What is melt and pour soap?

A popular way to make handmade soap is with the use of melt and pour soap base. It is so popular that I wondered what exactly is it? Is it really soap or something else?

So what is melt and pour soap? Melt and pour soap is a pre-made soap made from oils and lye water that has went through the saponification process of making handmade soap. Additional ingredients such as stearic acid, glycerin and a sugar solution are added to allow it to be melted and remelted, remolded, reshaped and designed.

There is more to melt and pour soap base as the process it goes through still makes it legal soap. Let’s take a look at what I mean by this

What is melt and pour soap and how is it made?

To understand what melt and pour is you should have an idea what cold or hot process soap is. In fact just having an idea of what soap is by itself will give a better understanding.

The best way is to use the description given by the American Consumer Product Safety Commission. This organization monitors and regulates real soap.

Lotions, soaps, and other cleansers may be regulated as cosmetics or as other product categories, depending on how they are intended to be used.

Cleansing products, many of which are marketed as “soap,” may be cosmetics or drugs regulated by FDA, or consumer products regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, depending on how they are made or how they are intended to be used. For example, soaps and cleansers marketed as “antibacterial” are drugs.

American Food and Drug Administration FDA

A snippet taken from the FDA website

To meet the definition of soap in FDA’s regulations, a product has to meet three conditions: 

  1. What it’s made of: To be regulated as “soap,” the product must be composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids,” that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye.
  2. What ingredients cause its cleaning action: To be regulated as “soap,” those “alkali salts of fatty acids” must be the only material that results in the product’s cleaning action. If the product contains synthetic detergents, it’s a cosmetic, not a soap. You still can use the word “soap” on the label. 
  3. How it’s intended to be used: To be regulated as soap, it must be labeled and marketed only for use as soap. If it is intended for purposes such as moisturizing the skin, making the user smell nice, or deodorizing the user’s body, it’s a cosmetic. Or, if the product is intended to treat or prevent disease, such as by killing germs, or treating skin conditions, such as acne or eczema, it’s a drug. You still can use the word “soap” on the label.

The CPSC regulates real soap. You can read more about soap regulation HERE

How is melt and pour soap made?

The process of making melt and pour soap begins the same way a soaper would make cold process or hot process soap.

The act of mixing oils or fats with lye water starts the saponification process that creates soap.

Melt and pour soaps begin the same way however the process is changed to saponify the fats but cause the mixture to be more versatile and able to be melted and re-melted.

Solvents, propylene glycol, gycerin and sorbitol are some of the ingredients that are added to the soap mixture to assist in the ability of the soap to be melted to a liquid and have it solidify over and over again.

The process varies from person to person but the end result is what matters. The base ingredients of the soap will remain the oils and lye water. All other ingredients are to assist with the melting and solidifying properties.

Is melt and pour real soap?

Yes, Melt and pour soap is listed as real soap by the FDA as it went through the soap making process of saponification.

This type of soap is often made from vegetable oils much like other handmade soaps and its its cleansing properties are derived from the type of oils used.

As stated by the FDA “To be regulated as “soap,” the product must be composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids”

Melt and pour soap as it goes through the saponification process does so with combining lye water with oils. This is the alkali salts that help make handmade soap and melt and pour soap base.

Due to the additional ingredients in melt and pour soap it does affect the lather compared to cold or hot processed soap, this is one reason some persons may feel as if it is not real soap.

There are some manufactures that develop melt and pour soap in different ways and these bases are not considered soap as they are more chemically made than made from the traditional oils.

How is melt and pour soap used?

The name says it all, melt and pour soap usually comes in 16oz blocks, large containers or one large slab. Whichever you choose to purchase they all work the same way.

Once you know the volume of your mold of which you will make a soap or reshape the soap you can use that amount of your soap base.

Melt your soap in a microwave or double boiler and pour into your mold. Its as simple as that. Let your melted liquid soap base cool and solidify and it will be able to use as soon as it has hardened.

Melt and pour is used just like every other soap on the market. In a bath or shower or just to wash your hands. Its actual soap that you can decorate to your hearts content.

Cons of melt and pour soap

There are minor issues when it comes to using melt and pour soap. Primarily you have to be careful when melting your soap not to over heat it.

  • Heating your soap to an extreme temperature will burn the soap and give a bad burnt smell when using it.
  • Depending on you location temperature plays a role in how fast your soap begins to cool down. A cooler location will give you less time to make swirls or other designs that you may want to decorate your soap with. Hotter locations will cause your soap to take longer to harden.
  • Powdered colorants do not always mix well in melt and pour hence natural powders like turmeric does not always work well.
  • Melt and pour is known for sweating, this is when moisture n the air draws out the glycerin from your soap. Its not a major issue just unsightly at times.

Pros of melt and pour soap

  • No need to handle lye or lye water during the making process. The soap has already converted the lye and oils to soap.
  • It is easy to use and is safe for children to make and use on their skin
  • The soap base comes in a variety of types from clear and white also with goats milk or aloe which all makes the product very diverse.
  • There is not curing time, once the soap has cooled if you melted it, the soap is ready to use instantly.
  • Accepts liquid colors well and additional ingredients can be added easily.

We suggest you give melt and pour soaps a try and compare it to cold process soap making and usage. Some persons prefer the original cold or hot process soap over the melt and pour while others prefer using the melt and pour.

One thing that no one can argue is that melt and pour soap is the easiest and fastest way to customize your own soaps.

Your creativity is bound only by your imagination.

Bahamas Soap Maker

Rashad has been making soaps since the inception of Bahamas Candle and Soap in 2008. Since this time he has taught a number of students how make homemade soap using the melt and pour process or the cold process of soap making. His preference is cold process soap making because of the versatility you have in designing not only the ingredients but the aesthetics of the soap. Soap making became more than a hobby for Rashad and he loves trying new techniques and teaching others how they too can make their own soap at home.

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