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DIY Milled Soap

By Jessica Wilson
Years ago I attended a crafty party where we made melt-and-pour soap. It was awesome and crazy easy, and I could see how one could get hooked. It is so easy that when I decided to make soap for CRAFT, I thought I should tackle something a little less easy. Methinks I bit off a tiny bit more than I can chew.
If you have ever heard that soap making is a science, it is, and then some. For this project I thought I would attempt something one step up from melt-and-pour and a few steps down from made-from-scratch. I hadn’t figured on this being much more complicated than your basic melty goodness. Before I started, I scanned through a handful of websites and determined what it was I needed for milled soap, aka rebatched soap. Rebatched soap is made from grated-up, freshly made lye soap that has been slowly melted back down with happy scents and soft bits like milk or honey. (Soap makers out there please excuse my ignorance on the matter if I use the incorrect terms. I’m attempting to explain it in non-soap maker terms.)
After attempting to rebatch all sorts of soap, I can tell you that this business of milled soap takes a lot of practice. After six failed attempts I finally hit upon something that works. So follow along, throw caution to the wind, and go for it (and don’t mind all the steps – it isn’t all that much)!


2 bars Dr. Bronner’s unscented Pure Castile soap
Food grater
Double boiler
¼ cup powdered milk
1 cup water
4 tea bags of green tea
or 4 tbsp loose
1 tbsp honey
Wooden spoon
Parchment paper
Empty 1 qt waxed milk carton or similar
Duct tape
Cookie rack


Step 1: Pour water into small saucepan with two tea bags or two tablespoons of loose tea. I used a green chai for its scent. Bring the water to a slow rolling boil, turn off heat to cool, add honey, and allow tea to continue steeping.
Making Milled Soap Step2B
Step 2: While “tea” is cooling, grate soap bars into a bowl. I experimented with a couple of other brands of unscented soap, but found that Dr. Bronner’s was truly unscented. I picked up my bars from Vitamin Shoppe, but you can get it online as well. I used your average run-of-the-mill grater until my knuckles were threatened. I then switched to a rotary grater for the smaller chunks and it went much faster. My seven-year-old nephew even took a turn at it. Set aside.
Making Milled Soap Step3B
Step 3: Pour powdered milk into glass measuring cup and add cooled “tea”. Stir to dissolve.
Making Milled Soap Step4B
Step 4: Add a couple inches of water to the bottom part of your double boiler, then plop the top part in. Add grated soap to the double boiler then gently fold in your tea and powdered milk concoction.
Making Milled Soap Step5
Step 5: Turn on heat to low and let your soap mixture melt. This will take a while; make sure to check on it every 15 minutes or so. You should not need to stir your mixture, but if your boiler is a bit smaller than average, stir slowly to evenly heat the mixture.
Making Milled Soap Step6
Step 6: While your soap is melting, set up your molds. I used an empty one-quart container of half and half and a lid from a half gallon of ice cream. The lid needs no preparation other than a quick rinse to get the ice cream off of it. To turn the milk carton into a mold, cut out one of the long sides, pop the cut side back into the “mold” perpendicular, trim to the same height, and then tape into place along with the loose top so that it holds its rectangular shape. Next up, cut a piece of parchment to fit inside, overlapping over the long edges for easier removal of finished soap.
Step 7: Continue checking on the melting soap. Gently fold the mixture around the pan to expose un-melted pieces. As your soap melts it will look like all sorts of other food goods. Some websites say it will look like melted marshmallow while others mention mashed potatoes. Either way, it will look all sorts of weird. Hang in there and remember to keep your flame low, low, low!
Step 8: If your soap looks like most of it is melted but there are still lumps, add a little more water and let sit for a few minutes before attempting to stir it in. If you stir too soon or too fast you will suds it all up. I ended up adding another 1/2 cup of water.
Making Milled Soap Step9B
Step 9: When your soap appears all melted and you have smoothed as many lumps as possible, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of tea leaves and fold in. Turn heat off and pour or spoon soap into molds, depending on your consistency.
Making Milled Soap Step10
Step 10: Pop into fridge or freezer for thirty minutes or so to set. Once set, remove from cold box and allow to cure until hard enough to remove from molds. I left mine in their molds overnight.
Making Milled Soap Step11B
Step 11: Use a butter knife to cut soap into “bars,” running the knife all the way around the mold and then slicing. I turned my milk carton mixture into three bars. Remove them from the mold by pulling up on the parchment paper. For the ice cream lid, I removed the lid by cutting it off, and I used round cookie cutters to cut out guest-soap-sized soaps. Set bars on cookie rack and allow to dry in a cool place for up to three weeks. The bars need to feel solid all the way through. If your bars feel a little soft in their molds, pop them back into the cold box until they harden up. Your poured soap needs to be at least 1″ thick, otherwise your bars will curl and warp. My first batch was too thin and all my happy circles curled up as if they were dying.
Step 12: Once your bars have cured, you can wrap them up for gifts or use them. A length of wide lace makes for a pretty wrap, as does a band of pattern tissue and a faux stamp sticker. Steeping the tea into the liquid adds a slight scent to your soap. Adding the leaves later adds to the scent and gives a little texture and a wee bit of character to them. I tried many flavors and scents found in the garden and kitchen, and I found the tea to be the most reliable. I even stuck the bars under other people’s noses to see if they could identify the scent and they could! The use of powdered milk makes your bars silky soft. I tried coconut milk in one recipe and while the bars were exquisitely soft, they had a funky smell later. I’m not sure the honey did anything, but I used it thinking it would be soft and add a slightly sweet note to the soap. I can smell it in mine, but I may be imagining it.
Things to Consider:
The quality of your starter soap matters. I began my experiments with dollar-store soap, and while it looked pretty good and set up immediately, it got very, very hard and was not fun to use. I then tried other so-called unscented soaps, only to find their scents overpowering my humble herbs and such. If you want a stronger scent, shell out some cash for an essential oil. You won’t want to use a fragrance unless it is specifically prepared for soap making, as synthetic fragrances are unpredictable. If your double broiler is not HUGE, you will probably have a lumpy mixture. All my mixtures came out slightly lumpy. I read somewhere about using a crockpot and I think I will use that next time, once I get one. The idea of making your own soap is super delightful. The head will spin with fragrance ideas and such. The recipes out there are so vast and different that I encourage you to experiment and have fun with it. When all else fails and you find yourself hitting the roof with frustration, there is always melt-and-pour. Have fun and be clean!
About the Author:
Author Jessicawilson
Jessica Wilson is most happily known as ‘jek in the box’ and spends most of her time crafting it up and taking pictures. She can often be found standing on benches over on Flickr and creating all sorts of kiddie crafts on her blog scrumdilly-do! She lives a life of scrumdillydilly and loves to share.

