Exploring the Art of Soap Making: Ingredients, Methods, and More.

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Step into the world of soap making, where the age-old tradition meets modern innovation. Today’s soaps have undergone a remarkable transformation, leaving behind the simple bars of the past and embracing a whole new level of luxury and indulgence. From exotic ingredients to advanced manufacturing techniques, the secrets behind these modern-day soaps are finally being unveiled. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the fascinating world of soaps and discover what sets them apart from their predecessors. We will explore the key ingredients that make today’s soaps nourishing and beneficial for the skin, as well as the advanced processes that enhance their fragrance and texture. Get ready to be captivated by the secrets of today’s soaps, as we unravel the mysteries behind their irresistible allure.

What is Soap?

This is a question that I get asked a lot. People are curious about how soap is made. They want to know what it is made of. In today’s “new normal” pandemic world soap is of even more interest. I am going to answer those questions here and let you see me in the process of making soap as well as an inside look inside our shop.

Susan’s Soaps & More is a small business making all natural handmade soaps and skincare products for over 20 years. We use vegetable oils and no animal fats or testing to create our products. When I began years ago I made the decision to only use pure essential oils in my products due to my own skincare issues. I have not deviated from that and so today we still use no artificial fragrances, preservatives, or colorants. We make our soap in small batches using the cold process method.

The Evolution of Soapmaking Techniques

Soap-making has come a long way since its humble beginnings. In the past, soap was made using simple methods that involved mixing fats or oils with an alkali substance, such as lye. This process, known as saponification, resulted in the formation of soap. However, today’s soap-making techniques have evolved to include advanced methods that produce superior quality products.

Modern soap makers have access to a wide range of ingredients and equipment that allows them to create soaps with unique properties. They have also developed innovative processes, such as cold and hot process methods, which help to retain the beneficial properties of the ingredients used. These advancements have revolutionized the soap-making industry, enabling the production of soaps that are not only cleansing but also nourishing and moisturizing for the skin.

The use of advanced techniques has also led to the creation of different soap varieties, such as liquid soaps, shower gels, and creamy body washes. These products offer a more convenient and luxurious bathing experience, as they lather easily and leave the skin feeling smooth and hydrated. With the evolution of soap-making techniques, the possibilities are endless, and soap makers are continuously pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation.

I tried to answer the most common questions above. Shown below are several videos showing many of the steps I go through when making cold process soap. I wanted to put them all together here on one page to make things easy to find.

Check out the videos below to get a better idea of how we make our soaps as well what equipment we use and the process involved. I shot the first two videos recently and are a step-by-step view of how I make soap. I shot the next three videos about 10 years ago and take you inside the shop with several different snapshots caught of work in process. The shop layout is still the same, the basic process is still the same and we even still use the same molds. Soap making is a relatively old craft and the basics stay essentially the same.

Visit this post if you want more information on what kind of soap is best to use and what some of the terms you hear thrown about mean. Visit this post if you are interested in which essential oils are good to use to help boost your immune system.

What Soap is Made of?

Susan takes you inside her shop where she starts at the beginning with “What is soap made out of?” She shows melting the different kinds of oils and ends with mixing the lye and oils together.

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How Soap is Made?

I continue to show you on through the process up to and including pouring it into the mold. Making soap is not something that is quick and easy. We take at least a couple of days to line the molds, mix and pour the soap and then cut it. The bars then have to cure for at least 3 – 4 weeks before they are ready to use or package.

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Video tours of the shop with work in process.

This video gives a walk-through of our shop with the different areas that we have for storage, packing orders, and production. It also shows part of the process of making the soap. I have been making soap for over 20 years and so some of these videos have been shot several years back. But soapmaking in many ways is a “timeless craft” and our basic methods and tools have changed little over the years.

Shop Tour – Part I

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Shop Tour – Part II

This video shows making cutouts from soap slabs and two different soaps that have been poured into block molds.

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Shop Tour – Part III

In this video, we get to see step by step process of cutting soap.

YouTube video

I hope this has given you a better idea of what soap is and how it is made. If you have any questions please put them in the comments section and I will be happy to try to answer them.


How is Soap Made?

Handmade soap from scratch is created using oil, water, and lye. These three ingredients must be mixed in the correct proportions so that they chemically combine and become soap. The oils can be either animal or vegetable but not a petroleum product. The chemical process of these three ingredients reacting to is called saponification. There are three primary ways to create handmade soap: cold process, hot process and melt and pour, although this method is not really making soap from scratch. Cold process is the most traditional method of soap making in which the oils and lye are mixed and then poured into a mold and allowed to set for usually between 18 – 24 hours before cutting. A hot process is a method that heats the mixture of oils and lye to speed up the process.

What is Soap Made of?

It is made of oil, water, and lye (sodium hydroxide). The oils can be either animal or vegetable. The animal fats commonly used are lard or tallow. Vegetable oils commonly used are olive, soybean, coconut, rice bran, sunflower, and safflower. You will often see butters like cocoa butter and shea butter used as well to help create a more moisturizing product.

What is Antibacterial Soap?

Antibacterial soap contains active ingredients that are considered to be antibacterial. Triclosan and triclocarban are the most common compounds used as antibacterials. However, other common antibacterial ingredients include benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol.  Triclosan and triclocarban have actually been banned at this point by the FDA.  They were not found to actually benefit more than just plain handwashing in terms of reducing bacteria. In addition, they found that triclosan washes into the environment and can contribute to making bacteria more resistant to antibiotics. 

Does soap expire or go bad?

Soap does not typically go bad although it can become rancid. If it has become rancid it won’t hurt you but won’t smell or look good. A good rule of thumb is that if it looks or smells bad throw it out!


Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild


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