Soap Crafting: Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps

Soap Crafting: Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps

by Anne-Marie Faiola


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Make your own custom-tailored and perfectly formed cold-process soaps! Learn how to use milk jugs and yogurt containers for molds, and how coffee, avocado, and even beer can add unique dimensions to your creations. This encouraging introduction to the art of soapmaking makes it simple to master the techniques you need to safely and easily produce your own enticingly fragrant soaps.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612120898
Publisher: Storey Books
Publication date: 08/13/2013
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 267,074
Product dimensions: 7.60(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Anne-Marie Faiola is the author of Milk SoapsPure Soapmaking, and Soap Crafting. She is the owner of Bramble Berry, a company that sells soapmaking supplies at, and offers soapmaking advice and inspiration through her blog and on her YouTube channel, Soap Queen TV. The recipient of several small business awards, Faiola was named a Best Boss in America by Fortune Small Business, and is a member of the Coalition of Handcrafted Entrepreneurs (COHE). She can be found online at


Read an Excerpt



At its core, soapmaking is a science. Soap results from the chemical reaction that occurs when you combine a fatty acid (oil) with an alkaline substance (lye); the process is called saponification.

Because saponification involves caustic materials, safety precautions are critical. Please review the safety guidelines given in this chapter before starting your soapmaking journey.


There are a variety of soapmaking methods: the cold-process method, the melt-and-pour method, and the hot-process method are three of the most popular. This book deals primarily with the cold-process method, but once you've mastered that method you may have fun learning about the other options.

The Cold-Process Method

The cold-process method of making soap from scratch consists of mixing sodium hydroxide (lye) with water and then combining the lye-water solution with one or more oils until the mixture reaches a thin, pudding-like consistency in a process called tracing. At this point, you mix in colorants, fragrances, and any other additives, such as herbs or spices, and pour the traced soap into molds.

Once the soap has hardened (usually in two to three days), you can pop it out of the molds. You will have to continue drying and curing it for four to six weeks. As the soap cures, excess water evaporates and the lye and oil continue to react, making the soap milder and leaving you with an exceptionally skin-loving product.

This method is called cold-process because it requires no outside heat source. Despite the name, however, there is heat generated during the process. When the lye is added to the water, the resulting exothermic (i.e., heat-producing) reaction can reach up to 200°F. That is warm enough to melt most solid oils that can be used in soapmaking; in fact, with most soapmaking techniques, the lye-water has to be set aside to allow it to cool before it is added to the oils.

Cold-process soaping is popular because you can choose recipes with whatever skin-safe ingredients you want. It does, however, have a couple of drawbacks. First, it deals with lye and so is not a suitable activity for children. Second, some soapers may get impatient with the drying and curing time.

Rebatching Soap

A variation of cold-process soapmaking is rebatching soap. With this method, you take shreds of cold-process soap, apply heat and some liquid, and turn the soap shreds into a new bar of soap. This method appeals to people who wish to use delicate essential oils in an all-natural recipe. The high pH of fresh cold-process soap will often damage the delicate scent and properties of some exotic essential oils. Rebatch soap allows you to have all the goodness of cold-process soap without having to worry about the safety issues involved with handling lye. The resulting product has a more rustic, rough-hewn texture than traditional cold-process soap and intricate designs are more difficult to create.

The Melt-and-Pour Method

The melt-and-pour soapmaking method uses a premade soap base that melts easily. Most soapers melt the soap base in a microwave or a double boiler, though any gentle heat source — for example, a dual-temperature rice cooker — will do. Once the soap base is melted, you simply mix in colorants, fragrances, and other additives; stir well; and pour the mixture into the mold. As soon as the soap sets up (usually within an hour or two), it is ready to use.

Many soapers prefer the melt-and-pour technique because the clear or white base gives them many design options and because the end product does not need any curing or drying time. The premade base limits the choice of ingredients, but the 40 to 50 available formulations fit the vast majority of soapers' needs. Melt-and-pour soap is also a fun craft to make with children. Though it does not use lye, the soap base can get quite hot during the melting phase, so adult supervision is recommended.

