Failure #2 (sort of)

February 24, 2011

Remember yesterday’s post on my embedded shamrocks?  Well the first recipe I was going to use hit trace in like 60 sections and started to harden before I could even get it out of the pan!  It resulted in the following mess:

This is what you get when your soap solidifies on you before you can pour it into the molds!

However all is not lost.  I’m going to let it solidify for a couple weeks then I’m going to hand-mill it.  (Hopefully that works and salvages the soap).  I hate losing a batch of soap.  Apparently the Melon Cucumber Fragrance oil accelerates trace big time!


Experiment #2: Embedded Shamrocks

February 23, 2011

I follow a couple of soap blogs and last week one of them made a batch of soap with an embedded shape.  Theirs was more complicated than what I attempted, but they gave me the idea to try out the idea: Jennifer Version.

That night I stopped by my parents on my way home from work and raided my mom’s cookie cutter collection!  Then Saturday I made my first batch of soap (of what would be a two batch process).  I decided with St. Patrick’s Day coming up shamrocks would be fun!

So I poured a thin, flat batch of soap in one of my long molds.  Let it solidified and then Sunday morning cut out the shamrock shapes.

Then Sunday I made another batch of the same soap.  Poured it into one of my loaf molds and then embedded my shamrock pieces into the soap, which resulted in the following block of soap:

Just removed the soap from the mold. Some smaller shamrocks are embedded in one end and larger ones at the other end.

So far so good.  Then I went to work slicing the pieces.  I didn’t get perfect cuts, but I still think the finish product is kind of cool :D

One end of the loaf (with the large shamrocks)

I used my recipe of vegetable fat, coconut oil and beeswax so I’d have a nice hard bar.  I scented it with a ginger peach fragrance oil.

Bars sliced! Ready to cure and be used just in time for St. Patty's Day!

An interesting note: I used green for the shamrocks (which actually didn’t come out the “tone” I was expecting). And then I colored the base soap white. But you’ll noticed that the edges look pink and then turn to white on the inside. Interesting…even if it wasn’t what I was going for. And! after 12 hours exposed…the pink is fading and the bar is turning an off white overall color. Gotta love cold process soap! You never know quite what you’ll end up with some times.


Oils and Their Properties

February 22, 2011

Now that I’ve explained the difference between CP and M&P I want to talk a bit about the oils I use in my CP soap and their properties. Each oil brings something different to the bar of soap! And there are endless possibilities you can create using different oils! It doesn’t always work. I’ve had my fair share of failed batches, but I learn from them and discover what works and what doesn’t.

Sweet Almond Oil
It is an excellent massage oil and this luxurious oil is also wonderful in soap. It’s a light oil with nice moisturizing properties. Sweet Almond Oil is renowned for its rich concentration of oleic and linoleic essential fatty acids which help to give it unequalled penetrating and restructuring properties. Sweet almond oil will promote a rich creamy lather, and generate a conditioning finished product.

Avocado Oil
Avocado oil has a high content of skin nourishing vitamins (A, D, and E which makes it healing as well as moisturizing) and creates a creamy lather and generates a conditioning finished product.

Avocado oil is a great moisturizer

Castor Oil
Castor seed oil increases the lather of a soap. It attracts and holds moisture in the skin. When used in combination with other vegetable oils, it produces a nice hard bar of soap.

Coconut Oil
This is a staple in most recipes. Coconut oil is great for adding firmness to a bar of soap. Coconut oil makes soaps lather beautifully but can be drying when it makes up a large portion of a soap’s fats.

Coconut Oil makes a very hard, white bar of soap with abundant lather.

Grapeseed Oil
High in linoleic acid, grapeseed oil will increase the slippery feel of your bar. It’s also said to add a unique creaminess to the soap’s lather. Grapeseed oil is a lightweight oil that absorbs into the skin quickly without leaving a heavy greasy feeling.

Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil, actually a type of liquid wax, is wonderfully moisturizing for both the hair and skin. Compared to other more delicate soap making oils, Jojoba is very stable with a long shelf life. It is suitable for all skin types, beneficial for spotty and acne conditions, and good for sensitive and oily skin. It also helps to unclog the pores and remove any embedded grime, restores and conditions hair.

Jojoba helps to promote a stable lather and is good at conditioning skin.

Palm Oil
Palm oil offers hardness to a bar of soap and produces more of a creamy stable lather with very few bubbles. Palm oil makes a hard bar that cleans well and is also mild.

Shea Butter
Shea butter adds a wonderful creamy lather, great conditioning properties and some hardness to your soap.

Cocoa Butter
Cocoa Butter is naturally rich in Vitamin E as well as a number of other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin E helps to soothe, hydrate, and balance the skin and also provides the skin collagen, which assists with wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Cocoa butter is used to make soaps harder.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is excellent as a base oil in soaps. Olive Oil prevents the loss of your skin’s natural moisture, softens skin and attracts external moisture to your skin. It helps keeps your skin soft, supple and younger looking.

