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Thursday, October 27, 2016

I've been making some of the soap for gifts

I'll be gifting some of this soap in less than a month. I didn't want to make the soap too far in advance, as glycerin soap gets "weepy" with age, IME. I don't know exactly what that age is, maybe a few to several months. In any case, I wanted to make this as close to gifting, as I could, but still insure that I would have extra time, in case it didn't go as planned. (You know life -- it never goes as planned!)

This is the honey-almond-oatmeal soap.

I used a goat's milk glycerin soap base, bought at Michael's with a 50% off coupon, honey-almond soap fragrance, bought at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon, honey from my pantry, oats from my pantry, the cardboard box from some spaghetti noodles, lined with plastic wrap and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, from my pantry, at the end of pouring, I sprayed with rubbing alcohol, from my cupboards.

Since there is so much information on making melt and pour soap, already, out there. I thought I'd just give you some specific info on questions I had for my own batch.

How much oatmeal (or other dry matter like coarsely ground herbs/flower petals) in a batch of soap?
  • no more than 1/4 cup ground oats (1/3-1/2 cup rolled oats) per 1 lb of soap base. I used about 3 tablespoons of ground oats, per pound and a quarter.
What form of oats to use in soap?
  • the type of oats used in bars of soap is somewhere between colloidal oatmeal (finely ground, like a flour/meal), and quick-cooking oats. I took my regular rolled oats and ran them briefly through my coffee grinder, to get the right grind.
How much honey to add to soap base?
  • some recipes called for as much as a couple of tablespoons of honey per pound of soap. I used 1 tablespoon of honey per pound and a quarter.
What to us for a mold?
  • I used a long, narrow spaghetti noodle box, roughly 10.75 inches by 2.75 inches. This will give me 4 almost square bars of finished soap, that I will cut with a chef's knife.

How do I prepare the box for a mold?
  • I used duct tape to tape the open end, closed. I used glue stick inside, to glue that opening flap on the inside, shut.
  • I used an x-acto knife to slit the top of the box, down the center, and then the ends of the box, so that once slit, I had "flaps" that opened up the box, for a long, narrow tray, about 1  1/2 inches deep.
  • I sprayed the inside bottom of the box, very lightly, with spray adhesive. This isn't completely necessary, but I wanted the plastic wrap to stay in place, when un-molding the soap. A little glue stick would also work. I allowed the glue to partially dry, for 20 minutes. It was tacky at this point. See notes on reusing box, as it didn't go perfectly.
  • I then lined the box with a sheet of plastic wrap. This was tricky, at first, but ultimately worked out. I was able to reposition the plastic wrap, as needed, when lining the box.
  • before pouring in the soap, I lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray -- this step was super helpful in un-molding the soap.
How do I find out how much soap to use for my box mold?
  • I didn't want a bar as thick as the depth of the box, but one that was a little over an inch thick
  • I calculated the cubic measurement of my box, with about 1  1/4 inches as my depth (width multiplied by height/depth multiplied by length)
  • I entered my cubic inches into this calculator online to convert cubic inches to liquid volume
  • for my box, my cubic inches was 36.95, and I used 1  1/4 pounds of soap base
  • my resulting bars are about 2.68 inches by 2.75 inches, but only 1 inch tall. A lot of soap seemed to remain in my melting can. So, for future bars of soap, in this box, I'll add about 2 extra ounces per pound, of soap base. I can always pour extra soap into a yogurt container.

How do you keep bubbles from forming on the surface of the soap, after pouring?
  • immediately after pouring the soap into the mold, I sprayed/spritzed the surface of the soap with rubbing alcohol, using the spray top to my fine-mist spray bottle (a repurposed body mist bottle)
How do I keep the sides of the box from bowing out, after filling with soap?
  • I used 2 hardbound books -- before pouring the soap, I set a book right up against each of the long sides of the box, holding the sides of the box in place -- a very lightweight, make-shift vise of sorts. It worked well-enough for me, to yield bars with straight sides.
How long do I keep my soap in the box?
  • I left mine in overnight. The next morning, I tried flipping the box over to un-mold and the soap wouldn't come out. So, I put the box into the freezer for half an hour. 

Will it come out of the mold easily?
  • I had trouble getting my soap bar out of the mold. I used a table knife to loosen it. It was primarily stuck in the corners. I undid one of the taped ends of the box, to retrieve my soap.
Can I reuse my box mold?
  • this is why I went to the trouble to adhere plastic wrap to my box. I want to make a differently fragranced set of soap, when this batch was done, using the same box. Ultimately, I did get the soap out of the box. I will reline the box with new plastic, I think, and try to reuse the same box.

