So You Want to Make Soap?

So You Want to Make Soap
Catherine McGinnis, known throughout the handcrafted soap industry as a master of the craft and the force behind Soaping101.com, leads a presentation on selecting the hard and soft oils that will go into your soap. Discussing the strengths of each option and focusing on the end result desired, Catherine gives tips on selecting the oils with the right combination of properties for the perfect outcome. She also gives a lesson in what can go wrong in soaping and suggests solutions for common problems that soapers face. Login as a Premium Member to review the entire presentation.

CM – So I wanted to say hello and my name is Catherine McGinnis.  Some of you may or may not know me.  I make videos on YouTube called Soaping101.  If you’ve watched them great, if you haven’t, then you might want to.  I am certainly not a chemist.  But I do have a degree in business.  So, what I can’t tell you about the scientific aspect, I can probably tell you about the business aspect
But right now, we’re going to talk about oil properties.  So, choosing an oil, we know oil and water and lye make soap.  But what oil do you want to choose, well it’s really a matter of taste.  It’s what you want to present your soap as.  So, it’s either you’re making it for yourself, you’re making it for a client, or you’re making it as a general recipe, like the Delight.  You know, or for testing.  It’s just a matter of personal choice.  And, it will, based on the achieved outcome, each oil has a different property; it will work differently. 
So let’s first talk about coconut oil.  Coconut oil is a hard oil.  I’m going to go into that later but there’s hard oils and soft oils.  Coconut would be on the hard oils.  But there’s several different types of coconut oil, there’s 76⁰ coconut, which means it is solid at 76⁰.  And I think everyone’s probably familiar with that one.  And then there’s 92⁰, it just means that it’s solid at 92⁰, turns liquid at 92⁰.  And then there’s virgin, of course, and fractionated.  Fractionated coconut oil is coconut oil that has been chemically altered to always be liquid.  
What does coconut bring to your soap bars.  A bubbly lather, effective cleansing, hardness, it makes a really white, white bar, and also has moisturizing but in small amounts.  So there’s a myth that says, I can’t use coconut oil because it really dries out my skin.  Have you ever heard that?  Well, it’s not, coconut oil is not drying, it is just ultra-cleansing.   So if you have dry skin already, when you wash it’s taking off that oil, from the top layer of skin and that would make some people that have dry skin and hands say that coconut oil is drying.  It’s not really drying, it’s just ultra-cleansing.
What else is good about coconut oil?  You can get it at the grocery store, in a pinch.  So it’s relatively inexpensive, and it also has a shelf life, when it is stored properly, of up to five years.  That’s pretty long.  And in Kevin’s Delight recipe, he has it at 28%.  So it’s a very common one to use in soap.

Olive Oil – everyone knows about olive oil.  It’s very very easy to find anywhere, the grocery stores, Big Lots, Walmart.  Anywhere you can find olive oils.  So it’s plentiful and it’s very popular.  There’s different types, I’m not going to go into exact types, but if you’re interested, you might want to Google it because it’s very, very, um – Kevin was talking about how – does it matter if you use organic oil or non-organic oil?  And from a chemistry standpoint he said no.  I tend to agree with that.  I mean, there’s grade A, there’s grade B, there’s pomace, there’s virgin and there’s extra virgin.  You can pay tons and tons of money for olive oil; but it’s going to make soap.  So, it’s basically label appeal.  So what you want your label to say is probably what olive oil that you would use.  With the exception of pomace.  So pomace has a lot of, has the most unsaponifiables of all the olive oil soaps.  Which means, in my opinion, that it has just a little extra superfatting.  So some of the lye is going to take what it wants.  And with pomace olive oil sometimes it leaves a little extra left over.  So it’s a little bit of a more moisturizing soap.  The attributes – creamy stable lather, exceptionally mild, conditioning, moisturizing, and when made alone – I don’t know if anyone has ever made a Castille soap, which is 100% olive oil – it is one of the hardest bars of soap that you’ll ever see.    CM – Sometimes it does, yeah.  And we talked about how it’s available at the grocery store.  It does have a low lather when used alone just as an olive oil soap, it’s kind of slimy – anyone ever used it?  And it’s relatively inexpensive.  And part of the Delight soap, it’s 38%.  There’s a reason why I’m telling you about that.  We’ll come to it much later.
