Have you ever wondered how people make soap? Well, today I’m going to take you through the four different soap making methods. It’s super exciting stuff!
I’ll be pointing you to all of my best beginner recipes for each of the methods so that you can start making your own soap right away. But what I really want to do is share some of my insights in the hopes that this would encourage you to dip your toes into the world of soap. Absolutely anyone can do it, including you!
Cold Process Soap Making (CP Soap)
I want to start things with how to make soap using the cold process method. While it’s not the easiest or oldest technique, it is the most widely used today. It’s a great technique that allows you to create sharp, interesting looking soaps without much difficulty.
It does, however, require the use of lye. But fear not, my blog has everything you need to know about how to work with lye, but also how to keep yourself safe as well.
What Is Cold Process Soap?
CP soap (cold process), put most simply, is the process of converting fat into soap with an aqueous lye solution. This process is called saponification and is the basis for almost all soap except for those made with surfactants/detergents.
If you want to learn more about this mysterious chemical reaction, read my guide to saponification.
The benefit of this soap making method is you have more control over the ingredients used. If you’re looking for a soap recipe that is great for oily skin, you’ll find one. If you need a soap that will leave your skin super soft and smooth, you’ll find one.
Whereas with shop-bought soap, you’re kind of stuck with whatever ingredients the manufacturer has used, with whatever benefits or irritation they may or may not pass on to your skin.
Designing Your Own Cold Process Soaps!
There’s also the ability to design soaps yourself. I call this ‘formulating’ your soaps. You’ll need to make use of a soap calculator and get some experience following recipes under your belt first. But once you do the rewards are massive.
For more information on formulating, take a look at my soap calculator. You’ll find plenty of advice, hints, and tips on how to formulate your soap in the article below the calculator. Enjoy!
Soap Calculator & Formulation Guide
Select your chosen oils, along with the weight or percentage. The lye soap calculator will then show the total weight of lye and water required. The result can be instantly adjusted by changing your preferred superfatting level or water/lye ratio.
However, like everything in life, there are some cons. CP, along with hot process (below), are both very unforgiving. When you’re cooking, you can often be a bit liberal with your measurements and not worry too much. This is not the case with CP soap.
Measurements have to be exact, which is why I always recommend measuring in grams over ounces.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
When you’re making CP soap, anything you put in can make a difference. Some things, such as certain carrier oils and cosmetic butter, fragrance, and essential oils, active botanicals, and soap pigments can accelerate the saponification process drastically.
This is annoying because it means you have less time to work with your batter and requires either a trained eye, good reaction timing, or both.
There’s also the issue of balancing the PH of your soap. This can be tricky, but if you’re following one of my cp recipes you shouldn’t have a problem, I have handled that part for you. But nonetheless, you should always check.
To find out how to check the PH, as well as how to balance them better, take a look at my guide to PH balanced soaps.
If you’re a complete beginner, it’s likely you’ll need multiple attempts before you reach a product that you are happy with. But please, do not let this discourage or dissuade you. Soap making is a skill and a craft, just as much as learning a new language or how to play the piano.
It takes practice, but you absolutely CAN do it!
Mastering CP Soap Craft
Once you have the CP method down, all recipes will become second nature to you. You’ll be able to identify trace easily, spot ingredients that you know will affect the speed of saponification, and which ingredients to avoid entirely.
It’s all experience, but absolutely anyone can master this. It may sound daunting now, or you may not even know what some of this means, but as you explore and learn about the world of soap making, it will open up for you.
A great way to start is with a super simple recipe. One that has inexpensive ingredients. This will allow you to make mistakes without wasting too much money and feeling bad about it.
I made that mistake. I didn’t take things slow in my early soap making days. I’d get big ideas, spend a lot of cash on soap ingredients, only to end up with a gloopy mess and feel terrible about it.
A great first-time recipe would be my basic cp soap recipe for beginners. It’s palm free, and I’ve selected ingredients that are easy to work with, readily available, and relatively inexpensive. You shouldn’t have too much trouble getting your hands on them, no matter where you are in the world.
Hot Process Soap (HP Soap)
Now we come to the hot process soap. This one looks a little strange, but stick with me because it actually has some surprising benefits!
So when I first started making actual soap myself, I started with cold process. It’s without a doubt the most popular and favored soap making method around. However, a few years ago I decided it was time to delve into hot process.
What Is HP Soap?
So, what exactly is it?
Well, it’s a lot similar to the cold process method, but we’re applying heat. The idea is that the process of saponification can be sped up by the application of heat. This is actually quite amazing, as you can do much of the soap making process all in one day.
