Calculating and Using Percentages to Formulate

August 26, 2014

Understanding how percentages work when calculating a recipe is very important.  It’s one of the biggest questions I get asked from new soap makers.  How important is it?  The HSCG has questions on their certification exam on this topic!  That should tell you just how important it is.

It’s a question I’ve answered enough times that I figured it was worth taking the time to write a blog post about it.  This way I can refer questions back to it and potentially help those who don’t know who to ask for help.

I’m sure you’ve seen recipes that look like this:

20% Coconut Oil
20% Palm Oil
50% Olive Oil
10% Shea Butter

What does this mean though if you want to convert the percentages into ounces so you can make soap?  First step is to convert  the percentage into a decimal.

So you take the percentage and divide it by the total percentage of all items.

In this case: 20 + 50 + 20 + 10 = 100

20 / 100 = .20
50 / 100 = .50
20/ 100 = .20
10/ 100 = .10

Once you’ve converted the percentages you can then determine the amount of oil you’ll need. You simply take the weight of the batch and multiply it by the converted percentage.

With that in mind let’s go back to the problem on hand.  Let’s say we have a total weight of oils of 28oz.  We take that and multiply it by each percentage.

.50 x 28 = 14.0
.20 x 28 = 5.6
.20 x 28 = 5.6
.10 x 28 = 2.8

If we did our math right then 14 + 5.6 + 5.6 + 2.8 should add up to 28.  Woohoo! We did our math right.  Now you can take the ounces and plug them into a soap calculator to calculate the amount of water/lye you’ll need.

Part 2

Now if you understand this then you can calculate recipes even if you just know the weight of one of the oils! So we know that olive oil makes up 14oz of the recipe and we know that olive oil is 50% of the recipe. Before you can proceed you have to determine the total weight of oils this recipe will make.

If olive oil is 50% then we need to account for another 50% in oils. Simple math tells us that if half is 14oz then just add another 14oz (or double 14) to it and the total weight if the recipe is 28oz.  Now that we know this we can apply the same method as above:

.20 x 28 = 5.6
.20 x 28 = 5.6
.10 x 28 = 2.8

Part 3

Okay, now that you understand that I’m going to make it harder!  What if it’s not “simple math” and you can’t go oh I know 50% is half?  Then just set up your problem as an algebraic equation: Let’s look at a NEW recipe.

An oil blend is to contain 50% olive, 20% palm, and 30% coconut.  How many pounds of olive oil should be used with 8 pounds of coconut oil?

What your recipe has: (converted to decimal)
50% olive oil (.50)
20% palm oil (.20)
30% coconut oil (.30)

What we KNOW for actual weights of oils:

50% olive oil = ?
20% palm oil = ?
30% coconut oil = 8lb

Let’s set it up as an algebraic formula:
You need to determine: 8lb is 30% of what (x)?

So, 30% = .30

8lb = .3x (x represents the total weight of the batch)

Then just solve the formula: (to get “x” on its own you have to divide each side by .3)

8/.3 = .3x / .3

(the .3 cancels out leaving you with just “x”)

x = 8/.3

x = 26.6

Now that you know the TOTAL weight of the recipe you can calculate 50% olive oil.

50% x 26.6

(convert the 50%)
.5 x 26.6 = 13.3lb

If you’re studying to take the Certification Test you’ll see questions like this:

An oil blend is to contain 50% olive, 20% palm, 20% coconut, and 10% Shea Butter.  How many pounds of palm oil should be used with 6 pounds of Shea butter?

You can answer this question by doing the above math.  Figure out the TOTAL WEIGHT OF THE OILS in that recipe.  Then once you know that you can CALCULATE the percentage of whatever oil they’re asking for!

Learn to understand percentages! It’s really important and will be an invaluable skill for you in your soap making career.  I offer an advance class on Formulating a Recipe that goes over percentages.  If you’re local to Massachusetts and are interested in it watch my calendar page (www.jennifersoap.com) I offer the class once or twice a year.

So, give it a shot?  What’s the answer to the above question?  how many pounds of palm oil should be used?

Side Note

Most molds hold either 2lb, 2.5lb, 3lb, 5lb or 10lb of oils.  Part of the total weight of a batch will be made up of the lye/water solution.  So, a 2.5lb batch of soap doesn’t have 40oz of oils total.  Only a percentage of that will be oils. The rest will be your lye/water.  To help you get started with your own recipe calculations I’ve calculated the amount of oils needed for each mold weight and am sharing it with you.  Here’s a little “cheat sheet”:

Oil Cheat Sheet
2.5lb Batch  = 28oz oil
3lb Batch    = 34oz oil
5lb Batch    = 55oz oil
10lb Batch   = 110oz oil


Saponification: Visually

January 11, 2014

I get asked quite often how you make soap.  People don’t understand the chemical transformation that the oils/lye go through most of the time, no matter how I try to simplify it.  Well the other day I came across this image and LOVED it.  It’s a simple visual explanation of what I try to explain :D  It will be printed and kept with me at fairs to be pulled out every now and then. :)

Saponification


Soap Crafting, by Anne-Marie Faiola

September 11, 2013

I admit I was hesitant on buying another soap book. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it would be an awesome book it was that I have a SHELF FULL of soap books (and everything in between from hydrosols to cream soap).  Every time I get into research something new I end up with a new book.  So, I was like do I need another book???  Umm…yeah I did.  :D  Let’s face it, you can never have too many books (especially if they’re good)!

I’m glad I bought the book.  It’s gorgeously presented…I wish some of the books I used when I first started soapmaking had been like this one!  The basic information is similar to many of my other books, but presented in a manner that is a bit more friendly and explains certain aspects better.  For example the fact that you NEED to melt down your palm oil.  Something I didn’t learn about until about a year into making soap and even then I stumbled on it completely by accident.

