Possibly the most often expressed sentiment I hear, when it comes to soap making, goes something like:
“I want to make soap, but I’m really scared of the lye!”
That is a completely justified fear and one that I shared for a very long time. It took months of research before I felt comfortable enough with the idea and even then, I had my husband handle it for the first few batches.
I would like to tell you that if a complete chicken like myself can now handle lye like a pro, then you should be able to do so too, one day!
However, until you’re ready, or if you just aren’t interested in that aspect of soap making – I’m here with a work-around to help you create your own unique herbal soaps, without handling the lye part. It’s so safe, your children can help you!
What Soap & Cake Have in Common
Making soap can be compared to making cake. You can either go to the store and buy a ready-made cake from the bakery section OR you can buy a box of cake mix to whip up at home OR you can buy the individual ingredients to make one from scratch.
In the same way, you can buy ready-made bars of soap OR you can buy a pre-made mix (melt & pour soap base) OR you can buy the oils, lye, etc needed to make your own from scratch (cold process or hot process soap.)
Each step you take further away from the made-from-scratch version, you have an added price to pay. Convenience is not only more expensive, but you also have to put up with extra ingredients, preservatives, and unpronounceable chemicals.
I have yet to find a melt and pour soap base that does not have a sketchy additive or two in it. (If you’ve found a completely natural one that is palm free, please leave me a note in the comments so I can check it out!)
However, let’s do a quick comparison of ingredients in the melt & pour base I’m going to use in this post (from Bramble Berry) and Dove Beauty Bar (just because that’s a random one I remember using as a kid):
Melt & Pour Soap Base: Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Safflower Oil, Glycerin (kosher, of vegetable origin), Purified Water, Sodium Hydroxide (saponifying agent, i.e. lye), Sorbitol (moisturizer), Sorbitan oleate (emulsifier), Soy bean protein (conditioner)
Dove Beauty Bar: Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, stearic acid, sodium tallowate or sodium palmitate (that’s animal fat or palm oil that has been reacted with lye), lauric acid, sodium isethionate, water, sodium stearate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocoate, fragrance, sodium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium etidronate, BHT, titanium dioxide
See that both of those have lye (sodium hydroxide) in the ingredients? Making soap without lye isn’t really possible, whether you are a large corporation or home hobbyist! However, you can pay the extra bit of cost and have someone handle that part for you, which is what we’re doing here today.