Palm Oil – there’s a big kind of a controversy – did you use palm oil, did you not use palm oil?  Should you use sustainable, non-sustainable, does it make any difference?  In soap, it probably doesn’t make a difference, but for the people that are trying to help the rain forests and the orangutans, it does make a difference.  So, it is, of course, many types.  There’s organic, refined, unrefined, partially hydrogenated, and then palm kernel oil.  And palm kernel oil is usually in flakes, remember seeing it in flakes, the palm flakes.  It acts much like, I can call it a cousin maybe, like a tallow.  It gives you a really hard bar.  But it’s the vegan version, it’s non-animal fat, it’s a vegetable oil.  So, it doesn’t produce a lot of glycerin and it is inexpensive.  I’ve never been able to find it in my grocery store, but maybe some of you have.  I usually just get it from a supplier.  And 28% in the Delight recipe.
So here’s tallow.  Tallow is animal fat, it can be beef, sheep, deer, buffalo – bison, and it has a rich creamy lather.  Our ancestors way way back, it’s probably all they used – tallow and lard.  Lard is pig fat, tallow is beef fat.  It’s moisturizing, it has a hard bar and it’s super white as well, although you would think it wouldn’t be, because when you look at beef fat, after you fry your hamburger to make your tacos, it looks really kind of yellowy.  It makes a really white bar.  Shaving soaps, if anybody makes shaving soaps or pucks, that’s really one of the main oils traditionally used in shaving soaps is the tallow.  Contrary to popular belief, it does not clog the pores.  A lot of people won’t use it because they say it clogs pores but it does not.  And the color varies upon the type of animal that it came from.  It’s reclaimable, so, if you’re not vegan and you do want to use it – when the butcher cuts it off the cow or bison or sheep, they throw it away.  So a lot of times you can just go to your butcher and say, can I have your scraps.  And it’s easy to render it yourself, you can just put it in a crock pot and melt it down, and it’ll separate out.  So, if you’re into the environment, then it really is a good one to use because you’re reclaiming something that would be otherwise thrown away.  Or you can just buy it already done from the manufacturer.
Castor oil is good in soap because it makes it very bubbly.  You don’t want to use too much.  I recommend 5% and no more than 5% because it’s going to make it a very, very soft soap.  There’s food grade, there’s industrial, there’s medicinal, there’s black Jamaican, and it also adds a bit of conditioning and moisturizing to your bar.  But mostly the appeal of castor oil is the bubbles, in my opinion.  And, too much will make it soft and sticky.  It’s a humectant so it attracts moisture to your skin.  It’s obtained from the castor bean.  So, it is also a vegetable oil, and you can get it at your local pharmacy.  There’s castor oil everywhere, I think that people used to drink it for digestive problems or something.  And in the Delight soap, it is at 5%.
These are other oils, you can use any oil you want.  This is just a small sampling of ones that are the most popular or ones that I thought would be interesting to talk about.  So secondary oils – lard makes a, again, like most animal fats, makes a very hard and white bar.  Lard comes from the pig, it’s pig fat.  
And there’s soybean oil.  It’s great to use in your soap in a combination of oils. I wouldn’t make a 100% soybean soap.  It is prone to DOS – “dreaded orange spots”, has anybody ever seen those little orange spots in soap?  It’s because the shelf life is not very long and it tends to go rancid.  
Sunflower oil – I think sunflower oil is getting a resurgence among soap makers.  I’ve noticed a lot of people have been going to sunflower oil.  And it’s a great oil to use.  It gives you a nice rich, creamy moisturizing lather.  
Shea butter – shea butter has conditioning properties and it adds a little hardness to your bar.  I talked briefly about hard oils and soft oils – shea butter is considered one of the harder oils.  It’s not really hard when you touch it because it melts on skin contact but it will add a hardness to your soap.  And your lotions.  
Almond oil is very light and absorbs well in soap, but it produces a low, low stable lather.  Why would you use it?  Maybe label appeal, it’s better in lotions than it is in soap, but maybe that’s all you have, maybe you’re just testing.  
Canola oil, also known as rapeseed oil.  You can find that in any grocery store.  And it’s a great filler oil.  You wouldn’t want to make 100% canola oil soap, but it would be great to add as a filler, maybe as a 5% or 10%. 
Hemp seed oil, did you tell me an experiment you did on hemp seed oil?  Yes?  So as a vegan alternative it’s great, because the people that want to help the environment, save the environment, and maybe someone that really, how am I going to put this.  I’m not, I’m just going to go on.
Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax, not really an oil, but it’s considered an oil.  It also has a nice stable lather and moisturizing qualities and has an amazing amount of absorption into the skin.  Your skin just sucks it right up. 
  CM – The oil itself which would in turn, affect the bar.    CM – Hemp seed oil?  I don’t know but I can find out.  
Jojoba oil is very expensive, if you’ve ever bought it, so would you want to use it in soap?  Well, you could but maybe not.  Maybe just like 1%, you know.
Okay, a perfect soap balanced formula has hard oils and soft oils.  That doesn’t mean you have to make a bar of soap that has 50% of each or 100% of one or the other.  You can do whatever you want to do.  You’re the soap maker, it’s your soap, you’re the artist, this is your palette.  But, I suggest, and most soap makers find, that the perfect recipe is a combination of both.  So 60% hard oils and 40% soft oils is, I’d say the norm, but you can vary.  In fact, that’s just why I was telling you what was in the Delight soap.  The Delight soap is actually 56% hard oils and 44% soft oils.  You can go a little bit either way.  I know this not a soap that he makes and resells, it’s his tester soap, but we’re right on track with what Professor Dunn says so I’m pretty excited about that.  
So an example of a balanced recipe includes:  60% hard oils, and this is just my example for you all, you could use any combination of these.  So we talked about coconut oil, how it has really a rich lather, it gives you a lot of bubbles, but used in large amounts it is ultra-cleaning so it can strip the skin.  So we’ll do 20% coconut, 20% shea butter, and 20% cocoa butter.  And those are your hard oils.  You could use mango butter maybe, instead of the cocoa butter, again you’re the artist – it’s your palette.    CM – Yes, it’s solid at room temperature.  Hard oil is solid at room temperature, soft oil is liquid at room temperature.    CM – Technically it would be a soft oil because it is liquid at room temperature.
Forty percent soft oils – olive oil, avocado oil and then castor oil, mostly for the bubbles.  Could you switch that out, absolutely.  Maybe instead of the avocado, you’d use sunflower, maybe you’d do grapeseed, maybe you’d do … there’s just so many to choose from.  But this would give you a good balanced recipe, and experimenting is key.  
So I really wanted briefly to go over troubleshooting.  Mistakes can happen and soap sometimes has a life of its own.  You feel like you did everything right.  You measured everything right, it went to trace, right amount of trace, you poured it in, and then your soap, boom.  It’s either cracking, it’s volcanoing, there’s so many things that can go wrong.  So we created this Troubleshooting Guide and I thought maybe we’d go over it and maybe you guys might have questions that we could answer from it.  Or maybe you’ve experienced something that’s not on the Troubleshooting Guide that we could probably diagnose.  
So dry soap.  It crumbles when you cut into it.  Anybody ever experience it?   CM – Salt bar.  Maybe it’s lye heavy.  Did you measure out your lye correctly?  Did you put too much lye in?  It could make it very dry and it could definitely crumble.  So the action you would take is to double check your steps and make sure that you measured everything correctly.
Soft soap.  So you make your soap, you try to take it out of your mold and it won’t come out.  It’s kind of pudding, gelatinous.  It probably doesn’t have enough lye in it.    CM – You can rebatch soap anytime.  The best time to rebatch soap is right after you make it though, because it already has the water in it, the water hasn’t cured out, so you probably wouldn’t have to add any extra water.  You could just rebatch it maybe by putting it in a crock pot and melting it down.  I’d say no additional liquid would be needed.  Just heat it until it gets to be a pourable state.  But, if you wait three or four months down the road, can you still rebatch it?  Absolutely.  You might have to add water.
Soap does not set up, it is liquid after 24 hours.  Again, this would go back to probably improper measuring or maybe you didn’t bring it to trace.  If you don’t bring it to trace then you have the oil and you have the lye, and if they don’t mix, nothing is going to happen.  It’s just going to separate out, it is always going to stay liquid.  So you need to make sure it is properly traced and it’s properly emulsified together.  So maybe that’s what happened on this soap, maybe not.
White ash.  I think everybody knows what that is, soda ash forms on top.  Absolutely no damage to your soap whatsoever.  You can still use it, it just doesn’t look very pretty.  What I do is I steam it off.  Or you can take alcohol, like rubbing alcohol, spray it on top.   CM – Yes.
