Milling Soap: A Kid-Friendly How-to
by Candace Hunter
Milling soap, also called French Milling, is an easy traditional process for enhancing cakes or bars of soaps. Milling allows you to add a variety of healing, soothing, or cleansing ingredients, such as extra fats or oatmeal or essential oils, to your soaps. I like to make hand-milled soaps to give as gifts as well as to add luxury to our daily lives.
I've used two methods for hand-milling soaps. The first uses heat and works better for soaps you intend to mold. This method uses warm water, making it a terrific method for kids, and works better for making soap balls and hand-sculpted bars.
This procedure requires supervision of an adult since it involves using cheese graters which can nick little fingers and the use of hot water. When adding the essential oils, be very careful as to not get any of the oil in your eyes or mouth. It can sting. Remember that successful soap makers take their time with the process. The finished product is worth an extra dose of patience.
A General Procedure for Milling Soap
This is a basic procedure, not a recipe. I haven't included specific measurements but have instead described the process and what to look for as you're working. For specific recipes using this technique, see The Practical Herbalist Recipes.
Equipment you’ll need to mill soap:
- a mixing bowl
- a cheese grater
- a rubber scraper or a spoon
- waxed paper
- soap molds (optional)
Ingredients for milling soap:
- One or more bars of unscented, natural soap
- 1/4 cup of warm to hot water for every 4 ounces (approximately 1 cup, grated) soap
- essential oils, herbs, abrasives, or other ingredients
Procedure for milling soap:
- Grate the soap into a mixing bowl.
- Add water, approximately 1/4 cup per 4 ounces of soap, and stir well.
- Let the soap stand for several minutes until the water is thoroughly absorbed.
- Add any further ingredients, such as essential oils, herbs, honey, or abrasives.
- Stir the mixture thoroughly so all the ingredients are well-distributed.
- Scoop a quantity of roughly a quarter cup of the mixture into your hand and form it into a ball, squeezing it to remove any air bubbles and smoothing it once you're done shaping it. You want the soap ball to be a size and shape that feels good in your hands.
Spoon into molds, pack the soap well so there are no air bubbles.
- Set the soap onto a wire rack or piece of waxed paper to dry and harden. If you used soap molds, set the molds aside to cool, dry, and harden.
Finishing and Storing your Hand-Milled Soap
After your soap has dried and hardened thoroughly, which may take as much as a few weeks, store it in an air-tight container. It will last for a long time, but after a few months any scent you have added to it may lessen. You can re-mill the soap to add more essential oils to it, if you wish.
Try grating a few leftover non-toxic crayon stubs onto the waxed paper and rolling your soap ball around on the shavings. The crayon chips will add color to your finished product. Some crayons come with sparkles already in the wax. These crayon chips will give your soap ball a very fancy look.
If you are using a soap mold and you want to try the crayon chip method of decorating your soap ball, sprinkle the crayon shavings into the soap mold before adding the soap mixture. The colored chips will embed themselves into the soap. Enjoy!