There are two main methods of soap making. One method is to make soap from scratch, the hot or cold processed method, using oils or butters mixed with Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) and heating the mixture to blend the ingredients together, and then allowing it to set. The other method is to use a ready-made soap base, pre-made from glycerin, and involves melting the base, adding colours and fragrance and allowing the soap to re-set.
The hot or cold processed method is more costly as the products used to make the soap are more expensive. With melt and pour, the base is cheaper as it is pre-made, and buying in bulk reduces the price even further.
Melt and pour is a very simple process, where very little can go wrong. The soap always sets and any mistakes can be melted down and turned into something else. Any leftover soap can also be melted down and used again, or chopped into pieces to put in other bars of soap. Melt and pour soap can be made with basic kitchen equipment and no protection is needed apart from the usual precautions you take when heating fluids in a kitchen.
With hot/cold processed soap, the soap can fail to set. At this stage the soap cannot be remelted and so the entire batch is ruined – a complete waste of the expensive products. This type of soap making is a definite art and may take some practice, whereas melt and pour is easy and can be mastered on the first attempt. The sodium hydroxide used in the process is caustic and can burn skin, clothes and work surfaces. Precautions have to be taken such as using specific equipment, wearing protective clothing and using a ventilated area to work in.
Melt and pour soap is an inexpensive way to start soap making. All you need is the 2 soap bases, a couple of colours and fragrances ans some moulds and you can get going. Hot / cold processed is more costly and more difficult to make.
As melt and pour is made from a pre-made base, it is easy to replicate the recipe, so consistency of colour or texture is easy to achieve because the base is the same each time.
Melt and pour soap bases come in 2 varieties – clear, which is a clear transparent base, and opaque, which is a white opaque base. The clear base allows you to create special effects in your bars of soap, using plants, herbs, toys and pieces of soap. This effect cannot be achieved with hot / cold processed soap as you cannot get this clarity of soap with that method of soap making.
Melt and pour soap is ready as soon as it is set, whereas hot / cold processed soap has to be cured for at least 2 weeks. This means that it only takes a few hours to make the soap from melting the base to having a finished product. This is particularly useful if you have your own business and need to make some more soap in a hurry.
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