Troubleshooting

Soapmaking Troubleshooting!

Here are some common issues you might encounter when making soap.

Overheating

Every soapmaker will come across overheating issues at one time or another. Maybe you get in a hurry and mix your soap when the oils and lye are too hot. Or perhaps you purchase a new mold and over insulate it. It happens to us all!

Overheating is also common when soaping with any kind of additive that has sugar including sugar itself, honey, beer and milk. Here are some common signs of overheating and what you can do if it happens.

The soap has a crack up the middle of it

If you find your soap cracking then try to cool it down.  Remove any insulation that you might have on your soap (blankets, etc.), put your soap in the fridge if it will fit or simply leave it un-insulated in a cool place with plenty of air circulation.  It should start to cool down and stop cracking.  You can actually use a spatula or a gloved hand to flatten down the crack.

The soap is crawling or mushrooming out of the mold

Soap volcano pic by Theresa at AvaBaybaSoaps.com

EEK!  If you catch this happening in process see if you can dump what’s in the mold into a mixing container to let it cool off.  Be careful as the soap will be hot.

Usually you don’t catch it in time and you find it already volcano’d all over the table that your mold is sitting on.  Scoop up what you can and put it back into the mold.  It won’t be the prettiest soap in the world but it will still be soap.

The soap has a tunnel through the middle of it

soap tunnel

Soap tunneling pic by Theresa at AvaBaybaSoaps.com

This is another sign of overheating.  Since it’s in the middle, you don’t really know that it’s happening until you cut it.  Rebatch it or keep for personal use.

The soap has a layer of oil on top

If it is just a bit, more like a sweat than a pool…then just leave it and the soap will probably reabsorb.  If it is enough oil to pool up and move around if you tilt the mold then you might want to rebatch.  You can do so immediately.  Simply plop it into a crockpot and hot process it.

The soap looks like brains

I have not actually had this happen.  I’ve seen pictures online and have heard the tales.  I would actually keep this one.  It might be a good soap for Halloween!  (But next time…soap cooler.)

Mixing and emulsion issues

Soap has separated in the mold

This could be due to false trace or simply not reaching a steady emulsion.  Dump the mixture back into your mixing container and stir some more until emulsified.

When you cut your soap you go through a very soft layer and then a hard one

I would re-batch.  Cut your soap into cubes.  If it is fresh soap, you shouldn’t need to add water.  Put it into the crock pot or pan in the oven.  Once the soap get’s loose and gel-like stir like crazy!

You cut your soap and you have pockets of oils or lye

The soap in the above picture was scented using a spice FO and a bit of Clove EO.  Both are FAST movers.  I also made my lye solution using coconut milk.  I couldn’t completely mix the soap before it started setting up.  You can easily see the lye heavy parts in the soap as well as lye pockets that formed.

If you are sure that you measured everything correctly then you might have had a mixing issue.  I would chunk it up and re-batch as above.

Fragrance oil issues

Fragrance oils can cause a lot of issues with soap making.  Make sure that you purchase fragrance oils from reputable suppliers that test to insure compatibility with cold process soap.

You have fragrance pockets or hard waxy-like fragrance blobs in your soap

You can either reserve the soap for personal use or re-batch.

Some fragrance oil causes seizing.  You bring your soap to trace, add the fragrance and it gets hard and lumpy.  Some soapers like to call this “soap on a stick.”

Your soap is seizing!  The best thing to do here is to dump the mixture into a crock pot and hot process it.

Some fragrance oils accelerate trace.  This means that once you add them to your soap mixture…it moves fast getting thick.  Not quite bad as a seize…still workable.

These fragrance oils (though tricky) are okay to use.  To slow them down a bit make sure you use full water.  I also recommend adding the fragrance oil to your oils before adding the lye.  Then stir with a whisk to trace.  It won’t move as fast as using a stick blender.

You add the fragrance oil to your soap and it immediately heats up and goes through gel phase right in the pot.

Some fragrances cause your soap mixture to heat up.  These include floral fragrance oils and spice fragrance oils.  Soap cooler, use full water and add the fragrance oil to your oils before adding the lye.  Stir with a whisk to bring to trace.  If your soap is going through gel phase right in the pot you can go ahead and let it gel completely in the pot (insulate if needed) and then dump it in a mold.

You go to cut your soap and it has beads of liquid or your soap is oozing a bit of liquid.

Sometimes fragrance oils can ooze or bead out from a soap.  This might have something to do with overheating as well.  I would let the soap sit for a day or two to see if it reabsorbs the liquid.  You can also wipe off if it’s a very small amount.

Other various issues you might encounter

Soap is crumbly upon un-molding

This could be because of two reasons.  Your soap could be crumbly because it did not go through gel phase.  This is especially common in soap that has partially gelled.  The center is solid and hard but the edges are crumbly.  This is just a cosmetic issue…the soap is not bad.  If you want to avoid this issue then make sure that your soap completely goes through gel phase.  You might need to help it along by insulating your mold or putting it into a warm oven.

The other reason for crumbly soap is that it could be lye heavy.  Wait a couple of days and do a zap test.

If you’re new to soapmaking I would just throw this batch away.  Some people will tell you to re-batch adding more oil or to shred and use as laundry soap.  Those are certainly more advanced options you might want to consider after you’ve had some more batches under your belt.

Soap is soft and squishy like play-dough upon un-molding

There are a couple of reasons that this can happen.  First take a look at your recipe.  Are there are high percentage of soft oils such as olive, sweet almond, castor, apricot kernel, etc.?  Did you use the full water amount?  Soaps high in soft oils using full water are going to be pretty soft when un-molding.  Wait two or three extra days before un-molding.  Next time reformulate your recipe to include a higher percentage of hard oils or a steeper water discount.

If you have a well balanced recipe with plenty of hard oils then another reason might be that you mis-measured and did not add enough lye to the batch.  Since you don’t really have a way of knowing how much more to add, I would just save this soap for personal use.  It should harden up a bit with a cure.

Soap will not un-mold from a silicone mold

When soaping in silicone molds without liners you want to make sure you are using a recipe with a high amount of hard or brittle oils (60%+).  It also helps if your soap goes through gel phase as it will be harder upon un-molding.  If you find yourself in this situation, put the soap in the fridge for about two hours to freeze solid.  Then try and remove.

Soap will not trace or is slow to trace

Soap made with high amounts of olive oil take the longest to trace.  Even then…a two pound batch should definitely reach trace in less than ten minutes when using a stick blender.  So if you’ve been stirring for that or longer…then something might wrong.

First check your water amount.  Using high amounts of water with recipes high in olive oil have a hard time tracing.  I always use a water discount with recipe that has 60%+ of olive oil.

Did you add your lye solution?  Don’t laugh!  This has happened before to many soapmakers.

Temperature plays a big role in trace.  Higher temperatures will make soap trace faster while lower ones will slow trace down.  So if you have a recipe that takes forever to trace…then use higher temps.  If you have a recipe that moves like a freight train…then use lower temps.

If your soap will not trace…then you might have lye issues.  Are you using a new container of lye?  Was it clumpy or hard when you used it?  This could suggest that it has absorbed moisture somehow so your measurements will be way off.  Instead of weighing out the correct amount of lye you’ve weighed out lye and the moisture that it’s absorbed.  If your lye is clumpy or hard then get new lye.

Do you have a pic of a soapy mishap that you’d like to have featured on our troubleshooting page?  Email me, amanda@lovinsoap.com.

327 Responses

Add yours
  1. Having a hard time unmolding a 25lb mold from For Craftsake. Stickying to the liner. Can you Help? What I’m doing wrong.

    Bill

    · Reply
    • Author

      Hey Bill,

      Have you tried leaving in the mold a day or two longer? Also, check your water. Is there room to discount? Does the soap go through gel phase? Gel phase makes unmolding easier.

      · Reply
  2. Steph

    I tried the column swirl technique, and realized afterwords that my wood column was pressure treated. I have not cut the soap yet, but so far it looks great and appears to have gone through gel phase.. However, I noticed tiny amber, glittery-like beads on the surface and wiped them off. Was this chemical from the pressure treated wood or excess essential oil? Will my soap be safe to use?

    · Reply
    • Steph,
      The chemicals in pressure treated lumber are arsenic salts, chromium salts, and copper salts. The copper isn’t a big deal for humans, and chromium depends on exposure. Arsenic is absorbed readily into your cells and interrupts normal energy production, hormone processes, and can lead to both programmed cell death and cancer. Long term, low exposure leads to low energy levels, and a massive increase in cancer risks (still small, but very measurable).

      If you didn’t use a liner, then you definitely absorbed the chemicals into your soap. It’s safest to throw out the soap, but if you wanted to keep it, you’d have to keep it only for yourself. It would be illegal to sell it.

      If you did use a liner, but the lumber was fresh and cool/damp to the touch, then it’s possible the outer layer of your soap may have traces of the chemicals. Mostly, it would be smell, since the primary chemicals for PT lumber are salts that don’t evaporate.

      If you had good liners, and the pressure treated wood was dry (at least a couple of months old, not brand new from the hardware store), then it’s all good. Just remember to wash your hands after handling the mold, and don’t use soap scraped off of the edges of the mold.

      · Reply
    • As to the amber beads on the surface, 99% chance that those were bits of oil weeping out of pores in the soap. Amanda’s reference up top about this holds true so long as the mold has liners, or has been sealed (polyurethane thinned with acetone, 3 coats) to prevent the PT chemicals from entering the soap.

      · Reply
  3. Jackie

    I was given a bunch of lye from a woman who used to make soap. One of the containers was full of lye but it was hard. I broke it up and used it in 2 batches on Saturday. It’s now Monday and my soap is really, really soft and has pooled some oil on top. Is there anything I can do to save it or is my lye completely off, due to moisture and I should just throw it away?

    · Reply
    • (Sorry Amanda, I love answering technical questions, and your blog is too awesome to not listen in to!)

      Jackie, unless you want to spend 4 hours playing at the stove, then it’s probably better to ditch the lye and the batch, and start over with dry lye.

      The problem is that it’s really hard to tell exactly how much water the lye has taken on. There’s not a formal measure of how much water tha lye will pull from air, and at what humidities.

      Technically, you salvage the lye by baking it to dry it out. That’s dealing with lots of lye, in the open. Hazards galore, but it’s doable. Some people do this with liquid lye to get standardized amounts (back to crystals). Just note that if you dispose of the lye, you cannot just throw it in the trash. It’s still hazardous. Either massively dilute, neutralize, or contact your city waste disposal for help. OR, you could save it for cleaning drains. :)

      If you’re really adventurous, you could titrate the soap to a proper pH. This would require heating up the soap in the cauldron, which I find takes about 30 minutes in a double boiler for a 5-6 pound batch. Once it’s liquidy and well mixed, dip out just a tiny bit of the soap, and mix it with water. Use the plastic pH strips (not paper). I got a pack of 100 from Amazon for $16. The brand that works and is available Prime is “ColorpHast”.

      Oils, if they showed up on their own, would have a pH around 6. Lye is 14. Your target is usually 10, or a little under. If you got to a pH of 8, then you might add 50% more of the humid lye, in 1.5x as much water. Mix well, let it cook for about 30 minutes, and re-test.

      If it turns to soap, then you’re probably pretty close. If it stays liquidy, you still have a way to go. If it turns crumbly, then you went too far (pH 11.5 or higher). Expect sore shoulder muscles. Once you reach 9.5 or a little higher, call it quits and pack it into molds. It’s easier to add a little lye water, but once it hardens, adding more oil is harder work. It probably will react a little more, but it’s better to be a little superfatted than superlyed.

      Keep track of the total amount you had to add. If your recipe said use 200 grams, and you had to add another 100 grams, then you’ll know your conversion factor for THIS chunk of lye is 150%. Also, once it’s cooled in the molds, re-test the pH. You can use that to adjust a little more. If you leveled out at pH 9.75, you’ll know that you’re still 10-15% superfatted. You wouldn’t want to superfat on top of that, or use oils that go rancid too easily.

      Also, this would be rebatched, hot process soap. Expect it to be lumpy and annoying in the pot, and to be pretty hard to stir once it is done saponifying. If it gets a little warm during the reaction, it will try to foam out of the pot. The mold may take a while to cool, and hardness will depend on residual water. If you’re at 15%, it will be pretty hard once it’s cool. If you’re at 25%, it will be fairly soft, but you could unmold it once it’s cool so it will dry faster.

      Also, this all assumes you’re working with actual lye, as in Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) granules. If you’re dealing with potash, or Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) flakes, then your soap will never fully harden. If you did KOH, then you’d have to add in almost an equal amount of salt to convert it to sodium soap and be hard enough to cut into bars.

      · Reply
  4. Hi! I am new cold process soapmaker. I am trying to learn how to make swirls in my soaps, but for some reason I can’t. I have some questions about this situation. It is a fact that if the mixture go through gel phase, I can’t make swirls. What do you suggest me? Light trace? How much time do I have to wait for unmold if my soap was in light trace? Also, I use oxide pigments but sometimes leave flecks of unincorporated color, but I don’t want to stir so much because I don’t want a heavy trace. What is a good way to mix the colors without obtaining a heavy trace? What colors are better for cold process? Are silicone molds good for cold process?

    Thank you so much, and sorry for asking so many questions, I’m a beginner ^.^

    · Reply
    • Heavy trace gets really close to being clumpy. Swirls are more of a light to medium trace. Keeping your temps down can help give you enough time to work with your emulsion. A little more water, or a higher olive oil percentage (not pomace) will also give you more time. Starting with your additions at just the hint of trace can help too, as long as you’re far enough along to not separate.

      One thing some people do is, while well mixed, but not quite tracing, you can dip out some and add pigment to that separately. Then re-add that at the appropriate time.

      Alternatively, you can mix your pigment with essential oils, glycerine, or superfat oils, and swirl those in. This is pretty common, along the lines of a teaspoon of pigment for ounce or two of liquid. If it’s not hot, you could mix this in a plastic bag and use your fingers to squish any unmixed pockets. You could then cut off the tip of the bag and drizzle it onto your soap if you wanted to play with lines.

      If your swirls are too thick, and your emulsion separates, and your color base is NOT raw soap emulsion, then the color areas might not fully turn to soap. If you reach gel phase, they should bleed a little and be just fine regardless.

      Gel phase just means the soap heats up enough to soften internally, and it reacts more quickly. It may bleed little bit, but there are plenty of CPOP soapers out there with really crisp, fine, beautiful swirls, and the OP guarantees a gel phase. The key is to make sure your soap doesn’t separate (pour at false trace), or volcano (over heat in the mold), which would really be no fun.

      · Reply
  5. Tracey Jennings

    Hi. I cannot understand why my soap is cracking badly on top. It is very cold here at the moment in UK ( about 4degree) I am making soap into 3kg wooden log moulds. I do not put my heating on in the house whilst soapmaking to keep the temperature down but I am still getting very big cracks across the top of the soap. I use coconut oil, Palm oil and olive oil in my soaps and the last 3 batches have cracked and look terrible. I peak the soaps on the top so cannot cut the top off. I cover the moulds with cling film lightly but do not cover in towels etc. Please help!! : (

    · Reply
    • Author

      What temps are you soaping at? Wood holds heat. Are you making milk soap? You can also try putting your mold in the fridge after you pour.

      · Reply
    • Cracking is shrinkage without elasticity. If the surface cools and dries more rapidly than the core, then the surface hardens. As the core shrinks, the center dips, and splits.

      If you ensure it’s cooler before moulding, that can help tremendously. It’s the change in temperature, not the absolute temperature, that really does the damage.

      As Amanda says, hot core temps can be from milk (additional additives). Also, if you pour early, with a high concentration lye, you might get an early trace, but still have tons of reaction left.

      This can also happen if incomplete soap is poured at high enough temperature that it foams slightly (~90C). The top will skin over, and then when it finishes, it will cool, shrink, and split the top.

      If the soap stays warm, it can be soft enough to stretch rather than crack. This could be an issue if you’re avoiding gel. It also can lead to surface drying, which can still crack.

      If the soap starts life with too much water, then it can crack during cure, even if temperature is well regulated. (Think of clay mud in arid places – always lined with huge cracks.)

      If you have good mould release, then the top of the soap can pull away from the sides rather than cracking, but you might have a tapered loaf from this.

      You could use full contact plastic or parchment to help this some, but you couldn’t have a peaked surface. Also, after unmoulding, it could still crack while drying. Cutting it into bars as soon as possible could help with that.

      Alternatively, you could use a vertical mould. I do this with HP soaps, and actually mound the soap above the top of the mould at 80C. By the time it’s down to 40C, it has shrunken to be flush with the top. A 3-4″ exposed surface isn’t enough for the soap to crack during cooling.

      · Reply
  6. ann

    thank you doing this how to i have been looking for ages to find out how to do cp topping so will be giving this a go asap , i tried to make beer soap last year it had a great honey colour to it & the outside had a velvety feel ( bit like the skin on some cheeses) but i kept testing the ph with a solution thats stays clear if it good or pink not good !! even months later it was still pink anyway i gave it ago & it was slimmy so i dumped the lot , thank you once again

    · Reply
  7. Ralph

    Help! My soap traces like normal, but when molded and placed in insulated cooler to “sleep,” it expands and grows and oozes out, just like the picture posted earlie in this post. Does that happen because its too hot? Help!

    · Reply
    • Author

      Yes, that is for sure overheating! You might not need to insulate your mold if it is generating/holding enough heat.

      · Reply
  8. I guess I need help in a Big way. Not all the time but sometimes I get brown spots. Whats is the cause. Its can happen on Unscented Goat Milk to My Carrot Soaps, its doesn’t matter. I can make a batch and everything is great and then here come the brown spot again.

    · Reply
    • Author

      Brown spots is usually a sign of burnt something (milk or sugar), fragrance oil, unmixed honey or colorants.

      So you mention goat’s milk and also carrot soap. Goat’s milk – are you making your lye solution from goat’s milk and lye? Or are you adding goat’s milk to the oils. If you are adding it to the lye you could be getting burnt globs of milk that end up in the soap. Same with carrots if you are using puree carrots in the lye mix.

      · Reply
  9. Using Goat Milk Powder to the Oil before the Lye and Carrot Powder in the Oils also. Just Carrot juice with my lye and Ice water. Mixing around 100 on the Carrot Juice.

    · Reply
    • Any additive could be leeching colors into the soap, so experimenting with micro batches might be helpful to isolate the problem.

      Carrots turn dark when they oxidize. If the pulp wasn’t strained with filter paper, then little fragments could be turning dark, and leaking into little smudges in the soap.

      Some EOs turn dark, and if they’re not fully mixed, or are soaked into organics, then they can leech into the soap later.

      If the milk isn’t caramelized when you add it to the oil, then maybe it’s heating up in the pot (streaks inside and out) or after pouring (splotches inside and out). Digital thermometers are really helpful, but will only give you temperature averages – not hot-spots temperatures.

      If there’s high superfat (over 5% or so), then it could be rancidity (oxidized substances in the oil). Using oils with more Vitamin E like cottonseed can help, as could food-grade additives like sodium benzoate.

      Lastly, if the soap has lots of wet organics, then it could be bacterial. This would be mostly on any exposed surfaces, and not inside until after it’s cut and rested. This would be the case if you scooped out all of the little spots into a plastic bag, and the spots all smelled very different from the rest of the soap.

      · Reply
  10. Amber

    Hi Amanda

    the cold processed soap traced very fast and was problematic to mold. Apparently turned out be be hollow and bad shaped :(
    Can that be hot processed at this stage in the crockpot?

    thanks

    · Reply
    • Almost any soap can be re-batched. Melt it down in a double boiler. Once it’s been fully melted (slimy, not purely liquid) for about 30 minutes, spoon out a tiny bit and test it with plastic pH strips. If the pH is good, then you can just re-mold it. If the pH is off, then you’ll need to adjust your formula.

      · Reply
  11. Hi
    My last 3 batches have been crumbly when I cut my loaves. They are firm on the outside and come out well when in individual small molds. I have been using cocoa butter. Does that impact the soap. In the summer I used almost the same recipe (the same quantity of lye) and it was much easier to cut. Does cold temperature make soap more crumbly or should I try less lye and no cocoa butter?

    Thanks Teri

    · Reply
    • The amount of cocoa butter shouldn’t really matter. You can make a 100% cocoa butter bar and it will be fine.

      The number one cause of crumbly soap is too much caustic. If it were mis-measured, or the wrong value pulled from a list, or if the cocoa butter were cut with some other, lower-SAP oils.

      If this only happened in the core, and the outside is normal, then this could be some form of separation.

      Have you tested pH of both parts? The plastic test strips are something like $16 for 100 from Amazon Prime. I would expect the inside to be over pH 11.5, and the outside to be under pH 10.

      · Reply
  12. I was wondering if there is any drawback to making soap in the cold. I work in my new studio in the basement, and its cold. I dont mind, it cools the lye and oils fast but it does take an extra day or two for the soap to be able to be unmolded and cut. I havent had any issues so far, just wondering if I am slowing the process of curing or anything. Thanks!! :)

    · Reply
    • Mostly that’s it… Basic chemistry
      * If it’s hot, and mixed, then it reacts more quickly.
      * If it’s cold, solidified, and not mixed, then it occurs more slowly.

      Considering there are poured chunks of concrete 100 years old that still have unreacted concreat in the middle, the same thing CAN happen to soap.

      I’m sure there’s a way to calculate this, but I’ve not seen an easy way.

      If your soap gels completely, then it’s done reacting for certain. Cure time would just be as long as you like for it to dry out sufficiently.

      If your soap pours cold, stays cold, and never gels, then you might have to test the pH to see for certain if it’s 100% reacted.

      · Reply
    • Soaps containing medications or drugs of any sort would be regulated by the FDA. Packaging requirements are much higher, in that they must list lot numbers, drug facts, and detailed ingredients, among other things.

      Beyond that, “medicated” is pretty vague, and would be a big topic. That topic would not belong under “Troubleshooting”, but I’m not sure that Amanda would really want to get into the liabilities of that.

      Just consider that:
      * Not all substances absorb through the skin.
      * Not all substances would survive being exposed to NaOH or heat.
      * You will need to pick a plan, and research it heavily.

      · Reply
  13. Nancy Kegley

    When making goats milk soap I use a soap calculator that accounts for goats milk/lye mixture vs. a water/lye mixture.
    My concern is that I like to strain the goats milk/lye solution to remove the sugars that contribute to the discoloration of goats milk soap if left in the mix.. Does doing this cause the initial calculations to be incorrect for the batch? If so, what should I be doing to fix the problem? Thank you.

    · Reply
    • The caramel solids from saponification heat will already be partially reacted. It shouldn’t greatly affect your calculations. Just know that anything which reacts with the lye prior to adding the oils will cause you to be at a lye discount. As long as you are happy with the soap if you leave the sugars in, then it should be about the same with the solids removed. The exception would be lather, which is sometimes affected (improved?) by having sugar in the soap.

      · Reply
  14. Jack Hernandez

    if the lye was a bit messed up and its not tracing can’t I just put in a bit more untill it starts to work? is it not possible to mix and add as you go along? do it by eye so to speak, and what happens if you use too much lye? is it not safer to use less?

    · Reply
    • You could, but using trace as your deciding factor is probably not good. You could titrate using a pH indicator, which is what the big labs do. It takes longer though. You have to add, mix, wait. Doing this, you’d only want to do it hot process, and always add your lye as a liquid — never crystals directly in the soap.

      If you have too little lye, but the soap sets up, then your shelf life could be limited. Unreacted oils, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids, will go rancid from oxygen and bacteria. This will be mostly on the surface of the soap. Vitamin E can help, as can some food-grade preservatives.

      If you have too much lye, then the soap will deposit that lye on your skin. It will turn your skin oils into soap, including some of your skin cells. This can lead to dry skin, red rashes, or in extreme cases, chemical burns.

      This is why many people will give up on a “bad batch” of soap; however, if you use plastic pH strips, and fully react and mix your soap after every addition, you CAN safely salvage it. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time doing so.

