Over Thanksgiving Break, I experimented with toys and gifts, namely got myself busy with soap-making for gifting purposes. They’re easy to make, since the only specialty item you really need is glycerin soap, which many craft stores sell in meltable blocks. (Cute molds also add a fun touch.) Although these make great Christmas gifts, they’re great for hostess gifts throughout the year. Many of the ingredients, such as food coloring and extracts, can be found in your kitchen, and you can use just about any baking mold for the project, since after all, it is soap, and can be washed off.
Begin by washing your mold – it could be tricky if you have one with small crevices, since you don’t want foreign objects sticking to your soap.
Gather your materials. For scents, you can use essential oils or kitchen extracts. We had lavender and peppermint essential oils, and vanilla and almond extracts. You can use petroleum jelly to “oil” your soap molds, but you can get along without it. For color, use food coloring.
Cut your soap into blocks that are microwaveable. (You can use either clear glycerin or white glycerin soap blocks for different effects. I personally prefer the white.)
Heat the glycerin on high, stirring at 15 second intervals. When it is totally melted, you’ll want to move quickly so that it doesn’t start to harden again.
Mix the combination of scents and color in containers (we used thick styrofoam cups). Some of our favorite combinations: pink + vanilla extract + honey, light green + peppermint, light purple + lavender. We also experimented with adding spices such as cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and rosemary to different combinations.
Let the soaps harden in their molds for about 45-50 minutes (unless the brand of glycerin you are using says otherwise). Then, you can remove them from the molds. (This is trickier than it sounds, although if you have petroleum jelly, supposedly this makes them easier to remove.) Instead of cutting around the edges, we found that for these small soaps, sticking a short, thick knife midway into the base and applying even pressure for about 2 or so minutes was the best way to remove them. The hole is easy to cover, since it is at the base, and the soap will still be soft enough to mold for a few minutes.
You can also let them harden for a longer period of time, depending on the glycerin – see this tutorial for details.
As soon as they are out of the molds, they are ready! However, I recommend letting them harden in a cool, dry place (not in plastic), or else condensation will form on some types of glycerin (especially the clear glycerin).