Do you want to start a soap making business but you lack knowledge about the equipment? If YES, here are 17 small scale soap making equipment and their uses. People that make soap at home usually do so on a small scale, and it is a fact that the equipment and tools needed for large scale soap making would not be the same with what is required for making soap on a small scale, especially if you are doing it from your home or living quarters.
When making soap on a small scale, you will need soap making supplies in the form of raw materials, soap making equipment and tools, and maybe the most basic machines, if you can afford them. Small scale soap making does not require investment in any special equipment. Most, if not all of the needed items already exist in every kitchen.
Due to the corrosive nature of lye solution, it is important to know which materials are safe to use in soap making and which ones should be avoided. Soap making equipment and utensils safe for use should be made of stainless steel, sturdy plastic, glass, Pyrex and rubber or silicone.
Utensils and vessels made of or coated with Teflon, aluminum, copper and their alloys, iron, tin and plastic foams should never be used in soap making because these materials react with lye and create toxic compounds which end up in the soap.
Depending on the kind of soap you will be making, the materials required vary though they are some that are quite constant. These are the things you would need if you want to start making soap on a small scale.
List of Small Scale Soap Making Equipment and Their Uses
Table of Content
- 5. Thermometer
1. Safety gear
Some chemicals that are needed for soap making can be corrosive, so when making soap on a small scale, you need things that would keep you and your work area safe. These can include safety glasses, long sleeve shirt, rubber gloves, leg-covering clothes (trousers), apron, etc.
Lye is a seriously corrosive chemical and it can burn skin and cause serious injuries resulting in wounds and scars. To your eyes, lye can cause permanent damage with a high risk of blindness.
Soap-making temperatures are often similar to body temperature, so if drops of lye or raw soap splash your skin, there is a big chance they remain undetected until they start to tingle. Therefore, your skin should be covered as much as possible.
You should work with lye and raw soap batter very carefully to prevent any splashing. You’ll definitely need gloves that you will use to wash your supplies after. Safety also applies to having a quiet and uninterrupted place to make soap.
You can keep your work area safe by spreading a plastic table cloth on the table. Goggles, gloves and protective wear must be used from the very beginning up to the very end of the soap-making process, including the cleaning of dirty dishes.
2. Stainless steel container
When making soap, you need stainless steel pots and pans as aluminum will react with the lye solution. For safety reasons, this container should have a capacity at least 3-4 times larger than needed for water plus sodium hydroxide to dissolve in it.
Sodium hydroxide will dissolve in water, which is an extremely exothermic reaction. It will easily heat the solution up to 80-90oC. On a large scale, this can generate so much heat to cause the water to boil. For this reason, you need bigger pots so the solution would not boil over in a moment of indiscretion.
3. Container for heating oils and fats
This container should be made of plastic, pyrex or stainless steel, depending on the method for melting and heating of fats – microwave oven or stove. The most practical method for small batches of soap is to melt/heat fats in a plastic or stainless steel mixing bowl and to use it later for mixing fats with lye.
4. Soap pot
This container serves for mixing fats with lye and serves for the main part of saponification to take place. It must be lye-resistant, so it should be of stainless steel or plastic. This container should be deep enough to enable safe mixing of soap batter without it splashing around. It should not be too large or too wide so that soap batter would have enough depth so as to prevent air from being mixed into soap with the help of an immersion blender.
A thermometer is usually needed while making soap on a small scale. The best option is a quick-read digital kitchen thermometer with stainless steel tip or an infrared thermometer. Both are quite precise and quickly display results. Temperature control of lye and oils is very important to avoid misbehavior of soap batter.
A candy thermometer works great. You need a thermometer that can measure from 90 degrees to 180 degrees. You won’t be heating things to 180 degrees, but the lye and water will reach that temperature before cooling down. Candy thermometers have clips to hang the thermometer to the side of the pot. These can cost you around $4 – $6 each.
You could also use an infrared thermometer. These are super easy and accurate, and you don’t have to worry about holding and dropping a glass candy one. The infrared ones are around $20 – $30 and they are super sturdy and so are worth the cost.
Basically, a thermometer is not necessary because experienced soap makers can estimate temperature by hand, touching the outside of the soap container. On the other hand, beginners find a thermometer very helpful as they have no experience yet.
6. Wooden spoons
Wooden spoons are also needed when making soap in a small scale. Stainless steel spoon or spatula is necessary to stir the solution while sodium hydroxide is dissolving. These spoons are great in that they don’t react with the caustic soap base. Some people use plastic but the lye may eat away at the plastic and it gets in the soap.
You cannot use aluminum or it will react and fizzle with the lye. A spatula is used to carefully combine lye with oils and additives with soap, as well as to scrape soap batter off the container to the mold. A spatula is one of the soap maker’s best friend. A long handle silicone spatula is a good choice.
