A question that is not asked as much as it should be is what containers for soap making should I use? This simple question is a very important one if you wish to remain safe while making soap. Whether you plan on making melt and pour soap, cold process or hot process soap. The container you use becomes very important.
There are containers you should avoid and others you should have a few of. A basic list of of safe containers for soap making are as follows;
- Heat tempered glass containers
- Microwave safe plastic containers
- Steel Containers
These three types of containers come in hand for various stages of the soap making process. Its best to know which are best for safety reasons and which ones you will want to avoid.
Lets take a look at each category and what purpose they hold in the soap making process.
Glass Containers for soap making
Glass containers are easy to find and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are designed specifically for pouring while others may be shaped differently in a way that it helps with the soap making process.
Glass containers can be used to melt blocks of melt and pour if you do not have a double boiler. Your lye water can be mixed in the proper container. Your overall soap batter or batch can be mixed with other ingredients in a glass bowl and of course division of your base oils and even essential oils are recommended.
NOTE - This is where you must learn a bit about the difference between heat tempered glass and standard glass.
Read more about glass here
Heat tempered glass
Heat tempered glass is made to be at least 4 times stronger than standard glass. This means it is often harder and can withstand cold and heat better then standardized glass.
Heat tempered glass can be used when making melt and pour soap. Glass ware such as pyrex are great for this purpose. They have gone through the process of making the glass hard enough to withstand the heat of the microwave when melting your soap.
Heat tempered glass is a good container for soap making also because you can mix your lye water solution in the glass as well. This is very important to note that your glassware has to be rated heat tempered to withstand the heat produced by the mixing of lye and water.
Standard glass can be described as your typical drinking glass. They are thinner, more brittle and easier to break than heat tempered glass.
Standard glass my seem useless when it comes to dealing with the super heated temperatures we face when making soap however there
Plastic Containers for soap making
Plastic containers for soap making are very versatile but also much cheaper in cost and to source than glass containers. There are a few different types you may want to have in your collection as time moves on and your soap making skills improve.
Plastic containers for soap making that are microwave safe should be top of your list when it comes to plastics. This goes without saying but its always best to say it anyway. Plastics that are not microwaveable can melt not only in a microwave but also when soaping.
Microwaveable containers can be widely found in many home stores and even home repair stores. They are easy to find once you look for the symbol that states that it is rated to be used in the microwave.
The symbol is pretty easy to spot its the number 5 with three arrows following each other around it. This is the best and safest plastic to use for the microwave.
Of course if you can find a microwaveable plastic container its safe to say that it has a good level of heat control. Well yes and no. Have you ever heated food in a microwaveable container and tried to hold that container in your hand? well you get what I'm saying. Its microwave safe but doesn't have good heat control.
Another example are those buckets you tend to use around the house. There are smaller versions of them and many soapers use them. Its good to note that this type of plastic compared to the microwaveable plastic are different.
Buckets are made up of high density polyethylene (HDPE) it is a type of plastic that has a lower melting point that microwaveable plastic which is known as polypropylene (PP). However HDPE goes through a process to make it more ridged and thus have better heat control than PP.
Its recommended that you find a HDPE container to use when soaping as it is microwavable and has better heat control. Its good also to note they can be recycled but they are not bio degradable.
Steel Containers for soap making
Steel containers for soap making are a bit more rare than glass and plastic. However they are by far one of the safest when soaping. If you take the time to measure the heat temperature of the ingredients you use from lye and its mixture to oils you will find that the average temperature can be over 180 deg F.
Steel containers will not melt, warp nor leak any of its 'steel' into your mix. This makes it the safest, cleanest way to make soap. The biggest drawback however is that its not microwaveable. You will have to use a stove top to heat oils if you do not do it initially before adding to the container.
Steel containers come in many sizes and shapes and most often although I'm calling it a container the truth is its a steel pot. Pots have handles, lids and some even have a handy pouring spout. They are extremely versatile and good to use.
The biggest drawback to using a steel container is the heat. The heat generated from the saponificaiton process will be absorbed into the steel easier thus making it harder to hold without handles. Also your working surface will be heated by the heat radiating from the steel container so you may need some sort of heat shield.
Containers to avoid for soap making
Its good to have a variety of containers to use when soap making, but while you grow your inventory its good to know to stay away from these types of containers as they will cause more harm than good and probably cause physical harm to you or someone nearby.
Aluminium containers for soap making
At all cost not only as a container but also as a tool avoid any type of aluminium when soap making. This applies mainly to hot and cold process soap making as they require sodium hydroxide.
Sodium hydroxide and aluminium do not play well together. They are mixed to make inorganic compound used in industrial applications.
The reaction of aluminium creates, hydrogen, salt and sodium aluminate. While you may not mind a bit of hydrogen a lot of it can be combustive and this is one of the main reasons not to use aluminium when it comes to lye. Sodium aluminate can cause bodily harm is breathed in or if it makes contact with your skin or eyes.
The best advice is to ensure that none of your utensils or containers for soap making contain aluminium.