When my aunt suggested we make homemade soap together, I shrugged my shoulders, “Sure.” I was born to a pair of college students living in a student dorm, so I spent a large portion of my childhood being babysat by an assortment of relatives. The upside of this was that I got to learn a lot of different things from many different people. The downside was that I wasn’t really interested in learning how to make homemade soap; all I really wanted to do was stay home with a book.
That very well could have been my one and only chance to try my hand at soap making, if not for my sudden obsession with natural living. And when I heard that my husband’s relatives have a soap-making business, I thought, Wait a minute, I can make soap too! Plus, at this point, I got tired of paying $10 for a bar of all natural soap at Whole Foods.
The only problem was that I didn’t remember much about soap making. Most people, when in doubt, go on the internet, I avoid screen time like a plague, so I went to the library and got myself a nice and worn out copy of Essentially Soap: The Elegant Art of Handmade Soap by Dr. Robert McDaniel. I learned that there are essentially two ways to make soap: (A) completely from scratch with lye and all or (B) with a soap base. Lye is a highly caustic and harmful ingredient that (supposedly) becomes harmless after it goes through the process called, saponification. But, in handling lye you are instructed to wear a mask, goggles and gloves. It’s also recommended to remove all small children from the working area. Since I have a full house of small always running children, I had to go with plan B: melt and pour method.
Just like it sounds, the melt and pour method means you melt the soap base and pour it into the mold. You are done. If it sounds to you like this method is not hands-on enough, consider this: many professional soap-makers use melt and pour exclusively. The beauty of this method is that you can go wild with experimentation. Rose petals, salt, lemon oil. Throw it all in! How would it look with cocoa? Let’s find out! What about some oats? Sound good! For us, it became a nice afternoon project to do with the kids. Plus, we are all extra clean now. Just exercise the same safety precautions as in baking cookies together.
The only trouble with melt and pour soap base is finding a good, natural base to melt. After all, the goal of making a homemade soap, for me, was to avoid bad chemicals and artificial fragrances, so I really didn’t want to end up with something Dove bar is made of. (I’m not picking on Dove Beauty Bar by any means, just look up the ingredients. You will be shocked). So, after a bit of research I decided I needed something free from parabens, sulfates, MPGs, propylene glycol and PEGs (Beyond Parabens: seven common cosmetics ingredients you need to avoid), basically, all the ingredients commonly found in commercial soap. I ended up buying Shea Butter Stephenson Melt and Pour Soap Base. It claimed to be made from natural ingredients, and when I run each ingredient through Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) database they all came classified as “not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful.”
Homemade Soap the Easy Way
What you need
(that’s all you really need)
Fragrance (essential oils)
Herbs/Salts (Himalayan Pink salt, lavender and wheat grass)
Note on molds:
Silicone molds are best, but you can use anything, even a bread pan, just remember to line it with a parchment paper for easy removal.
Note on additions:
Possibilities are truly endless.
- I really like the combination of hibiscus powder and rose oil. (Unfortunately, a recent home experiment showed that my rose oil is far from pure).
- I buy culinary lavender in large quantities so there is always a surplus of it in my house and it’s the first ingredient I stuff in everything, especially in soap. Together with lavender oil it’s bliss.
- The wheat grass is nice to use. I buy it fresh and dry it between the pages of a heavy book before use.
- Himalayan pink salt, corn meal and powdered oats add a wonderful scrubbing quality to soap.
- Natural colorants: the easier the process, the better in my opinion. I love plain white or cream colored soap. It’s perfect! But if you look for a bit of variety or find yourself in an experimental mood there is a wide range of natural ingredients that are perfect for coloring your soap. Turmeric, coffee, cocoa, red clay powder, hibiscus powder, cinnamon.
- Cut soap base and melt in a pan of hot water. You can also melt the soap base in the microwave. It takes about 30 seconds for 8oz and if you don’t watch it, it might boil over like milk.
- Optional: add essential oils and colorants. Stir.
- Pour mixture into molds.
- Cool the soap and remove from molds.
My favorite Handmade Soaps
I don’t drink coffee in any form, but I love the smell of coffee. There is nothing like a morning shower with a coffee soap, in my opinion.
- Melt the soap base.
- Add a few spoons of coffee.
- Pour into the mold.
Kids tastes are always changing, but this soap remains my kids’ #1 pick. Learning not to eat it is perhaps the hardest part of the whole process.
- Melt the soap base.
- Add a few spoons of cocoa powder.
- Pour into the mold.
So relaxing before bed or any time during the day when kids needs some quiet time. I like to give each of my kids a bar of lavender soap, load them all in a bathtub and do some relaxing yoga stretches on the floor in front of the tub. The combination of steam and lavender calms down even the most hyper child.
Safety precaution: I wouldn’t try this project with kids younger than 5 just because their body coordination is still developing and they might possibly upset the hot soap. With older kids still exercise vigilance. You don’t see photos of my kids handling soap in this post because I didn’t want the camera to distract me from watching them properly. But overall, it’s a fun project to do with kids and there is lots of laughter as they add oils and colorants and stir it together. Handmade soap smells extra good. And of course, bath time with handmade soap is always a huge hit!
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