      · Reply
      • sarah

        Why can’t I add more dry lye to the batch? I did, and I can see the answer, but I don’t understand it. I miscalculated and only used half the lye in the water, then added the oil. Then I dumped in the other half of the lye. Shouldn’t there have been enough water in the solution to dissolve the lye? And, how can it have traced (and so fast!) when there wasn’t enough lye? Is there any way to salvage this batch?

        · Reply
        • The lye granules are too big to dissolve in the local amount of water around each granule. Also, the water is not free – it is bound do the existing polar ends weakly.

          You basically encase the granule in lye-rich soap.

          Trace is just a thickening. You can get trace from heat, impurities, alcohols, etc. It doesn’t mean “I made complete soap”, it just means “I thickened this substance”. For example, 100% pomace with 30% lye discount will still go to trace quickly when cooked and blended. It will still seize on a low quality FO.

          But, there are too many unknowns in your situation to answer why.

          Salvage would be tricky. You have to dissolve the lye so that it is evenly spread throughout the batch – no chunks, no granules, no crumbly specks. That means smaller particles, more water, more mixing, and more heat.

          At this point, I think there is a high risk that you will end up with an unpleasant, very caustic product that would both burn the skin, and leave it feeling oily.

          · Reply
  15. Kathy

    HI,
    I have only made 2 batches of Cold process soap I used a beginners kit and followed the step by step instructions.
    My soap mix great it was just as it was supposed to be but after I added the Color FO it lumped up a bit I had marble size lumps in my soap I mixed it as best I could and got all but 2 or 3 lumps out I went ahead and molded the soap let it sit undisturbed and wrapped in a towel for close to 48 hours.
    When I cut it into slices everything looked fine I only ended up with 2 bars that had a light spot where one of the lumps apparently was it is maybe a 1/4″ dia. spot.
    My question is since the soap came out bright pink and looked fine other than the one light spot is it ok to use I was told by another NEW soaper that was a lye spot and what is called “lye heavy” soap but I have researched a bunch and it looks nothing like the lye heavy pics alot of soapers have posted.

    Another thing I was wondering someone said to use PH strips to check the PH levels but failed to explain how exactly to do that I ordered some strips but they do me no good if Im not sure how to use them?

    · Reply
  16. Lye heavy areas will be crusty and crumbly rather than waxy.

    The pH strips should have instructions on the case, but here’s the general instructions.

    Scrape some of the suspect area, small particles, into a small dish. You only need as much as you can dissolve in water within about 30 seconds. The water should be filtered at least. If you have really hard water, then distilled water is better.

    The slurry should be cloudy but not opaque. Take the color side of the pH strip and swish it through the soapy water for about 10 seconds. It should soak the little papery bits that are glued onto the plastic test strip.

    Hold the pH strip up to the calibration chart that came with them. Find which color selections look closest to what your strip shows. It’s not exact, but you should be able to measure within 0.5 or better, depending on your eyesight and color perception.

    NOTE1: If you have any color vision deficiencies, then you should get someone to double-check your read of the strips.

    NOTE2: Never re-use test strips. They are one-use. Their color will also change as they dry out, so they’re not long-term reference. You can take a picture of one, but make sure to include the color calibration chart in the same picture, since camera pictures can vary.

    NOTE3: If you got paper test strips, those sometimes don’t read soapy water very well. Test a couple of different soaps, home and store made.

    Comparisons should be:
    * Dove 7.0
    * Lever 2000 9.0
    * Camay 9.5
    * Dial 9.5
    * Irish Spring 9.5
    * Ivory 9.5
    * Palmolive 10.0
    * Zest 10.0
    * TOO CAUSTIC 10.5

    If all of what you test reads almost exactly the same, then your test strips are the wrong ones. ColorpHast brand are good, as are Macherey-Nagel. Both can get you within 0.25 of what a calibrated, digital meter. Vivid and Spectral read substantially lower than lab-grade equipment, and should be avoided for soap testing. (ColorpHast cost me just over $16 for a box of 100 including shipping from Amazon.)

    · Reply
  17. Elizabeth

    Please help me!! I was making an special order that a customer asked me to. It is a cannabis flower soap. I don’t know why my soap is black in the middle (horrible!!), it’s supposed to be light green! Also it is very hot. I always follow my recipe, but this time I did something different, I used 3 fragrance oils. Patchouli, cannabis & red roses and also I added red roses petals. What I did wrong? Maybe mixing the fragrance oils? I am so disappointed!

    · Reply
    • Diana

      Rose petals turn black in cp soap. My advice is to never do something a customer orders unless you’ve done it before because too many factors can change the order. To make a soap where the rose petals appear vividly in correct color you would need to be using M&P soaps, and you would want to dip each rose petal with tweezers several times in clear MP to protect it. While letting it cool between dippings on a sheet of freezer paper. Which you should be able to eventually make on your own, however, you need to master CP and HP soaps first. For now I would suggest investing the extra money and buying yourself several pounds of solid white and clear MP, to make the customer’s order correctly, as well as future custom orders. As I assume this is on Etsy, and you should never keep a customer dissatisified on that site.

      I suggest you educate yourself before taking any further custom orders. Learn to research all ingredients before trying something new.

      · Reply
      • Elizabeth

        Thank you Diana for your advice. But no, this soap is for a friend of mine, and I don’t explore new orders with new customers. Today I revised the soap and it is completely green, there is no black anymore and roses are not black. I just insulated better the mold and that worked for me. I just asked for help, because I never see that reaction before on my soaps and I thought it was for mixing 3 fragrance oils. I did MP soaps for about 2 years and then I switch to CP, so I have a little of experience but I just got scared with that black color in the middle of my soap, but after frustration got a good result.

        · Reply
  18. Lavena

    Hi, I have a huge problem with my soap. I made goats milk honey oatmeal soap using coconut and olive oil. I ground my raw oatmeal to semi-fine (about a like wet coffee grounds) before adding it. At first the soap cooled off too much and would not make trace, so I had to reheat and then it did fine. Poured it into the molds and it was dry and crumbly, so I rebatched it in the oven with more oil as a troubleshooting website said to do. This time, it turned out perfect, easy to cut, beautiful. So I set it to age in my living room.Here is the problem: as it is aging, the surface that is open to the air has grown white crystals, almost like mold. It is not mold, though. It is not oatmeal drying out, it is crystally. What can it be? And how can I save it?

    · Reply
    • The crystals on the surface are called Soda Ash, but it’s not really soda ash. It’s most likely minerals from your water that migrate out of the soap. This is less likely to happen with hot process, or with demineralized water.

      It should be harmless though. If the cosmetics of it are bothersome, then once your soap is cured, you can wash or scrape it off of the bars.

      · Reply
  19. Tina

    I have a funny problem – if it is a problem. I always make 100% olive oil CP using tea (eg. chamomile) and it’s great, but a little soft. This time I used olive leaf “tea” (boiled for 1 hour and cooled) and added beeswax 9% and propolis 1% to the olive oil. When I added the oils to the lye/tea mix, the mixture went red and thick like tomato ketchup! So weird, I’m used to a pale yellow mixture that I hand beat for an hour to light trace. I used a whisk just to mix it and it quickly got to medium trace. So far so good. Should have added EO and poured into moulds.

    Instead, I put it in a closed pot over hot water (75 deg C) for an hour. Taste test was tingly so I left it another hour when it tested fine. I let it cool to 40 deg C and added tea tree and lavender EO and whisked it a bit but it was really thick and brown like fudge. I had to really push it into the mould and there were spaces at the bottom. When I cut it, some pieces came apart. I have used it to wash my face and it is gorgeous – no burn or anything.

    I presume it is overcooked and/or I used too little water (33% instead of 35% – 10 ml difference.) So can it be rebatched or is there another way to get it to get it to not fall apart?

    · Reply
    • That small of a water difference won’t matter. The beeswax would have increased the melting point of the oil mixture maybe 10C, but being mostly olive oil, that wouldn’t matter either.The olive leaf extract would have accelerated trace substantially, which you already noticed. The propolis probably did the same, but to a lesser extent.

      Then you cooked the soap to completion, aka Hot Process. I find that I can mold HP soap fairly well around 80-85C, though it still takes a spatula and some pressure. You have to move fast, because it starts cooling off pretty quickly as you scoop it. Larger scoops, large molds, preheating the mold, and packing it in with a lot of pressure all help.

      Heating it back up is probably the easiest way to get it into the mold. A double-boiler works faster, because you get steam up the sides of the pot.

      Heating it in the mold is possible, but it’s too easy to overheat, which makes steam, which makes it foam over. You still have to mash it back down.

      Rebatching with water works too, but then your dry-time will go way up without saving you much effort in the re-melt.

      · Reply
      • Tina

        OK, thanks. I’ll try heating it in the mould with just a mist of water – it seems really dry, like ancient soap. At what temp will I lose the EO?

        I really need this soap to be dry pronto which is why I messed with HP in the first place. Is it possible to speed the drying with a fan or dehydrator?

        · Reply
        • I found that a fan only helps for the outside layer of the soap. After that, it’s just a slow process for the moisture to migrate out. A dehumidifier would be about the same. Going to altitude might help, with the lower pressure, but that seems like a hassle.

          Hot process only cooks out about 1-2% water per hour. For quicker drying, I use less water in the initial batch. I found about 1.5:1 water to lye works pretty well if I’m quick. 1.1:1 works fine, but it requires a third arm because it will react so quickly.

          Misting with water won’t really have any benefit. It will just make a mess.

          Heating it in the mold will probably not work as you think it will. You’ll stick to the mold more, and have a risk of foaming over.

          Re-melting the soap in a double boiler will work whether you’re water heavy or not. I cooked some water deficit soap for several hours and at 90C, it looks the same as full water soap. It should be fairly thick, and stick to almost everything. it will have shiny insides as you stir it.

          If it seems dry and crumbly, rather than just chunky, then you might have lye heavy soap. zap tests and self wash tests are very subjective and not accurate. I recommend pH testing to make sure.

          Your EOs evaporate all the time, and heat definitely accelerates that. I found that rebatching HP soap seemed to drop the scent to about what it would be after a few months of drying. A second re-batch didn’t really change the scent much. I had one soap I really messed up and re-batched it 3 times. I can still smell the orange a little when I sniff the bars, and when I wash, I can smell it stronger than any of my other soaps. It’s been on the shelf for about 5 months.

          · Reply
  20. I am a very new CP soapmaker. I love the chemistry of soapmaking! Anyway, I made a lovely soap with pomace, shea, avacado, and 15% deer tallow. I fragranced with bergamot EO. All is well and it is a nice hard creamy white bar. I used it a couple times on my hands and love the conditioning of it, but then I used it in the shower this morning. I made a lather and sniffed and there was a smell of…well, maybe stinky breath? my daughter said it smelled like poo and thought it was her body chemistry and bergamot. It is a fleeting smell and doesn’t fragrance the body. I still have a lot of the tallow and it is not bad. I also rendered one last time just before soaping to make sure I didn’t have any nasties. Any thoughts about what the icky smell is?

    · Reply
    • It’s really hard to tell without smelling it. I have some random tallow soap that has a waxy smell, a little earthy, but it’s just low on EOs.

      Bergamot has its own interesting smell. Bergamot oil also contails bergamottin, which is a liver enzyme antagonist, and can be absorbed through scent and through the skin. If you used a large quantity of the EO, it’s plausible that it may be interacting with foods or vitamins in an unspecified way that affects your sense of smell. That’s a reach though, not a known issue.

      Well rendered, washed, filtered tallow shouldn’t be much of a problem; however if the deer ate stinky plants, those oils would be part of what’s in the tallow. Some fat is stored directly rather than being reprocessed.

      Really though, it’s hard to tell. Maybe make a mini-batch of unscented, and a mini-batch of some other scent, with the same oils as this batch, and see if they end up with the same smells?

      · Reply
      • Thanks. Yes, there is very little Bergamot EO in the batch – 1%. I love the soap and will continue to use it just because it is such a nice conditioner, but next time I will likely use more EO or a different one.

        · Reply
        • Oh, wow. Yes, I typically use close to an ounce per pound (5-6%) of finished soap for most of my EOs, though I haven’t tried Bergamot yet.

          I tried to make a cinnamon/nutmeg extract and added that at about 2% to one batch. It’s beautiful, but I definitely smell the raw soap as much as I smell the cinnamon. Same thing though. The soap is so good, I don’t want re-batch it, and my friends were happy with it too.

          · Reply
  21. Marilyn

    I’ve been making CP soap for about 3 years. A few weeks back I made a batch of Almond Apricot Kernel with coconut 76. The ph is 7 – 8, soap looks lovely, but had a few bright pink spots on it. I tried to find out the cause, but no luck to date. Today I cut a batch of soap made coconut, palm and mixed soft oils, however none of these oils or the EO’s were the same as I used in the previous batch
    There is another pink dot on the bottom of this loaf…..just one
    Any thoughts as to why this is happening?
    Thanks so much….m

    · Reply
    • Sounds like “Dreaded Orange Spots”. pH of 7-8, without adding citric acid, means your soap is at a huge lye discount, or your strips are inaccurate.

      If you are at a huge lye discount (tens of percentage points), then the unreacted soap is going rancid in little spots, nucleating around tiny specks of impurities.

      If this is actually DOS, then using the soap is safe, but it could be unsightly. Also, it will spread, and can lead to unpleasant odors.

      In such a case, use a small scoop (like a 1/4 tsp, round spoon) and scoop out the orange or pink spots. They will be only near the surface. Then, you can re-batch the soap with a little bit of vitamin E (tocopherol) or oils rich in vitamin E (cotton-seed, grapeseed).

      If your soap is more than 5% lye discount (aka superfatted), then you may want to consider reacting more of the oils to come back to a 3-8% superfat/lyediscount. Those soaps will be more stable, and more resistant to DOS.

      Lastly, for pH strips, there have been some pretty good reports, on this for soaping, but basically, only two brands of test strips were able to show proper pH for soap slurry. Both are on plastic backing. One is Machery Nagel pH-Fix, and one is EMD ColorpHast. Also, pH strips have a shelf life. Bad strips, paper strips, or just generally problematic strips will report 1-2 pH low.

      · Reply
  22. Marilyn

    Hi again, Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I rechecked the recipe which was an experimental batch (recipe from one of my soap books)….fractionated coconut 21% Apricot Kernel 9% and Sweet Almond 69% I use Soap Calc religiously and am quite ‘anal’ when it comes to weighing, measuring, checking and rechecking! I knew the iodine was higher …78… however superfat was 7% . This recipe was quite different than anything I’d tried, having such a high % saturated fats. (still learning!!)
    I checked my litmus paper with 5% vinegar and its pretty close 2 + – however I ‘ll look for the pH strips you suggest.
    So…finally an explanation of what my pink spots are!! DPS (dreaded pink spots…much prettier than DOS!!) I don’t know why the other bar has it. It’s super fat is 5% and Iodine 68 . Anyhow, its finally good to have an explanation!! Thanks again …m

    · Reply
    • Hah! I like DPS too! :) The iodine indication shouldn’t really matter. Based on 7%-ish, your pH should have read more in the 9.75 range unless your NaOH had absorbed moisture.

      If your NaOH ever got slightly wet, or was left open, then it’s heavier per unit of NaOH. It won’t really dry out. I measure mine, then close it up and double bag it.

      7% superfat isn’t really excessive, but almond oils are highly unsaturated. They are very susceptible to oxidization (rancidity, crosslinking, conversion to short chain acids and solvents, etc). Vitamin E helps reduce this activity.

      The problem with most test strips is that they work fine for purely aqueous solutions, but soap solutions have such an non-polar component that they often read low. Digital meters called to me, but they require calibration with buffered solutions. What a pain!

      · Reply
  23. Marilyn

    Great info Josh!! Wish you were my neighbour!!
    Guess I don’t need to be shy about asking other dumb questions during ‘Marilyns Awesome Soap Adventure’ !!
    lol… thx again…m

    · Reply
    • NP. It’s not even my blog, but I love the technical details. This one post is in my top 5 for useful info, so I can’t help but monitor it.

      · Reply
  24. Carolyn

    I am new to soapmaking. I was making a batch of soap that wasn’t making it to trace when I put two and two together and realized I put twice the water I needed for my 2 lb small batch of soap. There are directions for making several sized batches side to side in my book. I decided to abandon trying to get it to fully trace (I think I burnt out my stick blender anyway) and poured it into a mold and made another batch. Is there anything I can do to save this soap?

    · Reply
    • Extra water won’t prevent saponification, it just slows things down (weaker basic solution). Double water may take 4 times as long. Also, if you used KOH vs NaOH, it takes 3-5 times longer on top of that. Lastly, if your NaOH or KOH was wet, then your measure by mass/weight would be wrong (less than you needed).

      If everything was correct other than water, then you could cook it on the stove. A double boiler is faster than direct heat, but either is fine. Low heat is best, which is 2 or less for most stoves. If you have a thermometer, then aim for 185F or 85C. Stir occasionally, but you don’t have to slave over it the whole time.

      Also, I found that per hour of cooking, I lost 5-7% of the input water. This relates to when it’s done reacting. Expect maybe 4 hours of cooking to get where you want, though if you’re going HP, you might just cook it all the way to the water content you’d like for your final soap.

      When it goes past heavy trace, the soap self-insulates more. Whe your thermometer reads 175F, it may actually be close to boiling temp. If the soap begins to foam/expand/volcano, that means the water is actually boiling inside. Turn the heat down a little, and use a wooden or metal spoon to stir it down.

      Plastic stick blenders can melt in the volcano. Stick blenders shouldn’t be used more than 60 seconds on, 3 minutes off, though half that is probably better. They’re only really useful until medium trace. Anything past that, and you’ll just blend air pockets.

      · Reply
  25. jenny pryce

    I am making goat milk soap and find that it has started to show a white marbled pattern on the surface of the soap by the second day of curing. I have tried keeping the milk and lye to 35 degrees and mixing oils at about the same temp. I have also looked at insulation as it doesn’t seem to happen when I use a log mold. Nothing I have tried so far has got me back to where I was before summer began with nice clean finished bars. Also when making liquid goat soap can you use the goat milk at the dilution phase after the paste has formed rather than at the beginning when mixing the potassium hydroxide with liquid phase? I thought this would avoid burning of the sugars.

    · Reply
  26. You know it’s burning if it turns brown. Ice-Bath can help when adding lye crystals to the milk. Also, adding it more slowly can help, though exposed lye crystals will absorb water from the air, increasing the amount of liquid in your final product.

    White swirls in the top of the soap are separation of components. You may be pouring at early or false trace, or maybe it’s warming enough to separate during reaction. Sugars will definitely react and release internal heat. If you used a stick blender, then where it churned will locally heat up 20-30F. If stirring by hand, most of the time should be spent scraping the sides. I use a silicone spatula for this, and get good results.

    Ultimately, it’s difficult to know the exact, local temperature in soap, because you’ll have small areas react, heat up, and react more, but it’s very insulating, and won’t be that warm 2 inches over where it finished reacting 20 minutes ago.

    As for which phase, yes, you can really use it at any point. The only issue is that, you’re adding milk, which can spoil. The extra water in liquid soap allows bacteria to grow. The milk adds a food supply for them. If you have 100% reacted soap, and dilute 75% with milk, then you may have a shorter shelf life. You might need preservatives. Depending on where you live, benzoic acid may be a good option, but don’t use it with any citric products as citrate can convert benzoate into benzene.

    Reacting the milk early limits the food supply available to bacteria, and improves shelf life, but does not completely prevent spoilage. Solid bars are much less prone to bacteria due to lower water content.

    · Reply
  27. Katie

    I’m fairly new to soap making. I’ve made five small batches of soap (2 or 4 lbs). I started with hot process and decided to try cold process because I don’t particularly like the way hot process soaps pour into molds.

    I have made four batches of cold process soap and only the unscented has come out right. The other three I have had to rebatch. I have searched a few internet forums and have been unsuccessful in solving this mystery.

    I am making soap in a crock pot. I melt my solid oils, add my liquid oils and have been making my lye solution with milk products (i.e., buttermilk or goat’s milk). I’ve been using stick blender and when I reach trace, I’ve added my oils. I’ve insulated my ABS plastic moldes with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and then blankets, but when I unmold them after twenty-four hours, I have a liquid on the top which ranges from clear to orange, the top of the soap is covered in what looks like a bumpy white rash, and this last time there was a very dark jelly looking abomination on the bottom. Please help! I do not know what I’m doing wrong. I have been following cold process soap directions to a T.

    · Reply
    • Hard to say. There are way too many unknowns.

      The jelly on the bottom COULD be gelatain, though that usually only comes out of solution if there’s salt involved.

      My first guess is that your EOs are causing an early, false trace, and it’s separating after the pour.

      Stick blenders speed up the reaction, which increases heat, which could cause localized saponification.

      Also, ABS is probably not the best thing to use. ABS is immune to lye, and resistant to most food oils, it is weak against alcohols, and linseed oil, both of which are sometimes used in FO solutions.

      So, things to try:
      * Try EOs from a different place.
      * Try a different type of mold.
      * Make sure your temperatures are spot on.
      * Don’t use the stick blender after light trace
      (unless you want to fully react the soap)
      (or unless it’s all olive oil, or high water content)

      · Reply
  28. Marilyn

    Hi Amanda, where did you ever find Josh Davis? He has a wealth of information to be shared. I am so happy I found this site. I read every post. Is he a chemist? Interested in what his background is?

    · Reply
    • Author

      He is wonderful, isn’t he?!?! He is a blog reader and just jumped right in to help answer questions. So he’ll have to tell us who he is next time he checks in.

      Thanks for all of your help and advice, Josh!

      · Reply
      • Glad to help! I’m all about nit-picking details. Comes in handy on some troubleshooting, but I still don’t have the experience with soap that Amanda has. Big computers are my day job. :)

        · Reply
  29. Hello,
    I created CP soaps for several years now with a fixed recipe . If the recipe contains no odor or additives, after a few weeks the soap develops brown spots on the soap.
    I’d love to know if you know why

    · Reply
    • Usually, brown/orange/pink spots that develop during drying are unsaponified oil spoiling.
      What type of oil do you use?
      What is your lye discount?
      How old is your lye?
      How is your lye stored?
      Has your lye ever gotten wet or been left uncovered for several hours?
      Is your soap protected from dust while drying?

      · Reply
      • nany

        hey,my lye is not fully covered and get wet before use,is that a problem? my soap after a long period of time develop light orange spot? could the lye be the problem? heelp

        · Reply
        • If your lye is stored uncovered, it will absorb water from the air. This makes the weight measures wrong.

          There is no chart for changing this. It’s best to get new lye and keep it sealed.

          Technically, it could be baked on a steel cookie sheet to dry it out, but there’s not much detail on this either. Plus, it can be messy, which can lead to granules spilling (hazard).

          But this could be related, because you would end up with a major lye discount.

          · Reply
  30. Rachel

    Hi, i just made my second batch of cp soap. but silly me added the lye to oil when it was still hot. My soap traced very quickly and i think i may have overheated it. I have it now in the frezzer for a few hours and then im going to put in fridge until morning. Do you think it will still be able to use?

    · Reply
    • If it had milk in it, or other organics, then expect them to be darker than normal.

      If it reacted substantially before you mixed it, then you might find yellowy-white chunks about the size of an almond that are harder than the rest of the soap. Those would be lye-heavy chunks (lye encapsulates itself if reacted too quickly).

      Don’t worry about freezing it. Just let it harden up normally in the mold. If it’s separated, or you have crumbly bits, then you’ll have to mill that down and re-melt the soap. It will be hot process, which is fine soap, but won’t have thin wispy swirls as much as chunky and uniform color.

      If it forms up nicely, and cuts nicely, and the color is as expected, then everything is good.

      · Reply
  31. Hi – I’m new to soapmaking and made a btach of CPOP soap using turmeric for color. Lots of soft oils, so had a soft bar with chunks of undissolved turmeric (didn’t blend it well enough) so I decided to rebatch and then decided to buttermilk. I read somewhere that 9oz of fluid for every 12oz of soap was a good ratio, but later realized that must be for hard, fully cured soaps. This was really, really soft, and only about 2 days old. I whipped it, poured it into my molds and let it sit for two weeks. Still totally soft, so I put it back in the crock pot thinking I would cook some of the liquid off. It’s been cooking on low for 10 hours and it hasn’t reduced at all. Any suggestions? Otherwise, it’s perfect – great color, great scent, lathers beautifully. How do I get this darn thing to set???

