“Demystifying Lye Calculators” presented by Catherine McGinnis.

“Demystifying Lye Calculators” presented by Catherine McGinnis. Learning to work with online lye calculators.

DEMYSTIFYING LYE CALCULATORS
Catherine:	I make U-Tube videos.  You may have seen them, you may not have seen them, but you’re going to see a mix up today.
 I wanted to talk about something real quick.  I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget the scientific name on it, so has anybody ever seen something like this on soap.  It’s white, it looks like powder.  Has anybody ever seen this, has this ever happened to you.  Do you know what it’s called?
Group		Soda Ash
Catherine:	Soda Ash.  It is also called sodium bicarbonate.  That’s correct.  How it happens is when you make soap, we have to have lye to make soap, so we mix that lye with water as the carrier.  Well that water sometime wants to escape off the top of your soap and when it hits the carbon dioxide in the air, it kind of forms like an ash, or a powder or a salt that stays on top.  It’s not harmful at all, you can absolutely use the soap with soda ash on it.   It just sometimes just doesn’t look as pretty, so you can take it off easily and you can use a knife and just kind of scrape the sides, you can take a toothbrush dipped in water and kind of rub on it.  Once it cleans up, it looks something like this.  So, it is not harmful, it is not going to affect your soap in any other way but if you do get ash on your soap, it is easily taken off, you can clean it off.  The reason why I’m showing you this is because you usually get it on top.  See how this has glitter on top?  My guess is just a guess, it couldn’t escape out the top because the glitter might have sealed the water in, but when she cut it, then it formed the soda ash because it was still trying to escape.  Probably the moisture in the air hit the carbon dioxide and that’s probably why it was on the side.  
Question	Did she cut it too soon?   
Catherine	Did she cut too soon?  Maybe not, you mean you can cut as it is hard to cut.  That’s my guess on how it happened on the side.  Where are you Phyllis?  Well we can ask her but I’m sure she cut it and then it formed the ash.
Michelle	Isn’t it a pain in the butt when you have a nice soap and it has ash on it?
Catherine	Absolutely.  So it wanted to escape but it couldn’t escape because of the glitter on the top, probably formed some kind of barrier to keep that water in.  As soon as she cut it then it decided to escape.  You can spray it with alcohol
Question	Why does it happen?
Catherine	Kevin, why does it happen?
Kevin		Because if the soap is still alkaline, and one thing thatI will say is, 
Catherine	Are you going to lick it?
Kevin		Yeah, you can tell the difference.  I am the last chemist in the universe that tastes things, but I don’t taste everything.  There are places where my tongue won’t go.  So if you want to know what it tastes like, here is your opportunity.  That is soda ash and if you want to know what it tastes like, go to the grocery store and buy some washing soda. Washing soda is sodium carbonate and just see what it tastes like.  It has a very distinctive taste to it and you will know.  It doesn’t quite give the sodium hydroxide zing, but it is kind of that edge of the spectrum.  Sometimes people show me something and it’s white and I taste it and it is just soap.  Sorry, it is just white soap.
Derek		So that soap alkaline, you can tell that it is alkaline?
Kevin		Yes, I’m not getting the lye zing, it is perfectly soap, but I can taste that this material on the surface is soda ash.
Question	But why does it happen?
Kim		Because it doesn’t always happen.
Catherine	Sometimes fragrance oils
Kevin		And it depends on how much lye was left in the soap when you cut it, so if the reaction isn’t complete and there is still some sodium hydroxide still wandering around looking for an oil molecule to attack.  If the water seeps to the surface and brings the sodium hydroxide with it, carbon dioxide from the air hits that, they combine and they make sodium carbonate.
Catherine	You can steam it.  Any kind of water or any kind of alcohol, any kind of wet liquid will take this right off.  I use a planer or a knife and my mom is using a little bit of a toothbrush.  

So my question is, do we have any new soapers that haven’t made soap before?  We have three, four, oh five.   That’s fine.
Is there any master mathematicians in the house?  The reason that I ask that is I’m not either, so when I calculate how much lye I need for my recipe, I could do it by hand, like Kevin showed you earlier today, or I could use a lye calculator and so today we are going to talk about lye calculators.  In specific, we are going to talk about soapcal.net.  Are most of you familiar with soapcal.net?  Okay
Before you can use a lye calculator, you need to research the properties of the oils that you are using and we talked about this I think Retreat One?  We talked about different oils and their properties?
