Soap Making Basics - Oops! Learn from My Mistakes
Oh the mistakes I’ve made. Luckily, I’m here to share with you the do’s and don’ts of making Melt and Pour soap (Cold Process do’s and don’ts will come later after more trials).
Fortunately, there’s not much to mess up on in MP soap. The saponification process has already occurred, and you don’t need to handle lye. You can even craft MP soap with the kiddos!
So, what can you really mess up on?
Heres a few things:
1.) Fresh Ingredients - This was my first mistake. I made a beautiful green tea and lemon soap with organic green tea, local honey, and FRESH lemon peel. I was impressed with the soft texture of the soap, and the smell! It was heavenly. Until about three to four days later when the soap started to turn brown. Yes. Brown. What on earth? Just like any fresh ingredients that you leave on the counter, they will turn brown, decay, and rot. Welp, that’s what happened to that first batch of soap! Lesson 1 learned, no fresh ingredients in MP soap.
2.) Flower Petals - Flower petals (dried) are a great additive to soap. They create color, texture, exfoliation, and add scent. However, their beauty can, like fresh ingredients, turn brown in soap. Rose petals and lavender flowers are notorious for turning not so aesthetically appealing colors while mixed into soap. Rose petals will turn black, like they were burned. Lavender flowers will turn grayish brown. Definitely NOT the look you are going for! If you want to use flower petals, the best way to incorporate is to use them as an accent on top of your soap, not inside. Lesson 2 learned, no flower petals IN soap. (Calendula is an exception, it does not typically change color.)
3.) Color - Oh boy, did I mess this one up. Color can be a tricky thing, if you’re working with liquid dyes. ALWAYS start with a drop or two and add more accordingly. I’m the impatient type and a free spirit, so I just kinda dabbled in soapmaking like cooking. A splash here, a squirt there. Welp, that doesn’t work so well for soap. Soap crafting is a science really. Very precise measurements are required. If you add too much colorant it can a.) create a colored lather b.) stain porous materials c.) color your favorite towels. Just remember, less is more!
4.) Fragrance - There’s a reason why you should use a fragrance calculator. Brambleberry.com has a great one. Why do you need to calculate the usage of your frangrance? If you happen to add too much fragrance it can a.) change the consistency of your soap b.) irritate the skin. This is also very important for not only fragrance oils, but especially essential oils. Since essential oils are highly concentrated, the effects of their “benefits” can be counter productive if used in abundance. Always consult a fragrance calculator and as a general rule of thumb, no more than 2% of EO per 1lbs of oils.
5.) Additives - Extra oils and plant extracts can be a great addition to your soap. Like Aloe for example. You can use the fresh gel from a leaf in many homemade bath products. If you do, just remember that this will shorten the shelf life of the soap. Adding extra oils can be a nice addition and add a unique touch to your brand. If you add more oils, add sparingly. If you add too much, this will affect the consistency of your soap and the lather. Ask me how I know!
6.) Burnt Soap - When working with MP soap, it’s important to make sure you cut up your soap to about equal and small workable chunks. Always do 20-30sec bursts in the microwave (if you have more than a couple ounces) and check. Going any longer can scorch the soap base and change the consistency. It becomes tacky and may give off an odor. You paid good money for your base, don’t rush and ruin it now!
7.) Imbeds - Imbeds add an interesting touch and looks beautiful when done correctly. Be sure to use 99% rubbing alcohol and spritz your Imbeds liberally. This will ensure that the different soaps stick together. When working with an Imbeds you need to suspend, be sure to place your imbed down on a layer of soap and lightly press down to “glue“ it in place. You dont need your imbeds floating away to the top! Also, work at a temperature of about 125 degrees so that your soap base doesn’t melt your imbeds.
So there you have it. The 7 lessons I learned probably all within a week of making my first MP soap projects. Ha! Don’t worry if you happen to make mistakes that I haven’t listed here. It‘s all part of the experience. The important thing is to have fun, be creative, and write down what you did (ie a recipe) so you can look back and say whoa! that was an awesome bar of soap! Or... Oops! Won’t do that again!