Are you ready to get geared up for a new hobby that’s actually useful and fun all in one?
If you want to get your soap making hobby under way you'll need to collect some necessities first. We can gather these things in two parts. In the first box we need our ingredients, and in the second box we need our tools. In this article we will cover everything you need to gather up to make your first bar of artisan soap and show you some great resources on where to get items.
What do I need to make soap?
Part 1: Ingredients that you will need
The following is the absolute basic necessity in order to get started today. There are many selections of oils and herbs that can be added to your recipes, but in this section, we talk about your basics.
The bare bones ingredients for making soap:
There are three basic ingredients for soap: oil, water, and lye. If you have nothing else, you can make soap. If you want to make a pleasant soap that will make people want to fish into their wallets and hand you a few dollars, then you will need a few more ingredients. You will need food grade lye, oils, colorants, fragrances, and butters.
There are many people online making tutorials and videos on how to make homemade lye. This is a chemical and you should be familiar with lye before you start working with it. Check out our article that goes into greater detail and answers your questions when working with lye. This is done through a method of rinsing water through wood ash and collecting the run off. If you are a homesteader or really enthusiastic about making your soap from scratch, you might be interested in doing this. That is more advanced than this book. We do not go into that detail because the process of making homemade lye can lead to impurities. We buy food grade lye crystals in bulk from a soap maker resource. If you plan on making soap to offer others, you will want to do the same. Some say that you can find 100% lye in your hardware store on the shelves sold as drain cleaner. If you look for your lye this way, make sure the label says 100%. You can find lye with a child safety cap here.
There are dozens of both animal and plant based oils. The byproduct of animal oils include lard from pigs, tallow from cattle, and beeswax from bees. There are dozens of plant based oils which you will learn later in the chapter. The important thing to remember is that all oils listed in this book will make great soap. You can even switch out some of the oils in our recipes and experiment for yourself. Get started with a bottle of Olive Oil, a great choice for a stand alone soap. This is one of the most easily accessible oils and is stable in soap.
Colorants can be natural herbs and plants, powdered micas, or liquid dyes. Any time you use colorants make sure these are cosmetic grade and specifically for soap making. When starting off, you can use food coloring but you will quickly learn that these will fade quickly. Micas and mineral pigments will give you the brightest and best results, especially in your cold process soaps. When selecting your colorants, you will need a little practice, and be sure to read the description on how each color will behave. Some colors morph and change, some fade, and some are specific to melt and pour type soap base, while other are only for oil. Read your labels. Here is an example of a cosmetic mica you will use.
Fragrances & Oils
Fragrances and essential oils can be blended in thousands of combinations. They can be natural or artificial and should be labeled for soap making. Fragrance is the first thing your buyer will notice in your product. Make sure the fragrances you use are specifically made for soap. Candle fragrances are not suitable for toiletries. Some fragrances that include vanilla
will turn your soaps yellow or brown. Many people prefer unscented soaps. You can easily start your first batch without adding any additional scents. Additionally, you can make your own tinctures at home by soaking rose petals in a glass jar of grapeseed oil for several weeks. The oil will absorb the petal fragrance and become an essential oil. Essential oils are usually more expensive, but go a long way. You may only need a few drops of an essential oil for what a fragrance oil may call for an ounce. Check out this popular Hawaiian Breeze fragrance oil
Butters are the smooth moisturizing products you find in lotions. Added to soap that make for a soft luxurious product that will soften your skin and your buyers love. The most common butters in soap making are shea, coconut, and mango butter. Butters can get expensive and on your store shelves you will likely find products that are primarily made from coco butter. Get soap makers shea butter here.
Part 2: Kitchen Supplies that you will need
Equipment (Everything that you can keep in a box under your sink, maybe)
Glasses – Eye protection is the single most important item you must wear every time, no exceptions. Rubber glasses for the school science lab can be found at your local Walmart for about 4 dollars. Even if you think an accident won’t happen, it will. (Just like you think your house will never burn down, but every now and again you see a fire truck drive by. It happens to somebody!) Protect your eyes, you will need them to count your dollars after you sell your soap. You can grab a pair here.
Clothes – Layer up. Wear long pants, blue jeans are best. Cover your ankles, wear socks and shoes. Wear a long sleeve shirt and button the cuffs. Button the collar. Remember that time you went to the beach and your mom told you to schlack down in sunscreen and you did, but you forgot to cover the tops of your feet? Yeah, wear socks and shoes for this activity. This should be free. Let’s assume you already own clothes. If not, you can grab a kitchen smock here. (Some people just need to be complete.)
A Mask – A painter’s mask is fine. You can get a pack of four at Walmart for a few dollars. This is the same as a dust mask. It makes a huge difference. You’ll be convinced the first time you get a breath full of lye vapor. I won’t need to carry on trying to convince you. You can get a 5 pack here and keep them in your soap making box.
