Activated charcoal is the type of coal you want to use any time of the year! Here’s an excerpt from my eBook, Organic and Sulfate Free Melt and Pour Glycerin Soap Crafting Recipes.
Nope, it’s not found in your outdoor gardening section in lumps of coal that’s coated with lighter fluid. Charcoal is very porous and is known for purifying water. Activated charcoal has been used as an antidote for poisons. It’s often used in hospitals to help with drug overdoses. There are various types of activated charcoal that you can buy for only a few dollars per ounce. The main types are: activated bamboo charcoal, activated coconut shell charcoal that has a neutral pH, and activated hardwood or willow bark charcoal.
Activated charcoal from coconut shells is a natural body deodorizer that also has cleansing and exfoliating properties. As it’s highly absorbent, it may help draw dirt from the pores, so this is a handy soap for very active/athletic people or those who live in urban areas.
Storage Tips: Activated charcoal should be stored in a container [NOT a bag] with a securely closed lid. By keeping it airtight, charcoal will not attract pollutants. Well-stored charcoal has an indefinite shelf life.
Also, when opening the container of charcoal, do so slowly and carefully due to the fineness of this ingredient. If you open it too quickly, you might spill some. If so, clean the surface right away!
As you can see, the color is jet black yet the suds are nice and white. Using any type of clear melt and pour glycerin soap base is recommended if you want this dramatic color. Another advantage to this type of soap is that you don’t have to be concerned about a fragrance or essential oil changing the color.
In my eBook I include two  different recipes for soap that contains activated charcoal. Yes, I love the stuff!
This is my favorite soap to make as it’s so good for one’s skin and is gentle enough to use for a facial soap. the following recipe is from my eBook, THE JOY OF MELT AND POUR SOAP CRAFTING.
Oatmeal + Honey + Goat’s Milk Soap
16 ounces white soap base 1/4 cup ground oatmeal [rolled oats, not instant oatmeal] 1 teaspoon organic honey 1 teaspoon powdered goat’s milk 1 teaspoon vanilla fragrance
OR oatmeal, milk & honey fragrance [optional]
4 four-ounce molds
Slice up soap base into small cubes and melt. If not using goat’s milk base, add the powdered goat’s milk. Just before it’s fully melted add oatmeal and honey. Stir well. Add fragrance and remove from heat. When soap is just starting to form a layer, pour into molds. Spritz away any bubbles with rubbing alcohol. Allow soap to harden in fridge, freezer, or remain at room temperature. Remove from molds. Make sure soap is at room temperature before wrapping. Wrap in cling wrap and label.
Oatmeal Note: The above method will create a soap bar with oatmeal on one side only. To make Oatmeal+Honey+Goat’s Milk with the oatmeal suspended throughout the soap, you must stir in the oatmeal, turn off the crock pot OR double boiler, and stir occasionally for approximately 5-10 minutes while the soap mixture thickens.
I’ve heard and read the argument that any soap that’s made from scratch using oils, liquids and lye is handmade soap. I agree.
There’s the other side of the debate where soapers think that melt and pour soap isn’t handmade. I agree.
Some claim that it’s not handcrafted. I disagree.
I appreciate what made from scratch soap entails. Whether made for personal use or sold online or at crafts fairs, homemade soap is true soap. Those who are new to it may make some mistakes. Fragrances and colors morph, they’ll encounter science-fair worthy lye volcanoes, and they might inadvertently discover DOS [dreaded orange spots] that can appear days or even weeks later. Handmade soap can have a high learning curve for some people. That’s why melt and pour soap crafting is more appealing as crafters don’t have to work with lye and it’s generally considered easier. That may or may not be true as some melt and pour soap crafting techniques are more difficult to master, especially swirling and layering. Yes, even melt and pour soap crafting can be quite time consuming.
Melt and pour soap crafting is a legitimate craft. It’s not just slicing up soap, popping it into the microwave, and getting a perfect bar of soap each time. There are color and fragrance considerations. What, if any, skin-loving additives will you put in your batch? What type of mold will you use? How will you wrap and label your soap?