The reason you REALLY want this book on your shelves (if you don’t already have it) are for the recipes!  It’s not just different recipes, but step by step directions (with pictures) on how to do each recipe…something you’ll find most soap books lack.  There’s a wide range of recipes covering everything from coloring to using natural ingredients.

I remember when I first started out and I researched (what felt like) hundreds of recipes.  I was still learning about oils and didn’t have a clue how to formulate my own recipe.  Nor did I know how to tell if a recipe I found was good or not.  That alone led me to numerous failed batches.  This book would have been so helpful back when I was starting out.

That said, it’s still a cool book to have now, even though I don’t necessarily need all the recipes.  If nothing else it’s a nice base for me and I know how to alter the recipes to what I want so it will save me some trial and error too.  There are definitely some recipes/techniques I’m going to try…of course I’ll end up putting my own spin on some of them.

Stay tuned for future posts as I try out my take on the following recipes from the book:

  • Stained Glass
  • Cupcake Cuties (I’m finally going to try whipping some CP soap! It’s only been on my list to do for over a year :D).
  • Pumpkin IPS
  • Coconut Milk Bars
  • Calendula Cleaning Bar

Soap Conference: Part 2

May 28, 2013

I’m CP/HP Certified! Woohoo!!!  I passed my test :)

certificate

Now it’s on to the advance test.  I’m super excited about the advance test. I get to actually formulate my own recipe and record myself making it and submit a bar of soap to the Guild :D  There is also a multiple choice question section too I’ll have to pass.  I’m not that worried about it. Now that I’ve got the first one out of the way the stress of the unknown is no longer there.

I’ve been asked quite a few times now if you “need” the certification tests.  You don’t really, but I teach soap classes all the time and for me these tests allow me to add a certified in my author bio for these classes and I like know that I’ve a way to prove to students that I really do know what I’m talking about when I teach them :D

As an added bonus the conference offered a couple classes that I participated in that I know will help me with the Advanced test too.  So I say bring it on!


Soap Conference: Part 1

May 27, 2013

I’m still trying to process everything from the 2013 Soap Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It was an amazing trip (and EXHAUSTING!).

There were a lot of awesome classes offered. I think my favorites though were:

  • Kevin Dunn’s “Superfat of Discount? Identical of Different
  • Kerri Mixon’s “Chemistry of Fatty Acids & Oils”

I learned the most from those two classes and I just found them fascinating!  Who’d have thought the girl who hated chemistry in high school would be absolutely enthralled with it today??  Guess it just had to be chemistry of soap to pull me in.

See science can be lots of fun!!

science

Other classes I really enjoyed (and got some good information out of) were:

  • Kat Hackney’s “Advance Colorants”
  • Marla Bosworth’s “Natural Shampoo”

Ann Evanston’s keynote address was inspiring and definitely gave me some stuff to think about and things to think about changing.

The soaps submitted to the Soaper’s Showcase were all pretty amazing this year too.  I loved the packaging category. There were some inspiring soaps there!  Here’s a couple pictures!

soap entries

packaging3

cake 3

garden

 


Submitting Photos for Juried Craft Fairs

August 21, 2012

If you do a lot of craft fairs you’ve probably run into the words “juried event.”  I don’t mind having to go through a jury.  It usually means there’s going to be high quality work at the event and if I get a spot I’m happy.  Jury basically means you have to submit three (sometimes 4) images of your work for the committee to use as a reference for when they get together to decide who they are going to allow to a show.

Of course the hard part is choosing three good photos that are a good representation of your work.  I’ve learned a few thins over the past two years of markets when it comes to submitting photos.

  1. Take the time to take really good pictures.  Most of us do this anyway, but don’t just pull out three pictures that you happen to have on your computer.  Trust me, everyone else who is applying to the show is going to be putting forth their best pictures.
  2. Show a good variety of what you offer.
  3. Choose pictures/items that will make you stand out.
  4. Change up your pictures.  Twice a year (sometimes more often) I update my pictures.  I am always coming up with new soaps.  I try and change them up for the seasons.  I also never use the same pictures two years in a row.  I apply to many of the same events year after year.  I want to show the jury panel that I’m always updating my product and bringing something new and fun to the event.

I do mainly CP soaps.  I am also known for my cupcakes and Soap Sundaes.  Yes I do bath products, but they’re maybe 5% of what I offer.  And honestly…bath products aren’t all that interesting to look at.  My soaps, like many of yours, are “works of art” for me.  I put the most time and effort into those.  I think long and hard about designs.  I sketch them out and plan in advance before I pour a batch.  They are what get people to stop at my booth.  That’s what I need to feature.

When you can only upload three images it’s hard to choose just one soap bar.  I’m lucky, I was trained in Photo Shop and know how to use it well.  Because I have photo editing skills I’ve created a three image collage of my bar soaps and the same for my cupcakes soaps.  This allows me to show 6 pictures instead of just 2 and it gives the jury a great idea of what I do, the uniqueness and variety I offer.

It can be frustrating to not be selected, but give yourself the best chance by submitting awesome photos!  It’s worth all the extra time and effort.

These are my current submission photos:

Soap Bars

Cupcake Soaps

Sundae Soaps


Bug Off Lotion Bar and Spray

August 19, 2012

I totally forgot to tell you all about the success of my “Bug Off” spray and lotion bars.  I’ve been selling them at my markets all summer.  It’s lots of fun when people come up and tell me how it “really” worked!  I’ve been using it myself this summer and (granted I don’t go out that often, but when I do I get bit) I haven’t gotten bit this summer.

Thank you to all my testers and those that gave me great feedback!  You’re comments helped me tweak recipes a bit and make a great product!


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