I recently received an inquiry from a lovely reader (I’m waving if you are reading this, PM!) about what method of soapmaking is the best one to get started with. And as all my perfectly amazing experienced soapmaking readers know, there isn’t really a right answer for that!
There’s primarily four types of soapmaking for bar soaps (in my opinion, anyhow): melt and pour, cold process, hot process, and milling. So, let’s talk about the different methods of soapmaking and why it just might be the best one… for you.
Melt and Pour Soapmaking
Commonly referred to as MP, melt and pour soap making is probably the easiest way to get started with soapmaking.
It’s as simple as buying a commercial premade base of soap, melting it down, adding in your goodies (like scent, color, botanicals, and more), and letting it set up.
Melt and pour soapmaking is perfect for you if you are afraid of handling lye for whatever reason (it’s really not that bad, I promise – there are hundreds of soapmakers who were once afraid and conquered that fear!)
The cool thing about melt and pour soap is that you can make translucent soap easily, and the design possibilities are actually get quite amazing.
Another plus side is that it’s a nice project to involve younger children in: I’ve made melt and pour soap with grade school aged children and scouting groups!
To get started, you need to purchase melt and pour soap base and anything you want to add to it. All soap bases are not created equal, most of the melt and pour soap bases at local craft stores are pretty crappy quality-wise. I recommend Bramble Berry, SFIC (many suppliers carry SFIC bases, hit up Google!), or Crafter’s Choice.
I don’t tend to blog about melt and pour soapmaking, so if you are looking for a good resource, you are in the wrong place. 😉 Soap Queen has a lot of melt and pour tutorials, including this rundown on melt and pour soapmaking.
Cold Process Soapmaking
Ahhhhhh, now we’re talking my language. 😉 Commonly referred to as CP Soapmaking, cold process soapmaking is making soap completely from scratch.
Yes, that means you are getting your sticky paws on lye and fats (oils and butters), and magically creating soap.
Well, it’s not really magic, but chemistry and art twisted into one extremely fun package of addiction.
The possibilities in cold process soapmaking are truly endless: you get to control every single ingredient you use (as long as you are using an alkali to fulfill the chemistry side of the process!)
I highly recommend reading a couple books (click here + scroll down to the bottom for my recommendations!) and/or taking a thorough cold process soapmaking class before you dive in, as it does require special safety practices and an understanding of a somewhat complicated scientific process.
Once you get a handle on the basics, I’m your girl – you’ll find plenty of recipes, tutorials, and resources here on Modern Soapmaking.
Plus, cold process soapmaking is probably the most popular method of soapmaking, so there are a TON of resources out on the web, including Soap Queen, Rebecca’s Soap Delicatessen, The Nerdy Farmwife, and Miller Soap. (And so many more…)
The downfall to cold process soapmaking is that it really has revolutionized over the past few decades, so some of the information you may find out there in books or online should really be taken with a grain of salt.
This method is perfect for you if you are interested in controlling all the ingredients in your soap, and have an interest in combining art and science!
Hot Process Soapmaking
Commonly referred to as HP Soapmaking, hot process soapmaking is almost exactly the same thing as cold process soapmaking, except a source of heat is used to accelerate the chemical reaction that creates soap (saponification.)
Hot process soapmaking rewards the soapmaker with soap that is ready sooner than cold process soap, but it can be more difficult to achieve swirls and complex design patterns that you’ll find in cold process soap. Modern day pioneers are finding ways around this problem in hot process soapmaking, though!
Jen Grimes of Loft Soap (who teaches at The Nova Studio) is the first person I think of when someone asks me about hot process soap, she loves hot process soapmaking the way I love cold process soapmaking. Again, it’s not the method I tend to use, but it doesn’t make it any less awesome!
Hot process soapmaking is great for the impatient soapmaker who wants to use fragrances that misbehave in cold process soap, or want a soap that is ready to use much sooner.
Also known as French Milling or Rebatching, this type of soapmaking is a combination of all the other methods, in the simplest form.
Most milled soap makers create their own cold process or hot process soap, and then remake it by shredding or grating the soap down, melting it by applying heat, and then adding color, scent, or other additives before molding it. However, it is entirely possible to purchase premade cold process or hot process soap to use for milling or rebatching.
While it’s not a very popular method, it’s perfect for the soapmaker who wants to craft true handmade soap creations without a lot of involvement with caustic lye solution, especially if they purchase premade cold process or hot process soap.
There are quite a few books out there that feature milled soap recipes and tutorials, but I don’t have any websites to recommend, unfortunately!
What method of soapmaking do you use and why?
Leave me a comment below, and tell me what’s up: what kind of soap do you make, and what do you love about it? There are so many different kinds of soapmakers out there, and I think they are all pretty fabulous people! 😉