If you read my previous article (read here for 6 reasons to ditch store bought soap today!) and decided to try soapmaking, you may be thinking “Okay, I’m ready to try my hand at this soapmaking thing! But, how do I start?”
Well, you came to the right place! Here are 9 essential items required for soapmaking.
But, before we go further, I need to stress how important it is to make sure you have a place and a time that your soaping area is free of kids and pets. We love our little kiddos and furballs, but having them run around in the soaping area while soap making is underway can be a recipe for disaster. Let’s explore this further.
Sodium hydroxide (more commonly known as lye) is a key element in soapmaking. That being said, lye needs to be treated with respect. It will burn skin on contact, which can be detrimental to the health and safety of you and your family. So, keeping the soaping area “chaos-free” is key.
Many moms of small children make soap after the kids are tucked in for the night. Your child is visiting at a friend’s house for a play date? Great time to make soap. If your kids are older and in school, that could be another opportune time for soapmaking. Or, if you’re like me – an old dog learning new tricks – you won’t have to worry about kids being underfoot…just keep Fluffy away from your soaping area!
Because lye is caustic, it is strongly recommended to wear long sleeves, rubber gloves, and safety goggles. Yes, you’ll look like a mad scientist, but you’ll be minimizing the chance of getting lye onto your skin or into your eyes. I also like to wear an apron – less chance of me dirtying my clothes with drips and splashes of oil or colourants.
Now that we’ve gotten some of the pillars of safety covered, let’s carry on.
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What Supplies Are Needed For Soapmaking?
- Stick blender
- Crockpot (or two pots)
- Kitchen scale
- Utensils and containers
- Small sieve
- Candy thermometer
- Small spray bottle of vinegar
- Mold and cutter
- Curing rack
You’ll want a stick blender to save yourself from stirring the soap mixture for HOURS.
If you’re planning on using the Hot Process soapmaking method (we will discuss this in another post), you will need some way to “cook” your soap mixture. A crockpot is very useful for that. Alternatively, some people choose to use a water bath by putting a smaller pot inside a bigger pot of water and cooking the soap that way.
An accurate kitchen scale is important for soapmaking. Soaping ingredients are measured by weight, rather than volume, for more accuracy.
Utensils and Containers
These, along with everything else that you use, must be dedicated to soapmaking. Once you’ve use these items, and they’ve been in contact with lye, you don’t want to be putting food in them again. A few bowls, spoons, and spatulas are a great place to start.
*Note: Never use aluminum, cast iron, or steel items when making soap – the lye can react with these metals. Stainless steel is safe, as well as heatproof glass and plastic. And a wooden spoon works great.
A small plastic or stainless steel sieve is handy for those times when a few little lye particles may not completely dissolve in the water. You don’t want undissolved lye in your soap.
This is important for making sure that your lye/water and your oils are a the right temperature before combining them.
Having a small spray bottle filled with vinegar on hand is a safety measure. If by chance you do end up getting lye on your skin, spraying the area with vinegar will neutralize the lye immediately.
There are many different mold options. Molds can be bought at soap-supply stores, or online (I got mine off of Amazon, and it’s perfect because it comes with a couple of cutters, as well). OR, if you’re handy (or have someone handy in your life), you can make a wooden mold and line it with freezer paper. Some people also use other creative ideas – PVC pipe for round soaps, or molds made out of cardboard or well-cleaned milk/cream cartons. So many options available!
Unless you’re using a mold that makes individual bars of soap, you’ll need some sort of cutter to cut your “loaf” of soap into bars. A big knife can work, or a piece of wire. Or, you can buy special cutting blades (straight edge or ribbed). A more expensive option is a wire soap cutter that cuts a whole loaf of soap into individual bars at one time.
*Note: If you’re not sure if this soapmaking journey is for you, starting with some empty milk/cream containers is a great way to give it a try. Psst, I ask my family and friends to pass along their empty containers to me!
Since you’ll need to cure your soap after its been cut into bars, you’ll need something that allows for air circulation around the bars. Plastic or rubber-coated metal racks work well. Uncoated metal racks are not recommended because the moisture in the soap could lead to the metal getting rusty.
As far as supplies go, that’s about it. The nice thing is that a lot of the items that are needed for soapmaking such as crockpots, utensils, and containers, can be found at your local thrift store at a very reasonable (sometimes even downright cheap) price. Why not check one out…you might even find some unexpected treasures there!