The Different Methods of Soapmaking
The art of Soapmaking has existed since Ancient Babylon, 2800 B.C. The rise in handmade soap businesses and the interest itself in handcrafted products is due in part to our growing awareness regarding chemicals and their toxic effects. Many people recognize the value in purchasing ethical and sustainable products, not just for our benefit, but for that of the environment.
There are four types or methods of making soap, and there are pros and cons for each. The beauty of soapmaking is that you can start with any form, build your skills, and then try a different way. I began with melt & pour (MP), as most people do, then I moved on to the Cold Process method. However, first things first, the different ways of soapmaking:
1. Soap Casting – commonly referred to as Melt & Pour (MP), is the process by which pre-made soap bases are melted, are combined with colorants, fragrances, and other additives, and finally poured into the soap mold of your choice. MP soaps are usually ready to use within hours of pouring. There is NO cure time involved.
2. Cold Process – is the most commonly used method of Soapmaking, which involves the combining of oils, fats, and sodium hydroxide (lye). Once combined the process of saponification takes place, its the name of the chemical reaction that lasts between 24 – 48 hours — finally, the cure time. Curing cold process soaps is usually 4 – 8 weeks, depending on your recipe. (Castille soap cure time is about 6 – 12 months.) During the curing phase, water evaporates from the soap making it harder, longer-lasting and preparing it for use.
3. Hot Process – is the second most common form of Soapmaking. It is the same procedure as the cold process method; the difference is that you combine all ingredients in a crockpot. Moreover, your soap is made in or “cooked” in a crockpot. There is also a cure time with Hot Process soap. However, there are two schools of thought on the matter of cure time. The first one is that cure time is significantly reduced using the Hot Process method. Therefore, cure time is roughly 1 – 3 weeks. The second school of thought is that cure time is the same as the Cold Process method, 4 – 8 weeks. The truth is you, as the Soapmaker, must make that call.
4. Rebatching –is also known as the “saving the ugly soap” method. In other words, sometimes a soap doesn’t come out as planned, and you don’t want to throw it away, and so you rebatch it – you melt it down (crockpot) and add other things to jazz it up, then you let it cure, again.
Handmade soaps are created via the four main methods discussed above. NO technique is better than another. Its all a matter of preference. The soaping community can be harsh at times, especially to new and inexperienced soapers. Take your time, learn as much as you can, and find a support group that will answer your questions, guide you and support you through the journey of making homemade soap.