How to Rebatch Soap

Written by sally_in_wales

Here on Downsizer we have a number of basic articles about making your own soap from scratch, using both commercial caustic soda but also woodash lye. For a lot of people though, what is needed to start with is a simple method of making plain soap more interesting. That's where rebatching comes in handy, its a very simple way to take a bland soap and experiment with texture, scent and colour, no heat or scary chemicals involved.

This is also a project that is lovely to do with older children and can be a great way to make presents.

What you need:

Bland, unscented soap. This can be home made soap, or it can be bought. If buying your soap, make certain it really doesn't smell of anything, a lot of 'plain' soap in the shops has fragrance added to make it smell soapy, which is sort of defeating the object.

A grater: Your everyday cheese grater will be fine.

A mixing bowl and spoon.

Fillers:These can vary hugely, but consider pinhead oatmeal, ground almonds, chunky sea salt, dried herbs, some spices (many spices are skin sensitizers though, if you use them, be very cautious, no more than an 1/8 of a teaspoon per large bar of soap is a fair rule of thumb), ground pumice, dried citrus peel and coffee grounds.

Water: Its lovely to use floral waters such as rosewater or orangeblossom water, but plain boiled then cooled tap water is fine too. Optional: Essential oils. Do your homework and choose oils that will be suitable for use on the skin when diluted.

Choosing your recipe:

What do you want your soap to do? Is it just to smell nice? To scrub hands clean after working outside? To soothe dryer skin in the bath?

There are endless combinations for rebatching soap, but here are a few favourite blends:

Rose & Almond- use ground almonds (these add a little extra oil and are good at stopping soap feeling drying on the skin), a drop or two of rose or rose geranium oil, rosewater, and maybe some rose petals.

Orange and Oatmeal: use fine oatmeal and dried zest of orange to create a scrubby treat, try orangeflower water to bind it. A tiny touch of mixed spice or ground cinnamon turns this into 'Christmas pudding' soap.

Peppermint and Pumice: Finely ground pumice stone and a drop of peppermint oil makes a strongly scrubby soap that will tackle oily hands easily. You don't need much pumice or mint!

Vanilla: Scrape the seeds out of a small vanilla pod

Coffee: Freshly used coffee grounds work well in soap and can help remove kitchen smells from hands.

Lavender is lovely either alone or with oatmeal or almonds.

As a general tip, use slightly less filler ingredients than you think you may need, you can always up the quantities in another batch if you find you prefer things stronger, but overly scrubby or smelly soap is no fun at all.

General Method:

Grate your soap as finely as you can, a fine grate gives a smoother finished result. I've never had much luck grating soap in a food processor, but if your soap is fairly soft you may be able to do this. Once your soap is grated, add about 5-10% by eye of your chosen filler ingredients. If you are adding any essential oils, add those now as well. You normally only need about 5 drops of oil per average bar of soap. Mix everything together very well.

Now, we need to turn the dry mixture into 'soap playdough'. You may wish to wear gloves for this bit. Sprinkle on your chosen water a teaspoon at a time and squidge the entire mix by hand until it all binds together and you no longer have crumbs round the bowl. Be cautious at first, you can always add more liquid.

Model your soaps:

This is the really fun bit. Take a piece of your soap dough and shape it into a pleasing shape. Traditionally, spheres were common (washballs have been made since the late medieval period onwards), but there is no reason at all not to make fancy shapes if you feel like it.

Let them dry:

Put your soap shapes somewhere airy and not too bright to dry for a few days. They need to dry completely to ensure that they don't turn to mush when you use them. Expect ingredients like herbs and spices to slightly discolour your soap, its perfectly ok if it goes a speckled brown as the soap leaches colour out of the herbs.

Enjoy your soap!

If giving your soap as a present, consider adding a pretty wrapper with an ingredients label. Bear in mind though, that in the UK its illegal to sell soaps or other cosmetics without having first conformed to a more or less complicated set of regulations, so these make great presents, but sadly aren't so good as a craft show fundraiser.

Making rebatched soap at one of the Downsizer Skillshare events: