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Play dough soap

Just in time for the school  holidays, I bring you PLAY DOUGH SOAP! I’ve been asked so many times about this, and so here it is.

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There are quite a lot of recipes out there, most of them consisting of corn starch, liquid soap and a colourant, but I found many of them either didn’t have a nice consistency or they didn’t keep. I wanted to make a play dough soap that would keep and kids would love to play with.

The recipe will make about an orange sized amount of play dough. Just make several lots and colour each a different colour, like I did.

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ONE: Measure out 1/2 cup of corn starch or wheat starch. I’m using wheat starch here, but corn starch will work as well. I didn’t add any tapioca starch, as some recipes have, because to in order for it to make the play dough consistency smooth, you’d have to dissolve it in water, and then you’d need to use a preservative. Adding it straight to the mix, without dissolving it first, would have given the consistency a sandy texture. So to keep it smooth, no tapioca starch.

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TWO: Add 2 tablespoons of liquid bubble bath base, which I purchased from Pure Nature. I wanted to use something that would produce a bubbly lather, and I found that using normal liquid soap only produced few bubbles. The bubble bath base is unscented and uncoloured, so you can use it to make a whole rainbow of different coloured and scented bubble bath with it!

THREE: Add 1 teaspoon of a light weight vegetable oil, such as sweet almond oil or rice bran oil. I used sunflower oil here. Any vegetable oil will do.

FOUR: Add 1 teaspoon of glycerin. I’m using glycerin for two reasons. The first is because glycerin is a humectant, which means it draws moisture. This will help prevent it drying out too quickly. Secondly, glycerin also helps with the consistency of the play dough. Though, using too much of it, will make it sticky!

FIVE: Add your fragrance. Use no more than 2-3 ml of fragrance or essential oil. For kids I like using fresh and fruity scents such as watermelon fragrance, pink grapefruit or sweet orange essential oils, or you can use calming lavender essential oil. A favourite combination of mine is lavender and mandarin essential oil.

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SIX: Knead all your ingredients together. At the beginning, you’ll find it will be very sticky, but as you continue to knead, the consistency will become smoother and more like play dough.

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SEVEN: To colour the soap, I used mica, which will also add a little sparkle to the soap. The micas I used are Silken Violet, Coral Reef, Juicy Pink, and Shimmer Green from Pure Nature. I added about 1/8 of a teaspoon of mica to get the colour in the picture.

EIGHT: Carefully knead the colour into the dough, and continue kneading until the dough is evenly coloured.

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NINE: At this stage, I found that the dough would often become a bit crumbly, so I added another teaspoon of glycerin and kneaded some more. The extra glycerin also helped keep the dough smooth and pliable after storing.

TEN: Store the play dough soap in a plastic bag or container to avoid drying out. You’ll find that after a while of  not being used, the play dough might be a bit crumbly. Try kneading it first, because I found that helped get it to the pliable consistency again. If it is still too dry, add a little glycerin to it. Btw did you know that you can use glycerin to revive old (store bought) Play Doh as well? Just a little tip!

If you haven’t used any preservative, make sure you store the play dough soap in the fridge. And instead of giving the kids the whole lot to play at once, just take a bit from each colour and leave the remainder in the fridge until next time!

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Play dough soap

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup corn starch or wheat starch
  • 2 tablespoons liquid bubble bath base
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons glycerin
  • fragrance
  • mica colourants
  • preservative (optional)

Directions

  1. Add 1/2 cup of corn starch or wheat starch into a bowl.
  2. Measure out and add all the wet ingredients (liquid bubble bath base, vegetable oil, glycerin, fragrance and preservative if using).
  3. Knead the mixture into a smooth play dough consistency.
  4. Add approximately 1/8 teaspoon of mica and keep kneading until the colour is evenly mixed through the play dough.
  5. Add another teaspoon of glycerin and mix it into the dough.
  6. Place in a plastic bag or container, to prevent it drying out.
  7. If you haven’t used preservative, store the play dough soap in the fridge.

