The Top 10 Questions I Get Asked About Handmade Soap

DSC_1411I have become quite obsessed with handmade soaps over the past few months. I originally planned to try my hand at soap making just to take one more store-bought item off my shelves.  Then I made a couple of batches, and the addiction started.

Making soaps has become my creative outlet in recent days. I’m not naturally artistic, but I am mathematically minded so the measuring and mixing of oils gives me much satisfaction. Each batch of handmade soap is completely different from the last. Each oil and butter brings something new to the equation. In addition to making them, I adore using my soaps and trying out other handmade soaps. I will never buy a store-bought soap again. As I give away and sell my creations, many friends and family agree that store-bought soaps are a thing of the past.

As I’ve been selling my soaps, I have noticed the same questions coming up again and again. I thought it would be nice to address some of the top questions in one place as a resource for anyone new to the idea of handmade soaps.



#10: What is the difference between handmade soaps & commercial bar soaps?

The two biggest differences are the glycerin in handmade soaps and the lack of detergents.

Glycerin is naturally produced during saponification. It’s a humectant which means it draws moisture from the air to your skin so it leaves your skin soft and moisturized. Commercial soaps remove the glycerin and sell it separately and/or use glycerin in more profitable products like moisturizers.

Detergents are synthetic often petroleum based cleansers whereas soap is simply oils and butters saponified with lye. I won’t get into the whole issue of polluting our water supply with detergents or my issues with petroleum byproducts. Detergents strip your skin, leaving it dry whereas soap cleanses without stripping.

Another issue with detergent based soaps is that the preservatives required to keep these acidic soaps from growing bacteria are toxic and drying as well. A well formulated handmade soap will outshine a detergent based bar soap any day!

If you are new to handmade soaps, you are in for a huge treat because they leave your skin feeling completely different than commercial soaps. I superfat all my soaps by about 5%, which means that I leave 5% extra oils/butters that doesn’t get turned into soap. Those extra oils/butters leave your skin moisturized.

#9: Why is the labeling on bar soaps so confusing? What do many of those ingredients on store bought soaps start with sodium? Why do I not see lye as an ingredient on many soaps?

I really enjoy deciphering labels on commercial soaps now that I am making soap myself. It can be very confusing simply because here in the US we do not have regulations on how the soaps need to be labeled. So sometimes you will buy handmade soaps that have no labels, and store-bought soaps are not all labeled the same. Here are some basic guidelines:

Sodium hydroxide is lye. Some soapmakers list what goes into their soaps and some list what the product is. So, for instance a bar that only contains olive oil, lye and water may have those three ingredients listed or may say “sodium olivate” as a single ingredient. Sodium olivate is the saponified version of olive oil. I like to list mine in the common names so it’s easier to understand for the majority of consumers. So I list all my oils and butters as saponified oils of… because I think customers understand “saponified olive oil” more easily than “sodium olivate”.

My biggest issue with soap labels is the term “fragrance”. If you are a big “natural foodie”, you can equate this general term to the term “natural flavor” on food labels. It’s a catch-all word that could mean many things. Fragrance oils are synthetic replications of actual scents, and those are proprietary blends so companies aren’t going to list out the breakdown of ingredients in a “fragrance”. The other issue with “fragrance” is that a buyer may have sensitivities or allergies and need to know what is in a product.

“Natural” ingredients can also be irritating and activate allergies, but at least if you know what exactly is in your products you can steer clear of items that irritate your skin. Since I only use essential oils as scent, I simply list those specific oils out on my labels. There are certain essential oils that aren’t recommended if you are pregnant, and if you have allergies, you want to be sure and read the labels carefully.

Another confusing thing that you will find on commercial soaps is fragrance added to soaps that are “unscented”. Kirks Castile is a soap I used to use that has fragrance in the unscented version. They add fragrance to cover the scent of the natural oils/butters. The issue with that is that people with sensitive skin could have reactions to synthetic fragrances, and buy unscented soap thinking they are getting no fragrance. Read your labels!

One of my  “unscented” bars of soap will still have somewhat of a fragrance because the oils and butters have their own scent.

#8: What does curing a soap mean? Why does that take 4-6 weeks?