    · Reply
    • That’s a whole lot of liquid to add. Consider how much water you added to initially make the soap, vs how much you added. You don’t REALLY need to add liquid to melt soap with heat. Just use a double-boiler so you don’t scorch it, lots of patience in stirring and breaking it up, etc.

      If you didn’t use Potassium Hydroxide, and you DID use enough lye to react the oils, then it will eventually firm up given time. Hot Process only seems to cook out 1-2% per hour. That assumes regular stirring, lots of surface area, and not really high humidity. Compare to rack drying which is 1-2% per week in dry or mountain areas, or 1-2% per month everywhere else other than coastal, swampy, and high humidity areas.

      I’ll guess you started with 33% water. CPOP doesn’t really cook out much, so I’ll assume you still had 27-30%. Then if you added 9oz per 12oz, then you’re at roughly 70-72% water. If you stuck it in a crockpot with the lid off for 10 hours, then you’re still looking at over 30 hours of cooking.

      Alternatively, you could pour it out on a giant, flat sheet of parchment paper so it has a lot of surface area, and tent it with something (a sheet?) to keep dust off of it… it might take a month to dry naturally, then you could re-batch it without adding liquid. Air circulation is important.

      As you go along, you can test your water content by calculation. Your “soap” weight is Lye crystal weight, plus oil weight, plus around 6% for water that is part of the reaction. Then add the weight of any additives. Then, subtract 1% for each time you transferred it from a pot (losses). Any weight beyond that is your free water weight. If it’s the same amount, then it’s 50%. If it’s twice as much water, then it’s 67%. If it’s half as much water, then it’s 33%. 33% and under should be able to harden up. It’s it’s all olive oil, with no pomace, then your target might be closer to 25%.

      Make sure you don’t count the weight of your container on the scale. If you do it all in a crock-pot, then you could weigh the empty basin, and you’ll know how much to subtract out. That assumes you have a kitchen scale that will take the weight of the pot plus the soap.

      Lastly, while it’s warm, it will stay goopy. Nice, hard soap will thicker than over-cooked oat-meal when it’s at 180F or so. It will smear in almost circular streaks, with a faint sheen to the surface. When it gets down to about 130F, it will be soft, but dry feeling. It won’t stick to other blobs of itself.

      · Reply
    • Also, expect some of the scent to cook off, and expect the sugars in the milk to darken a little (though turmeric’s yellow will still show through some.).

      · Reply
  32. Danny

    Hi- I’m making a honey, brown sugar and vanilla bar. The soap is premade Olive Oil. Brown Sugar and Honey are all natural. The vanilla is a FO. My bars come out looking golden brown..almost like you can see through them. After a few days they turn dark. Why is that? Appreciate the help!

    · Reply
    • Vanilla turns everything dark as it oxidizes. There’s really nothing you can do about it. There are “Vanilla Stabilizers” which can delay this a few months at best. There doesn’t seem to be any artificial vanilla without this “benefit”. The best solution is to add the vanilla to a small subset of the batch, and swirl it into the rest of the bars, or simply embrace the dark soap color.

      · Reply
  33. Jean

    Hi, My soap has cured for 6 weeks now and its pH is too high so I’m going to try rebatching it. I think my oil wasn’t hot enough when I made the soap; would this explain the high pH? (I’ve made the same recipe before and had great soap.) Thanks!

    · Reply
    • High pH would only be too much lye for the number of fatty acid molecules processed. You might re-check pH on a couple of different bars, and make sure the pH tester is calibrated if digital, or make sure they are fresh, plastic-backed strips if not digital.

      Average tests from 4 different bars, and if that average is still high, then you’ll need to add more oil when you re-batch. If you didn’t use any benzoic acid/sodium benzoate, then you could also add citric acid to drop the pH without adding more oil.

      To find out the exact amount to add is almost a black art. You’d have to take your mass, your pH, and water content, then calculate how many moles of lye you need to neutralize, then add that much oil or citrate.

      The alternative is to just add a little, mix thoroughly in a double boiler, let it sit a few minutes, mix again, then re-test the pH.

      · Reply
  34. Adrienne Faherty

    Hi
    I made a 1.3 kilo cupcake soap recently. I made the base about 10 before piping the top of it. Now that I’ve cut it, the top has separated from the bottom. Can you suggest a way of gluing the two pieces together.
    It’s cold process soap.
    Cheers
    Adrienne

    · Reply
    • Soap is like clay. You can “slip” it together. Basically, make a slurry of your soap(s) that should be thicker than water, but thinner than the soaps. Wet and score the surfaces to be joined, and wait a moment for it to soften up from the water. It should turn sort of cloudy/whitish. If it dries too quickly, you can put another drop or two of water on it. Once it’s softer just on the surface, paint on some of the “slip”, as a glue, and press the pieces together, maybe with a little twist and slide to make sure they mix just a little bit. Then, set them aside for a day or two and it should be joined very nicely.

      · Reply
  35. Jane

    Hi I have only been making soap for a few months. I have a couple of issues – with the colour, and also softness of the soap.

    THE COLOUR ISSUE:
    I’ve been using cheap silicon muffin pans from KMart, which worked beautifully the first few batches I made.

    Suddenly the last two batches have resulted in the colour of the pan coming off on the some (not all) of the soap.

    Is there a reason for this? I’ve got some interest from the local organic shop who want to sell my soap in their shop (yay!!) but obviously it’s unsuitable with red splotches all over some of the bars.

    THE SOFTNESS/NOT SETTING ISSUE
    As mentioned above in the article, my last batch was like play dough when unmoulded. I’ve tried a few recipes but have decided to stick with the first one I tried as that was brilliant. So I just made it for the second time, and not only does it have red splotches over the soap it’s really soft. I did do two things slightly differently and wonder if this would be the cause of the softness:

    1. the oil was quite a bit hotter than the lye water and I didn’t wait for it to cool down to the same temp as the lye; and
    2. I didn’t mix it to such a thick trace – ie the mix was thinner.

    Can you please give me some clue as to what the cause of my issues could be.

    Many thanks
    Jane

    · Reply
    • The color is just poor quality silicone. If you search the web, you’ll find other people have the same problem, especially with cheap silicone from *-Mart type stores. The easiest thing to do would be to toss it out and try a different brand of mold. As for the soap, scrape or wash off the red/pink spots.

      The leeching may fade with use, so if you want to try and salvage the pans, you could boil them in a huge stock pot, clean them with soap & water, etc, and see if it helps. Likely, there was a thin layer that sealed the coloring and oil in the silicone, and it will probably keep leaking out forever.

      ####################
      Higher temperatures just make it react faster. The softness might be silicone oil leaking out of the mold. Silicone oil (mineral oil) does not saponify.

      If it’s an olive oil recipe, then those tend to be soft when done cold process. It takes a lot longer for them to harden up. If you had a false trace, then your soap may just be a long way away from finishing reaction.

      If it’s other oils, it may just be too little lye. That can happen if your lye isn’t stored sealed and dry throughout it’s entire life. Baking it on a tray can dry it back out, but then you need to be fast and careful in re-bottling it on a non-humid day. It can also happen with errors in measuring, or using the wrong molar values (SAP values).

      · Reply
  36. Andre

    Hi, Josh!
    My wife and I are on our second attempt trying to make castile soap. We’re using just extra virgin olive oil. Cold process.
    The first time, when mixed for more than an hour, we thought it hadn’t reached trace. Then we did a bunch of other stuff to the batch and completely screwed up.
    The second time, everything was going fine, we followed all the instructions. We still think the trace looked kind of thin, but we keep reading that olive oil trace is like this.
    But the real problem now is that we were using an aluminum mold, lined with freezer paper, and part of the soap touched the aluminum and reacted. We noticed it 5 hours after we molded. There were bubbles on top of the soap near the place where it was touching the aluminum, and after we changed it to a plastic container, we noticed small aluminum-like dark specs. Now we don’t know if the soap is usable or not. We are waiting to see if it will harden up, as we are still unsure about it reaching trace or not.

    Anyway, thanks for the great advice.
    Best,
    Andre and Ana

    · Reply
    • I hate to say it, but “it depends.” :)

      The bubbles are from the lye being neutralized by the aluminum. This means you’ll be at a lye discount. If you were already superfatted, this could have an impact.

      The amount really depends on how much was affected, and whether you included that area when you scooped or poured out the proto-soap.

      The specks shouldn’t be a hazard unless the pan flaked off rather than just being dark areas. Flakes can be scratchy, but the darkness is just aluminum. If you cook in aluminum pans, you get more than you’d pick up from soap.

      So, if you just had maybe 5% of your batch darkened by the pan, then that’s probably 0.25% of your lye. Not enough to worry about. If it was 20% of your batch, then that’s more of an issue.

      If the darkness isn’t flakes, then you could just mix it all in, and it will even out. If it was flakes, then I recommend you warm up the batch and pour it through a very fine screen. The risk here is that it will react faster when warm, and may not fit through a fine screen.

      I hope this wasn’t too confusing, but feel free to ask me to clarify anything that doesn’t make sense.

      · Reply
  37. Hilary Gwilt

    I just have to say that this site is awesome. I’ve never had too many issues before (weeping, maybe, or EOs pooling, but nothing I’ve had to rebatch). Tonight, I tried to add a teaspoon of sugar to my two-pound batch. The soap started to crack, so I rushed to the internet. This page is the most comprehensive “Help! Save my soap!” that I’ve seen.

    I popped that bad boy in the fridge and my soap is now saved :) Thank you.

    · Reply
  38. Hi Josh or Amanda,
    I’m wondering if you can explain more about the gel phase. I’ve made several batches of soaps now, and most of them have the darker insides than the outsides. I’ve read bits and pieces different places about this being caused by the outside of the soap cooling down to fast and not going through the gel phase, so I’m thinking I should insulate the mold more. But then I read all of this troubleshooting about when people insulate too much and it causes even worse problems. It is a homemade wooden mold, and we’ve been leaving it on a kitchen counter the first couple days until we cut the soap. After that we keep it in the basement to cure, which is in a pretty cold room. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks so much! You are an amazing resource for us novice soapmakers!

    · Reply
    • Think of it as a partial hot-process core in the soap. When soap is cooked, it starts as a mixture of lyewater and oils. When it moves to trace. At this point, the glycerine has been broken free from the fatty acids. Trace is an emulsion, just like if you shake a bottle of salad dressing.

      In hot process, it turns translucent, and may even separate, as the tiny bubbles of fats combine together. Mixing moves this along.

      The third phase looks like oatmeal. This is where the fatty acids have combined with sodium to make a fatty-acid-salt (soap).

      When you do cold process, you go to trace, and then pour it. This allows all sorts of artistic designs in the mix, but overall is a very raw soap. There is a large amount of unreacted lye at this stage.

      The gel phase is where tiny droplets of oil combine together. At this point though, because it’s cold process, you literally have a foam of soap. So in a full gel, you may find the soap sweats a little oil on top, but if you leave it, it sucks back inside through the tiny cavities, and finds its way back to any remaining lye.

      If you don’t get gel, it does the same thing, but it just never gets enough free oil clumped together to structurally change. It’s primarily cosmetic, though gel does mean the soap is reacting more quickly, and could be ready to use sooner.

      All of that aside, if you insulate the soap trying to get a full gel, know that you already have fairly warm soap in the middle. If you bring up the temperature of the entire loaf, you COULD have a runaway heat situation which leads to steam foaming (volcano).

      Because of that, I would recommend not insulating the center section, since you’re already getting gel there. You could use a loose wrap of aluminum foil around all sides where it doesn’t usually gel, and this will help reflect heat back in. Just don’t let it touch the soap, because remaining lye will dissolve the aluminum.

      You could also use bubble-wrap or foam sheets, which could be taped into place.

      Blankets can be used, but they are harder to keep where you want, and a pain to clean if it volcanoes on you.

      If it’s not gelling until cut into bars, then maybe keep the bars inside a few more days.

      Lastly, if you’re not doing delicate swirls, you could always try doing it hot process. The only drawback is that if you get well into the oatmeal phase, it’s harder to pack into a mold.

      I hope this isn’t TOO rambly.

      · Reply
  39. Sabrina

    I need some advice. I have been making goat milk soap with carrot puree using this recipe. 50% olive oil soap, 45%palm shortening (on the box it says that its made of hydrogenated palm oil, aroma and beta carotene) and 5% castor oil. My skin reacts oddly to coconut oil so I don’t use it. My soap is very soft! What can I do to make it hard? I have tried adding 10%stearic acid but it didn’t really help. I have beeswax available, how much would that help? I cant figure out why is it doing this. Btw I use hp. I simply don’t have the patience for cp.

    · Reply
  40. One issue may be the sugars in the carrots and milk pre-reacting some of your lye. Checking your pH with plastic strips or calibrated electronics could help. If it’s too low, then you’ll know it wasn’t reacted fully.

    Also, water content matters for softness, even with HP soap. Cutting your water content will start you off with harder soap, but beware it will also react more quickly. Remember that milk and juices count as water.

    As to beeswax, it’s hard to say. I’ve used candelila wax at 5% in many recipes with good success. Beeswax would probably take twice that for the same effect; however, it’s all subjective. “soft” and “hard” don’t really mean anything. The best thing to do would be to make a few small, test batches and see what you like best.

    · Reply
  41. Sabrina

    Hi, its me again. First of all, thanks for the reply. I made a few changes thanks to your comments and now my soap is nice and hard. However, I do have another question but this time its about scenting soap preferably with naturally with herbs and spices. I have developed my perfect recipe (yeeeey!! so happy) with the exception of the scent. My goat milk soaps keep having a oily like scent. I am trying to develop chamomile, cinnamon, clove, green tea, lavender, rosemary, carrot, honey, cucumber etc whatever works. The only one where I have had any success is with rosemary (100g) infusion in olive oil (400ml). I have made similar infusions with other herbs, but so far have produced no scent in my soap. Any suggestions how to scent my soap ?

    I would like to focus on using herbs spices vegetables etc for couple of reasons. One, they are easily available to me. Two, the EOs and FOs which I can purchase locally are reeeaaally expensive and the smell fades away really quickly (regardless of oil I have used chamomile, cinnamon, peppermint etc). I can only assume that they are not good. For online bought EOs and FOs, I am in a-one-day-to-be-an-EU country, the shipping costs make my soap unsaleable.

    Any help is welcome :)

    · Reply
    • My best luck with spiced soaps has been heating the powedered herbs and spices in a little bit of oil to help draw out the colors and scents. You want enough oil so that the spices can swim, and are not going to burn in the pot. Temperature should be as low as possible, and maybe even only half-way on the burner. I start that going before I start work on the actual soap.

      You want enough spices & herbs so it smells strong in the pot. I like about a tablespoon (4-10 grams depending on the spice) per ounce (2 tablespoons, or 28-30 grams) of oil for things like cinnamon and nutmeg.

      Once it’s heated and stirred for 30 minutes, I filter the oil. I like filtering, because unless I’m making a scrubby soap, I like to have less plant matter in the soap. It seems to keep better. Also, most of the color and scent will be in the oil by this point.

      I like very fine mesh stainelss tea strainers. I picked one up on Amazon for about $8 including shipping and it was totally worth it vs the $2 strainers that look like window-screening.

      If you start with an ounce of oil, some of it will stay in the spice refuse, maybe a third to a half, depending on your patience level and filter quality.

      These won’t be as strong as essential oils, or even quality fragrance oils, so expect to use 1-2 ounces of your extract per pound of soap.

      Since I’m using base oil (cheapest and thinnest) for this, I use these as my superfat oils.

      There are ways of getting stronger extracts, but they mostly rely on using other solvents that are thinner, and evaporate faster than the fragrances. All of those are flammable except carbon dioxide. All of these are not very cost effective if you can’t capture and recycle the solvent (distillation apparatus).

      Realistically, a high quality essential oil (non-fragrance, no fillers, no linseed) from a good supplier is less expensive than making it yourself because they get huge economies of scale. The trick is not getting scammed by poor quality products. Making scents at home are only really economical when it’s for the hand-crafted market, or when you have leftover spices you were able to get for little or no cost. (Imagine having your own cinnamon tree!)

      Everyone has their own favorite spice place, but essentialdepot has always been good to me. Granted, any time you have things shipped to you, you end out behind the curve on expense unless you buy a gazillion pounds. Still, if you wanted small quantities of things to compare or test, they are at least reliable.

      *ramble* *ramble*

      · Reply
      • Sabrina

        Hmmm, yeah, I guess you are right. In the long run, with electricity and large amounts of herbs needed, this is more expensive than absorbing the shipping prices however shocking they may appear at first… Thank you soooooo much Josh for all your constructive advise :) you probably saved me tons of time, money and frustration in experiments…. Cheers

        · Reply
  42. Sven

    We had a weird experience the other day with a cinnamon soap we made. We’ve been using the same recipe of CP soap for quite a while now and never had a problem. We used 6 pounds of oil, equal amounts of coconut oil, rice bran oil and vegetable shortening. We added ½ oz of cinnamon cassia oil from NOW Essential Oils as well as 1.25 oz (total) of several other essential oils, supper fatting with a total of about 5% with the rest made up of sweet almond oil and sunflower oil. We also add powdered buttermilk just before superfatting and adding the essential oils. We stir with a metal wisk not a stick blender if that makes a difference.

    Normally our soaps go full gel (if that’s the correct term) about 20 minutes or half an hour after we pour them in the mold. This one however started turning orange about a minute after adding the essential oils. We quickly poured it in the mold and it reached full gel shortly after. It was definitely a reaction and not a coloring from the oil.

    After reading a little I realize now that the cinnamon oil caused it to accelerate. The strange thing is it stayed red. Normally they turn red when they gel and then back to a cream color as they cool but this one is an orange red color. I posted some pictures here http://s922.photobucket.com/user/junkscouts/library/Soaps as well as a picture of a normal batch that has just been poured into a mold so you can see the normal color.

    The only other unusual thing is that when I pulled it out of the mold it had a layer of reddish oil on the bottom and the bottom surface is very bumpy in some spots. Also the top half of the soap is more homogeneous than the bottom and a darker red color.

    Any idea why it is/stayed red? Also why was there a layer of oil on the bottom? Thanks.

    · Reply
    • The translucence is usually from warmth. It’s hard to tell, but my best guess is that it got warm, but because it poured early, it separated a little.

      Those kinds of trash bags are very slightly porous and often have additives “to prevent odor”. I would use clear polypropylene or clear polyethylene as a liner.

      If it were pink, I would say it was from separation and incomplete reaction, but that’s pretty red in your pictures. I’d have to say it’s an additive in one of the oils, formula adjustment, quality control, etc.

      But, the joys of hand-made soap… As long as it tests in a safe pH range, smells good, and lathers well… :)

      Sorry I don’t have a more definitive answer. Experiment more if you need to. Small batches, with slight adjustments can help figure out which ingredient caused the undesired reaction.

      · Reply
  43. Diane

    Hello, I am a new soap maker and I use the hot process. the last few batches I have made has not cooked the same as the others have. They do not rise up the sides and flip over as the others had, they just sit there and thicken. I think I have saved them by adding a few tablespoons of water and let it cook. I end up with the waxy mashed potato concoction after cooking it for 20 to 30 minute. My question is what am I doing wrong?

    · Reply
    • Nothing is wrong. Fully cooked, hot soap looks like waxy mashed potatoes. You might even see a little bit of iridescent sheen when you stir it. This might seem kind of thick and goopy, and is a little difficult to pack into molds which are not pre-heated, but it’s how I normally do it.

      The rising up you’re talking about is called “volcano” and just means the soap was above the boiling point of water inside. The water turned to steam, causing it to expand. It’s technically a foam, but the bubbles are very tiny. (A soap mousse?)

      Most people try to avoid volcano in their soap, but only because sometimes it can get away from you and make a mess. If you prefer it this way, increase your temperature a little. A double boiler heats up faster with less stirring, but won’t always get it warm enough to foam over.

      A cooking thermometer in soap will read 10-20 degrees low, because the thermometer will actually cool the soap and encapsulate around it. I find volcano can happen when a digital immersion thermometer reads 185F or above.

      Just also know that hotter soap cooks off water faster (yay!) and fragrance faster (boo!) Also, if you have additives (milk, sugar, scrubbies), they can scorch at higher temperatures. Also, soap is a pretty good insulator, so if you don’t keep stirring, the bottom could get to 250 before you hit 170 on the top. (This is why I like a deep double boiler, because it steams the sides of the pot too.)

      · Reply
  44. Alona

    Help, Im new to hot process soap making. This is the second batch today that Ive tried to make and the lye and oils just seem to separate when I start to get to trace. And then I let it go cook and it just doesn’t work out. What am I doing wrong? I did one batch of soap already that worked just fine yesterday. But I can’t seem to get it right now. And I ran it threw a Lye calculator too…..Help!

    · Reply
    • It’s perfectly normal for hot process soap to separate. If you’re not using anything aluminum, then you just need to stir stir stir stir stir stir.

      This is where a stick blender comes in very handy. Once it goes back to a uniform consistency, it’s about to be done. It will either volcano, or turn into oatmeal looking stuff.

      The reason for this is that oil and Water do not mix, so you have to stir a bunch. The reaction ONLY happens where the two liquids touch each other. If you keep it in suspension, then it’s an acre of surface area, but if you let it separate, it’s about a square foot. That’s 42,000 times slower.

      Cold process basically freezes the emulsion in tiny bubbles of soap by keeping it all below the melting point of the soap.

      Hot process needs your help to keep it mixed up.

      · Reply
  45. nany

    hey thank for your posts,its rly very helpful…i make soap using the cold process with a recipe of 60% olive oil 20% palm nd 20 % coco,my problem wiz soap is about the drying time it takes more than week nd still my batches soft, the water amount is lye* 3,i cant not discount the water amount coz my fragrance usually accelerate the trace. Also i have another problem is the sweating i find my mold full of water in the corner( this water is mixed with the fragrance oil i added) plz help me i m desperate

    · Reply
    • olive oil plus cold process will always take a long time to cure. Some people recommend 3-5 MONTHS.

      Do you have options for a different FO? That might be worth more research. I try to avoid FOs because they’re always a blend of things I may not want in my batch (alcohol, vanilla, etc).

      As you already mentioned, a water discount could help a bunch with this. Don’t add any with your FO, and add your FO late. Make sure it’s not too warm, and add the FO with a stick blender after light trace.

      If you’re okay with it not being pourable, you could just go hot process. When you have the batch at 200F, you don’t really have to worry about seize as much when adding troublesome FOs.

      Alternatively, make it as 2 batches. You could use the FO with a small batch, and cook it to completion. Then mix that as clumps into your light trace non-FO batch.

      · Reply
      • nany

        thank you so much Josh for your reply…i ve never make HP batches.did u mean that after trace i put it on heat then add the fragrance oils?
        i dont have options with my fragrance oils since my boss bought it nd i have to deal with it:p
        i like the idea of 2 batches, i ll try it today. also i l try to discount the olive oil amount. you r so sweet josh, thank you:*

        · Reply
        • Yes, HP just means it stays on low heat and gets mixed more (by hand or by stick blender). I like a double boiler, but some people use a crock pot on keep warm.

          After you reach trace, it may separate again. Just stir this back together, and once it stays together, it will finish up quickly.

          If it goes over 200F on a thermometer, you’re really steam temp inside, and it can climb out of the pot. If that happens, turn off the heat and stir with a big spoon to keep it in the pot. (Don’t use a plastic stick blender because it will melt! Ask me how I know this. :)

          After separation phase is done, and it’s all mixed back toether again, it’s very quickly goes into an oatmeal phase. This will be lighter in color, and becomes very thick.

          This is 99.99999% reacted soap and will be hard to pack into molds. Spoon and mash. It cools easily, and will harden up around 140F and below.