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Amethyst crystal soaps

Difficulty: Beginners
Time: 1 1/2 hr
Yields: Several clusters and single crystals

I have always had this thing for crystals, and I have a shelf full of pretty, shiny rocks. So it’s no surprise then that I had to have a go at making soap crystals. Surprisingly, they are a lot easier to make than you think and I had the most fun two days preparing this tutorial. Mind you, I probably could have done it in one day, but hey, it’s not every day a girl gets to play with crystals!

Melt and pour soap bases are the perfect material to make these crystals. I used melt and pour soap base in both clear and white. For the soap crystals I recommend to use the sweat-free melt and pour bases from Pure Nature, because of the high humidity here in New Zealand. The sweat-free soap will allow you to keep the crystals only lightly packaged, for example in a pretty cellophane bag. Here are the links to the sweat-free white soap base and the sweat-free clear soap base. To colour the crystals, I used the Silken Violet mica from Pure Nature.

ONE: To start, gather all your materials and prepare your colour. Pour about 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol into a small container and add 1/4 teaspoon of mica. This will be used to colour the soap. I’m using alcohol to premix the mica, because it will disperse better in the melt and pour soap base.

TWO: Next, cut up roughly one cup of clear melt and pour soap into cubes and put it in a solid heat-proof glass jug, such as a Pyrex jug. Heat on high for about 20 seconds or until all the soap has melted.

THREE: Add a teaspoon of fragrance. I’m using Candlescience Sage and Pomegranate fragrance from Pure Nature, which is safe to use in soaps and lotions.

FOUR: Now it’s time to colour the soap. Pour a little of the alcohol/mica into your soap and stir. You want a nice dark violet colour. If it’s too light, add a bit more until you are happy with the colour. Remember, you can always add more but you can’t take any away. So start with a little colour and keep adding in small amounts until you reach the right shade.

FIVE: Pour the soap into your mold until you have filled it to about 1 cm, and then leave it to cool down. We’ll be using the remainder of the soap for the next layer. The mold I’m using is the small square mold, available from Pure Nature. It holds 500g of soap (volume is approximately 630 ml), and will give you four bars of soap. It’s my favourite and most used mold, and it’s so versatile. I use it for testing soap batches, making small volumes, including the many tutorials here on my blog, and as a handy mold for special projects like the soap crystals here.

SIX: Cut up some more clear melt and pour soap, about 1 cup again, and add it to the remainder in the jug. This layer will be lighter in colour than the previous layer, so don’t add any more colour to it. Again heat it in the microwave until all the soap has melted. Add 1 teaspoon of fragrance and stir.

SEVEN: Check if the layer is solid enough to support the next layer, and spritz the surface with 99% isopropyl alcohol, so that the next layer will adhere to it. Then, gently pour the soap over the previous layer, being careful as not to let the soap break through the surface. And again leave the soap to set and harden before the next step.

EIGHT: Cut up some white melt and pour soap base and melt it in the microwave. Once the previous layer has hardened, spritz the surface with alcohol again, and then pour the white soap on top of it. I didn’t fragrance this portion, because it’s only a small portion.

NINE: The next step is to carve the soap into crystals. But, before you start cutting, make sure that the soap has completely cooled down and solidified. First cut the soap into vertical rectangles, and then carve each rectangle into crystals. The easiest way was to cut the four edges first to make an octagon, and then carve the top into a rough unequal pyramid (with four sides). If that makes sense.

Btw you can watch TV while doing this part. I put my little soap rectangles in a 2L (empty) ice cream container and sat carving my soaps while binge-watching Blacklist. Just watch your fingers!

TEN: Once you have all your crystals, it’s time to start assembling your cluster. I used a soap mold with round cavities but you can use any shape. As long as it’s something to hold your cluster together. Melt a little more of the white melt and pour soap and pour thin layer into the mold.