Curing the soaps simply means I slice it and place the slices on a rack that allows good air flow turning the soaps occasionally. Most soaps take 4-6 weeks to cure, although any soaps that are mostly olive oil or all olive oil take 6 months to cure.

The cure time allows two things to happen. First, the water in the bar slowly evaporates which causes the bar to become hard. A hard bar will last much longer than a soft bar that hasn’t cured long enough. Secondly, curing allows the bar to become more gentle. I always test my bars immediately after cutting them to get a good idea of lather. That initial test makes my skin a little itchy and irritated. Every week that bar cures adds a whole new level of gentleness. Since I have the opportunity to test the bars out throughout those weeks, I can attest to the fact that they really do change a lot during that cure time.

#7: What is the difference between cold process, hot process, milled and melt & pour soap?

Most of us handmade soap makers speak up about the fact that our soaps are cold or hot processed because we worked hard to make these soaps and want people to know we didn’t just use a base pre-made soap.

“Cold process” refers to the fact that no heat was added to the soaping process. You mix an exact amount of lye water with whatever oils & butters you are using, then your mixture naturally heats up on it’s own. You let it process in a mold, then cut and cure the soap for 4-6 weeks (or longer for some soaps).

“Hot process ” refers to making the soap in the same way except adding heat to the process to speed up saponification. That usually occurs by putting the fresh soap in a crock pot. Hot process soaps work the same way as cold process, but hot process soaps have more of a rough texture usually. Cold process soap is similar to cake batter when it’s poured into molds, whereas hot process is more like a really thick, clumpy pudding.  Hot process gets the soap to a usable state faster, but cold process allows you to swirl colors and other creative flair.

Milled soap/French milled soap/rebatched soap is soap that was originally created through the hot or cold process. The soap is shredded, a little liquid added, and then it’s cooked and molded. This is a great way to redo soap that didn’t turn out pretty and it’s a great way to add fragrance that sticks around since the saponification has already occurred.


Melt & Pour “Glycerin” Soap

Melt and pour soap is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a base soap that you purchase pre-made. You don’t have to worry with mixing lye because the soap is already made. You can add colors and scents and easily melt and pour the mixture into molds. Most melt and pour doesn’t meet my qualifications for “natural”, but I did find a natural base made by a company called SFIC that I am happy with.


Peppermint mustache melt & pour soaps

I use the melt and pour for cute kid soaps with embedded items or other cute shapes. Melt and pour is great if you want to make some soaps with your kids or you need to make soaps that will be immediately ready to use. Many elaborately designed soaps that you find in stores are melt and pour. These are often called glycerin soaps and many have a transparent look. Melt and pour soaps are a great way begin the soaping addiction.


#6: Why do you specify that some of your soaps are palm free and the ones with palm state that they are made with sustainable palm? What is wrong with palm oil?

Palm oil is generally used in place of tallow or lard in vegetable based soaps for hardness. You can make a bar of hard soap without palm, but it will usually take longer than 4-6 weeks to cure. The issue with palm oil is that rain-forests are being destroyed and orangutans endangered by profit driven companies. Palm oil is used in many food products as well as soaps.

With the growing concerns over the sourcing of palm oil, I am committed to only purchasing through sustain-ably produced companies. There are plenty of consumers who do not want to purchase items with palm oil at all which is why I create some soaps that have no palm oil.

#5: Why do you specify that some of your soaps are vegan?

This is one I find interesting because there are many people who don’t ever really think about what is in their soap. One day recently a lady asked me if other soaps contain meat since many of mine are, “Vegan”. No, most soaps do not contain meat, but most traditional soaps contain animal fats – lard, tallow…Personally, I have no issue with animal fats in soap. I do however want to be sure that anyone who buys my soaps knows what they are getting. I also want to educate people so they know how to read store labels.

I do make milk soaps and honey soaps with vegetable oils and butters so those are vegetarian, but not vegan. I always list ingredients and specify Vegan or Vegetarian. In the future I may create some soaps with animal fats, but those would be clearly labeled and I would use separate utensils for those so there is no cross-contamination.

#4: Can I use these soaps on my face?

