How to Make Hand-Milled Soaps

2 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Making a Spa Gift Basket

Scented homemade soaps make great Christmas gifts. If you prefer not to use caustic chemicals while making soap, then hand-milled soaps are your answer. The only special tool that you really need is a hand grater.

The advantages of hand-milling soap are many:

  • You don’t have to work with lye.

  • You can buy a bar of your favorite commercial soap at your local grocery store.

  • You don’t have to invest much time.

  • You can still color and scent the soap as you please.

  • You can choose any mold design that you like.

  • You’re still exercising your creativity.

The con, however, is that you’re using a prefabricated product so you have no control over the ingredients.

Here are the basic steps.

  1. Grate your soap.

    The smaller you grate your pieces, the quicker the melting time.

    Grate an existing bar of commercial soap into smaller pieces, melt it, and then remold it.
    Grate an existing bar of commercial soap into smaller pieces, melt it, and then remold it.
  2. Melt your pieces in water in the top pot of a double boiler or in a microwave. Stir your soap as it melts.

    In general, use approximately 1 cup of water for every 2 cups of soap gratings. If using the microwave, take care not to get the soap too hot. Heat the shavings and water in short bursts and check often, stirring as needed. Some people set their microwaves at 50 percent power when melting clear glycerin soap base or shavings. Experiment with what works best for you and your microwave.

  3. After the soap has melted, stir in your color, using commercial soap dyes or herbs and spices.

    Annatto gives you intense orange and yellow colors.

    Black-eyed Susans give you a pastel yellow color.

    Calendula flowers produce yellowish-orange colors.

    Chlorophyll capsules, available at your local pharmacy, produce green.

    Cocoa gives chocolate lovers a nice shade of brown, as well as a chocolate scent.

    Paprika produces a brick red color.

    St. John’s wort ends up as yellow.

    Soap dyes, herbs, and spices for the home soapmaker.
    Soap dyes, herbs, and spices for the home soapmaker.

    You can even use certain essential oils to color your soap. And technically, you can use food colorings or wax crayons, but food coloring wasn’t designed to work in soap. What you have in your cupboard is very diluted and doesn’t offer much color. In addition, the color may alter over time.

  4. Continue stirring until the soap is thick and creamy and then remove it from the heat.

  5. Add any other additives, such as essential oils.

    In general, essential oils result in a stronger scent than you achieve with fragrance oils, which is good because essential oils are more costly than fragrance oils. How hard it is to extract the oil from the plant and how plentiful those plants are in nature determines how much each type of essential oil costs. Fortunately, a small bottle of oil should last through several batches.

  6. Pour your soap into the mold.

    You can use traditional soap molds, but your options don’t end there. Use candy molds or other household items, such as mini muffin tins, cake pans, or even ice cube trays. Some people have found plastic cat food containers, round Pringles chips containers, or other packaging items to be wonderful molds after being thoroughly cleaned.

    Be creative when it comes to choosing soap molds.
    Be creative when it comes to choosing soap molds.
  7. Let the soap cool overnight before removing it from the mold.

Your soap isn’t finished just because it’s out of the mold. Allow it to solidify for three to seven days.

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