I have to admit, my favourite type of craft project is one that involves little more than putting a few things together. Okay, as I’ve written that, I realise that “putting a few things together” is a distillation of every craft project there ever has been, as well as any food recipes too. But, when the putting of things together is really straightforward, then you have a happy London Wolfe.
With this in mind, don’t be put off by the rather alarming title of this post. Make your own soap, I say. Make my own soap? you ask. Why on earth would I make my own soap? I can buy lovely soap for not very much money and besides, I’m no chemist, I won’t have any of the equipment needed for making my own soap… But fret not! Rather than suggesting you don a lab coat and goggles and mix together a range of ingredients to bubble away on your stove top, I’m only actually suggesting that you purchase yourself a “melt and pour” soap kit and then add some nice flavours.
(If you were thinking Brilliant, finally a chance to get out the Bunsen burner and test tubes and use all that glycerin I’ve got stored in the attic then I apologise, this article is going to be a sad disappointment to you…)
So, slight misnomer title aside, on with the actual soap making.
As I mentioned in my post on Homemade Christmas presents, lack of funds this festive season has meant that I’m making all my gifts this year and only spending money on supplies.
Okay, this does mean that it’s December 17th and I’m in a slight panic because I’ve only made three presents, but on the upside, I’ve discovered the joy and simplicity of home made soap. With some readymade soap base you can easily make up absolutely any flavour soap you can imagine. And, because it’s the time of giving, I wanted to share that joy with you…
For a really attractive, distinctive and unusual present, this is all you need to do. I’m going to talk through how to make lavender soaps, but I’ve put suggestions for lots of other flavours at the end…
- Melt and pour soap base. As ever, because I am frequently too lazy to leave the house and look for something I haven’t bought before in the actual shops, I got this from eBay. It cost me £9.86 for 1kg – which is enough to make about 18 small bars. I got a translucent base, which was SLS free.
- Dried lavender
- Lavender essential oil (other flavours suggested at the end of this article…)
- Soap moulds. This can be anything you like the shape of: old yoghurt pots, soft cheese pots, Tupperware or cake moulds. I’ve used a 12-hole silicon cupcake mould in the photos of round soaps below and Tupperware for the square ones. Of course, you could also buy an actual soap mould if you’re so inclined.
What to do
1. Melt the soap base squares in a big jug in the microwave. Or, if like me you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler. Or, if like me you don’t have a double boiler, stick a pyrex bowl into a much bigger saucepan filled with boiling water.
My super-professional equipment: an old wok and a Pyrex bowl
2. Once all the soap is melted, add in some drops of lavender essential oil and stir round. If you’re making one batch all the same flavour, add the essence straight into the mixing bowl. If you want to make each bar a different scent, you can add flavours directly to the individual moulds. Use approximately one or two drops per bar of soap.
There’s something really pleasing about a photograph of a drop of liquid, isn’t there?
3. Pour the liquid soap base into the moulds to about half an inch deep, using approximately half of your total mixture.
Pour to half your chosen depth first
4. Return remaining liquid soap to heat, so it doesn’t set.
5. Add a sprinkling of dried lavender to each mould (or see below for other solid flavours you can add)
Sprinkle on as much lavender as you fancy
6. Let the soap set for a minute or two, then pour the remaining liquid soap over the top (this lets the lavender sit about half way through the soap…) You may find a few air bubbles get trapped inside as well. Personally, I think this is really pretty, but if it bothers you, spray your first half with pure alcohol before adding the second batch and they should disperse.
Two separate layers of soap. The lavender tends to float a bit in the second layer
7. Leave your soap to set for at least four hours
8. To release the soap from the moulds, put it into the freezer for ten minutes. When you take it back out, the difference in temperature loosens it from the mould. (If you’re using a silicon mould, you can probably skip this step and just push the soap out.)
9. Admire your beautiful homemade soap…
Smells beautiful, looks beautiful
Other ideas for flavours
Just add a pinch, sprinkle or drop of the following flavours more other delicious smelling soaps…
Earl grey tea and bergamot oil:
Of course, being English, I’m all about a good cup of Earl Grey. Just a word of warning: once you’ve added the tea leaves, they’ll continue to bleed into the soap day by day, so if you’re making this as a present, leave it to the last moment to make, if you want to still see the contrast between the tea leaves and the clear soap. (After approximately a week, the whole thing will be brown.)
Good enough to drink…
Honey and ginger:
Mix these together in a separate container before adding to the soap.
I think this one looks particularly appealing
Cinnamon and clove:
Perfect for Christmas! You really only need a tiny pinch of each of these otherwise the soap turns a rather unappealing dark brown colour…
Christmas in a soap!
On their own, these won’t provide much scent, but I thought they looked really beautiful. You could mix in another essential oil to provide more flavour. (Or crush some cardamom seeds and add to the liquid soap.)
Is it a peanut? No, it’s the gorgeous-scented cardamom pod!
Another one that I’ve used more for the way it looks than its flavour or scent. But bung in an essential oil too and you’ll have both…
I hate the taste of star anise, but it’s certainly beautiful to look at
Or, of course you could just add any pure essential oils and have a beautiful clear soap. I tried lemon, grapefruit, ylang ylang and rosemary.
Pure and clear, but still delicious smelling
Oh, I have great plans for the packaging for these soaps. If they materialise and look as nice as they do in my head, I’ll add a post on that with some templates for boxes too…
I did indeed manage to make some attractive packaging for the soaps. Take a look at some photos, along with a free template and tutorial: gift boxes.