Thursday, March 16, 2006

Making Melt and Pour Soap

By Christina VanGinkel

I made my first batch of glycerin-based melt and pour soap several years ago when my brother was having difficulties finding a soap that did not bother his skin, still lathered up well, and left the skin soft and moisturized. Someone had mentioned to him that he should try a glycerin-based soap and the rest was history as they say.

I not only made a batch of the soap, I have since made several more, and even taught a local youth group through a hands-on class how to make it, with each child taking home a bar to use that holiday season as a gift.

What is so fun about making glycerin melt and pour over other traditional soap making methods, is that it is so quick and easy; you probably already have most everything needed to make it except for the melt and pour blocks and a scent oil if you are wanting to make your batch scented in your kitchen.

I will walk you through making a batch of glycerin-based melt and pour soap, but take the following warning to heart. If you make one batch of this soap, you will most likely want to make another batch before the first one even dries!

To start, purchase one block of unscented melt and pour glycerin, manufactured for making soap. It comes in clear blocks, white blocks, and tinted blocks. I would recommend you use the clear for your first batch. Depending on the size of block you buy, you will want to cut it down to about one quarter of a pound. When you are more comfortable with the melting process, you can try larger batches. You will also need something to use to melt the soap in a microwave, preferably a glass bowl. You can use plastic, but keep in mind that you will never be able to use the container for anything else. Once you melt the soap in a plastic container, the soap seems to permanently adhere to the plastic. You will also need a spoon for stirring it as it melts, a wooden long handled spoon works well, but again, keep in mind that once you stir soap with it, but you will not want to use it for any food preparation again. Finally, you will need a mold to pour it in for it to cool. You can purchase soap molds, but my favorite mold is actually a plastic tube that potato chips come in, washed, and dried. You will also need a pair of heavy-duty scissors if using this last recommendation to cut the container apart once the soap has set up.

If you want, you can also add a colorant made for soap, scented oil, again, of a grade that is safe for cosmetic uses. I prefer to go all natural, keeping the soap base clear except for possibly adding ingredients such as dried goat's milk (a natural emollient) or kelp (I would not recommend this on a first batch though, as it has a tendency to clump up, so it must be first stirred and mixed well with a bit of water before adding). For fu, you can add a small plastic toy, such as a rubber duck to the mold as you pour it. Just make sure that you have enough melted to cover it, and to let the soap cool thirty to sixty seconds before adding.

Take your soap base, place it in the glass bowl, and microwave. Melt the soap base only until the center looks like a bit of hard residue is still present. It should finish melting as you stir it. Do not boil the glycerin base, as this will severely affect how well the soap lathers. Take it out of the microwave and stir it until it is completely melted. If you are going to add any scent, colors, or ingredients such as goat's milk, stir it in now. Pour it into your choice of mold and let cool until it is hardened. This can take several hours, but for best results, let it harden overnight at least. If you want to add a small rubber toy, pour a small amount of the mix into the mold, and let it, set up for about thirty seconds or so. Keep stirring the remaining mixture, and if necessary, put back into the microwave for a few seconds, but avoid this if possible. Place the toy down into the mixture you already poured into the mold, and then pour the remaining mixture over the toy until it is covered.

When the soap is set, remove it from the mold. If you use a traditional plastic soap mold, invert and push out with care to not damage the design. If you use a potato chip sleeve or some other small plastic container, you may have to cut it away to release the soap. I also cut mine into thinner slices when using the chip container with an old-fashioned potato slicer. If you do cut yours, do so with care, as it can slip easily. A wire cheese slicer is also good for slicing soap. Small Tupperware containers that come in various shapes make good molds; again keep in mind that once this soap is exposed to anything plastic, it is almost impossible to remove the smell of the soap though, so only use items with it that you have no desire to ever use in food preparation again.

Once you are comfortable with the melting process, you can experiment with adding even more ingredients, making some specialized bars of soap that are fun to use and give as gifts.

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