Phyllis		Yep
Catherine	I need to premise by saying a lye calculator does not create your recipe for you.  All it does is calculate how much lye you need based on the recipe you have.  So there might be some confusion with brand new soapmakers that it is not going to give you a recipe.   You need to determine what oils you want to use and it will tell you how much lye to use based on those oils.  So each fatty acid lends a different property to your soap, all uric, palmitic, stearic, you guys all kind of remember that? Okay, then I’m not going over it again.  And the second thing, you need to know the volume of the mold that you are using.  So hypothetically, we are going to use an Essential Depot mold.  They come in red and they come in a clearish, so let’s say hypothetically, that this mold is 11-1/4” in length, 3-1/4” in width and 3-1/2” high.  We need to know how much oil it will take to fill this mold and then the lye calculator is going to tell you how much lye and how much water we need.   So we are all working through on how much oils.  You take the length times the width times the height.  So the length times the width times the height is 127.97.  Then we take a multiplying factor.  Today I’m here using, and I always use, 3.9.  Can you use 4.0, you might have heard 4.0 as the multiplying factor.  If you use 4.0, you are going to get an excess amount of oils.  So I use 3.9 because it seems to fit better.  Why does it get an excess amount of oils?   I use 3.9 as the multiplying factor because…  I do use .39 as my multiplying factor.  If I use .4 then it will give you an excess, I feel it gives you an excess amount of oils and sometimes you can overfill your molds when you don’t want to.  So my base is always multiplying factor is always .39.  
Question	For any mold?
Catherine	Well any rectangular mold.  There are different ways to calculate if you are calculating a cylindrical mole or an odd-shaped mold, but this is just for a rectangular mold.   Calculate the volume times .39.
Question	Is there another way to do that?
Catherine	Absolutely you can.
Kevin		Glug, glug, glug, glug.  I got my scale there and I pour it into the container and it reads right out there the amount of oil that fits into that mold.  
Catherine	I changed my mind, no you cannot.  I’m teasing with you.  Absolutely you can fill a mold to fill with water.  Kevin is absolutely right, I use .39, but you can use .4 if you want to.   The point .39 for me fills right to the top.   If that is 3-1/2”, measure 3-1/4”, however high you want to fill it up.  You only want this an inch, multiply 11-1/4” x 3-1/4” x 1”.  That’s for the oils.  That’s how many oils you need to fill it to the amount you want
Question	Shouldn’t you be measuring the inside, not the outside?
Catherine	Yes, I’m sorry, she is absolutely right, measure the inside and not the outside.  Sorry, I was just showing you on the outside, because this 1/4” thick, something like that.   Kevin is absolutely right, you can fill it with an oil and it will tell you exactly how much you need.  As somebody said, that could be messy.  But for today we will base it on this.   So we are going to base that this mold holds 49.91 ounces of oils to fill it to the top.  Does everybody have this printed out, because you might be able to read this on the screen?  Okay, there are many many lye calculators I think Essential Depot has a lye calculator, and what your URL for yours?  Lyedepot.com. Today I’m going to base it on soapcal.net, I think it is the most popular one.  Brambleberry has one, there are lots of them.   First thing we are going to look at and hopefully you can see it on your and you can’t see it on the screen, is where it says soap bar qualities.   So if we click on that, we come to this page, and all this is what we’ve talked about it before the lauric, the myristic, the palmitic, the stearic, the qualities of your oils, whether they are used for hardness, for cleansing, bubbly, conditioning, so if you click that  it will bring you right to these properties.  These ranges are meant to be a relative indicator of the soap’s qualities.  I read that directly from their page.  Then if we go to the page we are before, pretend like this is on an on-line web site and we are clicking on buttons, that’s all I did.  We can sort it by oils.  In there they are sorted by oils.   You can see the SAP value, the iodine value.  Say for example you were making a shaving soap.  Shaving soaps work really well with an oil that high stearic acid.  So I could click on stearic acid and it would sort it for me in descending order of one that has the highest amount of stearic acid based to the lowest, and you can do that with any property of an oil in their calculator and they have a lot of oils.  Am I losing anybody yet?  