Weeping pockets, so you cut into your soap, it leaks out.  I’m sure you’ve seen it.  I wish I had pictures of all this, I’ll have to try to get that for you.  Probably, again, it hasn’t blended correctly.  You have some pockets of undissolved lye or maybe undissolved oils, anything that’s not mixed together.  Also, it could be sometimes if you used a fragrance oil, it might not have been skin safe, you might have thrown a candle fragrance oil in there by accident.  That would definitely cause separation and it would kind of ooze out.  
Uneven scent.  Again, improper blending.
Oil slicks.  So the soap feels kind of slick after cutting.  Check your superfat.  Did you add too much superfat to it, do you have too much extra oil that has been unsaponified?  You know what I’m trying to say.  
Soap feels drying to the skin.  Your recipe probably wasn’t very balanced.  It was probably really high in coconut oil or other oils that are super cleansing rather than moisturizing.  Is it bad soap, no, absolutely it’s fine, it’ll work.  But if you want to make it to sell it, you want to give the customers what they want, and I think that they’ll say wow, that soap was amazing, I think I’ll buy that from you again.
Discolored soap.  So your soap has darkened.  You made this beautiful soap, you used all kinds of colored micas, it smells fantastic, it looks great when you put it in the mold.  The next day you take it out of the mold and go to cut it, it still looks beautiful.  24 hours later, it’s brown.  What happened?  Well you probably used a fragrance oil that had vanilla in it.  So vanilla is going to turn your soap brown no matter what you do.  
Seized soap.  It hardens before it gets into the mold.  Again, based on my experience, usually a fragrance oil will seize up your soap.  Maybe it’s not skin safe, maybe it is, but maybe it’s a candle scent, be sure to check with your manufacturer wherever you buy it and make sure that you buy skin-safe.  And a lot of the suppliers will actually have on their website, they’ll tell you that they’ve tested it and they’ll tell you if it’s a seizer or if it’s a ricer.
And there’s rice.  Again, rice… you know what seized is, right.  Is anyone not familiar with what it looks like when it’s seized?  Alright.  So you’re making soap and you’re stirring it and you’ve got your stick blender going, and it looks like pudding, and all of a sudden, bam.  It sticks to your stick blender and now it won’t even move around.  You’ve got a rock, they call it soap on a stick.  And that’s what a seized soap is.  Can you work through it?  Absolutely.  Some people say it is seized and they throw it out.  You can absolutely work through.  You can wait until it goes through a gel phase.  When it goes back to the gel phase you can stir it back up.  Can you add extra water, absolutely you can add extra water.  It’s going to take a lot more time to cure out but you definitely can add extra water, stir it in, get it to a point where it’s pourable or moldable and then go on.  So that’s what seized is.  You get that, okay.  So riced is a little bit different.  Riced is, when you mix, you’ve got your stick blender going, you’re stirring your soap, and then all of a sudden it kind of looks like it’s separating.  It’s like ricing out like there’s different portions of it that, it doesn’t look smooth like pudding, it looks like maybe spoilt milk, you ever see where it’s separating out?  That’s my best analogy, that would be what ricing is.  Can you fix that.  Mmmm, I don’t know.  You can continue to stick blend to see if it comes together, but chances are your fragrance oil has made it riced.    
Glycerin rivers.  Have you ever had a soap that looks like stained glass or it looks like it has cracks in it?  It’s like lines going through the white? Maybe not, this is glycerin rivers.  As near as I can tell, it’s because when the soap heats up and it gets to the point where the glycerin is separating from the oils, and it causes glycerin rivers.  They just look like little cracks.    CM – It can look really cool, absolutely.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the soap, it’s just aesthetic.    CM – Yeah, it usually happens with titanium dioxide.  So I have a theory about this, I’m certainly not a scientist so I can’t tell you, but this is my theory.  So titanium dioxide, you can get oil soluble, water soluble or titanium dioxide that is either oil or water based.  Whenever I receive glycerin rivers in my soap, it’s when I use water base titanium dioxide.  I feel like if I use the oil base I don’t get them as much.  And here is my theory, I think, why.  Because oil can withstand the heat of the gel better than when water can withstand the heat of the gel.  The temperature, water boils at, somebody tell me, 200⁰?  But oil can hold in the heat better and it won’t, doesn’t separate out the glycerin and cause the rivers.    CM – I don’t know, I mean, I’m testing it and I don’t know if I’m right or wrong but yes.    CM  - Titanium dioxide is a whitener.  So if you want to add, wanted to make your soap extra white, or if you wanted to put maybe a design in it, maybe you add some purples and some blues, and then you want to add a white to it for a swirl, the titanium dioxide is just a whitener.  Any other questions on glycerin rivers?
