Handmade soap making: 5 Most Common Mistakes

I know, it’s hard being a beginner, at anything, including soap making.  I remember when I first started to make soap at home.  

I had to deal with chemicals, which are potentially harmful to our health. 

I was kind of scared of them, probably because I’ve never learned much in chemistry class, plus we weren’t properly educated about safety, or how to handle harmful chemicals – after all, who’d let students touch that stuff?

So, we could only observe….from afar.

soap making

However, I’ve taught myself. I’ve had some mishaps happen, some failures, and I’ve also avoided some by watching YouTube videos on the topic, and reading soap blogs, much like this one. 

Today I’m going to share the five most common mistakes while making soap, and hopefully prevent you from making the same mistakes.

1. Not Using Proper Safety Measures

Okay, so we know what safety means while soap making – always wear protective eye gear, gloves, and preferably a mask. Never use the same dishes as you use for cooking.

Never make soap in a closed space – always have at least one or two windows open, and try not to make your soap in the kitchen.

protections

So, what can happen if we disregard those safety measures?

I know, looking like Walter White from Breaking Bad isn’t cool (or maybe it is to you, I don’t know!), but you can seriously hurt yourself if you’re not careful.

If you don’t wear a mask – you can accidentally inhale some toxic fumes from the lye and water mixture. This doesn’t normally happen if you work with melt-and-pour instead of lye and water mixture, but you can never be too sure. 

If you do inhale some of those fumes, you may have a sore throat, get a headache, and your eyes may burn a little.

This usually goes away in a few minutes, but it is important to get some fresh air, which is also why you should keep your windows open.

If you don’t use gloves, some chemicals may burn your skin, or some hot mixture may burn your skin. Plus, trust me on this – those food colors don’t come off of your skin for days. My hands looked like I'd been finger-painting for a week.

2. Mixing Water With Lye

So, this is one of the most important rules, if not the most important while making bars of soap – never mix water into lye - always mix lye into the water!

Why, you ask?

Um, have you ever see a volcano explode? Or perhaps a bowl of hot oil with frozen French fries tossed into it – burning a black hole into the ceiling? Yeah, that’s what happens.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but what I mean is – if you add water to lye it can make it expand, thus erupting out of the bowl. 

This, again, leads to fast chemical/toxic fumes that can hurt your health. The mixture may blow up in your face if you stand too closely, or it can burst on your skin and burn it. So remember, always gradually add lye to your water!

3. Not Checking The Ingredients Before Starting

Ingredients

This mistake is from my personal collection. Yup, I do that, a lot. I mean – I do it when I’m cooking.

I just think of what I want to eat at work, and then I don’t even check to be sure I have all of the ingredients at home, and when I’m halfway into the recipe – I realize I’m missing like two ingredients. And yes, I’ve done that with soap recipes as well.

One time I decided to make a big batch of soap bars. It was Christmas, and I thought it’d be a good gift for all of my friends, family and coworkers. So, naturally, I didn’t check first, to see if I had all of the ingredients at home. 

I began with melt-and-pour, which I had plenty of. Then I poured in some essential oils. Then some dried herbs. And then – I poured in half a bottle of olive oil, which wasn’t enough. I needed at least one bottle! 

And there I was, with my mixture already drying into a blob of whatever. I ruined a bunch of expensive melt-and-pour, not to mention some very nice essential oils. I had to throw everything out. 

Plus, I had to actually buy Christmas presents, imagine that.

So, before you decide on a soap recipe – always check that you have enough of the ingredients!

4. Not Following The Recipe

This is the common mistake of us daredevils. It’s because we’re beginners. We don’t know the mess we’re about to make by not following all the steps yet.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to follow all the steps. Not only for the danger of ruining a good batch of soap, but also injuring yourself. 

Like we said before – one of the most important steps, which you must not disobey, is – Always add lye to water. And because it is so common to mess up, I just use melt-and-pour. Since it is pre-mixed, I don't need to be concerned with this. 

You know when you’re cooking, and you think to yourself – oh, what will happen if I don’t separate the dry and wet ingredients? Or what will happen if I don’t stir this? A mess is what will happen!

It’s the same with making soap bars. If you place oil into the mixture before or after it is written in the recipe – it can potentially ruin your soap. It may harden too much, or too little. It may not even mix in, and you’ll have to throw away a lot of expensive material. 

Trust me, I’ve been burned like that! I’ve thrown out 60 euro worth of soap mixture on Valentine’s Day! Let me tell you, that was a really bad Valentine’s Day for me, and I learned a lesson the hard way always follow the steps of the recipe in the correct order!

5. Improvising in Handmade Soap Making

Ah, my favorite of all mistakes. It’s probably because I still make this mistake, like a lot. I just think to myself - oh, I’ve run out of this oil, what if I use another one instead?

Dude, just no. This is why I want to time travel - to be able to undo the mistakes I've made. At least I can save you from making some of the same mistakes.  

Let me explain – not all base oils are the same. Not all essential oils are the same. And not all dried herbs are the same. Not even all melt-and-pour soap bases are the same. Which means – some oils harden the soap, some make it softer. 

For example, if you are using a goat’s milk melt-and-pour you’ll need a lot less coconut oil than you would if you used olive oil – so you need to be careful on how much you use if you switch the ingredients. 

I once had an idea – don’t judge me on this - what if I was to make fun soap and use pop rocks as an ingredient? See, this is where that time traveling would come in handy. Let’s just say…don’t ever pour a bag of pop rocks into anything liquid! Boom. 

So, try not to improvise. I know you want to make your own personalized bars of soap, but try making small changes – always make sure that the ingredient is safe, or plays well with others. 

Even if the soap bar turns out great, there could be some reaction among ingredients that may cause your skin to have a reaction. 

Tiny Hints - If you do decide to improvise and want to substitute one ingredient for another, use an online soap calculator. This thing saved my life a million times. If you substitute an ingredient it simply tells you how much of the other ingredient you in your recipe!


Happy Soapy to You.....


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