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How to Make Your Bar of Handmade Soap Last Longer

Ever notice that your handmade soap gets mushy and dissolves super fast in a wet soap dish? And it seems to do this faster than a mass-produced soap bar? This is annoying since you paid good money for your handmade soap. Read to learn why this happens and how you can extend the life of your bar of handmade soap.

handmade soap sitting in water

Handmade soap is different from mass-produced body washes. Body washes have detergents and lathering agents. Detergent based "soaps" are technically not soap as per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because the bulk of the material is not a fatty acid salt.

What's a fatty acid salt? It's soap. When you chemically react triglycerides with lye you produce fatty acid salts and glycerin (also called glycerol). Triglycerides are fats or oils like olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, lard, tallow, avocado oil... The fatty acid salts that result from these oils reacting with lye are the actual soap. The glycerin remains as a by-product of the chemistry of soap making.

Glycerin is a humectant; it attracts water. This is a major reason why many people find handmade soap less drying than commercial soap. Some commercial soaps may be true soaps as per the FDA, but glycerin is often removed and used in other products like lotions. Handmade soap makers leave that glycerin in their soaps. 

So, glycerin attracting water is great for your skin, but not so great for your handmade soap bar sitting in a wet soap dish. If you keep your soap as dry as possible between uses, you will extend the life of your soap bar. Using soap savers, lifts, or soap dishes that allow air to circulate around the soap, will help your handmade soap dry faster and last longer.

soap dish and soap savers

So why doesn't glycerin appear in the ingredient label on my handmade soap? If a soap maker doesn't make any medical or cosmetic claims, they are actually not required to list the ingredients on the label. However, most soap makers are proud of their soaps and want you to know the quality ingredients that went into making their soap. They can list the ingredients that were used to make the soap, what went into the "pot", and not what resulted from the soap making process. If the soap maker is making small batched soap from scratch using oils and lye, there IS glycerin in that soap.

Wait, there's lye in my soap? Not if you bought soap from an experienced soap maker who knows how to calculate lye amounts properly and how to measure ingredient amounts properly. With the magic of chemistry, no lye remains in the soap. Soap makers will even use extra oils and butters in their recipes to ensure all that lye is gone and turned into soap.

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