Kitchen Craft: Soap Clouds! {And homemade kiddie tub soaps}

You know what question Kate and I get a lot?  “How do you girls do it it all??”  Our schedules are full, just as many of yours are, and it comes with the constant struggle of balancing Mom-life with work-life.  And like most other Mothers out there, when it comes down to it and one has to take priority, the Mom gig wins- no contest.  If something has to fall through the cracks it’s not Mom thing; it’s usually the doing-laundry, cleaning-bathrooms, or showering-before-noon thing.  So to answer the question, how do we do it all?  Ha!  We don’t!  Those of you joining us at TOFW get to hear all about how we don’t do it all.  In fact, most times sometimes we barely keep it together!  The past few weeks have felt like that for me.  I’ve been traveling a lot, and working on some huge projects (we finished our book!), so when I got home the other day after spending the weekend in PA (SO much fun- thank you East Coasters for a great time!) the last thing I wanted to do was pull out my big camera and cook.  And then edit photos.  And then write a big recipe post for today.  What I did want to do?  Play with my kids.  Be goofy, be silly, be loud and crazy and do whatever they wanted to do.  I asked them what they wanted to do, and lucky for me (and you) they picked something that I thought would actually be fun to share with you!  So ironically, my intentions of turning off my blog brain back-fired, but it worked out in the end.  I got to play with my kids, and you get a fun kitchen craft.  Or something to entertain friends at the office when you’re tired of working.  Since I had no intentions of making a big ol’ photography project out of this fun little activity, I just snapped some quick photos on my Phone  and edited them right on my phone too, with the Thumba app.  Come next Monday I’ll have my brain fully functioning again and I’ll bust out my big camera have an amazing recipe for you!  Until then, let’s just play 🙂  This is sort of awesome.

We call these “Soap Clouds.”  Where are all of our chemical engineers?  I need to know why every awesome science project involving soap, hinges on the use of Ivory soap.  Thoughts?  Are there magical ingredients in there?  I’ve always wondered that.  I bet whoever came up with the original recipe never expected that so many science experiments would ensue with its use!  I think the same thing about Elmer’s glue.  Anyway, grab a bar of Ivory soap-yes, only Ivory!  It’s cheap, but don’t worry, you can even use it as soap when we’re done here so we’re not being wasteful.  So you don’t need to write us lengthy emails about being earth-hating-soap-haters.

Place a piece of waxed paper, parchment, plastic wrap, or paper towel in your microwave.  Just don’t use foil, or we’ll have issues on our hands that are much bigger than  your next burrito tasting slightly like a fresh mountain spring.  This really doesn’t make a mess, so don’t be scared.

Start your microwave for a couple of minutes on high power.  You don’t need to let it run that whole length of time, but you can just stop it when you need to.  Want to see what happens??  It’s a little hard to see through my microwave door, but check it out (and ignore me when I say you need to turn your microwave turntable off, that’s for if you’re trying to video this experience:))

Ten bonus points for anyone who can reference my children’s ramblings about “the great devourer.”

I don’t know how it does it- but it starts growing!  Sometimes the “clouds” are seriously HUGE, and other times they are sort of wimpy.  I’ve noticed generally, the fresher the soap (as in the more recent I have purchased it) the bigger the result.  We’ve done this a million times and my kids still get a kick out of it.

It looks like it should be foamy and wet, but it’s not.  You can actually pick up the whole big chunk.

If you smash it, it will break into pieces and you’ll end up with soap dust everywhere, so be careful with little hands who like to smash things 🙂

It’s the weirdest looking thing.  I love how it’s different every time.

Now.  You have a giant blob of dried soap fluff and your kids were entertained for a total of 3.5 minutes.  That’s a start!  Sometimes I let my kids just take the whole darn thing in the bath tub and have at it.  It’s one way to make sure they actually get cleaned in there.  Or sometimes I hold it up over them in the tub and let it “snow” by smashing it and letting it sprinkle down like little snow flakes.  Or, you can let them make their own little soaps.  First, put the fluff in a bowl and let them do what they’ve probably been trying to do already- smash it to smithereens. It just kind of falls apart, so it’s actually kind of fun.  And if it gets all over your counter, take my advice and sweep or vacuum it up first, then wipe it down.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a big soapy mess.

