Lather Up! Taking Pride in the Simple, Fun Art of Soap Making

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

We are often so accustomed to bathing with a factory-manufactured bar of ‘cookie cutter’ soap that we don’t believe how easy it is to make a natural, wonderfully aromatic bar of soap using a simple homemade recipe!

The whole concept of bathing and soap has been around since ancient Egypt, but the history of commercially produced soap is far more recent. It’s only been since 1850 that commercial soap making in America really emerged as one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.

Even so, well into the last century – and as far into the 1900s as the Great Depression, and even the Second World War – the use of homemade soaps were still more of a practical necessity than a mere novelty. That lye soap that your grandparents used might have been very greasy, unattractively harsh and totally lacking in creativity, but in hard times, homemade soaps performed the personal hygiene job adequately enough, and that had to do.

In the fast-paced, technological age of our new millennium, the re-emerging trend towards making one’s own soaps is more than just a fun hobby. It’s a very special and thoughtful gift to present someone with soap that you’ve made at home, and in an impersonal age of deodorant soaps heavily perfumed with a fake scent, homemade soaps are both delightfully comforting and quite exotic!

It’s a Soap Maker’s Choice
Take Your Pick of Homemade Soap Making Methods

There isn’t just one way to make your own soap at home – there are four methods of making your own homemade soap. Your soap making choices are:

1. The Classic ‘Melting and Pouring’– did you know that you can actually melt pre-manufactured soap blocks and then pour in your own fragrance?
2. Grandma’s Old-Fashioned ‘Cold Process’–still the most common homemade soap making technique…using oils and lye from scratch.
3. A Twist to the ‘Cold Process’ – taking the cold process and making it the ‘hot process’, in this variation of homemade soap making, you actually cook the soap.
4. Not ‘rehashing’, but ‘Rebatching’ – the process of grinding up soap bars, then adding your own selection of water or even milk, and re-blending the soap.

Although it’s easy to obtain further instructions for making soap at home using any one of the above-noted methods (popular gifts for soap making aficionados are books called “Essentially Soap” and “The Soapmaker’s Companion”) the easiest method for any beginner ‘soap-maker’ is probably the ‘Melt and Pour’ method.

To make soap at home using the ‘Melt and Pour’ method, you’ll need the following supplies:
  • A microwave or double boiler
  • A heat resistant bowl
  • Two spoons or whisks
  • A soap base for your ‘melt or pour’ – widely available in craft stores, health food stores or via easy and secure ordering online
  • Color, preservatives and fragrance scents – available in the same way as you purchase a soap base, with a wide variety of fragrance oils available for purchase online from practically every aromatic flower or plant
  • And finally, a soap mold
You will find an actual ‘melt and pour recipe’ for homemade soap making by doing a Google search for ‘make melt and pour soap’.

Creating different Scents with Soap making
When you get more comfortable with the process of homemade soap making, you’ll feel freer to experiment with various scents, fragrances and consistencies that are widely available for purchase online, or through your local health food or craft store.

Imagine making your own homemade moisturizing soap with goat’s milk or coconut milk, or a fragrant soap with sweet almond oil or jojoba, apricot kernels or even a black raspberry vanilla, peaches and cream or lemon verbena blend. You can even learn to make actual rose scented soap that’s shaped like a rose! The possibilities are endless.

Take Note of the Differences between a Deodorant Soap and a Facial Soap
You love wearing your favorite fragrance oil perfume, but you certainly wouldn’t rub it all over your face. That’s because the consistency of our facial pores, as well as the sensitivity and pH balance of our facial skin is much different from the skin on our bodies. If you check out a bar of commercially manufactured deodorant soap, that’s why the package says it’s recommended for use on the body only.

You can make great facial soap – but make sure the ingredients are suitable for use on the face. Popular ingredients that may be safe for use in homemade facial soaps include goat’s milk and olive oil for dry skin, or glycerin and ground oatmeal in an exfoliating soap for oily skin.

You’ll be delighted with your soap making results from your first batch of homemade ‘melt and pour’ soap – good luck and have fun!