Different Methods of Soap Making
Did you know there are three different methods of Soap Making? Cold process, melt and pour, and hot process. There are pros and cons for each method and every maker has their own personal preference.
Cold Process (CP) soap making is made by mixing oils or fats with water and lye (aka sodium hydroxide) to begin a process called saponification; a chemical reaction that turns the liquids into solids and leaves us with soap. A soap completely from scratch. You can add fresh ingredients like milk and fruit/veggie purees if using this method. You then wait for 4 to 8 weeks for the bars to cure and excess water to evaporate before you can use them.
CP Soap allows you to customize every single ingredient to suit your personal preferences.
This is a true soap and considered a more natural bar of soap. You can decorate these soaps with clays, mica, and oxides. You can also choose a fragrance or essential oil blend to make it something special.
Melt & Pour (M&P) soap, also referred to as glycerin soap, is a pre-made base that is ready to use. M&P soap is actually a blend of true soap ingredients (natural oils and lye) plus glycerin and synthetic ingredients ranging from alcohol-based emulsifiers to solvents. These chemicals allow the soap to melt (true soap doesn’t melt), giving the crafter a product that they can melt and form into any shape desired.
Melt and pour soap is quick to make; it hardens in several hours and does not need to cure. The soap base has already gone through saponification but the base is not fully customizable. Since saponification has already happened, you can't choose the oils/butters that go into the soap. Fresh ingredients like milk and purees will eventually go bad in the bars. But, you can add a special fragrance or essential oil blend to give it a lovely scent.
Hot Process (HP) Soap is similar to CP soap in that it's also completely from scratch. It is also made with Sodium Hydroxide and you can customize each ingredient. The main difference between this process and CP is that you force the saponification process by cooking the soap. This can be done in a crockpot or on a stovetop and will result in a more rustic-looking soap. HP is also considered a true and more natural bar of soap.
The downfall of HP is the high temperatures. Ingredients such as milk and purees tend to scorch during the cooking process and you also risk burning off the fragrance or essential oils.
There is disagreement in the soap-making world of when HP soap is ready to use. While technically the soap is safe to use after 24 hours (because of forced saponification) it can be soft and not last very long. I still like to cure HP soap for a good 4-8 weeks to make sure the excess water has evaporated and you have a nice hard bar of soap.
Let’s use a simple cake analogy. Cold process and Hot process soap are like a cake from scratch and Melt & Pour is like a cake from a box. All are soap and will get you clean but there is always something special about a product made from scratch.
At Bath Nutts we use the cold process method of soap making so each of our soaps can contain our fresh goat milk right from our farm.