Before I jump into the different ways to make soap, let’s chat for a quick second about saponification, or the chemical process that produces soap. The word saponification literally means “soap making” and it is a chemical reaction that occurs when a fat (acid) is mixed with a strong alkali (base). The reaction produces a salt (soap). Boom. There you have it. Now, you won’t be confused when you see that word later!
“Lye soap” has gotten a bad rep over the years due to a lack of knowledge on the soapmaker’s part. Those soaps were usually very harsh and irritating because there was still lye present in the soap.
FACT: All soap is made with lye. But, the lye is no longer present in the finished product.
There are essentially four ways to make soap. They are:
Melt & Pour: This is pretty self-explanatory. You purchase a soap base, melt it down and add whatever extras (ie, colorant, fragrance, etc.) you want. This is probably the easiest way to make soap and would be best suited to teach children. The shapes and designs are endless!
Cold Process: If you have a Granny that made her own soap, this is probably the way she did it. You take your fats, water and lye and mix them until they reach a pudding like stage (trace) then you add your extras and pour into a mold. CP soap has to cure for 4-6 weeks to ensure the lye is no longer present. One nice benefit of using the Cold Process is that the soap has a smooth texture and pretty swirls and designs are easier to achieve. Make sure you wear eye protection, a face mask, gloves and long sleeves any time you handle lye.
Hot Process: This process is basically the same as Cold Process except you add heat, go figure. The soap essentially cooks until all of the lye has saponified. I prefer this method because the soap is ready to use within 48 hours. It creates a more rustic final product, but I’m okay with that. Again, make sure to use protection when working with lye.
Rebatch / Milled: The rebatch or milling process is great for failed soaps or scraps. You essentially shred the already cured soap and melt it down to remold into new soap. This soap tends to have a bit of a brittle texture. This is a great way to use up miscellaneous soap ends as long as you don’t mind strange color and fragrance combinations!
My Favorite: I’m torn between Hot Process and Cold Process soap. I tend to lean more towards Hot Process because I’m very impatient and I want to try my new creations right away!
So, there you have it. The 4 ways to make soap in a nutshell! Check back soon to see the new soaps I’m working on!