So let’s pretend we’re clicking back.  Now we’re back at the very home page.  If you click on the very top where it says soap calc lye calculator, that’s what we are talking about today.  You can see where it is broken down into several different parts, one two, three four, five, six, on and on.  So I’m going to take them one by one, quickly.  One is the type of lye.  Your choices are NaOH, which everyone knows it is sodium hydroxide and KOH, potassium or 90% KOH, which would be 10% sodium hydroxide and 90% potassium hydroxide.  You would use that for shaving soaps, shaving pucks, anything you want a cream soap with.  Number two, any questions about number one?  Number two, weight of the oils.  You can use pounds if you are making a huge huge batch, you can use ounces or you can use grams.  It doesn’t matter what you use it is whatever you are comfortable with.  If you’re European, you might be more comfortable with grams, if you are a scientist, you might be more comfortable with grams.  Most soapmakers are more comfortable with ounces.  That is just American soapmakers.  Any questions about number two?  
3. Water as percentage of oils.  So 38% is considered as using full water.  So when you just click on the water as percentage of oils, it is going to automatically default to 38%, if you use lye concentration.  As you become more experienced, you may wish to use 33% lye concentration and all that means is that you are using less water as a percentage of lye in your recipe.  In other words people call it as a water discount.  It means it will probably cure faster because there is less water going in, so there is less water that has to come back out.  And then the last one is water to lye ratio.   I told you as a norm that 33% as you become more experienced, you might want to use that, that’s a two to one, so it’s two parts water to one part lye, in the 33% lye calculation.  If you are new and you never have used the soap calculator before or if you just always want to be standard, just leave it, water as a percentage to oils.  Most people do, but if you’re more advanced, you can probably change that.  Are there any questions on that?
Catherine	So Michele said you can also do 35%, absolutely.  It works good for her. There is no right or wrong, it’s how you want to calculate your recipe.  
4.  Super Fat.  So everybody knows what a super fat is?  A super fat is the excess amount of oils that don’t get saponified with the lye, so you have a little bit of extra oil free floating, I guess, in  your soap as more of a conditioning or more of an oily property; you base it on what your super fat will be, the norm is usually five.   You can go higher, lower, depending on what kind of soap you are making.  
And then the fragrance oil.   Fragrance oil is as suggested as by the manufacturer.  We talked before, I think retreat 2, about essential oils and how the International Fragrance Oil Association gives you a standard on how much you should use for skin, the usage rate for skin.  There is no international organization, but every manufacturer will recommend that you use no more than this amount of fragrance oil for different products, skin, for lotion, for body butters, for soaps, any different body product has a different, sometimes it’s same, sometimes it’s different, but there is always a percentage to use.  And that is what I’m saying here is that, and I put in .05, so that’s ½ percent.  Do you guys understand that?  
5.  Okay, this is just to show you that where it says hardness, cleansing, conditioning, bubbly, this is Part 5 now, if you hover over that, so if my cursor is hovering over  it, it’s going to pull up hardness, can you kind of see that in your books, and all that that is going to do is give the average ranges that you might want to shoot for, and it does it for everyone, hardness, if you were interested in what the range should be if you’re higher or lower.  And then next to the properties, the lauric, myristic, the palmitic, if you click on that “i” next to it or “l”, if you click on that, it’s going to bring you to Wikipedia and it is just going to tell you the definition of that and a little bit about it.  So if you have a question on why is this so high, why is this so low, it kinda gears you to the right direction?  
So let’s go over them if you want to real quick.  
Hardness.  When they say hardness, they don’t mean my bar is hard or my bar is soft, it means hardness as it relates to hard and soft water, so if you are looking for a super hard, hard bar, just make 100% coconut oil, that’s going to make a hard bar, but if it’s based on the hardness as do you live in an area or you’re selling to an area that has hard water or soft water and that’s what this hardness means. 
Question:	So what does the number show, if it is a higher number?
Catherine:	It will make a harder bar so it will be better for an area with harder water.  Was that your question?
Do anybody else have any questions on the hardness?  Do you understand it?
Okay, the second point is cleansing and I think that is very self-explanatory.  It’s how much dirt or grime the oils will remove from your skin.  The conditioning property, is the content, the emollient content that remains on your skin.  I told you a little bit earlier just about super fat, that’s like an emollient that would leave on your skin and that’s what the conditioning means.  