I am formulating some bars that are specifically for washing your face, but many of the bars I currently have could be used on your face. Your face is more sensitive generally than your body, so the essential oils and butters/oils that may work well on your body, could be irritating on your face. Typically, my regular soaps will be a little too drying for your face. I do like to use the plain goat milk soap on my face sometimes, but I moisturize well after.

#3: I can’t use store-bought bar soap because they irritate my skin. Can I use your homemade soaps?

Well, maybe…I don’t know your skin issues nor do I try to diagnose skin problems (even though people are constantly showing me their rashes and skin problems while asking for advice). What I do know is that many people are allergic to the detergents in storebought soaps. Those detergents can leave your skin dry and irritated. Many people do find that their skin reacts very well to natural handmade soaps. I am happy to give you a sample to try out!

#2 I really love the smell of (insert common store bought scents)…can you make a soap with that fragrance?

Personally, I have made the decision to not use any fragrance oils/synthetic fragrances in my soaps and other products. That means there are certain scents that I simply can’t replicate.

For instance, vanilla. Vanilla beans make a great exfoliant and my vanilla infused body oil has a heavenly natural vanilla smell, but the vanilla scent doesn’t make it through the lye process in soap making. I can’t make soaps with a strong vanilla smell because I don’t use vanilla fragrance oil. That’s just one example of a fragrance I can’t replicate.


There are also many fragrances that would be very expensive to make with essential oils. You can replicate the rose scent with fragrance oils (although it won’t truly replicate that smell), but if you are looking to have rose soap you will be disappointed in the price. Bulgarian Rose Essential Oil currently costs $356.50 for 1/2 oz (Mountain Rose Herbs).  Soap requires between 1/2 – 1 oz of essential oil per pound. Basically, a bar of soap with only rose essential oil could cost you $200+. I use Palmarosa essential oil often as a replacement for rose so there are options, but there are definitely some scents that can’t be economically achieved with essential oils. Jasmine is another scent that would be expensive to replicate.

If you have a fragrance you are interested in, feel free to ask me if it’s one I can make with essential oils.

#1 Is there lye in your soap?

Safety first when working with lye:)

Safety first when working with lye:)

There is no lye in the finished soap, but you CAN’T have bar soap that didn’t have lye in the process. Lye is what makes the soap, soap. Lye reacts with the oils and butters through a chemical process called saponification and the end result is soap. Each oil and butter requires a specific amount of lye to saponify so measurements have to be very exact.

Some older people remember a time when soaps were marketed as “lye soap”. Typically those soaps were a basic lard soap or tallow soap. I often have people tell me they have bought soaps from elsewhere that didn’t have lye in them. Bar soap isn’t soap unless it was made with lye by the very definition of bar soap.

Liquid soap uses potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide. If you tried to make “soap” without lye, you would simply have a bunch of oils and butters mixed together. You wouldn’t have soap.


***Interesting lye fact – If you eat bagels or pretzels, you are eating a product that required lye. I use food grade lye in my soaps which is the exact same lye used to make bagels & pretzels. Lye is dangerous, but once it goes through the chemical reaction, as long as you used the correct amount of additions, the result is safe.

***Interesting lye fact – lick your soap to see if it’s lye heavy. My daughter loves to tell everyone that I lick the soaps. If you are a soap maker, this is not odd, but to the rest of the world it seems a little crazy. If soap has not finished with saponification or if you put too much lye in the soap, touching your tongue to the soap will cause a zap. It’s a similar feeling to putting your tongue on a 9 volt battery. Doing a quick zap test lets a soap maker know that the soap is safe and has saponified. It still needs to cure, but you know that it’s not lye heavy and that you did a good job of mixing the lye with the oils.


I’m sure other questions will come up along the way, but these have been the ones I hear most. Come visit me at The 7th Street Public Market in Charlotte, NC to check out my current soaps. I also list some of my soaps in my Etsy shop, and I’m happy to take custom orders as well!

Interested in making soaps? Here are a few of my favorite resources:

Soap Queen & Soap Queen TV - Anne-Marie represents Brambleberry which is a company that sells soap making supplies. She has a whole series of videos on cold process soap making that were super helpful to me starting out.

