Learning to make soap at home is a challenging and rewarding process. Those who make soap almost never go back to the store bought variety. Each bar of hand made soap is unique and personal. Christmas gift soap is an original gift idea that can be tailored to every friend’s preferences.
Basic Castile Soap or Vegan Soap
Experienced soap makers prefer to start with their own basic soap bars that may be either pure castile soap or from another vegetarian soap recipe. Animal fat based soaps are perfectly fine, but may be less popular.
Those who are new to soap making may feel more comfortable starting with a soap making kit purchased at a craft supply store (or craft section of a larger store). Glycerin melt and pour soap is a basic soap to which people add colors, scents, and other additives.
Hand Milled Soap
Hand milling soap is a technique used to prepare basic soap for additives. Additives include essential oils, herbs, spices, food coloring, oatmeal, and anything to be added to the soap.
Hand milling soap also makes the soap last longer. A basic bar of soap is considered “soft”. Hand milling soap makes it “hard”. Soft and hard refer to how quickly the soap dries (hard soap dries faster) and therefore how long it will last (hard soap lasts longer). Some soap is marketed as “triple milled”. The means it was milled three times to make it especially hard.
To make hand milled soap:
- Grate one pound (16 oz) basic soap bars with a cheese grater.
- Melt grated soap in pot with 12 oz. of water.
- Stir very gently; too much stirring will cause excess suds.
- Remove from heat.
- Very gently stir in additives.
- Pour soap into molds to cure.
Christmas Soap Recipes
- Christmas pomander soap. Add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger to soap. Also add 2 – 3 tablespoons of fresh orange or lemon peel. This is the loveliest Christmas soap.
- Pure spice soaps. Add either 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon ground cloves, or 2 teaspoons powdered ginger to melted soap.
- Lemon nutmeg soap is a great facial soap, and nutmeg is a nice Christmas fragrance. Squeeze the juice from one lemon into measuring cup. Add enough water to make 12 ounces to melt with the pound of grated soap. Grate the lemon rind and add it to the soap along with 2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg and an ounce of liquid glycerin.
- Milk soap. Milk has been used as a cleanser for centuries. Substitute 12 ounces of goat’s milk or buttermilk for the water. Add 2 teaspoons powdered benzoin, and several drops of peppermint fragrance.
- Rosemary soap. For loved ones with especially dry skin, hand mill soap and add 2 tablespoons of fresh, finely ground or chopped rosemary leaves. This soap is both astringent and imparts a nice scent.
Half the fun of making Christmas gift soap is choosing the mold. Remember that the best molds are made of either plastic or stainless steel. Don’t make the mistake of using breakable china or glass. For store bought melt and pour soaps, aluminum molds will also work.
Christmas soap molds will either have pretty details or be holiday specific. Use:
- Candy molds. They are available at craft supply stores and specialty baking stores. Plastic candy molds are inexpensive and its not hard to find seasonal and holiday themes. Candy molds are usually small so they make lovely sets of hand or guest soaps.
- Candle molds. For a highly detailed soap, use one half of a plastic, two piece candle mold.
- Soap mold are sometimes sold in craft supply stores.
- Tart pans. Kitchen supply and stores offer a wide array of metal tartlet pans in different shapes and sizes. These make lovely, fancy soap molds.
- Microwave containers with separate compartments and other plastic food containers