          If you’re using this just as the FO batch to add into another base batch, this is what you would add. Just know that it doesn’t have to be mixed perfectly with the base batch, just mixed well enough that every bar will have some of it.

          The main difference is that HP soap doesn’t pour. If you luck out, you MAY have the HP FO/color chunks mixed well into light trace base batch, and that might pour like chunky gravy.

          Good luck, and let us know how it turns out. It’s a science, but it’s also an art, in that every batch is unique.

          · Reply
  46. Bann

    Hi. New to CP. Is it true that you can’t wash any utensils, bowls, blender, etc. that you use to make CP soap until 24 hours has passed?

    · Reply
    • I’ve never heard that. The only risk is if you use your bare hands to wipe off lye water, it will dissolve much of the oils in your skin and can leave your hands dry, red, etc.

      I always clean up as I go along, or right after, depending on timing. The only thing I have to worry about is if I mess up the lye measure, I don’t keep enough vinegar around to neutralize a whole batch of it.

      As such, I have to run a lot of water down the sink, and pour in the lye slowly. I know it’s used as a drain opener, but I have some plastic in the drain pipes and I don’t want the heat of dissociation to damage them.

      · Reply
  47. Kimberly low

    I have a batch of cp soap. After insulation I took out n after few hours it sweats n I wipe off with towel. It seems to have spots on the place I wipe.is there any way for me to remove the spots?run through water?

    · Reply
    • Spots are either contamination, oxidization, or bacteral attack.

      It may be from the towel, or it may be in the soap itself.

      A test would be to cut the loaf from the under-side with a stiff, thin wire (like a guitar string or cheese wire) that’s been cleaned/sterilized. If you get orangy streaks on the cut surfaces, then it’s something in the soap itself. It it stays on the top surface where it was towel wiped, you could slice it away. Washing may help, or it may just spread it around.

      This is more common with polyunsaturated fats, or home-rendered fats, and less common with hot process (kills any germs).

      · Reply
  48. susan maillet

    Hi…I am having trouble unmolding my soap. I thought I greased well…oops. Can I put it in the freezer without harm? Thanks!

    · Reply
    • Author

      Yes, you can put it in the freezer! Freeze solid. Set it on the counter for about 30 minutes and then try to unmold. -Amanda

      · Reply
  49. Sabrina

    Hello Josh and Amanda,

    I would like to ask you for your opinion. Is it better to make a soap with low cleansing quality and small sf or high cleansing value and high sf? I make goat milk soaps. I have had soaps with a cleansing value at about 14, as recommended, and were too drying and I have reduced the cleansing value to about 5-7 and they are ok. Sf in both cases was 7%. The skin squeaks after just one washing and I need less lotion than before. But i have noticed an increase in blackheads (on my cheeks and forehead where I never had them before but reduced blackheads on nose and chin) and fat bumps (like a pimple but with solid puss) on my face so I am wondering if I made the better choice with the cleansing value. What is your take on the cleansing value ?

    · Reply
    • Going past 7-8% superfat or lye discount can increase the rate at which the unreacted oils go rancid, depending on the oils involved. Cottonseed oil lasts longer due to higher vitamin E content, but nut butters last shorter due to being polyunsaturated.

      Cleansing value is a general measure, and isn’t exactly scientific. That being said, the counter to cleansing is ‘conditioning’. Playing with the oil mixtures can help balance this.

      Lastly blackheads can be much more than just the base oils. Blackheads are sebum that couldn’t come out, but is exposed to air. It oxidizes (burns) making it turn dark. Pus is white blood cells, bacteria, etc from after the pore is damaged by the sebum. Sebum itself is more than just oil. It’s collagen, elastin, salts, and any fine dirt (think clay powder) or dust (mostly dead skin cells) that were caught up in it.

      Options for removing sebum are dissolving it in thin oils, or converting it into soap so you can dissolve it with water. This is why medications like benzoyl peroxide work – it converts the sebum to soap (partially) without doing as much damage to your skin as lye would. That being said, a higher superfat means less chance of your soap having any dissociated lye to help break down the sebum.

      This borders on medical, so I can’t really recommend one way or the other, but for me and my oily skin, I try to keep superfatting between 3% and 5%. My favorite soap I’ve made was 19 on the SoapCalc cleansing scale, 51 for conditioning, and 2-3% superfat.

      I have a cleansing 4, conditioning 66, but this lead to a hardness of 27. This works great for my hands, but it gets goopy easily, and takes a little longer to rinse off.

      · Reply
      • Sabrina

        Thank you so much for your answer ! That gives me some things to think about. You are like a human soap encyclopaedia! Thank you!!!

        · Reply
        • Sabrina

          Hi,

          Its me again. I have a follow up question that is in a way related to soap and soaping issues. As I have mentioned in my previous note I have been getting and increasing number of blackheads, whiteheads and now acne. The only thing that I have changed in my routine is the soap which I have started to make for myself. My cousin, to whom I gave some soap, has had a similar reaction. But my mother did not. Any ideas what might be the problem/issue/disaster? I used refined coconut oil *bought at a soaping store in another city*, olive oil pomace *supermarket*, palm shortening *also supermarket, on the box it says hydrogenated palm fat, betacarotine, aroma*, castor oil *pharmacy*. HP all this and for SF I used almond oil *from a pharmaceutical supplier*. This is the base for my soaps. For different soaps I use different things, spices *cinamon, clove*, activated charcoal and EOs from the pharmacy. No FOs. What could I be doing so wrong?!!! I know that your answers may be limited but any advice is seriously welcomed. Thanx

          · Reply
          • “Aroma” is a magic term. This could be carotinoids, or something else. Who knows.

            Many oils are drying, in that they strip all oil from your skin. If your skin is dry, it will pull the oil out of your skin’s sebum, and it will become trapped. The blackheads are dried sebum (collagen, oil, skin, etc) which oxidize in the air.

            This is why different skins want different types of soaps. Some people need a very thin oil to soften the sebum and allow it to be washed out. Some need something very caustic to break down the sebum and thicker skin around pores.

            Some people report that coconut oil causes really bad break-out for them. Some people say it is great. Understand that polyunsaturated fats will oxidize faster, which turns them into free radicals that can basically get stuck on the skin.

            The best thing to do is to experiment with different types of soaps. If you had a commercial soap you really liked, then see what it contains.

            Once you find what’s in them, find out what that REALLY is. For instance, coconut oil contains some coconut mass, but also high amounts of lauric acid, etc. You can use this to figure out what some commercial oils come from in natural oils, and use that.

            ·
  50. Johnnie

    OMG… I’ve just RUINED my favorite batch… I didn’t have the 17 ounces of lye… I only had 12 ounces… it took forever to trace and then when it did it was clumpy and as soon as i poured it in the mold it started separating and all the oils came to the top… is there any way to fix this? Rebatch, reheat? Can you add more lye? HHHEEEEELLLLLLPPPPP!!!!!!!!

    · Reply
    • That’s a huge lye discount. The proper thing to do next time you have this problem is to proportionally reduce your oils to match. if you already had them melted and mixed, you could ladle some out for future use.

      For recovery, I would recommend you dump everything into a stainless pot, and use a spatula to make sure you get as much out of the mold as possible.

      You still have this huge lye discount. You may be able to skim off some of the separated oils, if you do it early, but they won’t be pure oils. There will be a little bit of the lye and soap dissolved in there. Still, if you could pull out a third of your oil, you could be okay. You’d want to mix it well and test the pH.

      After that, make sure to mash the clumps really well, in case they are lye heavy blobs (common if your water was less than 2.5:1, and not mixed constantly during the initial add). Mashing and mixing into remaining the oils really well should fix that. Heating and mixing should help it come back together, but you’ll probably end up with hot process soap.

      If you can’t separate out a third of the clear oil from the soap and clumps, then keep everything together, still mash the clumps and mix them well. Make sure it’s warm enough to be stirrable, and add more lye water. You were short 5oz of lye, so you would need 5oz of lye dissolved in 10-15oz of water.

      Since you’re re-warming, and partially reacted, expect this to be hot process, completely reacted, clumpy like oatmeal by the time you have it all mixed. If that happens, then know that it will be hard to pack into a mold if it’s under 140F, and no matter what you do, it won’t have thin swirls like CP can do. You can still have random patterns and great soap out of this though.

      The only thing that REALLY matters is that it hardens up, and that it’s not lye heavy anywhere. The lye heavy spots will show up within a day or two, and will be lighter color, hard, crunchy or crumbly, and will have translucent, wet crystals inside. If it’s a loaf mold, then when you cut the individual bars, just look around the edges for this, or better yet, feel the edges with dry skin and see if any of it doesn’t feel waxy.

      If it’s individual bar molds, then sacrifice one of the bars and cut it up into small cubes. If all of the cubes are okay, then the rest of the bars should be okay.

      Lastly, you can check the overall pH of the soap by scraping off a little sliver, mixing it into water so it’s cloudy, soapy, but pourable, and then dip a plastic pH strip into it for a few seconds. Target is pH under 10. If it’s under 9, then there’s not enough lye, and it will be very oily. Usually not a problem if it’s high in shea butter, or similar, but it can go rancid in 6-12 months of exposure to air, depending on the oils. If it’s over 10, then it will strip too much oil from the skin for anyone other than very oily people (backs of hands still may get irritated). If it’s over 11, then it’s really not safe for anyone.

      · Reply
  51. Johnnie

    Thanks Josh! I think it worked !!! I pulled out a third of the oil and slowly remelted and then remolded… PH was 8 and its starting to harden up… gonna leave it in the molds a couple days longer and just see what happens. YOU ARE A SOAPSAVER !!! :-)

    · Reply
  52. Tina

    Hi Amanda / Josh

    Is there a difference in finished quality between Olive oil and Extra Virgin Olive oil when used 100%? I’ve tried a batch of EV oil and it remains slightly sticky after 8 weeks. Usually use plain olive oil and get a good hard bar. (A 6 week old batch is hard to the touch and they are curing on the same rack.)

    Could it be the Lemongrass EO? I’ve never used it before. Has anyone had problems with Lemongrass?

    · Reply
    • The only difference in VOO and EVOO are the free fatty acid contents. EVOO is limited to 0.8% free oleic acid, and VOO is limited to 1.5% free oleic acid. Being that this is 0.7% difference, home measuring methods are unlikely to uncover reaction differences.

      Lemongrass isn’t a problem, though if it’s not pure EO, there could be issues. Many FOs contain alcohols, which translate into an early, often false. Also, many FOs, and some EO blends contain refined linseed oil (flax seed oil), which is more at risk from oxidization and heat breakdown.

      This is assuming there wasn’t an error in the formulation of the batch itself. If the lye wasn’t sealed all the way, and became humid, then it would have reported heavier than it really was. You might end up 10-20% short. An easy test for this would be to scrape/scoop up just a little of the soap from the corner of the mold. If it has multiple phases (some liquid, some goopy, some solid) then get just a tiny bit of each. Mix them all together with some filtered water until it’s cloudy but fully dissolved.

      Dip in a plastic pH strip for 10 seconds (and swish), then test. If the pH is 9.5 or up, then the soap is just moving slowly. If the pH is closer to 8, then you’d be short on lye. If you use a paper strip, it will tell you a lower reading than reality, because they don’t handle soap well (pH is technically only for water based solutions, and soap has oil).

      And as a last ditch, you could always pull out one bar of the soap and try to heat it in a small saucepan (stainless, glazed ceramic, or glass only) and see if you can hot process it all the way. If it firms up, looks like oatmeal, and leaves soap bits where it cools, then you know the other bars should be fine given enough time. If it never comes together, then it’s an issue with the formula, and you could tinker/adjust on the one in the pot to see what’s required. (maybe a 10g of lye in an ounce of water, or maybe it just needs to cook out some excess water… etc…)

      Good luck!

      · Reply
  53. Hello!

    I’m trying to make a batch dissolving the lye into freshly made oat milk that I’ve put through a very fine sieve instead of water but it is seizing every time… What am I doing wrong or what do I need to do differently? Help.

    Thanks,

    Aileen

    · Reply
    • More details on the specifics and timing of your procedure may be necessary.

      That being said, if you’re only dealing with oil, lye, and oatmilk, then the causes of seize would be on eof:
      * Temperature – if it’s too hot, it reacts more quickly.
      * Lye Rich – If there’s too much lye (mis-measured masses)
      * Lye concentration – Less than 2:1 water to lye in the lye solution will react more quickly.
      * Contamination (pomace, alcohols, some FOs, etc)

      If you have other polar liquids to mix in, make that part of the oat-milk + lye solution. Make sure it cools down before adding it to the oils. Make sure you mix/stir/blend constantly. Make sure you pour slowly.

      · Reply
  54. Stephanie U

    Hello,
    I made my very first batch of soap this past weekend. I did cold process and stirred by hand (because I don’t currently own a stick blender). I followed a recipe, but changed the olive oil to avocado oil. My soap came out of the mold about 65 hours after I put it in and it was sticky and like play dough. When I tried to find out what went wrong, some people said that is what happens when you stir by hand or if your soft oil % is too high (mine was over 54%). What can I do differently so this doesn’t happen again? Will it get firmer? Is it okay to use?

    · Reply
    • The type of oil should not matter so much as the caustic and water. Avocado oil and olive oil are within 2% for lye requirements, so the recipe should have been okay for that substitution. Sticky, goopy soap for me has been too little NaOH, or using KOH vs NaOH. Also, if the lye wasn’t dissolved in water before being added to the oils, or if the oils are not liquid, then it wouldn’t react completely. Lastly, if it wasn’t stirred to a real trace, then it didn’t react enough to complete in the mold. If you have oils that are solid at room temperature, and the stirring is too slow, it may not stay warm enough to stay liquid. It could congeal, which could be mistaken for tracing.

      The solution for the existing batch really depends on what happened with it. Knowing the recipe, and storage conditions of the ingredients would help.

      It may be something as simple as cooking the soap, or adding salt, or it may be a formula problem which is hard to adjust if there were any errors.

      · Reply
  55. deveda

    I have been trying to do some new color swirls and have run into problems. My latch two batches of soap have had small bubbles on the surface when I unmold then. When I cut into the soap everything looks fine but do you know what could be causing the bubbles and what I can do about it??

    · Reply
    • Sorry, I replied below instead of directly.
      Bubbles on the surface are from air that was whipped into the soap. Make sure than any immersion blender is fully submerged, or stop blending slightly earlier. Also, vibration can help bubbles rise and pop, as long as the soap is liquid when it’s done. Alternatively, you can gently bang the mold into your table several times. This effectively makes your soap heavier, so the air comes to the top faster. Again, only works while it’s liquid. Once it is pretty thick, the air is trapped wherever it sits.

      · Reply
  56. Stirring dissolves air in the liquid. The bubbles could be the dissolved air separating out.

    Or, it could be a chemical reaction from the colorant which creates heat (and steam) or which produces gas.

    The solution would be to experiment enough to figure out the exact cause of the bubbles, or just enjoy them as a happy byproduct of handmade goods.

    · Reply
  57. Sabrina

    Hello again,
    So I have two more questions for the King and Queen of Soap making:
    1) i loooove goat milk soap. I get my gm from a gentleman who milks his goat every morning. Pretty wonderful stuff. Nothing like the store bought kind. I have been making the hp and of course the colour and texture suffered. I have been reading that it is possible to cpop? How? During hp the gm soap usually does a full separation and i have to use the stick blender to put it back together. Wouldn’t this separation happen in the oven as well? Any suggestions on how to avoid this if possible?
    2) i have also been considering adding sea salt to my gm soaps. Coconut oil is freakishly expensive where i live and i have just realised how to use it and not have odd issues with my skin. So i do not want to use a lot of it. Maybe 10-15%. I was thinking of fully dissolving the 10% sea salt weight before adding lye. Would this amount of sea salt have any benefits on skin? Could i go higher without affecting the bubbles? I don’t want sea salt as an exfoliator just for the benefits.
    :)

    · Reply
    • If it does a full separation, then it’s getting too warm during the middle phase — Probably from the goat’s milk reacting. Hot Process always separates in the middle, and you re-mix it. That implies that if you did CPOP, you might want to wait a while. The bigger risk I find with CPOP is the foaming volcano phase that can happen at the end if it’s too warm. Different people have different procedures, but then, you make a batch, and find out that part of your oven runs hotter than the other part, and it’s too late. The mess is made.

      I just accept that I won’t have delicate, complex, clearly defined swirls in my soap, and go all HP. That way, when things happen, I’m there, working on it to sort it out.

      2) It also competes a little in some of the reactions (chloride vs hydroxide). I’m not familiar with any benefits to dissolving salt in soap, other than to separate out the glycerine for neat soap. Sea salt would be mostly sodium, but also some magnesium, calcium, potassium, etc. In theory, it might make the soap a little softer, and a little less likely to form waxy scum in the tub.

      Research shows that using as much sea salt as oils can be done and still have a decent bar of soap; however, that’s undissolved. Also, dead sea salt has enough excess minerals that it can prohibit the reaction and cause oil to sweat out of the soap. This implies to me that if you fully dissolved the sea salt into the lye-water, this might block some of the reaction, and cause soap sweating (super super fatting because the hydroxide bonded to the other metals).

      It’s hard to say for sure. I’ve not done this, and there isn’t much info available about dissolving salt into the water. The closest is using saltwater to convert potassium soap into sodium soap so that it will harden. Excess sodium would serve as a water softener (refined salt), but the other changes would depend on the mineral make-up of the salt used. Calcium can cause waxy, non-water-soluable components. Potassium can cause softer, more hygroscopic components. etc etc.

      · Reply
  58. Jodi

    Hello,
    I have been cp soaping for about 6 months now, I usually don’t have many problems but my last two batches both made in a silicon loaf mold have been perfect on pouring then when I unmold and cut the soap is a much darker yellow in the center and the scent is all but gone and the whole loaf smells kind of like playdough,the first time I though it was the FO I used but this time I used an EO I have used before with out problems, I do add goats milk powder to my oils prior to the lye water but have always done this with out problems, I did increase it by a small amount this time. I can’t figure out what is going on?

    · Reply
    • Some silicone molds, especially from big-box stores, will contain poor quality metals as plastic stabilizers. Also, they may have free oils, free colorants, etc in the silicone. You could soak the mold in lyewater overnight and see if it discolors, breaks down, changes quality, etc.

      Also, goat milk contains sugar and proteins that will heat up more during the reaction. Silicone is a bit of an insulator. This could cause your soap to gel in the center, while the outside maybe doesn’t gel. The additional heat could be changing your fragrances. Hotter processing generally would require more fragrance. I find that about an ounce of EO per pound of soap is about right in order to survive heat (I do HP), curing, air drying, etc.

      · Reply
  59. Ariana

    Hello,
    I am making cp soap when I am done I place in the fridge to cool- I do this for the color. Sometime it comes out great but today I unmolded and some pieces crumbled off. I normally only leave it in the fridge for 6-8 hours but I had work yesterday and left it in overnight? I don’t know what is going on I was thinking I needed to increase my lye?
    Here is my recipe for the small batch I made, if you have any suggestions?
    Lye = 116 grams
    Water = 304 grams
    Olive oil = 333 grams
    Coconut oil = 259 grams
    Palm oil = 222 grams

    · Reply
    • Your lye amount is decent, and amounts to about 5.5% superfatting.

      Crumbling usually means it’s lye heavy.

      If the lye wasn’t dissolved, or you reached false trace, it’s possible you might have some crumbly spots, and some soft spots.

      I’d recommend testing the pH of the crumbles with plastic pH strips and see if it’s high. Also, look into the middle of one of the bars and see if it’s really soft, and/or low pH.

      · Reply
  60. shivani

    Hi!! I m new to soap making with four failed trials..first one traced nicely,swirled nicely,bt did not get hard..after two weeks,i poured it in a container,warmed it thru double boiler,then added lil more lye with very less water..it became smooth & thik..i poured back in the mold..it again did not harden after two weeks..then I poured it in a pan,heated it…& mixed with another very small batch of soap with honey,it got smooth n thick as always and back into molds,and its four days its still thik but not ready to get hard anyhow..in between this whole process I made two batches..it did not reach trace trace,and suddenly got. thick,that the blender was not moving..these two batches also did not harden till date..then last night I tried another one..even after four hrs of blending & stirring it did not trace..after leaving for few minutes oil separated from mixture..i dint knew wt to do..kept blendinggot thik after adding lil honey & a pinch of lye..poured into molds,& morning it was oil floating on top & rest mess at bottom..all four batches are lying helpless at diff places..any hopes or suggestions?? Or throwing is the last options..

    · Reply
    • Sounds like you are doing one of
      A) using potash instead of lye
      B) not fully dissolving your lye in water
      C) Not using the proper amount of lye
      D) Using mineral oil instead of animal/vegetable oil.

      Any one of these will cause your batch to not turn into soap.

      · Reply
  61. nany

    hey, i m making soap batches of 60% olive oil 30% palm and 10% coconut oil…my recipe is 0% superfat, but in spite of this all my soap develop Orange spots…knowing that all my oils are stored in dark place.
    plz what could be the reason?

    · Reply
    • DOS is generally contamination related

      Could be bacteria, chemicals, organic matter, or polyunsaturated oils exposed to air. Sometimes this can even come from FOs or EOs.

      If your lye is old, not sealed, or has ever been damp, humid, clumpy, or left open all day, then your lye by weight measures will be wrong (it soaks up water from the air and gets heavier, making it less reactive per gram than dry lye.)

      If you have pets, that’s your most likely culprit.

      If not, then have your HVAC ducts cleaned, then replace your filter.

      Sterilize your equipment, and make sure there isn’t crud in any of your oils (food crumbs, hair, etc).

      Good luck!

      · Reply
      • nany

        thank you so much, as u said the lye could be the problem, the container is not tightly closed.

        · Reply
  62. AndraAndraAndra

    Hi, my name is Andra and i am new at soap making. I bought from Hobby Lobby a block of shea butter and one of goats milk, so i got this book online and i hand milled shea butter and goats milk and then melt them on the stove, i think maybe a bit too much, the soap was liquid, pour them in molds, they got hard and after i got them out of the mold ,last night, now they feel a bit slimy in my hand, like melting. What do i do?

    · Reply
    • AndraAnAndradraAndra

      Actually according to my husband the soap is slimy. Any advice?

      · Reply
      • If the soap is too light on lye, this can happen. If you check the pH with plastic strips, you may find it’s too acidic (below 9.5).

        This happened to one of my batches where I did a water discount. The lye encapsulated, and made crunchy bits. I had to scoop those out, but the remaining soap was way too superfatted.

        Also, this can be from not letting the soap dry long enough. If you add the weights of all of your ingredients (water is 1 gram per ml if you forgot to weigh it). Sub out 1% for losses in the pot and the mold.

        Commercially dried soap will be around 8% water by weight. Home dried soap may be closer to 15%. Drying is fairly slow, which is why most people say let soap cure from 2 weeks to 6 months, depending on the conditions, recipe, preferences, etc. If you just let the soap harden, and immediately use it, it will stay goopy all the time once you begin using it.

        · Reply
  63. Anabelle

    Hi everyone,

    I am a hp soap maker. I make hp “bastille” soap (65% olive oil soap rest is coconut and castor) and let them cure (I rather call it drying time since the soap is neutral and ok to use) for 2-3 weeks in a drafty room to evaporate the excess water. However, I have a chance to sell my soaps at a heavily visited show this weekend. This would be good for my hobby business but the problem is that my stock is kinda low at the moment. I would make the soaps today/tomorrow but I don’t have the two weeks curing / drying time. Anyway to speed the drying time up? Any advice is welcome. Thanx
    PS. I don’t have a dehumidifier.

    · Reply
    • If you can handle clumpy color, or uniform color in lieu of thins swirls, then hot process with water discount is the way to go. Just know that if you go below 2:1 water:lye, it reacts quickly at the interface layer and can lead to uneven reactions. A blender/stick blender, and a slow pour of the lye-water is your best bet. plastic stick blender may melt if you’re not careful, because it will heat up.

