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A Mandatory Activity FAQs

1. Who is Amanda ?
I'm Amanda, and I am the owner of A Mandatory Activity.  I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County, Maryland.  I attended the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, where I earned a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts.  Since graduating, I have lived in Baltimore City, Harford County, Prince George's County, and Anne Arundel County, Maryland.  I currently reside in Gambrills, Maryland, with my husband, Mike, and son, Spencer.  My workshop is in neighboring Crofton, Maryland.
2. Can I sign-up to receive emails with special offers and product news?
Yes. Join my mailing list for special offers and product news. As an added bonus, you will receive a coupon code for 10% off your first order.
3. Where are your products made?
All of my products are handmade in Crofton, Maryland, using ingredients sourced from providers in the United States.  Certain products available on my website, including soap dishes, Soap Savours, candle warmers, wax melters, and gift boxes, are manufacturers by third parties and may be made outside of the United States.
4. Do you offer any discounts on large order?
Yes. For more information on bulk pricing, contact us.  Some examples of large orders I'm happy to accommodate are:
  • Candles or soaps as wedding favors
  • Candles, soaps, or gift sets as a gift to your clients or vendors
  • Candles to burn in your salon/spa/hotels
Bulk orders require sufficient lead time, so please contact me as early as possible to discuss your needs.
5. Can I sell your products in my store?
We offer most of our products at wholesale prices to qualified retailers. For information on wholesale prices, contact us.  Our products are also available through our wholesale partner, Tundra.
6. Do you offer private label products?
We have two options for private label candles. We can also private label soaps for your gift shop.  For more information, please contact us.
7. Do you charge sales tax?
Currently,  I am only required to charge sales tax on orders shipped to Maryland.  For orders shipped to Canada, HST or GST+PST will be collected at checkout.
8. What is your return and refund policy?
In general, unused and undamaged candles may be returned in their original packaging within 10 days of receipt.  Please send an email to to request a return authorization.  Unfortunately, we cannot accept returns of bath & body products due to the personal nature of the products. Shipping charges are nonrefundable, and you are responsible for the cost of return shipping.  Review my full return policy for more information

Bath & Body FAQs

1. What ingredients do you use?
All ingredients in each product are included on the product labels.  In general, my philosophy on ingredients is to keep them naturally-derived, when possible, and sustainably sourced.