However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. I’ve found hot process soaps can look very rustic. The texture can be a little grainy looking.
While this doesn’t really affect the lather, the feel, or the quality of your soap, you have to be more careful about how to utilize the hot process method.
Soap With A Rustic Charm
If you’re looking to make exquisite soap with an artisanal vibe, or want to try and get creative and intricate with the aesthetics of your soaps, this method really isn’t for you. It has a very rough and ready vibe to it.
Nevertheless, I actually quite like how they look sometimes. There’s something very ‘cottage industry’ about it. Cozy, even. It takes me back to when I was a little girl, and my mom would make the most gorgeous pies.
Sure, they didn’t always look perfect, but they tasted amazing! Hot process soaps remind me of this feeling, of perfect imperfection.
A great example of one for you to try out is my lavender hot process soap. You’ll see right away what I mean when I say it’s a little rough and ready. But I really like the rustic look of this soap, and the lavender buds sitting on top makes it feel special to me. Not to mention it smells amazing and leaves my skin feeling so soft!
Making Liquid Soap
Last but not least, we have liquid soap. I won’t spend a huge amount of time talking about it here, because last month I wrote a pretty in-depth article about the different ways you can make liquid soap. If you need more info, definitely check it out.
What Is Liquid Soap?
So, liquid soap is basically what your bar is, but as a runny, free-flowing liquid with a viscosity that is higher than water. It’s easy to use, easy to travel with, and great for the whole family.
There are technically two ways to make liquid soap.
The first is a process much similar to hot process soap making. It’s the more traditional method of making liquid soap. It’s amazing, but can be time-consuming and does take some practice to perfect.
Take a look at my Liquid Castile Soap post to see it in action, video included!
Super Speedy Liquid Soap
The second is utilizing natural surfactants to turn ordinary distilled water into and interesting soap. Surfactants are essentially detergents. While some aren’t great for your skin, many are fine to use and even accepted in natural skincare.
This method also has the benefit of being lightning-fast and easy to do. Take a look at how I make liquid soap with surfactants in this post, you’ll see what I mean. It turns a 2-day process into 30 minutes of stress-free work!
But before I finish, it’s probably worth mentioning that you can pass on making your own liquid soap base and just buy it, much like how you can buy melt and pour soap base.
All that’s needed is to throw in some fragrance and perhaps a little soap dye and you have a gorgeous, customized liquid soap in seconds!
Melt and Pour Soap (M&P Soap)
Finally, I want to talk about the most popular form of soap making today, the melt and pour method. While a purist may say it’s not technically making soap, to me that’s a narrow-minded way of thinking.
There are so many weird and wonderful things that you can do with melt and pour that it absolutely needs to be part of your repertoire as a soap maker.
What Is MP Soap?
Melt and pour is the process of melting down a premade soap base that you can purchase on Amazon or at your local craft store.
The reason you have more freedom is that you can put anything in it without having to worry about whether or not it will make your soap batter rice, because that part has already been handled for you!
Usually, the base is a glycerine soap, but you can find castile melt and pour soap base easily as well. Once you’ve melted it down, you have a lot of freedom over what you can do with it.
Weird And Wonderful Creations
With so many shades of liquid dye and pretty much every scent imaginable available in the form of fragrance oil, your creativity is your only boundary here.
I’ve seen melt and pour soaps that look like watermelons, strawberry cheesecakes, planets and stars, blueberry muffins, mermaids and so much more!
There are also a ton of active botanical ingredients you can add to your melt and pour soaps to give them some lovely benefits.
Usually, M&P soap base is only good for cleansing, but if you add the right ingredients you can take your soaps to the next level.
Taking Your Melt & Pour Further
A great example of this is my Shea Butter M&P Soap With Lavender And Sandalwood. I used a wonderful base that was pre infused with shea butter for some lovely skin softening properties.
But I took this soap to the next level by adding lavender and sandalwood essential oils. I even threw in some lavender buds to make it look gorgeous.
There are lots of other things you can do. M&P soap can even be combined with cold process recipes to create super interesting looking soaps. Definitely, something to think about.
So that’s all I have time for you today. I really hope this inspires you to throw on your apron and start learning all about soap recipes.
There are so many resources here on my blog that will help you on your journey. Because that’s what learning to make soap actually is, a journey! You’ll have bumps on the road, but you’ll also have amazing successes.
This doesn’t even have to be that expensive or time-consuming. The only thing that’s stopping you from learning today is you!