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KIWI Eco-craft: Natural soapsAfter years of taking a backseat to liquid pump options, bar soaps are finally making a comeback. Browse any specialty or gift shop and you’ll find a multitude of cleansing bars that are both beautiful and eco-friendly. Pump soaps require a lot more packaging—plastic bottle, plastic tube, plastic pump—than their old-fashioned friends, which usually come wrapped in a single layer of plastic or paper.

With the holidays approaching, now is the perfect time to jump on the bar-soap bandwagon and create your own fragrant works of art. Not only are bars of soap a good green choice for the home, but they also make special gifts when wrapped in brown or decorative paper and tied with a bow. Plus, by making your own soaps you can control the ingredients and keep the product natural for your friends and family.

For the soap recipes below, start with a basic soap and add ingredients from there. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can start from scratch and make your soap the traditional way, with fats, water and lye. Or you can do it easier (and perhaps safer) with our melt-mix-pour method. This will allow you and your kids to personalize the soaps you make by simply mixing your favorite essential oils, exfoliators, moisturizers, herbs and flowers into a basic store-bought soap.

Stellar Suds

To create natural, gift-worthy soaps, choose one of our three recipes (below) and follow these instructions.

  1. Start with a fragrance-free soap: glycerin, white or olive oil. (We used glycerin soaps in our recipes.)
  2. Have your child help you cut 8 oz. of the soap into small pieces, using a plastic knife or other safe utensil. Melt the pieces down in either a double boiler over low heat or in a microwave (take care to keep little hands away from the heat). Stir frequently. If using a microwave, heat on medium power in short time segments to avoid a mess.
  3. Once the soap has melted, allow it to cool slightly while stirring frequently. Help your child mix in ingredients and pour into the mold of your choice. Cupcake or loaf pans work well—a small loaf pan allows you to cut your soap into rectangular pieces, while a tube or a pipe (such as a piece of PVC pipe) creates beautiful rounds. A cupcake mold (mini or large) produces perfectly sized individual patties.
  4. Allow your soap to sit overnight. Once it has set, remove from the mold and slice (if necessary). For gifts, your child can wrap one or more soaps in recycled paper and tie with a ribbon. As an added touch, include a note explaining the benefits of each herbal ingredient.

Recipes

Lavender Soother

  • 8 oz. melted soap
  • 1/2  tsp. lavender essential oil
  • 1 Tbsp. dried lavender flowers

Lavender helps calm achy muscles, soothe colic and guarantee a good night’s rest. We mixed lavender essential oil with dried flowers for an effective and beautiful bar of soap.

Nori Cleansing Soap

  • 8 oz. melted soap
  • 1/2 tsp. tea tree oil
  • 1 sheet nori, cut into slivers

Nori is an extremely nourishing sea vegetable that can help with cell regeneration. Tea tree oil is naturally antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial. The combination of these ingredients makes this soap perfect for acne-prone skin.

Softening Oat Scrub

  • 8 oz. melted soap
  • 2 Tbsp. quick oats (the pieces will be smaller than regular oats)
  • 1/4 tsp. cedarwood oil
  • 1 Tbsp. honey

The oats act as gentle exfoliators, while the honey soothes and softens skin. Once finished, this soap will be honey-brown in color. Since the honey and cedarwood oil are both gentle antiseptics, they’re great for oily skin. Also, try swapping cedarwood for birch sweet oil, another mild-scented essential oil.

Sara Snow is the host of Get Fresh with Sara Snow and Living Fresh, both on the Discovery networks. Sara also writes for CNN.com and Treehugger.com.

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