Nor is it buying a log of soap, cutting it up into a few bars, and wrapping and labeling them. 1. That would be an unscented and uncolored bar of soap. 2. It wouldn’t be handmade or handcrafted — it would be handcut!
Genuine melt and pour soap crafters use the best type of soap base available as they’ve learned what ingredients to look for – and what ingredients to avoid. As I’ve been hand crafting melt and pour soap since 1998, I’ve seen the two standard types of soap base [transparent and opaque] multiply into dozens of different bases such as: shea butter, honey, goat’s milk, avocado oil, yogurt, carrot oil, mango butter, SLS free, etc. I’ve also seen some highly talented crafters out there who make soap in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Handcrafting melt and pour soap has so many wonderful possibilities. Just go to Pinterest and type in the term “M&P” or “melt and pour soap”. You’ll be amazed – and inspired!
Let’s get visual. Here’s a photo of two different types of soap base, transparent and Castile. [Click to enlarge images].
A crafter will see this soap base as the raw material. How does it go from nicely wrapped blocks of soap to much smaller and more colorful [and fragrant] bars of soap?
There are several steps from slicing the soap base, melting it, adding colorant and fragrance and pouring the correct amount into a special soap mold.
Here’s the end result.
See how a raw base can be handcrafted into a dramatically colored and scented bar of soap?
This is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of my latest eBook, Organic and Sulfate Free Melt and Pour Glycerin Soap Crafting Recipes.
I used to buy my herbs, soap bases, molds and oils from suppliers in buildings rather than online. Nowadays, I order online because I make soap part time and don’t sell it. Over the years, I’ve learned what makes a good supplier — one that you will order from repeatedly.
It helps if the site is visually appealing, showing photos of their supplies. How well laid out is the site? Does it have a prominently placed search feature? Can you find the type of soap base you need? Are the soap base’s ingredients listed? What other products are available from fragrances to molds to packaging?
This is where you’ll want to shop around to compare where you can get the best value. Do they sell their soap by the pound, two-pound container, or only in larger quantities? Keep a list either on a computer document or on a pad of paper and write down the amounts that a given supplier charges. Do they have a sale page; a closeout section/discontinued products area? Perhaps they have a customer rewards program that will help if you plan to purchase a lot of soap. Do they offer coupons, discounts or free shipping? Is there an order minimum? By scrutinizing the site, you may end up saving money. If you’re a newbie to soap crafting, it’s practical to order the smallest sizes available so that you don’t end up with products that you never use or have to sell/give away.
Variety of Products:
Large suppliers like Brambleberry.com carry an array of products. This is the ultimate convenience in one-stop-shopping. If you’re just starting out and have to buy most of your soap bases, scents, molds, colorants, etc. you can also fill your shopping cart with way more than originally anticipated, so be careful.
Types of Payment:
Do they accept PayPal, major credit cards, eChecks, money orders, cashier’s checks, C.O.D. or other payment options? Can you snail mail them a check? Do they accept international orders? Do you need to register to make a purchase or can you bypass registration? Can you order online, via phone, fax, snail mail or email?
About the Company:
How long have they been in business? Are they online only or do they have a storefront? Do they provide free soap making/soap crafting resources? Does the owner or owners make soap and have an extensive background in soap/bath and body products crafting? Do they have a blog? If so, how frequently is it updated? Are they on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc? Do they offer discounts or coupons? Are there free video tutorials, and/or recipes? Do they sell eBooks and books?
Here’s a unique yet easy to make melt and pour soap recipe utilizing a mold you can find in most supermarkets. I found this in the frozen dessert section. This five-ounce plastic container recently held a very good key lime pie. Instead of using liquid yellow colorant, I opted for a very natural colorant – red palm oil.
Mini Birthday Cake Soap
5 ounces white soap base OR shea butter soap base
10 – 12 drops red palm oil
1/4 teaspoon lemon essential oil
5 ounce round mold
Slice the soap base into small cubes. Temperature should be MEDIUM. Cover your melting soap base.
Just before the soap is fully melted, add the palm oil and essential oil. Stir well. Slowly pour into the mold. Spritz away bubbles with rubbing alcohol. Allow soap to harden in fridge, freezer, or remain at room temperature. Remove from mold. Make sure soap is at room temperature before wrapping. Wrap in cling wrap and label.
