Brine Soap a.k.a Soleseife

September 5, 2016

On my list to make has been brine soap.  What is that you ask?  Brine soap or Soleselfie (German and pronounced: zo-luh-zigh-fuh) is soap made with salt, but instead of adding the salt at trace you mix the salt in with your lye-water solution and let the salt dissolve.  You end up with a super hard bar like a salt bar, but not the super scratchy bar of a typical salt bar.

A few things you have to remember:  Salt takes more water to dissolve than lye and so the amount of salt you use can only be 25% (max) of your water.  And you have to take in to consideration that the lye requires at least a 1:1 ratio of water to dissolve.  You’re not using nearly as much salt as you would in a traditional salt bar, but the results are still pretty awesome.


Say my recipe calls for 10 oz of water and 3 oz of lye.  I need at least 3 oz of water to dissolve my lye. That leaves me with 7 oz of water. I take 25% of that and that’s how much salt I can use if I want it all to dissolve.  You can’t take 25% from the 10 oz.

I’ve seen soapers use traditional salt bar recipes (majority of recipe is coconut oil) for brine soap and I’ve seen them use standard recipes with multiple oils.  I think my preference is towards the latter.  I have to cut my soap sooner, and the lather is much smaller (but creamier), but I really like the end result.

A few months ago I made a seaweed and brine facial bar. I used mostly dead sea salt (it’s all I had on hand). I KNEW it would make a soft soap, but it was a small batch and I wanted to play and so I did it.

It took days before I could unmold the soap it was so soft (almost crumbly).  And when I did unmold it the bars ashed over (thickly).  But I put it on my dry rack and forgot about it for a couple months.  Then one day I went to check it and the soap was rock hard (just like a salt bar). I was pleasantly surprised.  I started using the soap and I loved it.  It didn’t build a big lather—I used my standard facial recipe and not a traditional salt bar recipe—but it was oh so creamy and for washing my facial it didn’t bother me the lack of big bubbles.

When I was playing around with aloe and avocado I thought I should make another batch of brine soap.  I had sea salt on hand this time and I liked the previous bar so much that I thought it was good enough to sell.

The facial soaps turned out great.  I made some body soaps too in a loaf mold where I had to cut the soap about 4 hours after I poured.  If I’d waited a full 24 hours to cut like I usually do the batch would have been rock hard!  I can’t wait to see how these set up and to try them once they’ve cured.  I might have some new soaps I add to my line!

Experimenting is fun!  These past couple weeks I’ve played around with aloe, avocado, salt, and tallow.  I need to do this more often!

Salt Bars

August 29, 2016

Salt Bars!  Since I was playing around with brine soap I figured I’d play around with salt bars too.  It has been years (like four or five years!) since I last made salt bars. I wasn’t a fan of them the first time I made them and never had any burning desire to make them since.  That is until recently.

I had some extra pumpkin from a batch of beer & pumpkin soap I’d just made so I decided to use it in my salt bars.  Used a traditional recipe high in coconut oil with a little bit of Shea butter and a 10% superfat.

salt bars (2)

This is less than two hours later and they’re solid.

salt bars (1)

I’m squeezing these as hard as I can…and not even a minor dent. These bar are rock hard! (Note it took them less than three hours to go from soapy liquid in the pot to hey here’s a bar!

Testing: And once again I’m just not a fan. Low, low lather. Super scratchy.  Just not for me, but I know some of my customers will love it.

I couldn’t leave it at that.  I made another batch with a slightly different recipe (replaced shea with avocado) and no pumpkin.  And I tried to push the limits of using dead sea salt (with a blend of sea salt) and it didn’t work.  I mean the bars are hardening up, but they were very soft and crumbly…didn’t come out of the mold pretty. *sigh* I should know better.  The bright side, is my desire to make salt bars is gone. Ha!  So I’m probably good for another five years when it comes to making salt bars😉.

One thing that amuses me to no end with salt bars is how fast they set up (when you use the proper salt).  Within three hours of being poured my bars were rock hard.  I mean you could do some serious damage with them.😉

Aloe Vera!

