I’ve had a few people ask me, recently, about some of the soaps that I’ve been making and why some take so much longer to package.
Here is my answer, which I posted in one of my FaceBook groups, but I thought that this might shed some light on this for some of my newer followers:
I just wanted to take a few minutes to explain the different types of soaps that I make; melt & pour and cold process.
Melt & pour is to cold process what digital photography is to film photography; instant gratification! 🤣
I started out doing melt & pour because it’s fast. There. It’s out. I said it. If you look up the word, “impatience” in the dictionary, you’ll likely see my photo. It’s why I went from film photography to digital, and why I gravitated to melt & pour soaps before jumping into cold process with the big kids.
With melt & pour you select the type of base you want (glycerine, goat milk and shea butter are my go-to’s) and it comes in blocks. Two pound blocks are common, but I’ve cut up a 25 pound block, as well. The base is melted in a double boiler or microwave until no solids remain. Colorant and fragrance are added, mixed and the soap is then poured into molds. I use molds from 2 ounce shapes to 3 pound loaves. Small bars are ready to pop out of the molds and be wrapped within a few hours. A loaf mold can take as long as 8 hours to become solid enough to un-mold, slice and wrap. Melt & pour also makes it easy to weigh out extra to pour into my little sample molds.
The photos below illustrate fancy melt & pour, loaf slices and bars.
Cold process, on the other hand, is a whole different animal.
You select the types of oils and percentages of each you want to use, based on the characteristics of your desired bar outcome, then run your selected oils through a lye calculator. This requires knowing your yield. In my case, I use 3 pound loaf molds. This calculator then tells you the measurements of each oil, the amount of lye mixed into the correct amount of water, how much fragrance to use, etc. You have the option of tweaking your soap’s hardness, lather and pH. There are ideal ranges for all of these things.
Once your batter is mixed, you separate it to add different colorants for whichever look you’re going for, mix, then add fragrance. Then the batter is poured. The mold is then wrapped in towels to insulate to ensure the soap works its chemical magic. It then sits, insulated, for 24 hours. For harder soaps (soaps with larger percentages of harder oils like coconut or palm, shea butter or cocoa butter) you may be able to un-mold and slice after 24 hours. Recipes with more liquid oils (olive, sunflower, castor, grape seed, etc.) can sit in the molds, uninsulated for up to four days before you take them out to cut them. Small bar molds can be used, but the same rules apply.
Once sliced or popped out of smaller molds, cold process soaps need to cure anywhere from four weeks to a couple of months or more. Curing is the soap sitting in a cool, dry place while the water content evaporates from the bars or slices. The more water evaporated, the longer your bar will last in the shower, and let’s be honest. If I am paying for an artisan, hand crafted soap, I want it to last more than a week in the showe or tub, so I imagine you all feel the same.
Because the cold process recipes are calculated to the capacity of the molds used, it is much more difficult to get samples from them. If a loaf happens to come out with a wonky or irregular slice, I can (and will) cut samples at that time, but they will still need to have that cure time.
Below I’ve pictured a Mocha swirl and our Ocean Breeze “in the pot” swirl.
The current plan is to try to put out a cold process loaf once a week, while doing melt & pour in between so that we have the best selection of bars and slices to offer. After the cure of last week’s first cold process batch, we hope to be rolling out a new cured batch once a week within the next four weeks or so.
Let me know if y’all have any questions!
Be happy, be well, and at the very least, go make somebody smile, today!
Until next time…