Updated: Sep 18, 2021
You've probably (hopefully) used soap before, and you might even enjoy getting soap that smells or looks a certain way. I particularly enjoy making it.
There are a few different kinds of soap, and tons of different recipes for it. (Like cake, you like cake, right? Don't mind me). So there's the stuff you typically buy at stores (often not true soap, more like a detergent blend) in liquid or solid form, and there's actual "true" soap," which is made by combining oils and lye (the lye is gone in the final product - if it's done right), also available as liquid or solid. We're gonna talk about actual soap.
By definition, Soap is the product of a chemical reaction between oil(s) and lye. I'll try to refrain from getting too sciency for anyone.
oils + lye = soap + glycerin
So, soap is its own little entity, something Other than its ingredients. That is, if the measurements are right. (like in the cake - I must be hungry 😂).
Some other things worth noting, but I don't want to bore you too much with details:
- Often, a soap maker will adjust their recipe so that there is a small amount of extra oils that don't get turned into soap, so it can be more moisturizing etc.
- Different oils will give a soap different properties, and will also affect how the mix behaves in the making process.
- A lot of different things will affect how the soap "batter" (not my word, still cake-related) will behave, fragrances and additives are the main culprits.
- Solid soap is made using Sodium Hydroxide lye, whereas liquid soap is made with Potassium Hydroxide lye, also known as Potash.
- Despite the clear analogy to cake baking, Soap SHOULD NOT be eaten. I don't care how good or edible it may smell.
I have personal objections to making bath products (or anything inedible) that looks like food (looking and smelling edible is just a bad idea imo). I have made things that look like food, and it just makes me worry. I have even had to tell folks that a bar of soap is not food.
So, continuing on...
There's soap made from scratch, where the maker is actually combining the oils and lye themselves, and there's melt and pour.
The from scratch soap has a few processes for making (cold process, hot process) and none are for the faint of heart, inexperienced, or uncoordinated. It takes research, equipment, and most importantly, safety precautions. However, if you're making it from scratch, you know everything that goes into it, and you can control which oils, additives, etc you want, and what kind of benefits you want from it. (ps. the FDA doesn't validate claims on any of this stuff, unless you're tested and regulated as a drug, so do your homework).
Melt and pour soap is still soap, but it is premade with added glycerin and purchased by a maker as a base to which they add fragrance and color. It is beginner friendly and has its place in the world, but I personally have a semantics issue with calling it handmade. It's kind of like buying Pillsbury sugar cookie dough in the tube, baking and decorating, and then saying you made them yourself. Melt and pour has its own pros and cons, and is different to work with than cold process (the method I use). I personally like it best for making embeds (the little soap decorations on top of cold process bars).
Anyway, I think I've vomited enough soap info for now. On to other things!