      Then, cooking it until it looks like overcooked oatmeal means it’s 100% done. This takes upwards of an hour. If it climbs up out of the pot, stir it down with a stainless spoon. It’s just trapped steam and is common mid-way through. If it stays too hot, it will keep doing that, but stirring it down will let the steam out (drying).

      Then you can just spoon stir it until you’ve cooked off enough water. Good ventilation will help – dry air puts less moisture back into the soap. A few percent of water per hour of cooking, and a double boiler does a much better job than direct-heat (but humidifies the air, so venitlation!)

      You can still do cold process, and you can drop the water down as low as 1.1:1, but it’s VERY tricky. This likes to react so quickly that you can end up with little clumps of yellow, lie-heavy, crumbly soap bits if you’re not careful. Pouring slowly helps a little, but doesn’t solve the problem. Having an all-metal stick blender going for the entire pour helps, though expect the motor to heat up. You have to keep blending until medium trace, and then stir constantly. Also, the heat will be higher, so expect it to separate if you don’t mix it in a cold water bath. Transition from trace to complete can be faster than you can pour into molds.

      · Reply
      • Anabelle

        Hi,

        I just thought I would share my experience with you. THANK YOU for the advice. Once I got over my nerves, i went with the CP method. I had litterally seconds to get the mixture into molds (i use single cavity molds). You can really see the changes occuring from second to second. Then I oven processed the whole thing to push the soaps through gel and saponification. The bars cured for 5 days with all my family’s and neighbour’s fans running 24h. i expect my electricity bill with me a bit higher this month but the whole thing turned out quite wonderful! The bars are gorgeous. To customers i sold my old stock first and as chance wiuld have it i ran out of old stock by the end so no new bars were sold. They just served for show which is great cuz i was reluctant to sell the without the long cure. i am very happy with how everything turned out.thank you so very very much!

        · Reply
  64. Hey there! I used your tutorial to infuse alkanet into olive oil pomace. I used the subsequent tutorial to soap with the oil, using the colored oil as 10% of my total oils. The infused oil was a bright magenta. The soap started as blue and then changed to a gray purple color. HOWEVER, when I unmolded and started slicing my bars, I found that the inside of the loaf isn’t colored at all! It’s the normal creamy yellow of my regular goats milk soap. Any ideas of what has happened here?

    · Reply
    • A follow up, five minutes after slicing my bars, I’ve noticed that they’re changing from the yellow to the gray of the alkanet…is this a normal reaction? Thanks!

      · Reply
    • I’ve seen other reports of alkanet turning grey when it gets too hot. Center-loaf typically stays warmer longer, and that can affect all things chemical. Also, exposure to air has a big impact in chemical reactions, and that’s likely at play as well.

      I’ve not worked with Alkanet personally, so maybe Amanda will have more experience with this sort of thing.

      · Reply
  65. Thanks, Josh! I expected it to change to a grey based off of Amanda’s findings and other soapmakers outcomes. It’s the weird non-colored center and then having it change after being cut that confused me. I think you’re probably right about the chemical reaction occurring once the center was exposed to air. I know my soap didn’t get too hot because I tend to soap at lower temps and this particular batch spent time in the freezer and fridge–maybe the cool temp affected it?

    · Reply
    • Maybe. Cool temps obviously slow everything down chemically. That’s my best guess, that maybe the grey color is an oxidized state. I wish I had a little more info on this, but it looks like it’s the realm of experimental science.

      · Reply
  66. nany

    hey john, its me again:p my problem today is the curing time…my soap after 1 week drying still soft, i dnt know the reason maybe you could help me.
    my recipe is 60% olive oil, 30% palm oil, 10% coconut oil
    for 500 g of theses oils i use 78 g caustic soda diluted in 156 g water, and of course some fragrance oils is added.
    i m confusing what could be the reason since it contains palm oil, the caustic soda amount is good and water amount isn’t too high:(

    · Reply
    • By my calculations, that’s actually supercaustic by 9%. Exceptions would be if your lye was damp. Alternatively, if you added 2 ounces of fragrance oil, it would be at stoichiometric balance. If you added 3 ounces of FO, then it would be at the usual 3-5% superfat.

      That being said, supercaustic soap tends to be dry and crumbly. Your water content seems fine at 2:1 H2O:NaOH, though with high olive oil, you can go lower.

      My best guess is that you just need to wait. Olive oil likes to stay soft for a long time. Some people let high-olive bars dry for 2-3 months, and end up with wonderfully hard soap. 60% is probably somewhere in the middle, so I’d still expect a month or two of drying is warranted. This would be cut bars, on drying racks, room temperature, with airflow and low humidity. For example, an air-conditioned room indoors, maybe with a ceiling fan running.

      You can reduce this by cutting your water, maybe down to 100g, though be prepared for things to move really quickly. And by quickly, I mean, if you let it separate, even while pouring, you can end up with a thin layer of hard, crumbly, lye heavy soap that turns into pea-sized pebbles when you blend it.

      That happened to me on a 1.1:1 water:lye ratio and was frustrating. It left the soap very prone to absorbing water, and never really hard enough. Very unsatisfactory for sink soap, but okay for shower soap.

      But really, just be patient. I think your batch will be fine. It just needs more drying time. If it’s not already cut into bars, go ahead and do that if it’s firm enough. Thin, steel wire is best to keep from deforming the soap, but a filleting knife can work too.

      · Reply
      • nany

        thank u josh, my bars are cut and i left them on drying racks at room temperature as u said…they are still soft till now.
        i would probably discount the water amount as you advise me but i m afraid that when using some fragrance oils the trace seized and becomes hard to mold it properly with a thin layer of hard, crumbly, lye heavy soap that turns into pea-sized pebbles ( as you mentionned)….nway i will discount water and try to work quickly
        thank you so much

        · Reply
        • another option might be to split the batch… You could have a small portion with full water and mix your FOs into that, and the bulk of it at lower water. Then, you could mix them together at the very end, though that still can be difficult to time everything properly.

          Hopefully, you can find replacement fragrances that are less seize prone (ie, no alcohols, etc) that fit your scent and dollar targets. :)

          Good luck!

          · Reply
  67. Joanna Grittner

    Hi,

    I am new in soapmaking and one week ago I made my second batch. My recipe was: 16oz Olive pomace oil, 10oz Coconut oil, 10oz Palm Oil and 4 oz Unrefined cocoa butter. Supper fating at 6%. Lye Amount 5.55 oz and water 13.87 oz. Everything went well. However I poured it out into a “rubbermaid” mold (plastic food containers), but I forgot to put freezer paper on it. After 24 hours the Soap was hard and looking good but was stuck in the mold. I tried to take it out but I couldn’t. I put in into the freezer for 30 minutes but it didn’t come out.

    So I let it sit for another 3 days more. I tried to take it out but this time, the bar broke, leaving the bottom stuck into the mold and the other half came off. The bar is still creamy , however outside is hard but on the inside is creamy (kind of like play-doh)… What did I do wrong? I would really love to hear your opinions.

    Ps: I was thinking that I tried to unmold it too soon since I live in South Florida and the weather in summer time is to humid??? Would that be the reason why?

    Thanks for your help!

    · Reply
    • Lye can react to some plastics, but mostly, the interface is so smooth that the electrostatic attraction of the plastic and the oils is stronger than gravity. Plastic is made from oil, so it’s similar in adhesion. One solution is to grease the mold before pouring in your soap. Raw soap, or cold process might warrant slightly more lubrication, and hot process needs less.

      Alternatively, a thin, PP or PE bag would work well as a mold release, though they tend to leave crease lines in the surface.

      As another option, you could use a mold that comes apart. This helps tremendously, since you can pull one side off at a time, reducing the stresses on the loaf. It also allows you to make better shapes, with square edges, or curved shapes, unlike most food containers which leave a brand imprint and other textures.

      As to the difference between the core and the edges, that’s mostly to do with uneven heating. The edges cool faster than the center, which makes them harder. This may slow some of the final reaction, which would allow the lye to fall out of solution, making the outer parts more brittle. Over time, the reaction finishes, because even at room temperature, the molecules move around slowly.

      But basically, the more energetic, smaller molecules (lye) move away from the hot area faster than they move away from the cold area. This makes the edges slightly more lye-rich, which will react faster, and be more brittle. You can get around this by using a longer, thinner mold, or a large, flat mold with cross-bar inserts.

      Another way is to unmold and cut the soap as soon as it’s hard enough to hold a shape. That falls back to needing a way to release the soap from the mold, like above (greasing, lining, or using removable dividers in a 1-bar thick sheet).

      · Reply
  68. Michelle

    Hi, I did a cold process soap last Friday using 10% mango butter, 15% palm oil, 20% olive oil, 30% coconut oil and 15% castor oil. My water lye ratio is 30% of oil weight & I used 7% super fat. I did add 3% of sodium lactate to my lye water as I wanted the soap to be easier to unmold. The soap was placed in the freezer after pouring into the mould as I do not want it to gel.

    My issues are the soap was quite soft and it crumble when I sliced it and there were lots of white tiny spots at the bottom half of the soap. Today, I noticed that the soap are covered in white powder everywhere. Do you think the soap is safe for skin? I haven’t get any ph strips to test it.

    I did one batch last week and it was all good but I don’t like the dark shade in the middle, that’s the reason I’ve put it the freezer to avoid the gel phase. Could you please advise if I could still salvage the soap if not are there any ways to prevent the dark shade in the middle? Thank you for your feedback.

    · Reply
    • White dust on the surface is usually minerals in the water that react and form non-soluble salts, calcium or magnesium usually.

      However, Crumbly soap USUALLY means too basic (pH too high). But, even if the extra 3% counts as base in the reaction, you should still be 4% superfatted, which should be fine from a pH standpoint.

      My best guess is that going into the freezer separated out the water and caused uneven reaction. My guess is that if you took a core sample, the center would be pH low, and the edges would be pH high.

      Usually, allowing a mold to cool on the counter is fine. If partial gel is a concern, then you can go with an insulated, or pre-heated mold to make sure it does a complete gel; or you can go with a thinner mold so that all of it cools more evenly.

      Also, adjusting the input temperatures can affect gel. Your oils only have to be warm enough to stay liquid in the container, and the lye water should match that. When they are mixed, they will heat up, and some of that heat will be trapped when it goes to trace, and when it’s molded.

      If you’ve mixed, and the additives and such are heating up too much, you can always use a double boiler setup with an ice bath instead of heat. That will slow things down a bunch, and is especially well suited to oils that are liquid at room temperature. Then, when you pour, it’s already cooled to a manageable temperature.

      · Reply
      • Michelle

        Thanks Josh, am waiting for my ph strips to arrive today, the soaps were made as gift for my in-laws. Quite new in soap making & your advices on this site is very helpful :)

        · Reply
    • Yes, we all would like a Rolex embedded in our soap. Please send free samples.

      Amanda, this one is spammy spammerton.

      · Reply
  69. Barbara

    Hey there;

    I made a 40 oz batch of CP soap with shea butter (12 percent shea, 30 percent coconut, 30 percent olive, 8 percent palm, and 12 percent sunflower high oleic, scented with a blend of lavender and rosewood EOs) two days ago, and it seems to be behaving strangely.

    After mixing to trace, adding a bit of chopped lavender mixed with glycerin in addition to the EOs, and allowing it to sit in the mold (only lightly insulated, because I wanted the soap to stay white) for 24 hours, the soap was still very soft and sticky. This was despite discounting my water to 28 percent and adding salt to the lyewater solution. I attempted to wash my hands with a small piece, but the soap wouldn’t lather, although it did seem to emulsify in the water. Another 12 hours later, it did lather a bit, and now it is lathering more, but it makes my hands feel rough and dry. I tongue tested my piece in several areas–some parts zap, some are fine.

    SO. It seems clear there’s some free lye left in the soap, even though it doesn’t have the typical crumbly appearance of lyeheavy soap. What do I do to fix it? Should I wait and see if it gets better (I hate to rebatch if I don’t have to, because I don’t want to lose the scent of the EOs)? And how do I avoid this in the future?

    Thanks,
    B

    · Reply
  70. I had the same issue when I majorly discounted water, and didn’t stir enough. The soap formed decent enough bars, and lathers fine, but it is always really gummy and goopy.

    Also, your percentages don’t add up to 100%. Was there something else you added, were the 30% oils 33%, etc?

    Not sure about the salt in the lyewater, but I would expect this would have slowed down the lye reaction a little for you.

    Based on the recipe, the oils are almost entirely oleic. Once cut and cured, it should make a hard bar that will be somewhat drying.

    The best thing you can do is to give the soap time to finish reacting. You could keep it somewhere warm, but not hot and give it a week or two.

    If it’s already cut into bars, keep an eye out for any little pea sized, yellow areas, or areas that leak a little bit of oil and have a raised surface. That would indicate too much separation of the lye.

    A fix would be to cook and re-mold it, though that will turn it more translucent. An easy fix if you have some zinc oxide powder (a tablespoon would be enough), but still effort and mess.

    · Reply
    • Barbara

      >Also, your percentages don’t add up to 100%. Was there something else you added, were the 30% oils 33%, etc?

      Oops, forgot to mention my castor. 3.2 ounces castor, about 8 percent.

      Considering your experience and judging from the way this batch has reacted over the last couple of days (developing more lather and becoming slightly milder), I think you’re right–I probably needed to blend it a bit longer and add a little more water. Maybe the lye just wasn’t distributed well enough to be able to react with the oils completely. I’ll give it a little more time to see whether it comes together, but I think I’ll probably end up rebatching.

      Thanks for your input!

      · Reply
      • Just beware of blending too long, and ending up at heavy trace before you start adding EOs… next thing you know, you can’t pour it into the molds without heating it way up, which finishes the soap (no gentle swirls, but still makes great soap). :)

        Good luck!

        · Reply
  71. hi,i did a hot process with the following ingredient we are used in 100 kg batch

    palm sterain 44 kg
    coconut oil 10 kg
    caustic 8 kg
    water 1.8kg
    problem is after mixing fatty acid is formed(is an smal particle prent in the soap).tell me what is the reason.pls help me

    · Reply
  72. Sally

    Hi,
    My friend and I used a crock pot today to make “paste” and after about about 4 hours it seized up into hard clumps and is the same color as when we started.
    Any suggestions greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

    · Reply
    • I don’t know what you mean by paste. I’m not sure what you’re expecting for color, or where you started.

      If your whole batch turned hard after 4 hours of cooking, that’s just normal soap. Once soap is complete, it has to be around 185F or 90C to still be mushy. By 135F, it’s almost as hard as a bar of soap, and won’t be able to be formed into bars. In between, it will have some slimy, and some waxy bits.

      If it only clumped up where you added something in, then it would be what you added.

      Sometimes you can increase the heat and mix the clumps back in. Sometimes you have to thin out the batch with another batch, or with water. Sometimes you just have to accept that what it has become.

      If you can get it hot enough to be partially mushy, like very thick, overcooked oatmeal, then you may be able to pack this into a mold as-is. Pre-heating the mold might help.

      · Reply
      • Sally

        Hi again,
        Thank you for your reply.
        “Paste” was what the soap-making teacher called the amber coloured goop you’re left with at the end of the hot process.
        I think the mistake we made was that we stirred the foamy stuff too much and it just clumped and looks like wax. It didn’t change with heating. I think it’s a right-off but wonder if there is some thing it can be turned into, it’s pretty solid.
        Thanks again

        · Reply
        • The waxy stuff could be just cooled fragments of the goop, or it could be soap that reacted with calcium or magnesium in your water. There’s an additive you can mix in early that helps bind up any minerals, but for the life of me I can’t recall what it is.

          I always use a double boiler and keep the temps up, so while it reacts quickly, it always stays mushy except what climbs up the sides. I just mix that back in. We have very hard water here — limestone bedrock — and I haven’t had problems mixing the crumblies back in.

          When I did a water discount, I did have a little trouble packing the soap into a mold before it cooled, but I also used a lot of candulila flower wax in that batch.

          Just rambles. I’d hate to see a batch of soap written off. Maybe you could rebatch it with a little water and get it into a mold.

          · Reply
  73. Sally

    OK, I appreciate your thoughts, we’ll try molding it because I agree that writing it off would be a waste.
    We used distilled water so I think that excludes hard water as a cause.
    Thanks again will let you know.

    · Reply
  74. Anna

    Hello! I am relatively new to cold process soap making. Last Thursday, I made a batch of soap using the following ingredients:

    Sweet Almond Butter 8 oz
    Coconut Oil 10 oz
    Olive Oil 10 oz
    Water 9.96 oz
    NaOH 4.27 oz

    I cut them into bars and set them out to cure. I noticed today that on the bottom there are faint yellow spots and also, the top layer of one bar separated off. The outer layer of the soap appears whiter than the middle. I am not sure what happened.

    Thanks for your help!

    · Reply
    • Sounds like a variety of issues. Yellow spots might be contamination in the oils. Maybe food particles pulled out of the pores of a ceramic pot, or dust from an air vent or fan nearby. If it’s only on the cut surfaces, but not the other 2 ends, then it’s probably something that was on the knife.

      Top layer peeling off sounds like either incomplete trace with really hot soap, or uneven cooling (cold air vent blowing across the top). That could make the top layer harden up first, leaving the rest of the soap to bleed oil due to being incompletely reacted.

      Darker middle vs edges is a partial “gel”. It’s where the center heats up. This allows the glycerine to form microscopic bubbles that are slighly translucent as compared to the rest of the soap. Allowing the reactants to start at a cooler temperature can help prevent it, or insulating the mold can ensure it makes its way to the edges.

      As to the current batch, it depends on what you want to do to it. You could probably just let it rest for a month and it would be great soap, even if it looked different. Alternatively, you could melt it down and re-cast it, though it would destroy any swirls you might have made in the soap, and you’d be dealing with hot process soap (at 190F, it can be molded, and looks like thick oat meal, but if packed properly, makes great, normal looking soap).

      Also, something to prevent the gel look without preventing gel – you can add a little zinc oxide. I find 1-2 tablespoons (half an ounce) is enough for a 5-6 pound batch. This will make sure it stays opaque, and makes it more white.

      Zinc Oxide is a natural mineral, and comes very finely powdered. It’s used in 100% sun block cream, and is GRAS for soaps, creams, foods, etc. It’s fairly inexpensive, maybe $8 per pound.

      · Reply
  75. Anabel

    Hi,
    I just made my first batch of soap a couple weeks ago. Before I really knew what I was doing from an easy recipe I found online. It was not coming to trace so I added a teeny bit more lye to the mix. I don’t think it ever came to trace all the way…it was very liquid. Since I had no clue what soap should look like, I figured that was fine. While I was pouring into the mold, I noticed the bit of lye at the bottom of the bowl. I think some crystals probably got into the soap. The soap looks fine now, though.

    Now that I have read much more about soap making, I’m wondering if the soap would be safe to use or if the any lye crystals might have been preserved in the soap and can cause burns during use??? If it’s not safe, is there any way to re-batch it?

    Thanks,
    Anabel

    · Reply
    • If the soap was very liquid when you poured it, then the crystals probably settled in the bottom. Cut that off and it’s probably okay.

      If the soap was like pudding when you poured it, you may have suspended crystals of lye. These can leave tiny scratches, and can irritate skin my breaking down skin oils and skin cells themselves. Some people are okay, and some may break out in a bad rash.

      Basically, it’s a chemistry experiment. Adding lye mid-batch is generally a bad idea, but can be okay if you test pH. The main issue is that the lye must be dissolved. Even powdered lye would encapsulate in oil, so we dissolve it in water to reduce the chance of unreacted lye staying in the soap.

      Rebatching just means melting down, adjusting what you want, and then re-casting the soap. You can always rebatch soap. If you don’t know exactly what condition the soap is in, that’s the biggest issue.

      Plastic pH strips can help titrate the soap to a useful and safe level. You’re aiming for 10. Over 10.5 is too caustic, and under 9.5 may be too greasy.

      If you can get the crunchy layer off, that can be dissolved in hot water, and then re-added. Alternatively, it could be used for laundry soap if the final pH is under 11.5.

      Re-melting soap needs to be around 190F to be workable, and will burn you severely if you get it on you. You can do it on direct heat, but what happens is the bottom gets too hot, and the top cools too fast, even if you stir like crazy (it’s very thick). With a double boiler, you can put a lid on it and just check on it every 10 mins until you have it melted/mixed. Do check on it, because it can expand to about 5x the volume if you forget about it.

      If the soap has crystals all mixed in, that’s tough to work with. Basically, you have to dissolve the crystals, which means adding a bunch of water. You’ll end up with a very very soft, almost liquid soap by the time you’re done. If you’re in a dry climate, you can then cook it for a day or two to get the excess water out, but expansion (volcano) is still a risk.

      If you try to cast it while it’s very high in water, then expect the final soap to crack as it dries out. An option from that might be to pour it into a very large, flat container, the thinner the layer, the better. Polyethylene or polypropylene are best, but any glass or plastic should be okay). From there, cover it to protect from dust, and keep it in a high airflow location so it can dry out. Once it’s dry, you could re-melt it without adding water, and cast it as normal.

      Any way you look at it, adding water means adding dry time. You might lose 1-2% of your water per hour of cooking, or per week of drying, assuming you’re not in a very humid location.

      · Reply
  76. We have an issue that is difficult to describe. When we unmold and cut our soap, we have caramel colored “veins” that appear to follow the outline of any color that is in the soap. We originally thought it was color separation and started mixing our colors more thoroughly. However, the latest appearance is in a soap that contains Titanium Dioxide only. When coloring our base oil, we normally add less than 1 ounce to 180 ounces of oil. It is the first thing added and we blend/stir until it appears all lumps etc. are gone. To date, we have produced approx. 350 batches of CP Soap successfully. However, the last 5-6 batches have had the problem. We have checked all dates on supplies, and we are planning to make the next batch using a new supply of lye. If you would like to see a scan or picture or need additional information, let us know. Thank you very much.
    Bill

    · Reply
    • Bill,
      a picture would help. Can you elaborate on “follows the outline of any colors”? How does the TiO2 differ?

      The lye probably is not the issue unless it’s become damp. That would leave you with a high superfat, which would show up as a pH below 9.5 using plastic strips.

      It’s also possible that this is related to Dreaded Orange Spots. That would be contamination in the equipment, input reagents, or surrounding environment. Most commonly, this shows up as streaks along the grooves made by a knife, or specks throughout the soap itself.

      A complex, veiny look might also be separation or gel related. If it’s heating up unevenly, then it could leave streaks of gelatin or oil that are not completely dissolved. This might even harden up after the fact, but could push additives out of the streak.

      · Reply
  77. We have an issue that is difficult to describe. When we unmold and cut our soap, we have caramel colored “veins” that appear to follow the outline of any color that is in the soap. We originally thought it was color separation and started mixing our colors more thoroughly. However, the latest appearance is in a soap that contains Titanium Dioxide only. When coloring our base oil, we normally add less than 1 ounce to 180 ounces of oil. It is the first thing added and we blend/stir until it appears all lumps etc. are gone. To date, we have produced approx. 350 batches of CP Soap successfully. However, the last 5-6 batches have had the problem. We have checked all dates on supplies, and we are planning to make the next batch using a new supply of lye. If you would like to see a scan or picture or need additional information, let us know. Thank you very much.
    Bill

    · Reply
  78. Maya

    Hi everyone,

    Has anyone had any experience with beef tallow in soap? But how do you get rid of the awful smell that just wont go away?! Is there a way to deal with this without over using EOs and FOs?

    Thanx a bunch

    · Reply
    • Fresh, clean, well rendered beef tallow should not have much of a smell. Think of lard from the store (pork tallow).

      Standard amounts of EO, 1 oz per pound of soap, should be more than enough to replace any oil scent. (Consider that even olive oil or sunflower oils have scents).

      If the tallow been allowed to go rancid (air, water, and contaminants), then you could re-render it:
      * melt it down in excess water + salt
      * boil the water to help pull water soluble contaminants out of the oil.
      * Siphon off just the fat (or chill and peel off the solid fat)

      Repeat procedure 2-4 times, or until you stop seeing a benefit. There should be no particles, dissolved proteins, etc in the cleaned fat, though it may be colored by spice oils, etc to be off-white.