27 thoughts on “DIY Milled Soap

  1. bambinosteps says:

    This is such detailed information – thank you! I am totally going to try this and I’m so happy to know that it’s going to look weird, but it’ll be okay. I’m sure I would have freaked out and thrown it out.

  2. jek says:

    i’m tellin’ ya it is really easy(ish). the first batch i did was play dough thick and it cured instantly and this batch was more marshmallow goopy thick and is now, after three weeks completely cured AND it still smells like chai tea!

  3. Saidblacksmith says:

    Ok. I have a ton of questions!! If I want to do several types of soap- should I just do several batches or can I melt it all up and ‘season’ it in the molds? (is the heating melting process part of the seasoning?)
    Do you think I could ‘lubricate’ the inside of the molds with olive oil or grapeseed oil to help them pop out rather than use parchment paper? (yeah. I’m a perfectionist and I need everything to look perfect.) would that affect or react with the soap somehow?
    Is there a vegan alternative to the powdered milk? Like soy or rice milk?
    Do you have any feelings about using perpetual vanilla as a scent? How much should I add of oils? A few drops? More? Does the scent fade as the soap cures so starting off strong and it’ll chill out?
    Sorry if this is too much but this post inspired me to make these as gifts for Christmas gifts (since I refuse to just buy people stuff) and I’m worried I don’t have enough time for too many failed experiments!
    Thank you for sharing your expertise!

  4. jek says:

    you can totally make up a large batch and scent each in the mold. you want to add the scent last to keep it strongish. if you use actual soap molds your bars will be perfect and you would use oil i think to keep them from sticking.
    as for a vegan substitute i am sure there are plenty of things you could use. i say experiment!
    i’m not sure what perpetual vanilla is but you will want to use an essential oil or an oil fabricated specifically for soap making as the chemistry of the whole mix can be unpredictable when using a synthetic scent. as for how much you use, go stronger, the scent does fade as the bars cure. my bars still have a faint chai smell but i know it is there so it may be my wishful thinking.
    hit the internet and do soem searches, you may wish to search vegan soap recipes. use keywords such as DIY, milled & rebatch.
    i hope this helps a little. i am far, far, far from an expert so good luck!

  5. Lisa says:

    Thank you, Jessica, for so thoroughly sharing this info. I’ve been looking everywhere for a “recipe” using store-bought soap that isn’t full of chemicals and junk. All the other sites I found were commercial sites selling their own soap base, which is expensive and sometimes full of the same chemicals. And I like your tea ingredient – I hadn’t thought of that! I plan to make a few batches this week using coconut oil, olive oil, and honey. I also want to try oats and coffee grounds for the exfoliating ingredient, and I think the dry tea leaves idea is very clever. Thank you again!

  6. Kamile Ko says:

    I do not believe that this kind of diy soap can replace for example- Skysti
    muilai ir pastos
    , for me it seems that bought soap protects me much better that made with hands

  7. jenburnsjd9 says:

    What can I say about Castille soap – About 4 or 5 months ago I decided to go simple with my cleansers and today, I pretty much use it for everything but in my dishwasher. I use it as hand soap, body soap, toilet cleaner, and much more.

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