Starting with an Empty Cupboard: Equipment & Containers

Living in China has been an eye opening experience in many ways. The hardest thing for me though has been my inability to make the very things I was used to making while in the USA. Writing the blog without the ability to even test some of the recipes I’ve been formulating has also been hard. Thankfully, Joy has been very helpful by taking pictures and testing recipes for me. Since the holidays have been rapidly approaching, I’ve started making my wish list of things I want from our catalog so I can test and photo projects without giving Joy a big burden.

When I was talking to Tina about my wish list we were also discussing that my wish list would be a great list for beginners who aren’t sure where to start. I need so many different ingredients to make a variety of finished products, so this will be a series for the week to cover what I think are necessary items and what I think are good, but not necessary items.

Come join me as I put together my equipment wish list!

Scale: No matter the type of product you are making, a scale is one of the most important items. I do realize that it isn’t always feasible to go out there and get the most expensive scale. We recommend getting a scale that works for you and your desired products. If you plan on only making soap, then a scale with 1 gram readability is one that we recommend for you. If you want to make mostly lotions or lip balms, then we recommend using a scale with 0.1 gram readability. This allows you to make small batches and KNOW your ingredients have been weighed correctly. Due to my projects being the variety, I’ll need a scale that has the 0.1 gram readability. Decision: REQUIRED.

Microwave: While a microwave isn’t 100% necessary, it does make things easier to work with a microwave rather than waiting for a stove to heat a double boiler. It takes just a few minutes compared to 10 or more needed for a stove. Decision: PREFERRED.

Mixing Buckets: To begin soap or lotion making, one needs containers that are microwavable to melt the various ingredients. I like to have several of the 87 ounce buckets for making small batches. I use beakers in our blog kitchen because it helps us photo our projects to show you what you should see. When I empty buckets of oils, I reuse the buckets as mixing or storage containers. I prefer the 1 gallon buckets that many of our butters and solid oils come in for the 5 pound quantities. Also, never wash any bucket or mixing vessel in the dishwasher if the plastic container had a scented product made inside. Your dishwasher will spread the love to every next load of dishes and you might find your dishes taste like your body care products. YUCK! Decision: REQUIRED.

Spoons: No matter the project I’m working on, I use anywhere from 2 to 8 spoons. They can vary from basic blending spoons to rubber scrapers to measuring spoons to soup spoons. I use different spoons for different things! My soup spoons usually scoop ingredients out of the bulk containers, or if I just need a little or stirring small test batches. The measuring spoons are used for dry ingredients. I use the blending spoons for stirring larger amounts of ingredients or mixing fragrances into completely cooled lotions and creams. I normally used the rubber scrapers for getting every bit of soap, lotion or oil out of a container. Decision: REQUIRED.

Immersion Blender: While an immersion blender isn’t necessary if you are only making lip balms and scrubs, it is a life and time saver when making soaps and lotions. An immersion blender can help your soap reach trace quickly and your lotions become completely mixed. Decision: REQUIRED.

Gloves: If you are making soap, then gloves are highly recommended. I prefer using heavy duty gloves for protection from the lye and raw soap. If you are making lotions or lip balms, then gloves are not necessary. I would recommend a light pair of exam gloves for production facilities just to ensure you keep the possibility of contamination down. Decision for me: PREFERRED, your decision may be different.

Eye Protection: This is really important if you are making soap. You only have two eyes and we don’t want you to loose your eyesight due to a splash. I wear glasses myself and they don’t protect my eyes the way a pair of goggles do. Please, please, please! Protect your eyes. I would much rather you invest in a pair of goggles than gloves. The goggles from MMS are also able to fit over glasses and they have an anti-fog coating. YEA! Decision: REQUIRED.

Thermometer: While we don’t note temperatures on the blog, we do recommend taking temperatures for your notebook. It will help you determine what caused a problem if one occurs. Decision: REQUIRED.

Pipettes: I love transfer pipettes. They help me get small amounts of liquids for recipes, add fragrances, fill lip balm containers and more! Having disposable transfer pipettes also helps me ensure that I don’t have cross contamination of products. Decision: REQUIRED.

Paper Towels: I have to say that while making such fun products it is inevitable that a mess will happen. In order to clean up after myself I use paper towels. It makes the clean up easy and I don’t have to try to clean rags to get oils out or worry about fragrance covered rags being a fire hazard. Decision: REQUIRED.

Windex: This is one of those products that I swear on the brand name for cleaning. It helps cut down on the oils left on counters, bottles and containers. In our production department, we use Windex to clean counters and bottles before applying labels. It helps us make sure any spills are cleaned up thoroughly. Decision: PREFERRED.

Notebook: I have a notebook of recipes and notes about each recipe. It is actually a spiral bound notebook that I add each new recipe on the paper I printed it on. I do include some lined paper where I can write extra notes, but usually I just write ALL over the recipe. I use my notebook for all products I work on and I can find recipes by the date that I worked on them. Older recipes are in the back and newer recipes are in the front. You can easily change your notebook to be a paper or electronic form, but I promise that notes will be your lifesaver! Decision: REQUIRED.

Containers: This option is important if you are making lip balms, lotions, scrubs or other similar products. While your personal preference will help you choose the final containers, you will want to consider the product and the end users.

  • If making lip balm, you can choose between tubes, jars or tins. I personally like tubes, but I happen to know that not everybody does.
  • When I make lotions and creams, I choose jars and bottles that suit the end users. If I’m making blog samples, then I use small 1 ounce bottles and jars so the recipient can test the formula to find out if they like it. If I’m making gifts for friends and family, I tend to use 4 or 8 oz containers. They like the larger containers, but I don’t have to worry about the product reaching the point of expiration before it is gone.
  • When I make scrubs, then I generally use 8 or 16 oz jars. It doesn’t take long for someone to use this amount of scrub and I know it will be used within 4 to 8 uses. The only exception is foot scrubs as those use a smaller amount of product during each foot cleansing session.

Molds: This option only matters if you are making soaps. Molds do not have to be expensive. They can be something you find around the house, that are built from scraps, or are just drawer organizers. Our blog kitchen uses a variety of molds, but our favorites are the Rubbermaid Drawer Organizers #2915, Dirk’s Guerrilla Mold, and a simple PVC tube mold. Molds aren’t hard to come by!

We have now covered the items I find to be most important in my equipment and containers list. Tomorrow, we will cover my basic soap making ingredients!

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7 Comments

  • Lauri says:

    Great list. I especially like the thinking out loud decision making.

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  • Jennifer Gale says:

    I love this post. I love anything that gives you the whys and wherefores, rather than just telling you, “You need this.” I like having, “You need this because…” It also reminds me I need to go hunting for my thermometer. It seems to have gone AWOL after my last soapmaking session! :-D

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  • Erin says:

    This is so helpful. Thank you, I’ve been trying tome soaping lately and have been trying to prioritize what things I need to always have on hand and which supplies should come first. Thanks again for the great tips!!

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  • Czeske says:

    This is just such a great list, Andee! So helpful for new soapers, too. Looking forward to the posts for the rest of the week.

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  • Dani says:

    Thanks for breaking it down to the necessities!

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  • stella says:

    I am making a list to past around to family as a wish list for Christmas. lol Great idea to share your list. Thanks.

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  • Madea says:

    Great post!

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