      Store cleaned fat in a dry, airtight container at a cool temperature.

      Another option is fractional distillation. Basically, each fat melts at a different temperature:
      * Stearic Acid (C18:0) melts at 69.6C (157F)
      * Palmitic Acid (C16:0) melts at 62.9C
      * Myristic Acid (C14:0) melts at 54.4C
      * Oleic Acid (C18:1) melts at 13.5C (56F)
      * Palmitoleic (C16:1) melts at -0.1C (31.5F)
      * Linoleic (C18:2) melts at -12C to -5C

      So, if you stored at 64C, the stearic acid would separate out, but everything else would stay liquid. This would be more white, and would exclude any rancid (broken/shortened) oils. This takes more time, but would yield a more pure, clean tallow. It would also allow you to tailor the fat profiles.

      Once it’s already soap, you could technically do this by by boiling the soap in demineralized / soft water, then precipitating the soap using salt. This gets messy (BUBBLES!) and is really only applicable to huge batches.

      · Reply
      • Maya

        The tallow didn’t have too much of a scent when i bought it but the soaps smell like a 4th of july bbq.

        I will give the fractionated distillation a try.

        One more question if you have the time, how to lower the ph of soap? I would like it as close to 7 as possible. I understand that Most commercial bars are sf bars. I did a ph test on a few com. soaps not syndet bars. and they had a ph of 7-8.

        · Reply
      • Maya

        The tallow didn’t have too much of a scent when i bought it but the soaps smell like a 4th of july bbq. I will give the fractionated distillation a try. That is some valuable information. Thank you :)

        One more question if you have the time, how to lower the ph of cp soap? I would like it as close to 7 as possible. I understand that most commercial bars are sf bars. I did a ph test on a few com. soaps not syndet bars. and they had a ph of 7-8. How do they achieve this? My bars have a ph of 9. Below you mentioned goats milk reduces ph. Any other ingredients that can accomplish this?

        · Reply
        • Commercial soaps can go lower by using detergents, surfactants, and buffers in addition to or in lieu of actual soap.

          For real soap, going below pH 10 means not converting all of the oil into soap. You’ll have triglycerides and free fatty acids in the soap. Below a pH of 9.5, and the excess raw oil opens up the soap to going rancid (short shelf life). Around pH of 8, the soap usually stays goopy.

          If you fully react the soap first, then buffer it down, you’ll have a better chance of having a suitable product.

          I think your best chances would be something like this:
          * Discount water as much as you dare
          * React lye-water and oils at 0% superfat.
          * At light to medium trace, add in your goat milk and mix it well.
          * At medium to heavy trace, add citric acid dissolved in the least amount of hot water which will dissolve all of the crystals.

          The amount depends on chemistry calculations, but here’s how you can make a SWAG. Bulk citric acid is about 200g per mol. Bulk Lye is 40g per mol. Your lye brings the triglycerides from a pH of 4.5 up to 10, so that’s a change of 5.5. If you added the same mass of citric acid as you added lye, you’d bring the pH down by 1.1.

          You can use other mild acids, but citric acid is common both commercially and at home. It doesn’t stink like vinegar would, and doesn’t have food particles to go bad like lemon juice would. Also, it comes in granules which are easy to weigh.

          When using acid buffers in home soap, don’t use sodium benzoate. Not many people do anyway, but just in case it comes up, benzoate + citrate releases a small amount of benzene.

          If you want to improve shelf life of a low pH soap, you can add some Vitamin E (tocopherol) at any point, but I recommend waiting until light trace or later. Citrate is also a mild preservative.

          To help keep the lower pH soap harder, use longer chain fats. A high percentage of stearic and palmitic acids, and a low percentage of unsaturated (*oleic*) fats will hold up better.

          Also, waxes can really help harden things up. Some people like bee’s wax, but I like candelila wax better. A smaller amount is required, and it’s a harder wax overall. I’m having trouble pulling up my notes, but I want to say an ounce in a 5 pound batch made a world of difference for early hardness in my soaps.

          Adding too much wax makes it really difficult to work with, because it increases the minimum working temperature, thereby increasing the reaction speed.

          I hope this wasn’t too much at once! :)

          · Reply
          • Maya

            Thank you! I really welcome such a concentrated amount of useful information. I will give buffering a try. What water discount would you recomend? I have had experiece with high water discounts so I am open to suggestions. I am thinking of disolving citric acid in the g.milk and adding it all at heavy trace to avoid too much liquid in the finished product. How much citric acid? I could add beeswax as well since I have it in abundance. How much? 2%?
            I have been reading about soaps with low pH in the past few says. Mixed opinions. Don’t know what to believe since I am nit an educated soaper. Some adding preservatives is a must because it will spoil, some say no. Some claim their soaps have pH 7, others say that its not even possible unless its a syndet bar. Sorry for so many questions.

            ·
          • Maya

            Does lowering ph really destroy the “soap effect” in bar soap? I am so confused.

            ·
  79. Hey there!
    I just realized that one of my soap recipes had been written down incorrectly.

    The recipe was:
    Olive Oil 22oz
    Coconut Oil (76degrees) 4oz —it was supposed to be 8oz
    Sweet Almond Oil 4 oz —-again, supposed to be 8oz
    Cocoa Butter 2 oz
    Goats Milk (fresh/frozen) 15.17oz
    Lye 5.47oz

    The soap was firm enough to be unmolded at 12 hours and cut at 24 hrs (only slightly sticky). The pH is testing safe. However, is there a resource/formula that I can use to check the safety? The lye calcs don’t allow me to manipulate the exact amounts of lye and milk that I added. Is this soap going to be worth it to try and keep? Thanks so much!

    · Reply
    • Well, “safe” would be anything that’s not too caustic or acidic, so you have a pretty big range.

      pH of 10 is target for soap, which is slightly caustic, but is generally neutralized by your own skin oils.

      A pH of 11 is 10 times as caustic, which is why the upper limit for personal soap is usually around 10.5.

      You can use 11 or 11.5 in the laundry, and it works great on grease stains, but might discolor some fabrics.

      Pure, deionized water is exactly 7.

      Fatty Acids are about 5 (vinegar is 4.75), though most of them are not soluble enough in water to register in pure form.

      Your skin is made of triglycerides, free fatty acids, and phosphated diglycerides, which puts the pH around 5.5. This is why vinegar isn’t generally harmful if you get it on you, nor are oils, etc.

      You can’t really get completed soap below 9.5 without post- treating to remove free hydroxide (citric acid, etc).

      So, with all of that rambling, if your soap tests on plastic pH strips as between 9.5 and 10.5, then it should be fine. Lower pH will be slightly more oily or conditioning, and higher pH will be slightly more drying or even irritating depending on the skin type.

      If you tested with paper pH strips, then know that soap generally reads wrong there. Sometimes it’s just off by 0.5 to 1.0, and sometimes it just tops out at 10. The plastic ones are much much better. There are 2 major brands, and they are pretty much equivalent. Just make sure the strips you use cover the entire range you’re testing. If you hit the top of the scale on a strip, then you really have no idea what it is, other than “at least” the top of the scale.

      Also, know that to test, it’s just a small scrape of soap dissolved in excess water, so it looks like a cloudy liquid. It shouldn’t be opaque, and it should soak into the test strip sample areas within 1-2 seconds, with a final reading within 10 seconds. If it takes longer, then it’s too thick.

      ########

      Beyond testing, know that the #1 problem with Goat milk is lower pH, not higher pH. If it stays tacky, it’s still safe, it is just most likely a lower pH, with a bit of unreacted oils. The goat’s milk has oil and sugar in it that will neutralize some of the lye.

      If you were unhappy with it, you could rebatch this with a little more lye water. You want to get into calculations, or very small tests. It’s better to be low than high on the pH scale.

      More than likely, you’ll find that after a couple of weeks of drying, the soap is much more acceptable in texture.

      · Reply
  80. After a week of curing, the problem bars are very hard, harder than most of my other batches that have cured longer.

    Since there was enough milk to dissolve the lye, it sounds like I don’t have to worry about it being too caustic–does that sound right? I might just have a funky texture when washing with it?

    · Reply
    • Maggie,
      That doesn’t dictate pH. If you dissolve 500 grams of lye in a litre of water and add it to 500 grams of oil, it will all dissolve and mix just fine, but it would be horribly caustic.

      But, to your bars, if they were tacky on day 2, and hard on day 8, then that’s great and sounds pretty normal for texture. Also, the longer you let them dry, the better they’ll hold up to being used. I found that even for some nice, hard bars, a 2-week cure time still let them get goopy too easily.

      If you have any concerns about them being caustic:
      * plastic pH strips are the best to test this. A sudsy, milky looking solution of water and soap should activate a test strip in 5-10 seconds. Paper strips don’t work right for this.
      * A zap test works fairly well. Lick the soap, and if it tingles like a 9v battery, it’s too caustic. Never do this to soaps that have crunchy/crystalline bits.
      * If there are any crunchy, granular, or crystalline areas in the soap, that’s bad. This can happen even if it all dissolved initially. I found for some bars I had like this, I could scoop out the problem areas, and was left with a workable soap.

      · Reply
  81. Maya,
    No problem. I’m an information guy, so it’s good to have questions to help assemble thoughts and ideas.

    I think 1.2:1 is manageable. Cooling, ventilation, and mixing can be managed fairly well.

    Having an ice bath ready can be helpful to go as low as 1:1. Basically, same as a double boiler, but with ice water. You can pour the lyewater into the soap and transfer the pot to the ice bath, and keep mixing all at once. The ice will help keep the heat down, to keep it from reacting all at once, but the heat from the faster reaction will help keep the wax and solid oils from congealing. It’s still pretty challenging to make sure the lyewater doesn’t encapsulate. An industrial, stainless steel stick blender is helpful.

    ###
    If you dissolve the citric acid in the goat’s milk, you may end up curdling the milk. You could use the milk as your lyewater as long as you factor in the sugar/fat in your lye calculations, and as long as you can keep the temperatures down to prevent scorching.

    ###
    Preservatives are necessary when you have free sugars and unsaturated fats. Otherwise, bacteria attack the sugar+water, and air attacks the unsaturated fats to make them go rancid. I’ve used sodium benzoate in soaps that had reclaimed fats, and I’ve used vitamin E in soaps that had high amounts of unsaturated fats. Shelf life seems stable… no spots or stink at 9 months, whether wrapped up or open air.

    ###
    Generally, soaps with a pH of 7 wouldn’t be soaps – they would be lotions. Let me go on a long, rambly discussion about soaps, how they work, etc.

    Each paragraph should be self contained, so you can skim this easier.

    Soap itself is a salt. You have a metal atom attached to a long-chain acid (the fats). Lye is Sodium + Oxygen-Hydrogen. (Na+ -OH). It’s an ionic bond (electrons and holes attract eachother), which is weaker than a covalent bond (electrons shared between atoms). When the lye goes in, it turns into free sodium, and free hydroxide. The sodium is stronger than the glycerol, and pulls the fatty acid free and bonds to it. This ejects a Hydrogen atom which may combine with the Hydroxide to make additional water. Some will effervesce as H2 gas, and some bits will combine with the glycerol nubs left empty.

    What makes the soap hard is the sodium attached to the fatty acid. It’s fairly strong. Compare to potassium (potash) which is weaker, and leaves you with a soft soap no matter what. You can add table salt to it, and the sodium trades out for the potassium (stronger bond) to make it hard, and leaves you with potassium chloride mixed in. Other soaps include aluminum and zinc (used in deodorants), or lithium (used as white grease).

    Well, when you add citric acid to soap, it’s a stronger acid than stearic acid, lauric acid, or etc. So the citric acid takes the Sodium away, and gives a hydrogen to the fatty acid. This turns it back into FFA, which is raw oil (without the glycerol, so it’s not a triglyceride). The sodium salt is now sodium citrate, which should be slippery in solution, but in no way is it soapy. You literally un-make soap by doing this.

    Soap itself works because the sodium can dissolve in water, even though the fatty acid cannot. It allows the FFA to swish around. It wraps itself around the oils on your skin and makes little bubbles with them. Sometimes, the sodium breaks free and turns skin oils into soap as well. This happens more with more free NaOH, and less with less. Going lower pH eventually gets you to the point that there is no free NaOH for skin oil conversion, and all of the soap molecules are tied up keeping the free oils in suspension.

    It’s never 100%, either direction. It’s a sliding scale. Technically, a very small amount of FFA can dissolve in pure water, and would technically have a very minor emulsifying effect on your skin oils. Technically, the “perfect” soap at pH of 9.5 (or so) would still have a small amount of unreacted oil, and a small amount of free Na and OH.

    Higher pH means more oil is removed from the skin.
    Lower pH means more oil is transferred to the skin.

    Dirt itself is generally water soluble. Soap is there to react and emulsify fatty compounds (acids, alcohols, esters) so they can be washed away.

    Now, for the fun bit of trivia. pH means “Power of Hydronium”. Hydronium is H3O, which has a positive charge. In pure water, molecules break down into H3O+ and -OH at a concentration of 10^-7 mols per Litre. (notice the -7 exponent?) pH is the negative log of this. So basically, it’s backward. If you have 1 mol per litre of H3O, then it’s a pH of 14. If you have 10^-14 (aka 0.000000000001) mol per litre, then it’s a pH of 1. The counterpart is pOH, which is exactly opposite.

    · Reply
    • Maya

      That is some comprehensive info. Some things make a lot more sense now. Thank you :D
      This is my train of thought so PLEASE tell me if I am going wrong somewhere. I was told that natural soaps are gentler and better for you than commercial ones so I started making my own. Although I love the process I am concerned about the outcomes. Before, Dove and Nivea Baby worked for me perfectly. My concern with homemade soaps is that I seem to be breaking out. I know that this is like saying I can only eat Twinkies and not dark chocolate. But still, I have been trying to determine why this is. I have had better experience with goat milk soap than water based ones. The result was small pimples, blackheads and rather uneven skin tone. My last batch was castile with water and my face exploded with acne so painful it hurt when I speak. Everything calmed down the day I went back to Nivea Baby. Goat milk has lower pH and I read that pH in shampoo bars is usually lowered so its milder. Dove (not a real soap) is 7. I think when I tested Nivea Baby it was 8. This is why I am looking into this matter. I also can not figure out if essential oils could be the problem. The commercial soaps I used did not have any. I use about 0.2oz per pound of oils. Just enough to have some scent in the soap and to kill off the faint oil smell. I use food grade oils. I don’t know if I need to sterilize them before using. Heat and hold? But I think the high pH should kill the bacteria anyway. I am not ready to call it quits with homemade soap so any suggestion is very welcome. Can liquid soap be lowered to a skin friendly pH? I have been searching the web for answers but as you know, trying to get information off the web is like drinking from an open fire hydrant.

      · Reply
      • Essential oils in pure form should be generally antiseptic. There’s no sterilization required of them.

        Natural soaps contain glycerine, which many people like. It holds onto water, which is good if your skin tends to dry out after washing. Dry skin is actually too little oil, so it’s only a temporary holdover until your skin makes more oil.

        pH matters some, but really, only if the soap itself is causing burning or irritation. The acne explosion from olive oil implies to me that your skin is unhappy with oleic acid. Olive oil is 69% oleic, 10% linoleic, and 1% linolenic. Its other fatty acids are 14% palmitic and 3% stearic.

        It may be that your skin is making too much oil, or that the natual bacteria of your skin go after unsaturated fats, turning them rancid. This is where blackheads come from – oxidized sebum (skin oil, collagen, and other proteins). The puffy and red are from bacterial waste causing an immune reaction (histamine). You can test this by dabbing pimples with cortisone ointment, which should reduce swelling AND soften sebum as it’s mineral oil based).

        Anyway, based on this, I would expect your skin just doesn’t like oleic acid, and possibly may not like any of the related *oleic* acids.

        You could try coconut oil, which is only 8% oleic and 2% linoleic. It’s high in lauric acid which is good at dissolving almost any skin oils. It might be too drying.

        Castor oil is 90% ricinoleic, which as a small batch, would be a good test to see if it’s just oleic acid, or any of the oleics that bother you. It’s easy to come by.

        You can use soapcalc.net as a really good web database of oil qualities. Look into the soaps you’ve made, and the qualities of them. I think having a lower “conditioning” value will be your target, and the castor test will validate this.

        Also, you may try using some Vitamin E added at trace. Vitamin E reduces oxidization of unsaturated fats, which I think may be related to the acne attack.

        Also, a dab of some sort of antiseptic directly with a Q-tip onto a pimple might help… something like witch hazel, or tea tree oil (pure EO) may help reset some of the bacterial balance and reduce inflammation (after the stinging goes away).

        Again, the puffy is an immune reaction, so something like diphenhydramine or hydrocortisone creams (dabbed, not slathered) may help for outbreaks (not as a preventive treatment).

        Let me know if any soap experiments work better. I’m trying to work out a similar recipe for a friend’s daughter who’s having similar problems, but I don’t have the oils on-hand right now.

        · Reply
  82. Seve

    Hi everyone,

    Is it possible to make a mild facial soap bar with a high content (60-80%) of palm oil? Which oil is best to combine to get a mild bar? I have an unbelievable amout of palm oil available to me and I would like to include it as much as possible. Thanx everyone

    · Reply
    • Palm oil is about 50/50 saturated to unsaturated fats.

      The saturated fats make for a hard, long lasting bar, but the high oleic and linoleic make for a creamy bar.

      The overall quality of the soap would depend on what other oils you use in it. Olive is common for the rest of the bulk, and a little coconut to increase the cleansing power (cleansing = drying). I like to use soapcalc.net because they have a database of oils, and will calculate out the qualities (hardness, conditioning, etc).

      Also, it’s important to consider your lye discount or superfat percentage. “Mild” may simply mean less cleaning and more oily. Unsaturated fats are softer, and soak in better, but don’t cleans quite as well.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a tried and true palm-primary recipe for you, so you may need to do some experimenting with small batches, or search around a little more. There might be something here on Amanda’s site on other pages, but mostly I’ve seen generic good bars, not anything specifically mild/facial.

      · Reply
      • Seve

        So I am back to share experience and maybe get some pointers. I have made a few batches of 75%palm oil soap. Nice, white, rock hard. The only problem I have encountered and can not seem to get past is that the soap goes from light trace to a hard mass on my spatula in 0.2 seconds. It is impossible to get it into the mold in time and don’t even get me started on the air bubbles. Even with 4:1 and 5:1 water to lye solutions. Any ideas on how I can deal with this? Some solvent maybe?

        · Reply
        • At 190F, it should be soft enough to pack into molds. Keeping it in a double boiler might help.

          Are you using any additives that might me accelerating trace (fragrance oils, etc).

          I wouldn’t add extra water. Past 3:1 is just going to take forever to dry (makes it wash away faster in use).

          Alternatively, you could use a large loaf mold. If it takes say 10 minutes to go from mixing to hard mass, maybe mix it for 5 minutes, then pour it into a large loaf mold, and finish stirring there. Then, once it’s hard and cool, you could just use a guitar wire or similar to slice it into bars.

          · Reply
  83. John

    Hey there!
    I am just wondering if “salting out” soap produces a cleaner soap? Are there benefits to “salting” other than removing glycerin?
    Cheers

    · Reply
    • The original reason to salt out soap is because potash (potassium) was used instead of lye (sodium). Adding salt increases the sodium fatty acids, and leaves potassium chloride in the water. This made for a much harder bar of soap (vs goopy). It also left the glycerol suspended in the water layer.

      Glycerine is hygroscopic – it holds on to water. If you remove the glycerine, it may allow you to make a more dry bar of soap. This might make it last longer in the soap tray.

      The drawback is that the soap will be slightly more drying. As such, this might be okay for palm oil, or any other high oleic soap, but not so great for high coconut recipes where you might need the glycerine to hold water into the skin while your skin naturally replaces the removed oils.

      · Reply
      • John

        Thanx man! I have a large barrel of oil which mostly palm but with some impurities in it. I will not use it for cooking or traditional soap making so rather than throwing it out I would like to use it for soap making. I have tried salting out a batch. I have succeeded in it but the end soap has a lot of bubbles in it and because of this it is very soft. I am having difficulties getting the soap back into bar form. I know commercial soap makers use pressurized pumps for this which I do not. Any ideas? Is it ok to add a bit of free oils to this soap. Any rancidity issues?

        · Reply
        • John

          I just found that the problem that I am dealing with is that the soap is “too loose” :D Which means that there is too much water in it. Any ideas how I can fix this?

          · Reply
        • excess oil definitely can go rancid. More than about 5% excess is generally a bad idea. There are exceptions of course, and vitamin e, or preservatives can help.

          For soap with too much water in it, you can cook it to drive out water, or you could make a lot more soap with water discounts, and mix them together.

          Cooking is probably around a percent per hour, depending on heat, humidity, air pressure, surface area of the soap batch, stirring, etc.

          · Reply
  84. nany

    Hey josh, it s me again… i have a question plz.
    i make olive oil soap not 100% just 60% olive oil 30%palm oil and 10% coconut oil, with 10% caustic soda it means for each 500 g of these oils i use 71 g NaOH. My question is why this soap dries out my skin? olive oil is supposed to moisture my skin right?does the acidity of olive oil have an influence? it is acidity value is 5..i m confused i need a solution

    · Reply
    • Sabrina

      I am just passing by so I will jump in. You soap is lye heavy and you have no superfat. For your recipe you need 68g per 500g of these oils. This will give you 5% superfat. Also, try setting aside 50g olive oil. Process everything until thick trace if you are doing cold process or hot process everything until the end and then add the olive oil which you had set aside. This will give you a 5% superfat of olive oil which is much better for your skin than the other two. Good luck!

      · Reply
      • Sabrina’s recommendations are good.

        High coconut can be drying too, but 10% is just fine.

        The Olive as superfat is good, except for some people where the high oleic content can cause acne.

        · Reply
    • All oils are pH 4.5 to 5.5 (though not very water soluble). With your recipe, like Sabrina said, this would be 0% superfat. I would expect your soap pH to be in the 10-11 range.

      A superfat of 5% is a standard safety measure against drying soap. Superfat of 10% can be used if you have preservatives like vitamin E.

      As for your complete soap, you can salvage it bu melting it down in a double-boiler, and then adding another 25g of olive oil (for superfat 5%) or 50g of olive oil (for 10%). Note that 10% may not have the same shelf life due to oxidization of the oleic acid, unless you add tocopherol (vitamin E) as well. If you use vitamin E, 1% is probably fine (5-6g).

      · Reply
  85. Wendy

    Thanks for posting this. I’m a soap-making baby. Did my first batch last week and it was successful. I decided to try something different today and I don’t think we’re gonna make it. I used hard apple cider instead of water, but didn’t expect the violent reaction between the lye and the cider. I read you could use beer, but I guess the bubbles didn’t like the lye. It bubbled over a little, so I added a little water to the mixture. The temp came up nicely and I added my oils when both were at about 125. I mixed with my Emixer but could not reach a firm trace. I poured it, but we’ll see if it hardens. My guess is too much lye bubbled out with the cider. Fingers crossed.

    · Reply
    • Nope. It will never harden. You’ll need to rebatch this and either spend some time calculating, or titrating to a proper pH.

      Lye is a strong base, like baking soda, but much stronger.

      Vinegar is an acid, like the oils, but much much stronger (same pH though).

      When you mix the two together, you completely neutralize any chemical potential energy.

      Depending on the amount of each you added, you may have reacted some, most, or all of the lye, leaving sodium acetate (used to make “Vinegar and Salt” potato chip flavoring, and also used as a concrete selant) and water.

      If there was any lye left over, then it reacted with your oils next, but you’d be left with a very large lye discount.

      If you were to rebatch this, you’d need to know how much lye was reacted in order to find out how much more you need. The new lye must be dissolved in water, but you can work with a water discount.

      Also though, the soap will probably smell a little vinegar-like.

