Testing for clarity
Once your paste has cooked for 2-3 hours it is time to test for clarity. I add about 2-3 ounces of boiling distilled water to a glass Pyrex measuring cup. I take a popsickle stick and scoop out a glob of paste. Add this to the water and mix. Watch the clarity. If you’re following the above recipe you should get a pretty clear mixture- though not 100%. If it’s not clear, then cook for another 30 minutes and test again.
If your recipe has a high amount of palm, a bit of shea or cocoa butter then you aren’t going to get clear. You’ll just go ahead and move on to the dilution phase after 2-3 hours of cooking your paste.
Diluting your paste
For small batches of liquid soap (including this recipe) I simply dilute in the crock pot. If I double the recipe- I transfer the paste to a stainless steel stock pot and dilute in that.
I’m going to shout for a moment. DO NOT BOIL THE PASTE. You will read everywhere to boil the paste. This is the worst thing you can do when you dilute the paste. All you need is time, patience and warm heat occasionally.
Boiling the paste evaporates water, makes that super nasty skin on top of the paste worse and also can be dangerous if you aren’t standing over the pot to keep an eye on it. Soap being diluted boils over very easily even when you think you have plenty of head room. SO…DO NOT BOIL THE PASTE. Okay…I’m done shouting.
I cook my paste in a 7 quart crock pot. If I use the recipe from the “Liquid Soap – Let’s formulate a recipe!” post or any recipe where the paste is under about 60 oz I can dilute it in my 7 quart crock pot. Remember paste = oils + KOH + initial water. It will vary slightly because of water evaporation during the cook. Our paste equals about 55 oz.
I start cooking my liquid soap when I get home from work at about 5pm. Depending on when exactly I start cooking the paste it’s ready to add water for dilution by 9-10pm. This is perfect because then I can allow it to sit over night and work on diluting without me mixing, prodding, poking and fretting. It does take time and it does take patience.
When I am satisfied with my paste’s clarity it’s time to add some water for dilution. We’ve already calculated that our paste equals about 55 oz. For dilution, I start with adding about 60% of the weight of the paste in water. So let’s add 33 oz of distilled water.
I like starting with 60% because different mixes of oils are going to need different amounts of water to dilute. I keep a note book right by the crock pot and every time I add water, I mark it down. When you repeat a recipe you can start higher if you would like. It’s a lot easier to add more water than it is to evaporate it out. So start low.
WARNING! If you are using a crock pot for dilution never add cold/warm water to your hot steamy soap paste. It will crack your crock pot! I boil the water and then add it. If you’re using a stainless steel stock pot then you can add the distilled water cold.
Boil 30 oz of distilled water and add it to your crock pot. Chunk up the soap paste as best you can, put the lid back on, turn off and unplug your crock pot and GO TO BED! Do not leave the heat on; do not stand over it stirring every 10 minutes. Simply let it sit. In the morning when you wake up a good amount will be dissolved.
If there are still large chunks of soap paste and the soap that is dissolved is fairly thick then you know you need more water. Add 5-10 more ounces of distilled water. Since your crock pot has been off you don’t need to boil it first. Now turn the crock pot on high and heat it back up. Let it heat up until it looks like it might start to boil and turn the crock pot off. Same thing if you’re using a stainless steel stock pot. Heat the mixture up, cover and then turn off the heat source.
*You can set your crock pot to warm and leave it on for a bit. I prefer to heat it up, turn it off and let it set so I can go to work, run to the store or do whatever without worrying about it. I haven’t noticed that it dissolves quicker if you leave the heat on. Once turned off, the crock pot keeps the mixture hot for quite a bit.
Let this sit for a couple of hours. You can stir every now and then if you want. You’ll notice that a skin forms on your mixture. Simply stir it back in. Some people say to skim it off but I don’t do that. I find that with the right percentage of water it dissolves with the rest of the soap. If you boil your diluting mixture the skin is worse and sometimes never dissolves back into the mixture.
After 3-5 more hours (or in my case after 9 hours when I get home from work) check it again. If there are still soap paste blobs, break them up, add 5 ounces more of water and turn the heat back on. Keep doing this until you get all (or at least most) of the paste dissolved.
This is how I dilute…once you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll be able to modify the process to one that fits you. This works well for me because I make my paste, add water for dilution, go to bed, wake up and add more water, go to work, get home and complete it. So most of the dilution/waiting is done when I’m asleep and at work! So it works for me. Do what works for you. The bottom line is…be patient…take your time…record all of the water amounts you add and DON’T BOIL your paste!
Next we’ll talk about neutralizing and superfating your liquid soap.