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Getting Started with Melt & Pour Soapmaking

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Getting Start with Melt and Pour Soapmaking 

What is Melt & Pour Soap? We find the easiest way to explain Melt & Pour Soap is to liken it to “Pears Transparent” Soap or the soap that the “Body Shop” and “Lush” sell.  Melt & Pour Soap is a pre-made, manufactured base designed to be re-melted and good quality Melt & Pour Soap allows itself to be “played with”.

Melt and Pour Soap is a “glycerin” soap base that is easily melted, coloured and moulded into stunning and creative soap.  It is very gentle on fragrance and essential oils, and you don’t need to use as much fragrance as with regular Cold Process Soapmaking.  It is great way to start soaping, as it is easy to use, can be adapted to using everyday ingredients, and can evolve and become more creative as you become more confident with your soap crafting.

And it's ready to use right away, no curing required!

Melt & Pour Soap is very versatile, and the additives that you can incorporate are the same as for all soap – except that you can embed toys, other soap and with creativity your soap can become art works! 

 Melt and Pour Soap sweating

What can be added to your hand crafted soaps?  Loads of things, many of which you may find in your kitchen pantry!   Liquid honey, oatmeal, cornmeal or polenta, coconut milk powder (or buttermilk and soy milk powder), cocoa powder, various dried herbs, dried flower petals, dried orange peel, poppy seeds and more.  You’ll find a lot more ingredients to add to Melt & Pour Soap on our website too - including loofah, loofah slices, ground pumice stone, mica, glitters, exfoliants, powders and more!

 With Melt & Pour Soap you can:

  • Easily make wonderful looking soap – using any mould you like
  • Embed toys (not for children under 4 years) for a fun gift or decorative soap bar
  • Embed other Melt and Pour Soap pieces and/or cured Cold Process Soap pieces for contrast and design
  • Layer colours and types of Melt & Pour soap
  • Pour it, roll it, plait it and fold it
  • Mix amazing colours and fragrances
  • Make works of art


What you can achieve with this wonderful soap is only limited by your imagination, and if you feel you may be imagination-ly challenged – there are always books to look for ideas, and you can try imitating real life in soap!   Have a look at the rest of our website in our Recipe Formulary and check out Soap Queen for more ideas.

* SAFETY *  Always ensure children are supervised, especially with cutting and using hot soap

Our Range of Melt & Pour Soap Bases

There are many types of Melt & Pour Soap Bases around – all our bases are manufactured to INCLUDE their special additives, and are not low quality bases that have been melted down and have some “butter” or “aloe” etc added.  By purchasing professional speciality bases, the lather and composition is not compromised, and as they have not been overheated there will be less sweating to worry about.  None of our soap bases, new or old, have ever been tested on animals.

Aloe Vera Melt & Pour BaseCocoa Butter Melt and Pour Soap
Clear (Transparent)
Melt & Pour Base

Cocoa Butter Melt & Pour Base

Coconut 'Cold Process style' Melt & Pour Base

Extra Clear Melt & Pour Base

Goatsmilk
Melt & Pour Base

Hemp Oil Melt & Pour Base
Oatmeal Melt & Pour Base

Olive Oil
Melt & Pour Base

Organic Melt & Pour Base

Shaving Melt & Pour Base

Shea
Melt & Pour Base

White (Opaque)
Melt & Pour Base

and Foamy Bath Butter – this scoopable soap has a soft squishy “butter” like consistency.

How to Melt the Soap

To melt the soap base you can use a microwave, double boiler, Bain Marie or LOW direct heat source (if using a cook top keep it VERY VERY LOW).  Simply slice some soap base into small chunks, similar to diced potatoes, and gently heat until you reach the point where there is just one or two small pieces unmelted.  If using a microwave, always have the setting on “low” or “medium low”.  Remove from the heat and then gently stir to melt these last little pieces.  If heating large quantities of soap (approx 500g or more), we recommend covering the heating vessel with a lid to avoid evaporation from the soap.  Once melted, add colour, then fragrance, and stir to combine well and pour! 

 Getting Started with Melt and Pour Soapmaking

Moulds

Where to start?  With your kit you have a range of suitable moulds, but many other items can be used as a mould too!  Just about anything that can hold the hot soap is suitable, (but its best to steer clear of metal as it is more difficult to unmould and can cause problems as it wears.  The more flexible the better!   We sell over 130 different design moulds, both for Melt & Pour Soap and for Cold Process soap also including 3D and Flexible Moulds perfect for making Melt & Pour Soaps.  You can also re-use jelly cups, yoghurt pots, cake packaging, chocolate moulds, all soap moulds including log, tray and divider moulds.  The main requirement is that the plastic does not collapse with sustained heat as the hot soap is going to sit in the container until cold, and this may take a little while depending on the capacity of the mould.

