap begins to thicken, but before it skins over). This is a little tricky, but it helps suspend the botanicals so that they do not sink. You'll get a feel for it. Hint: Grind your Lavender Buds before adding them to your soap base--the whole buds are not as attractive.

Have fun!

-- Debbi at

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