Buy or Make Your Melt and Pour Soap Base?

When you first started soap making, you are likely to have used a ‘melt and pour soap base’, sometimes called a glycerin soap base, to create your first few batches of soap. And why not? These soap bases are so easy to use. You literally just melt them down, mix what you want in your soap, pour them into molds, and Voila! Soap!

As most of us became experts at doing this, however, our curiosity led us to graduate towards other methods of soap making, particularly the every so popular cold process method. While this can all be very fulfilling, many of us still wonder about that melt and pour soap base we first used, and wonder how it's made too!

We all know that soap is made by mixing lye with fat or oil. Whenever you make soap, you also make glycerin because it is a by-product of soap making. This glycerin is often blended into the soap. If you wanted to extract it, you would have to add salt to the liquid soap, making it curdle. Once it curdles completely, you remove the soap. What remains is pure glycerin, salt, and whatever impurities may have been in the products you used to make soap. You will have to distill all of this in order to have pure glycerin liquid.

Now, the glycerin soap base you used is not hardened glycerin. It is usually regular soap, often made with coconut oil, that may or may not have extra glycerin in it. Adding extra glycerin makes it better at moisturizing, but it also means it will melt faster when in water.

That means that most ‘melt and pour soap bases’ are actually just soap without any fragrance, herb additives, dye, an anything else you may want to add to jazz up your soap.

Not all melt and pour soap bases sold are very simple and fragrance free with no added properties, however. Some companies manufacture more luxurious melt and pour bases. For example, From Nature With Love produces an olive oil soap base, which already provides some of the great qualities of olive oil soap, but can be still melted down for you to add whatever you like.

So the question is, should you buy or make your glycerin soap base? The answer? It's really up to you. If you're already used to making soap from scratch, you can make your own soap base. The process has two extra steps you wouldn't normally do when making soap. First, you have to render the fat and add lye, then pour ethyl alcohol into the mixture and stir. (The alcohol will lower the soap's melting temperature.) This mixture will have to be heated, and you will need to add water slowly. Then you let the mixture cool before adding table salt. The end product is a soap base you can use.

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