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The Art of Soap Embeds: A How-To Guide for Handmade Soap

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soap embed how to guide

Soap embeds are the perfect way to bring beauty and color to your cold process soaps. They create a unique and eye-catching design that can be tailored to fit any color palette and season. Plus, soap embeds are a great way to utilize batter scrapings and left over soap cuts! If you’re interested in learning how to make and use embeds for your own cold process soap creations, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to make soap embeds and tips for successful placement of the embeds to decorate your soap. Let’s get started!

What are Soap Embeds?

Simply put, soap embeds are decorations added to handmade soap. Soap embeds can be something placed on top of the loaf to decorate the top, or placed inside of the soap loaf to be revealed once the bars are cut. Your soap embeds can be a thing (like an actual rubber duckie!) or a shape made from soap. Here are a few of my soaps with embed designs:

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Why Use Soap Embeds?

For me, the top reason to use soap embeds is to utilize every scrap of soap batter. That’s my #1 goal when creating them in the first place (and why I have so many small shapes of soap stashed around the studio). 😂

Now, while saving extra batter the root of my soap embed love, I have to admit that the design of soaps with embeds is a close 2nd place. What do they say… Form over function? This is a case where you get form and function at equal weights because the final soaps are always so beautiful (or in the case of my gummy bears, so darn cute!)

Using soap embeds in your handmade soap designs allows you to create visual interest to a basic bar, compliment a swirl to tell a story, or visualize an emotion with design in your soap.

Looking for the tools I use when making soap? Check out my Amazon Shopping List.

How to Make Soap Embeds

Depending on your design plans, you can either make your soap embeds from a full batter of soap, or simply use the scrapings from any batch of soap. As I mentioned, my soap embeds are nearly always left over batter. I simply pour the batter into small cavity molds and save them for later use. You can use any soap compatible mold for your embeds, and you’ll find many suitable molds in the candy industry. Just look for quality silicon candy molds (such as those typically used for chocolate). Here are my go-to silicon molds for embeds:

heart soap mold
gummy bear mold
butterfly soap embed mold

These single cavity molds create little mini-bars of soap which are then placed on top of a loaf of soap (which we’ll talk about in a moment). But, they are not the only option for embedding soap. You can also create embeds that are placed inside of a loaf, or near the bottom, which can create intricate designs for bar soap. While these are typically shaped column molds, poured or cut to match the length of your soap loaf, you can also use geometric cuts of any soap to create an embedded design in your soap. And, don’t think you have to stop at just soap! You can also use physical objects as embeds (rubber duckies anyone? 😉)

Tips for creating soap embeds

While creating the embeds is a pretty straight forward process (you literally just pour the soap into the mold), there are a few tips worth mentioning:

For batter saving cavity mold pours:

  • I always keep a tray of molds out when I’m making soap. This allows me to easily pour off any scrapings of batter at the end of a soaping session.
  • I sometimes do and sometimes don’t gel my embeds. I really do consider them left overs and am not too concerned about their final color. I’ve also had some develop visually interesting ash from not gelling them. But, if you do gel, they typically release from the molds easier, cleaner, and sooner, than not gelled.
  • Which brings me to my final tip here, don’t unmold them too soon. Since your soap embeds are typically very small, they don’t have the same heat from larger mass soaps loaf. Even larger single cavity molds set up faster than these small embeds. Depending on your recipe, your embeds might be ready to unmold with in a few hours of your main soap, or you might need to wait a day or two for them to firm up enough to remove from the molds while retaining detail. If you’re too impatient to wait, you can always pop them into the freezer for a few hours to firm up enough to unmold.

For column embed molds:

  • Some column embed molds contain intricate details that can easily break off when unmolding. A recipe that create a firm bar will be your best bet for these types of mold. Consider using minimal water in your recipe to help them set up quicker, or adding salt or sodium lactate.
  • Remember to consider the length of your loaf mold vs. the length of your column mold. If your column mold is 5 inches, but your loaf mold is 11 inches, you’ll need to pour multiple columns to embed into the full length of your loaf mold.

For non-soap object embeds:

  • Consider what the item is made out of, and be sure it’s safe!
    • Is it soap safe, meaning will the material hold up to saponification? Rubber duckies are typically made of silicon and work great as an embed.
    • Is it physicality safe? Consider if it’s a choking hazard, and check your local/regional regulations for toys in products. The last thing any of us wants to do is create a soap that can cause harm to someone.
600 natural valentine hear soap

It’s also worth mentioning how I store my embeds. I used to keep them in plastic bags with the assumption that I needed to retain water content until use. You don’t need to though. In fact, long term storage in plastic bags can lead to DOS (dreaded orange spots). I simply toss my embeds into a brown paper bag, labeled with their shape (such as “hearts”) on the bag simply to keep my shelves a bit more organized. The only exception here is if I’m making a column embed for use in the next day or two. In this case I will wrap it up to retain moisture and help the embeds stick to the new soap.

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Tips for Successfully Placing Soap Embeds

When placing soap embeds, there are a few things to keep in mind for a successful design.

  1. When placing embeds on the top of your soap, make sure your batter is at a medium to thick trace. You’ll need the firmness of this thicker trace to support your embed and ensure that it doesn’t sink to the bottom. In the YouTube playlist below, I demonstrate this in the gummy bear soap embed video.
  2. You’ll also need to consider the final cut when you’re placing your embeds. Like in the heart embed soaps, I placed each heart based on where I would ultimately cut each bar to avoid cutting through the hearts.
  3. Remember that your embeds, whether made from soap or silicon rubber duckies, will take up space in your mold. In both the rubber ducky video and gummy bear videos, notice how I fill the cavity molds for the final bars to accommodate the embeds we place.
  4. Typically, I don’t worry about top of loaf embeds falling off or “sticking” as I nestle them into the batter. The multiple side contact keeps them well attached and I’ve never had them fall off, even while using the soap. However, when embedding inside a loaf, I have experienced the main bar falling away from the embed. Usually this is due to water content (the dry embeds) and only on embeds with a large surface. To prevent this I keep the surface of the embed to a minim, and keep the embeds moist. If the embeds are older soap, I mist the embeds with water just before I start making the main batter. You don’t need to get them soggy goopy wet, just mist them to allow the surface to moisten up a bit. This allows the new soap and the embed to “grab on to” each other.

I hope that gives you a basic understanding of working with soap embeds. You can also check out my Cold Process Soap Embed Tutorials YouTube. The playlist is filled with tips and tricks for embedding soap in your handmade soap designs.

And join me for Wet Soap Wednesdays on my Facebook Page where I’ll be sure to do more soap embed video demonstrations!

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