Soaping 101 & Soaping 101 on YouTube - This is my current “go to” for soaping ideas and is a fantastic starting point once you move past the beginner stage. This is where I got the idea on how to make dog soap, pine tar soap and several other ideas that I’ve tried out recently. There is also a Soaping 101 group on Facebook which is an unbelievable group of helpful people. Anytime I have a soaping question or issue, that’s where I get advice.

Humblebee & Me - A blog with a variety of DIY projects including soap, cooking and other beauty recipes.

The Nerdy Farm Wife - This is another favorite blogger who writes about soapmaking in addition to other great DIY beauty projects.



About Toni South

I am a mom who has become a fanatic about handmade bath and beauty products after much research into the toxic chemicals that I was surrounding myself with. I am striving to educate others as I learn myself. I'm an experimenter, learner and teacher!

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47 Responses to The Top 10 Questions I Get Asked About Handmade Soap

  1. milka August 29, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Hi toni,
    These 10 FAQs are really informative. Thanks for the samples you gave us yesterdaMy aunt can’t wait to try them. See you in a few weeks.


    • Toni South August 29, 2013 at 8:23 am #

      No problem Milka! I really enjoyed chatting with you and look forward to seeing you again soon!

  2. zurey March 26, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    hi, i’m from Malaysia and my country has a lot of palm trees and farms. My late grandparents also had palm tree farm. We plant the palm tree, so i guess we don’t have any issue of destroying animals or rain-forests. After we cut the palm tree, we plant it again to produce more oils. We wildly use palm oil for cooking, that i found out it’s the best oil for deep frying. I also want to use it in my soap. I really curious where they found out about those problem with palm oil..thanks

    • Toni South March 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      That’s awesome. It would be great to be able to use oils directly from your own land. Unfortunately as the use of palm oil has grown, the unscrupulous overharvestation has also grown. Here’s a site that explains a little further: It’s only been in more recent years that this has become an issue, and as soap makers we just have to decide where we stand on the palm issue and if we are going to use animal fats or not and what ingredients we are OK with and aren’t. Palm oil makes a great bar of soap, and so does animal fat so it’s just up to you to do the research and decide your best course of action.

      Lard and tallow are byproducts of animals and animals aren’t killed to get the fat so if you aren’t vegetarian, animal fats may be the best for your soaps. Sustainable organic palm is obtained using ethical measures so it should be fine for your soaps as well. It’s also whether you are selling them and where you live. So far I’ve found that most people in my area don’t even know about palm oil being an issue, but a lot of people prefer no animal fats. So, for now, I use sustainable organic palm in most of my soaps, make some with no palm (that take longer to cure) and don’t use animal fats (but do make some non-vegan soaps with goat milk and honey).

      Just my two cents:)
      Good luck with your soap making! It’s such a fun hobby!

  3. inna March 29, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    Hi Toni,
    I get leftover tallow and lard from friends and our own animals. I rendered the tallow and have used it in some soap. I know the animals were grassfed and raised humanly. I think that sing tallow in soap rather than buying palm oil is a more eco friendly option. Plus a lot of times I get it for free:) But I understand that some people just don’t want animal buyproducts in their soap.

    • Toni South March 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

      That’s awesome Inna especially if you are getting it from animals you know were raised humanely (and free is always good:)). I haven’t made soap with lard/tallow but have tried some and it’s definitely a nice soap. Just checked out your Etsy shop and love your things! That baby powder sounds fantastic. Love the ingredients and love that you use neem in your salve. Neem is such a great oil even though it’s stinky alone.

  4. Lisa April 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    So, I’m making these adorable soaps for kids with Melt and Pour soaps. Well, I’m in Texas and these little suckers are “sweating”. What do I do?

    I was putting them in a little ziploc bag when they were dry. I see now that probably wasn’t a good idea. It’s been working…as I make them when someone places an order. So, I make them, they go in a bag and out the door.

    I’m trying to get ready for a vendor event….so I need to make a lot of them. But that means they are sitting around for more than just a day or two. They were in ziploc bags and inside a plastic storage bin with the lid on it. Didn’t help…they sweated.