Then, either in a bowl with a spoon, or with an electric beater, or in a food processor, like I’m using, add warm water, just until it comes together.  Just like pie crust, folks!  This is why I love kitchen crafts.  To test it, grab some with your hands and hold it in your fist.  If it holds together in a ball, it’s ready.

Take the mold-able mixture and let kids press it into cookie cutters.  Make sure kids are old enough to know it’s not food, or they are likely to attempt to eat it!

These photos below are from a batch I made a while back, (and photographed with my regular camera) and I let my kids add just a couple of drops of food coloring to make colored soaps.  After the soaps are molded, but still wet, you can gently push them out of the molds.  Let them sit in a cool, dry place for a few days and soon you will have little soaps to wash (or play!) with.  I would only use a small amount of food coloring as to not stain anything!

Funny how my kids are always very interested in getting extra clean when it’s with soap they’ve made themselves.

Now go have some fun with your own kiddos today!  Or, just grab some soap and have fun in your office break room at lunch.  C’mon- you know you want to.

Reminder:  Once again, only use IVORY soap.  Lots of people asking this in the comments, or commenting they have a burned mess in their microwave because they didn’t read it earlier in the post!  Ivory!


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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. My daughter’s birthday is on Monday and we were trying to think of something fun to do…..well, thank you for this! We are going to have so much fun!!!! I can hardly wait!

  2. This is so great; I so appreciate all of your wonderful ideas! My husband leaves soon for Singapore and will be gone for two weeks (including Mother’s Day). I have been racking my brain for fun things to do with my kids while he’s gone. Then I log on to your website and there it is! That will make for a great afternoon with them, and hopefully stave off some of the we-miss-daddy-blues. Thanks for another awesome idea!

  3. Fun craft idea but it doesn’t work with other soap, FYI. I did it with Dial soap and just got a bubbly mess… still cool but not near as cool as the clouds. And my home smells like a lot of soap… not that that is terrible either… )

  4. I found this on pinterest several months ago and my kids loved it so much that we’ve done it a couple of times and every time they have friends over they ask if they can show it to them too!

  5. DO NOT USE DIAL SOAP!!! It started the puff up but began to melt & burn. The smell wasn’t bad but now my son keeps asking about soap clouds 🙂

  6. Hi! Just tried this today and the kids loved it! Just a note that our “cloud” had hot spots out of the microwave. So I had to take it from them and let it cool down a few minutes.

  7. My first thought about this was that it would make a fantastic science experiment on the difference between physical and chemical changes! Plus, the kids could each take their own little bar of soap with them. So excited to try this in my classroom!

  8. question: does it only work with ivory brand soap, or can I try with other brands too? this looks like a lot of fun, I’ll try it asap :).

    1. Yes, I tried ti with diel soap, but it didn’t puff out much. My son still thought it was cool though

  9. Awesome idea! My kids go off track on Friday, and this’ll be on the list to do while they’re home.

  10. We used soap clouds for 4-H Fun with Science day camp to teach kids about molecules (which they can’t see). The air molecules in Ivory soap expand when it is heated, causing the soap to expand.
    We usually use some other kind of soaps to compare floatability, density, and reaction to heat (microwave). The other soaps just melt and ooze all over the place.
    I heard that the air bubbles were an accident with the soap mixing machine at the factory. Maybe that is an urban legend. :0)

  11. Thanks for posting!

    I’m going out at lunch today to buy some Ivory soap so my 5 year old daughter and I can do this over the weekend. I can’t wait!