As red palm oil is a heavier type of oil, as opposed to lighter weight oil such as grape seed, only a small amount is needed. Red palm oil colors well and if too much is added it won’t be fully mixed. If using a modest amount, the color remains in the soap and it will have white bubbles.
Red palm oil is a beneficial skincare ingredient. Not only does the color enhance the finished bar of soap, this African palm oil contains lots of skin-loving vitamin A and vitamin E. I also recommend the Alaffia brand of red palm oil because it doesn’t deprive Orangutans of food and shelter, and it comes from the place where the palm tree originated: West Africa.
To read more about making and presenting unique soaps for birthdays and any other holiday, check out the eBook “Happy Birthday Melt and Pour Soap Recipes.”
I’m happy to introduce of Irena Marchu of Ginger’s Garden. Irena is a very experienced soap maker from Rancho Mirage, California, who makes handmade artisan soap. Her array of handmade products include: wet shave soaps, lip balms, lotions [made to order], body wash, body scrub and shower gels containing local ingredients, liquid soap, natural aftershave and natural perfumes.
[Click images to enlarge].
What prompted you to start making soap and/or bath & body products? My mother and grandmother made soaps, herb infused oils and balms. I am following in their footsteps.
What types of soap do you craft? What types of bath & body products do you craft?
I make many types of handmade artisan soaps. This includes cold process soaps, cream soaps and shaving soaps. My lotions are made with natural oils and butters which are beneficial to the skin. I also make lip balms, liquid soaps, bubbling bath salts, body scrub made with local dates, men’s aftershave, Zodiac natural perfumes and gift baskets for any occasion.
When did you decide to sell your product[s]? I’ve made soaps since 1969 and helped my mother sell at local markets. I started to sell professionally in 1991.
Do you sell your products at crafts fairs/markets, bed & breakfasts, stores, etc.? I sell mostly online and through wholesale accounts.
Do you sell online? If so, what are the advantages or disadvantages? Yes, I sell online at http://www.gingersgarden.com The advantage of selling online is I don’t need to take my products from place to place.
What is your favorite fragrance or essential oil? What are your most popular scents? I love well aged, iron distilled Patchouli oil. My most popular scents are my own blends like Suede, Enigma and Amerikesh.
What soap and/or other bath & body crafting books have you read and been inspired by? I got to meet Alicia Grosso at one of the Soapmaking Conventions. She has a lot of knowledge and her Soapmaking book is one of my favorites. Kevin Dunn’s Scientific Soapmaking book has information that is not available anywhere else. I refer to Essential Oil Safety book by Robert Tisserand when I’m making natural perfume blends.
What soap and/or other bath & body videos have inspired you? When I have the time, I look at swirling videos on Youtube. They give me ideas on how I can make my soaps different.
Where do you get your packaging ideas? I prefer to keep my packaging simple. My soaps are in boxes to protect them from fingers and dust. I want my packaging to look clean and professional.
What advice would you give to newbies?
Anyone that’s just starting on their soapmaking journey needs to read and research, use a lye calculator, know what each oil and butter brings to the table and follow all the safety guidelines. When it comes to handmade artisan soaps, there is no shortcut to making it safely and letting the soaps cure properly.
Do you have any funny anecdotes about unusual customers? At one of my markets, I had a boy take a bite out of one of my soaps as he thought it was cheese. His facial expression was priceless. One older man took a bite at one of my soap samples as he thought it was a brownie. He quickly realized it wasn’t.
How did you come up with your company’s name? My middle name is Ginger and I love gardens. That’s how my business name of Ginger’s Garden came about.
Today is the first interview with a soap crafter. Allow me to introduce Odette Handley of Riverlea Soap. This very talented lady is from South Africa and she makes some beautiful soap–as you can see. Here is what she has to say about the joys of making soap and running her own business. [Click images to enlarge].
