When I first started soap making I fell into this craft head over heels. I was so ecstatic to have found a hobby that was so fulfilling.
I had always been somewhat crafty, but now unlike before I was brimming with new ideas. The possibilities were endless and so were the soap making supplies I could purchase if I wanted to. Look around the internet, there are hundreds if not thousands of different soap molds, fragrance oils, essential oils, base oils, colorants etc. to choose from.
Being a newbie and wanting to get started right away I really didn’t think through what I really needed now and what I could add little by little in the future. So, on a whim one afternoon I placed a massive order and amongst basic things I bought stuff I really wish I hadn’t. Curious of what they were? Here we go:
A big soap cutter
I admit this thing is a beauty and I use it –now that I have it- quite often. So why do I wish I hadn’t purchased it?
Well, for one, it’s complete over kill. Considering that I really don’t make THAT much soap. I could easily cut them one by one with a single wire cutter or even with one of those handy cheese slicers (affiliate link). Do these few minutes that I save with a log cutter really warrant a 180$ price tag? Hmm, probably not.
Secondly, I can’t vary the size of my bars. What if I want a slightly slimmer soap or a slightly chunkier one? I can’t. My bars will always be 1 Inch thick. Bummer.
- A big loaf mold
I have used this mold maybe 6 times and 3 of those batches I pretty much ruined. Now that wasn’t the mold’s fault I know, but here is the thing with molds that hold 5 pounds of soap like this one, if you wreck a batch, 20+ dollars of raw materials go out the window.
I know, I know, there are ways to rebatch your soap. But what beginner is really comfortable shredding up their botched soap and throwing it into another batch? I wasn’t at the time.
What was even worse though was my disappointment (there was a lot of cursing going on, believe me). I could have shrugged off a smaller batch a lot easier.
Another thing with big molds is that if you make soap for personal use or gifts it gives you 18 bars of soap or more. That’s a lot of soap to use up. What if you don’t like the scent or the lather all that much? Well, you’re stuck with a meh soap for the next 6 months…
Smaller molds, in my opinion, will give you a greater learning experience. You will likely soap more often and you will, hopefully, be more adventurous. This will make you better at your craft and it will reveal what you personally like in a soap and what you don’t.
Too many colorants and the wrong kind
In the beginning I was so eager to start creating that I didn’t do a whole lot of research. I knew for instance very little about what to use to color soap.
So, I ordered a whole lot of different colored oxides.
Well, turns out I really don’t like working with oxides that much. I find them hard to incorporate. They always seem to clump on me no matter how well I premix them and they don’t give me that shimmery goodness that micas do. But since I now have so much of them I feel like I have to use them up, even though I would much rather experiment with natural colorants. Oh well.
So, what's the moral of the story?
Trying out new things is great and it can really get your creative juices flowing - simply start small. Order as little soap making supplies as possible even if buying in bulk seems more economical. What good is that 10 pound bucket of palm oil, if you decide you don’t want to use palm oil anymore (true story;)? Observe what you like to work with and really think hard about what you really need or want.
Wondering what soap making supplies you really DO need to make your first batch of cold process soap? I’ve got you covered. Click here to see my complete run down.
Until next time. Happy Tinkering!
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This is great! I am about to launch head first into the world of soap making, and it has helped put into perspective what i need and what i want. Thanks for sharing!!
I’m so glad you found this information helpful. Good luck on your soap making journey, Skye.
I’d suggest using a chemical respirator instead of the dust mask. The vapors from the lye water are dangerous and can damage your lungs.
Loved finding this pin.very helpful. I was getting ready to start ordering things cause I am going to start making my own soap.Due to that i have really sensitive skin.thanks so much.
I’m glad you found it helpful, Melissa. Have fun making your first soap 🙂
I laughed when I read your article, because I did the same thing.
Id id not buy much stuff when I started making soaps, Soaping 101 on you tube did a video where she bought stuff at the Dollar Store to make a beginner's soap. The only thing I had to buy online was the lye. Could not find lye here in Lakeland FL. I bought a few silicone soap molds that make flowers or bars, so no having to make a mold liner.
While I wish I would have a wire cutter, I certainly can relate to buying the wrong colours and of course to many of them! 🙂
And then there’s also the part of checking how to use a certain colour for optimal results. I had bought lumi green and didn’t know how to use it at all. I ruined a perfect batch with a feather swirl because I didn’t know about blooming your colour or what was the right medium to disperse it into.
By the way, you may use your oxides for painting. Just mix them with a little egg yolk.
That's a great tip. I might end up using it for painting 😉
I have a wire cutter for my soaps so that I don’t have to weigh each bar before wrapping and labeling. I use it almost all the time. I have individual silicone molds for salt soaps or small hand soaps for decorative soaps and funny soaps. The one inch size is standard and there are times I want a larger bar but I use plastic dog food molds for what I call tubbies for the larger bars of men’s soaps. They seem to like a larger bar to hang onto.