Many bath and body ingredients on your label may look like chemicals, but are actually natural or naturally derived ingredients.  As an example, solid shampoo bars are made with something called DL-Panthenol, which is how the ingredient list will read.  DL-Panthenol is vitamin B5.  It sounds scary, but it's actually wonderful!
2. How are your classic and artisan soaps different than the soap at the store?
Most soaps you buy at the store are not really soap at all.  By definition, soap is the result of the saponification of oils and sodium hydroxide.  It is how soap has been made for centuries.  Most mass-produced soaps available at the grocery store are detergent bars.  Detergent bars are made using chemical detergents, as a result, they can irritate the or dry out your skin.  You have probably experienced the sticky feeling left on your skin after using a detergent bar.  My classic bars and artisan soaps are all true soaps, free of chemical detergents, made the old-fashioned way.
3. How long does your soap last?
Our classic bars and artisan soaps are cured for four to six weeks to enable them to fully harden.  This ensures that your bar will last as long as possible.  In general, classic bars will last approximately 3 weeks with daily use by one person.  However, your bar may last a longer or shorter time, depending upon how you use and store the soap.  
4. How do I make a bar of soap last longer?
There are several things you can do to make your bar of soap last longer.  First, keep the bar dry between uses.  Allowing your soap to sit in water will dissolve the bar and leave your bar soggy.  Second, use a washcloth, loofah, or bubble bag to extend the life of your bar.  Scrubbing with the bar directly will wear it down more quickly.  Third, turn down the water temperature.  I don't mean to throw cold water on your shower, but the hotter your water, the faster a bar of soap will go.
5. Why doesn't my bar look exactly like the picture?
My classic bars and artisan soaps are all handmade in small batches.  As a result, every bar is unique, just like my customers.  No two bars will have exactly the same swirl, stripe, colors, or shape as any other bar.  The pictures on the site are illustrative of what you should expect your soap to look like.  The variations between bars are not flaws, they are part of what makes artisan soaps fun to use.
6. What is your opinion on SLS vs. SLSA?
I could dedicate an entire thread to SLS vs. SLSA, but essentially, SLS is a chemical detergent.  These ingredients would be listed as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate.  While they are considered safe, they are often more harsh on the skin than their naturally derived surfactant option, namely SLSA.  SLSA stands for sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, and is a natural cleanser derived from coconut and also ECOCERT approved. Many companies choose SLS as an option because it is a far less expensive ingredient.  I do not take that stance. In all formulations that I am mixing from scratch, I only use SLSA because I prefer a more mild surfactant.  I have a tendency toward dry skin and like to make every effort not to strip my skin of any moisture.  I do not have SLS in my workshop as an ingredient.  However, there are a few novelty soaps whose soap base was already made with SLS when it was manufactured.  In those instances, the ingredient list will reflect the use of SLS vs. SLSA.  In my opinion, "novelty" is where SLS belongs.  I would never use SLS in something like a shampoo bar, and I would certainly never pretend to market that as a natural product.  You will notice a lot of larger companies whose branding is decidedly "natural" either defending the use of SLS, or hiding it.   I do neither of those things.  It's in some places that I can't control, but in every way I can choose the better, more mild, more expensive SLSA ingredient option, I do. 
7. Will bath bombs and solid bubble bath stain my tub?
This question comes up periodically (and all over the internet!).  Bath bombs and solid bubble bath are products where the addition of color is part of the fun!  Whenever I use a mica powder, skin-safe pigment, or FD&C dye for a bath product, I always include polysorbate 80.  Polysorbate 80 is an ingredient that acts as an emulsifier.  It helps the oils and pigments in your bath products blend with the water in your bathtub, to help avoid that "ring around the tub" effect. The unfortunate answer to this question is that you may get some staining on your tub, but it is because there was something else there for the dye to cling to.  Basically, the mica and pigment won't stain your tub, but it might stain soap scum that was already in or on your tub.  The older or less clean your tub, the more likely you may end up with some residue.   If this happens, there are a few trusted solutions.  Some people find that soaking the tub with some OxiClean will do the trick.  Some folks have success with Magic Erasers, and some folks just wait for it to rinse off. In short, there is nothing about the pigment in MY bath bombs that is different than others.  The inclusion of polysorbate 80 is my attempt to help assist with as much of the emulsification and dispersion of pigment as possible.
8. Why is sodium hydroxide (lye) used in soap?
This is actually one of my favorite questions.  I include sodium hydroxide in my ingredient list for all cold-processed soap, but this is another topic that is up for debate. You cannot have true soap without lye.  Soap doesn't exist until lye is involved.  Lye is the ingredient whose chemical process turns oils into soap.  It's that simple.  If you are buying a handmade cold-processed soap that does NOT include lye as an ingredient, its because they are taking a position that the lye is gone once the oils become soap. Because the chemical process removes the lye and changes the oils into soap, some soap makers decide to remove it from their ingredient list because it alarms people.  As an alternative, you may see "saponified oils of..." listed instead.  Those terms mean the same thing. The requirement isn't there, but I include it anyway as it is an ingredient and a necessary one.  I'd rather be transparent and educate customers if they are confused.  Want to learn more about cold-processed soap making basics?  I have a YouTube tutorial that discusses this and shows you how to make a basic 3 color cold-processed soap.  You can catch that video here:

Candle FAQs​

1. What is Soy Wax?
Many candles are made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum.  Paraffin wax can leave soot on the sides of your candle jar.  Paraffin wax candles produce black smoke when burned that can stain walls if candles are placed near them.  A study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that Paraffin wax candles can give off emissions that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for outdoor air quality.

Soy wax is a natural, biodegradable, and renewable product derived from soybeans.  My candles are made using 100% soy wax with soy additives and fragrances.  Soy candles produce no petro-carbon soot and last longer than paraffin candles.
2. How do I burn my candle?
It is important to adhere to the following instructions to ensure maximum burn time, performance, and safety from your candle.  You should keep the wick trimmed to 1/4 inch, trimming any excess before lighting the candle each time. Remember that the wick does not fuel the candle, the wax does.  The wax must be drawn up through the wick, so a long wick will keep the wax from reaching the flame.  Keep the wax free of any foreign debris.  When lighting a wood wick candle, the best technique is to tilt it on an angle and let the flame draw across the length of the wick (kind of like how you tilt a match after lighting). The first time you light your candle, you should allow it to burn long enough to ensure that the wax melts completely across the jar.  This can take up to two hours or longer depending upon the size of the candle and room conditions.  This will help avoid tunneling, which can make it difficult to light the candle in the future.  Our candles are designed to reach a full melt pool after approximately 1 hour per inch of vessel diameter to reach a full melt pool.  For mason jar candles, this will generally be around 2.5 hours.  For tins, Batter Days Ahead, and Keep Calm & Apothecary On candles, this will generally be around 3 hours.  This is designed to maximize burn time and reduce soot and smoke, which are some of the primary benefits of soy candles.  Never burn more than 4 hours at a time. Keep the candle away from drafts, and discontinue use when only 1/2 inch of wax remains.  Lit candles should never be left unattended. ,
3. I am having trouble relighting my wooden wick candle.  What is wrong?
If you are having trouble relighting your candle, begin by making sure that the wick has been trimmed to the appropriate length and is mostly free of charred wood.  If a wooden wick is charred to the surface of the candle, you may take a knife and scrape some of the wax from around the wick to provide access to the wick.  To light a wooden wick, tilt the candle at an angle and hold the flame beneath the wick allowing the flame to run across the width of the wick.