 Soap Mould

Unmoulding

Firstly, ensure your soap is COLD – this means completely set at room temperature.  If you are trying to take still warm soap from a mould, you will run into problems.  Make sure the soap has set completely, and the temperature and hardness are the surest guides.  The best way to remove Melt & Pour Soap from the mould is to take a fairly thin, flexible spatula and simply run this around the inside of the mould walls - this allows some air to be introduced between the wall of the mould and the soap.  Then turn the mould upside down and run your thumbs from the outside of the mould towards the centre, exerting gentle, but firm pressure.  The soap will simply pop out onto the bench, if proving a little stubborn; a gentle tap on the workbench will usually do the trick.

If you experience any problems, half an hour in the refrigerator will help, but this isn’t recommended as a routine way of setting your soap.  If you have been in a hurry, and chilled the soap, allow the mould to return to room temperature before attempting to unmould – this avoids damage to the mould.  Using the fridge and freezer does encourage sweating and may cause layers to separate.

Note:  If you try and release the soap from the moulds by force you will damage and possibly crack the mould.  Moulds are not designed to withstand this sort of treatment.

Mica in Melt and Pour Soap

Colouring the Soap

Together with fragrance, colouring is the most enjoyable aspect of soaping!  To admire and smell your own wonderful soap is such a treat.

There are two basic types of colours you will wish to use – dyes and pigments.  The main thing to remember is that dyes will bleed (with one exception – Tomato Red) and pigments won’t bleed.  By “bleeding” we mean that if you were to pour a white or clear layer of soap next to a bright blue layer (for instance) within a short period of time, you will find a halo of pale blue colour where the two colours meet. The depth of this colour will get stronger and stronger as time goes on.  This is known as migration of colour or “bleeding”.  Pigments won’t do this, as they do not “move”.  Please check the website carefully when purchasing colours to ensure you choose the right colour for the right application.

Liquid colourants are best for Melt & Pour Soap, as this avoids the speckling and spotting dry dyes and pigments will cause.  However, if using mica’s (these are the sparkly colours you find in eye shadows and lipsticks), they are usually in powder form so you will need to work with them and ensure they are properly dispersed to enjoy their stunning effects.  (You will need to use CLEAR soap to see these sparkly effects).  Add micas when the soap is still quite liquid and ensure the particles are all “wet” and evenly dispersed.

Once the base has melted, it is ready to have the colour added.  Add it cautiously!   Add it a few drops at a time – if it is too pale, you can always add more, it is much harder to correct too much colour!  All our colours are triple concentrated, so one drop goes a long way.  Stir this in gently, as with all additives and fragrances.  Over zealous stirring will create bubbles – if this occurs in your soap, simply spritz with a little Isopropyl Alcohol or surgical spirit and the bubbles will instantaneously disappear.

Clays can also be added as a natural colourant and detoxifying agent but don’t over do it or the soap will be drying. Moisten clays in a little water, alcohol or glycerine to enable them to be mixed into the soap without clumping.

Dyes and pigments can stain surfaces and clothing – so protect your clothing and/or work surfaces.

Bramble Berry Fragrances


Fragrance & Essential Oils

Both fragrance and essential oils can be used successfully in Melt & Pour Soap.  The only restrictions with fragrance usage is that you ensure they are cosmetic quality, and not manufactured for oil burners or candles.  Some candle fragrances are skin safe, but others can create severe allergic reactions on your skin (we only carry Bramble Berry fragrances which are ALL skin safe).  Check with our website (or any other supplier) to see if they will discolour soap.  It is easy and can be creative working with discolouring fragrances, and the exquisite fragrance far outweighs the discolouration in most cases.  As a general rule, all vanilla and foody based fragrances will discolour the soap.  To avoid this occurring, you will find some Vanilla Colour Stabiliser.  To use this, gently warm (if solid) and add the same amount of stabiliser as fragrance.  Note:  this ingredient sometimes has a distinct odour, so don’t sniff this bottle – just add to the soap and stir through. 

When using essential oils ensure you follow Essential Oil Safety Guidelines – the most important thing is not to exceed 2.5% essential oils in your soap and to check for contra-indications.  Always spot test first and read up on the essential oil for any contraindications.

We usually prefer to work with fragrance in Melt and Pour Soap, (but this is personal preference only) and essential oils work excellently too.  In Melt & Pour Soap you can let your imagination and nose run wild!  Usually 10 - 15ml of fragrance per kilo is sufficient, but like essential oils, fragrances vary in intensity, so let your nose be the judge.  Don’t be frightened to blend or mix essential oils and fragrance, or even different fragrances together to get a blend YOU like.

20 drops = 1 ml (ie 25 drops in 50mls of carrier oil/soap)

…..so in

100g/100mls of soap use 50 drops
  50g/50mls of soap use 25 drops

These are maximums for essential oil safety – please go slowly and test as you go along for the best results.  If irritation occurs discontinue use immediately.

Ensure you stir the essential oils and fragrance oils in well or you will find they sit on the top of the soap.  Don’t panic though!  When making small batches or individual soaps, it is really difficult to over-scent these – we just like you to be safe.  Just by using your nose gives you a good indication of usage levels!

