If you know anything about handmade soap, you may have run across this terminology before: cold process, hot process, melt and pour, hand milled...
You may not know what any of that means.
In case you ever wondered, this is the blog read for you.
Well, here is my attempt at briefly explaining what those things are and how they differ from one another.
Let's start with just your basic melt and pour. This is a method of soap making where you purchasing a pre-made soap product. You melt it down, add some color and frgrance to it and mold it to your preference. Sound easy? It is, although there are a few things that you need to know in order for your soap to be successful. Melt and pour method does not require you adding any ingredients that may be dangerous around kids and animals, or to yourself. It really is a fun, clean craft. Easy wash up since it IS soap.
I started off making melt and pour soaps. I still make them on occasion, although that method is not the bulk of my soap making.
Next is the cold process soap method. This requires that your make your own soap formula from various oils, liquid and sodium hydroxide (lye). There are tons and bunches of soap recipes online and in books. Each oil adds its own distinctiveness to the soap recipe. If your are a star trek fan, you may remember how "The Borg" assimilate other cultures to add to their own? Well, different oils are like that in soap. Palm oil helps to harden the soap, coconut oil gives the soap a nice lather, castor oil gives the soap a sudsy quality, olive oil is amazing on your skin but low on suds, and so on.
Just the right amount of liquid and lye mixed with the oils, and mixed together until the soap begins to thicken just a bit, called "trace". Then you add any other colors, fragrances or exfoliants to the soap. In cold process, the lye mixed liquid and oils are mixed together at a cooler temperature. They are poured into molds and covered and insulated to allow the oils and lye mixture to heat up and "cook". The curing process takes a while before the soap is safe to use. I typically wait about four to six weeks before I will allow it to be sold.
If done right with a good recipe, you will get a great, smooth bar of soap at the end of that time. A few drawbacks in cold process is that some colors you may use, may look different when the soap is done, and some fragrance oils fail miserably during the curing process and you end up with a nice bar of soap that doesn't smell anything like you intended.