Step By Step Hand-Milled Soap Instructions

Making hand-milled soap is both easy and fun. Out of all the types of soapmaking out there this and melt and pour soap is the easiest, making it so even the most inexperienced non crafty person can make soap. The best thing about hand milled soap is that it is safe for the kids to do as well and needs minimal adult supervision, although either recommended or required depending on the age of the children, for melting the soap.

These are general step by step instructions on how to make hand-milled soap. The specific information on adding Fragrance and Essential Oils, Colorants, additives, botanicals, and other ingredients is provided in the individual soap recipes found on the recipe pages.

Hand-milled or rebatched soap using commercial soap bases


Step 1: Preparation of your hand-milled soap

Gather and measure all the ingredients and additives needed to make your hand-milled soap. It is important to have all the ingredients ready so that you don’t have to leave your soap unattended on the stove or prepare the ingredients as the soap is cooling. If you do, you may find that your soap has hardened before you have a chance to get in the moulds.

Measure all your ingredients into your glass measuring bowls, or other appropriate containers. Get your fragrances ready by using your glass droppers and measure the appropriate amount needed.

If you are going to use colorants get them ready, place some oil in a small bowl. Shave off a few pieces of soap dye into the oil. Heat in the microwave to melt, start at 30 seconds. Stir, add more time if needed. If you are using liquid or powdered colorants you can just prop from the dropper or sprinkle a little at a time.

Prepare your moulds Moulds by rubbing a thin layer of oil on the insides. If you are going to use the PVC pipe moulds, cover the bottom opening with several layers of plastic wrap, and secure with strong rubber bands.

Step 2: Grate your soap

Grate your soap bar into a bowl using a hand grater. For most recipes you will need 2-3 bars of purchased or well cured handmade soap. If you would like a finer textured soap further grate the soap shavings in a food processor.

Step 3: Add the water, soap and oils

Place your required amount of grated soap into a heat resistant glass measuring cup or double boiler, add your oil to the soap, then add the amount of water that is required for your recipe.

Step 4: Place on heat and melt

If you are using a heat resistant glass measure, place it in a saucepan and ass about 2” of water to the saucepan. If you are using a double boiler place the required amount of water in the bottom as required by your model. Place your pot or double boiler on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. When the water starts to boil turn the heat down. You only need enough heat to keep the water at a simmer. Occasionally mix the soap as it melts.

The three stages of melting.

Stage 1

Your soap will clump together, using your mixing spoon break up all the clumps and incorporate the water into the soap. Stir your soap gently as to not cause too many bubbles.

Stage 2

As your soap continues to melt the mixture will become smoother and will look like watered down cottage cheese. Keep stirring the soap you are almost there.

Stage 3

This stage is called the rope or string stage, as the soap becomes stringy and It will look and act like lumpy marshmallow cream. The soap should have combined with all of the water; the mixture will quickly become thick. It will take between 10-15 minutes for the soap to reach this stage, sometimes longer so don’t get too worried if it does. Although you have to reach this stage before you can proceed. Once you have reached this stage you can take your glass measure out of the saucepan and your double boiler of the top of the water. You now can add the rest of the ingredients called for in the recipe.

Step 6: Adding the rest of the ingredients and mix

Working quickly, add your colorants, fragrance, any prepared botanicals, and additional oils as called for in your recipe. Now stir the mixture thoroughly to incorporate the ingredients.

Step 7: Spoon into moulds

Spoon your hand-milled soap mixture into the prepared mould. Make sure to tap the mould gently to remove any air bubbles that can become trapped inside. Now let your soap harden.

Step 8: Remove your hand-milled soap from the moulds

The hand-milled soap should be hard enough to un-mold after 4-5 hours. IF your soap won’t release from its mold, place in the freezer until chilled then try to release it. Hand-milled soap can also be hard to remove from the moulds if it was not heated long enough to reach the string stage. When you don’t reach the string stage your soap will not harden properly and will stay soft in the mould. If this should happen, just scoop out the soap and re heat, but his time making extra sure that it reaches the string stage. Another way to salvage a batch of soap that won’t harden is by hand molding the soap into soap balls.

Step 9: Slicing and drying your hand-milled soap

After un-molding your soap, slice it into rounds or squares, depending on the mould used, with a sharp knife. If you like use a cardboard template to cut the soap into the sizes and shapes that you wish. The template also aids in cutting even straight bars. Once you have cut and un-molded all your hand-milled soap you need to dry it. Let the un-molded soap dry on a rack and cure for up to three weeks, during this three week period turn your soap to prevent it from warping, this is particularly important in the first few days.

Hand-milled soap using all natural soap bases

Please read about rebatching cold process and hot process soap. This is especially important if you are hand-milling DOS and failed batches of soap.

