Melt and pour soap is the easiest way to get into soap making. The soap “base” is already made for you. Simply melt it down, add your fragrance, color, herbs, and any other additives, and then pour into molds. It’s that simple!
In this post, I’ll give you some guidelines to follow to make your own herbal melt and pour soap creations. There are so many ways to customize your soap for your own skin type and preferences using your favorite herbs and essential oils.
Basic Melt and Pour Soap Instructions
I’m putting the basic instructions first, so you can easily use this page for a reference. Keep scrolling down for more in-depth information about soap bases, molds, and additives. In the meantime, here’s a step-by-step guide on making your own herbal melt and pour soap.
- Cut your soap base into small, uniform cubes (about 1-inch square).
- Place the cubes in the top of a double boiler over low heat. Stir constantly until the soap has completely melted. Do not exceed 160 degrees F (71 degrees C).
- Mix in your additives, then pour into molds immediately. Add essential oils last after checking temperature for your oil’s flash point.
- If you notice small air bubbles on the top of your soap, spray with some rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle to pop them.
- Allow soap to harden for at least 4 hours (but preferably up to 24 hours) before removing from molds.
I recommend using an infrared thermometer to test the temperature of your soap while you’re melting and mixing. Never allow your soap to reach above 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) or it may become yellow in color and start to smell bad.
You’ll also need a thermometer to check for the “flash point.” Every fragrance oil and essential oil has a flash point, or temperature above which the fragrance will burn off and you won’t be able to smell it in your finished product.
Make sure you DO NOT add the fragrance until the soap has cooled BELOW the flash point. If you use fragrance oil, check with the manufacturer for the flash point (or make sure it’s listed before you buy a certain oil).
Essential oils all have different flash points, and you can find them by searching online for “name of essential oil + flash point.” In my essential oils section below, I have added the flash points for these specific oils. But if you use one not listed here, just look it up.
If you use a powdered colorant, such as mica powder, mix it with a small amount of rubbing alcohol before adding to your liquid soap base. I recommend mixing up your color before you begin melting the base, so you can mix it in quickly.
If you’re using a color block, you can simply shave the color directly into the melted soap and stir to distribute. For liquid color, make sure you stir it in thoroughly to prevent streaks.
Adding Oils and Butters
Make sure any oils and butter are in a completely liquid form before adding to your melted soap base. Melt them in a double boiler or in the microwave if necessary.
I prefer to add my herbs directly to the molds and pour the melted soap on top of them, but you can also stir them directly into the with the soap base if you like. Pouring over in the mold reduces the chance of discoloration, although it may still happen, depending on the herb.
Herbs have a tendency to rise to the top of the soap instead of staying suspended in the center. You can use a layering method to combat this if it bothers you. Pour a small amount of the melted soap into each mold, sprinkle herbs on top, allow to sit for 20 minutes, and then pour a second layer of soap over the herbs. You can do this multiple times until the mold is filled.
Adding Essential Oils
When adding essential oil to your soap base, try to add the oil when the soap is at the lowest temperature possible. I always add my essential oils very last. If the soap is too hot, the oil may burn off and you won’t be able to smell it in the finished product.
Melt and pour soap bases can include a variety of different ingredients including milks, oils, butter, humectants, and more. You can start with any of them you like. Here are some common bases and their properties to help you choose:
- Clear or White Glycerin Soap Base – Basic soap base that’s great for beginners. Contains minimal ingredients, so you can experiment with your own additives. Typically made of glycerin, coconut oil, and a few other plant oils. Good for all skin types, and can be made more moisturizing using additives.
- Aloe Vera Soap Base – Typically made with the same ingredients as glycerin soap base, but with added aloe vera gel. Very gentle and soothing on the skin, it’s good for itchy, dry, and irritated skin. Also good for sensitive skin.
- Buttermilk Soap Base – Typically made with the same ingredients as glycerin soap base, but with added buttermilk for a creamy feel. Very moisturizing and great for dry skin.
- Goat Milk Soap Base – Typically made with the same ingredients as glycerin soap base, but with added goat’s milk for a creamy feel. It’s very moisturizing and great for dry skin.
- Shea Butter Soap Base – Typically made with the same ingredients as glycerin soap base, but with added shea butter for a creamy feel. Also very moisturizing and great for dry skin. A good base for vegans who don’t want to use goat’s milk, but need a moisturizing soap.
- Honey Soap Base – Typically made with the same ingredients as glycerin soap base, but with added honey for a luxurious feel. It’s very moisturizing and great for dry or itchy skin.
- Oatmeal Soap Base – Typically made with the same ingredients as glycerin soap base, but with added oatmeal and/or oat extract. Provides gentle exfoliation and soothes dry, itchy, flaky, and irritated skin. Also good for sensitive skin.
- Olive Oil Soap Base – Typically made with the same ingredients as glycerin soap base, but with added olive oil as one of the fats. It’s very gentle and moisturizing. Good for all skin types, but especially dry and sensitive skin.
Many melt and pour soap bases are good for dry skin, but you can really use any base you like for all skin types. Glycerin soap by its nature is very gentle and provides moisture without irritating the skin. You can personalize the formula more with additives (see chart below).
Soap bases have a shelf life of approximately one year, so you can buy in bulk and store them for a while. They’re typically sold in 1- or 2-pound packages. One pound of soap base makes around four 3.5-ounce bars of soap with additives.
There are tons of molds you can choose for your melt and pour soaps. I personally like using silicone molds over plastic because they’re much easier to pop your soaps out of. But you also have a variety of shapes to choose from.
My go-to mold is a standard 3.5-ounce bar mold for making my own personal soap:
But there are round and square molds and molds in different shapes (sea shells, hearts, fruits, flowers, etc.) that you can easily find on sites like Bramble Berry. Just make sure you’re getting a mold that’s okay for melt and pour soap.
Loaf molds are another option. Pour your entire batch of soap into a loaf mold and slice it manually into bars when it’s dry. (Keep in mind it will take much longer for your soap to harden in a loaf mold.)
Molds are generally pretty inexpensive, but you can always use something around the house like an old yogurt container if you’re starting out. It just needs to have some give to it, so you can “pop” your soap out when it’s dry. Don’t use glass or anything super hard. You’ll never get your soap out!
Herbal Soap Additives Chart
This quick-reference chart provides the optimal ingredient ratios for herbal melt and pour soap. Scroll down for more in-depth information on different additives (including properties of many different oils and additives to help in planning your own creations).
Keep in mind that one pound of soap base makes about four 3.5-ounce bars of soap with additives.
|Essential Oils||Add fragrance to the soap.||1 – 3 teaspoons per pound of soap. Increase or decrease, depending on desired strength.||Ensure that your chosen oil is suited to your skin type (see “Essential Oils” section below) and any sensitivities you have.|
You can mix essential oils, but it’s best to stick to a single oil if you’re not sure how your skin might react.
|Carrier Oils||Increase the moisturizing and nourishing effects of your soap.||1 tablespoon per pound of soap||Some nice carrier oils to add to your soaps include sweet almond, avocado, coconut, grape seed, jojoba, and vitamin E (see “Carrier Oils section below for properties).|
Make sure the oil is in a completely liquid state before adding to melted soap base.
If you experience the oil separating from the soap base, you’re using too much. Use between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon (maximum).
|Colorants||Add color to your soaps.||1 teaspoon per pound of soap||Any skin-safe liquid dye, color blocks made for melt and pour soap, powder colorants such as mica powder and clay, and natural colorants such as ground turmeric can be used.|
Dilute powder colorants in a small amount of rubbing alcohol before adding to melted soap base or they may clump and not mix in completely.
|Butters||Just like carrier oils, butters increase the moisturizing and nourishing effect of your soaps.||1/2 – 1 teaspoon per pound of soap||Some nice butters to add to your soaps include shea butter and cocoa butter (see |
“Butters” section below for properties).
Using more than 1 teaspoon of butter per pound of soap base may cause your finished soap to be too soft or have reduced lather. Less is better than more!
Melt butter so that it’s completely liquid before adding to your melted soap base.
|Exfoliants||Remove dead skin, and soften and smooth skin.||1 teaspoon per pound of soap||Some exfoliants you may want to add to your soaps include clay, sugar, salts, oatmeal, coffee grounds, and ground pumice stone (see “Exfoliants” section below for properties). |
For exfoliants with finer textures, mix with a small amount of rubbing alcohol before blending in to your melted soap base.
|Herbs||Add texture and aesthetic appeal to your soaps.||Varies, but I recommend 2- 4 teaspoons per pound of soap. Increase or decrease to get your desired appearance.||Some herbs may cause discoloration of your soap, so use with caution (see “Herbs” section below for recommended herbs to use in melt and pour soap).|
You can prevent some discoloration by adding dried herbs to the liquid soap when it’s reached a temperature below the melting point.
