While melt and pour soap may seem most suited for beginners, there are practically limitless design possibilities. Whether beginner or advanced, here are some tips to make the best soaps possible.
Tips for Melt and Pour Soaps
- Try to use a quality soap base. There are many types of melt and pour soap bases available. Soap suppliers generally sell the best ones.
- Watch the soap temperature carefully. The temperatures range where the soap is too cool or too hot is narrow. Most bases will be most mixable and pour-able between 130°F and 140°F (54.5°C to 60° C).
- You can use scraps as “ice cubes” to cool the soap (A) faster.
- Don’t burn the soap. Once the soap base is heated above 160°F (71°C), it will start to boil and burn. Burned soap has a gloppy, leathery texture when melted (B).
- Melting and pouring temperatures can vary between soap base brands. Use the temperatures recommended here as starting points and adjust for the soap base you are using.
- While soap can be reheated/remelted, it will lose water each time you heat it. Covering the container with plastic wrap can help minimize water loss.
- For more intricate or complex designs, melt the soap in small containers and keep them warm in a pan or slow cooker full of warm water (C). This gives you more time to work before the soap begins to cool and harden.
- While a bit of extra oil can be a good thing in cold process soap, with melt-and-pour soap it tends to make the soap softer and stickier and reduces the lather as well. If you want a luxury ingredient, such as shea butter or goat’s milk, in your soap, it’s best to purchase a base with it already formulated into the recipe.
- When trying to keep botanical or other items suspended in soaps, moving the mold to the refrigerator immediately after pouring can help cool and harden the soaps more quickly.
- Always use the same brand of soap base in layered or swirled soaps. Different brands of soap contain slightly different ingredients in them and harden and dry at different rates. This can cause the layers to be more prone to separating.
Troubleshooting Melt and Pour Soaps
- The additives sank to the bottom of the mold. The soap base was too warm when poured. Let the soap cool (and thicken) before pouring it into the mold, or use a suspension base.
- The soap is stuck in the mold. Some soap molds, especially single-cavity molds, can be difficult to demold. Adding liquid or oil additives can also make the soap stickier. Make sure the soap is completely cool. Slowly and gently try to push the soap out, bit by bit. If it still resists, refrigerate the soap for 30 minutes and try again.
- The layers separated. To help soap layers adhere, pour the second layer while the first layer is cooled enough to have formed a skin on top, but is still a bit warm. Also, spritz a bit of rubbing alcohol on the first layer before you pour the second.
- The embed or second layer melted the first layer. The second, or overpour, layer was too hot (A). While you can pour the first layer at 140°F to 150°F (60°C to 65.5°C), second layers and overpours should be between 125°F and 135°F (51.5°C and 57°C).
- The botanical added turned moldy. Fresh or puréed additives can begin to mold in the soap. Use only fully dried botanical in soaps.
- The soap is thick and leathery in the measuring cup. It’s likely the soap is old, or has been burned by multiple melting. While it may not be brown, enough water has evaporated from the soap base to cause this. Work with it as you can, or discard it.
- My soap looks like it is sweating. Melt and pour soap contains a lot of glycerin, which is a humectant (attracts water). The soap is attracting moisture from the air. After it cools, wrap the soap in plastic wrap. Even if this is not your final packaging, it will help keep the soap from sweating and can be taken off when you are ready to package, sell, or use the soap.
- The colored embeds have a foggy, colored halo around them. You are probably seeing “color bleed,” which happens in soap, especially melt-and-pour soaps, when you use water-soluble liquid dyes (B). Use non-bleeding colors, such as micas or oxides, and the colors won’t bleed.