When we talk about soap, there are a few different types that we could be talking about. There is cold process, which is a method that involves melting and combing oils and lye water and allowing the soap to go through the saponification process over a certain time period. There is hot process, which is when a soapmaker combines melted oils and lye water in a heat safe container and cooks the batter through the saponification process, allowing for a vastly reduced cure time. Then, there is melt & pour, and this is the process we'll be discussing today!
What is it?
Melt & pour is a soapmaking method where a soapmaker takes an already saponified base, melts it, and combines it with fragrances, colorants, exfoliants and more of their choosing and then pours it in a mold. This is a great option for the beginner soapmaker, and has the potential for advanced artistry, too.
Is it Soap?
Simply put, yes. A common misconception about melt & pour is that it is lye-free. In solid bars of soap, lye is also called sodium hydroxide, and it is an essential and mandatory part of the saponification process. No lye, no soap! While someone utilizing the melt & pour method may not physically come into contact with lye, it was still used to make the meltable base they used.
Melt & pour is very versatile; bases are available in many different "flavors"! A melt & pour base is soap that is ready to use as-is; you could simply cut it and sell it, if you wanted to. But where's the fun in that? Bases typically come in transparent, white, or ivory, depending on the base you've purchased. A few examples of popular additives in bases are goat's milk, aloe and shea butter.
One of the biggest benefits of melt & pour is the ability to use glittery, shiny micas to color it! If you choose a transparent melt & pour base, these colors will retain their shimmer for a truly striking product. Just make sure that you are using skin and soap safe colorants so that your customer's skin stays as beautiful as your soap!
The Drawbacks of Melt & Pour
There are drawbacks to using melt & pour, although they are very few! One major drawback is the durability of the product. If you are showing outdoors, you will need to take care to keep your soap out of direct sunlight to prevent melting and fading. Along the same vein, melt & pour will not last quite as long as cold or hot process bars in the shower; the same additive that helps the base to melt easily can also contribute to a quick fading bar. Design-wise, it is also more difficult to attain a swirl in melt & pour.
Benefits of Melt & Pour
Melt & pour can be every bit as beneficial as cold or hot process bars. The time saved by not having to melt oils and combine them with lye water is a big benefit in itself. The ability to use shimmering colors also expands your design potential exponentially! Also, if you are looking for a great project to do with older kids, melt & pour is the safest of the three methods to use. And, let's not forget that once the bar hardens, it's ready to go-no curing, no waiting!
Melt & pour is a great way for beginners to get into soapmaking, especially if there is a concern about handling a caustic chemical like sodium hydroxide. There is a lot of potential for beautiful designs and additives; grab a base and try your hand at this fool-proof method!