ELEVEN: Then stick the crystals one by one into the layer of soap, arranging them into a tight cluster, as shown in the picture below. In some clusters, I used tooth picks to hold them in place. I cut some of the bases to make some of them shorter and others to make them lean into a particular direction. Leave to set and cool before removing the crystal cluster. You might want to tidy the cluster up using a knife, or you can leave it as it is.

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VARIATIONS: The above method is just one way of colouring the block of soap for making crystals. I also made one block with only two layers, one dark violet and one only slightly lighter and carved these into crystals. Another block I made I added little bits of cut offs from my previous crystal carvings into the soap. And in yet another, I drizzled white melt and pour into the still liquid violet coloured clear melt and pour soap.

Instead of arranging them into cluster, you can also carve bigger crystals and leave them as single crystals. Particular the soap blocks with the white drizzled into it and the ones with the cut offs made some stunning crystals!

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Amethyst crystal soap

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • white melt and pour soap base
  • clear melt and pour soap base
  • Sage and Pomegranate fragrance
  • Silken Violet mica
  • 99% isopropyl alcohol

Directions

  1. Pour 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol into a small container and add 1/4 mica. Stir well and set aside for later use.
  2. Cut up approximately one cup of clear melt and pour soap and add it to a heat-proof Pyrex jug. Heat in microwave until all the soap has melted.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of fragrance and stir.
  4. Add the alcohol/mica mix in small amounts until you have the colour you desire.
  5. Pour an approximately 1 cm layer of soap into the mold. Leave to cool and set.
  6. Cut up another cup of clear melt and pour soap and add to the remainder in the jug. Again, heat in the microwave until melted and add 1 teaspoon of fragrance.
  7. Check if the soap in the mold has hardened sufficiently to support the next layer. Spritz the surface with 99% isopropyl alcohol and gently pour the soap over the previous layer. Leave the soap to cool and set.
  8. Cut up some white soap and melt it in the microwave. Again, check if the soap has hardened, spritz the surface with alcohol and pour the white soap over the clear layers. Leave to harden and cool down completely.
  9. Remove the soap from the mold and cut up into vertical rectangles. Carve the rectangles into crystal shapes.
  10. Next, take a soap mold with circular or other small cavities. Melt a little more of the white melt and pour soap base and pour a thin layer into one of the cavities.
  11. Then, stick the crystals into the layer one by one, arranging the into a crystal cluster form. Leave to set and cool before removing from the mold.

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Jelly soap: tips and tricks

My son loves jelly soap and I used to buy the (very expensive) Lush jelly soaps, before discovering that you can buy the jelly soap base and make your own jellies. Naturally, thanks to my son, jelly soaps ended up on my monthly to-do list. Thankfully, Pure Nature stocks jelly soap base here in New Zealand and I don’t have to get it from the US anymore.

If you don’t want to read the whole article, here is what I learned during the testing:

Tips and tricks for using jelly soap base

  • don’t cut the soap into cubes (cut soap creates more air bubbles)
  • add the colour to the soap before melting (less stirring)
  • if using the microwave (faster, but slightly more bubbles)
    • use in a low setting (I used 250W setting)
    • use a high, narrow jug rather than a flat bowl with a wide surface
  • if using the double boiler method (slower, but less bubbles)
    • make sure you cover the bowl
  • add one teaspoon of 99% isopropyl alcohol to each cup of melted jelly soap base just before pouring and give a quick stir to get rid of air bubbles
  • spritz the soap immediately after pouring with 99% isopropyl alcohol to get rid of the air bubbles on the surface

Jelly soap is very easy to work with. According to the manufacturer’s instructions (Stephenson is still the only one who makes this soap base as far as I know), you cut, melt and pour. Just like any other melt and pour soap base.  The problem I have in general with the jelly soap base is that the melted soap is so viscous that air bubbles can’t escape before the liquid cools down and traps them. Some people aren’t bothered by this, and in some projects the air bubbles would even add a nice effect to the soap, but I would really like to know how to create some very clear jelly soaps without any bubbles.

