STARTED WITH SOAP BASES
Melt-n-pour soap bases
are a near neutral substance (ph neutral) and require no specific
materials for the utensils you use when creating your soaps. You
can choose to make small batches, simply using a microwaveable
bowl or jug, or larger batches, where a saucepan on a hob is more
practical. Whatever you are doing, the most important thing to
remember is not to overheat your soap base. You need only heat
it until it melts and no further (exceptions to this rule are
the Natural or Organic bases which should be heated to 75degC
to avoid 'blooming' in the finished soaps). Cutting the soap bases
into small chunks will help this, especially if using a microwave,
although small chunks will melt far easier with any method used,
so it's worth the time in doing this.
If using a microwave
it is unlikely that you will be able to melt enough soap to make
more than 3-4 bars. Most mass produced moulds for bar-sized soaps
will contain about 70g of soap, so use this as a guide when weighing
out your soap base for melting if you are going to be using a
mould. With the soap cut into small chunks and put into a suitable
sized microwaveable container, simply use the microwave on full
power for a few seconds at a time, checking to see when the chunks
have melted fully. Around 15 seconds for a single soap bar batch
using a typical domestic microwave is a guide, but check yourself,
as microwaves vary considerably and overheating is easy using
Once melted you need
to work fairly fast, as a skin will start to form quite quickly
on the surface of the soap. It is whilst the soap is fully melted
that colour, fragrance and any other additions such as irridescent
powder or dried flower petals etc are added. Simple food colours
can easily be used, as can liquid soap colours and other water-soluble
liquid colour bases. Obviously the depth of a particular colour
is dependent upon how much is used. Don't be tempted to over-colour
your soaps, especially if using clear soap bases, as the transparency
of the finished soap will be affected if too much colour is used,
plus, coloured lather in use is off-putting. Fragrance can be
added either using essential oils or simple fragrance oils, which
are available in a huge range of tempting fragrances these days.
Again, strength of fragrance is dependent upon the amount added.
For a meaningful fragrance, around 20ml fragrance per Kilo of
soap (2%) is sufficient, so a few drops per single bar is fine.
As a guide, a maximum of 3% fragrance addition is generally advised.
Irridescent powders or glitters will sink to the bottom of a mould
if added in too-larger amount, so be sparing for best results.
You will need to stir
in all these additions fairly quickly and pour into whatever mould
you are using before a skin forms as this will spoil the finish
of the final bar. There is nothing to stop you from quickly re-heating
the mixture whilst it is still in its microwaveable container,
but remember that a few seconds is all it will need. Too much
heat will evaporate the fragrance, so avoid this if you can.
Try not to intoduce
bubbles into the soap mixture as this will also spoil the final
appearance. The mixture starts to set quite quickly, trapping
any bubbles or other imperfections, which is especially problematic
when using a clear base to make a transparent soap. If you are
able to obtain any form of denatured alcohol (rubbing alcohol
is available from some chemists) you will find that 'spritzing'
the surface of the soap with alcohol immediately after pouring
will disperse surface bubbles and give a better finish. To obtain
TSDA (trade-specific-denatured-alcohol) which is the correct product,
you will require a license from HMRC. This license is free but
requires correctly applying for. Details of this can be found here.
If making larger numbers
of bars or maybe a loaf, it is much more suitable to use the direct
- heat method. That is to say, heat the required volume of soap
in a suitable pan on a hob. There is no need to go to the trouble
of using a double-boiler, but you must ensure you don't overheat
the soap, otherwise there is a risk that it could burn, although
you'd probably have to have a lapse of memory and leave it for
some time for this to happen. Use a thick-bottomed suacepan over
a low-medium heat.
Cut the soap into small
pieces to help it melt quickly and evenly. Gently heat over a
low-medium setting until the mixture is completely liquid. At
this stage and whilst still over a low heat, add the colour and
fragrance desired. It is at this stage that irridescent powders
can be added also, together with other additions for texture,
such as oatmeal or desiccated coconut, which are 2 examples of
useful and easily availble additions to give an exfoliating texture
The addition of extra
ingredients is more leisurely using this method, as continuous
low heat is available to keep the mixture from forming a skin.
Again, be careful not to introduce bubbles if at all possible.
Fragrance should be the last addition, as heat will cause some
evaporation. Again, work on around 20ml of fragrance or essential
oil per Kilo for a meaningful fragrance.
Once all ingredients
are added, pour carefully and slowly into the mould and allow
to cool. Larger quantities of soap will require longer time to
cool. The filled mould can easily be refrigerated to speed this
up. Support large moulds in a bed of sand or rice to prevent distortion.
Do not store your soap in a fridge or cold conditions once it's
set. Soap should be stored at normal room temperature and humidity
to minimise any 'sweating', which can spoil the surface of your
REMOVING SOAPS FROM
soaps from moulds is perfectly simple. Be sure to leave the soap
to cool completely. If using a suitable mass-produced mould, which
will have a shiny surface, the soap will release with slight pressure.
