As soap makers continue their journey of creating soap, they quickly find themselves seeking the best way to store homemade soap. As a homesteader, my goal is to build a stockpile of soap in the quiet seasons of life, so that during the busy seasons on the homestead we will have enough soap to see us through the year. Just like other naturally made products, natural homemade soap doesn’t last as long as commercially made products. Proper storage will ensure that your homemade soap lasts! Let’s explore how to store homemade cold process soap for long term storage.
Homemade Soaps Are Not Created Equal
Not all handmade soap bars are created equal. Each batch of soap is individually created with natural ingredients. The choices you make in the ingredients you choose will impact the life of your soap. Mass-produced soaps are actually considered a detergent, rather than true soap, and include chemicals to stabilize store-bought soap for long-term storage. Like most soapmakers, you likely accept that soap made from fresh ingredients is worth the tradeoff of a chemical-filled soap with a long shelf life!
The quality of the ingredients you choose will impact the shelf life of your soap. Some natural oils included in soap have a shorter shelf life. Some of your oil choices will be used frequently, therefore the expiration date of the oil is never an issue. While other oils may be used in smaller quantities or less frequently that can expire before making soap. Using old oil in your cold processed soap can lead to the dreaded orange spots. While it doesn’t affect the usefulness of the soap, it’s not appealing. Depending on your storage goals, select oils and fats that meet your storage needs.
Properly curing soap also impacts the life of your bar soap. Soap needs to cure for a variety of reasons. First, the saponification process continues for several days. During this time, the acid and the base of the soap ingredients are neutralized through the process of saponification. It’s important to allow this process to complete. Lye also known as sodium hydroxide, which is not completely dissolved or properly saponified can irritate or even burn your skin.
Secondly, cured soap lasts longer! The curing process allows soap to dry and harden. When soap is first made, it has a gel-like consistency. As it dries, moisture evaporates, restructuring the crystalline structure of the soap. Dry soap doesn’t melt away as quickly in the shower.
Curing Can’t Be Rushed
Cold-process soap needs 4-6 weeks of cure time. Curing is simple, soap needs to be placed in a well-ventilated, dry environment that allows for good airflow around each bar of soap. Depending on how many bars of soap you make will determine your drying method. I make soap in small batches, a wire rack placed in a tray is usually enough space for me to spread the bars of soap out and allow them to dry. Each bar of soap needs space around it to ensure good air circulation. Stackable cookie racks can triple your drying space without taking up a lot of space.
If you make soap on a larger scale, many homesteaders use the same stainless steel shelves that they start seedlings on to dry soap or store soap. This is a good use of the shelving units in the off-season! If your storage rack is metal, be sure it’s coated or lined. The metal can react with the soap causing dreaded orange spots on your soap. If shelving space is a challenge for you, soap can be cured in uncovered cardboard boxes. Spread the bars of soap apart and place them in an area that you might not otherwise be using, like the top of a bookcase located in a dry area. Always cure soap away from animals and small children, especially if you create edible-looking soap designs.
Long-Term Storage Suggestions
Once your soap is fully cured, soap still needs to be stored in a cool, dry location that allows air circulation. Depending on your available space can determine your long-term storage options.
Tips to Properly Store Homemade Soap
- Thoroughly and properly cure homemade soap before long-term storage.
- Store soap in a cool, dry area with good air circulation around every bar of soap.
- Keep soap out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.
Open Air Shelving
If you have room, many soapmakers store their soap on the exact same shelving units they cure their soap on. This might be extremely helpful especially if you make a lot of soap and build an inventory. Open-air shelving should be coated or lined to protect the soap from the metal shelving. Soap can be covered with cheesecloth or light linen that can protect the soap from dust. It’s best to label your handcrafted soap with the date, scent, and any special ingredients.
Cardboard boxes are a cheap storage option that makes storing soap easy. Simple shoe boxes can be used, with or without the covers. If you choose to use the cover, always add small holes to the sides of the box to allow air circulation within the box. Many soapmakers like to store soap in covered boxes that can reduce the degradation of the scent of essential oils. Shoe boxes can easily be labeled and allow soap makers to separate soap by different scents.
Some soapmakers who store larger quantities of soap, use larger boxes such as produce boxes. These boxes don’t usually have covers however they are sturdy enough to stack on top of each other. They also allow a soap maker to organize, label, and spread out the soap for proper storage.
Covered Plastic Storage Boxes
Another option for storing soap for long-term storage is to use covered plastic boxes. These come in a variety of sizes from shoe box sizes to large totes. You can use these with the cover or without, however, holes would need to be made in the side to allow for air circulation. Homemade soap should never be stored in an airtight container that can allow your soap to become rancid. Of the options I researched this is my least favorite and one that I would simply not chance. Depending on the ingredients you choose to make your soap, soap-making can be expensive. I am unwilling to risk my hard work and investment by storing it in this manner.
Plastic Storage Baskets
At my home, I am very limited on space, so fancy shelving units are completely out of the question. I needed something small, that allowed for airflow and could be stacked. I choose to use plastic baskets to store my soap. Plastic storage baskets come in a multitude of sizes. I choose something small that meets my soap storage needs. The baskets allow for adequate air circulation, allow me to separate the soap by scent, and can be easily labeled. The baskets I choose allow me to nest them to stack the baskets.
Wooden Storage Options
Wooden crates are another great storage solution. Like all of the storage solutions listed, soap should be spread apart to allow for good airflow around each bar of soap. If you sell your soap, the wooden boxes can be used for transportation and are charming display cases.
One of my favorite soapmakers is Elly from Elly’s Everyday Soap Making she recommends storing soap in wooden drawers. Her drawers are lined with a rack on the bottom and she uses Damp Rid refillable containers in each drawer to absorb any moisture inside the drawer. Wooden drawers are not an airtight storage solution that makes good use of your existing resources.
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Consider Your Climate
Depending on where you live, a dry place to store bars of soap during the curing process and storage may be challenging! In humid environments, a great way to ensure your curing area is dry is to use a dehumidifier. Also, consider the humidity level in the room of your home you are curing or storing the soap. The bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen may have high humidity and is not the best location to store your handmade natural soap. Ensuring your store your soap correctly will extend the life of your soap!
Properly Storing Soap in the Shower
Proper storage of soap doesn’t end when you start using it. Storing the soap correctly in the shower or anywhere you use your soap can make it last longer.
Keep your handmade soap dry! The soap dish you store your soap in should have a rack or at least a textured bottom that keeps the soap from resting in standing water. The soap dish should never be in the direct stream of the shower, allowing the water to wash your precious soap right down the drain. Don’t waste the end pieces. I wet a new bar of soap and “glue” the sliver of the last soap to it. Most pieces of soap will stick together using just water. Another option is to use a soap-saver bag, adding scraps of soap as needed.
Plastic Storage Baskets
This 6-piece set of plastic storage baskets is open and airy to allow my homemade soap the air circulation they need. Easily stacked, each basket accommodates one batch of soap perfect to store my personal stash.
Expected Life of Homemade Soap
When stored properly, most homemade soaps will last at least one year. Depending on the ingredients used and the quality of the ingredients, soap may last less than a year, or much longer. As a rule, soaps made with “fancy” oils will have a shorter shelf life than basic oils. Soap making is an investment, storing it properly ensures you reap the benefit of making and using homemade soap. Determine your weekly usage and stock up appropriately!
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About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.