When I first began making soap, I was overwhelmed with the equipment I needed. Surely, it can’t be this expensive to make soap? I figured it up and realized that I could just go to the store, buy the commercial stuff already packaged in a basket, give it as a gift, and save money! BUT…then it would not have the same meaning of “I made this just for you!” that I was trying to achieve. Many sites with tutorials have a lot of fancy gadgets and supplies. This makes sense as these people are very experienced and have accumulated things over the course of time. When you are first starting out, it’s not that easy (or affordable) to gather everything at once.
Luckily for us, we have the internet. A quick search offered me all kinds of alternatives for purchased molds. Basically, I found out that you don’t have to spend a dime on a mold, unless you WANT to. You can use an old milk/juice carton, plastic storage containers, yogurt tubs, Pringles can, even a shoe or pizza box! The challenge comes in that if you use anything that is porous, you will want to line them. Not so much of a challenge though. You can use a trash bag, press and seal film, and freezer or parchment paper. Wax paper is not advisable due to how thin it is and will rip apart leaving you to destroy your mold to get your soap out.
To Make, or Not To Make…
After experimenting enough with odds and ends for molds, and I was sure I wanted to further my craft, I decided to use wooden molds. If you are lucky, you can stumble upon things like liquor/wine wooden boxes, or wooden boxes that are used for office and home storage complete with lid at some of the big crafting stores. I decided to make my own. How hard is it to make a box? Actually, not hard at all! You can be as basic or as fancy as you choose. I chose basic. I knew right off that I was tired of lining these things so I purchased some silicone liners and built the mold from those dimensions. If you don’t plan on using pre-made silicone and want to build your own soap molds, here is a tutorial offered by Lowe’s.
One challenge I found with this set up was that the silicone liners were thin and would bow in. I managed to offset that by taping the liner to the mold, but then I had tape marks on the finished bars. Sometimes, the tape would pop off and it would bow in anyway. Not good. No one likes to have to shave off soap to fix errors, and doing this creates less weight in your finished product and a bunch of shavings in a pile. (yes, you can rebatch them or use them as “confetti” in another batch, but that’s another subject… )
If Some Is Good, More Is Better! Not Necessarily…
The thin liners were not really working for me. Then, I found a thick silicone mold that did not need reinforcement. How wonderful! All in one mold that is easy to wash and unmolds without having to line them. These were also perfect for melt and pour as they will not leak. I tried them out but still was just “meh”.
Yes, it worked great! The “meh” part was that it took longer to unmold due to the silicone not allowing the water to evaporate as fast and sometimes it was a Herculean effort to get that soap out of there, especially if it is MP! If you did not put it in the freezer, wait long enough to harden (I’m talking several days vs one), or if your recipe is soft for a while (castile), you would leave finger marks from trying to push out the soap. Also, if you are a CPOPer (cold process, oven process), the silicone would create a cratered finish on the soap that you would have to fix if you prefer your soaps to be smooth. It seems more obvious on the thicker silicone molds than the liners. Even though these did not bow or flop into the soap, the middle would bow OUT a little. It is easily remedied with a book on each side.
The New(er) Kid On The Soap Block
Enter now, the newbie – High-density polyethylene or HDPE molds. If you aren’t sure what that is, think of your white plastic cutting boards. Same material. With these expensive lil buggers came the promise of no warping, ease of clean up, and no lining. Say what??? I had to have one. I only ever ended up buying one. Did it warp? No. Was it easy to clean up? Yes! Was it easy to unmold without a liner? OMG no! There are tips of using mylar or acrylic sheet, using silicone spray or mineral oil, or a rubber mallet to “pop” out the soap, etc. I’d rather not have to beat my soap out of my mold. This option did not work for me because it was too much work, however, there are many that absolutely love theirs.
Back To Square One
That brought me back to wood. Some of my better soaps were from lined household objects that I had snatched up like personal treasures for a hoarder. I gave lining wood molds a try and found my “thang”. At first, I thought it would be awkward having to line these big boxes, but it is actually quite easy. Here is a video on how to line your mold with freezer paper. I found that my soaps were smooth and had nice sharp lines. No craters. It was easy to unmold even though it was a fixed box just by lifting the freezer paper up and out. If you were really careful and didn’t make a huge mess with your colorants or rip it, you could even reuse the paper! Just for fun, I tried it and found that I could use it up to three times before it became all “manky”.
After a while, I became more fancy and enlisted the help of my engineering husband to create boxes with hinges and carriage bolts. This allowed me to loosen the mold, making it even easier to unmold my new precious creation. Of course, if you are working with melt and pour soap, these molds will need to be lined with something that will contain the soap better, like a silicone liner. These worked great if I was especially messy and some soap batter leaked onto the wood. When this happens, it is nearly soap cement and can really give you a bit of grief when trying to remove it.
In time, I went to some manufactured molds when companies such as Nurture Soap Supplies created a much more stable silicone liner, one that didn’t bow into the soap creating uneven sides. If I plan on CPOPing, I will just line those molds with freezer paper. This allows me to keep my product line consistent in shape and weight, yet offers me the versatility of using one mold for different types of soaps.
If you are a new soaper, my suggestion would be to forego the high priced molds and utilize the suggestions above. Spend your money on nice ingredients to make a great soap. If not, you will have a great shaped, yet inferior bar. People don’t remember the shapes as much as how they feel after they use a wonderful bar of your homemade soap 🙂
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