The Hot-Process Method

The hot-process method of soapmaking is similar to the cold-process method in that you start from scratch, which allows you to choose from a wide range of ingredients, and you use lye. However, as the name implies, this method involves the application of heat. With the hot-process method, you either cook your soap on the stove in a large stainless-steel pot or bake it in the oven (keeping a close eye on it at all times) or use a slow cooker. Hot-process soap can be used immediately; however, without the 4- to 6-week curing and drying time used in the cold-process method, the bars are softer and do not last as long in the shower.


Learning to make cold-process soap is a bit like learning how to cook, with one major exception: the safety precautions are more serious. One of the main ingredients in cold-process soap is sodium hydroxide (lye), a caustic material commonly used to clean drains, brine lutefisk, and, believe it or not, help make that nice crunchy crust on pretzels.

You can buy powdered, flaked, or beaded lye over the counter in many hardware stores and in the cleaning section of most big grocery stores. Typically, chemical supply stores or online vendors catering to soapmakers are more reliable sources. If you buy lye over the counter, make sure it is 97 to 99 percent pure and has no additives. Some popular drain cleaners have bits of aluminum added to them that are harmful to the soapmaking process. However you purchase your lye, you must treat it carefully.

When you are making soap, it is important to take safety precautions. Here are the basics.

Protect your eyes. While your skin acts as a protective barrier on your body, your eyes have no such natural protection. Lye can cause permanent damage. Dry lye, lye-water, and fresh soap can all cause irreparable harm if they get into your eyes, so use goggles or a full facial mask at all times when working with lye or fresh soap batter. Eyeglasses are not adequate protection.

Wear gloves. Lye-water or fresh soap batter can sting, burn, or cause red welts if it comes into contact with your skin. The area underneath your fingernails is especially sensitive. Spilling lye or fresh soap on even minor wounds is extremely painful. I recommend wearing gloves not only during the soapmaking process but also during the cleanup process.

Wear long sleeves and pants. Contact with lye-water or fresh soap will, at best, itch and irritate skin and, at worst, cause serious burns. Best practices involve wearing long sleeves and long pants during the entire soapmaking and cleanup process. And, of course, never make soap unless you're wearing closed-toe shoes.

Avoid all contact with aluminum. Aluminum will ruin your soap, but more important, it creates a danger to you. The reaction between aluminum and lye creates hydrogen, a highly flammable and explosive gas. Check your utensils and bowls carefully, and use only stainless steel, heat-safe plastic, or heat-safe glass for soapmaking.

Work in a properly ventilated area. You do not want to breathe in any lye fumes. Some soapers wear full face masks because they want extra protection or because they are particularly sensitive to lye fumes. If you are soaping in a kitchen, open the windows and run a fan. If you must make your soap in a small, enclosed space, mix the lye-water outdoors to avoid breathing the fumes. Working in a large, well-ventilated room and mixing at full arm's length is enough for me, but if your lungs feel irritated or you are coughing, it's time to add more ventilation or protection.


Every soap recipe calls for a certain, specific amount of lye. Determining how much lye to use with your recipe is simple if you have access to a computer. If you do not have a computer, you need to do some math. But don't worry, I'll teach you how to make the calculation by hand too.

Each oil has its own saponification (SAP) value. This is the amount of lye that is needed to turn 1 gram of that oil into soap. For example, the SAP value of coconut oil is commonly given as .178, meaning that it takes .178 gram of lye to turn 1 gram of coconut oil into soap.

Although SAP values for various oils have been calculated in grams, you can still use those values when your ingredients are measured in ounces. For example, to figure out how much lye you would need for a recipe containing 10 ounces of coconut oil, take the SAP value of coconut oil (.178) and do the math as follows:

10 ounces of coconut oil × .178 SAP value = 1.78 ounces of lye

When you look up SAP values on the Internet, you will often find a range. For example, you may find that the SAP value for coconut oil on different charts varies from .178 to .191. Picking a number safely in the middle of the range is a commonly accepted practice.