    I just bought a can of moisturizing beads and put that inside the bin. I read it’s supposed to help.

    What do you suggest??? I’m desperate! I can’t make all of them the day before…there’s just not enough time in one day!

    Thank you!

    • Toni South April 25, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      How frustrating! Last summer it was so humid here in NC that my cold process soaps were soft for a long time because the humidity was making them so sweaty. With melt and pour soaps, they definitely can sweat and the best way to avoid that is to shrink wrap each one. You can use shrink wrap bags or simply use plastic wrap and lightly shrink wrap the plastic wrap. I’ve used both. Plastic wrap is a little thinner than shrink wrap bags so it’s easy to tear. Then after you shrink wrap them you can put them into bags. Somewhere on Soap Queen’s blog/youtube there is a good video that shows shrink wrapping melt and pour in plastic wrap. It’s not too hard once you get the hang of it. I bought a cheap heat gun on Amazon that I use when I need to shrink wrap. I make some little mustache soaps, Buddha soaps and peace signs that are all melt and pour so I shrink wrap those and I haven’t had sweat problems. Of course it may just not be hot enough here to cause me real problems!

      Good luck, and I know what you mean about not having enough time in the days!

    • Kerry August 15, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      I use the shrink bags with my heat gun and its fantastic and will keep them from sweating and keep them hygienic and the smells stay in. Kerry

  5. Nathan May 2, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Hi Toni, I stopped by your market today. I drove 30 minutes just to ask you to explain to me what kind of lye I can use because I have found that as long as you use 100% lye which I have found in the drain-cleaner products at Lowes I can make my soap. My ingredients for making soap is nearly complete, just trying to find lye that I can buy in Charlotte!

    • Toni South May 2, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

      Hi Nathan, I just sent you a text actually because Jessika left me your number. Sorry we missed each other today. I actually buy all my lye from Essential Depot I buy the food grade Sodium Hydroxide. I haven’t even looked anywhere local for it, but it’s difficult to find lye in most stores now because of all the meth problems. It’s actually cheaper to buy online than in a store anyway. Thanks and good luck with your soap making!

      • Nathan May 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

        Thanks for answering the question!!! I’ll be sure to look online in ordering from that website.

  6. Luzvi Jones September 15, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    Hi Toni,
    I a new In soap making but I made a lot of batches, I have one CPOP it made with 100% coconut oil with 20% superfat. It’s about 7 days now and I try a zap test there’s no zap to it but makes my tongue stings. This is lye heavy or just need more weeks to cure?

    With regards,

    • Toni South September 16, 2014 at 6:03 am #

      Hi Luzvi,
      It sounds like a zap if it’s making your tongue sting after a week. Maybe the lye wasn’t completely dissolved. That can cause small lye pockets that sting even though the overall soap is superfatted. I love coconut soap with 20% superfat! I am actually making some of that this week. I am not sure why else your tongue would be stinging other than lye. Maybe give it another week and see or just grate and rebatch. One of my favorite soaps ever was a rebatch of coconut soap. It overheated on me and volcanoed, but I rebatched it and came out with an awesome soap! Good luck! Toni

  7. Daniela October 6, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    Hello Miss Toni,

    I have recently discovered my passion for soap making, and i would like to ask quite a few questions, if you dont mind..

    First, if I would plan to continue to have my own natural handmade soap business,do I need to register and get a permit?

    Can I sell my soap (even if im using Melt & Pour base) like have my own brand, my own business name etc. Do they require product/ingredients safety assestment?

    I really, really do appreciate your time and i hope to hear from you soon..


    • Toni South October 14, 2014 at 7:14 am #

      Daniela, it all depends on where you live as far as requirements. If you are in the US and just selling soap, you won’t have to go through product assessments so you will just need to go through the regular requirements per your state for businesses. Every state has different requirements, taxes, etc. Spend some time researching your state and county requirements before you jump in with both feet.

  8. Nadeen October 14, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    Hi – great article. I am new to soapmaking, with only a few kilos under my belt so far…love it! I agree on your stand regarding fragrance. Well done for sticking to your philosophy – it would be all too easy to deviate from your plan just because a customer might buy a bar. I too am only using natural products, natural colorants and essential (cold pressed) oils.