  12. I had a boss once that lived for these science experiments. Another one she did was make arcs in the microwave with an old CD. You cut the top off a styro cup for a base and set the cd in the cup so it stands vertically (makes a “right angle or inverted “T” shape from the side). Turn the microwave on and watch the arcs. The silver side of the cd is what does it. When it comes out of the microwave the CD will be spiderwebbed…Yup, she whipped this out at the company christmas party so we could all be geeks too.

  13. WOW!Ivory is the only sop he likes. Now if the store is out of the non skin drying one I can do this and with a bit of water and olvive oil I can fix it.

  14. Ha, ha. I was just going to write on here that we tried Irish Spring and it made my house smell HORRIBLE. I see in the previous comments that I wasn’t the only one with this problem. Make sure to try this with a mild smelling soap.

  15. For those of you wondering about the food coloring staining when using the new soap….It shouldn’t. I make bathtub paints for my son using baby shampoo and food coloring and it has never stained him or the bathtub.
    I can’t wait to try this with my little guy, he’s VERY I to science experiments right now. 🙂

  16. I couldn’t find my Ivory soap so I used Lever 2000. Yep, not a good idea. It puffed a little until it started smoking and smelling burnt (it was only in there for about 45 seconds). But my son LOVED it. The only problem is now he wants to put more things in the microwave. =o

  17. I love it! Can’t wait to try it with my kids! I’m wondering though… Does the food coloring stain them when they wash with the newly made soaps?

    1. You’re literally using a drop or two of food coloring, mixed with soap, which then only trace amounts of mix with water. I’ve never had anything stain. I know a lot of crafters make tub crayons with large amounts of food coloring and those work as well so you shouldn’t have a problem.

  18. I’ve been meaning to try the ivory soap thing with my son for a while, but I never knew there was something you could do with it afterwards (besides just using it as soap). When I saw this I literally went straight to the cupboard for a bar of soap and called my son (2.5 years) into the kitchen. He loved it. I did a quarter of the bar in the microwave to start, and he kept saying “more?” and after the first time he was telling me what to do, lol (“more”, “crush”, “water”, “mix”, “pink”… his color of choice, lol). Now we’ve got some soaps made up that we’ll use in a few days.

    … hubby’s not impressed, considering we’re supposed to be cleaning and packing because we’re moving in a week… but we just laid a towel out on the counter to work on. Afterwards, I shook it over the garbage and threw it in the wash.

  19. You can also take the soap cloud and make french milled style soap out of it by adding olive or coconut oil instead of water to re-emulsify, maybe some essential oils to scent it too, then just proceed in the same manner. It may take a bit longer to set up (couple days? I’ve only tried it with grated soap) but it makes a really luxurious soap.

  20. Ahhhh, this brings back memories— my mom used to grate the Ivory soap then whip it until it was fluffy and put it on the tips of our Christmas tree ( guess this was before spray snow). I was in 1st grade, saw the white fluff in a mixing bowl and put a BIG scoop in my mouth thinking it was whipped cream! oh my goodness- soap tastes BAD! I’m still not particularly fond of whipped cream or Cool Whip to this day 50 years later.

    1. Not likely. The microwave works because of the way it heats. The rays are specifically aimed at exciting water molecules. Ivory soap is whipped with air and traps moisture better, so when the rays excite the water molecules they start moving and turning into water vapor and burst out of the soap. The oven would just make it hot is my guess, but you could always turn it into a science experiment and make your kids “test’ it and then research why it does/doesn’t work. 🙂

  21. Ninjago. I got a five minute history on him. We will have to try this. Thanks 🙂 personally, I buy Lever 2000 so we can see if that works.

  22. My step-son is going to freak out!!! Can’t wait for his next visit! p.s. totally great idea for use in airplane or hot air balloon party decor!

    hugs! Kim @ Party Frosting!

  23. Just make sure it is a new bar or relatively new bar of Ivory soap. We did this at my parents house with a bar of soap we found. Age is undertimined but old…and it burned out their microwave.

    1. My son and I tried this with a very old bar of Ivory too. We also had it on a paper towel and it caught the towel on fire when it started to expand!