Stephenson recommends using a double-boiler method to melt your soap, but I know many soap makers like using the microwave instead. So I wanted to test which method would work best and create the clearest jelly with the least amount of bubbles.

For each method, I cut up roughly 2 cups of soap into small cubes and melted it according to the method I was testing, before pouring it into a little jelly mold. I tried without colour first, but realised that the bubbles and clarity are more visible in tinted jellies, so I re-did all the tests with coloured jellies using soap pigments in a little alcohol to colour them.

I tested three methods:

  1. Double boiler
  2. Microwave on high setting
  3. Microwave on low setting

A note of warning: Jelly soap is very viscous and sticky, and melted jelly soap is also very hot. The stickiness makes it hard to get it off your skin and makes it more likely to get burned. Be careful when working with this soap base!

1 Double Boiler

This is the recommended method by the manufacturer of the jelly soap base. Using a bain-marie bowl, I placed it in a pot of water on the stove and brought it to a gentle boil. Despite covering it, the soap took more than half an hour to melt the soap and because of it’s viscosity, it wouldn’t melt evenly, the surface and the middle would never become as liquid as the sides. It did say not to stir, but I had to stir a couple of times to mix the unmelted soap to the sides. Note the soap is a lot more viscous and sticky to work with than for example melted chocolate, so there is a lot less movement of the liquid and also the heat won’t distribute as easily throughout the liquid. Also because of the long time it took to melt, you may have to top up the water in the pot.

2 Microwave on high setting

Usually when melting a pre-made soap base, I melt it on high setting in short bursts of 10-20 seconds until the soap has just melted but before boiling. This works fine for normal melt and pour bases, which are a lot less viscous than the jelly soap base, and air bubbles readily escape to the surface. However, while heating, a lot of air bubbles would develop in the jelly soap base. I also found that it was difficult to keep the soap from boiling and you would have to keep a very close eye on it! As you can see in the picture above, I did manage to let it boil over in one of my tests! Oops!

3 Microwave on low setting

I figured that one reason air bubbles would form in the jelly soap base in the previous method, is that the soap would be heated unevenly and too quickly, causing it to come to a partial boil in some areas causing the air bubbles to form. A more controlled and slower heating might prevent this, similar to a double boiler method. I set the microwave on the second lowest setting (250W on my microwave), just above the defrost setting, and placed the soap in the microwave for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, I’d give a quick stir and then placed it back in the microwave for a further 1-2 minutes. This seemed to work well and took only 7 minutes to melt, but keep an eye on your soap to avoid boiling. It was definitely a lot faster than the double boiler method.

The results

The first thing I learned is that taking pictures to show the bubbles is hard, so I’ll describe the results instead. FYI yellow is the double boiler method, orange the microwave on low setting, and red the microwave on high setting.

The double boiler method (yellow jelly) does work best and produced the soap with the least amount of air bubbles. However, it took ages to melt, particularly because the soap melts unevenly. Using the microwave is faster, but if you use it on a high setting, you will end up with a jelly soap with lots of bubbles (red jelly). On a low setting (orange jelly), it’s a different story, not only is a lot faster than the double boiler method, it also creates only slightly more bubbles. So in the end, it will come down to how much time you have and do a couple of air bubbles matter. I guess if you’re making soap for your kids, the bubbles won’t be an issue, but if you want to sell your soap, I’d recommend to take the extra time and go the bain marie/double boiler method.

PS I also found out a nifty trick: adding a teaspoon of 99% isopropyl alcohol to your melted soap at the end and giving it a quick stir gets rid of bubbles! Not all of them, but quite a few that it’s worth doing it. The alcohol pops the air bubbles and the heat of the soap will evaporate the alcohol. This trick works particularly well for soap that I accidentally let reach boiling point!