    I have recently found a vanilla EO – so I am going to give that a try and see if it in anyway comes close to the real thing. :) Good luck and happy soapin. x

    • Toni South October 14, 2014 at 7:08 am #

      Thanks so much Nadeen for your nice words. Good luck with your soaping. It is definitely addictive!!

  9. Yana October 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    I recently made melt and pour soap with essential oil, unfortunately after 2 days it stopped smelling. Did I do something wrong? I used 8-9 drops per 1 bar soap.
    Thank you

    • Toni South November 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

      You probably didn’t use enough essential oil. It does take less in melt and pour than in cold process. Each essential oil has a different usage rate and a flash point to take into account. You want to be sure you add the essential oil below that flash point so it doesn’t evaporate. Generally you add around .2+ ounces of essential oil per pound of melt and pour and .5-1 oz per pound of oils in cold process. The Brambleberry website has a usage calculator that’s helpful. You can find out the flash points from your suppliers of essential oils. Sometimes it will be listed on the bottle. Crafters Choice lists their flashpoints on the bottles.

      One more thing to consider with essential oils in soap is that certain ones don’t hold well at all. Citrus scents are guilty of fading fast or never really coming through well. Adding clay helps to anchor the scent and using base, mid and top notes in essential oils makes a nice blend. Litsea Cubeba is a good anchor for citrus essential oils.

  10. Ana November 1, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    I have a question! Can you cut or unmold your bar before 24h? or does it stops the saponification process? Because I read somewhere you waited 24h-48h for it to be hard enough to unmould and cut, but mine already was hard so i took it of like 7 hours after making… Thanks

    • Toni South November 1, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

      Hi Ana,
      You can unmold as soon as it’s hard enough and room temp. Your hardness will vary with the recipe you use and whether you discount the water. Most soaps aren’t hard enough to unmold before 24 hours, but some are. I make salt bars, and those can be unmolded after a few hours.

      • Carol Lindley December 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

        I am new to soapmaking and my first batch is still curing. I made it with tallow, coconut oil, almond oil, 100% lye (drain cleaner), purified water and 1 oz of rose fragrance in jajoba oil. Today is three weeks since I made that initial small batch and I am anxious to try it. It is a nice creamy colored soap, but the coloring seems to be whiter on the top and edges. I just tongue tested it and there was no zap, so I am thinking about trying it out.

        • Toni South January 11, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

          Sorry Carol, I’m a bit late responding to this so I’m sure you are totally enjoying your soap by now! After 3 weeks, it’s cured but it will continue to harden and become more mild the longer it sits. I don’t sell soaps that are less than 4 weeks and typically wait 6-8 weeks just because they are the nicest at that point, but I often use soap myself after 2-3 weeks to test out the lather and see what I think of the recipe.

  11. Nur November 14, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Hi Toni,

    I’m from Malaysia and I find this really informative and helpful! I’ve just developed an interest in handmade soap and currently thinking to start out with a private label business. I’d just like to ask your opinion on the best way to approach businesses/organizations like hotels, spa etc. to introduce handmade soaps to be used in those places.

    Do I send them samples first? What do you think?


    • Toni South January 11, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

      Thanks! I usually send samples along with a packet of information which includes wholesale and retail pricing and information on all the soaps and products. I also always send at least one full size soap to give the customer and idea of packaging. Best of luck!

  12. Carol Lindley December 2, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    I forgot to add that I am interested in how you would make salt soap.

    • Toni South January 11, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

      Oh, I love salt bars! Check out Soaping 101 on YouTube. Search for salt soap under her videos. That recipe was my first salt soap, and I have fallen in love with salt bars!