What prompted you to start working with melt and pour soap? I had been making CP soap and was looking for a soap to behave in a different manner, and I wanted to make clear soaps so I thought I would try MP as it didn’t look too difficult. Boy was I wrong. After my first attempt I packed it all away and didn’t try it again for a year. In that time I did some research and realised it could not be as hard as I imagined. I was right I love it now.
What other types of soap do you craft? I make a lot of CP bars. I think working with CP is my favourite. It is so versatile. I have been known on the odd occasion to make liquid soap and Body Butter. Do you also make bath & body products? Yes I make lotions, bath oils, liquid soaps body butters and fizz bombs and solid bubble bath.
When did you decide to sell your soap? This was very soon after I started making soap in 2007. I saw a gap in the market for natural novelty soaps that looked like cup cakes and slices of cakes. So I changed direction slightly from the bars of soap and when straight to desserts.
Do you also sell your soap at crafts fairs/markets, stores, etc.? Yes I do and I LOVE it. It is such a great way to meet your clients. They come back for more at every market. The least I can do I be there to sell it to them.
If selling online – what are the advantages to selling online? I love selling on line because it is almost passive income. I have already made the soap so it is not a custom order. I already have the ingredients in boat loads so when some one buys on line there is no stress as it is already pre packed. You just fill the order, take payment and ship it. Easy peasy.
What is your favourite fragrance or essential oil? My favourite EO is Neroli by far. I love this EO so much. The smell gets me every time. Fragrance would have to be Green Tea, uplifting and fresh. What are your most popular scents? My most popular are Vanilla, lemon Verbena, Lavindin EO, I have some spicy ones for the guys and those always sell well.
What soap crafting books have you read? Oh now that’s a list. I am an avid reader so I have a lot. My first book was Soap Naturally by P Garenza & Tadiello which I read from cover to cover while lying in hospital recovering from a back operation. I also have Soap handmade and pure by Tatyana hill, Soap bubbles and scrubs by Nicole Seabrook, Scientific Soapmaking by Kevin Dunn , Soap crafting by Anne Marie Faiola, Natural soapmaking by Bev Messing, Soapmaking the Natural way by Rebecca Ittner, The Handmade Soap Book by Melinda Coss, Gourmet Soaps made Easy-Melinda Coss, SoapyLove Squeaky Clean soap projects-Debbie Chialtas, Bath Bombs, Elaine Stavert, The Soapmakers Companion- Susan Cavich, The Everything Soapmaking book-Alica Grosso… And more. I love to read.
Where do you get your soap/packaging ideas? I love Pinterest so I get quite a few ideas there but my sister is a chef so I get a lot of inspiration from food books. Packaging is another story… I really battle with this and find myself lost on many occasions. I think I need an intervention. Ha ha.
What advice would you give to new soap crafters? Be methodical, work tidy, have fun and grow organically. Don’t try to do it all at once. Your most important aspect of you business is cash flow. Manage like a tight fisted old lady.
How did you come up with your company’s name? That was a tough one. We went round in circles a lot. We were moving from the city (Durban on the east coast) to our farm in the Midlands and I thought maybe if the soap is made there I would take on the name of the farm. Hence Riverlea Soap.
Do you make and sell soap? Do you have your own online shop and want to be interviewed? If so, just send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org Please use “Interview with Soap Crafter” in the subject heading.
Before 1993, you wouldn’t have been able to find the word ‘aromatherapy’ listed in a dictionary even though this art/science has been effectively used for thousands of years. In fact, the word was invented in the 1920’s by a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé who studied the cosmetic properties of plants. He soon learned that plants contained organic antiseptic elements that worked better than inorganic antiseptics. His interest was further ignited when he there was an explosion in his laboratory; badly burning has hands. Immediately he poured lavender essential oil [one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly on the skin] on them and made the not so astonishing discovery that his hands healed quickly and with no scarring.
However, the usage of aromatic plants has been going on for thousands of years. From the civilizations of ancient Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome, floral and herbal oils have been used in many ways from flavoring food and beverages to being poured into baths and massaged into the body.
The Romans weren’t shy about employing scents. They inundated their baths and banquets with floral concoctions from scattering rose petals on floors to anointing their bodies with floral perfumes. After bathing their bodies were massaged with aromatic oils. Their beds and clothing, bodies and hair were scented with perfumes. Even men scented themselves with balsam and cinnamon oils.