If you use the exact amount of lye that the SAP value calls for, the resulting soap will have zero percent "superfat," or unreacted oil. Most soapers choose to use slightly less lye than the recipe calls for in order to give their soap some degree of superfat. For example, if you use 5 percent less lye than the recipe calls for, your soap will have 5 percent superfat (also referred to as a "5 percent lye discount"). This extra oil moisturizes and nourishes the skin.

But you can have too much of a good thing: excess unreacted oil in your soap weighs down the lather and softens the bar. Additionally, the extra oil will go rancid sooner than the oil that has been turned into soap. Keeping your superfat to below 10 percent will ensure that your soap lathers well, lasts a reasonable amount of time in the shower, and has a long shelf life.

The Beauty of the Internet

If you would like to use a wide variety of oils, you can calculate your recipe by hand using the SAP values listed in chapter 4. Or you can say a thankful prayer that computers exist and find an online lye calculator. The following three soapmaking websites contain widely used calculators:

The calculators all work a little bit differently, but the basic principles are the same.

* Decide on your recipe.

* Enter the amounts of the different oils you'd like to use (in ounces or grams).

* Enter the superfat, or lye discount, you'd like to use.

* Hit "Calculate."

* Watch in amazement as the math is done for you.

Some lye calculators will also give you a range for how much water you can use. If you use less than 100 percent of the water recommended, this is called a water discount. Soapers often use a water discount to shorten the drying process. The less water in the soap, the faster the soap will harden. Discounting the amount of water in the recipe also reduces the time it takes for the water-lye-oil mixture to reach trace in your soap pot. For new soapers or those working with complicated designs such as swirls, this is not a positive thing: producing the trace quickly may not give you enough time to achieve the effects you want. The highest water discount you should use in any recipe is 50 percent, and if you discount that much, be prepared for a fast trace (or time from soap pot to mold).



To make soap, you don't need much in the way of specialized equipment. Many of the things you need can come from your stock of common kitchen utensils. The most frequent question I hear about equipment is, "Can I use this for food after I make soap with it?"

The good news is that in some cases, you can. The bad news is that in other cases, you cannot. Most important, you should never, ever put food in any container in which you have measured lye or mixed lye and water. Never put food in any bowl that has contained fresh soap batter, either, and you should not touch food with any utensils (including the stick blender) you have used to mix that batter. Equipment that was not used for lye-water or fresh soap batter, such as mixing bowls or measuring spoons, can be used for cooking after it has been cleaned thoroughly.


If you have extra cash on hand for crafting, or if you plan on starting a business to sell your soap, you may choose to invest in a separate set of everything. Otherwise, it's okay initially to be frugal.

Here is what you'll need to get started in soapmaking.

Cardboard or newspaper. If you're not working in a dedicated soap lab, use cardboard or several layers of newspaper to cover your entire work area and absorb spills. You might also want a layer of plastic underneath to protect wooden surfaces. Lye-water and fresh soap batter can ruin wood; a bit of preventive covering, especially if you're soaping in your kitchen, can save you some heartache and clean-up time.

Heat-resistant bowls. For mixing soap ingredients, you can use containers made of stainless steel, tempered glass, or high-density, heat-safe plastic. (Avoid aluminum, tin, iron, and Teflon-coated containers.) At each step, choose bowls large enough to hold the full volume of lye-water, oil, and additives with plenty of room to spare; you never want a bowl to be more than two-thirds full. You'll need a variety of sizes based on your final batch, but the most common ones used for many recipes are 2-, 4-, and 5-quart mixing containers.

Heat-resistant measuring pitcher. Lye and water create an exothermic reaction that can reach 200°F. While you should always mix the lye and water over a sink, it's important to choose a measuring pitcher that can withstand high temperatures. If you choose a plastic container, make sure it is thoroughly heatproof. The most useful sizes when you're just starting out are 2-and 4-quart containers with handles and a pouring lip.