  13. Donna December 8, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Hi Toni
    I”m just getting started in making soaps. Made several batches so far. My thing is that I’m trying to get the right sweet spot of bubbly and conditioning. If the soap lathers, it’s not so moisturizing and if it’s moisturizing, it doesn’t lather worth beans.
    I’ve been reading all the literature on soap properties, I’ve added sugar to my lye water, added stearic acid, but still, either it lathers well or moisturizes well.
    I saw your page about using beer. You list the ingredients, but none of the amounts. Could you give me some idea about percentages of ingredients you use?
    Thanks for your column and help

    • Toni South January 11, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

      Hi Donna,
      Check out Soap Queen’s page and recipes. One of my first batches of soap was the Lots of Lather recipe of hers and it’s a nice recipe. It’s all a big trial and error learning process, but that is a great recipe to start with. I like using honey to add some moisture and I find that the longer they cure, the better the lather gets. Since I don’t add any lathering agents/chemicals, I never have a super crazy amount of lather. Check out the spa bar recipe on Soaping 101 YouTube. That is a wonderful, creamy later recipe. Good luck!

  14. Kelcey m December 28, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    Hi! I just started making melt and pour soaps last week and have tried pretty much every base. Honey glycerin, Shea butter, double butter, goats milk, and hemp, and olive oil. I don’t know if it’s just this winter weather lately but mine and my husbands hands feel super dry. I’m not really seeing that being an issue with anyone else using mp made soaps. My hair today was frizzy and flying away as soon as it dried even after conditioner and leave in conditioner so I’m thinking it’s just the weather but not sure. My husband made a soap with some Armani code type oil and he said his body feels dry who him assuming is from whatever oil it was. But my hands are soooo dry! Rest of my body feels soft. And my hands are always pretty dry and cracked from washing and using a lot of sanitizer from work but extra dry today. Sorry this is so long just really want a good opinion haha! Thanks!!

    • Toni South January 11, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

      Sorry to take so long to respond Kelcey! It’s probably the weather. I usually find the melt and pour bases to be really moisturizing. Try using some straight oils or butters as a moisturizer. I like using shea butter even though it’s not my favorite scent. It’s so moisturizing. Recently I’ve been coating my hands and feet in some sort of oil or butter every night. This winter is like last – very drying!

  15. Jane Askin January 11, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

    I have been doing CP soap for a bit and am going to experiment with HP soap, in term of later packaging and storing would the requirements be the same? i.e need to breathe, etc.

    Also if I add an ingredient, such as a clay, to the Hp soap, do you think it would be better to mix it into an oil or water first for even distribution or should I add it in as is?

    Thanks so much

    • Toni South January 11, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

      Good luck with the experimenting. I love the rustic texture and look of HP soap, but I don’t make it often because I am no good at doing any sort of design in HP. It also takes a little more watching over than I like. With HP, you could use it right away, but just like CP it will get better with 4 weeks cure time. Definitely do the clay in a little oil or water first. If you are adding essential oils or fragrance oils, just add the clay to the fragrance and mix into the HP soap at the end once it’s cooled a bit. Check out the flash point of your fragrance and wait until the soap gets under that temp to add the fragrance/clay mix.
      Good luck!

      • Jane Askin January 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

        Thank you!!! Are the packaging requirements the same as with CP soaps?

        • Toni January 13, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

          No problem! The requirements are the same.

  16. Jane Askin January 13, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Thanks :) Will let you know how it goes.

  17. Ashley March 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Hi Toni, I really enjoyed this post. Im new to your site so you may have addressed this question somewhere else but I was just wondering some of the ways that you can tell if your soap is good quality or not so great after the curing process. I’m new to soap making and I.d just like to know what to look for in a “good” bar or soap. THANKS !

    • Toni South March 17, 2015 at 10:26 pm #

      Use it:) That’s the best way to tell how good it is. Everyone likes different properties in their soaps so it all depends on what you like…nice bubbles, really cleansing, super moisturizing, really hard bar. Those are all qualities that some prefer over others. A great recipe to try in the beginning is a simple one like 75% olive, 20% coconut and 5% castor…then adjust based on what qualities you like and how quickly you want the soap to be ready. A high olive oil soap takes a long time to cure, but makes a wonderful bar. Give some samples to friends and get feedback after 4 weeks. I find that the quality of my bars are the best after 6 weeks so I’ll usually try them myself around 3 weeks, but wait to give to anyone or sell until they reach the 6 week mark. Soap Queen’s “lots of lather” recipe is a great one!

