Often times we get asked the question, how do you make soap? We simply answer our soaps are made by combining oils (olive, palm, coconut, etc.) with sodium hydroxide. Once the ingredients are combined, a chemical reaction takes place called saponification. The final result is soap, which is technically Sodium Palmitate (a salt) that has natural occurring glycerin in it (glycerol). So now that the process is out there, so what method do we use and how many are there? Well, you can make soap using the Cold Process (our preferred method), Hot Process or Melt & Pour method. Obviously, like everything each method has its pros and cons. So we will attempt to give you a brief overview of each, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each.
If you have heard stories about Grandma’s soap, then the method she used is “Cold Process” often referred to as “CP” soap. It is made by combining fatty acids (olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, etc.) together with sodium hydroxide (lye). All ingredients are then blended together until what is known as trace (everything is well mixed with no streaks of remaining oil) occurs. Most soapers add fragrance/essentials, color, herbs, etc. at the point. Once all ingredients are blended together, the soap is poured into molds. It then set up in the mold until hard enough to remove (generally within 24 hours). After it is removed, it is then cut and set out to cure for a minimum of 4 weeks before it is ready to use. During the curing process the soap hardens thus allowing for a mild, gentle bar of soap. Just like fine wine, the longer the soap cures, the better it is.
• Control over ingredients to use
• Ability to enhance bar with color swirls and layers.
• Cure time
• Precise measuring
• Sodium Hydroxide (lye) can cause severe chemical burn and should be stored carefully, particularly away from small children.
Hot Process or HP
In essence this method is the same as cold process, but heat is applied to accelerate saponification. The soap is therefore, thoroughly cooked until saponification is complete. Once this is achieved, the soap is then scooped into molds. We use the word scoop because often times HP soap, once it is cooked, is like gooey, taffy that can be difficult to transfer from the cooking pot to the mold. However, the cure time is not nearly as long as CP soap making.
• Shorten cure time, can generally used right after unmolding
• Just as CP, complete control over ingredients to use
• Color/design control is limited
• Need to work extremely fast because soap can rise out of pot
• Just as CP, Sodium Hydroxide (lye) concern
Melt and Pour or MP
MP soapmaking is made from a soap base. However, each soap base is not created equal. Therefore, many MP soap crafters have searched out and tested many bases that offer the same beneficial, skin-loving ingredients found in soaps made from the CP or HP method, which yields a mild, gentle bar of soap. In addition, the eye appeal creation is limitless.
• Can use soap immediately
• No use of Sodium Hydroxide
• Limited to base of choice