Grainy on top.  The top of your soap has a grainy texture?  It’s probably that if you have any additives that you put in it, maybe colorants or maybe honey, anything, that it probably wasn't properly blended in.  
Your soap cracks on top.  Have you ever seen a picture of a soap and it has a crack running through it?  Yes.    CM - I totally believe that it does.  So, usually you can get a crack in a soap when it goes through gel phase.  If you just put it in the refrigerator, it's probably not going to happen.  Because when soap heats up, it heats up from the center and goes out and then comes back in.  So all that heat is trying to escape, and it can't go here, here, here and here or here, because it's in a mold.  The only place it can go out is through the top.  So it cracks and it tries to escape the heat at the top.  Does it affect your soap whatsoever?  Absolutely not.  It still works perfectly fine.  It's just aesthetically not pleasing.  So, if you feel like it, and a lot of times like a milk soap, anything with a lot of sugar in it, is going to heat up way quicker than something that is just a water based.  You can either throw it in the refrigerator or freezer while it saponifies or you can just keep it cool and not cover it, not insulate it.  
Your soap won't trace.  Probably because you don't have enough lye, because lye is going to take as much oil as you put in there.  If there's not enough lye to have all of these oils, then it's not going to trace, you need to add more lye.
Holes.  Your soap has small holes inside.  Have you ever made soap and last thing that you do before you let it set overnight is tap, tap, tap, tap tap.  You're bringing all the air bubbles up from the center out to the surface, they pop.  If you don't tap, tap, tap your soap, you might have small air bubbles inside.  Again, the soap's still usable, it's not a big deal.
And the last one I have on this list is gel ring.  Have you ever seen a soap where the inside of it is darker, it looks like a circle in the center?  That's a gel ring, that has to do with if you let your soap gel and how quickly it cooled.  Still absolutely usable.  It just doesn't look as pretty as sometimes soap can look.  
So is anything on this list that maybe you all have experienced that is not on the list?  That you have a question about?
  CM - You can probably rebatch and then add more lye solution.  I don't know if you would add it while it's tracing.  You could certainly experiment and try that but, I don't know.    CM - How would you know how much, exactly.     CM - Hit or miss.  I mean you could go back, and if you know exactly that you needed 5 ounces of lye and you go back and you check your records, and you've measured it wrong, you know for a fact that you measured three, then you definitely know that you need to add 2 more ounces of lye.  But if you don't really know where you went wrong, most of the problems in soap making, is you have not measured correctly.  So, measure, what is it?  Measure twice, cut once?  DH - You all should have pH testing strips.  You can take your soap up to a pH of 10, which is a little bit alkaline but it's perfectly safe.  So when you're doing this, keep your pH strips handy so you can test the pH and if it's down below 7 and it's not tracing, just add some more lye and keep mixing it in and use the pH strips, just don't take it past 10.    DH - Yep, I mean if you're not tracing, just check the pH.  Kevin, you can jump in at any time because we would like for you to jump in directly if there is anything said that you disagree with, please speak up.  KD - I disagree with that.  DH - Okay.  KD - pH strips are not going to tell you very much while you're making soap.  You've just added a strong alkaline solution, it's going to turn bright blue no matter what.  The problem isn't that the lye isn't concentrated enough, you  just didn't add enough of it, and the pH strip is not  - you know, if you're not at trace yet, the soap is still alkaline.  So, a pH strip is not going to tell you whether you've got enough lye.  You aren't going to know that until it's finished, and to answer that question, wow.  I don't think there's an easy answer to that.    KD - Yeah.  Oh, oh.  I do have something for you though.  So, if it's a slow trace, maybe there's not enough lye, but you check your records and there was enough lye.  Some oils just trace very slowly.  So, remember the seizing?  The seizing is the other end of the same problem.  So, we were wanting to do an experiment with olive oil at a low temperature.  It was not coming to trace at a low temperature, and we wanted it to, to answer a different question.  So, we used the seizing problem as the solution to this problem, we added a little bit of clove oil.  Normally, clove oil would cause your soap to seize.  If you add a little bit to an oil that's slow to trace, and the two problems cancel each other out.  A little bit of clove oil will accelerate trace.  Another thing that will accelerate trace is, how about soap?  Add a little bit of soap to your oil before you add the lye, and that will also accelerate trace.    CM - Already made soap.  KD - Yeah, yeah, already made soap.  Maybe even already made soap of the same formula soap that you're making right now.    CM - Yeah, or you could, probably shredded, or you could even add it in water, dissolved in a little bit of water.  KD - It won't take very much, you'll be surprised how little will get the job done.  CM - A lot of people, when they make liquid soap, to speed it up, they actually use a bit of liquid soap from the batch before.  DH - And what just happened there is exactly what the benefit of these workshops are, because we are all learning.  I just learned a major lesson, I mean, this is all going to be transcribed, this is all going to be online.  So the rest of the soaping community is going to benefit from our workshop with you guys and I just love that interaction that we just had.  That's exactly what we're here for, so Kevin please speak up whenever you hear that.
