One of the most common questions we get is “How long does handmade soap last?” We’re going to answer that question as well as tips on how to get the most out of your handmade soap with proper care.
In a world filled with chemical cleaners, one of the most appealing things about homemade soap is that they are made almost entirely from natural ingredients. If you’re not convinced, take a bar of homemade soap and do the side-by-side smell test with a commercial bar. It is amazing how the homemade soap just smells good, while the commercial bar smells like the fragrance was added in an effort to cover up the chemical odor.
There are two different life spans to consider. First, there is shelf life. This is the length of time you can expect your bar of soap to last if it is not used. The typical bar of handmade soap will have a shelf life of about 1 year if it is stored in a cool dry area.
You can expect the scent to slowly fade over time. Any natural colorants (onion skins, cucumbers, alkanet powder, etc.) will fade as well. This is normal because homemade soap does not have the naturally occurring glycerin removed from it nor does it have the addition of any chemical preservatives.
If you find your scent fading, sometimes it can be brought out by rubbing the bar with a rough cloth, exposing a new surface; this will become less effective as the bar gets older.
Ingredients can affect shelf life as well. Some oils have shorter shelf lives than others. Hemp, sunflower, and peanut oils are a few that have a short life span. Most soap makers will either avoid these oils or attempt to extend their shelf-life by adding natural antioxidant such as vitamin E and minimizing the amount of extra oil added to the recipe.
Homemade soap with “food” ingredients (cucumber, milk, eggs, etc.) also cause a shortened shelf life; however, the added benefits of these ingredients makes them a sought out commodity. Most of our special requests are for soaps with these types of ingredients.
Most people want to know how long a bar of homemade soap will last once they start using it. Homemade cold process soap will last nearly as long as a commercial bar of soap if taken care of properly. Because homemade soap retains all of the naturally occurring moisturizing glycerin (commercial soaps have this glycerin removed as a by-product), it is much more solvent. To ensure that your homemade bar last as long as possible, never let it stand in water. Make certain your soap dish allows the water to drain completely away from the soap, allowing it to thoroughly dry out between uses.
As a rule of thumb, harder bars will last longer. Palm, lard, and coconut oils make a harder bar than olive, soy, and castor oils. Curing time also affects hardness as well as additional ingredients, such as milk and honey.
A tip passed on by some of our customers: Our soap is sold in large bath sized bars (4-5 oz), take a large kitchen knife and cut the bar in half. Alternate the halves, allowing a longer drying time between uses, making it last even longer. One of our customers has reported that she has had a bar last two months with daily use. We find that the average life-span is about 1 month. Larger households will need to replace it more frequently.
Handy Tip: Take a wash cloth, fold it in half and sew two sides together and 2/3rds of the remaining open side. Slip the small soap pieces that normally get thrown out into the cloth. Once a few have collected, use it in the shower.
Another Tip: Many of our customers use our soap with nylon bath sponges. This allows a little to go a long way, keeps the soap from becoming too wet, and is very satisfying as they have a nice lather.
Factors that affect life-span are usage, drainage/drying time, soap hardness and storage. With a little care, your homemade soap will last just as long as commercially produced soaps.