The Art of Making Soap

Anne-Marie Faiola is the owner of Bramble Berry, a soap supplies store in Bellingham, Washington. This is the third soap book that Faiola has written. Her first, Soap Crafting, is a useful resource. It is for all skill levels, and has 31 recipes covering all different special effects, colors, additives and molds. Her second book, Pure Soapmaking, focuses on making natural soaps. She includes 32 recipes that have all natural ingredients, colorants, and scents.

Faiola’s latest book, Milk Soaps, is all about adding milk to your soaps. There are 35 recipes in this book, and they range from beginner to advanced levels; the levels are determined by their techniques. The recipes include the type of molds and special tools that were used, and list the oils, amount of lye water, fragrance oil, colorants, and additives used.

Why do you want to add milk to your soaps? Most soaps are made with water, and Anne-Marie equates adding milk to soap to making hot chocolate. Do you notice a difference when you add milk versus water to your chocolate? Milk soap creates a rich lather and is creamier than soap made with water. The natural oils and acids in the milk add more moisturizing qualities to your soap.You’ll learn the different milks that can be used and the soap making process.

If you are just beginning to make soap the cold process way, using lye, you should watch a video on soap making and how to use lye, such as this one on Creativebug. Bramble Berry has some good videos too.

Faiola suggests that if you have never made soap before, to start off with a basic recipe so you can get an understanding of the process. Adding milk does complicate the process a little. What I did when I first got into soap making last year was buy a beginner’s kit from Bramble Berry. They have 2 kits, one that includes a scale, goggles and a mold, and another kit that just has the ingredients in it. I have made the basic cold-process recipe in the Milk Soaps book but I put bubble wrap inside my mold.

Bubble wrap basic soap

With each recipe you can change the mold, the essential oils, colorants and additives. You can use any kind of milk with each recipe. This way you can be making your own soap. I would not change the lye mixture and oil amount. If you change the oil this is where the SAP value of the oils comes into play. SAP value is a quick way of saying the ‘saponification’ value – when lye and oil are mixed the process of the mixture becoming soap is called saponification. Faiola discusses properties of different oils, along with their SAP value, which you will need to know if you are designing your own recipes, and adding color and scent and exfoliants to your soap.

I have made a few recipes in the book so far and they have all turned out great, and as you will see, I changed the mold, essential oils and colorants in my soaps compared to what is in the book.

I made the In-the-Pot Swirl Buttermilk Castile soap. Instead of lavender and peppermint essential oil blend I used Raspberry Jam. And the olive oil I used was the extra virgin oil which I had in my cupboard. This caused the soaps to be darker. I did find that making a soap of pure oil takes a long time to come to trace. I had to put my blender down a few times because it felt like it was burning in my hand. This was the first recipe I made out of the book and it is a beginner recipe.

In-the-Pot Swirl Buttermilk Castile soap

Another recipe I made was the Dead Sea-Salt Brine Bar. As you will see I changed out my mold to a citrus mold, changed my oils to a grapefruit fragrance oil, and my colorant was changed to an orange color to represent the grapefruit. The directions said the recipe would move fast and it did. You have to be quick to get it in the mold. These bars don’t take long to set up at all. This was an intermediate recipe.

Dead Sea-Salt Brine Bar

Another recipe I tried making was the Hangered Drop Swirls recipe which is another intermediate recipe. In this recipe I changed my milk to coconut milk, changed my fragrance to Lemongrass and tea tree oil, and changed my colorant to green and activated charcoal. I made this one for my nephews and felt the lemongrass would be a little more masculine. This is a very nice soap but takes a while to get the swirling down.

Hangered Drop Swirls soap

If you are a soap maker and have your own favorite recipe, you could certainly use that and change out some of the water for a milk product. You can use this book for ideas on techniques.

As Faiola says, “Handmade is bestmade”.

Give cold-process soap making a try, you will find it rewarding and addicting. Making your own soap allows you to control the ingredients, and it makes washing up more fun I think.

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