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        An introduction to Melt and Pour soapmaking.....

Thanks to Kathleen Caryl from the Soap Depot for writing this section for our library! Follow the link at the bottom of the page to visit her site...
 

What is M&P?
Quality Melt and Pour is a soap based product and not a detergent. However, it may contain detergents. In general, M&P is around 50% soap and the balance is solvents.  It is formulated to withstand re-melting and accept additives.  It does not have to be vegetable based, although, most suppliers carry vegetable based M&P. It also does not have to contain glycerin.  The glycerin may be extracted from the soap and other solvents used to render it transparent. All Melt and Pour begins its life transparent.

What is the difference between transparent and opaque?
Titanium dioxide is added to the transparent base to whiten  it and render it opaque.

Why can't I just go buy some plain glycerin soap at the store?
Mainly because it is not the same thing.  Many of the plain glycerin soaps on the market are formulated to not melt easily as this prolongs their length of use.  This is not to say it is an impossible alternative; some people have found brands they are happy working with.  If you go this route just remember that they weren't designed for soap casting and you will probably have difficulty with more complex designs and techniques.

How do I melt it?
The best and recommended way is to melt the base in a double boiler with the cover on.  The second method is to use a microwave. Use a medium setting and short times.  The key is not to boil your base.  There are two reasons behind this. Firstly, you will evaporate too much water from the base and it will become brittle and prone to cracking. Secondly,  you may caramelize the sugars in the base and it will change color. Lastly, it just smells bad.

Do I need water?
No. However, if I am re-melting base that has been melted down multiple times, I add a bit of water to compensate for the previous evaporation.

Do I need to stir?
No. A gentle nudge to encourage a stubborn chunk to melt is fine. You do not want to stir vigorously, as this will incorporate air bubbles into the base.  All you need is gently stirring to incorporate your colors, scent or additive.

What can I use as a mold?
Candy, plaster, or soap molds all work wonderfully. PVC or ABS pipe or downspout from you local hardware store are also popular choices.  Plastic food storage or organizing containers also work well.  People are also using the actual plastic food containers. Think cat food, potato chips.

You know you are hooked, when you start looking at everything as a potential mold.

What can I add?
Lots of things, dried herbs, ground spices, luxury butters such as shea or cocoa, cosmetic clays, and of course dried flowers. A word of caution, your herbs & flowers will turn brown. Chamomile and calendula are 2 flowers that retain their color in soap, lavender does not. 1 tsp. to no more than 1 Tbs. per pound of soap base (on average, your mileage may vary).

When do I add it?
If it needs to melt add it when you are melting the base.  If it needs to melt at a higher temperature, melt it separately and incorporate it into the melted base.

Powders can clump. The best way around this is to scoop out a bit of base and make a paste with the powder.  Incorporate this paste into the melted base.

Liquids may be added to the pot when you are melting your base.
 

How do I colour it?
There are different colour additives available from different suppliers. The best direction I can give you is to follow the directions from your supplier.

Yeah, but I don't have those special color additives and I want color.  Food colors work and are safe. However, they are not designed to be used in soap and the colors will fade and/or mutate.  You may also use herbs, spices and juices to color you soap.  You may add them directly to your soap but remember that whatever you add will come in contact with your skin, so you don't want to add anything to scratchy.  You can also make a tea or infuse oil with herbs and/or spices and strain this before you incorporate it into the base.

How do I scent it?
Please do not use candle or potpourri scent oils. They were not created be applied to your skin and can cause severe reactions.  You may use either essential oils or cosmetic grade fragrance oils.  I tend to add the fragrance when the base is about 3/4 melted. This allows it to be distributed throughout the base without be subjected to excess heat.   How much depends on what is being used, essential oils should be added at a rate depending on that specific oils usage rate, there is no set rule for "all". Fragrance oils, generally 1-3%.

 

How the heck do I get it out of the mold?
This is the point when you are happy you used a flexible mold. Plastic candy or plaster molds, flex the mold so the seal breaks between the mold and the soap and pop them out.

 The most difficult mold to remove soap from is the PVC or ABS pipe or downspout.  The firmer your soap is the easier it becomes. Apply pressure to the outside of the pipe or downspout. I find it helps to push the soap back into the mold to break the seal.  Now you need to push the soap out of the mold. I use a block of wood covered with a dishtowel. Your ingenuity will create the best soap pusher for your situation.

If you are still having trouble cool the soap filled pipe or downspout in the fridge, bring it back to room temperature and try again.

When can I use it?
As soon as it is cool and firm you can take it in the shower or bath for a test drive.  Unlike traditional soapmaking the saponification process has been completed at the manufactures so you don't have to allow your M&P soap time to cure before you use it.

Kathleen Caryl
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Soap Depot
http://www.northern-sprite.com
Toronto Canada (416) 750-3870
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Check out Kathleen's site for all kinds of melt and pour goodies including color cubes.

Remember creating soaps is as much an art as it is a science. Don't be afraid to do a little experimenting to come up with new and exciting ideas. Its not like an bachelors degree or an online MBA where there are definitive right and wrong answers, you never know what may become your new favorite  combination or mold.

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