What a way to start the new year! A friend and I got together to try two methods of making melt and pour soap at home. I teach melt and pour classes and sell melt and pour soaps. Since I have to label everything and would have to use a list of ingredients that doesn’t necessarily fit in with my business motto of having all ingredients understandable and pronounceable by customers, the idea of making it at home was really appealing. Also, it is expensive to ship which increases costs of my products and classes. With shipping, it costs almost $4 per pound of melt and pour base. A pound makes about 4 bars of soap.
Experiment #1 In the first picture on the left is a bottle of Everclear, one of the ingredients in the first soap shown to the right of the bottle. This is basically a soap with alcohol, glycerin and sugar water added to achieve transparency and the ability to melt and repour the soap with fragrance and color. We made one big block of soap and poured some samples into round soap molds. In the picture at right, you can see how much text you can read through a quarter-inch soap sample. Not perfectly clear but you can read through it. The soap does not sweat and has lovely lathering and bubble properties.
My big mistake was watching the video days before our experiment and relying on the recipe on the Big Day. I left out some steps and put all the ingredients together at once. The soap still came out great. What did I leave out? The part where you cook the soap before adding the alcohol and sugar water.
I would make this recipe again in exactly the same way. My friend and I disagree on whether the cooking part was necessary. If done using a cold-process method, the soap is, in my opinion, ready to use pretty much after unmolding and the primary reason for a “cure”, or period of time to let the soap sit, is for it to release moisture and become harder and longer lasting. It also “loses weight” before labeling for sale. Heating the soap evaporates some of the water content sooner and thus makes it ready to use almost immediately as a fully dried soap.
Understanding this may be easier after I read a book by a man named Kevin Dunn on the science of soapmaking. It should be arriving tomorrow. We did another experiment based, purportedly, on one of his theories.
This soap has actually dried and shrunk in the couple of days since it was made. It’s not very cost effective: it came to about $7 per pound and most of the expense was the Everclear at about $20 for 750 ml. Plus, I read somewhere that soaps made with alcohol vs. propylene glycol could not be melted as many times and the propylene glycol is cheaper. Some people with eczema may find propylene glycol to be an irritant and I know that ingestion can cause kidney problems in pets. Seems to me the alcohol method is the way to go. Maybe I can get better prices at BevMo if I buy my Everclear by the case!
Experiment #2 was conducted by melting cold process soap scraps in the microwave with glycerin in accordance with the procedures shown in this video. The video maker tried 50%, 75% and 100% soap-to-glycerin ratio and recommended the 75% so that’s what we tried. The soap we used consisted of trimmings from my soaps that had a variety of colors, fragrances and other additives and came out brown, as expected, because of the mix of colors. The fragrance seemed to boil off during the experiment.
The brown block you see in the photo above is the result. The color is actually a beautiful, rich brown that would go well with a coffee fragrance. Unfortunately, it turned out extremely greasy. There is so much oil and/or glycerin weeping out of the soap that there is actually a small puddle at the bottom of the block. It has properties like a melt and pour soap in that it is flexible. It lathers fine. All the soap scraps used were aged and relatively moisture free. Some Melt and Pour soaps “sweat” with condensation but this is clearly not water. If I drag my finger across the bar, it is clearly oily and when I rub it on my skin, it feels kind of waxy. I think it is the glycerin. Maybe trying this technique at the lower percentage is warranted.
Can I save the soap? I hate to let anything go to waste and may mix it with some of the other soap to see if it can be balanced out. Will also try the 50% glycerin method to see if that is effective.
What’s next? Melting and Pouring, of course! I have a project in mind and will be getting to it tomorrow, I hope.