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Sustainability in soap making

Written by Li Ting

Just a few years back, bar soaps were seen as ‘old-fashioned’ vs. the use of bottled shower gels that’s more convenient and often luxuriously fragrant. However, in the last 2 years, more have embraced bar soaps, especially handcrafted cold process bars as an easy zero waste swap (think no more single use bottles to reuse, recycle or trash), a more sustainable way for their showers and even cleaning of the house.

Sugar & Spice was set up in 2016 as one of the first soap making workshops in Singapore, amidst a backdrop where soap making was viewed as a craft, but not so much as a sustainable choice. So, it’s really heartening as we welcome more soap makers into our studio to see a common trait of mindfulness in the community – mindfulness towards health, wellness, not just for the body but our mind and our environment.

Our vision for Sugar & Spice is for it to be a warm and welcoming space for new friends to pick up soap making as a hobby, for our students to have a few hours of mental break from the stresses of the ‘outside world’ and continue to hone their skills, and for local soap brand owners to craft their soap bars for their small businesses.

Co-working is a term we see more often these days, yet this was the same concept we were set up to do 5 years ago. The studio stocks all necessary equipment and ingredients for soap making, meaning any soap maker can literally walk in empty handed and craft a loaf of soap six days a week. There’s no need for soap makers to buy their own equipment if they don’t wish to, and there’s no need for them to purchase and hold ingredients on their own.

Full set of equipment are available for soap makers to use so they do not need to buy their own set

The joy of many soap makers is to try out different oil formulations, additives and design, however many of the more ‘exotic’ ingredients can be difficult or expensive to source as an individual, and much of these precious ingredients can go to waste if they are not used up by their best before dates. Hence the studio looks to make available not just the basic ingredients, but more special ones since it makes more sense for us to buy in bulk to be shared amongst many soap makers. Soap makers simply use what they need and only pay for the quantity they use #soapingredientbulkstoreondemand

A common space for soap makers

A cozy common space for soap makers with hassle-free and self-serve purchased on demand concept.

1. We buy in bulk for you!

No more lugging of heavy bottles of oils for your DIY!

Soap makers can practically walk empty handed into the studio and craft their own soaps since all base ingredients for soaps like carrier oils, butters, distilled water, essential oils and additives such as herbs, spices, clays, botanicals can be self-served and purchased on demand.

2. We prepare it for you!

Cold Botanical infusion takes 6 weeks or more. In the studio, we infuse Calendula and Chamomile so soap makers can just use what they need without each having to infuse their own oils.

3. Get Creative!

Soap design tools such as soap scrapers are free for soap makers to try out the technique.

4. Ready stamps!

A variety of soap stamps are available for soap makers to add a personal touch to their soaps after cutting.

5. Photo Booth

For soap makers to take nice pictures of their beautiful soap creations, we set up a lightbox in the studio that all students have access to. The studio itself is also decorated with a warm homely feel where every corner is Instagram worthy so soap makers do not have to travel far to snap beautiful pictures of their soaps.

Over the years, our focus on sustainability hasn’t changed. In addition to expanding our equipment and ingredients to allow soap makers to try new soap making recipes and techniques, we continually find ways to reduce waste and advocate sustainability practices during our daily operations.

Our Ongoing Sustainable Efforts

For soap making, we use distilled water instead of tap water since it is pH neutral and doesn’t contain minerals. In the past, we used to end up with cartons of empty 1.5L distilled water bottles. We have since switched to distilled water in reusable gallons that we hand pump for use. Tougher on the instructors but it’s a win for the planet!

6. Refillable Distilled water

Refillable Distilled water to avoid single use bottles.

Washing up is a big part of soap making, which is no mean feat since soap making involves lots of oil. As part of the soap making curriculum, we teach the right ways to wash up to reduce time, effort and water in the process.

One of the most important tips in washing oily equipment (this applies to your dishes at home too) is to wipe out all the batter before cleaning. In our effort to reduce the use of single use paper towels, we’ve swapped to using dish cloths to wipe the batter and using our kitchen dish bars to wash the cloth afterwards. We didn’t count but we’ve since saved rolls and rolls of paper towels and probably a few trees.

7. Reusable towels

Instead of using paper towel, we now request for soap makers to use dish cloth to wipe out soap batter to reduce time, effort, water and paper towel during the wash up process.

As safety and hygiene measures, soap makers need to wear gloves during the soap making process. In our latest sustainability measure, we’ve swapped out of single-use gloves and instead provided every member with their first pair of personal reusable gloves they can use for crafting and washing up afterwards.

8. Reusable gloves

In our latest sustainability drive, we swapped out of single use gloves to reusable gloves.

In the process of crafting both cold process and melt and pour soaps, we often need to use small, flexible cups and containers. This resulted in lots of disposable paper cups being used and trashed after each session. Solution? Swap over to silicon cupcake molds and silicon measuring cups.

9. Reusable cups

Instead of using paper cups for design which are thrown out after every melt & pour session, we swapped to reusable silicone cupcake molds.

Not quite a single use waste but we collect all our dehumidifier water and use them to soak our molds to reduce the time and new water for washing up.

10. Soaking used soap molds with water from dehumidifier to reduce time and water for washing up.

In soap crafting we require many ‘props’ or tools that can come from our homes or kitchens. From satay sticks and clothes hangers to make soap swirl designs, cardboards to prop up soap molds or as a base for single cavity molds, and milk cartons to keep liquid soap paste and transport soap bars, we put creativity to the test to use what we already have instead of buying something new.

For us, sustainability is ingrained in our mindset and while we can’t have zero waste, we will constantly tap on our creativity and the cooperation of the soap making community to be as sustainable as we can while we enjoy the craft.

Small steps for a better tomorrow!

Join our soap making community

For experienced soap makers, learn more about our DIY Workshop to continue your soap making journey with us!

For beginners, check out our Basic CP soap making class to get started!

Sugar & Spice studio

81 Ubi Avenue 4

#10-18/19 UB One

Singapore 408830

(Tai Seng MRT)

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