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Soap Maker

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Back in your great-grandparents' day, home-made soap was probably the norm. During those times, there wasn't the variety of scented bars in all shapes and colors that adorn most modern-day store shelves.

Today, some people are looking to return to simplicity, and they're making their own soaps using natural ingredients at home. Whether you use fruits for color or aromatherapy for scent, making your own soap is a great way to ensure you know what you're putting on your skin.

Soap making is a rewarding hobby, because the process is seen through from start to finish. You also get to use what you have made. Another bonus is that at Christmas, those crazy shoppers can be avoided. A home-made gift is always appreciated by friends and family.

In the past, soap was made at home to save money. This is still the case today, but now it is usually more of a hobby than a financial decision. A bar of Ivory comes pretty cheap, but the satisfaction of making up a batch of your own soap is usually more rewarding than saving a quarter!

Kent Granvelle works at Cranberry Lane. He says that the best thing about his job is "creating new products and services for our customers. We design our own kits to make soap, bath bombs, cleansers, lotions, lip balms -- all using natural ingredients."

If you can develop soap that impresses other people, sell it to friends and family members. To reach a larger audience, consider setting up a booth at the flea market or church bazaars -- or go worldwide with the Internet.

Companies need people to make new scents and new products. From Watermelon to Blue Lagoon, go with whatever you think will sell!

Getting Started

According to Granvelle, the average cost of starting in soap making as a hobby is between $30 and $100.

"To start up, you need recipes, vegetable oils [most popular: coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, vegetable shortening, beeswax], lye [sodium hydroxide], an accurate scale [small digital postal scale is fine], measuring cups, pots or bowls, candy thermometer, plastic or wood mold [to pour your soap into]."

Other equipment includes:

  • Safety goggles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sturdy plastic stirring spoons, one for oils, one for lye and water mix
  • Old blanket, preferably wool (you can find these at thrift stores if you don't have any)
  • Plastic food wrap

Whatever equipment you use must become dedicated to soap making only. Lye is very harsh and can cause serious injury or even death if swallowed. Lye in your eyes can cause blindness, so be sure to wear your goggles. Make sure to label containers and keep animals away.

If you are just starting out, have someone who is more experienced work with you.

Patience and the ability to mix ingredients properly will help the process. The basic steps include:

  • Having a mold to pour the soap into (the molds can sit on a blanket)
  • Weighing, heating, mixing and stirring ingredients
  • "Tracing" -- the part of the process where the mixture starts to thicken
  • Adding oils or fragrance
  • Pouring the mixture into the molds and covering with plastic food wrap
  • Letting the soap set (24 hours is suggested)
  • "Unmolding" (taking out of the molds)
  • Cutting
  • Curing (letting the soap sit for a minimum of three weeks)

The Soapmaker's Club is an international club that keeps soap makers around the globe in touch with one another. Level one membership, for soap hobbyists, can be purchased for $50 a year.

This includes a 10 percent discount on all soap making supplies, a quarterly newsletter and a binder with the club logo for saving recipes and notes.

Joining a club can keep the hobbyist informed. This will help, but just like every other hobby, there are always some common mistakes that people make when they start out. Sabrina Downard, who just recently took up soap making, says to "write down your recipes and buy a good scale."

Both of these tips help to avoid a mistake that Downard made. She ended up with "one batch that I really messed up, because I was confident I knew how much lye to add to the mix -- turns out I only added half as much as I needed. I had some wonderfully scented brown oily gunk that I ended up tossing out."

By visiting the Body Shop or other similar stores, it is easy to see that natural and good smelling soaps are in demand. Soap making Web sites are also quite popular.


Soap Making Recipes and Resources
A step-by-step beginner's guide

Homemade Soap
Information, photos, and links

Distributor of soap making supplies

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.