      · Reply
  86. Kerry

    Hi there,
    I’m having a recurring problem that I need some help with please.
    On several occasions now I have noticed small blemishes/spots on the outer surface of my soap when I unmould.
    The spots are 2-6mm in diameter, opaque and only on the outer surfaces (those in contact with the silicone liner).
    Additional details I have noticed that may or may be contributing factors- it only seems to occur when I use botanical infused OO batter and plain OO batter for swirling.
    It also seems to be related to cooler lye temp or cooler soaping temps in general.
    Previously, I have scraped the area with the blemish with a knife and it is normal soap that I can sculpt back on to the log (ie, no hard lumps, no oozy liquid under the spots).
    Zap testing after 24-36 hours is negative.

    I soaped on Saturday and used annatto seed infused oil for the entire batch, soaped at 125 degrees and had no spots on unmoulding. I soaped again on Sunday used plain OO for part of the batch, used madder root infused oil for part, and alkanet root for last part of the batch. The lye was cool (95 degrees, approx.). Upon unmoulding this morning there were spots on all sides but nothing on top. Aargh!!!!

    Please help, this is bugging the hell out of me!

    · Reply
    • Sounds like you’ve done most of the troubleshooting required on this. Many cheaper molds will leech color and binder into your soap. Try a different mold.

      Also, it could be DOS, which would be contamination (dust, household cleaners, plant matter, whatever) that helps start oil rancidification. High oleic soaps will be more prone to this. Vitamin E at 1% would reduce this substantially, as would avoiding any additives that seem common to these batches.

      · Reply
  87. Rosalyn

    I have a question about using micas. I make 2 1/2 lbs of cold process soap at a time, using olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter. It seems it doesn’t matter how much mica I use. The color does not change the soap at all. I am adding the mica in after the lye mixture and before the fragrance or essential oil. What am I doing wrong?

    · Reply
    • Mica is really best for clear soap, but for cold process, you can use 1-2 tablespoons per pound of soap (not of base oils) to get some coloring out of it. Also, mica can settle if it’s added too early. That would be a heavier color at the bottom that fades to a lighter color at the top.

      Also, it could just be the mica. You can try different micas and clays to see which work best for you. Small batches are good until you find a combo that works for you.

      Compare to zinc powder which will lighten up and make opaque just about any soap at 1tbsp in a 5-6 pound batch. It’s very much a matter of the characteristics of the specific powder/flakes.

      · Reply
  88. Desert Fox

    Hello, just found this site and find it very helpful!

    I have been making soap for years and have had great success. I use molds and flat boxes for bars. Most of my soaps have botanicals (pine needle, rose petals, herbs etc. and I have used food coloring for something different. They always come out pretty darn good!

    Now…my problem….some batches (not all) will get sticky after a few months! I have not found a common denominator for this. I have always poured at 100F degrees and now are experimenting pouring at 120F degrees. (So far two batches are affected) I don’t think this is the cause as, again, not all batches have this problem. I sell some at a Farmers’ market and pack them into those plastic shoe boxes for transporting and storage and even have made holes on the sides, thinking the back and forth exposure to different temperatures might be the culprit. So far I’m at a loss as to the cause. I superfat at less than 2%.

    Again, my problem happens after I have them for 3-4 months! Very weird, isn’t? Thank you if you have any comments.

    · Reply
    • Two possibilities:
      A) too little lye. A lye discount, or lye clumps in the soap, or humid/moist lye would lead to this. The soap will be goopy very easy. Test the pH, and if it’s under 10, this might be your problem.
      B) Too much water. Fix is more drying time, or more cooking. Drying has to be with good airflow, and not horribly humid. Exposure to a little humidity here or there will only affect the outer surface.

      Pouring at a higher temperature shouldn’t matter. Heating up actually drives out excess water.

      · Reply
      • Desert Fox

        Thanks for your response, however, neither of the two possibilities apply. My lye is perfectly maintained and fresh, and the problem also happened when I poured at 100 degrees F. I have a perfect product for a few months and voila…the sticky monster surfaces on only one or two batches. It’s a mystery and I will continue to research it. If anyone here has any clue…please respond. Thank you very much.

        · Reply
  89. JJ

    Hello,
    I just started making soap this past Saturday. I did my first batch using cold processing, and I think it turned out well. Now, I am trying out hot processing. However, I could not get hot processing to work. I tried two batches and they all turned out very bad.
    The first one was water based, 70% extra virgin olive oil, 20% canola oil, and 10% shea butter with 10% superfat.
    The second one was milk based, 50% extra virgin olive oil, 15% canola oil, 15% grapeseed oil, and 20% coconut oil with 10% superfat
    Here is what I did.
    I blended both into trace and put the batter into my double-boiler. After a few minutes, the oil separated from the batter. So, I blended them back in. After a while, the oil separated from the batter again, and I blended them right back in. However, after the separation, my soap batter turned from milky white to a dark oil-ish yellow (just like olive oil) and it seemed like went over the gel phase since batter went translucent completely and the texture became sticky and gel like. My temperature was around 150 F most of the time, maybe a little too high in the beginning. The first one smelled ok, but the second one had some odor, so I think it could be the milk got burned. The weirdest thing was, for both batches, I cooked over 2 hours, but none of them became neutral after cooking. They all had around 8-9 of PH level. Isn’t hot processed soap can be used right away because they will be cooked to neutral? Why didn’t my soap just work that way? I know I wrote a lot, but please help. Thank you!

    · Reply
    • I cook my HP soap in the 170F range. No problem.

      Separation phase is normal. It turns dark and clear. Just keep stirring.

      10% superfat PLUS milk based really means a higher superfat even. Milk contains sugar, fat and protein which will neutralize some of the lye. Going over 5% superfat is tricky, and will leave you with a lower pH.

      For me, with all sorts of oils and fats, cook time is 1.5 to 3 hours. Olive oil usually takes longer than other oils unless it’s pomace (way faster).

      Stick blend it any time it separates. Once it mixes back together, eventually you’ll have the temps climb, and it will look like overcooked oat meal. If it gets over 190F, it’ll start foaming up (volcano). Just stir that down with a spoon. (plastic may melt)

      · Reply
      • JJ

        Thank you for your reply.
        so, a ph level of 8-9 is consider as a low ph level? I tried both of them this morning but both of them dried my skin out. Is it because of the ph level? Will a soap ever get a ph level of 7?

        · Reply
        • Sodium and Potassium soaps cannot be pH of 7. The soap itself is pH 10. Triglycerides are a pH of around 4.9 (similar to vinegar). If you make something with a lower pH, what you really have is oil emulsified in water by way of a small amount of soap and glycerine. A higher pH has excess, dissolved lye.

          A home made soap with a pH of 7 would be a goopy sludge. It would leave lots oil and grease on the skin, and would not clean very well at all.

          Beauty Bars which are that low aren’t actually soaps – they are detergents and surfactants with pH buffers. You can buy some melt-and-pour supplies to make “soap” like this.

          For home-made soap using lye, a proper, completely reacted soap has a pH of roughly 10. A variance of 0.5 is about as much as you can go and have it still be proper soap.

          Verification of this is by looking up laboratory grade sodium salts of fatty acids. For example, Sodium Stearate is advertised as having a pH of between 10 and 11.

          There are other metallic salts of fatty acids (aka soaps) , but they make different properties. For instance, Zinc Ricinoleate is the zinc salt of castor oil, refined. It has a pH between 6 and 7.5. It has a creamy lather, is fairly soft, and blocks your sweat glands (anti-perspirant).

          Lithium Stearate has a pH in the 5.5. It stays VERY soft, and is used as a grease that doesn’t attract dust. It never hardens, and causes neurological suppression (Lithium Salts are antipsychotics).

          For household soaps, you’re pretty much limited to sodium and potassium.

          · Reply
  90. becki

    I have a question: I’m a CP soapmaker, and am experiencing a series of firsts that are leaving me stymied and in need of help/feedback… I have been using the same products and recipes and process for 13 years without issues until this past week. One issue was soaps are taking an incredibly long time to trace… what would be the reason? Another, after their initial 24 hour insulation time, two of the batches had “buckled” and waved on the surface, vs. a relatively smooth surface, which is the norm. What’s up with that? Also, more of the white/ash on the surface and sides, which actually peeled away in a layer when I removed the paper from the soap after taking it out of the mold (I line my wooden molds with heavy duty wax paper, always, which lifts out and then peels away, usually seamlessly). I appreciate any help, as I am feeling quite at a loss and wondering if I should continue or if there is an issue needing fixing first. Thanks in advance!

    · Reply
    • There are a lot of questions and not a lot of details.

      Guesses would be:
      * temperature for the buckling,
      * change in water quality for the white powder (calcium)
      * Damp Lye, or formula change in the additives (FO/EO) for the slow trace.

      · Reply
  91. Desert Fox

    Hi, I’m not sure how your website operates, but I posted a question (repeated below) and have been getting emails addressed to other people. I know the inundation of queries here and will be patient for perhaps a response. Thanks.

    September 23, 2013:
    “Hello, just found this site and find it very helpful! ”

    “I have been making soap for years and have had great success. I use molds and flat boxes for bars. Most of my soaps have botanicals (pine needle, rose petals, herbs etc. and I have used food coloring for something different. They always come out pretty darn good! ”

    “Now…my problem….some batches (not all) will get sticky after a few months! I have not found a common denominator for this. I have always poured at 100F degrees and now are experimenting pouring at 120F degrees. (So far two batches are affected) I don’t think this is the cause as, again, not all batches have this problem. I sell some at a Farmers’ market and pack them into those plastic shoe boxes for transporting and storage and even have made holes on the sides, thinking the back and forth exposure to different temperatures might be the culprit. So far I’m at a loss as to the cause. I superfat at less than 2%. ”

    “Again, my problem happens after I have them for 3-4 months! Very weird, isn’t? Thank you if you have any comments”.

    · Reply
    • Sorry for the missed post. Unfortunately, this isn’t a really good forum for Q&A, so it’s easy for new questions to get lost.

      · Reply
  92. Felix

    Hi, I have made some cold process soap with different proportions of vegetable oils as suggested on these sites and they have all come out floppy and semi-liquid. This must be because I haven’t reduced the water level for the soft oils but the other thing is that they all have absolutely no lather and just leave a slippery film on your hands. Is there a special rule/ingredients to achieve a good lather. Also it would be really great if you could give a list of additives that contribute to a soap’s hardness when using soft oils without lard and palm oils is possible? Many thanks, soap making in the UK.

    · Reply
    • If it stays soft and oily, it sounds like there’s not enough lye, and the pH ended up lower than 9.5. This can happen deliberately (lots of people have wanted low pH soaps lately) or because the lye was stored improperly (allowed to absorb water from the air, which it does quickly, or allowed to get slightly damp).

      If it’s not oily, but it stays soft, then this happens if you used potash / KOH rather than Lye / NaOH, that will always be soft, almost liquid, just because of the potassium/kalium.

      There are several charts online that show what the different oils will do for your soaps. My favorite is soapcalc.net, because they also have an online calculator.

      Lastly, once the caustic issues are verified and corrected if needed, if the soap is still very soft, even after drying for a couple of weeks, then you can try using a little wax in your recipe. I like candelilia wax. It requires about half as much as bee’s wax, is harder, higher melting temperature, and is vegan for those who want/need that.

      · Reply
  93. shivani

    Hey!! Thanx so much for your reply..it was the lye that created all trouble..i have somehow combined all the batches and left it for a month.. its stable now..bt its too soft and sticky when I cut it..n oily at the base..there are some small air pockets in some places and oil droplets comming out..now what should I do to turn it into a hard usable bar..
    I have two more ques.. Is there a particular method throught which we can check that the lye we are using is appropriate for making hard bar,as over here where I live,no one makes soap and dont know the exact caustic soda to be used..they sell the ones used to wash cloth.
    And another question that can we use palmolein in place of palm oil?will it give the same effect?
    Thanx.

    · Reply
    • The lye should be pure sodium hydroxide. If it’s unknown water content, then search on “standardize lye solution” and look for a procedure you could do. Basically, you can mix up a certain strength, then take out a known quantity and neutralize it with some other acid of known strength. Using that, you can calculate exactly how much lye is in each gram of water. It’s a little complicated, but not horribly difficult.

      As to Palm Olein, that is definitely usable for soap. It should be considered mostly triolein, or oleic acid triglyceride. Oleic acid makes a soft bar, that may take longer to come to trace, and longer to dry or harden, especially in high humidity environments.

      You can counter softness with saturated (hard) fats such as stearic acid, palmitic acid, or lauric acid. Shorter chains are more drying, so stearic is better, and lauric should be limited to 10%.

      Also, oleic acid can aggravate acne/pimples for many people when used in high concentrations. Linoleic acid is better for the skin, but may be harder to come by.

      So, if you’re using palm olein, maybe limit that to 30% of your oils, and use something that melts around 25C or warmer for much of the rest.

      · Reply
  94. shivani

    Thanx josh!! m new to soap making so dint understand much..vil try to search over it..
    Bt what should I do to fix my batch?its very soft n sticky after two months of trying and fixing atleast four times.

    · Reply
  95. Felix

    Hi, thanks for you help. Do you know what the ‘parameters’ are to achieve a good lather and what this depends on because all of my soaps have just left an oily layer on the skin that is actually hard to wash off. Thanks. Felix

    · Reply
  96. Regi

    Can you please help. I am new to CP soap making. I used 450 grm coconut oil, 500 grm rice bran oil and 50 grm stearic acid. After 36 hours, I found that about 30 grm of oil oozing out of the soap. I have also used 50 grm herbs powder. Lye used is 76 grms. Except for the oil issue, the soap is fine.
    Can you please tell me if I am using the correct amount of lye?

    · Reply
  97. Julia

    Hello! great website…thanks!!
    I did the recipe of the Castile soap posted in this website with the enormous disccount of water that need to cure for 4 months. I follow the exact amounts and this is what happened.
    When I mixed the lye with the water and left it there to cool down it started to have clumps of lye on the surface, I try mixing it again but never fully dissolved so I discarted it and made a new solution, this time I never stopped mixing it until it got the right temperature and it was ok (but a lot of work) Maybe you have a suggestion for this. For sure there was so little water that maybe it was too much lye to be truely dissolved, but then how did you do it?
    Then I was using the electric blender alternating with hand mixing ad it took like 30 minutes to trace, then i added the patchouli fragance (good quality already proof) and it looked like the mixture got liquid again so I stir it for sometime until suddenly it started getting solid fast so I manage to pour into the molds just in time. Any ideas about that?
    Then i waited 2 days to unmold and when I saw it most of the center of the soap was creamy white and the corners had a metallic yellow color, very unappealing….please let me know your thoughts…never had this…and when I cut it the part where the knife went through got cracks so it doesnt make an even edge soap….and I must admit that I have this a lot with other soaps that contain olive and coconut oil…dont know why…
    thanks so much if you can answer me…

    Julia

    · Reply
    • Author

      Hi Julia! What kind of olive oil are you using? There are many that are adulterated and that could have caused issues. The white flecks on a high concentrated lye solution are not usually undissolved lye, it is more likely…sodium carbonate (I can’t remember if that is the right word) which results from the lye reacting with the air. If you don’t want to water discount at the high amount you can always add a bit more water to make sure everything is dissolved.

      · Reply
      • Julia

        Hi Amanda thanks so much for replying.
        I live in Portugal where there is lots of cheap good olive oil. The one I use I buy it at the supermarket in 3 liters container and it is not virgin, is the common one. I make all the other soaps with this oil and are fine.
        I was mixing the lye and water outside where sometimes is windy, could it maybe be that? what would you recommend me to overcome the metallic yellow look of the soap?

        · Reply
  98. Terri Aprati

    Help, please! My son helped me make a batch of soap last week (:)) and added the additive charcoal to the oils prior to our heating them. We were going to make CP soap with charcoal swirls, but obviously, that didn’t work! So, we heated the oils and blended them with the lye at 100 degrees (per recipe). The soap reached trace…it was thin to medium. We poured the 5 pounds of soap into my acrylic mold with cover and insulated the mold with towels. Now, approx. 50 hours later, the soap has beads of moisture on top and a PH of 13. I’ve never had such a high PH before at 50 hours. From what I’ve read, the beading is most probably not lye, but oil. I used Bramble Berry’s Vetyver FO in this batch. I’m going to look and test the soap again at 72 hours. Can you please explain what the beading on top of the soap could be? The mold is a flat acrylic mold with inserts to make individual bars and its own top. Do you think the charcoal added too soon ruined the soap? Any suggestions? Thanks!

    · Reply
  99. Sarah

    My last batch of soap has a very tiny layer of white on the top – will that make it unusable? Why would that happen. Also I have had 2 batches where I have added essential oil (orange) and the scent totally disappeared after a few days. Do some scents need to be added in greater amounts than others?

    · Reply
  100. naja

    hey,
    i have 2 questions please:
    1) i am doing soap batches with 60% olive oil 30% palm and 10% coconut oil, my lye concentration is 9.5% it means for every 500 g of these oils i used 67.5 g NaOH in 155.25 g water.. now my problem is that with some fragrance oils like pine and mint, white powder appears on top and also white bubble powder…i don’t think my soap is lye heavy does it?
    2) my castile soap, i make it 100% olive oil, FOR 500g olive oil i use 69.75 g NaOH in 174.37 g water…it takes 2 days to be unmolded and it is very sticky…what could be the reason and do you a good recipe of castile soap?
    thank you so much,waiting your reply

    · Reply
    • naja

      still waiting answers…please help me i have an order of castile soap and it stills sticky when i unmolded even with extra caustic ammount:(

      · Reply
  101. Colby

    I’ve been making cold-process soap for a year now. The other day I made a double batch, and apart from possibly adding .4 oz. too much olive oil (I believe my temperatures were correct)– I think the lye may have been problematic (it had formed a bunch of hard clumps which I broke up.) It heated properly, so I assumed it was still usable. Also the batch traced fine. Everything seemed on track until I went to unmold the soap and saw a thick layer of oil on the top. (It had been very heavily insulated.) The soap is quite soft and I don’t know if it is still salvagable. I regret to say that I have a large container of lye (never opened) sitting in our dank basement–probably the worst possible place to store it. I’m not sure where exactly I went wrong with this latest batch. I would hate to have throw out all my lye.

    · Reply
    • Desert Fox

      The reason each oil has its lye value is that when it mixes together, they both embrace each other completely. Check the numbers of the oil – lye values again. The lye became hard by absorbing moisture (water) from the air– (the dark basement is damp). Because your lye was hard..it might have lost potency and you probably needed a little more lye to balance the oils. I don’t think the insulations had anything to do with it. All it does is to slow cooling which is good in the curing stage. Leave your batch opened to the air and wipe the oil off.

      If you can weight your unopened lye to match the original weight…you might be able to tell how much moisture it has absorbed (ie. if it absorbed 5%, 10% of moisture, you might be able to make the difference when using it in another batch of soap).

      · Reply
      • Colby

        Thank you for the response. Unfortunately my kitchen scale only goes up to 5 pounds. Otherwise I would weigh one empty container (the lye comes in a 10 pound backet) then the full one and subtract the weight of the bucket. The bathroom scale is too imprecise. I made such a big mistake when I bought the lye. I thought I was getting a better value (lower price per ounce) so I ordered it from a separate place and paid extra shipping to boot. If I had been smart I would have purchased at the same time as the rest of my supplies, from Bulk Apothecary. The unit price actually was exactly the same, and the container considerably smaller, so there would have been no waste.

        · Reply
  102. Tracy

    Hi, just a quick question I am new to CP soap making. I made a batch separated it into 3 different containers added different colours to each container then poured each colour into the same mold to get a swirl effect, all went well until, it did not set as it should have it took way longer, and when i de-molded it, it was rock hard. Any comments on why this happened would be great

    · Reply
  103. I really reeeeaaaallllyyy need some help. I see that Josh has kind of fell off the map :( But I am hoping that he comes back, or someone else can help.

    Doing CP and my first batch…well that’s just a throw away. But my second batch, I dont know what went wrong. I used the following:
    10% castor oil
    15% lard
    15% shea butter
    25% coconut oil
    35% olive oil
    *5% superfat discount. 2.7:1 for my water to lye ratio. 1 1/2 oz of goats milk powder. And I ran out of olive oil and added pure canola oil to finish the measurment.
    I did the following:
    First made my water/lye solution. Melted my oils/lard. Once those were melted, I added a bit of oil (in a seperate container) with my goats milk powder and stirred til blended. I then added my water/lye to oils…blended with immersion blender and at slight trace, added my goats milk soap. The oils and water/lye solution were close to if not the exact temp when bleneded together. After blending everything together, I used the immersion blender for a sec, then stirred with it til I got a pudding type consitency. Poured into my mold. Covered it with plastic wrap and 2 towels.
    When I covered it with plastic wrap, the plastic touched a part of the soap. After the 24 hours, everything looked fine at first, but then I saw that where the plastic had touched the soap, there was a pool of what looked like oil just in that ONE spot on the soap. I decided I was going to flip it out of the mold anyway. When I did, the bottom of the soap (mostly on the side that had the pooled liquid) was this reddish goop. I wiped it off (but it smelled horrible) and after wiping it off, I noticed that the soap was a bit bumpy.
    Where the pooled liquid was, it looks like it ate away at the soap (it’s indented), and there is a layer of white on the bottom, dark in middle and idk just weird on top. The bars leaked a lot of oil and some look like the top part of the bar wants to come off. I do have a pic, but not sure how to get it to you. Some bars came out with no problems, distortions, nothing…but idk if I insolated too much, or if that goop was the canola oil, or….honestly I just need help!!!! What happened? Is there a way to add goats milk powder? What temp should oils,water,lye be before adding the power? UGH im lost.
    p.s. currently, the bars have been out for 2 days. Some feel oily, others feel harder….like soap. I dont see any crystals, but one bar of soap has small white circles at the bottom. Slightly hard.

    Lastly, I have a recipe that i’d like to use but need to know any thoughts.
    10% castor oil
    15% lard
    15% shea butter
    30% coconut oil
    30% olive oil
    *5% superfat. 2.6:1 water/lye ratio. Still would add goats milk powder.
    INS on soap calc is 157 (and i thought ideal would be 160), hardness 42, cleansing 20, conditioning 53..

    Please, any help would be awesome

    · Reply
    • Colby

      I’m still relatively new to soapmaking. Most of the time (knock on wood) the batches turn out, with a big exeption recently that sounds alot like your experience. The book I used said to allow the oil mixture to reach about 167-185 degrees F. (75-85 degrees C.) and the lye 122-140 degrees F. (50-60 C.) I don’t know how forgiving the recipes are so I just try to be as exacting as I can. But I am no chemist, and all these formulas for lye and oil ratios are meaningless to me! I just try to follow the recipes from the book and hope for the best. Good luck, and I hope someone else will be able to explain what happened and how to prevent it from occurring again.

      · Reply
  104. Colby

    I have a general question: the books say to leave the soap to cure for 4 to 6 weeks. I’ve read another very specific procedure to follow for cutting and curing. But a professional soapmaker told me that it isn’t entirely necessary to let them cure that long; they can be used virtually right away (just won’t last quite as long.) Can anyone verify whether this information is true, and whether the ph is skin safe from almost the outset? If I am going to sell the bars, I don’t want to be too premature.

    · Reply
  105. nicole

    hi.. I tried doing transparent soap. When I poured the lye/water solution into the oil mixture, the solution quickly thickens and in less than 5 mins it solidified. I am using a crockpot on low.
    Out of panic, I added the solvents after letting it sit for 5 minutes. After cooking for 2hours, it doesn’t seem to liquify fully. There seems to be on top of the liquid.
    Is the liquid part already the transparent soap and not just the solvents? How would I know? If not, how can I salvage this batch?

    Thanks.