What do you do about the lines and marks from the plastic wrap?
  • I wasn't careful enough with lining the box with the plastic, so the obvious answer for me is to be more careful to line the box next time, without wrinkles, as much as possible.
  • otherwise, you can smooth out many imperfections on your soap, using a plain terry towel. I simply buffed my soap until the markings were less obvious. This is homemade hand-crafted soap, so some imperfections are to be expected, and desired. Having added oats to the soap worked great as a camouflage for some of the imperfections. My next batch will have semi-ground lavender buds in it, again concealing some of the imperfections from pouring into a make-shift mold. 

How do you cut the large bar into individual bars?
  • After measuring and lightly marking my long bar, I used a chef's knife, with a quick push downward (no sawing). Worked like a charm.
I like how this hand-crafted soap turned out. It was easy enough, and the cost was reasonable. I was able to buy the 2 ingredients that I lacked, the soap base and the scented oil, with coupons, substantially reducing my cost per bar. Each bar came to just under $1, including tax. The top photo shows 1 bar of hand-crafted soap along with one of my hand-crafted spa cloths (at about 80 cents each). Those two items together, tied with a pretty ribbon, would make a nice gift, and the total cost is under $2.

To wrap each bar of soap, I will use some cellophane that I have here. I have a large cellophane bag that  I will repurpose, by cutting into squares for wrapping individual bars.

Next week, I'll make the lavender soap, to pair with the lavender-colored spa cloths that I knit. 


  1. What a lovely gift! And such a thorough explanation for anyone wanting to do the same.

    1. Hi Cat,
      thanks. I like the way the bars of soap came out. And now the next batch will be a tad easier, I hope.

      Have a great day, Cat!

  2. It looks pretty with your spa cloth. :)

  3. Lovely soap and towel, sure to bring a nice smile from its recipient!! I'm sure your presentation will enhance its handcrafted appeal all the more. You did it spending very little, yet was able to make multiples without too much individual effort. That's so smart!! I wish I could do that but my brain isn't wired to do a second one without doing it a bit different. Even my rag rugs, I'm "wasting" so much time making something that has no value at all, yet I can't stop. So day after day...but each rug is different haha. Is it the penny pincher in me gone wild that can't let go of any "too good to throw away" rags and must turn them into something more than rags. It's becoming an obsession and chore, yet I continue. Now the latest, since the knitted shirts don't always tear nicely in strips, I am making crumb rag rugs. Can't get more insane than That!

    Hope your day is wonderful!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      You'll have to send me photos, some time, of your rugs. I'd love to see them, and am curious about what a crumb rag rug looks like.

      We all approach things differently. I happen to really like seeing multiples of the same item. It's a look that appeals to me, like in shop.

      Oh, I know that thought of, "this is still in such good shape, I can't throw it out!" This next year, I hope to really get a good start on decluttering/repurposing all the excess. I think it will make housekeeping simpler to have less stuff all around.

      Have a great day, YHF!

    2. I don't like any I've made so far. I think I'm always challenged by the limited colors that I'm working with. I always run out of a particular color and that forces me to end the rug funny, and the tension is not even with knit fabric strips, although knitting has solved any tension problems. But because they are just rag rugs and valued more for function than beauty, we can still use them at every entrance. It helps keep our floors clean since we can dust our feet on them before entering. (We like to walk without any footwear indoors.) Nylon and man-made fibers don't clean as well as cotton, so this is probably why I think I find purpose in what I'm doing. But these sell so cheap at the stores, probably made in a low wage country.

      When I do finish one that I am happy with, I'll send you a picture. I've made about nine so far, and none are good enough to be photographed. My husband likes the one I knitted for our bath mat. He says it is absorbant and just the right size and weight to flip down on the floor at bath time. He didn't like the terry bath mats.

      Crumb rag rugs is akin to crumb quilts...using odd and end pieces up. But I like the helter-skelter look that is somewhat appealing, so I may use that method of combining multistrands of odd dimensioned t-shirt yarns and apply it intentionally where I want the effect.


    3. YHF, what you are making sound especially well-suited for entry mats and bath mats. I really like the idea of a bath mat made from tee shirts. It would be so soft! I hope you make one you like, soon, so I can see one! ;-)

      have a great day!

  4. I absolutely love this! What a great way to repurpose the spaghetti box too! Awhile ago my oldest was thinking about trying her hand at soap making so we went to Michaels to price things out. She ended up not following through but I remember thinking that all those cute little soap molds could get pretty expensive! And, personally, I like the square shape you got better! Awesome job!

    1. Hi TrayceeBee,
      Oh I know what you mean. When I set out to do the soap this year, those molds looked pretty pricey and I wanted to be able to make a quality soap, but on a small budget. Compromising on the mold seemed like the logical solution to me.

      I think I like the more "hand-hewn" nature to making soap in a slab and then cutting. It emphasizes that these are a handicraft, and not factory-made. And I like the squares, too!

      Have a great day, Traycee!


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