If you are just rebatching plain or scented good batches of soap or purchased natural soap base please continue on, unless you want to read it.

Being naturally rich in glycerin, and therefore being softer and more pliable than commercial soap bases, natural soap bases need less water and don’t require grating or shredding. With these two important differences established, the hand-milled soap procedure is otherwise exactly like the procedure for commercial soap bases.

Step 1: Preparation of your hand-milled soap

Gather and measure all the ingredients and additives needed to make your hand-milled soap. It is important to have all the ingredients ready so that you don’t have to leave your soap unattended on the stove or prepare the ingredients as the soap is cooling. If you do leave it unattended, you may come back to find that your soap has hardened before you have had a chance to get your soap in the moulds.

Measure all your ingredients into your glass measuring bowls, or other appropriate containers. Get your fragrances ready by using your glass droppers and measure the appropriate amount needed.

If you are going to use colorants get them ready, place some oil in a small bowl. Shave off a few pieces of soap dye into the oil. Heat in the microwave to melt, start at 30 seconds, stir, then add more time if needed. If you are using liquid or powdered colorants you can just drop from the dropper or sprinkle a little at a time.

Prepare your moulds by rubbing a thin layer of olive oil on the insides. If you are going to use the PVC pipe moulds, cover the bottom opening with several layers of plastic wrap, and secure with strong rubber bands.

Step 2: Slice your soap

Slice or chop your soap, remember grating is not required, but remember larger slices or chunks will take longer to melt.

Step 3: Add the liquid, soap and oils

Place your required amount of grated or chopped soap into a heat resistant glass measuring cup or double boiler. Sprinkle your soap with milk, herbal tea, or other liquid of your choice. The amount of liquid varies between a few drops to a couple of teaspoons per every 100 grams of natural soap base chunks this varies depending on how dry your soap base is and may need to be adjusted if your soap doesn’t turn out as expected.

You can add your oils now if you like, or you can add them after the soap is done cooking, the choice is up to you. Just remember you oils will retain their live properties if added after cooking. Although if you are hand-milling soap that is particularly dry, or soap that has turned out to caustic, or not supperfatted enough you may want to add your oils before cooking.

Step 4: Mix and let it soak

Mix the soap to coat all the shavings or chunks with liquid, rearranging with your spoon and pressing down lightly. Cover and set aside, let your soap sit for a couple of hours up to overnight if your soap base is particularly dry.

Step 5: Place on heat and melt

If you are using a heat resistant glass measure, place it in a saucepan and add about 2” of water to the saucepan. If you are using a double boiler place the required amount of water in the bottom as required by your model. Place your pot or double boiler on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. When the water starts to boil turn the heat down. You only need enough heat to keep the water at a simmer. Occasionally mix the soap as it melts.

Cooking time varies depending on the size and amount of soap you are hand-milling. Just remember that your natural soap base will not melt into a pour able consistency and will look like applesauce or mashed potatoes. You can wait until all the soap has melted completely or leave some hard chunks if you wish to give your soaps a marbled or chunky appearance. This appearance is very pretty when using different colored soap chunks.

Step 6: Adding the rest of the ingredients and mix

When you are happy with the constancy and texture of your hand-milled soap, turn the heat off and let your soap cool down. Let the water inside your pot or double boiler reach 60°C (140°F) before you remove the top to your double boiler or your glass measure.

Working quickly, add your colorants, fragrance, any prepared botanicals, and additional oils as called for in your recipe. Now stir the mixture thoroughly to incorporate the ingredients.

Step 7: Spoon into moulds

To work with the soap at this stage you might want to wear some rubber gloves as the soap is very hot.

Spoon your hand-milled soap mixture into the prepared mould. Make sure to tap the mould gently to remove any air bubbles that can become trapped inside. Cover your mould with a sheet of baking paper and press with the palm of your hand and level with a spoon (if you are able to do this with your mould). Now let your soap harden.

Step 8: Remove your hand-milled soap from the moulds

The hand-milled soap should be hard enough to un-mold after 4-5 hours, but make sure it has cooled completely before unmoulding. IF your soap won’t release from its mold, place in the freezer until chilled then try to release it.

Step 9: Slicing and drying your hand-milled soap

After unmolding your soap, slice it into rounds, squares, or other shape depending on the mould used, with a sharp knife. If you like use a cardboard template to cut the soap into the sizes and shapes that you wish. The template also aids in cutting even straight bars. Once you have cut and un-molded all your hand-milled soap you need to dry it. Let the un-molded soap dry on a rack and cure for three to eight weeks, during this period turn your soap to prevent it from warping, this is particularly important in the first few days.


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