Bubbly and creamy.  What kind of lather do you want, do you want huge bubbles or you do you want small creamy bubbles.
Iodine is how it stands up to the hard and soft water, and then the INS is the overall evaluation of the soap.  I’m going to ask you (Kevin Dunn), can you explain what the INS is?  It’s kind of a bit of a mystery.
Kevin:		There is a book written in the early early 20th century and I don’t remember the man’s name.
Catherine	Was is McDonald or McDowell?
Kevin:		No, McDowell made it popular, but it actually referred back to an early book so a book for “big boy soapers”, so anyway that’s a combination of saponification value and iodine number and it was just, I’m stuck on the man’s name, it was Watt or something, I will look it up and get back to you, but his notion was that there was a combination of iodine value and saponification value that led to a kind of a typical bar of soap and that’s where that comes from.  
Catherine:	Do you know what it stands for?
Kevin:		It stands for Iodine and I think literally it is iodine and saponification value.
Catherine:	Anybody else have any questions?  Oh, I’m sorry, does anybody have any questions about any of this, the hardness, the cleansing, any of this?  Let’s move on to the list of oils.  
So right next to that, right next to six, you have a whole list of oils that you can use in your soap or you can choose to use in your soap.  Probably, prior to coming to this lye calculator, you have already determined maybe what you want, but this way you can add different ones and see if it is giving you the hardness you want or the cleansing you want, I don’t know how many oils they have but there’s a lot of them.
Phyllis:		Chicken Fat.  Have you ever made a soap out of chicken fat?
Catherine:	Uh Uh, I think it really really has a high rancid value, doesn’t it, as it goes rancid really fast?  I’m going to make a chicken fat soap and send it to you.
Michelle:	You would have to sure render it like ….
Catherine:	I would say so, like you a boil a chicken you would just skim the fat off the top.  My mother’s going to make soup.   
Okay, let’s make a recipe, using the lye calculator.  We are going to use a 60/40 recipe, we have before in the past, 60% hard oils, 40% soft oils.  So I put in olive oil, it’s this page, the one with 60/40 on the bottom.  Everybody have that?  So if you look where the number six it, look just the right of that and you can see olive oil, is everybody following along with that?  Okay, so I used 38% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 30% palm oil and 2% castor oil.  That would represent 60% hard oils and 40% soft oils.  So we are going to jump back, so we put that in, our percentages.   I would use ounces if I wanted to, I could use pounds or I could use grams.  I chose to use percentages.  So let’s jump up to the top real quick and under number two, can you see where I have 49.91 ounces? Do you remember when we calculated how much our mold would hold?  So that’s what you put there.  
Michelle:	Can you put in 50?
Catherine:	Yeah, you might have a little extra.   You could mound it maybe, but if you had the exact numbers you might want to put it.
Michelle:	This is a huge soap.
Catherine	Yeah, this is a big soap.  So, if I had a smaller mold, say for example, this was my mold, I would measure it or I would pour my oil in it and get the exact measurement of it and I would replace that 49.9 with whatever size oil value I have for this mold.   So you can always use the same basic recipe with the percentages, just change your mold size or your oil size.  Confused, everybody okay with that?  
Okay, now we’re going ahead and go down to the bottom, oh, I’m going to hit “calculate recipe”.  Those are the oils I want, I’m good, I’m going to calculate the recipe and you notice on the, under number 5, the right hand column where it says “all”, now it’s all filled in for me, and what that tells me, it’s a generalized factor based on the oil combination  that I’m using.  So under “hardness” it says 45.  If I consider that too high for my soap, then I could cut back maybe on the palm oil and maybe it would go down to 40, or if I don’t think that’s high enough, I can add more coconut oil, you can play with your recipe on the right hand side to determine the amount of hardness, cleansing you want on the right.  Then we determine that’s fine, we like the recipe as it is, we can go ahead and print and that pops up a new screen and here’s our recipe.   So let’s dissect it real quick.  The top portion is total oil weight, it should say 49.91 and it does.  In our water is percentage of oil, remember I left it at 38 with a 5% super fat.  So the lye concentration is 27.4, water concentration 2-6, and then it gives you the saturated, unsaturated ratio, the iodine ratio, the INS, a fragrance oil ratio, we actually put that in there as .50 percent and then the fragrance weight, it will tell us we need 1.56 ounces of fragrance oil based on the size of our mold and the amount of oils we are using.  Are there any questions on the top part?  Is this new to anybody or you guys knew everything I’m telling you?  Is everybody learning a little bit?  All right, good.   I don’t want to go over something you already know.  
