Within the soap making industry there are two processes that are a main focus. These are Cold Process and Melt & Pour, both uniquely amazing, with wonderful characteristics to help you create your own beautiful soap creations and develop your understanding and skills for the craft.
Tips for Cold Process Soap Making
Once you've mastered the basics of Cold Process Soap Making there are many more advanced techniques you will want to learn. To help avoid mistakes and disappointment here are a few basic tips to get you going...
1. Never over-colour your soap. Too much dye or pigment will bleed out into the lather in use which can be off-putting. Lather should be white, not coloured.
2. If you do want to get a good depth of colour into a soap, try adding it as a 'splash' of colour or a 'swirl' of colour, leaving most of your soap uncoloured. This will minimise any bleed of colour in use. To do this, add your fragrance material to the whole batch before colouring, then pour MOST of the batch into the mould leaving a small amount. Add the colour to this small amount, then pour it into the remainder. How you choose to pour will result in something that can look like swirls of colour, or splashes of colour. You can use this technique with larger batches to create a 'marbled effect.
3. Most 'pretty' botanicals do not hold up well in cold process soaps. The high pH and the water content turns them brown and unattractive. If you want to use delicate botanicals like flower petals or buds, don't mix them into the soap, but rather press them onto the surface of the soap once it has had a chance to gel, which can be 2-3 hours after pouring it into the mould. Simply uncover your mould, add your botanicals on the surface, press gently into place and re-cover, being careful not to loose too much of the precious heat in the soap when you're doing this.
4. Ground spices are excellent as natural pigments and exfoliants. Many shades of beige/brown are very easy to achieve (ground cinnamon or nutmeg) as are earthy yellows-to-oranges (turmeric, paprika). Coarser ground spices add mild exfoliation as well as an interesting appearance.
Tips for Melt & Pour Soap Making
Melt & Pour soap making is a completely different craft to cold process soap making where you use a pre-manufactured base, either transparent or opaque (white). It can be extremely creative with colours, shapes and layers being very easy to achieve. Once you have mastered the simple and basic techniques here's a few tips to help you on your way...
1. If layering different colours, choose to use 'pigments' and not 'dyes'. This is because dyes have much smaller particle size and will bleed into adjacent layers, whereas pigments will stay put.
2. When adding additional layers, help them stick together by lightly scoring the top of one before pouring the next. It also helps to spritz the surface of the first layer with denatured alcohol, wiping it clean with a dry cloth before pouring the next layer. If you don't have access to denatured alcohol, distilled witch hazel will also work well.
3. When pouring your melted soap into a mould there will be air bubbles rising to the surface which can spoil the finished appearance. To get rid of these simply spritze with denatured alcohol immediately after pouring, before a skin forms and see the bubbles disappear.
4. When making really creative soaps such as cake or cup cake soaps, you will probably want to add various moulded parts together to form the finished creation, such as an 'icing swirl' on to the base and then maybe some 'chocolate soap' curls or other smaller decorations. To have these stick together simply keep some transparent melted soap to hand and use it to stick things together as you might do with a hot melt glue in other crafts.
5. Melt and Pour soap base gets quite 'thin' when heated and this can make adding heavier things difficult, as they tend to sink-out, or lighter additions might want to float. Even basic techniques such as including glitters and poly-jewels, or maybe oatmeal or seeds/pulses can result in them sinking or floating. If you want to successfully add these types of things to your melt and pour soaps, choose to use a 'suspending' soap base, which is formulated to keep these in place.