More complex or larger moulds can require some force. To help
remove a soap from a large or complicated mould, ensure it has
fully set and put it in the freezer until quite cold throughout
(don't actually freeze it), When you remove it from the freezer
the change in temperature on the surface of the soap will help
it release from the mould. This method can be especially useful
when making large loafs or slabs, which are to be cut by weight
or into bar sizes later.
There are a great many
household objects that can be used for simple moulds without having
the expense of buying specific ones. The best material is slightly
flexible, smooth surface plastic, like sandwich containers and
beakers. Small freezer containers are often a perfect bar size.
Also, if you want to pour the soap into a sheet for cutting into
shapes, a fairly rigid non-stick baking tray is fine, as plasitc
trays tend to warp with the heat when the soap is poured, causing
an uneven thickness in the soap sheet.
Very popular with soap-makers
these days are Silicone Moulds. There are a huge selection of
shapes and sizes of silicone baking moulds available, which are
non-stick and very flexible, so ideal for creative soap-making.
Having mastered the
technique af actually shaping, colouring and fragrancing soap,
there are a great many simple techniques to make your soaps more
MORE INTEREST IN
Melt-n-pour is so simple
it lends itself to experimentation. My first simple experimental
soap was a 'Jam Tart' soap, which was well received by small children
and a great way of adding a little fun to a childs bathtime. The
simple techniques of combining sheets of soap which can be separately
coloured and/or fragranced and easily rolled or shaped whilst
still slightly soft, with a separately coloured/fragranced soap
poured into or around the shape can result in a huge variety of
colours and appearances. Use opaque soap within a clear soap to
show off the colours and shapes within to their best.
The simplest technique
is to colour a small amount of opaque soap base and pour it into
a shallow mould. Once set, cut into small chunks or flakes. Make
up a complimentary coloured batch of clear soap base. Place the
chunks in the mould for the final soap and pour the second, clear
soap into the mould over the opaque chunks. This gives a simple
and effective appearance to an otherwise plain bar.
Pouring opaque coloured
soap into sheets and then slicing into thin lengths is easy to
do. These thin strips of soap can be easily shaped whilst still
soft into many different shapes, like spirals and barley-twists,
which again can be put within a mould before pouring a clear and
complimentary coloured soap over it.
'Swiss Roll' loafs
are also easy to achieve. Find a suitable loaf mould and measure
the length. Pour a sheet of coloured soap and cut it to the same
width as the mould is long. Let the sheet set for a while and
whilst still soft, roll it up loosely (or lay 2 or more different
coloured sheets on top of one another and roll together). Place
the roll into the loaf mould and carefully pour the clear soap
base into the mould, slowly, allowing it to flow between all the
gaps in the roll. Let set and slice for best effect.
My 'jam tart' soap
was simply made from a sheet of opaque white soap, coloured very
slightly with yellow soap colour to achieve a cream colour. The
sheet is cut using a pastry cutter into tart rounds and pushed
into the recesses of a non-stick baking tray that would normally
be used for real tarts or maybe Yorkshire puddings (you know the
type). This is left to set completely and then a second batch
of clear soap is coloured red and fragranced strawberry. This
is then poured into the cupped shapes in the baking tray and left
to set. The result is quite convincing.
Soaps can be poured
in layers of colour within either a large or small mould. Picking
out the detail of a delicate mould by pouring an opaque soap base
into the surface irregularities, letting it set and then pouring
another colour over it will leave a detailed 'picture' on the
surface of the soap bar. This is especially useful in enhancing
soaps with raised flowers or animals etc. on their top surface.
Melt & Pour soap
can be whipped into a smooth mouse-like substance whilst still
quite hot, usind an electric hand-whisk, then used as a convincing
'icing' on soap cakes or other toiletries like bath bombs. Simply
spoon the whipped soap over the area to be covered and spread
if required. Make sure to do this before it starts to set-up.
The 'iced' surface can easily be decorated before it forms a skin,
with glitter or flower petals etc..
There are soft forms
of Melt & Pour soap bases available (often known as bath butter
or 'ice cream' soap), which can be piped like a cream icing when
warm, which can be used to great effect when 'decorating' soap
Tip...To avoid 'bleeding'
of colours into each-other, use a 'pigment' in the soap which
is to be opaque. Pigments not being water soluble will not bleed
their colour, but they are only suitable if you accept that the
coloured soap will be opaque. (see our website for a list of pigments).
Tip... To help layered
soaps stick together better, wipe or spray the surface to be poured
on-to with either Alcohol or Witch Hazel.
Obviously, this is
a brief article and is intended as a guide to get you started.
Experiment yourself and you'll soom be making beautuful soaps.
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