Aloe Vera Liquid/Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera is used in creams and lotions. It’s a well known healing and soothing agent for damaged, dry skin. It is soothing and healing for burns, skin irritations, and raw open wounds.

Beeswax
Beeswax makes a harder bar of soap.

Vegetable Shortening
Vegetable shortening is normally made out of soybean oil. It is readily available and produces a mild, stable lather. It makes a very hard bar.

Wheat Germ Oil
Thick, sticky, and high in antioxidants, wheat germ is great for nourishing cracked skin and it helps to prevent and reduce scarring and may prevent stretch marks. Mature skin, in particular, will benefit from wheat germ oil. It’s also very rich in vitamin E.


CP, M&P, and Hand Milled

February 21, 2011

Of the three commonly-encountered types of “handmade” soap, Cold Process, Melt and Pour, and Hand-milled, only the cold process method is actually making soap. The other two are methods of adding color, fragrances, and various additives to an existing soap to make a fancier bar out of the initial base. I typically use the cold process (CP) method, though I have recently started to experiment with melt and pour (M&P). I also have plans to make some hand milled (HM) soaps. Each method allows me to make a different type of finished product . One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but each soap maker usually has a preference for one over the other.

Cold Process (CP)
Cold process soap is made up of three basic ingredients: water, lye and fats (oils). The lye is mixed with the water and then that solution is mixed with fats. A reaction takes then takes place between the hydrogen, oxygen, sodium and fatty acid molecules. This is called saponification, and the end result is a substance that is made up of five parts soap and one part glycerin. Glycerin—a rich emollient that softens the skin—is retained in handmade soap but in commercial soap it is extracted, leaving behind the hard, drying bars of soap we purchase at stores.

Essential oils, fragrance oils, botanicals, herbs, oatmeal or other additives can be added to the soap. However not all essential oils or fragrance oils (or other additives) always work well in the cold process method. They can react with the lye mixture and do funky things to your soap…from color distortion to separating your oils.

Once the soap is poured, it needs a couple days to harden before it can be removed from the molds. At this time, it is safe to use the soap since saponification is complete. However, cold-process soaps are typically cured and hardened on a drying rack for 2–6 weeks before use. The longer a soap is left to cure the harder the bar becomes and hence the longer the soap will last.

Melt & Pour (M&P)
Melt and Pour is very much what it sounds like. You start with a glycerin soap base that you melt down using a double boiler. Once the soap base is melted you can add color, fragrances and other additives. Then you pour it in your mold. Let it set for a couple hours and as soon as it’s cooled it ready to use.

In general, M&P is around 50% soap and the balance is solvents. It is formulated to withstand re-melting and accept additives.

Just about anything can be added to M&P soap—dried herbs, ground spices, luxury butters (shea or cocoa), cosmetic clays, dried flowers, fragrances and color additives. M&P also allows you to use fancy molds (more easily) and be a bit more creative with shapes and mixing colors.

Hand-milled (HM)
Hand-milled (also referred to as French-milled) soap is similar to melt and pour in that the soap is melted and color and fragrances are then added to it. The difference though is that rather than starting with a base that is formulated to be remelted, hand-milled soap is made by melting cold-process soap that has been grated and mixed with a small amount of water. This produces a harder, longer lasting bar, with a smoother and more consistent texture than the original cold process soap.

One of the big advantages is that since the chemical reaction involving lye has already taken place (in the initial cold process batch of soap you’ve made), you can freely add all sorts of ingredients to your soaps—cosmetic clay, cornmeal, citrus juice, spices, cocoa butter, essential oils, herbal infusions, teas, vitamin E, aloe, goat’s milk, honey, oatmeal (and the list goes on and on)—without worrying about how they might be affected by the lye. Plus there’s no worrying about curdling, seizure, refusal to trace, or separation. (All headaches I’ve had to deal with in my cold process soap!!)

Besides making lovely soaps, the rebatching process is a way to fix little disasters. If soap has separated in the curing process or the bars have dried crooked for example, the rebatching helps remedy most of these problems. I had a batch trace so quickly on me it basically solidified in my pot before I could pour it. I plan to hand-mill it so that it’s not wasted.

Cold Process (CP) vs. Melt and Pour (M&P)
When I made the M&P I felt like I’d cheated. It’s such a simpler and easier way of making fancy soap bars. I understand why people like it so much. For one, it’s hard to screw up a batch–unlike my many failures with the CP (but failed batches are a learning experience!). Also, it allows you a wider range of creativity with fancy molds when making you’re soaps. They’re nice soaps, but they’ll never stand up to the CP for me. I like to take all the oils, the lye, the water…and make magic happen (okay, so it’s science, but it feels like magic when you see the final bar of soap come out of the mold.). CP doesn’t give you “as fancy” a bar as M&P can, but imperfections are all a part of the CP soap making method. Plus it’s 100% all natural soap. And in my opinion you can’t beat that!