Gloves – Your hands and wrists are the most common place that you’ll experience the power of the caustic burn. It’ll happen eventually, even with gloves. Chances are you will wipe up a few drops of lye batter from your counter during clean up, set your rag down, take off your gloves after clean up, and pick the rag up to toss it in the garbage. “Ouch, so that’s what that feels like. Wow, I’m glad I was wearing my gloves.” A box of 100 plastic gloves is just a few bucks.
Scales & Measuring Equipment
A digital scale is preferred because in some cases you will want to calculate down to the tenth of an ounce for your lye solution. You may also want to work in grams. The digital scale will be more helpful when your units of measurement are small. A postage scale is perfect for this duty. These are available for about ten dollars in some places. Make sure to replace your digital scale with fresh batteries when you see that the numbers are taking too long to calculate. Dying batteries can be a nuisance.
You will need a set of dry and liquid measuring cups and spoons. Most everything suitable for cooking is suitable for soap making. They will need to be resistant to heat. Dollar stores are great for this. Here is a great digital scale.
Pots and Pans
It just so happens that I use separate pots and pans for soap making than I do for cooking. For my recipes, I find that I almost never pour lye into my pots and pans. I almost always use them for melting oils. Because of this, I really don’t need to use special pots and could use my cooking pots. However, if you use a technique where you are cooking lye in your pots or simply using them for making batter you will need to keep them separate. The best place to buy pots for soap making is your local thrift store. You can find what you need for a few dollars. You must use stainless steel. Do not use aluminum, tin, cast iron, or anything that is non-stick. These metals can react badly even violently giving off toxic fumes when in contact with lye. Some recipes will use a double boiler. This also must be stainless steel.
For stirring utensils, you will want stainless steel or silicone. Silicone are the easiest way to go because you can get them by the handfuls over at the dollar store. The same rules apply to stirring utensils in regard to aluminum, tin, or non-stick. Plastic is fine. Wood may disintegrate after a while and cause splintering in your soap. It is recommended to stay away from wood. Rubber spoons are my choice.
Plastic bowls are a necessity. You can buy a set of plastic nesting bowls at your local family dollar or Walmart. I use these religiously only for soap and mixing lye. They are different from any other color than any other bowl in the kitchen. In my case, they are white plastic. They sit on a high shelf out of reach of convenience.
A Crock Pot
You only need a crock pot for making hot process soap. It is best to buy a large 8 qt. crock pot. I find them every time, hands down, at the Good Will stores. If Good Will stores aren’t in
your area, you may look in a Salvation Army or any thrift store. I have never paid more than 8 dollars for a crock pot and have several. I have seen some books say that a 3-quart crock pot is large enough for a batch of soap. For me, that would never work. When you cook soap with the hot process method it bubbles and expands, and one loaf always fills my 8-quart crock pot. You don’t need a crock pot to make hot process soap, a pot will do, but I prefer the slow cooking porcelain glass. I have NEVER purchased a new crock pot for making soap. Here is a good sturdy slow cooker fit for hot process soap.
Stick Blender – This is a hand held blender that plugs into the wall. This is your best friend and most important tool in making soap. You will use it for everything and basically can’t make a batch of soap without it. (OK, technically you can, but it’s really more difficult) You can get a new stick blender at Walmart for 12 dollars.
Kitchen Aid Mixer – a kitchen aid mixer is an amazing tool in the kitchen. It is not necessary to have one of these to make bars of soap, but when you start working with more advanced recipes that include soap that is piped on the tops of your loaves like icing you will need the mixer. Why the kitchen aid over the cheaper ones? The cheaper ones will break. The kitchen aid runs anywhere from 200 – 500 dollars and is not a necessity. It is a luxury that you will want to invest in if you start to move forward with your soap making business. Grab it if you come across one, or snag it here.
There are two different ways to go about molds. You can buy one, or you can make your own. First, you can buy commercial loaf molds online made from silicone that are the perfect size to cut
into bars when your batter has hardened. These can run ten or twenty dollars, and you can find them on eBay, or Etsy, or a store that specializes in soap supplies. Just google the keywords: silicone soap mold, and you will get the results you are looking for. Second, molds can also me wooden. These are just fine, and you will line them with wax paper when pouring your batter. You can find them online as well.
If you don’t want to wait for an online order you have other options. You can find silicone baking molds at your thrift store or neighborhood store. You can use individual molds or fancy cake molds; a bead mold works well also. It’s also possible to mot buy anything and pour your batter into a customized cardboard box. If you find a shoe box or a thick corrugated box, you can adjust the size and reinforce the sides with tape. I have done this many times. It will take some practice to get your pieces into the sizes you like and you will
eventually need to make a new box. You may have to cut the sides of your box away once your soap has hardened, but with a little practice and creativity, you can use your box as many times as you want. Here are some molds that will save you all the work of cutting your bars.
The Excerpt was Taken from 90 Homemade Soap Making Recipes
If you enjoyed this article, it came from the Thermal Mermaid book 90 Home Made Soap Making Recipes. Written by Jennifer & Hannah Tynan. It includes 90 original recipes to get your hobby started. You can grab your copy here.