Jul 11

Stop, Don’t Throw Away That Batch of Soap!

Handmade Soap

Handmade Soap

What to do and how to save a batch of soap that has turned into a nightmare. Easy techniques for re-batching soap, which will make the finished soap just as good, if not better than before. Tips and hints for making great batches of soap.

Every soap maker has experienced a batch of soap that has turned into a nightmare, and if like me, more than once. What I mean by nightmare, is a batch of soap that is mixing beautifully until you add the fragrance oils and then all of a sudden the oils and lye water separate; or the beautiful batch of soap that when cured has pockets of oil or liquid all over the top. How about the goat’s milk and honey soap that looked wonderful until you cut it into bars and found long strands of “honey comb” like cavities throughout?

There are several more that I can mention, but these seem to be the main disasters on the forum’s I have visited.

These problem batches happen to all soap makers at some time or other. You don’t have to throw the batch away and waste those ingredients, time and yes, money. Each batch of soap is $$ to a soap maker, and to waste a batch could mean losing quite a chunk of change. With the economy being what it is, there is no room for waste.

When Oil and Lye Water Separate

So let’s talk about that batch of soap which is mixing just fine; very smooth and beautiful, until you add the fragrance oil. Maybe it was fine with the first few ounces of fragrance oil that you added, and then all of a sudden after one more ounce, the mixture starts to turn oily. You can see the oil start to rise to the top of the mixture and no matter how fast you stir, it continues until the oil and lye water has completely separated. Talk about panic mode, this is a mess to contend with.

The first time this happened to me I had been making Strawberry and Champagne scented soap. The scent was strong and filled my work room with the most wonderful aroma. I had added all but the very last ounce of fragrance oil, when all of a sudden the soap started getting thin and then thinner until the oil had completely separated from the lye water.

While growing up, I made soap with my grandmother in large batches, and I have read numerous books on making soap, but I had never encountered this problem before. What was I going to do? I had 9 lbs of soap mixture in that bowl and I couldn’t afford to pour it out. It couldn’t get any worse no matter what I did, so I decided to try and save the batch.

I took out my stock pot and poured the whole batch into it. I then heated the soap to around 120 degrees, constantly stirring. I then poured the mixture back into my mixing bowl and turned the mixer on “stir”. After about five minutes the mixture started to thicken until it looked like marshmallow cream. I then poured this “marshmallow cream” into my prepared soap mold and spread it evenly with a spatula. I covered the mold with Styrofoam for insulation just as I would any other regular batch of soap and set it aside to cool.

The next day I uncovered the soap and cut it into bars to cure. Now the soap was not smooth like a normal batch would be, it was swirled on the top where I had used the spatula to spread the thick soap. The scent was strong, just like a regular batch of soap. I let it cure two weeks and then used a bar. Although it looked a little rugged, it was every bit as good as my soap that had not encountered any difficulties.

This has happened to me a few more times since when using a new fragrance, but I always manage to save the batch by reheating and mixing. And believe it or not, it has happened with this same fragrance oil too. Now I add very small amounts of Strawberry and Champagne fragrance oil at a time to my batch of soap, making sure to mix well in-between. This has also happened with Bay Rum fragrance oil.

Pockets of Liquid on Top of Soap

The next nightmare are batches of soap that seem to be fine, mixing and tracing nicely and pouring smoothly into the mold, but after being uncovered the next day have formed pockets of liquid on the top of the soap, which could be oil or lye water or the soap may be brittle like chalk, chipping when it is cut into bars.

There are several reasons this could happen. The lye water and oils were not the same temperature when combined or the lye water was poured too quickly into the oils; too much lye for the recipe; too much fragrance oil added, etc.

Whether the batch of soap has an oil problem or is too dry and chalky, I re-batch using my large crock-pot. I cut the soap into pieces and put them into my crock-pot, which is large enough to melt the whole batch of soap at one time. I turn the crock-pot on high until the soap starts to get soft and is easy to stir, and then I turn it down to low. It is important to stir the soap every so often to break up the chunks of soap into smaller pieces, which helps to melt the soap quicker.