While the two bars both work nicely, I like my CP soap best. I can choose what oils I’m going to use and create a bar of soap specifically for what I want. Lots of lather, moisturizing, for sensitive skin…you name it, I can create a recipe of a unique batch of oils that can have specific qualities. I like that.

Stay tune. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the oils I use and their properties!


I admit defeat!

February 19, 2011

There’s a reason they tell soap makers not to use the Oatmeal Milk and Honey (OMH) Fragrance oil in cold process soap…it’s because it just doesn’t work!

I’ve come to accept that and will just use it in Melt & Pour soaps now.  (Next week I’m going to talk about the difference between Melt & Pour and Cold Process soap making so stay tuned!)

The FO makes the soap very soft.  I used one of my hardest producing bar recipes and even after five days the soap, while solid, it still soft.  It will harden.  But it’ll take about 4 weeks.

I’ve also learned (now after this happening three times to me) that if I’m going to use oatmeal I have to complete grind it up.   I left a few small pieces in this mixture (most of it was ground).  Those pieces are causing my soap to expand and crack.  Only time will tell if those cracks will remain small (and hence produce a usable soap) or if they’ll expand and make the soap fall apart.  Here’s to hoping the latter!

Click onthe picture to enlarge and see the cracks.


A Doozy of a Disaster!

February 18, 2011

My shaving soap recipe that I tried last weekend…complete failure.  I used a recipe I found online.  I ran my weights through the lye calculator to double check my lye and water amounts.  I followed the recipe exactly.  When I mixed the oils they seemed to work fine.  When I added the FO it seemed to do okay.  I poured it into the mold checked it 30 minutes later and the oils were separating.

I stirred the oils back together in the mold periodically throughout the day and the seemed to stay mixed…but as the week progressed the soap didn’t get hard and then it started to get pasty and then last night it started heaving…full of cracks.  At that point I gave up on it. Tried to take it out of the mold and the picture below is what I got!  Total Disaster.  It happens…but I still don’t like it when a batch fails.  Going to try a new (i.e. different) recipe.  I really want to find a nice shaving soap recipe for the guys.


Experimenting: Oatmeal, Milk, Honey and Cinnamon!

February 16, 2011

I really like the Oatmeal, Milk & Honey (OMH) fragrance oil (FO) I have.  The problem is that the FO doesn’t like the Cold Process (CP) soap recipes I’ve tried it on.  It tends to separate the oils making it hard to use.  I’ve been trying out different recipes with the FO trying to find one that worked.

I’ve realized that my “basic” recipe of coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil doesn’t work at all with this FO.  Nor does my coconut oil and cocoa butter recipe.  I tried another moisturizing recipe that has a quick trace and it worked (in that the oils didn’t separate) but I came across a few problems.  1) I can’t add color to the bar…the FO does wacky things to it resulting in a brown soap every time.  2) Even with this recipe it was still a really soft bar that took 6 weeks to really harden.

Also, the bar is silky smooth when used, but it doesn’t create much of a lather.  My skin feels good after using it, but I like a nice lather…

Since I really love the scent and didn’t want to give up on it I started searching for other recipes I could use.  I came across one that called for the actual use of honey and oatmeal in the recipe.  So I tried it.  All in all it seems to have worked (haven’t used it yet as it needs another 3 weeks to cure).  The problem is that after I poured it and it started to cure a massively thick layer of soda ash formed on it.  I was able to easily scrap it off, but it’s a pain, and a sign that the recipe didn’t work perfectly. It seemed though that the addition of oatmeal and honey worked well with the FO.

Ground oatmeal, some cinnamon and honey! Ready to go into my soap mixture! Yum! Looks good enough to eat doesn't it!

Incorporating everything I knew I decided to try the recipe I use for my vanilla bar of soap which uses vegetable fat, coconut oil and beeswax.  It too had a quick trace AND it’s a super hard bar.  Last night I experimented with this recipe.  I grounded up some oatmeal (almost powder thin, but with a few larger pieces of oatmeal to give the bar some texture), added some cinnamon (more for the fun speckled look it gives the soap) and added some honey.  The soap traced nicely, all the additives mixed well and it poured into the molds with no oil separation!  As of this morning the bars look really good.  Hardening up nicely.

So phase one was a success.  Now I’ll have to see how they come out of the molds if they harden “quickly” and then in six weeks I’ll tests them and see how they work in the shower.  Really hoping I get a nice hard bar with great lather!


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