August 22, 2016

Aloe, oh aloe!  I’d read about aloe.  I’d watched some videos about using aloe.  I figured I was ready to try it.  My mom has had this HUGE aloe plant for I don’t know how many years and I’ve always said I was going to make some soap and use some of that aloe in it.  I don’t know how many years I’ve been saying that, but I finally did it.

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Quite the aloe plant isn’t it?

Took some aloe, sliced it up, and then pureed it.  No matter how much I pureed I still had some small bits of the skin.  No one had ever said anything about the skin and so I figured it would be ok.  Well after I made the soap and cut it I was no longer sure that it would be okay.  Those tiny flecks grew in the soap and I didn’t trust that.  I had a feeling that they would be cause for concern. The last thing I wanted was moldy soap!

aloe (4)

Can I make a random comment? Aloe has a very distinct smell when cut and I can’t say I like it very much!

aloe (5)

No amount of blending completely pureed it. Might be I need a different (better) blender.

Thank goodness for FB Soap Groups.  After posting my soap and the process I got a lot of feedback on how to make aloe soap and that this batch probably was probably going to be a lost.

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Here’s a small piece of the soap. You can see the small specs of aloe practically tripled in size.

I’ve been watching the soap as it cures and the green spots have slowly kind of morphed to a brown color.  I’ll keep watching it and probably test out a bar using it and seeing how the water affects it over time.

Second batch I took my new found knowledge (advice) and didn’t use the leaf, but just scoped out the aloe and blended that with a little bit of water.  This soap is void of the troubling green specs and I’m excited to try it.

Look at this yummy, messy process😉

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Sliced off the top of the leaf and scoped out the aloe center. Quite a messy process.


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Then I blended the aloe with some water. Lovely looking! Not a green spec insight! Now to make some soap with it!

No green specs.  No worries this batch.  I’m excited to use this soap. Not sure if I’ll notice a difference between it and my normal soap, but I’ll know it’s got all the aloe-y goodness in it.

As a side note:  You may laugh at me; it’s okay.  I never knew that I could just cut the leaf/stem off the aloe and leave it be (the plant that is) and it would “heal” itself. I felt so bad looking at the oozing stem where I’d cut it, but I needed my aloe!  Well a few days later I went back to look at the plant and it had closed itself right up! Haha. I know; I’m silly.  I found that quite fascinating to see.  And now I don’t fee so bad about cutting pieces from the aloe plant.

Dancing Funnel Technique: Challenge

August 12, 2016

This month’s challenged fascinated me and I knew I’d have a bit of time to actually attempt some soaps with it so I signed up.  The design is cool, my attempts—not so much.

Attempt 1: WAY to liquidy-runny

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They said you needed a really light trace…and that the soap shouldn’t be thick. I did super thin trace and well that was a disaster.  I ended up halfway through stopping the batch I was making going back to my liquids and stick blending them to thicken them up some and then starting a new loaf.  Still wasn’t thick enough and you can see how fluid this batch looks as everything just kind of ran into everything.

Attempt 1a: Left over soap…

2016-08-06 16.38.32I had some left over soap from some embeds I was making for a custom order so I decided to practice the technique some more.  Soap was still to runny though to make the technique work properly.

Attempt 2: *shakes my head* (That is all I can say…)

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I didn’t have any clean skirt bottles so I thought I’d use piping bags…You should have seen the mess I made…hence the head shaking.  This soap was better than the first but still didn’t turn out great.  First off the black got a little too thick and the white was still too runny.  It was not a fun combo to work with.

Attempt 3: Too thick

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After the previous failed attempts at a really like trace soap I finally tried a batch at a medium trace.  That ended up being too thick.  I just couldn’t win.  And oh my the glycerin rivers on this soap!  All I did was wrap it in a blanket to insulate this one and I got this craziness. I swear the fragrance had to affect it somehow because I’ve never quite seen rivers like this, though I do wonder if it could be the TD (different supplier than I normally use).

In the end I really wasn’t happy with any of the soaps.  This method is super time consuming and doesn’t work for my loaf soaps, so it’s not one I’m likely to do again, but I gave it a go!

Calculating and Using Percentages to Formulate

August 26, 2014

AuswertungenUnderstanding 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 ( 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.🙂


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