Use only dried herbs and flowers in your soaps. Never use fresh herbs.
|Humectants||Add extra moisture to hydrate and soften skin.||1 – 4 teaspoons per pound of soap||Good humectants for melt and pour soap include raw honey and aloe vera gel. |
The more honey you add to your soap, the denser the lather will be and the softer the soap. The addition of honey may also increase sweating in glycerin-based soaps.
You can use any essential oils you like for melt and pour soap. Some of my favorites are lavender, orange, neroli, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang. You can also mix and match to make unique soaps. For instance, I like to make an orange-cedar-rosemary blend for my husband. I also like making a citrus soap with lemon, orange, and grapefruit. The possibilities are endless!
Here are some properties of my favorite essential oils for skincare that might help you when creating your own soaps:
|Essential Oil||Flash Point||Properties|
|Cedarwood||152 F (67 C)||All skin types; anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, great for acne-prone skin, reduces the appearance of scars, and may soothe eczema|
|Normal to oily skin; balances oil production, anti-inflammatory properties soothe acne and other skin sensitivities|
|Normal to oily skin; improves complexion of oily skin, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, lymphatic stimulant that may help reduce the appearance of cellulite|
|Normal, dry, or oily skin; supports optimal hydration, may helps reduce the appearance of scars or discoloration|
|Normal to oily skin; improves complexion of oily skin, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties|
|Normal to oily skin; natural cleansing and antioxidant properties, balances oil production, has antifungal and antibacterial properties|
|Normal to oily skin; improves complexion of oily skin, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, shrinks large pores, reduces dark spots, boosts circulation, and promotes collagen synthesis|
|Rose Absolute||176 F|
|Normal to dry skin and sensitive skin; boosts hydration and reduces dullness, very gentle and soothing to irritated skin; great for aging skin and may reduce the appearance of scars|
|All skin types; improves circulation and reduces inflammation|
|All skin types and sensitive or irritated skin; soothes skin and reduces inflammation, acne, rashes, and other irritations|
|Tea Tree||131 F|
|Oily and acne-prone skin; helps reduce excess sebum and has natural antimicrobial properties|
|Normal, dry, or oily skin; prevents dryness and excess sebum production, balances the skin, antioxidants with free-radical scavenging capacity that may reduce the signs of aging (great for aging skin)|
And don’t feel like you need to go by the properties listed above. It’s perfectly fine to choose your essential oils based solely on the smells you like. There are MANY more essential oils out there, too. Do your research and find the ones that work for you.
You can also use high-quality fragrance oils, which don’t have the same healing properties as essential oils – but can provide lovely scents to your soaps. You can even mix essential oils with fragrance oils for different combinations.
I will use fragrance oils when the essential oil is too expensive (rose and jasmine come to mind), but otherwise, I like to stick to the essential oils. But that choice is up to you!
Most melt and pour bases already contain some carrier oils, but you can add more if you want to increase the nourishment of your soap. I typically like to add a little vitamin E or jojoba oil to my creations. Here are some properties of carrier oils to help you choose:
|Sweet Almond Oil||Moisturizes and hydrates skin, helps protect against UV rays, reduces the appearance of fine lines on the face, smooths and softens skin|
|Avocado Oil||Moisturizes and hydrates skin, helps protect against UV rays, increases collagen metabolism, minimizes damage from free radicals; reduces inflammation from psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and acne|
|Coconut Oil||Good for dry or sensitive skin, emollient properties help repair the skin barrier, reduces inflammation and kills bacteria on the skin, moisturizes and hydrates, good for acne-prone skin|
|Grapeseed Oil||Moisturizes skin, improves softness and elasticity, helps vitamin E and C work more efficiently in your skin, improves discoloration, helps protect against UV rays|
|Jojoba Oil||Hydrates, softens, and smooths the skin, balances natural oil production, good for aging skin, defends against oxidative damage, anti-inflammatory, soothes eczema, rosacea, acne-prone and sensitive skin|
|Vitamin E Oil||Moisturizes and prevents dry skin, reduces flakiness and soothes irritated skin caused by eczema or psoriasis, good for aging skin, reduces damage caused by free radicals|
Keep in mind that adding carrier oils is completely optional. You can make beautiful herbal soap just by adding some color, essential oil, and herbs. Carrier oils, butters, and exfoliants are all optional additives.
My favorite colorants to use in melt and pour soap are mica powders, but you can also use liquid soap color or color blocks. Other natural colorants include clays, activated charcoals, and even herb powders like turmeric and alkanet root powder.
When coloring your soap, keep in mind that clear soap bases produce brighter, more vibrant colors, while white soap bases produce more pastel colors (since they’re mixed with white). You can also produce a pastel color in clear soap by adding white coloring.
