How I Began Making My Own Soap

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2016

rooibos red tea soapIt started around the time I was learning to read, I guess. In the grocery store with my mom, I noticed all the cans and boxes had words on them. I didn’t know what ‘ingredients’ meant so mom pulled the loaf of bread off the shelf and told me it contained flour, salt, sugar, etc. I pointed to a can and she looked at the label and read the list of ingredients. I was impressed that the secrets were being revealed and asked, “So we can make them ourselves?” She explained it was the law. It only listed what was inside the can, not how much or how to make it. The food manufacturers weren’t giving recipes to the consumer, but I didn’t listen. At the age of six, I knew one thing – I could make whatever I wanted.

After using some expensive soap back in early 1997, I decided to make my own. I surfed the internet and discovered that the soap base was called melt and pour glycerin. Being a soap lover but a total dummy, I searched for ways in which to buy and make it. I found a well-illustrated site. Gorgeous color close-ups of uniquely shaped soap sculptures were on display. Imagine a bright red apple, or a deep violet flower – soap in disguise! Inspired, I ordered a soapmaking kit that contained translucent glycerin and opaque [white] melt & pour soap in blocks. There were also color nuggets and a few different scents. A single page containing instructions was my only guide.

Not having a microwave oven, I used a double boiler consisting of two cooking vats and watched the translucent chunks melt into a pool of liquid soap. I added a bit of the orange color nugget, the required amount of scent, some dried calendula [marigold] flowers I had, and poured it into a square plastic food storage container. I was so anxious I stood there and watched it dry! I used a toothpick to pop the excess bubbles and to prevent the petals from floating to the surface. For a long time I waited, not putting it in the freezer, just allowing it to harden at room temperature. When it finally did, I eagerly removed it from the mold and looked at the suspended petals ‘frozen’ like a still life in the canvas of clear glycerin soap. I was hooked on the art and craft of soap making!

Top Soap Photo — Roobios Red Bush Tea Soap

cabernet wine soap

If you’d like to learn how to make your own soap, please check out this eBook, The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting

Soap shown to the right is Cabernet Wine Soap –– yes, it’s made with real Cabernet wine.


Wine Soap Adventures

By Lisa Maliga

I was always looking for ways to color my soap. Sure, I could buy soap that was pre-colored, but where was the challenge? It was like buying soap with shea butter already in it – why bother when I had so much shea butter on hand and it was as simple as measuring in a reasonable amount?
Doing my online R&D I got on a site that had wine soap that was wholesale only. This was several years ago, so the few places I noticed selling soap weren’t the clear glycerin variety but homemade. The color tended towards mauve or beige – not very wine colored at all.
A trip to the 99 Cents Only store took care of my wine needs. I got some merlot from the great state of California and it even came with a cork! Now, I had to find a corkscrew to open the bottle as I didn’t have one. A trip to the grocery store turned up the contraption and about 20 minutes later I was holding the remnants of a cork in one hand and the finally open bottle of wine in the other.  Didn’t have a digital camera at the time for that image!
What I later discovered was that not only did the amount of wine I add affect the soap but so did the type of wine. Making this first batch of wine soap was venturing into the unchartered bubbles of melting and pouring glycerin soap. No book mentioned wine soap and nowhere online did I find any hints as to how to go about it. In fact, after adding what I figured out to be a rational amount of the wine, I thought after pouring it into the mold that I had wine soup instead of wine soap! But I was pleased with the resulting batch of beautiful looking dark red soap that had that faint scent of wine to it.
cabernet wine soap by lisa maliga
When I washed my hands with a small bar I made – it was a loaf soap and I opted for the end piece – I wondered if it would bleed all over my hands or make them smell like I’d been crushing grapes. Neither. I made another discover! Wine soap lathered better! I would later learn this was because of the sugar in it and that sugar can be an ingredient in melt & pour bases.
I made another trip over to my favorite discount store later that week and picked up a bottle of cabernet. I’d written down the recipe so I stuck to the same formula. But as soon as I added the wine I was surprised to see it didn’t remain its lovely burgundy shade: the cabernet turned a grape colored purple! Later in my soaping career this was an advantage as I had 2 different colored wine soaps.
My wine soap was considered a curiosity. I sold a soap sampler containing a travel sized bar of merlot  wine. But I didn’t sell that many bars of the full sized version. Attracting the interest of an enterprising writer, I did have my wine soaps reviewed back in 2005. Here’s a copy of the review.
Chicago Sun-Times NEW IN BREW · Well, we’ve heard of wine massages, but now comes a special four-ounce glycerin soap made with wine from Everything Shea Aromatic Creations based in Los Angeles. The wine soap also contains shea nut butter, which has been added as a moisturizer. “We have variety of wine soaps and they all contain real wine — Merlot, sangria and Cabernet,” said Lisa Maliga, the company’s bath and body products designer. “The wine actually increases the lather. Plus, it just smells good, especially if you let the wine breathe — you’ll get a fruity aroma.” Reported by Celeste Busk.
Want to make your own wine soap? The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting contains two wine soap recipes!