CM - Is there anything, have you found anything that's not on our list, that's happened to you, because we'd love to hear about it and try to troubleshoot it.
  CM - Yeah, use smaller amounts of it, add it to trace.    CM - Just leave it out, so like soda pop, have you ever had a soda pop ..   CM - Yeah, just to remove the carbonation.    CM - No, you'll know.  Shake it, and no more bubbles.    CM - Absolutely, you'll know the carbonation is gone, you can stir it and when you don't get any bubbles.  You know, I'm not sure everyone has seen flat soda before.  It's when it goes flat.  I like to freeze it, if I'm using if for my base of my liquid for my lye solution, I freeze it.    CM - I let it go flat and then I freeze it into ice cubes.  Like you, I freeze almost anything I use as my lye solution because it freezes well and you can leave it forever.    CM - Right, you can use a portion of your liquid as your beer or your wine.  Oh good, Kevin's going to talk.
KD -  Here's another idea for you, remember I gave you permission to use 50% lye?  And then add extra water?  You don't have to add extra water, you could add beer or wine instead of extra water.  So you've already used as little water as you need to make your lye, and now you have room to add extra aqueous things like beer and wine, and you don't have to make up your lye in that, you can make up the lye in water and that's going to protect your beer or wine, whatever aqueous you're adding.  CM - And you don't have to add it at trace, either.  I mean, people add it at trace because they can.  Maybe they add it at trace because they're worried what it's going to do to their soap, so you know, they add it at the last minute.    CM  - Trace is, oh me or you?  KD - Go ahead.  CM - I define trace as the point where the lye water and the oils have come together, they're emulsified and when you take it, and take a spoon or your stick blender, and kind of swirl it over the top, it kind of leaves a trail on the surface, or a trace.    KD - People use that as a guide, you know, say that waited until trace, as their guide to when to pour it into the mold.  Because if you pour it into the mold too early, then things might not be mixed up; or they might separate in the mold and you won't know it until it's too late.  So people typically use that trace as a guide of when it's time to pour into the mold.  I give people permission not to add things at trace.  They are worried about, oh, I don't want to add it too soon because the lye is going to destroy it.  At trace, very little of the lye has been used up.  You're really not protecting anything.  And the clock is ticking, you know, once you've added the lye, the clock is ticking.  Now you're in a hurry to get everything mixed and poured into the mold.  Why make yourself crazy by waiting until it's time to pour it into the mold and now trying to mix things in?    KD - I add everything to the oil, pour everything into the oil, the last thing that goes in is the lye, because the clock isn't ticking until the lye is added.  I've got all the time in the world to blend everything together, but once the lye is added, I'm on the clock.    KD - Everything.    KD - And that lye is going to find the oil, you can't stop it.    KD - So I see people making themselves crazy by adding at trace, and now, oh my god, it solidified in the pot and I never got it into the mold.  I have 100 pounds of soap in a pot, what am I going to do with it now?  You've gotta chip it out.  So don't make yourself crazy.  And again, I'm not telling you that's the way it has to be done, I'm giving you permission not to listen to people who tell you that you have to add it at trace.    CM - Can I address the hot process/cold process that you're talking about?  Soap goes through the same phases, no matter how you make it.  When you make it in cold process, you're making it and you're putting it in the mold and you're letting it saponify.  When you make hot process, you're forcing it to go through all of those stages in a matter of an hour, two hours.  It's exactly the same thing, but you're just speeding it all up.  Are you agreeing with me?  KD - Yeah, and I would say, I'm going to back up from what I just to everybody else for you.  It does make a difference for a hot process soap maker.  Because by the time you're done, and you've got this nice gel in the pot, the lye is already used up.  So if you've got something that's very delicate, that's destroyed by lye, you get to add it now.  Because it is still soft and you can mix it in.  And so there are cases where it would be beneficial for you to add something in at the end.  By the same token, for you, the clock is no longer ticking.  The clock has already run out.  You've got all the time in the world to get it blended in.  CM - But you understand, it's the same, just you're forcing all that to happen, whereas us cold process people, we're making it and then we're sitting on the couch and we're just letting it do its thing.  Where you, are taking the high road, and saying, I'm making this happen, I'm making this happen...  And then when it's done, two hours later, then you're sitting on the couch.  We're still wondering, when's our soap going to harden up?  But it's exactly, you're going to come out with soap, we're going to ccome out with soap; it's just a different way of processing it.  Do you agree with me?  Good!