If your candle has begun to tunnel and the wick will light, let it burn until the wax has burned down and formed a full burn pool across the entire candle.  If the wick will not stay lit, you may use a knife to remove excess wax from around the tunnel, allowing the flame to breath.  After you have widened the tunnel, attempt to light the wick.  If it will remain lit, allow the candle to burn until a full burn pool has formed.  Our candles are designed to reach a full melt pool after approximately 1 hour per inch of vessel diameter to reach a full melt pool.  For mason jar candles, this will generally be around 2.5 hours.  For tins and Keep Calm & Apothecary On candles, this will generally be around 3 hours.  This is designed to maximize burn time and reduce soot and smoke, which are some of the primary benefits of soy candles.

If you have trimmed the wick too short so that the top of the wick is barely above the surface of the wax, this may also keep the wick from staying lit.  In this case, blow out the candle, allow the candle to cool somewhat, and use a paper towel to absorb excess wax from the candle before relighting.
4. My candle looks frosted and pock-marked after it cools. Is this normal?
Yes, there are a lot of properties of soy wax that make them unique, and both of these features are often evident.  Some fragrances perform differently than others (as well as varieties of soy wax), so you may experience some of these issues.  Both effects are purely cosmetic, and I prefer to think of them as one way to tell that your candles are 100% natural soy wax.  Typically, the more you burn your candle, the more flat the top will become.  Similarly, if you you go awhile between uses, you may see more frosting on the top of your candle as the soy wax naturally ages. 
5. My tin candle is turning pink around the edges. Is this normal?
Yes.  The discoloration around the edge of metal tin soy candles is a harmless reaction between metal tin and the fragrance oils used in the candle.  The discoloration has no effect on the performance or scent of the candle, it is merely cosmetic and is not considered a defect.  Fragrances that contain vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus are among those that are most likely to cause this reaction.  For example, Respect Your Elderberries, The Fall Guy, and others may be susceptible to discoloration depending upon environmental conditions.  Be assured that you may burn the candle safely.  

Shipping FAQs​

1. How quickly will my order ship?
Most in-stock items will ship in 1-3 business days.  During holidays and other busy times, it may take longer.  In general, orders ship in the order received. If your order is time-sensitive, please include a note at checkout.  I will do my best to ensure it ships timely, but cannot guarantee a particular delivery date.
2. What is standard shipping?
Items shipped via standard shipping will generally ship either USPS or UPS Ground within the United States.  Transit times are generally 1-5 days within the continental United States.  Expedited shipping services are available for an additional charge.  Please note that expedited shipping does not affect processing time.
3. Will you ship in-stock items if my order has backordered items?
Generally, no.  If your order contains backordered items, your entire order will be held until that item is available.  This reduces your shipping cost.  If you want in-stock items to ship immediately, please submit separate orders for in-stock and backordered items.
4. Will you ship gifts directly to the recipient?
Yes! Just check the box for a different shipping address and provide the recipient's name and address.   Consider adding a kraft paper gift box to your order, and I will include a handwritten gift message.   Orders shipped to a different address do not contain a packing slip identifying the buyer or price paid for items, so your  recipient will not know who the candles are from if you do not include a gift box.
5.  Can I track my shipment?
Yes. All orders are shipped via USPS or UPS with tracking information. You will receive an email with tracking information approximately 12 hours after a shipping label is created for your order. Please note, it may take 24 hours for USPS or UPS to show that it has received your order in its tracking system.
6. What if my product arrives damaged?
I take care in packaging to protect my products from damage, but accidents do happen. If your product arrives damaged, please take photos of the box and damaged product and email them to We will file a claim with the shipper and work to replace the damaged item. Because my products are made in small batches, an exact replacement may not be available.
7. Do you ship internationally?
Currently, I only ship candles within the United States and Canada. Order shipped to Canada may be subject to a customs fee to cover the cost of clearing customs into Canada. This fee is $15 on orders under $50, $10 on orders from $50 to $150, and is waived on orders of $150 or more. All charges are in U.S. Dollars. All taxes and fees are collected at checkout—no additional fees are due upon delivery.

About A Mandatory Activity

A Mandatory Activity sells artisan candles and bath products handcrafted, by me, in Maryland, USA. My candles are hand-poured using 100% soy wax.
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About Amanda

I’m Amanda, and I put the AMANDA in A MANDAtory Activity (and I like a good bad pun). I run a blog, A Mandatory Activity, focused on baking and crafting for gatherings and gifts.

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