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Fish in a bag with a jelly twist

Difficulty: Beginner
Time: 30 min
Yields: 4 soaps


If you’ve used melt and pour soap before, I’m sure you’ve come across the ‘Fish in a Bag’ soap. It’s basically clear melt and pour soap base, which has been tinted blue, with a little plastic fish, poured in a plastic bag. I’ve made these quite a few times, mostly for kid’s birthday parties and as treats, but today I wanted to do them in a slightly different way, using jelly soap.

Jelly soap is a melt and pour base, which you can purchase from Pure Nature, and is very easy to use and hugely popular with kids. My son loves jelly soap and can’t get enough of it. Jelly soap is exactly what the name suggests: a soap with a jelly like consistency. It wobbles and jiggles and is a lot of fun to play and wash with. Moreover, it’s very easy to work with and turn into fun soaps.

For this soap, you will also need four plastic fish, which are available from most $2-stores, and preferably a mold with cube cavities, although you could use any other shape as well. You will also need 99% isopropyl alcohol and some blue mica. I used Blue Lustre mica from Pure Nature, which is one of my favourite blue micas.

ONE: Estimate how much jelly soap you need. I usually eyeball it, but if you know the volume of the cavities, you can measure it out. If you are using a similar mold as I am – Pure Nature has the 25 cube cavity mold equivalent of mine, which is only a 9 cube cavity – you will need 500 g of jelly soap to fill 4 cavities. Cut the jelly soap into small cubes and place in a heat-proof pyrex jug.

TWO: On a low setting on the microwave, melt the jelly soap. The low setting is crucial. If you have the setting too high, you will risk boiling the soap, which not only leads to overflowing of the soap, but also creates lots of bubbles that are hard to get rid of in the viscous jelly fluid. On my microwave, I use the second to lowest setting, just one up from the defrost setting, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to melt. I take the jug out every 3-5 minutes or so, and give a careful stir, trying not to create any more bubbles, and that’s how I can keep an eye out on how far it is with the melting.

THREE: While the soap is melting in the microwave, measure out 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol in a little container and add 1/8 of a teaspoon of the Blue Lustre mica. Give it a quick stir. I’m using alcohol here, because it will disperse the mica evenly throughout the melt and pour base and, at the same time, the heat of the melted soap will evaporate the alcohol, leaving only the mica behind. It’s a quick fail-proof method of adding mica to melt and pour bases!

FOUR: Once your jelly soap is melted to a thick viscous liquid, measure out and add your fragrance to the soap, and stir well. I’m using 8 ml of Coconut Lime soap fragrance from Pure Nature, which is a nice fresh fragrance and well-liked by kids (and adults). Other popular kids fragrances are pink grapefruit essential oil or a watermelon fragrance. Make sure that the fragrance you are using is a skin-safe (cosmetic approved) fragrance.

FIVE: Add the mica/alcohol mixture and give it a good stir. You might want to pop your soap back in the microwave again for a minute or so, if a skin has begun to form.

You will have to work quickly from now on and be careful, the soap is VERY HOT AND STICKY!

SIX: Pour the soap evenly into 4 cavities of the soap mold and spray with 99% isopropyl alcohol to get rid of the bubbles. Although, some people have said that the bubbles add to the effect in this soap, so it’s up to you if you want them there or not!

SEVEN: With a toothpick or skewer, push a little plastic fish into the centre of the soap. You might have to break through the skin of the soap, if it has begun to form. The soap should be thick enough for the fish to stay in place. If not, use the toothpick to hold it in place and use a new one for the next fish.

EIGHT: Leave the soaps to cool down for several hours before carefully removing them from the mold. Because jelly soap is a melt and pour base, containing a higher amount of glycerin than cold process soap, you will need to wrap the soaps in glad wrap (cling foil) to store.

Please note that this soap has a small toy embedded in it, so it is not suitable for babies and small toddlers – CHOKING HAZARD!