  18. Tammie March 17, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    Hi Toni,
    I am trying to make Cold process soap and the book said when I mix Lye to the water it should heat up to over 100 degrees but for some reason mine never heats up. I measured every thing exactly like the book said. What am I doing wrong. Help!!!!!!

    • Toni South March 17, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

      Hi Tammie, once you mix your lye into your water it does heat up very quickly and start giving off fumes. The only time I end up with lye water under 100 degrees is if I mix with ice cubes instead of water. It sounds like something is wrong with your lye. Where did you get the lye, does it say 100% lye on the ingredients, and is it in an airtight container? I’m sorry your soap making isn’t going smoothly! I get food grade sodium hydroxide from Essentials Depot. There are other good online places to order as well. It comes in two pound bottles even if you order large amounts which is nice because even if you end up getting moisture in a container, you only ruin a small amount. You can also find lye sometimes locally at hardware stores, but the prices are usually higher than online.

  19. Blythe March 29, 2015 at 5:15 pm #

    Hey, I love this post! I just wanted to ask some questions. I’m a freshmen in high-school and I just got a mini crock-pot and was thinking of making some HP soaps and experimenting with the ingredients for a science fair project. I was wondering where to start and if you have some good resources that I could use.
    Have you ever used a crock-pot to make soap? Are there some safer lye alternatives that I could use? What safety precautions should I take? Where do you buy ingredients and how cost effective would you say soapmaking is?
    If this goes smoothly, I’m thinking of making and selling some bars to raise money for a study abroad trip to Greece. I love to try natural and homemade things and try to get away from all the harmful chemicals in so many things nowadays!
    Thanks for your time,
    Blythe :D

    • Toni South March 31, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

      Hi Blythe,
      Thanks for commenting. I love the idea for your science project. A crock pot is perfect for HP soap. I mainly do CP, but I’ve done several HP batches in crock pots. HP is nice because you can test it out right away although it still works best to let them cure at least 3 weeks because they will continue to harden during that time. Check out Soap Queen’s series on lye safety to give you all the precautionary lessons on working with lye. I watched her videos several times before even making my first batch. Also, look on You Tube at the Soaping 101 videos. There’s one in particular that would be very helpful to keep your costs down –

      I buy through larger distributors – Soaper’s Choice and New Directions Aromatics, but when you are making small batches, you can get everything you need locally. Lye is necessary for soapmaking unless you are doing melt and pour where the lye has already been used in the soapmaking phase, but melt and pour is not really making soap from scratch. You’re just re-melting a soap that was already made. It can be cost effective, but if you are like me and enjoy putting all sorts of expensive oils in test batches, it can add up. Start with a basic, simple recipe with no scent and see how that turns out. Then go from there. I use essential oils which can be very pricey when you are starting out because you need around 1/2 – 1 oz of essential oil per pound of soap. Lye sometimes can be difficult to find locally because it’s watched carefully now with the growth of meth making, but sometimes local hardware stores still carry it. I buy food grade lye from Essentials Depot.
      Good luck in your endeavors! When I started out the Soaping 101 videos and the Soap Queen videos were where I learned the most!

      • Blythe March 31, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

        Thank you so much! I will definitely check out those resources! You feedback was very helpful. ;)

  20. Stephanie June 18, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    This article was awesome! Lengthy, but not at all boring to read. I got here because I wanted to know what the hype was about palm free soaps… I’m about to test out a facial bar with a melt and pour base because it’s all I have on hand, and I don’t know ANYTHING about making cold process soap, even though I’d like to learn. Thanks for this info! It helped a ton.

  21. Jodie August 7, 2015 at 12:25 am #

    Hi. Thanks for this article. I’m new to soap making, as in I’ve only done 2 batches, one last night and one tonight. I can definitely say I’m hooked!! I used the hot process because I wanted soap NOW. It worked fabulously! No more commercial bar soap, most of which is from companies that conduct animal testing and I have an aversion to that! I just licked a bar of my soap :) and all I can taste now is soap, lol. But no zap. Yay!

    • Toni South August 7, 2015 at 12:35 am #

      Yay! Welcome to the addiction!

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