For the soap that had the pockets of liquid, I add just enough water to assist with melting the soap. Maybe a half cup of water. It really depends on the size of the batch of soap you are re-batching. You have to use your best judgment. The melted soap should be thick, but will scoop or pour into a mold relatively easy. If the mixture is too watery and thin then it will not harden, if it is too thick then the soap will not melt properly or pour into the mold and you will still have a problem.

Dry, Chalky Soap

When the soap is dry and chalky, I add 1 ounce of oil and one cup of water a little at a time to the cut up soap as it is melting in the crock-pot. Stirring every so often to break up the chunks of soap, which helps the melting process and allows me to judge if the mixture needs a little more water or not. When the soap is completely melted as above, I pour it into a prepared mold and cover as I would with a new batch of soap.

Note: The soap will never be completely smooth when melted; there will be little pieces of soap that have not melted. This is fine as it adds a marble look to the finished bars of soap.

You will want to let the soap sit in the mold for a couple days before turning out and cutting because you have added more liquid and want the soap to be firm. After those couple days have passed then cut the soap into bars and let cure for about a week.

Note: This is really hot pressed soap because it has been cooked in a crock-pot instead of cold press where the mixture was cooled down slowly and completed the gel process overnight.

“Honey Comb” Cavities Throughout the Soap

The last problem that I have encountered is the goat’s milk and honey soap that has what appears to be “honey comb” cavities throughout the soap. The soap could be a little oilier or dry, it has happened both ways.

This has only happened to me twice in all the years I have made goat’s milk and honey soap.

I use the same crock-pot method as above. If the soap is a little oilier, I add a cup of liquid, which is half milk and half water. This again is stirred into the soap a little at a time as it is melting. If the soap was dryer, I add 1 ounce of oil to the cup of water and milk to provide the moisture that was missing. Because of the milk, I only turn the temperature to high until the crock-pot is heated then turn to low. I stir every few minutes to help the soap melt evenly and can chop the soap into smaller pieces. After the soap is melted, I pour the mixture into my prepared mold and leave uncovered until firmly set. Again this could be a couple days instead of overnight. Even though the soap has been cured while melting in the crock-pot, I let the cut bars sit for a week or more to let the moisture evaporate.

With any of the methods above, you can add a little more fragrance oils to the melted soap if you wish.

Some helpful hints:

  • Always add your lye water pouring a slow constant stream into the oils; take your time to stir well so that the lye water and oils can mix completely.
  • Always add your premeasured fragrance or essence oils a little at a time starting at the beginning of the mixing process. This allows the fragrance oils to incorporate completely with the soap and you will also get a true feel of what the cured soap will smell like.
  • Remove your mixers or stop mixing when the soap starts to trace and pour into your mold. The more you stir after your soap starts to trace the better the chances that the soap will thicken quickly and be harder to pour into your mold.
  • Make sure you have everything that you will need to make a batch of soap handy and that your molds are prepared and ready to use. Wasting time finding a spatula, ingredients or lining the molds while your soap is mixing can create problems when the soap has started to trace.
  • With new fragrances, make a small batch first to test how the fragrance oil will react with your recipe and how the finished soap bar will hold the fragrance.
  • Remember some essence oils such as sweet orange tend to create oilier batches of soap and can lose their scent or the scent can turn “rancid” if not used within a few months. Not all do this, but be aware that it can happen.
  • Some colorants or clays may take the soap longer to trace, don’t be concerned just let it mix until it starts to trace. Also some colorants may cause a thicker “ash” to form on top of the soap. This can be scraped off or washed off if needed.

I hope this article was helpful and will provide an alternative to the trash can when a batch of soap goes south.


Loyce Henderson

Grandma and Me Soaps

Handmade Soaps…See and Feel the Difference


Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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