I get the question, “do you use lye in your soap?” a lot . . . as a matter-of-fact, I get this question more times than I’d like to remember. After I answer, “Yes, I use lye, in my soap . . . soap cannot be made without lye,” the person undoubtedly says, such-and-such says they don’t use lye in the soap or they make soap without lye.
Dispelling the MYTH: I Didn’t Use Lye in My Handmade Soap . . .
Handcrafted soaps, made from scratch, require three ingredients to become soap: oil (animal or vegetable oil), water (or other liquid) + lye. These three ingredients, mixed together in correct proportions, combine + chemically change into soap – a process called “saponification”. Soap cannot be made without lye because lye is required for the saponification process of making soap. The saponification process changes the liquid, lye + oil into soap. Rest assured, there is no lye left in the final product, if made correctly.
Soap Made from Scratch Requires Lye . . .
When someone says they don’t use lye in their soap; they’re not telling a “lye.” They actually didn’t put lye in their soap . . . because they didn’t make the soap from scratch. What they did is purchase ready-made soap called Melt + Pour (MP). With MP you cut up the pre-made soap, melt it in a microwave, then add ingredients like oatmeal, fragrance + other additives, then pour into a mold. Many use melt + pour because they don’t want to handle lye + it’s a great alternative to make creative soap.
What is Melt + Pour . . .
M+P is a ready-made soap base, so all the steps necessary to producing the soap itself are eliminated. The soapmaker’s concentration can be focused on the artistic + aesthetic aspects of the soap.
The ready-made soap base comes in a solid block which is heated up in order to melt it into a liquid state. At that point, colors, scents and other ingredients can be added to the soap. Once the additives are incorporated into the soap, it is poured into molds and allowed to cool + solidify. Once hardened, it can be unmolded and is ready for packaging and/or use.
Some make their own M+P base; however, these makers will say they make their soap using lye. I attempted to make a melt + pour base but didn’t like the way it turned out . . . it was a too sticky for my liking. One benefit about M+P besides the beautiful creations using embeds, toys, colors, or producing soaps that look like food or other items, is it’s ability to be melted over + over + over again. Handmade soap can’t be melted the same way. My M+P project was a great tool for my 7 year-old granddaughter + friends to make soap. See their creations below . . .
In the soap-making community there’s a big discussion as to whether those who use a pre-made base are making handmade soap. Using M+P is not the challenge . . . however, using M+P and passing it off as handmade soap is. If making handmade soap means making soap from scratch, then those using a ready-made soap base, aren’t making the actual soap, because it’s already usable soap when they purchase it. They aren’t doing anything to make it soap . . . on a very basic scale, they’re cutting, melting, adding embellishments + molding the soap.
To know if what you’re buying is handmade from scratch or from a ready-made soap base, ask the artisan, if their soap was handmade from scratch or if it was created from a pre-made soap base.
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J. Lexi, LLC