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December 4, 2012

How to make herbal soap

- by Debra Anchors

Creating handmade soap is affordable and is the perfect solution to add a personal touch to your lavatory or to offer as gifts to friends. Soap making, while a very old practice, has become almost commonplace; supplies and kits are readily available.

Soap consists of an acidic fat such as lard, tallow or vegetable oils, and a base, usually lye or ashes. While you can certainly make soap from scratch, it’s easier, safer, and less time consuming to start with a purchased cube of plain glycerin soap.  True, you won’t get
that Colonial realism, but you also don’t have to worry about inhaling lye, which is caustic.

Here’s how to make your own customized herbal soap bars:

On a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, cut the glycerin soap into smaller cubes to accelerate melting. Place the soap chunks in the top of a double boiler over simmering water; cover and allow the soap to melt down into liquid. You can also use the microwave for this step; put the soap in a glass bowl or large measuring cup, cover with a paper towel, and heat at intervals of 10-to-15 seconds. Stir during each interval until the soap is melted.

Allow the melted soap to cool slightly, and continue stirring until the temperature registers 120°F on a candy thermometer. At this stage, the soap has thickened enough so that any ingredients you add will be dispersed throughout, rather than sinking to the bottom. Do not allow the soap to cool long enough so it starts to form a thick skin.

When your soap has cooled to 120°F, you can add whatever essential oils and coloring you wish. To give soap a fragrance, and/or a property (such as insect-repellent, antiseptic, etc.), use essential oils and not chemicals. There are hundreds to choose from, including citrus to invigorate you, rosewood, which is uplifting, or Ylang-Ylang for stress relief. If you want to make tinted soap, stir in one-half teaspoon paprika, curry powder, cocoa powder, or cinnamon.

Other design options are limited only by your imagination. Add texture by stirring in rolled oats, dried herbs, or finely ground almonds. Blend in the blooms from lavender or roses to add a feminine touch, or choose wheat bran to make an exfoliating scrub. Add flowers or thinly sliced fruit into the mold before pouring soap over it, sealing the botanical inside. Make multicolored soap by layering the mold with two or more colors by letting one layer set before adding another, and so on.

Pour the mixture into a flexible plastic mold and let it set for about 40 minutes. Turn the soap out of the mold and wrap each bar in plastic wrap. To present your soap as gifts, wrap them in raffia, fancy ribbons, or use a dab of glue to attach dried flowers.

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  1. It seems to be an easy project. And it smells good. Xoxo, darling.

  2. AWESOME DYI article!! I can envision the bars being laced with rose petals, lavender & other colorful flowers. What a lovely way to enjoy & share the fragrances of your lovingly grown garden!


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