Getting started: tools and tips

Today’s post focuses on the tools I use for my projects. One great thing about DIY body and skincare is that, for a hobby, it’s relatively easy to pick up. For starters, there’s no need to invest in any specialist tools – you probably already have most of what you need lying around in your kitchen cabinets and drawers!

Starting with the basics

For the majority of my projects, I need:

  • a saucepan
  • a 500ml heatproof measuring jug
  • a digital scale (mine measures to the nearest 0.1g; if you have one that measures to the nearest 0.01g – even better!)
  • a small silicone spatula
  • a metal spoon
  • a few small pots/plates on which to rest my spoons, spatulas, etc.
  • kitchen roll
  • isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (for cleaning utensils and containers)
This is all you need to get started!
There’s no need for specialist equipment to get started on DIY body and skincare!

Useful tools to have on standby

And, depending on what I’m making, here are some additional items I may need:

  • an electric hand mixer for making things like whipped body butter
  • disposable pipettes – very handy for dispensing lip balm mixture into tubes; you can get them on Amazon
  • coffee filter papers or a sieve for straining botanical-infused oils
  • silicone moulds for soap-crafting or lotion bar projects
  • a tray for transporting my pots of creations to and from my work surface and the fridge (so I don’t have to move them one at a time!)
A quick tip: pouring rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle makes it easier to use
A quick tip: pouring rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle makes it easier to use

Making a double boiler (water bath)

A key part of any DIY project is the melting of your ingredients. Some people use the microwave to do this, while others prefer to use a double boiler so they can keep an eye on the mixture at all times.

It’s very simple to make a double boiler: all you have to do is place a measuring jug inside a pan filled one-third with simmering water. The hot water in the pan will gently heat up the measuring jug and melt whatever is inside the jug.

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Use a measuring jug with a handle so you don’t burn your hands trying to lift it out of the saucepan (even then, use an oven glove if necessary)

In the next photos, I’m melting some beeswax beads and mango butter in the jug. The hot water in the pan will heat up and melt what’s in the jug fairly quickly, so keep an eye on your mixture to make sure it doesn’t boil! If this happens, just turn off the heat and carefully lift the jug out of the pan until the water in the pan stops bubbling. Sometimes, the bubbling water makes the jug shake too – just turn off the heat or take the jug out if this happens.

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If you’re concerned about your ingredients melting too fast or boiling/drying out because the bottom of the jug is touching the base of the saucepan, you can replace the measuring jug with a large heatproof glass bowl instead: just let it rest on top of a pan half-filled with simmering water (the bowl should be big enough to rest on top of the pan without touching the bottom). One downside with using a bowl is that, without a spout, it’s harder to pour whatever liquid mixture you’ve got into little containers.

Cleaning up after a project

Working with waxes, oils and butters means that your utensils, tools and work surface can get rather greasy at the end of a project – so it does require an extra bit of care when it comes to cleaning up afterwards! Below are some tips on how to make this task as easy as possible.

  • In my experience, it’s better to use utensils made from silicone or metal for DIY projects, as they’re much easier to clean than wooden ones!
  • To avoid cross-contamination and odour transfer, ideally separate the utensils you use for your DIY projects from the ones you use for cooking.
  • At the end of your project, use a kitchen towel to wipe away any excess grease/wax left on your utensils as possible before rinsing everything in hot soapy water. (Wear gloves if your hands are sensitive to hot water!)
  • To prevent bacteria from finding their way into your finished product, always clean your tools and containers by washing them in hot water, cleaning them with rubbing alcohol, or by sterilising them (using sterilising tablets or in boiling water) each time before using them.

Handling beeswax

  • Beeswax has a higher melting point compared to butters and oils, so takes longer to melt. This is why I always melt my wax before adding in the butters and oils, to prevent the latter from overheating and bubbling.
  • Beeswax hardens very quickly once cooled (especially if, like me, you live in a colder climate) – so when you’re making a lip balm (or anything with a high concentration of beeswax), it’s best to have all your pots and tubes lined up and ready for you to pour into as soon as you take your mixture off the heat. The mixture will begin to solidify even as it travels down the spout!
See how the waxy mixture hardens as I am pouring!
See how the waxy mixture hardens as I am pouring
  • NEVER discard any leftover waxy mixture by pouring it straight down your kitchen sink (or down the toilet). It WILL harden once cooled and WILL block your drains!
    Instead, pour it into an old glass jar (useful to have one just for the purpose of collecting wax!). You can then throw the whole jar away when it gets full.
  • To further prevent excess gunk from clogging your drains, remove as much grease/wax from the utensils before washing them in hot soapy water. To remove stubborn wax stuck to the side of your measuring jar, you can either use your finger nails to scrape it off, or place the jar in the microwave for 15 seconds to warm it up, then wipe the wax off with a dried kitchen towel.
  • If you have dropped wax onto your work surface, wait until it’s cooled, then either gently scrape it off with your fingernails, or wipe it off with a slightly warm, damp kitchen towel.
  • Do not touch hot wax with bare fingers!

That’s all from me today. If you’re thinking of starting your first DIY project soon – go on, have a rummage around your kitchen drawers and see if you can find all the tools you need to get going; if you’re a seasoned DIYer and have other tips on tool cleaning and maintenance – please share them with us!

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