    · Reply
  106. Desert Fox

    Reply to Anna: I don’t deal with percentages, however, check each oil’s lye discount to figure how much lye to use for EACH amount of oil you will use. This is helpful to make sure the oils and lye combine properly. Find a list on the internet (sorry don’t have it right now). Temps for combining can be 100-120 degrees (as long as both, lye and oils match in temp)

    · Reply
  107. Chrissy - needs advice! :)

    Hi there I am making soap just with glycerine I’m not doing any methods I am very new to it! Just saw a video to make a simple glycerine soap and throwing in some blended fruit to give it a light scent and to make look a little nicer, so, I followed every instruction and poured my soap into my tin molds and my problem is they are not freezing! I still can’t cut it and it’s was in the freezer overnight it’s more like a jello still, where did I go wrong????? I lined the pans with vegetable oil as I was told to and also sprayed the top with rubbing alcohol to prevent bubbles. Please any help would mean a lot I’ve spent quite a bit of money on the materials an really would love to continue soap making. Thanks so much for your time!! Chrissy

    · Reply
  108. ryan

    hi im making hot process for the 2nd time. it seems like my soap is getting dried out in the cooking stage. how can i save it

    · Reply
  109. Julia

    Hi…I posted my experience on the 3 of october….would it be possible to get some feedback…
    thanks so much
    julia

    · Reply
  110. dian

    hi,

    i just started making soaps and just finished my third batch. my recipe consists of the following:

    Castor oil 60g
    Coconut oil 350g
    Soybean oil 250g
    Palm oil 350g
    Olive oil 450g
    Lye 206g
    Water 555g (divided to green tea & coconut milk 370g and 185g for the lye)

    when i mixed the lye with the oils it was fine, but haven’t started using the stick blender yet, just stirring for a while. while stirring i added the green tea/coconut milk water portion. i stopped for about a minute and started stirring again, when i lifted my spatula it had gel like substance so i started mixing with the stick blender thinking that the gel would stick in the pot. it had a thick trace after about 3mins of blending. I blendend some more and then molded.

    now it’s bothering me as it shouldn’t have traced right away with the high amount of olive oil. i’m confused

    what went wrong? :(

    · Reply
  111. Dian-
    To make sure I dont get false trace….I always manually stir, and then use the immersion blender. Back and forth until I reach the trace I am looking for.
    I will tell you, making it with certain things (ie. scents) will change the time that it traces. It could even make your soap seize.
    I just made a batch of pachouli (sp?) soap. Normally my soap traces very fast, however on this batch it took a little extra stirring and blending.
    As long as you didnt reach false trace, know, that depending on what you use the trace time may be different :)

    Hope this helps!

    · Reply
  112. Dar

    help i just made chocolate soap with unsweetened coco powder
    Canola 4.8 oz
    Castor 2.4 oz
    Coconut 12 oz
    Lard 14.40 oz
    Olive 14.40 oz
    Choc powder unsweetened ½ cup

    Lye 6.660 oz
    Water 15.48 oz
    when i turned it out it smells bad like stinky feet and the top part that the air hits has turned a lite power brown.

    what did i do wrong?

    · Reply
  113. Deb

    I made a batch with lye and lard and let the batch sit for 60 days. I tried to cut it and it’s dry and crumbly. Could it just be because I didn’t cut it early? Is it possible to melt it down and add more lard?

    · Reply
  114. Alley

    I am attempting to make liquid soap paste using KOH. I used a lye calcultor. This is the recipe
    Coconut  10
    Olive  9
    Castor 5
    Shea Butter 2
    Cocoa Butter 2
    Oils 28.0
    Lye 5.9
    Water 17.7
    I stirred it for quite a while in the crockpot, but instead of coming to trace, it seems to have partially reacted. There are globs of what I think is soap floating in the liquid oil. No amount of mixing can make it look like the cloudy fluid it should, nor is it tracing. What is wrong, can I fix it? Thanks so much.

    · Reply
  115. Reham

    Hi iwas make soap and when i put the fragrance the oil floats up the soap what can i do ??

    · Reply
  116. aman

    i just tried making soap with
    20tbsp of coconut oil
    1.5tbsp of lye
    6.6tbsp of frozen milk
    in frozen milk add lye and stir till dissolves
    add this mixture into coconut oil and mixd it wel

    however somehow i felt mixture consistency was not right…plz guide

    · Reply
  117. Sherry

    I made my 2nd batch of soap and I didn’t think to crush down the lumpy dried milk. Thought it would dissolve when added to the oil and lye mix. I have burnt orange spots all through my soaps. Thinking it is burned lumps of powdered milk. Is the soap safe to use?

    · Reply
  118. Shelly

    I just made some cold process soap. I didn’t know at the time but I used a rather large amount of castor oil. The recipe is 30%castor oil/21% olive oil/15%cocoabutter/27%coconutoil/7%jojoba oil. The oils weighed I at 8oz. I did a 5% lye discount and ran everything through Soapcalc.net. I forgot to add my fragrance oils unfortunately. Which were supposed to be .25 oz. The oil batch smelled good before I added the lye. When I added the lye everything started smelling kinda burnt. The temps were at 125f lye water, and 120f oil mix. It was weird because nothing was cooking. I hand stirred it to trace in a mixing bowl, which took a little over an hour. Is this a normal smell for CP soap? It smells faintly of cocoa butter with a strong smell of something burnt. Maybe I’m panicking for nothing but it’s worth it to ask before I go any further. Please help!

    · Reply
  119. Loura

    Hello, I have a question. I made soap and it was perfect, but lost its scent. So I wanted to rebatch it to try to get some scent to stay, and I did, but now its so soft and wont get hard. All I did was melt, add EO and repour.

    Any advice?

    · Reply
  120. Connie

    Today I made your HP pumpkin Soap. And I didn’t have Sodium lactate. So I subsatuted stric acid in it’s place. I also added to much of it. I thought it was 5 oz’s so that is what I added with the pumpkin and lye water. But the recipe called for .5oz’s of the sodium lactate. So what i’m asking is will my soap be save to use. It looked ok and it molded easy. but I want to make sure that it will be safe.

    · Reply
  121. June

    I have a question. What colorant or oxide would you use to get a pale blue colored sea salt soap recipe. All I have is an ultramarine blue oxide. Can I mix that with something to get a sky blue color? Or could you recommend a particular product?
    Also, when I used a silicon mold for the salted recipe there was extra water in the bottom of the mold. Does silicon not react well to salt?

    · Reply
  122. Ann

    I have been having an issue with some of my batches coming out of the mold green around the entire log when cut the green is about 1/8″ in to the loaf sometimes more. I have been using the same recipe for 5 years and have never had this happen. It’s not every loaf, I thought I had some bad lye, it seemed all the bad loaves came from the same bottle of lye, ( the only difference I could find between batches), I bought some lye from a different source and it happened again. My first loaf fine the 2nd all green around the outside. What is going on? It’s driving me crazy. I lost several batches due to this and I am very frustrated. Even an oatmeal soap came out green.

    · Reply
  123. Alicia

    I am a new soaper and have two questions. My first is for hot process in the crockpot. I have tried twice, and both times it acted differently. My first try went from a thick mess to Vaseline, without any of the other “stages” I learned about, and my second attempt was the consistency of thick oatmeal for the entire process. Both have molded and cut fine, am I missing something here? I want to be sure that I am doing this properly and that my soap will be safe to use. My second question… I made a batch last night of CP, and when I unmolded it today it is very very soft. I have cut it in hopes that the smaller slices would harden faster but I’m not seeing much difference. There was a bit of oil left in the bottom of the mold, and the plastic wrap I used over the top was very damp. I’m sure that I used the proper amounts of lye/beer/fragrance, and have been using the same recipe and ingredients for all my batches. I suppose I have 3 questions. My last one is about testing the ph. As I said I’m new to this All the soaps that I have tested are coming in at what looks like a 7 on my paper strips, this includes my hot process. I was curious so I also tested some soaps we had bought at the store and they are all the same ph according to my strips. Could this be false readings? Should my soap reach 8-10 with curing? Am I just confused? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

    · Reply
  124. snow

    I am having an issue with the soap leaving an oily residue on skin after washing. It does not seem to rinse clean anymore. Does anyone have this problem? (Am I not enough mixing? Temp too low? 110-125 degrees F., not enough insulation-2/3 towels)
    Thank you for any suggestions!

    · Reply
    • Alicia

      I’m just guessing here but are you running your recipe though a lye calculator? Also is it oily or slimy, I would ph test it first, make sure it’s not lye heavy. If it’s oily I would double check the recipe, too high a superfat added after trace?

      · Reply
  125. Gayle

    I accidentally spilled a good portion of my lye and milk solution down the drain as I was straining it into the warm oils (trying to strain the milk solids out). I would guess that I lost as much as half of the lye solution, but only a guess. Can I do something to save all these great oils?

    · Reply
  126. Donna Bass

    My soap is “breaking” in the crockpot…what is wrong?

    · Reply
    • Author

      Hi Donna! I don’t really know what breaking means… Cracking? This is due to heat. IF you are hot processing then you should be mixing.

      · Reply
  127. Kathy

    I have just made my first batch of cold process goat’s milk soap and accidentally mixed the milk in when the lye water was way too hot. The temp never got above 80 on my dinky little thermometer so I figured it had cooled way down. I slowly poured the milk into the lye water and then realized that the inner circle of numbers was Celsius, that I was looking at the thermometer at an angle, looking straight on, I could see that there was an outer set of Fahrenheit numbers just inside the rim. And it was about 140 Fahrenheit when I had added the milk. Everything else went fine, it took almost an hour to come to trace and even then the ‘thick honey’ texture was more like warmed honey- not so thick. I was warming my coconut oil and lard in front of a space heater (don’t laugh) because I was told that you can practically bring them to room temperature for soapmaking, and I was in my milk room in the barn, no stove. (Young kids in the house, not about to mix Lye in the kitchen) So it was barely melted when I finally added oils to lye water/milk which I’m sure had cooled way down by this point to room temp as well. My bars sat for 2 days in the wooden box and were a bit soft (but again- first time ever making soap, not sure how hard it’s supposed to be at this point.) The color inside the bars was a little darker like grayish while the outside was very light. Is this normal or should I scrap the batch? Thanks so much!
    PS hindsight 20/20: better thermometer, hot plate, and a clue will be used in my future soap making endeavors!

    · Reply
  128. Alicia

    Without knowing the recipe, here is what I would do in the future. :) Freeze the goats milk. You can use full milk without any water that way if you want. You can also mix the lye/liquid solution with your bowl in a bowl of ice to help keep it cool so you don’t burn the milk. It should stay creamy. Second, you can soap at “room temp”, but only if your oils are warm enough that they are completely liquid. I warm small batches in the microwave while I wait for my lye mixture to cool. As long as the lye is around 120* and the oils are close to the same temp you are good to go. How long it needs to sit before unmolding/cutting depends on the oils used. For instance a 100% olive oil, or something with mostly soft or liquid oils (less coconut or palm oil for instance) will need to sit much longer. If you can cut it with a knife and not squish it I would go ahead. You need to then let it sit, cut, uncovered where it can breath for 4-6 weeks before you can use it. It should dry up in that time. As far as the color goes I’m not sure, unless you added colorant? My goats milk soaps are a creamy white/beige color. When it gets darker in the middle it’s called “gel”, this happens when the soap warms up in the mold. You can help the gel phase by covering your mold and insulating with towels, milk soaps usually heat up more anyway because of the sugar so you may not need to do this, or you can keep it from gelling by soaping at lower temps or even putting the soap in the fridge. Gel is just for looks and a partial gel doesn’t affect the soap at all. This is a whole lot of stuff, I know! Also use plastic, glass or stainless steel and NO aluminum. It reacts with the lye. The most important thing is to make sure it is not “lye heavy” by testing the ph. You can use ph strips (that’s what I use), they make a special chemical that turns clear when soap is safe, or you can do what is called the “zap” test, you touch your tongue to the soap after you unmold it and if it zaps your tongue like a battery it has too much lye. If you are using the strips you want it in the middle. Mine are between 7 and 8. A digital thermometer can be a huge help! And a stick blender if you plan on making lots of soap. They are pretty inexpensive at places like Meijer, and it takes only a few mins to trace. Are you running your recipe through a lye calculator? I personally liked the one on brambleberry.com when I first started out. And are you measuring with a scale? I would recommend that as the only way to measure your ingredients. Hopefully everything I just said made some kind of sense, and helps. :) If you can, check out some youtube videos, soaping 101 is great. Short and to the point, and she gives you some basic recipes as well. Good luck to you. If you have more questions, or if I need to clarify something here please let me know. Happy Soaping!

    · Reply
  129. Kathy

    Thank you so much Alicia! I used the Mary Jane’s Basic Goat’s Milk Soap Recipe. Thought I’d start super simple. It was 8 cups coconut oil, 4 cups lard, 1 1/4 cup Lye, 2 cups milk, and 3 cups water I think (recipe is still in the barn ) I purchased the basic soap making kit from Hoegger’s and it came with a wooden mold box, huge stainless bowl, very long whisk, all ingredients but the milk of course, and safety goggles/gloves. I will definitely get the ph strips and a scale and much better thermometer. I have the cut up bars sitting on an old screen from a window for setting so they have full airflow. I feel like my first attempt wasn’t a total flop now, and I can move on to my second! Thanks so much again :)

    · Reply
  130. alicia

    You’re welcome! Hopefully that helped. I know it was a lot to say. Lol. I would definitely get yourself a scale. I got mine at walmart for pretty cheap. When you do take that same amount of Lard and weigh it. And then run it through a lye calculator like the one on brambleberry.com, and it will give you the weight of everything else you need, lye, water/milk/beer (you can use just about any liquid!)… this will give you a much more accurate recipe. When you do test your batch if it’s too high a ph or if it doesn’t harden all the way you can always do what is a called a rebatch. You shred it all down with like a cheese grater, throw a couple tablespoons of water in and cook it down in the crock pot, until it soft and mixed enough to re-mold. I’ve had to do this 3 times because of colors acting funny, or a soap not hardening. Things happen. Lol. You can even make laundry soap out of it. There are so very many options. Check out youtube videos if you can. I started there before I ever made soap. Learned a whole lot. Have fun soaping, and good luck with the rest of your soaping adventures. It’s so much fun. :)

    · Reply
  131. Adrienne

    Hi,
    Yesterday I doubled a batch, but I forgot to double the lye! What a disaster! It separated and cracked in the mold as it had honey and goats milk, even though I did it at low temp. I just walked away as I do when something don’t work , to think about it first. I left it over night and it all came back together and looked like soap. Amazing!
    The thing is it’s still soft after 2 days so against all my hoping, it ain’t soap.
    Can I mix up some lye and rebatch it in the slow cooker? I hate wasting soap. Any ideas?

    · Reply
  132. Elizabeth McFadden

    Ok WHAT is water discount? Ive mad about 6 loaves by now and I still don’t know what this is, can someone expelling it to me? To me a discount is a reduced price, I have no idea how it translates to saponification. Thanks!

    · Reply
  133. Margarita

    Hi! I am a new soaper and do not know if I can use my last batch. My soap was soft on the edges but hard inside. I cut it and it looks fine, but after I unmolded it, I realized that I forgot to cover the moulds with a blanket/towel. Additionally 2 soaps have a white dust on the edges. It did not happended with all the batch but with the ones poured in a silicone mould. Most of the oils I used are soft. Thanks in advance for your help!

    · Reply
  134. Alicia

    hi Margarita. First using mostly soft oils, will result in a softer batch, or taking longer to harden are cure. The white dust is probably soda ash. You can still use it, it’s not harmful, but isn’t very pretty. You can run it under water to get it off, or some people use a steamer. As far as forgetting the blanket, all you did was not insulate it. Insulating soap helps push your soap through “gel phase”. Gelling is not required, it just happens, and is part of the aesthetics. I think it helps to harden faster as well. Some soapers like to gel and some do not. If it did not go through a full gel you will see in your cut soap a ring or circle that is discolored. Again, not pretty, but it is still safe to use. I always gel my soap unless it is a milk soap, because those tend to heat up too much and burn. I hear that people also put their soap in the fridge to prevent gelling. You may want to do this if you want your colors to stay brighter or if doing some kind of milk soap. Lastly, I always do a ph test with those little strips you can get just about anywhere for $5. That way I always know that my soap is safe to use. I hope this helps. :)

    · Reply
  135. Margarita

    Hi Alicia! Thank you for the quick response. It is good to know I can use the soaps :). I guess I have a lot more to learn about soap making!

    · Reply
  136. Alicia

    Always a lot to learn. Lol. If you can watch Youtube videos I recommend Soap Queen Tv and Soaping 101. :)

    · Reply
  137. naja

    hi i work in soap making small niche and i have a biig problem concenring the olive oil soap…i have posted tghis before but no one answered me :(
    my soap generate after a while a yellow spots and become all yellow with unpleasant scent.. i use the cold process way, for 500 g olive oil i use 72.5 Sodium hydroxide and 94.25 water…it means the water amount is *1.3 the caustic amount…please what is wrong with my recipe and do you have any alternative one..i need it asap

    · Reply
  138. Alicia

    Hi Naja. It’s just a guess but I would say you have DOS or what is called Dreaded Orange Spots. It happens when you oils have gone bad. Oils just like most things can go rancid. Smell the oil before you use it, if it smells off it’s probably gone bad. Though I put your recipe in bb’s lye calculator and it seems your sodium hyd. is high. I don’t know if you’re using a lye calculator or not, but the one I use is on Brambleberry.com it says 500g Olive Oil, 64.99 sodium hydroxide and 165 liquid. If your soap unmolding very hard or soft? A 100% olive oil soap will be soft and take a long time (6months or so) to cure. Because of that it is so important to make sure you have great quality oils.

    · Reply
    • Alicia

      Also that was for a 3% superfat which is what i use for Castille Soap. But even at a 0% superfat my the lye amounts I got were less. Still in the 60’s

      · Reply
    • naja

      thank you alicia so much..i have done a mistake in the comment. i use 72.5 g Sodium hydroxide for 550 g olive oil..it means 65.9 lye for 500 g olive and 85.6 water. it can be unmolded easily after 2 days(48hrs)
      my oil acidity value is 5,its smell is not bad.. do you think the problem is in the amount of water or lye?

      · Reply
      • Naja,
        I dont normally reply or put my two cents in…but i thought id give a little advice. Ive been making soap for some time…both hot and cold. I made one bad batch the whole time so ill tell you what i do.
        Per 500g i use 71g of lye and 190g of water (or goats milk or coconut milk). Bars are removed after 24hrs without an issue. Do you run your recipe through a soap calc?

        · Reply
        • naja

          Dear anna, i made olive oil soap batch according to the recipe of 71 g caustic and 190 g water..it was good,unmolded after 24 hrs but after 1 week…oily layers appeared all over it…and i think 2 more days and yellow spots will be developed:( i cant know what is the problem:(

          · Reply
  139. naja

    yes alicia i run my recipe through a soap calculator…but because i want my soap to be unmold after 24 hrs i use a water discount.. my water amount is lye*1.3…but it seems i am wrong because it develops yellow spots after a while…i ll try ur recipe and find out how it works with me.
    thank you

    · Reply
  140. Twila

    I am a new to this and the soap I have made 1. discolored (orange to whitish looking color) 2. the discolored spots seem to be turning green and moldy looking… how do I know if my soap is spoiled?

    · Reply
  141. Nancy Monio

    I am new to soap making. I took a class in May and I am so glad that I did because now I am not afraid to make soap with Lye. I made a batch of soap using the CPOP method. I didn’t use as much Jamine essential oil in it as I should to get that very nice spell. (it only has a little smell to it). I was wondering if I can remelt it add more essential oils in it then put it back in the mold and put it in the oven. Or should I don’t bother with it leave it as it is (give it to my kids to use). If I do remelt it do I have to had anything to it? I love making soap. Thanks

    · Reply
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  143. Abhichat

    Currently I use rose fragrance oil with my cp soap and it reached trace just only 10 sec even I mixed up fragrance into oil , should I add more water to slow tracing now I use 33% water of oils

    · Reply
  144. I didn’t read through all the comments to see if anyone mentioned this, but I have been getting glycerin rivers (I affectionately call them) every since summer hit. They are clear lines or seams that do not seem to have any consistency in when or why they come. You can view a perfect example here: http://www.soulsticesoaps.com/products/morning-dew-bar-soap.html

    I thought it was occuring only with red oxide, but then used green oxide and the same thing happened. Do you know if it would be the heat and moisture of the summer (I do not even insulate anymore) or do you think it could be from the oxides? Help!!! Thank you.

    · Reply
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    · Reply
  146. Maggie Williams

    First of all, let me thank you again for your wonderful blog. I’ve referred to it constantly over my past year of learning how to soap.

    I have a question I was hoping you could answer. I recently made a batch of soap that had tiny white dots (dry, not weepy) in it (that look different from typical air bubbles). Concerned about possible undissolved lye, I used pH strips to test the soap a few days after unmolding (as well as the zap test, which was inconclusive). The first results showed a clear difference of pH over the dots from the rest of the soap. However, I’ve allowed the soap to sit for several days and retested the spots. There is no longer a clear difference in pH, if any difference of all.

    Should I still scrap the batch? What else could be causing this problem? Thank you so much for your input!

    · Reply
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    · Reply
  148. Hi, I have been making CP soap since February. My batches have turned out really nice. The last two batches seem to be white on the top but fine everywhere else. On the corners at the top it seems to be about a cm thick. The weather has been warm. I make the soap in my utility room and it dries out on shelves. Quite often the door is open creating a bit of a draft. Do you think the top could have dried out too much? It has only happened since we have had this heat wave. I am wondering if the soap is safe to use? I have a craft fair in September and I don’t know what to do.
    When the soap has traced I had the essential oils, pour into the mould and leave it on the shelf for a few days until I slice it into bars. I have not had a problem with this method before which is why I think it may be temperature linked.
    Thank you.

    · Reply
  149. Christy Noullet

    Hello,
    My lye and lard soap has been cooking for 3 days and still zings my tongue pretty good. OK. A lot. I have never had this problem with soap in the past. Any ideas? I will continue to cook because this is my 2nd crap batch after trying to use milk and ;ye is expensive. Will it ever get better?

    · Reply
  150. Yvette

    Hi, is there there a liquid soap quality range like there is for bar soap?

    · Reply
  151. Yvette

    Hi, is there a liquid soap quality range like there is for bar soap?

    · Reply
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  155. Vivienne

    Hi…first time soap maker and I cant get it to trace…it has just seperated and looks curdled. Anything I can do to remedy or avoid next attempt?
    Thanks all….so dissapointed.
    Viv

    · Reply
  156. Hi, I’ve only been making soap myself since the beginning of the year. I cannot comment on the curdling but I did have issues with the mixture not tracing. Sometimes the warmer weather makes a difference, but I found if I used lots of olive oil then it did take ages to trace. I tend to use pomace oil now. Also, when I took advice from other people they suggested that I should using a hand blender. This made a huge difference. I have not looked back. What used to take me over an hour to trace by hand now only takes me 5 minutes. The soap turns of beautiful. I hope this helps in some way. I still have a lot to learn myself. good luck.

    · Reply
  157. Khalid

    Hi, I made my first batch of soap. There is a thick layer of oil on the soap. I used Pomace oil and Coconut. I will appreciate any advice. Thankyou.

    · Reply
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    · Reply
  159. Paige Bristol

    I just made a goat’s milk soap. Not my first time. The milk was frozen and the lye calculator called for 12 ounces of liquid and 6 ounces of lye. I mixed the lye slowly until all the frozen milk melted. It did not seem hot at all. I then worked on combining the oils and when I went to add the lye mixture, it was like a very thick pancake batter. What happened?

    I added the lye anyway and it mixed well. When I cut it, the soap was a wonderful texture, perfect, except that it stinks soooooo baaad!

    · Reply
    • Author

      That sounds pretty normal! It does get thick. The smell should go away as well. I think you’re good!

      · Reply
  160. Darnella

    I used a DIY safe enough for babies recipe and it appears that the oil sits on top if I let the mixture sit. It has been over two hours and no signs of trace. Also, we followed the recipe exact. We used a new jar of lye. Everything was new due to first time soap making. :( What can I do to fix this?

    · Reply
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  162. Karen M.

    My soap never set up at all . I used the beginner recipie in ” Smart Soap Making ” , the cold method . What I have is soap gel ! Can I fix it ?

    · Reply
  163. Danielle

    I just pulled out a 4lb batch of cinnamon orange, Its hot processed and has lumps of white Lye in it. what did i do wrong?

    · Reply

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