Heat-resistant mixing utensils. Stainless steel is the best material, but heavy-duty rubber or silicone also works. Don't use wooden utensils — they will degrade over time, leaving splinters in your soap. At a minimum, you will need one long-handled spoon to mix the lye-water and several stainless-steel teaspoons and tablespoons to measure ingredients. It's also useful to have several sizes of heat-resistant spatulas on hand for scraping out bowls when pouring your soap mixture.

Measuring cups and spoons. A standard set of plastic or stainless steel (not aluminum) measuring cups and spoons will serve most of your soapmaking needs. Having two extra teaspoons or tablespoons for every recipe is also helpful for stirring in additives or fragrance.

Rubber gloves. Gloves help protect your skin from any lye-water or fresh soap batter spills. You can use ordinary rubber kitchen gloves or disposable ones (latex, nitrile, rubber, vinyl, and neoprene are all acceptable). In addition to protecting your hands, always wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed toe shoes. An apron is nice to protect clothing from splatters or spills.

Safety goggles. Whenever you make cold-process soap, you need to wear goggles to protect your eyes from the caustic lye and freshly made soap batter. Eyeglasses are not sufficient protection. You only get one set of eyes. Invest in a good set of goggles to keep your eyes safe. You can find goggles, as well as full face masks, at hardware stores and chemical supply houses as well as online.

Scale. You can get by with an inexpensive dieter's scale, but a digital scale (think postal scale) is best for accuracy. Digital scales start at around $20 and increase in price according to their level of accuracy and maximum weight. You will need to weigh the ingredients for each and every recipe, every single time. Measuring by volume only is not accurate enough for cold-process soapmaking. All the recipes in this book list ingredients measured by weight.

Skewers or chopsticks. When you are ready to attempt advanced techniques such as swirling, a stainless steel or plastic skewer or chopstick will serve as a swirl tool to help you make clearly defined lines. Some recipes might use unusual swirling tools, such as hangers, wooden dowels, or hair picks. Don't be surprised as you venture into your soapmaking journey if you start to see potential swirl tools everywhere.

Soap molds. You have many options here: beverage cartons, shoeboxes lined with freezer paper, and plastic food containers are a cheap way to start out, but you can also invest in multi-cavity plastic or silicone molds designed for soap and/or a wooden soapmaking mold. Note: A wooden mold must be lined for every batch or it will be ruined. You can cut freezer paper to fit (shiny side facing the soap) or purchase a liner to fit a particular mold.

While you can use food storage containers such as those made by Tupperware or Rubbermaid, they tend to suction up air and make it harder to release the soap. As long as the potential mold is not made of glass or aluminum, and has some flex to it that allows the soap to easily release, you can use any number of common household items (kitchen drawer dividers are a favorite).


Excerpted from "Soap Crafting"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Anne-Marie Faiola.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

A Note on Safety,
Why Make Your Own Soap?,
Part 1: Learn to Make Handcrafted Soap,
Chapter 1: Soapmaking Techniques and Safety Guidelines,
Chapter 2: Soapmaking Equipment,
Chapter 3: Making a Basic Cold-Process Batch: A Tutorial,
Chapter 4: Understanding Oil Choices,
Chapter 5: Choosing Colorants,
Chapter 6: Using Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils,
Part 2: 31 Cold-Process Recipes,
Chapter 7: Playing with Color,
Chapter 8: Creative Molds,
Chapter 9: Inspired by Food,
Chapter 10: Exploring Additives,
Chapter 11: Super Swirls,
Frequently Asked Questions,
Delve Deeper into the Wonderful World of Soapmaking,
Share Your Experience!,