Wrapping your finished soap also helps your soap to retain its scent a lot longer than those soaps exposed to the air.

Pouring melt and pour soap

 

What additives and how much should I add?

We often get asked about percentages of additives, luxury butters and natural oils that can be added to Melt & Pour Soap.  We don’t believe any of our soap bases require extra moisturising additives, but as this is a personal preference, don’t let us hold you back!   Often, the amount is to suit your personal taste, but with butters and oils there are limits to the amount you can add before affecting the lather of your soap.  With our bases the oils (ie Cocoa Butter, Shea, Olive, Hemp Seed etc) are already in the soap, so this doesn’t arise.

  • If adding beeswax, remember this will reduce the clarity and lather
  • Alcohol will increase the clarity but too much can be drying on the skin
  • Butters and oils can add extra emollience to your bar – but don’t add too much or you’ll cut lather dramatically
  • Herbs, spices and exfoliants add texture to your soaps and are scratchy (or exfoliating)
  • Clays should be limited to avoid being to drying


With herbs and spices, remember they are going to exfoliate, as they are particles, so if you do not wish for a scratchy soap, you will need to keep them to an absolute minimum.  The larger the particle, the more scratchy your soap will feel.  They do not affect lather, just the overall texture.  With clays, you will achieve very earthy colour, and these are mainly added to Melt & Pour Soap as a detoxifier for the skin.

Exfoliants in melt and pour soap


How to include additives

Melt and Pour is such fun to “play” with!  Here are a few tips on adding exfoliants and other additives:

 

  1. Make sure the herbs you are adding are dry.  Ensure herbs and botanicals are completely dry before adding or your soap will “slime” and then develop mould as the plant material decomposes.  By adding dry herbs you will eliminate this

  2. As a general guide, we suggest approximately 1 - 2 tablespoons of exfoliants per 500g of soap base.

  3. When adding dry and powdery additives such as ground nuts, pumice, bamboo powder, oatmeal, powdered milk etc, remove a little hot soap and stir in well to eliminate any dry spots.  Then incorporate back into the main portion of your soap mix before it cools.  If you are a little slow and it starts to set, simply remelt together and incorporate well

  4. Clays are very powdery additives and should be added in the warmest soap, when it is at its most liquid.  If you don’t disperse these properly, you will have dry pockets in the set soap

  5. With Ground or Shredded Loofah, and Jojoba beads or clay beads, these can be added directly to the soap and gently stirred to incorporate – add these just prior to pouring as the soap begins to cool

  6. With additives such as clays, pumice, clay beads etc these can fall to the bottom of the soap.  The soap will need to be gently stirred until the soap is a little cooler (and thicker and more syrupy).  This keeps the particles suspended.  When the soap reaches this syrupy consistency, it is time to pour.  If you leave it a little too long, gently remelt and repeat this process.



Sweating

Our natural bases exhibit very little sweating in comparison to surfactant based soaps, but this can occasionally occur if the base is overheated or the weather is particularly damp and wet.  When you see beads of moisture on glycerin soap, it is not actually “sweating”; the soap is absorbing moisture FROM the atmosphere.  If your soap does “sweat” it is purely aesthetic, and you can simply wipe it away – it’s still fine to use.  Glycerine is a humectant, which means it draws moisture to the skin.  It is also 'hygroscopic' which means that it takes up and retains the moisture – particularly during humid or wet weather.  This is why you wrap your soap as soon as it has rested a while.  The best ways to avoid sweating are:

  • Be careful not to over heat the base.  The optimum melting temperature is 40 - 60°C.  If you heat the soap above this; it will “sweat” badly and have a high degree of water loss, which affects its composition. 

  • Wrap your glycerin soap bars within a day or so, particularly in humid or damp weather, as the soap attracts moisture and will appear to “sweat”.  Avoid using cling film as this doesn’t age well with soap; try cello sheets, bags or wraps.

  • Store the unused/unmelted base in an airtight bag or container to avoid it absorbing moisture in between soaping sessions

 Melt and Pour alcohol spritz


Alcohol

Alcohol is your Melt and Pour Soap glue and spot repair treatment!  Spritzing with Isopropyl Alcohol will eliminate bubbles from the surface of the soap and don’t forget to spritz with alcohol before embedding or adding layers.  We prefer to use Alcohol, but Surgical Spirits work as well.  In this kit you will find a spritz bottle to spray, and 100ml of Alcohol.

Immediately after you pour the soap, you may see a few tiny bubbles on the surface, if you give the surface a quick spritz and they will instantly disappear.  

Don’t inhale the fumes – they are yukky!  However, the smell of the alcohol disappears very quickly and does not affect the fragrance of your soap bars.

Isopropyl Alcohol is also your Melt & Pour Glue!   When layering or embedding other soap into the liquid Melt & Pour Soap Base, spritz liberally with Isopropyl Alcohol and it will stick together and not fall apart during use.

 

Embedding and Layering into Melt and Pour Soap

 

Further information is on our Melt and Pour FAQ and see Soap Queen's Melt and Pour Video Tutorials too!