My favorite butters to add to melt and pour soap include cocoa and shea butter. You can buy soap bases that already have these included if you want to make things easier, or you can choose to add your own.
Cocoa butter helps moisturize the skin and creates a barrier to protect from moisture loss. It’s great for dry skin or if you live in a dry climate, but all skin types can benefit from its moisturizing properties. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help soothe itchy, irritated skin.
Shea butter is also very soothing to irritated skin. It relieves dryness, prevents cell damage, softens and deeply moisturizes the skin. Shea butter also eases inflammation and boosts collagen production for to promote more youthful appearance.
Ground pumice stone, loofah, epsom salts, clay powders, etc. are a good addition to your soaps if you need some exfoliation – especially on your feet and hands.
Other ideas for exfoliants include coffee grounds, oatmeal, poppy seeds, walnut shells, and even some herbs. I personally like the extra scrubbing action I get from adding dried flowers to my soaps (see below).
When you’re first starting out with exfoliants, make sure you don’t add more than 1 teaspoon per pound of soap. You don’t want to go overboard and make your soap painful to use!
You can add pretty much any dried herb you like to your melt and pour soaps. They add aesthetic appeal and a little exfoliation. Don’t expect much as far as their healing properties – they don’t really work that way in soap. But they’re still fun to add!
I love to add dried flowers to my soaps, such as:
- Rose petals
If you want to try out using dried flowers in your soaps, Bramble Berry has a Petal Sampler that includes six different dried flowers you can use in soaps and other homemade body products. It’s a great way to find out which ones you like best.
You can also add other types of dried herbs and botanicals including:
- Dried leaves (rosemary, lemon balm, mint, sage)
- Citrus peel (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit)
- Seeds (poppy, cranberry)
Herbs and flowers can discolor your soaps or cause “bleeding,” which means there will be a slight halo or discoloration around the herbs. I don’t usually have much of a problem with this in my melt and pour soaps, but it can happen.
Using botanicals in your soap is completely optional. You can still make beautiful, soothing soaps without adding dried herbs. They don’t really add any extra nourishment to the soap. Most of the benefits of homemade soap comes from the oils, fats, and butters you use (including those in the base itself).
The best humectants for melt and pour soap are honey and aloe vera gel. You can purchase soap bases that include these or add them yourself. Just keep in mind that adding too much can cause your soap to separate or be too soft.
I recommend adding about 4 teaspoons or less of humectants to your soap if you choose to use them. Adding honey will cause your final product to be darker in color and have a denser lather. Honey may also increase sweating.
If you notice little beads of moisture on your soap (sweating), you can place it in front of a fan for a few hours to dry it out. This may happen in humid climates even if you don’t add extra humectants.
Where to Get Supplies
You can purchase melt and pour soap making supplies at local craft stores such as Hobby Lobby, or from online sources. Amazon carries all the supplies you could ever need, but I always recommend purchasing from smaller companies.
Here are some of my favorite suppliers that have a good selection and great prices:
- Bramble Berry – I am now buying almost all my supplies from Bramble Berry. I love their selection and quality. They offer soap making project kits, and also offer videos on YouTube to show you how to use their products.
- Nurture Soap – Another great company that offers a wide array of mica powders at excellent prices. They also have molds, essential oils, equipment, soap bases – anything you could need for your soap making endeavors!
- Soap Goods – DIY Soap and cosmetic making supplies. This company sells literally everything you could need for soap making from bases to oils to colorants and additives. Prices are a bit higher than the other companies listed above, but they have some unique products.
Here are some melt and pour soap resources you might find helpful:
- Free Melt and Pour Soap Crafting Resources – Tutorials and projects for making your own melt and pour soap creations.
- Free Soap Queen Tutorials – Tutorials for melt and pour soap projects from beginner to advanced levels.
- Easy Homemade Melt and Pour Soap – This book includes 50 inspiring recipes plus design tutorials and a stunning natural colorant gallery.
- Melt & Pour Soapmaking – A great book that shows you everything you need to know about melt and pour including lots of recipes, ideas, and projects.
- 300 Handcrafted Soaps: Great Melt & Pour Projects – This book has TONS of ideas for making your own melt and pour soaps with 300 projects and great pictures.
I hope this guide gets you started on making your own herbal melt and pour soaps. It’s such a fun, easy, useful, and inexpensive hobby. Plus, you can make great gifts for your friends and family – as well as natural, chemical-free soaps for your own family. Good luck!