Inexpensive Cold Process Soap Supplies
Setting Up for Home Soapmaking On a Budget
Buying cold process soap supplies doesn’t have to be a major expenditure. Most items can be found locally, at grocery and hardware stores. Reusable molds can come from #5 plastic containers or corrugated plastic sheets, and small amounts of essential oils can be found at the local health food store. In addition, the dollar store can be your best friend when it comes to setting up your cold process soap supplies. With just a few helpful tips, you can be on your way to gathering up all the cold process soap supplies you will need.
You will need an immersion blender, also known as a stick blender. Most department stores these days with a kitchen section have an array of stick blenders to choose from, and a good stick blender can be purchased for under $25. It is possible to make soap without a stick blender, but it usually involves many hours of slow stirring to get good results. There really is no substitute. You will also need an accurate scale that can weigh in ounces and which has at least two decimal places. The two decimal places are key, because otherwise, your lye and oil measurements may be too inaccurate to yield good results. Again, most department stores with a kitchen section will have a selection of food scales available. To make sure your scale will last you long enough to make bigger batches in the future, I recommend purchasing a scale that can weigh up to at least six pounds. Since the most common loaf molds in use today can hold about three pounds total weight, this allows you to easily double your recipe if needed.
Once you have an immersion blender and a scale, you will need a mold. See our article on homemade molds for a few ideas to get you started. You can use any kind of mold as long as it is safe for lye (no aluminum, for instance) and can handle fairly high temperatures without losing its shape. If you are using an unlined wooden mold, you will also need freezer paper for lining the mold. I use a silicone-lined wooden mold purchased online for about $12. No lining is necessary and the mold can be placed in the oven for Cold Process Oven Process (CPOP) soap recipes.
For mixing your soap batter, you will need a heat- and lye-safe cup (#5 plastic preferred) for weighing water. You will also need a cup for weighing lye, a plastic or silicone heat-safe spoon or spatula, and a larger bowl for mixing together the oils and lye solution. All of these pieces should be lye and heat safe. No glass, no aluminum, and no wood should be used. #5 plastic is preferred because it is thick enough to remain sturdy in hot conditions and it is not rigid so it is less likely to crack. All of these items are easy to find at the local dollar store, and you might even get lucky and find some oils for your recipe, as well.
Wondering where to find lye for soap? The options for buying lye locally are dwindling, but most hardware stores still carry bottles of 100 percent sodium hydroxide in the Plumbing Section. The cost is usually around $10-$15 for a two-pound bottle. While this is more than you would pay online for the same amount of lye, shipping costs should be considered when looking at the price. If you’re just starting out, the convenience of only buying one bottle at a time may be worth the extra expense of buying retail. Since you will likely be using around four ounces per loaf of soap, a two-pound container will last a while.
Base oils are another vital component of your cold process soap supplies. Unless you plan to make pure olive oil soap, it is likely that you will want a blend of a few different oils to adjust the various properties of your finished soap. Palm oil, found in shortening, is a good ingredient for both lather and hardness of the soap bar. Coconut also adds to the hardness of the soap, as well as providing big, fluffy bubbles. Olive oil is conditioning, humectant, and emollient to the skin and produces a silky lather and a hard bar of soap. I would suggest avoiding canola oil in your soap ingredients due to its’ tendency to create the Dreaded Orange Spots (DOS) that indicate the oils have gone rancid. Once you have considered the soap making properties of various oils and chosen your recipe, finding your oils can be as simple as going to the grocery store. A few oils, such as castor oil, can be found in pharmacies as well.
Water requires consideration when it comes to making soap. If you have a lot of natural minerals in your water, it’s a good idea to use distilled water for your soap making purposes. This is a small expense, at about a dollar a gallon, to prevent problems with your soap making process. However, I have been using plain tap water for my soap making for over 18 years without a problem. A lot of other soap makers have done the same. In the end, it’s a judgment call based on what you know about the water in your pipes.
Fragrance is not a necessary supply for your soap making, but it sure does make things fun! For the first loaf or two, you can simply buy a small bottle of 100% essential oil of lavender or cedarwood at the local health food store. If the soap-making bug has bitten you badly, you will soon want to move on to ordering online from a wholesale supplier. Expect to use about two ounces of cosmetic-grade fragrance for a three–pound loaf of soap. If using essential oils, the amount used will vary widely based on the individual essential oil’s properties and their safety levels for skin use. Do your research before using essential oils in soap to keep from wasting your money.
Colors are also “unnecessary” cold process soap supplies that can increase the challenge and fun of your next soap making project. Head to your local health food store’s bulk herbs section and find natural colorants such as calendula petals, spirulina powder, and rose kaolin clay. The costs are minimal for the small amounts you will need, and many of the natural colorant additives are also good for the skin. Expect to use roughly 1 teaspoon of natural colorant per pound of base oils. Adjust the amounts until you get the color desired.
It is possible to get up in the morning, go shopping, at most, at four different stores — dollar, health food, hardware, and office supply — and get everything you need to make soap for under $100 total startup costs. If you make just two three-pound loaves of soap, the retail value of the soap you have made will cancel out the investment costs. There has never been a better time to get set up as a home soap maker, and your cold process soap supplies don’t need to be fancy to create beautiful handmade soaps of your own.