And do we, yeah, please?   CM - Yeah, there's lots of different ways to color your soap.  There's natural  colorants like paprika, turmeric, clays, and then there's oxides.  And then there's micas, and then there's, I mean, so many different ways to color your soap.  So some of them, the ones that are artificial, can morph and change the color.  Mostly micas do that.  Does it, if you have a yellow, yellow, yellow oil like, what would be the yellowest oil, maybe like an olive oil?  Maybe, sometimes, you ever see green olive oil?  And you add a color to that, maybe you add, let me think, red...   CM - And it turns green.  Absolutely, so it will affect it to a point, I mean, when you make soap, you can't really, how am I going to say this... so, it's still soap, but the saponification doesn't really affect the color of the oils.  Do you kind of agree with that?  If it's a green oil, it's probably going to have a green tint when it's done.  KD - Yeah, and most of that color comes from things other than soap, so, what you were saying, the unsaponifiables in the oil, they're left over at the end.  They'll often impart color, but the "soap soap" is usually white.    CM - Just a balanced recipe.    CM - Oh, I use, right, I got you.  I always use a little bit of olive oil or you can even mix it with a little bit of glycerin, like vegetable glycerin, you can mix your micas with that.  Micas don't mix well with water, but clays do, oxides do, and you don't even, you can take a little bit of the oil from your soap recipe, you don't have to.  I mean, you use just so little bit of olive oil or any oil, it's not going to make a difference considering the superfat.  But it's just so miniscule, you're not even using an ounce, you're using just a couple drops.  You don't have to take it from your recipe.  You can take it from, you know add it in.  I give you permission.    KD - Yeah, yeah add all your colors, just  think of this, the lye should be the last thing, I won't even say should.  I give you permission to leave the lye until the very last thing to go in. The clock doesn't start ticking until you add the lye.  CM -   But, if you, if I can just do a but.  If you're doing a design and it's maybe like a five color design, you're going to have to separate it out.    CM - Yeah, you could do that.  But I think you could just use a recipe that has full water that is not going to seize up, well not seize up, but it's not gonna ...   CM - Yeah, full water, if you ever run it through like SoapCalc or something, not the 50%, use a full water lye solution and you'll have plenty of time to work with the color.  But you will have to separate it out after.  But you can definitely add it to your oils before with just one color.
DH - Now Kevin's given some great advice there, but I want to ask him if, your advice might lead some people to open their lye, do everything, and leave the lye open.   Can you talk to how lye is affected by being left open to the open air?  KD - Some people think, oh I don't want to leave my lye open because it will evaporate, the water will evaporate.  It's exactly the opposite.  DH - I'm talking about the powder, not what you call lye but the actual anhydrous powder.  KD - Oh the anhydrous stuff.  Yeah, so there are two enemies to solid, so I'm going to call that caustic soda... DH - I know, I'm sorry, caustic soda.  KD - Since this is a term that is going to recur, I'd like to establish a vocabulary so we don't talk at cross purposes.  But caustic soda has two enemies - one is water.  Water from the air.  If you leave it open, here's a cool experiment that you can do, and it's very easy.  Take a cup, put some caustic soda in it.  Set it on your scale and weigh it.  And then come back in an hour and weigh it again.  You'll find, unless you live in the Mojave Desert, you will find that it has picked up weight.  Where did the weight come from?  Moisture from the air.    KD - No, it's the humidity.  So when you get your caustic soda, you want to keep your cap on it.  You don't have to be so paranoid as to open cap and, you don't have to be nuts about it - just don't leave it there and go get a cup of coffee.  Put the cap back on to protect it from moisture from the air.  The second enemby of caustic soda is carbon dioxide.  We live in an acidic atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide in the air is slightly acidic and over time caustic soda will absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and that turns into sodium carbonate, which is not as alkaline as the sodium hydroxide.  So the result is the same in both cases.  If you leave caustic soda open to the air, you now have less caustic soda than you had before.  