ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Frequently asked questions about handmade soap

Updated on September 20, 2014

FAQs about handmade soap

In my work making and selling handmade bath and body products, I meet a lot of people. Some are handmade soap aficionados, others are trying it for the first time. Surprisingly, they ask a lot of the same questions. I've even had one teen ask me how to use bar soap since she'd only ever encountered shower gel!

Cutting a log of my handmade Lavender soap into bars.
Cutting a log of my handmade Lavender soap into bars.

How is soap made?

The basic answer:

Soap is made by combining fats, oils, water and lye, and any scents and colors you want to use. You pour it into a mold, let it set and then cut it. Voila, soap!

The much more detailed answer:

The ingredients become a kind of salt through saponification as the lye breaks down the fats/oils. For example, lard becomes sodium lard ate through saponification. If you just want to play, there are all kinds of craft store-y things that you can melt in a microwave and mold, thus "making" soap. But the real stuff needs that strong alkali (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) if you actually want to create soap. There's a balance that you have to make in your recipe to make sure there is no lye left in the final product; it all gets used up in saponification.

For even more details and how to make your own soap, there's a recipe and instructions here.

Cutting a block of my homemade soap, Cruise, into logs before cutting it into bars.
Cutting a block of my homemade soap, Cruise, into logs before cutting it into bars.
Soapmarked Coconut Vanilla handmade soap
Soapmarked Coconut Vanilla handmade soap

How is handmade soap different than grocery store soap?

The cleansing bars found in the grocery store are in fact, not really soap for the most part. Rather, they are a conglomeration of synthetic detergents designed to act like soap, i.e. to help water lift dirt from your skin and flush it away. They also contain a lot of other ingredients, such as chemicals designed to keep your bathtub cleaner by softening your water. Take Dove, for example. It’s part soap and part synthetic detergent. It contains ingredients to clean your skin, but it also contains a lot of chemicals specifically designed to make sure dirt washes directly down your drain.

Synthetic detergents are usually much harsher than a true soap, which is made with natural oils and fats, such as olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil. While it is possible for a poorly-made bar of handmade soap to be drying or irritating to your skin, if the recipe is well balanced then it will be a gentle and luxurious experience to use it.

Source

What about lye? Doesn't it burn your skin?

The simple definition of soap is fat/oil+water+alkali (lye)=saponification, or the chemical process that produces soap. If there’s no lye, it’s not soap. When the saponification process is complete, we are left with the ingredients transformed into soap and glycerin (and depending on how the recipe goes, some leftover skin-loving oils). With a well-balanced recipe, when soap is made correctly, there is NO LYE remaining in the final product. It’s all been used up in the process of converting the fats/oils to soap.

What about the 100% glycerin soaps that I see in the stores?

Sorry to tell you this, but there is no such thing as 100% glycerine-only soap. Think about it; glycerine is a liquid. If you just took glycerine and combined it with lye, you’d get…a yucky mess that would likely burn or hurt you. Read the labels of what you're buying. The manufacturer may have added an amount of 100% glycerine as an additive to their cleansing bar, but there’s no way to know just how much (unless you’re into corporate espionage and can hack their computer system).

Frequently, commercial companies who make cleansing bars will remove any glycerine from the bars that is made in the process and either use it in other products they make or sell it to other companies for use in a variety of cosmetics. Handmade soap retains the natural glycerine that occurs during the saponification process. It’s roughly 10% depending on the recipe. Glycerine contributes to handmade soap’s gentleness and helps attract moisture from the air to your skin.


Let your soap dry between uses to help it last longer.
Let your soap dry between uses to help it last longer.

How should I take care of my handmade soap to make it last?

Handmade soap is a little different than the synthetic detergent bars you may be used to. Since it retains the naturally-occurring glycerine, it’s susceptible to moisture. Make sure you allow your handmade soap to drain between uses. If you leave it sitting in a puddle, you’ll probably end up with a mushy mess. We mostly use our bar soap in the shower, and have a wire rack hanging off the shower head where we keep it. This means our soap is handy for showers and drains well when not in use.

Why is it more expensive?

When you are buying handmade soap, you are buying the years of expertise and testing that soap maker (or soapiste, as I like to call myself) has put into developing, testing and refining their recipe. It's very important that the soap maker has a very good understanding of the saponification process and has a recipe that is balanced between cleaning ability and gentleness to the skin.

Keep in mind that many soap makers are one-person shows. The soap recipe has to be created, tested, retested, tweaked and finalized over many batches. Supplies and equipment have to be bought. Once the soap is made, it has to sit to release excess moisture, or cure, for weeks before it's ready for sale. It has to be labeled, marketed, shipped and transported. If you're buying it in person, you're likely at a farmer's or crafts market, directly from the person who made it. This is a great opportunity for you as a consumer to connect with the actual person who made the product you are purchasing. How often does that happen? Most soap makers (if they're not very busy) are delighted to tell you about their products and can talk your ear off about what's in them and how they're made. But did you know they had to pay to set up their tent and tables at that market or show?

Making and selling your own anything is extremely labor-intensive, and we haven't even touched on the online work that goes into it.

When you're buying good handmade soap from the maker, you're getting something absolutely unique. Not only is it beautiful, it's also useful. Please consider all of this next time you think that $5 bar of soap is too expensive. Most likely, at that price, the maker is selling their soap too cheaply.



What else would you like to know about handmade soap?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Soapmarked profile imageAUTHOR

      Soapmarked 

      3 years ago from TX

      Thanks WiccanSage. I freely admit to being biased towards handmade soap!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      3 years ago

      Great hub, great info. I like hand milling soaps myself, I don't like working with lye. But there is something so luxurious and gratifying about home-made soap. great tips here, voted up.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)