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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Making Soap at Home - Part 1

These past few months I've been researching how to make my own soap from home. There are several different processes to choose from when making soap - Melt and Pour (MP), Cold Process (CP), Rebatching and Hot Process (HP).

The MP method was pretty simple to master.  I had a lot of fun creating designs and learning techniques to form my soaps. As you can see from previous posts with photos, I am pretty impressed with myself! The MP method is straight-forward in that you purchase your soap base, melt it, color it, scent it and then mold/pour it into fun and artistic shapes. Once the soaps harden (which takes anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour) they are ready for packaging and use. Simple? Yes.

And no.

It does have its drawbacks, and I can't say I wasn't warned by other soap bloggers...

"It's not real soap!" they said. "It will dry out your skin!" "What will it look like in a few weeks?" "The detergents are not natural!"

Why would they squelch my new-found happiness, my new hobby, my fun? Did they just not want another soaper in the world?  I ignored them, politely thanked them for their advice and went elsewhere to blog.  It wasn't until a few weeks after I had made my first batches of MP soaps that I began to experience the signs of my inexperience.

See in the first photo the beautiful embedded colors in my fancy layered soap? Now look at the second photo. The colors are "bleeding" into each other, making for a not-so-crisp, ugly soap. Had I sold this soap on eBay and the buyer not used the soap right away, I would have had an unhappy buyer, wouldn't I? What if the buyer bought it, wrapped it and saved it for a Mother's Day gift? Would you give this soap to your mom? Oh my.

I now know there are special colorants made for soap that are "non-bleeding" colors. Duh - why would they even make the ones that bleed in the first place?

Here's another example of how my gorgeous soaps are morphing over time. The colors are changing, and not in a good way. See the overall browning and discoloring in the second soap photo below? Ewww. I have no idea what has caused the color to darken in spots and make the beautiful pink disappear, but I suspect the embeds contain vanilla scent. Vanilla is known to darken a batch of soap over time unless a stabilizer is used.  I happen to LOVE vanilla fragrance, so I will try it again with the stabilizer and then let you know how it goes. What a shame. All my time, energy and $$$ down the drain.

I really like the MP method, and most of my soaps still look great - especially the gemstones! It depends on the type of colors you use and the fragrance. Also I've found them to be very drying to my hands. My hands for three weeks were raw and dry. Now that I've been making CP and HP soap, I sense my hands feeling softer and not dried out.

The CP method is trickier. And I will post at a later date to explain what I've learned so far about the CP method. I've made a batch already and have set it out to cure.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Turquoise and Opal Soap Stones

Here's how my turquoise stones came out. I just love them! I used a potato peeler to shape them, then smoothed out by hand and spritzed with alcohol for sheen. Voila!

And here is my interpretation of Opal:

Doing It Right

This week I am researching soap bases to determine which bases are the best products for soaps. I've learned that the product I've been using from a local craft store qualifies not as a soap but as a cosmetic due to the detergents it contains.

How horrible! I thought glycerin soap was moisturizing and gentle, not drying and chemical-laden.  To learn this is a blow to my efforts. The soaps I've made are so pretty I'd hate to think they will dry out my skin. Okay then I won't bathe with them, I will use them as hand/guest soap. I am now looking into a product from, which lists more natural ingredients for it's soap bases. I will have to purchase some and test out the product.

I'd love to make my own but I am too afraid to experiment with lye with kids in the house. Let me do some more research and I'll share what I've learned.

In the meantime, I have some glycerin soap base to use up so I will be making some batches today.  What a fun way to spend a snowy April Fool's stormy day in New England!