Beginner's Guide To Working With Glycerine Melt & Pour Soap
Cold process soap is made by combining oils with lye or sodium hydroxide which then go through a process called saponification (essentially, turning into soap); the whole thing can be a little daunting for those new to soaping.
But with melt & pour soaping, the soap base has already been through the saponification process and is specially designed to be remelted. You can simply melt the soap base, pour it into molds then leave to set. It really is perfect for beginners as well as for kids wanting to try something fun. Melt & pour soaping has other advantages too: it doesn’t have the 6-8 weeks of cure time necessary for cold process soaps, and scents and colours from essential oils and colouring agents will be brighter as they are not exposed to the caustic conditions of CP soap
There are a few disadvantages however. Due to the nature of a melt & pour soap, it contains some synthetic ingredients, so you don’t have complete control of the ingredients as with cold process soap. You also may not be able to make pretty coloured swirls in the soap, like you can with cold process soap, as the melted base is less viscous than CP soap and swirls tend to sink.
Glycerine dew is another slight disadvantage. Glycerine is one of the key ingredients in melt & pour soap and because it is a humectant it tends to draw moisture from the air which can cause glycerine ‘dew’ on the surface of the soap. This can be mitigated by storing the soap in a dry place or in a container away from any moist air.
We understand why melt & pour soap is such a popular item - it’s very user-friendly and we know many like to craft their own melt and pour soaps. But please be aware that M&P soap bases are not SLS free and they contain other synthetic ingredients. We have a very strict ingredients policy at Essentially Natural and the melt and pour base is one of the few, if not the only, item we stock that does not fully adhere to our policy. We stock it only due to large demand.
Customising M&P Soap
Melt & pour soap is otherwise fairly similar to CP soap in that you can add in exciting ingredients to make the soap more aesthetic and have different properties.
The two obvious additions are scent and colour. Typical recommendations for adding essential oils are 2% per 450g of soap base (so 5% essential oils for a kilo of soap). You can add any essential oil of your choosing to give your glycerine soap a scent.
For colours, some may use synthetic soap colourants, but we prefer natural colours. Here is a list or refer to our DIY Natural Colourants blog.
Activated charcoal - great to detoxify skin; it will make soap black though.
Beetroot powder - brilliant reddish pigment
Oxides - black and yellow oxide, and titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for white/opaque colouring
Kelp - green
Various powdered botanicals - can add different hues of colour
Turmeric - a strong yellow colour (keep soap away from white clothing as it may stain)
Clays - various pastel hues
Botanicals: petals look stunning in glycerine soap! Be careful with the colours though. The delicate petals tend to lose their colouring after a while so rather go for leafy botanicals. Calendula petals do seem to be the exception however, and should retain their colour. The others tend to go black and may bleed colour into the soap. If you are adding petals to your soap, rather add them to the top of the soap, exposed to air, instead of mixing them into the soap batter.
Oats, oat flour and grainy flours: adds scrubby, exfoliating texture.
Coffee grinds or salt can also be used.
Clays : 1-2 T/450g soap - give subtle colour and add creaminess. It may be easier to incorporate the clay into the M&P base by combining it with a little water first to make a paste then stirring into the base.
Honey - can add up to 8% of soap base amount
Milk powders - as with the clay, make a paste then incorporate in. Milk powders add conditioning properties due to their lactic acid content and soothing properties.
Skin oils: 1 T/450g soap
Skin butters: no more than 1 tsp/450g base otherwise it may affect the setting process.
Some Combination Ideas
Herbs & citrus: rosemary or thyme + citrus essential oils
Spices and cinnamon pieces
Clay and rose petals/powder
Clay and rosehip oil
Neem soap for pets - 1T neem powder + 1T neem oil
Making Soap With M&P Soap Base
Before you melt your soap base, have all utensils prepped and ready. Prepare your molds and have any scents, colours or additional ingredients ready.
Cut up the soap base into small chunks with a sharp knife or soap cutter. Melt your soap base chunks in a bowl in the microwave. Go for 30 second intervals until it has completely melted.
Mix in any scents and colourants before the base sets. You may find it easier to incorporate powdered colourants if you first make a paste out of them with a little water or alcohol.
Pour the melted soap mixture into your molds. Spray the top of the soap with a little alcohol to remove any bubbles and ensure a smooth, shiny surface.
Also spray with rubbing/isopropyl alcohol where ever you want to ‘embed’ - whether it be other soap layers or things such as petals or an exfoliant. The alcohol will help adherence.
If you want to make a layered soap, pour the first layer then wait 5-10mins for it to set a little. Spray the first layer with alcohol, then pour the second layer. Repeat as required. Alcohol will bind the layers together, helping them to stick together. It will also get rid of any bubbles between surfaces.
The setting time for M&P soap is 4-6 hours.
Once your soaps have fully set you can pop them out of their molds and enjoy!
Fun fact: you can re-melt and re-pour the soap several times.
SHOP THE TOP INGREDIENTS: melt & pour soap base, neem oil, isopropyl alcohol, plant flours, calendula petals