Thanks for the tip just starting with the melt and pour and I want to try everything which means I want to buy a lot of supplies
You’re welcome. Yes it can be very tempting.
Love u idea give more tip i started making soap
Hi Neha, I'm glad you found it helpful 🙂
So heartwarming. I can identify with your article. I however, did not start out spending that much on supplies. But I have recently purchased a good supply of Soap boxes which I am not going to use. I only do Melt and Pour. I am happy with it, and have no interest in Cold Process. I work with four (4) fragrances, and four (4) basic colors. I will only combine 2 colors at a time. I invested in a Silicone decorative mat (about $7 ) to give the illusion of 'skill'. I could not depend on my soaps generating revenue all by itself. So I decided to learn how to make Lotion, and offer a Lotion/Soap set. My customers are Seniors (like myself) and they determine what they prefer to purchase.
I look forward to reading more of your future articles. Wishing you success. Regards
that all sounds like you have a very good plan. Very interesting with the silicone mat, that's a very good idea. If you read any sort of business advice in the soap making space it is always advised to have between 4-6 different fragrances, more and your customer will be overwhelmed. I'm definitely guilty of buying and trying wayyyy too many fragrances as well 😉
Best of luck to you.
When you mention boxes are you referring to packaging or ? Gift sets are a super nice idea for family and friends!
Great article. I haven't bought a multi-bar cutter yet and probably won't unless this hobby turns into a business. As for a large loaf...my kits I bought came with them. They each hold 1kg oil batches. And include both the silicone liners and the timber frame.
I've played with natural colours and now playing with micas (all cold process safe) but no oxides yet although no doubt that will come.
The biggest warning anyone could give a newbie is how addictive it is. I've only started in late January but I've made atleast a batch a week on average. I might do several in a good weekend and then skip one if I'm too busy or the weather's horrid....I soap outdoors so I'm dependent on it not raining the way it is right now.
you're absolutely right: soap making is very addictive, like any good hobby should be 😉
The question is, what to do with all this soap, right?
All the best,
You have a recipe or formula? I'm using MP soap but wasn't to try lye. I need to get scales though.
Hi Amy, I have a whole tutorial for beginners. You can find it here How to Make Soap at Home Step by Step
Thank you for sharing such candid feedback !
I am too cheap to start out big,crisco,coconut oil,and used milk cartons for soap molds,nowI have been hooked for 20 years,and splurge on the things I really need.It,s the best thing I have ever done.
Please share your recipe😊
My blog is full of recipes. Take a look around I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for.
Such sensible advice - thanks, Celine!
Hi Judie, my pleasure 🙂
Oh how i wish I had read this before i Went on my spending Spree. Thanks for sharing. I wobder uf you need any new molds i i have never used? LOL
LOL. I’m good 😉 but there’s a Facebook group “destash my soap supplies” or something like that where people constantly sell their extra stuff.
Thank you so much! I'm a minimalist + soaping starting to get a bit extra. I needed a whole space in my basement!
you're very welcome.
Thank you for this great pin. A friend and I started with supplies from Michael's and equipment from the second hand store including scales and emersion blenders. Then we moved up to cold process with wonderful essential oils and micas. We cut our soaps with a chef's knife or the $9 ripple cutter from Michael's. I really enjoy soaping and have soaped, melt-and-pour and cold process, with several friends. We make bath bombs also. P.S. I've bought lye at Lowe's and Ace Hardware.
that sounds like so much fun. I'm glad you gradually bought the supplies you needed.
Hello again. Just had to give you an update. I am only using 2-10inch silicone loaf molds. Each sit in a wooden box-no more wavy sides when I remove my soap from the mold. I also purchased 3 hard plastic tray molds, each contain 9 guest sized soap (better than hotel mini bars). I bought a Meat cleaver to cut my soap, no more lean cuts with a regular knife. I am not very creative. I was spending too much time trying to design something to entice the onlooker. Well, I purchased clear containers that will fit the exact measurements of my soaps. My customers can see the soap, smell it, use it and replace it in the packaging. I use clear labels and stickers and I am done.
It has taken me quite a while after making some purchases that were not working for me.
My only advice to other newbies like myself is, spend some time to decide who would be BUYING your soap and work for their needs. My customers are seniors. They have told me they are not interested in their soap smelling like 'trees or food'. They want their soap to smell exotic😊. And....I am here to please.
I thank you so much for allowing us to share your space.
I'm so glad you found what works for you and your costumers. As soapmakers especially if we start out as hobbists we oftentimes forget that the average consumer doesn't know or care if you're using a certain design technique. The more you know about your target market the better you can serve them.
Did you make the wooden boxes yourself? I sounds like a great idea. And the guest soap mold sounds awesome too.