7. Plastic jugs
Yet another thing you will need while making soap on a small scale are plastic jugs. You’ll need one for the water, to which you’ll pour the lye crystals in. If you are making your soap at home, you can use a plastic juice jug that has no lid, but you have to label it so you or your family members do not use it for water or other drinks.
8. Plastic cup for weighing of sodium hydroxide flakes/beads
A plastic cup would also come in handy while making your soap in a small scale. A simple disposable plastic cup is good enough for this. After use, this cup will be contaminated by sodium hydroxide beads or dust, so it should not be used for other purposes without thorough cleaning.
The easiest way is to use that cup only for sodium hydroxide measuring and to store it at a safe place together with a box of dry sodium hydroxide. A cheap, disposable plastic spoon to scoop dry sodium hydroxide from its container is a desirable addition too.
Generally all the measuring you’ll be doing will be by weight for the carrier oils, water, and lye. The measuring spoons will be used to measure out scents, and it would be good if you can get plastic spoons.
To get a good batch of soap, you have to scale and measure everything. You’ll have to get a new scale for this, postage scales will work for up to about 8 lbs, and you can get them for around 30 – $40. You may not need to measure the specific oils, water and lye, all at the same time.
But you do need to accommodate for the weight of the pot. If you start making large amounts of soap, you’ll have to upgrade to a $100 model, which measures up to around 30 lbs, and still measures in tenths of ounces.
Soap making requires very accurate measurement by weight (not by volume!), so your scale should have a maximum variance of 1 gram (or 0.01 oz). Accurate measurement is the most important step in soap making, and this is one of the few steps where neither compromise nor improvisation represents a good option.
10. The soap mold
You would need to buy soap molds according to the specified size and shape in which you intend to make the soap. Soap molds are made of various materials including plastic, wood, stainless steel etc. If yours is a new business and you have lesser money to invest in, then you can even buy used soap making equipment including soap molds.
You will just need to ensure that there are no cracks and nicks in such used molds so that your end product- the finished soap- come out nicely without any fault.
You can use almost anything as a soap mould. Make sure it is sturdy as the weight of the soap would push out the sides of a cardboard type mold. Rubbermaid type bins work, except that you’ll get the imprint of the uneven bottom onto the bottom of your soap.
Some of the more professional soap molds have a side that comes off for easy removal. Almost any box of an appropriate size can serve as a soap mold – plastic storage box, milk box, shoe box, as well as a wooden, plastic, acrylic or silicone soap mold.
11. The lining for the mold
You need a material to line your soap mould so it doesn’t stick to the mould. You can use a lot of things including freezer paper and cut-up large black garbage bags. Both work really well, so it may just be a matter of preference. The freezer paper is sturdier and fold-able, and the garbage bags are cheaper and sometimes easier to handle while trying to line the mold.
12. Stick Blender
A stick blender is not necessarily a part of the soap making equipment, but it is so helpful that almost all soap makers use it. You may not need a stick blender at the beginning if you are still counting cost, but a stick blender sure does speed up the process of making the soap. Saponification occurs during a long-time period of mixing oils and lye. When hand mixing, it often takes a few hours. The stick blender will accomplish this within a few minutes.
13. Microwave oven
Microwave oven or stove is yet another equipment necessary for making soap. A microwave oven will be used to melt your butters and heat up the oils.
14. Paper towels
A jumbo-size roll of paper towels serves to wipe away any splashes of lye or raw soap from the work surface. Each drop of lye or raw soap on the tabletop is a potential risk of skin burns so it has to be removed immediately. Get a good sized one so it can take care of any emergencies.
A bottle of white vinegar should always be at hand. If lye or raw soap spill on the countertop, it should be wiped off with a paper towel and then poured over by vinegar to neutralize any excess sodium hydroxide left. So, get a bottle of vinegar handy.
16. Soap cutter
If soap is poured in a large mold, it has to be cut when it becomes firm, similarly to hard cheese. This usually happens within 12-24 hours after pouring. If you wish to make bar soaps, you will need soap cutting machines or the soap cutters.
Soap cutting machines can cut large blocks of soap into small loaves or rectangles popularly known as soap bar. Soap cutting machines have different types of cutter blades ranging from wire to a knife like cutter. Select the one according to your specific needs as well as budget.
There are many tools which can serve for cutting of soap: a large kitchen knife, wire cake cutter, guitar string, fishing line, pastry scraper/cutter or professional single-bar or multi-bar soap cutter.
17. Towels or wash clothes, bins and masking tape etc.
The last thing that will be in your list of soap making equipment are towels and wash cloths for cleaning up. Again, you will need racks and bins to store you soap making equipment so you do not use them for other things. Also, you need to have masking tapes handy to keep your soap mould liners in place so they don’t move.