The natural healing system of ayurveda, meaning “science of life” was established approximately 4000 years ago in the Himalayan region. Plants and all their properties are a relevant part of ayurvedic medicine that continues to be practiced where it started and has now spread around the world.
Hippocrates is known as the “father of medicine”, and this Greek doctor was a noted advocate for the usage of essential oils, especially in the form of daily baths and massages. Resins of myrrh and oils of cinnamon were often applied to a patient to soothe inner and outer complaints.
Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils:
Pure, unadulterated essential oils derived from the leaves, roots, seeds, flowers or bark of a plant or tree are the source extracted directly from nature via a form of steam distillation. When you first begin working with essential oils, take care in handling them. Lavender essential oil is quite safe for the skin, as is tea tree, but some people can have allergic reactions to them. When handling essential oils, it’s wise to do a skin test. Simply apply a tiny amount on your wrist, and if there’s no reaction within 24 hours you are safe. As these oils can be costly, you must take care that they’re always kept in a cobalt or amber colored glass bottle and stored in a cupboard [out of direct sunlight] and kept in a cool, dry place. When you buy an oil, write the date on the vial. Most essential oils can last from one to three years. Citrus oils have a shelf life ranging from six months to less than two years. Essential oils can last for several years, but the freshness disappears. There are some exceptions with the darker colored, “heavier” oils or resins. Patchouli Oil is known to improve with age.
You should know about fragrance oils and what they really are. I visited an e-group for soapmakers and when someone asked for a company where they could purchase essential oils, a person gave the name of a company that sold only fragrance oils! Obviously, to this uninformed person, the terms are interchangeable. They’re not. Fragrance oils are synthesized in a laboratory. They are sometimes referred to as “nature identical.” If you’re looking for an inexpensive scent, then fragrance oils fit the bill. But fragrance oils are not therapeutic grade essential oils and never will be.
From personal experience, I’ve learned that sniffing an essential oil right from the bottle and diluting it with a carrier oil such as sweet almond or jojoba, makes a huge difference. I smelled my favorite, vanilla absolute, a thick balsamic oil derived from the pod of the vanilla plant. I determined that the first whiff brought out the usual vanilla scent I was accustomed to, but a millisecond later there was a stronger, harsher scent. I then added a few drops to a bottle of sesame oil and the change was magnificent! I had the aroma I equated with the spicy-sweet scent of a dried vanilla bean pod. The carrier oil had combined perfectly with the essential oil!
You should always dilute essential oils in carrier oils when applying directly to the skin, or even in the bathtub. This is a necessary safety precaution. Essential oils are very strong and need to be diluted. Also, some essential oils [and fragrance oils] may smell good enough to drink, but are for EXTERNAL USE ONLY!
I’m no stranger to craft fairs and farmer’s markets as a customer. I’ve attended these types of events since I was a kid. They’re fun to go to and I know what to look for when shopping for soap and other bath and body products.
What initially attracts my attention is how the soap is displayed. Nice, neat rows of soap? Stacks of the stuff? Baskets, containers or little tubs brimming with it? Soap that needs to be cut for you like wheels of cheese [think Lush]. Soap loaves? Some shelves flaunting your soapy wares? For lots of brilliant examples, go to Google images and type in “soap displays for craft shows.” You’ll see loads of ideas in just the first few images.
The Scents of the Season
I’ve read and seen that there are certain scents that sell better in the warm weather than around Christmas or in cold weather. In warm weather, the trend is for lighter fragrances like florals, especially lilac, lily of the valley, sweet pea, anything with the word “blossom” in it, and fruity scents. Consider the fruits that ripen during the warmer months: Strawberries, peaches, watermelon, mangoes, papayas, blueberries, plums, etc. Vanilla is a warm aroma that is associated with baking but is good any time of year. You can’t go wrong with a fresh green herbal fragrance or one reminiscent of the garden, like mints, thyme, or rosemary. Then you have the perennial citrus favorites: lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. You’ll attract customers with fragrances that smell like the elements: ocean breeze, tropical rain, fragrant meadows, country roads, or forests.
