If you have toyed with the idea of making soap at home, you must first learn to distinguish the various kinds of soap that you can make. It may be a good idea to attempt the easiest method first to see if you enjoy the craft.
Melt and Pour Soap is the simplest way to make soap. Kits and materials are available at most craft shops. Kits offer blocks of glycerine, instructions on how to make it, coloring agents, dyes, and molds. Blocks of glycerine are also available to those who do not wish to purchase a kit. Blocks of glycerine come in clear or already colored forms.
Remilled Soap can be made of soap you have made by the process described below, or by using purchased bars of soap. To remill soap, finely shred soap and melt at a low temperature along with liquid. When melted, add essential oil and pour into a mold. This is a step in a process and not really soap making. French milled soap employs the use of heavy steel rollers that press the soap, creating a dense, long lasting bar of fine soap and usually a factory product.
Cold Process Soap is the real soap making process from scratch and was the method used to produce the soap that is pictured above. A combination of the correct proportions of lye (caustic soda), water, fats, and oils by following a step-by-step procedure creates a chemical reaction known as soponification. One simple recipe can be altered with various coloring agents, essential oils, and the addition of herbs to produce many different types of soaps with healing, skin soothing, or deep cleaning properties.
Cold process soap must be cured for one month before using. This product may produce soft bars that may not last long in the shower, though hardens after a longer period of storage.
Hot Process Soap uses the method outlined above, but is heated again, after trace (the point at which the combination of lye, water, and fats begin to thicken). The liquid is reheated at a low temperature in an oven or crock pot. The reheating cuts down on the curing time. Hot process soap is ready to use in 3 - 5 days and results in a harder more long lasting bar than cold process soap. Care must be taken in the addition of essential oils as the heat may adversely affect the scent of the final product.
Thought making soap at home can be a mess, and engender a search for the correct materials, it is a creative process that is quite enjoyable and makes a wonderful gift.