So, when you weigh out four ounces, you're no longer getting four ounces of caustic soda, you're getting 3.7 ounces of caustic soda and some water and sodium carbonate in addition.  Those things aren't harmful to your soap, but what it means is you think you are weighing out four ounces and you're really weighing out three point something of caustic soda and point something ounces of water and carbon dioxide.  CM - So you're weakening, in a sense, you're weakening your lye solution.  KD - And we always make up our, I'm going to use the word "lye", we make up our 50% solution days and weeks and even months in advance.  We leave it in bottles.  I've never waited for lye to cool.  You guys sitting around waiting for your lye to cool?  We never do that, why would we want to sit around and watch something cool?  So, we make up our lye solution and we store it in jugs, and whenever  I need four ounces of caustic soda, I weigh out 8 ounces of lye, because I know it's 50%.  It has the same issue, though.   You don't want to leave the top off, because that lye solution - I thought it was 50%, now it's 49.2%.  Tomorrow is going to be 48%.  The concentration is going to go down as it absorbs water and carbon dioxide from the air.    KD - You don't even need to premeasure it.  We make up like a 10-gallon bottle of lye, and now my recipe calls for 4 ounces, the math is easy.  I need 8 ounces of lye to get 4 ounces of caustic soda.  CM - If you do that, be careful not to put it in a canning jar, because you don't want the metal to react with it.  KD - Yeah, it will react with metal.  You want a plastic container with a plastic lid.    CM - Yes, and that's called master batching, in layman's terms.    CM - Yes, I do.    KD - So now you have permission, you have permission not to wait for it to cool.    CM - Actually, I'm not going to, I guess I am going to promote myself.  I have a video on how to master batch the lye water on my soaping101 on YouTube that might answer some of these questions that you guys are asking.  Because, if you do a 50/50 solution but your recipe from SoapCalc doesn't call for 50/50, it's a 33, then my video will probably help you explain how to properly measure.    CM - Actually, Soapmaker 3, is that what you use?  You can actually put in that you, where you can put in for the master batch water.  Yeah, maybe I'll show you later on my laptop.  And then it will calculate it for you, how much more water you need.    CM - Right, right.  Yes.    CM - Yes, where do you keep your 50/50 stored is what the question was?  KD - We have something, chemists call it a carboy, but that's a fancy name for big plastic bottle.  CM - Do you refrigerate it is what she asked?  KD - No, no, no.  I don't want to take up your time, but there's a funny story with that.  Because I was at a soap conference, there's a lady named Linda Stevens who was a big name in soaping when I got started.  And we were all talking about making lye and people are saying, oh, I put mine in the refrigerator to force it to cool, and I'm thinking, why would I want to do that?  You've gotta spend electricity to take something hot and get it to room temperature.  So we're arguing about putting it in the refrigerator.  And Linda pipes up, she says, oh it will freeze.  And I said, oh no, that will never happen.  CM - That would surprise me.  KD - This is before I learned, I said no, that won't happen.  I'm a chemist and I know, expletive deleted, that that won't happen.  Because, the freezing point of a solution goes down when you add something to it, and I knew this for a fact.  And, she was adamant too.  We had the red-faced argument about, you know, I said Linda, you're confused.  You're talking about putting it in the freezer.  No, expletive deleted.  And I thought, the old bat, oh lord.  Well, you know, I went home and it just wouldn't leave me alone.  And I put my lye in the refrigerator and it froze solid.  And, I'm not going to take up more time, but for very interesting reasons, and I learned stuff that I didn't know before.  The chemistry of sodium hydroxides solutions is far more complex  and interesting than I ever would have imagined.  Because the stuff I learned in general chemistry applied to dilute solutions, not the concentrated solutions that we're using, and it is really, really fascinating.  So, don't put it in the refrigerator, it's not necessary to put it in the refrigerator.  It certainly isn't necessary to store it in the refrigerator.  What you need to protect it from is not heat or cold but you need to protect it from air.  CM - So Derek, we need plastic buckets with skull and crossbones on it.  Does anyone have anymore questions or should we move on to the next presentation?  Okay, alright, thanks everybody.

 

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