In the fall and winter, the aromas are a little heavier. Say hello to pumpkin–that’s a perennial fall through Christmas favorite. And for Christmas, you’ll have candy cane/peppermint, eggnog, balsam, bayberry, cinnamon, Christmas tree/evergreen, mulberry, and frankincense and myrrh.
To Wrap or Not to Wrap?
Unwrapped soap, [naked soap], shows off the products to the fullest advantage. You can clearly see the size, color, and texture. The customer can get up close, and smell the aroma. The problem with naked soap is that it’ll be handled by anyone. Also, by not having labels people with allergies won’t see if it contains a potential problem ingredient. A label should be included with each soap whether it’s written on a chalkboard, printed on a sign, available on slips of paper or on the backs of business cards.
Which leads to how you bag your bars of soap. No matter what type of bag you use, always include a business card/flyer/brochure/postcard that has your vital stats like your website address, email, business address, phone number, and all-important company name. If you’re a wholesaler make sure that’s mentioned in your promotional literature. That customer might own a hotel, bed and breakfast, or shop that will be very interested in your products.
Who doesn’t love free samples? I do, but I don’t expect them. Unfortunately, some people think you should not only provide freebies, but you should either give your soap away or offer substantial discounts. And they’ll come up with some pretty wacky reasons as to why they’re so privileged. Including little bars or slices of soap [along with your contact information] is a goodwill gesture. It often leads to more sales. It’s also recommended that you clearly label the name of the soap/product freebie along with a brief description. Lavender Soap is usually sufficient for people to figure out what it is, but that perennial kiddie favorite, Monkey Farts, might need a few keywords to explain that it’s a fruity or coconutty soap.
Pricing – Buy 3 get the fourth bar free or any variation that promises a free bar of soap will get me over to your booth in a flash! People enjoy getting bargains.
Soapmaker, Salesperson—or Both?
Standing behind a booth all day selling your wares can be a challenging to the more reserved soapmaker. However, you’re the expert. You know every aspect of your soaps from ingredients to oils to molds to packaging. Sometimes dealing with various personality types can be taxing. You’ll encounter the inevitable free sample trolls and the free recipe trolls. In other words, there will be people who want to do exactly what you do. You can’t control that. I’ve seen and read about this countless times. Just be polite and don’t indulge them.
Some soapers prefer having a salesperson do their work for them. Whether an employee, or a relative or friend, as long as they can effectively answer questions and promote your products. And please be a conscientious soaper that has extensive knowledge of your product along with lots of experience when it comes to making it! Many times, I’ve wandered into a crafting forum and seen newbies in despair over their soaping boo-boos that have come belatedly to their attention during a craft show. That includes soap that started as sapphire blue in the morning but the sunlight faded it to pale blue or even bone white. Soaper, know your products!
Another advantage soapmakers have by selling their wares at a public venue is the opportunity to meet customers and listen to their needs. You’ll see trends in fragrances. After the venue is over, take inventory and see what your hot sellers are and what doesn’t do as well. You might consider offering a special ordering service to those that want unfragranced soaps or palm-free soaps, etc. Perhaps you have many fragrances/essential oils that aren’t used in your current product line—if you have customized scenting you’ll attract new customers.
Whether you sell soap and supplement it with other products, packaging it in a gift basket is another way to attract interested customers – no matter what time of year.
Have lots of fun, sell lots of soap and know that you’re making the world a cleaner place one customer at a time!
Just wanted to share a new soap recipe I came up with for the holidays. This is a versatile recipe and can be made any time of the year–just change the name!
BERRY BLUE CHRISTMAS SOAP RECIPE
Ingredients: 16 ounces clear soap base Blue mica 1 teaspoon acai berry fragrance
Mold: 4 four-ounce molds
Instructions: Slice up soap base into small cubes and melt. Just before it’s fully melted add colorant. Stir well. Add fragrance. Pour into molds. Spritz away any bubbles with rubbing alcohol. Allow soap to harden in fridge, freezer, or remain at room temperature. Remove from molds. Make sure soap is at room temperature before wrapping. Wrap in cling wrap and label.