Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Great Soap Debate!

I absolutely love Etsy, and the Forums, well, they're addicting to say the least. It's a great place for all crafters to come together to discuss their work, their businesses, and naturally, some debate can get going. One that has come up several times over the last few weeks has been the great soap debate...

Which is better? Cold Process, Hot Process or Melt & Pour?

It's a question I personally hate, because I have ALWAYS felt that it is not the method that makes or breaks a good soap, but the ingredients IN that soap. But in the guise of educating, I wanted to share a few things about each soaping process so that you can decide which is best for you.

Cold Process (or CP)

This is my soaping method of choice. Basic explanation is you take your oils and butters and mix them with your lye solution. The mixture is blended until trace (resembles thin pudding), and poured into molds. In these molds, they then set up. Once they are hard enough to remove from the mold, they can be cut. They then must cure, typically for another 3-8 weeks, before use. This curing process produces a milder soap (as the saponification process finishes, although most of the process happens while it's setting up in the mold), and allows for excess water evaporation (resulting in a harder and longer lasting bar).

Cold Process Plus:
--Complete control over all ingredients going into the formula.
--Better design control - all those pretty swirls! Like these --->

Cold Process Negatives:
--Cure time. You definitely have to plan ahead. Not always the best for impatient people.
--You are working actively with lye, which is a very dangerous and caustic substance, but when used with respect and care, it can be used safely. The comment about those with kids shouldn't make lye soap, I disagree. I have three boys. I try to make all my soap when they're not awake, but I still make soap sometimes when they're awake. They simply know that when mommy is making soap, they stay out of my way.

Hot Process (or HP)

Basically the same as cold process, but instead of pouring into a mold at trace it's cooked. This forces it through the saponification process. Once it has fully saponified, it's poured/pressed into molds. It still has a cure time, but not nearly as long since it's only for water evaporation.

HP Positives
--Soap can be used right away. So if you're impatient, it's a good choice!
--Complete control over ingredients.
--You're able to work with more scents, because some scent oils make CP seize.

HP Negatives
--Still working with the lye.
--The cook time can be very laborious.
--Not as much swirl or design control.
(HP soap picture provided by AJ's Country Cottage)

Melt & Pour (MP)

MP Bases have come a LONG way in the last few years. You can now get an MP Base that ingredient wise is equivalent to a CP soap. Most MP soapers also add some wonderful ingredients to their base to make it their own and that much more wonderful. And the artistic ability with MP soaps is limitless. Take these for example! They're little pieces of art!

MP Advantages
--You don't have to work with lye.
--Artistry capable with these is only limited by the crafter's creativity.

MP Disadvantges
--You're limited to the bases available and the ingredients contained in them.
(MP Soap picture provided by Midohana)

All of these soaping methods have the glycerin retained, which is often a point brought up in favor of one or the other. Also, MP soaps are often called glycerin soap, making it seem as though the other soaps don't contain glycerin.

What I'm basically saying is this...

Every soap (and B&B product) is only as good as the ingredients in it. Which is why they should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be disclosed in full in the listings as well as on the labels. One type is NOT better than the other, it's just different. Like beads versus gems. Or watercolor versus oils. We are all crafters, artisans. We use different mediums and achieve totally different results.


egassner said...

Thank you for posting this! I am a MP'er and have been criticized numerous time and cannot count the times I've seen people refer to MP as 'Not REAL soap'. I've recently been turned down at an Artisans Market because they will not allot MP!

Lora said...

Another MP'er here too. I also thank you for posting this. It's nice to see someone that's not biased. Your shop looks so yummy!.


Body Language Soaps said...

That is appalling Egassner! I can't believe they didn't let you in because of that. I'd have been raising hell over it!

Blue Noodle said...

hi there! thank you so much for taking the time to post this. so much i didn't know about the entire process and wasn't even aware of.
and what rot saying that mp soaps aren't real soap. rubbish.

Anandi said...

Wow, this post was totally helpful for a consumer of handmade soap (I'm just now using my first bar ever!).


Arctida said...

Thank you for posting this! Now I know how to easily explain the difference in English :)

Dana said...

Thank you, thank you! A very concise explanation with relevant pros and cons of different soap making methods.

I'm a CP soaper myself, so I am definitely biased that it has it's advantages...even if you have to be patient with it!


theprimpantry said...

I agree that some people diss the MP'ers. We are all soap makers
egassner: I cant believe they didnt let u in because you do mp...Mp IS real , very arrogant people

SoapyChica said...

great to see a fair assessment of all 3 methods! I too make M and P , although I also turn my hand to CP and HP as well, and I hate to see M and P criticised as not being 'real'. It is all skilled work, and as you so rightly say, its all in the ingredients!

Lisa @ Serah's said...

Thanks for posting. I'm a MP'er and I've heard that we get a bad rep but I went to great lengths to do all the research to make sure I had some of the best ingredients in my soap bases and I'm glad to see this fair assessment.

Charity said...

Great post!

Lori at The Nova Studio said...

great job! what a helpful blog post to help people understand the difference. i liked the way you did pros & cons of each method. although i do all types of soapmaking, i agree with you. my preferred method is definitely CP soap. but i find it helpful to know all three methods and when i need them, they are there for me. :o)

Jaime said...

This was SO informative, and exactly what I was looking for! Thanks!


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