Learn how to stay organized, prevent oxidation, and increase the shelf-life by storing your handcrafted soaps with these great tips!
Now that you have read The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap and have started your journey into the soap making world, you may notice how quickly soap making becomes your newest addiction. Each batch of soap that is made is even better than the last and your experience and skills increase with each new recipe. The only “problem” with your newfound passion is- more soap. For those who are new to the process, you may be wondering how to store your finished soap in a manner that is not only more organized but also one that protects and extends the shelf-life of your products.
We know that curing soap creates a bar that is harder, longer-lasting, more gentle, better lathering, and so much more, but how do we store our soaps during the curing process, and how do we store them after?
Hot Process (and cold process) soaps should be kept in an open-air environment, without plastic wrap or air-tight packaging. Because our soaps are made with excess water (used to disassociate the sodium hydroxide or lye into Na and OH ions and also provides opportunities for designing), the total moisture content of our soaps will change over time. The excess water in our soaps will eventually evaporate until it reaches a point of equilibrium with the moisture content of the air around it. If soaps are wrapped or sealed in a container, there may be excess moisture that remains trapped, which can lead to problems that include oxidation, DOS (Dreaded Orange Spots), more alkaline soap, and fluctuating soap weights.
Another benefit of allowing soap to cure/store in an open environment includes a process called acidification. The carbon dioxide in the air around us is acidic in nature and it will react with any excess lye and alkalinity in our soap recipes and lower the pH. Soaps that have been exposed to the air for longer will be more gentle and have a lower pH because of this.
Store soaps in plastic bins with open holes on the side, in an open shoe box in a closet, or on a shelf. There are soap curing shelves that can be purchased from soap suppliers, or you can repurpose another shelving system (such as the Algot from Ikea), or create your own. Be sure to flip your soaps so that all sides are exposed to the open air during curing/storing which will also help prevent bowing on the sides. If your shelving is made of metal and is not 100% stainless steel, be sure to line it first with baking paper, to prevent any oxidation due to metal contact which will result in DOS on the surface area of any soaps that touch it.
Budget tip: I purchase large plastic storage bins from Dollar Tree that can each hold 30 soaps. You can place a piece of cardboard between the baskets and they can be stacked in many different patterns. When you are not in need of the soap storage, instead of having huge soap curing racks, you can stack the baskets on top of each other to save space, or repurpose them for other storage needs.
Melt and Pour and Transparent Soaps
The manner in which cold/hot process soaps and melt and pour and transparent soaps should be stored is much different. Melt and pour soaps or transparent soaps are made with a high concentration of solvents which are very soluble in water and can be water-attracting in nature. For example, glycerin is one of the most commonly used ingredients in melt and pour soap making and it is an alcohol, is water soluble and it is a humectant, which means that it attracts water. If there is any moisture in the air, glycerin will attract the water and your soap may develop little beads of water on the surface, often called “glycerin dew” or “sweating.” In order to prevent your melt and pour soaps from sweating and becoming softer in nature, you must wrap them in an airtight manner, be it plastic wrap, cellophane, shrink wrap, or even an air-tight container. By preventing access to moisture, your soaps will remain dew-free and hard.
Both types of soap should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry environment. If there are free fats (superfats or added oils) in the recipe, exposure to heat, humidity, and light can all increase the risk of oxidation and rancidity. For more information about rancidity and oxidation, be sure to read this article.
Try our easy Introductory 10-Minute Ultra-Transparent Soap recipe which creates a full and bubbly lather and has a low glycerin content for reduced sweating.
How do you store your soaps? Feel free to share your tips!