Wishing you much success:)
Etsy sells the item. It is listed as SOLID SUPPORT SOAP MOLD FOR 10" BRAMBLEBERRY 50oz. SILICONE LINER MADE OF BIRCH WOOD.
My soap containers I buy from PAPERMART, and BAGS &BOWS.
I hope this helps anyone looking for alternative packaging. Again, thank you for your support. Best regards,
Wow, Dee, Thank you very much!
I think I'm going to get the wood liner for myself. I've noticed the bowing outward and it's annoying.
Thank you again for sharing 🙂
this is so helpful. Thank you for sharing. <3
Glad I could help 🙂
Thankyou for sharing. I made the same mistake with the multi. That made me laugh. So wished I had the single bar cutter and now these cutters are made so nice of HDPE instead of wood. I don’t agree on the oxides. That is the most economical way to produce other colors for a newbie without breaking the bank. Hope this helps someone new.
Thank you Mailyn for sharing your experience. What method do you use to disperse them before adding to the soap? I've seen the new single cutters, too, they're really nice. At this point I can't justify the cost of getting one though, since I have my big ol' multi 😉
Hi, I liked your comment about making smaller batches to try out different variations. I'm about to make my first batch, and I too, don't want to be stuck with 18 bars of the same soap (that's if my first batch works out! :D). What kind of batch size is a more reasonable and still possible to make? Thanks. 🙂
I talk about which mold I use and there's also a video this post
alternatively you could use a single cavity mold like this this and just fill as many cavities as you like.
One thing you need to be aware of though, is that small batches traces way faster than bigger ones.
I hope that helps, good luck!
I've made the mistake sooo many times in the past when embarking on new hobbies - but now that I have to be so much more careful with my spending this article is brilliant for helping me keep things simple - thank you!
Hi Yvonne, I can totally relate. I get "shiny object syndrome" whenever I tinker in a new field. currently it's baking...
I feel the oxides regret. Anyone want them? The wire soap cutter I still don't have. I use a large kitchen knife. But I'm looking at wire cutters, the nice ones, all the time.
Thank you for sharing Maya 🙂 I'm sure you'll find a nice wire cutter that's right for you one day. I wish I could cut straight with kitchen knife.
Its been a little over a year since I added my two-cents to your column. I just wanted to share my findings with you and any new MELT AND POUR 'soapers' out there.
I use a few of the 50oz. silicone molds that both Bramble Berry and Bulk Apothecary offer. They are a good buy. I know the description usually swears that it wont expand...but it may, and you cant afford to mess up 50oz. of soap. Should you decide to invest in such a mold, please also invest in an item called 'Support box for 10" Silicone Loaf Mold that fits the 10" mold sold by Bramble Berry and Bulk Apothecary'. You wont regret it. When using mot most silicone molds you cannot move them once you have poured the soap. If this mold is sitting in the box, you CAN, carefully do so, without any damage to the soap.
I searched long and hard to find them as my previous supplier has closed their store. Just go online and check. My new supplier is in Utah.
Thanks again Celine, for your support to us 'newbie soapers'. Best regards
Thank you so much Dee for your input. This is very helpful information. Happy Tinkering!
Oh my... i can relate so much to that. I LOVE some making. I literally go to sleep thinking of new ingredients to put in my soap and use things around me which can be incorporated into soap to make it different. Luckily I didn’t invest too much in my first few batches. I had the basics but I do find the single wire cutter a must. They cut much better than knives. II prefer to cut mine piece by piece - to prolong the thrill of cutting! I do have one mold too many - and always on the look out at op shops. Thanks for sharing your experience and happy soaping!
Hi Angeline, thank you for your comment. I haven’t thought about the single wire cutter this way before, but it sounds lovely. Yes, soap molds are definitely tempting as well. Happy Tinkering!
Hi, I’m a newbie trying to start a business in soap making. I’d like to stick with melt and pour, for now. I’ve purchased a few molds, a block of cocoa butter soap, some essential oils that I don’t really care for and some liquid color ants. So far I’ve attempted two batches and they did not turn out how I wanted. I’m interested in doing the fun, attention grabbing designer kind of soaps. Where do I start? What should I buy? How do I know how much scent and colorant to put in? Help! Please!!
Hi Dawn, I’m not an expert in melt and pour. I would look into Soapqueen.com for lots of melt and pour tutorials. There you will find links on where to purchase materials as well. Keep in mind though that designer soaps usually don’t sell as good, people think they’re too pretty to use. At least from my experience. Good luck!
Thanks for the info Celine, I really appreciate it!
Great read. I thought I had buyer regret but thankfully didn't get most of what's on your regret list. Mine just involved a lot of essential oils I hate the smell of. I'll probably just pass them onto someone else I know if making soaps and see if they want them:(
Ah yes, EOs... also have way to many of them as well 😉
Would you like to sell them? I use those molds and would love a cutter like that. 😃
I'll think about it. The cost of shipping might be too high to make it worthwhile...