Making It Clear: Cold-Process vs. Glycerin vs. Melt-and-Pour Soap

Many of our frequently asked questions from soap makers are about the difference between cold-process and hot-process soap. In this article we decided to take the answer to these questions a step further and discuss glycerin and melt-and-pour soap as well! These methods are all quite different and leave the soap maker with a unique product. Which method is right for you? Read on to find out.

What’s the difference between Cold-Process and Hot-Process soap?

Hot Process soap uses heat from an external source to accelerate saponification, the process by which fats and an alkali combine to create soap. While Cold-Process often uses heat early on to warm the base oils, once the oils and sodium hydroxide are mixed, heat from the process itself is relied on to finish saponification.

What’s the difference between Cold/Hot-Process Soap and Glycerin soap?

There are two answers. Technically, all true soap (as defined by the FDA) is glycerin soap, since glycerin is a natural by-product of saponification.

What most people know as glycerin soap – transparent or opaque bars, often with fun things floating in them – is different. That glycerin soap usually takes saponification a couple of steps further. A sugar-alcohol solution is added to the saponified mixture along with extra glycerin. The alcohol solution helps maintain transparency, and the extra glycerin balances the drying nature of the alcohol.

Gloved man carefully pour organic oil base into bucket to make a high-quality soap mixture.

How does Melt-and-Pour soap differ?

Melt-and-pour soap is made a from a pre-made base usually sold in blocks. Soapmakers melt a portion of the base, adding colorants, scent agents, exfoliants, and moisturizers to the melted portion. This is also the point at which swirls and decorative objects are added. While it’s still hot, the finished base is poured into molds.

Most true soap doesn’t melt down well, and as a result doesn’t work well as a good melt-and-pour base. Glycerin soap and soap made with white coconut oil fare better than most. This is why melt-and-pour bases are usually made from one of these two.

The melt-and-pour process provides an easy way to create homemade soaps in a variety of shapes and styles. While not officially soapmaking, melt-and-pour is a great way to be creative with soap. It is even safe enough that it’s fine for use in crafts with children.


Watch this video to learn more about what we do at Botanie Soap and how we can help take your soap business to the next level with our years of experience, perfected recipes and high quality ingredients.


9 thoughts on “Making It Clear: Cold-Process vs. Glycerin vs. Melt-and-Pour Soap

  1. I only want to what’s the difference between these soap, however there are two methods of making soap but does it cause any difference and or there are differences result that we might see after its usages. For instance, you should be probably seeing our handmade natural body products at affordable prices.

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  3. Is there a difference between lye and soap base? I see that some soap makers use lye, others use soap base which is the glycerin or goat milk soap base. Is there a particular reason for that? I want to start soap making so I need more details on that. Thanks

    • Ester – Thanks for your comment. All true soap is made with lye. The bar-soap bases some folks use, whether it’s melt and pour or not, have the lye work already done, which can be handy if you don’t have the room or ventilation to do the lye work yourself.

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