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Melt and pour soap making is a craft that allows your creativity to run wild. Not only are you able to create works of art within your soaps, but you can add wonderful oils, butters and botanicals to make your skin feel very spoiled, as well as embeds to add interest and beauty.
Choose your melt and pour soap base according to the finished results you would like to achieve. For clear soaps you will require clear, clear low sweat, or aloe vera soap base. An opaque finish will be achieved with goats milk, coconut, cocoa butter or shea butter soap base.
Place your soap base into a saucepan for stove top melting(on low), or a microwave bowl if this is your method of choice. Microwave for 30 second intervals before stirring gently, and repeat until melted. Soap should be kept below 55ºc using either method.
When melted you are ready to begin the individual creation stage of your soap. What shape have you chosen? What additives (if any) would you like to use? What colour and fragrance have you chosen and do you want to use embeds of any kind?
For your first soap you may wish to simply pour your soap at this stage to see what happens. Perhaps a yoghurt container, tupperware dish, or whatever you have to hand that will release your soap. Spritz the back of your poured soap with alcohol to clear additional bubbles and allow to set. Un-mould and there you have it, ready to use.
Too plain? pop it back in the pot and read on.
Moulds can be found anywhere, from the milk carton to yoghurt pots, or cute little pâté containers (if they take heat well). If you wish to make multiples of exactly the same shape you may wish to own a proper soap mould, but it is not a pre-requisite.
The easiest method of colouring your soap is with liquid soap colours that can be added one drop at a time until you have reached the correct depth of colouring. These colours are very strong, so please add very slowly.
Scenting your soap can be done with essential oils or fragrance oils to obtain the aroma you are looking for. Scent can make or break your soap, so have fun playing with the smells of your dreams (add just before pouring and stir well).
If you would like to enrich your soaps with extra butters or oils these can be added once the base is melted. Carefully stir in no more than a teaspoon of fat per 250gm of base or you risk making a very soft bar of soap. You will need to continue to stir your soap until the oils are completely incorporated.
Other additives you might like to consider are honey, oatmeal, pumice, ground walnut, sago, flowers (although some of these will brown over time), herbs and spices (some of which can be used to colour your soap) etc.
If you are looking to jazz up your soap a bit have a think about what safe extras you can add to your soap to add appeal. The easiest extra would be soap of another colour cut into shapes of your choice and put in the mould to be over-poured with another colour. You may like to make the embedded soap in white base, and the outside in coloured clear base, so it stands out. How about colouring the embedded soap while leaving the outside clear? Stars, curled up strips, chunks, the list is endless. Use your imagination and see what magic you can create. One word of advise if you do wish to embed soaps into each other. Get yourself a small spray bottle and some clear alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol. rubbing alcohol from the chemist is fine, but vodka will do too (not too many squirts for the soaper please). When you have your first colour in place in your moulds give them a couple of squirts of the alcohol just before pouring. This allows both surfaces to bond rather than come apart at most inopportune moments. Make sure you spritz the back of your soap with alcohol just after pouring as well to reduce bubbles and give you a clearer finish.
An alternative to the soap embeds are toy embeds. Make sure these are not scratchy to the skin and are age appropriate for the person these are destined for. If they are to be gifted or sold an age warning is not a silly idea as small items and small people are not always a good mix.
Toy embeds work best if you pour a little soap into your mould and allow it to set. Place your toy into the mould and spritz with alcohol before overpouring with more soap until just covered. Allow to set. Spritz with alcohol again and fill mould to the top. Don't forget to spritz the finished underside to reduce bubble formation and "scumming". Using this method will stop your toy floating to what is to be the bottom of your soap, but will hold it in the middle of your bar.
When your soap has set it needs to be released from your mould. Some will co-operate beautifully and release your soap the instant you up-end the mould. Many, however, wont. Pop these more stubborn moulds into the fridge for around half an hour and try again. They should just fall out this time.
Put these to the side somewhere to allow them to dry off completely (they will attract condensation as they are cold) then do one of two things.
1. race off to the shower immediately to try out your new, stunning soap, or
2. wrap your soap to be air tight (shrink wrap if you have it, or glad/saran wrap is good if you don't.) Your new soaps have a good quantity of glycerine in them. This is a humectant (meaning it attracts water). If left to the air it will start drawing water to itself in a short while (humidity levels often determine if you have hours or weeks) and will bead on the surface of your soap. Wrapping will avoid this happening. If it does occur it can be wiped away without affecting the quality of your soap, but it may remain just a little streaky. Washing quickly also works.
Feel free to experiment with these ideas and any others that may cross your mind. Melt and pour soap is a great medium to allow your creativity to run riot, but always remember the most important point.....have fun :-)
by Kerry Pearson
Heirloom Body Care