Soap Making Methods

Not All Soap is the Same!

This lovely image by The Spruce Crafts shows the main methods of soap making. The Soapy Zebra only make their soaps using the Cold Process soap method, which is one of the two most common methods. Read on to find out why...

Is there really a difference?

Yes, absolutely. We like to think of soap making a bit like baking. Cold Process is following a recipe from scratch, whereas Melt and Pour is buying a box kit - you have some ready-mixed ingredients and you just add a few extras. Both serve their purpose and have pros and cons.

This method is a little more complicated and takes longer than Melt and Pour soap. It also involves using lye, which is a caustic substance. To make Cold Process soap, you heat your choice of oils and butters and then mix a lye solution and blend the soap. You can add fragrance, colour, and additives, then pour it into a mould. The raw soap takes about 24 hours to harden and generally 4-6 weeks to cure before it’s ready to use (this depends on the recipe).

Pros

  • Complete flexibility to choose the base oils and butters, a flexible foundation for the recipe. Some oils do not fully saponify, like shea butter and avocado oil and this means the oils are left behind to condition the skin
  • Full customisation - additives can be as natural and simple or as colourful and complex as you wish.
  • Nothing you'd rather take out- additives or ingredients included are only in if you choose them.
  • Ability to customise the recipe to make other types of soap, like laundry soap.
  • Can be packaged very eco-friendly - naked even! 

Cons

  • More costly to make as there are more tools and ingredients required, including storage for the long cure period.
  • You need to work safely with lye (lye is a caustic ingredient that is fundamental in soap making. However, after saponification there is no lye left behaind. Only saponified oils and butters).
  • You need to be able to use a soap calculator to safely determine the correct amount of lye to add. 

Melt and Pour Soap Making Method

Melt and Pour soap making is an inexpensive, easy way to get started making soap. Some people start with Melt and Pour before moving on to Cold Process soap making, but many are just fine with the ease and safety of this style of soap. 

You buy a pre-made base that has already been saponified. You simply chop up and melt the base, and then add fragrance and colour before pouring into various mould shapes. 

Pros

  • This is an easy method for beginners and a fun, safe activity to do with children (under supervision) and you do not need a lot of ingredients or equipment to get started. Soaps can be very vibrant and artistic.
  • There is no handling of chemicals as the saponification process has already taken place.
  • There are many bases to choose from, including clear soap.
  • The soap is ready to use straight away, no need to cure.

There are some very talented soap makers that only do this Melt and Pour method.

Cons

  • It's not your recipe and you can't take anything out of the base, or add anything substantial in. For example, adding or increasing a base oil. Therefore, you cannot control the soap properties beyond choosing the base that best suits your needs.
  • In our experience Melt and Pour does not lather anywhere near what Cold Process soaps do!
  • The ingredients are not always natural. Many bases have additives, and often additional glycerin is added.
  • You have to wrap the soap airtight (usually cellophane) immediately after the soap sets to prevent what is known as 'glycerin dew'. This is where the soap attacts moisture to it and sweats. It is safe but a little unsightly.