What People are Saying About This

Ruth Esteves

"Whether you are curious about making your own soap, or are looking for some soapy inspiration,Soap Craftingis so full of great ideas and gorgeous photos you won’t be able to resist the urge to pick up a stick blender! Anne-Marie Faiola has condensed her many years of soapmaking experience into this new book that covers everything from the basics to the beautifully complex (like a 12-color swirl! Wow!). You can’t go wrong with the clear instructions and plenty of inspiring photos. If you love soapmaking, you’ll love this book. If you don’t love soapmaking, get this book and you soon will!" — Ruth Esteves, co-owner of The Nova Studio and Sirona Springs Handmade Soap, and author of Coloring Soap Naturally

author of Making Aromatherapy Creams and Lotions a Donna Maria Coles Johnson

"Anne-Marie's Soap Crafting is chock full of recipes and tips, and beautifully photographed to show what your project should look like as you go. This book is destined to become one of the most sought after "recipe for success" soapmaking books on the market. Whether you're new to soapmaking or you're a seasoned veteran, I have three words for you: Get it. Now!" — Donna Maria Coles Johnson, author of Making Aromatherapy Creams and Lotions and founder of the Indie Business Network

Alicia Grosso

"Anne-Marie Faiola's new book is a compendium soaping inspiration. With gorgeous, instructive photos and well-explained techniques, she takes you through 31 enticing projects. Anne-Marie is a visionary and an innovator in the soaping world. She has inspired me and countless others, and this book provides exceptional access to her collected wisdom." — Alicia Grosso, Soapmaker, teacher and author of The Everything Soapmaking Book

co-owner of The Nova Studio Lori Nova Endres

"As a soapmaking teacher for the past 12 years, I believe thatSoap Craftingdefinitely fills a void in the soap making literature and has something that will appeal to every soapmaker. It's well organized, extremely thorough, filled with beautiful pictures, dozens of recipes and accurate up-to-date information on a wide array of molds, ingredients, colors, scents & additives. Anne-Marie included all the basics that beginners need for a sturdy foundation, and has also jam-packed this book with fresh ideas, modern styles and many intermediate & advanced techniques, ranging from fun to sophisticated. It answers many questions most soapmakers will inevitably ask and is sure to wow and impress soapers of every level. I look forward to havingSoap Craftingavailable for all our soapmaking students to purchase at The Nova Studio. "— Lori Nova Endres, co-owner of The Nova Studio

author of Soap and Cosmetic Labeling Marie Gale

"InSoapCrafting,Anne-Marie has captured both the science and art of soapmaking.Soapdoesn’t have to be utilitarian and plain – it can be gentle and skin-soothing as well as stunningly beautiful, complexly colored and creatively designed. But, just as a painter needs to understand her materials and techniques in order to bring her vision into reality, a soapmaker must also understand her materials and techniques to express her artistic vision in the form ofsoap.With its friendly tone, clear explanations, detailed pictures and step-by-step how-to’s,SoapCrafting provides good understanding of the materials and techniques of soapmaking. Using the information provided, any soapmaker from novice to experienced, can createsoapthat is both of excellent quality and highly artisticwith radiant colors, and spectacular swirls, patterns, and designs. Anne-Marie has proven that she can both do AND teach, making this book a valuable addition to any soapmaker's library.” — Marie Gale, author ofSoap and Cosmetic Labeling

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Soap Crafting: Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wealth of information to get started with soap making and to increase creeativity. I particularly liked the small batch sizes and all the interesting ideas for making interesting soaps. Anne Marie has a great way of explaining techniques in a simple easy to understand way. Hope she writes more books on soap making.
tina50CC More than 1 year ago
Easy to understand and a lot of information.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was the design techniques that made me choose to buy this book. I love the creative way she treats the soap making process. Nothing boring here! Clear instructions, great pictures - I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been spending a lot of time reading and re-reading this book, it is both clear and comprehensive. Lots of photos of the individual steps and recipes range from very basic to very complex.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for every newbie and agreat reference book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had never really thought much about making my own soap. Now I have decided to do so. This book gives all the info necessary to make soap safely, and enough recipes and techniques to make it exciting. It also discusses important info about various ingredients so you can make knowledgeable decisions about the kinds of soap you'd like to make. Great craft book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most of the useful information is in the first chapter. The remainder of the book is composed of specific recipes and design techniques.