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Misadventures in Soap Recycling

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    Thanks for reading Vegetarian Frugal Housewife!

That’s right. This post was going to be titled Shred & Pour: Recycling Soap Ends, but the universe had other ideas.

What was to be a simple exercise in melting those little pieces of unusable soap that are left over at the end of the bar turned into an exercise in frustration and stinky kitchens.

My grandmother always used to save those useless ends of soap and put them into a bowl. Then she would add little sprinkles of water and press down on the mixture now and then, allowing the soap ends to sort of cream together. It was then possible to put your hand into the bowl and scoop out enough soap to wash your hands with.

A few years ago I decided that I would do the same but, having recently discovered soap-making, I though that I would melt all of those little pieces of soap together and pour the mixture into new soap molds.

Beginning Soap Supplies

All I can say is that it worked fine last time, the result being cute little bars of pastel green soap with tiny chunks of other solid colors mixed in.

This time….well I’ll get to that.

So here were the original instructions that I was going to give you……DON’T FOLLOW THESE!!!

    Recycling Soap Ends


    Soap ends from old bars of soap
    Soap molds
    A Double-boiler or
    a microwave-proof glass measuring cup with pour spout
    Scented oil (such as amber, patchouli or sandalwood)
    Food coloring (if desired)
    Cheese grater
    Metal spoon


    1. Grate soap ends as small as possible using the cheese grater.

    2. Place soap ends into the top of the double boiler so that they fill a little less than half the pan.

    Alternately, place them in the measuring cup to the same height.

    3. Add three drops of scent and one drop of food coloring.

    4. Heat over double boiler (or in microwave) at low heat until the soap becomes liquid. IT WILL BE HOT!!!

    5. Stir a little, pour or spoon into molds.

    6. Place into fridge to harden.

UNFORTUNATELY, I don’t have a double-boiler and although, in theory, you can create one simply by placing a smaller pan inside of a larger pan. I have discovered that this doesn’t work well when the pans have insulated bottoms, as all of my pans do. So I opted for the microwave method.

Disaster struck!

The whole mixture smoked something awful in the microwave, and still I persevered.

I kept cooking and cooking, waiting for the melt.

I added a few drops of water and it seemed to initiate a melt.

I removed and stirred to break up the chunks and still had to cook more.

Sad Soap Results

I eventually got a brown gooey mess that resembled melted soap and so proceeded to pour it into the molds (which I had borrowed from someone.) There it proceeded to melt right through the pretty shapes and onto my counter.

‘nough said?

I tried to pour the last bits into metal mold shapes, but they smelled so burnt that I had to throw them away. Ahhh…frugality gone wrong…

So my new directions are:

Add the soap ends to store-bought glycerin soap chunks that are specifically designed for microwave soap-making and make sure to use a soap thermometer. Either that or get some metal molds, because those plastic soap molds and soap end recycling simply do not mix!

Oopsy, oh well. ;) I’m off to buy replacement molds.

  • hi there! soapmaker here…when i do rebatches, i shred the soap, weigh it, add about 1/3 of that weight in water, and cook it in a crockpot on low for about 5-6 hours. it should mostly be melted into a honeylike (or pudding-like) consistency by then. if you’re not happy with the consistency, add a bit more water and cook another hour or so. if it’s too watery, crack the lid and turn it on high for an hour or two to drive off some water. when it gets to be something like a watery oatmeal, shut off the heat and let it cool with the lid off for a half hour to an hour. then you can pour it into molds and it will harden into bars over the course of a couple weeks. if you want your molds back before that time, pop them into the freezer, then you can pop the soaps out to finish drying out on a shelf somewhere. if you want to add more essential oils, herbs or whatever to your rebatch, do it after the cool-down and right before pouring.

    i’m loving your site! thanks for all the wonderful ideas!

  • Wow Melaine,

    Cool process.

    Thanks for the input, I’ll have ti try that out when I have some time. :)