So we’re going to go down to the second part, the second shaded area and it tells us, you can see it is in pounds, ounces and grams, so even though I’m working in, I said percentages, and I was going to do it in ounces, it also shows me the grams and the pounds.  So now based on our 49.91 oil combination, it is telling us that we will need 18.97 ounces of water and 7.19 ounces of lye, based on a 5% super fat and gives us the fragrance and it gives us how many oils we have and how much lye we need.  So that was easy enough right, better than doing it, better than handwriting it out in math?
The next part is the, it breaks down the oils that we put in there in pounds, ounces and grams, because we put in as percentage.  Now the last part is the soap properties, and if you look at our recipe and compare it to the ranges on the left hand side of that, you can see that our recipe is exactly right in that range.  If it’s on the high side or low side, that’s fine, but what you’re shooting for is some kind of in the middle of that range, anywhere between the beginnings to the end, as long as you are in that range your soap is probably good.
And finally at the very bottom, you see an area where it says additives and notes.  This is where you can write that in, so say my soap that I’m making, I’m adding one teaspoon of titanium dioxide and one teaspoon of rose clay.  And now also if you look at the top on the recipe name, I have named it.   It’s called the “Rose Soap.”    I can save this recipe.  I can save it by two ways; I can save it on “Soapcalc.net” if I allow it to have cookies on my computer or I can print this out and keep it in a notebook with all of my recipes.  I can make this and if it comes out good, I can say absolutely I’m going to keep this one, but also for the future if it comes out bad, I can write what went wrong, what I would I try in the future.  So always keep a notebook of all the recipes, whether they are good or bad, anything you ever made, always keep track of them.  And then on the right hand side it just says “Notes”.   This is how I made it, I divide the soap into two equal parts and I add the colorants and put it in alternating layers, so I had pink,  I had white with the titanium dioxide, I had more rose clay, titanium dioxide and then I go back three months later and I be like “Oh the Rose Soap, I know exactly how to make it, I know exactly how much lye I put in, how much water, what percentage super fat I had,” it was all calculated right there for me.
And that’s how you use Soapcal.net. Is it confusing as you thought it might be?  It’s not, it’s really really easy.  Play with it.
Phyllis:		I’m going to take your word for it.
Catherine:	I think if you play around with it, you will see that it’s really quite fun, to see what the different oil properties do based on the hardness, the bubbly and things like that, or you can just get a recipe that someone gives you.  
Does anybody have any questions on the soapcal.net?  
I think the difference between one soap calculator and another or lye calculator or another as each oil has a saponification value, we talked about that over and over and over.  Some of them have, maybe one has 169, one of them has 167, just a little difference in the range but it will make a difference in the lye calculation but it all should be about the same.
There is also another program called “Soapmakers 3”.  Does anybody that has it, raise their hands for me?  Soapmaker 3.  Is it hard for you to use, do you have any questions with it?
Catherine:	No, I have it and use it, but I just wondered if anyone here has it.  What I was going to offer was, I was asking how many had it, because I know soapmakers that buy it have questions about it.  So by the show of hands I was wondering how many there were, there’s three, so it wouldn’t really behoove us to do a class on it, but one on one I will help you out with Soapmaker 3.”  Maybe we will do a little virtual online together and we will understand it better.  
I have a note from one of you members, my esteemed associates and I am going to read it to you. It says “Smart Soapmaking” by Ann L. Watson and it is about INS.  It is called “Iodine Number Saponification” by F. W. Gibbs, April 15, 1939 and Annuals of Science, the History of the Manufacture of Soap by Dr. Robert S. McDaniel wrote in 2000 and then people also suspect that it stands for iodine in soap or iodine and saponification
Kevin:		I remember now, before Gibbs, it was E. T. Webb.   The Gibbs book the first and E. T. Webb which was the next earlier book and Webb was the one who originated that book.
Catherine	Okay, because Gibbs was saying 1939, so you’re saying it was before 1939
Kevin		More in the 1920’s.  E. T. Webb, I couldn’t remember it before.
Catherine	Thank you Amanda.

 

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