Fish in a bag with a jelly twist

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • 500 g jelly  soap base
  • 8 ml Coconut Lime fragrance
  • Blue Lustre mica
  • 4 plastic toy fish
  • 99% isopropyl alcohol

Directions

  1. Cut 500 g of jelly soap base into small cubes and place into a Pyrex jug.
  2. On a low setting, melt the soap in the microwave, careful not to bring it to boil.
  3. In a separate small container add 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol and mix in 1/8 of mica. Mix well.
  4. When the soap has melted, add fragrance and stir.
  5. Add the alcohol/mica mixture and stir until all the colour has evenly dispersed throughout the soap. If necessary, place the soap back into the microwave to melt again.
  6. Pour the soap evenly into 4 cavities of the soap mold.
  7. Using a toothpick, carefully push in the plastic fish until it is completely submerged.
  8. Let the soap cool down completely before removing from the mold. Store the soap in a plastic bag or wrap in Gladwrap.

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Basic melt and pour soap tutorial

Difficulty: Beginner
Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 6 soaps

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Melt & pour soaps

Melt and pour soap is basically melting a pre-made soap base and then pouring it into a soap mold, hence the name! Although some soapers consider using this method as ‘cheating’, I find that there are some techniques where melt and pour is the more suitable soap than cold process soap. For example, where a design asks for clear cut straight lines or when you are using molds with intricate designs. More on soap molds, check out this post here.

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In addition, melt and pour soap also comes as a clear soap base (also known as glycerin soap), which is an advanced soap making technique if you want to do this yourself. In the past few years, many kinds of melt and pour soap bases have become available, such as goats milk, olive oil, shea butter, honey, and even a wobbly jelly-like soap base! Personally, I like using melt and pour soap bases because you can create some pretty cool soaps with it, plus your soap is ready to use as soon as it sets. Great for last minute gifts!

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The technique of melting and pouring the pre-made soap is very simple. Cut up the required amount of melt and pour soap base into small cubes and place them in a heat proof glass jug (i.e. Pyrex, available at supermarkets, Briscoes or the Warehouse). In short bursts of no more than 20-30 seconds each, melt the soap in your microwave. Be careful your soap does not boil! If you don’t have a microwave, you can melt the soap on the stove using the double boiler method (placing one smaller pot inside a bigger pot of water).

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Once your soap has melted, add your fragrance and colour and give it a good stir. You can use essential oils or skin-friendly fragrances. To colour your soap, you can  use special soap dyes or powders, micas, or liquid food colouring. Note that colours added to a white soap base will become pastel coloured. To achieve bright vivid colours, you will need to use a clear soap base. And if you find your soap has hardened in the meantime, just pop it back into the microwave again for another 20 seconds.

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Carefully pour the soap into your soap mold. If there are any bubbles on the surface, you can disperse them by spritzing some isopropyl alcohol (available from pharmacies) on it. Leave the soap to harden fully before removing from the mold.

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Because melt and pour soap contains glycerin, a humectant, which attracts moisture, it is important to wrap your soaps in glad wrap as soon as they have cooled down and hardened. Especially here in New Zealand when it can be very humid, you’ll find beads of water on the surface of your soap if you leave them unwrapped.

Basic Melt and Pour Soap

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • enough melt and pour soap base to fill your soap mold
  • food colouring of your choice
  • essential oil or fragrance of your choice
  • spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol
  • heat proof glass jug (i.e. Pyrex)
  • silicon or plastic soap mold

Directions

  1. Cut up the soap base in small cubes and add them to the heat proof glass jug.
  2. In short 20-30 second bursts, melt the soap base in your microwave on your highest setting.
  3. Once the soap is completely melted, add your fragrance and colour and mix well. If you find the soap has hardened again, just pop it back in the microwave for another 20 seconds.
  4. Carefully pour the soap into your soap mold and let it harden before removing the soaps from the molds.
  5. Don’t forget to wrap the soaps in glad wrap once the soaps have cooled down completely!

Where to get your supplies from