Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Many roads with one destination: Soap!

Cold process soap... Hot process soap... Melt and Pour soap... CP Oven Process Soap... Handmilled... Rebatched... Wow, there sure are a lot of soap making methods out there! When shopping for that perfect bar of soap, what does all of this mean?

Well, all of the above are methods for making soap... each one is a little different from the last. Today, I will break down the top 3 methods for soap making, as well as their benefits: Cold Process, Hot Process, and Melt and Pour.

I'll start first with the method I use most often: Cold Process. The cold process method involves mixing a water/lye solution with various oilsat a temperature of between 100 degrees and 90 degrees. Once the soap batter reaches trace (or, becomes the consistency of thick pudding), scents, dyes, or other additives can be added, then the mix is poured into a mold. The soap is safe to use once it has cured (or, set out of the mold to air dry) for approx. 6 weeks. The long cure time allows for the lye molecules to react with the oil molecules to form glycerin, which is the cleaning agent in soap. This reaction is called saponification!
Cold process bars of soap are well known for their creamy, solid bars. I prefer the CP method over the others because I like the instant gratification of seeing (and smelling) my soap, as well as the anticipation over the cure time before I can test the soap myself!
CP soap (and HP soap) has the benefit of being made from all natural ingredients. Some synthetics can be added to the soap in the form of fragrance oils and dyes, but scary synthetics (like propylene glycol) are often left out.
You can find photographs of my soap making process here on my facebook fan page! My etsy shop is full of cold process soap, and here are more Etsy soap makers featuring CP soap!!

Hot process is another popular method for soap making, and it is quite similar to cold process. With the HP method, soap makers use the same lye mixture and the same oils, but they speed up the saponification of the lye and oils by adding heat to the mix! The oils and lye mixtures are added together in a crock pot or similar heating source, and are essentially cooked over a period of hours. The heat encourages the molecules to form glycerin faster, and the soap made with the HP method is ready to use almost immediatly! (The HP soap makers that I am familiar with still like to cure their soap for a short period, to ensure that the lye is completely gone.)
Hot process soap is often identified by its rustic, rough look. When the soap is ready to go into the mold, it often has a very thick consistency and has to be spooned into the mold, rather than poured. This can lead to air pockets which give the soap its signature look!
Check out this link to Etsy to view some amazing HP soaps!!

Melt and Pour soap rounds out the top three when it comes to soap making, and it is often the method that most soap makers start out with. M&P is essentially safer for the soap maker, because instead of working with caustic lye (very dangerous if handled improperly!), M&P soap makers are working with premade bases, which can be headed up and poured into various, intricate molds. Melt and pour soap makers can make some amazingly beautiful creations, and melt and pour soap can be added to CP soap or HP soap for an added burst of color.
To make M&P soap, just head to your local craft store! Most craft stores sell premade bases that can be melted down, as well as the colors, fragrances, and molds needed to make your soap your own! The downside to the craft store kits lies in the list of ingredients to their soaps... if you are looking for a more natural base, there are many vendors online that can help!
Check our this link to Etsy to view some gorgeous M&P soaps made by amazing artists!

Comment if you are interested in learning more about soap making, or contact me on my facebook fan page... I love to talk soap!

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