Miller's Homemade Soap Pages:

Botched Batches! Is it soap yet? - Page 2

Subject: that failed batch of Sherry Fantastic Soap I wrote you about...
Date: 09/22 4:00 PM
From: Sue Loughner

I've been meaning to write for a week or so. Since I found out what went wrong with that batch of Sherry's fantastic soap I wrote you about. (it had an oil slick on top) We ended up remelting it, twice actually until it seemed right. The next batch we made separated as well. It was our first Castile batch. We could tell right away it wasn't right and poured it back in the pan. We are still novices mind you, only 4 or so batches at this point. Anyway, when I was cleaning the stick blender I happened to turn it upside down and look at the end while it was spinning. Well, it wasn't spinning. The motor was running but the blade wasn't turning. We had been stirring some with the stick blender when it was off but not nearly enough to make it all come together. Needless to say we stirred and stirred and stirred that Castile batch and it came out fine (but we were up until 1 am) and since we have gotten a new stick blender our soaping has taken a whole new turn.... So there is one more thing that can go wrong. Thanks again for your help. Sue

Well... this is a first! I wonder if someone else will have this problem in the future. If you'd used a stick blender that worked before this, you would have known by the behavior of the soap that something was wrong... but since it was a new experience, you didn't know any better. When it does spin, that soap moves around a lot! Great little gadget, isn't it? :-)

Thanks for the update. I'm so glad you figured it out so you can have successful batches in the future.

Subject: Crumbly Soap
Date: 09/13 4:48 PM
From: AnnMarie

Hi Kathy- Someone suggested that I ask you my question that I posted on the Soapmaking Forum. If you get a chance read the responses I received. I pasted my question below. If you can give me your advise I would really appreciate it. I was also asked to post your response. Would you mind if I posted it?



p.s. I have used a couple of recipes off your site using the HP method with success every time.

Here's my post:

Up to this past weekend I have been using the HP method in the oven. This weekend I tried CP because I wanted to try swirling. I took it out of the mold and the top (about 1") and sides just started to crumble :( I used the basic recipe Canolive III from Kathy Miller's site, but made some changes (palm kernel instead of palm). I ran the recipe through MMS Lye Calculator. It called for 34oz water (her recipe called for 26oz) with the same amt of lye. I used 30.5 oz water. Was this my mistake? It was pretty hot in my house this weekend so I'm wondering if I insulated too much. I wrapped a piece of cardboard with plastic wrap and put it over the mold then used a towel under the mold and wrapped the rest of the towel over the top. I know this is long, but I wanted to give the facts in order to get some help......... anyone?? TIA

Glad to hear the hot process soap came out well. You can post my response... don't know if I have anything earth shattering or better than what your other soapers came up with though... especially today. Pretty dull and tired! :-)

What mixing temperatures did you use? I doubt it is the water... that shouldn't throw it off that much. If it wasn't mixed well enough before pouring.. you could have had a little bit of separation... brittle or crumbly soap with a layer of more greasy soap. I don't know if that's it, but I would look at:

1) Lye addition rate... was it correct and were the measurements accurate? Could it be lye heavy?

2) Mixing temps... did the soap start to thicken because the fats were congealing from low temp before they were actually well blended and saponified? Did the soap go through gel stage or never get warm enough in the mold to do that? Without gel... soap seems to be more brittle at cutting time... even when it's balanced and turns out fine in the end. Sometimes you'll get gel in the center and no gel along the edges... the edges will be more opaque and break off easier when cutting.

3) Was it poured too early and before it was blended well enough? During the mixing process, if saponification is progressing well... the soap should actually raise in temperature. If that's not happening, that's kind of a red flag. Some mild applied bottom heat to warm the mixture usually does the trick... only for a minute or two.

Did you use a stick blender or hand stir? If thorough mixing is a problem... the stick blender can do wonders for that.

You didn't mention what kind of fragrance you used. Could you have had a bit of separation from a tricky FO? That's not my first thought ... but just wondered if it could factor in.

One thing for sure... since you're an experienced hot process person... you know exactly how to reclaim this batch. Just too bad that it's good-bye swirl! I've been there and done that!

Well... I asked more questions than provided answers... but I hope this helps you put your finger on it so you won't have to repeat the problem. We never stop learning from this process... all you have to do is change one thing... maybe an oil in a recipe, or whatever, and it's back to the drawing board! ;-)

Subject: conflicting results
Date: 09/04 1:34 PM
From: kathryn dewald

Hi Kathy.

What a great site. It will take me weeks to read through all the terrific information you have provided for us new soapers. I read through all of the botched batch e-mails and didn't see anything that was exactly like the problem I'm having although some have come close. I am using Sandy Maine's recipe (in Half) of 12oz Coconut, 12oz Olive, 19oz Crisco, 16oz water and 6oz lye. I put this through the Majestic Mountain Sage lye calculator and it is in the 6-8% range, which I thought was acceptable. I use only this recipe and seem to get only two different results. The first result is: Not brittle but flaky soap when I cut it. It chunks off and I don't get nice clean edges. I usually have to use my potato peeler and I loose about 1/4 of my soap to shavings just so I can get smooth looking bars of soap. These bars when cured are nice and hard, have great lather and last a long time. I just would like to be able to cut them all to the same size and have them look presentable. I have read that brittle or hard to cut soap is due to using too much lye, but I don't think that is the case here. My second result with the same recipe is very soft and sticky soap. This soap sticks to my knife when I cut it. Once cured it tends to be a bit slimy feeling and it doesn't last as long. I thought that maybe my scale was not accurate so I purchased a postal scale from Staples. The two resulting batches are both very soft. One even looks very green and has a greasy smell to it. I have made a total of 16 batches of soap and only 3 have turned out "normal." Could it have been that my previous scale was measuring incorrectly? And now with the new scale, am I using too much water ( even though the Majestic Mountain Sage calculator suggests that 16oz liquid is the correct amount to use with my particular recipe.) I really want a nice hard bar that lathers well and lasts, and that also produces bars that can be cut to the same size without the flaking and peeling that I seem to have to do. This is important to me as I make and sell bath product to retail stores and I would like to include homemade soap, but only if I can get a consistent product. I am extremely frustrated and don't know what to try next. HELP!!


My first thought on this is that the problem is that you are making a batch too small for the accuracy of your scale. How many decimal places does your scale have? For a recipe this size, it would be better if it went to hundredths of an ounce... not just tenths. When it comes out too light on lye, it's greasy and when it's a little bit too heavy... it's brittle... but same problem. I suspect if you make the full recipe and cut the water to about 26 ounces instead of 32, you'll have improved texture. (The smaller the recipe, the less margin for error in weighing ingredients.) Also... be sure your temperature doesn't get lost during mixing. The first batch that crumbled when cut sounds like the texture was a bit poor and maybe since the batch was small, it lost too much heat and never went through gel stage. Gel is not necessary to get soap in the end, but it does improve the cutting texture a LOT and I try to get the soap to gel. When doing a smaller batch, you might raise the temps about 10 degrees to offset the tendency to heat loss.

Are you using a stick blender or hand stirring? The former will get your soap well blended and it is more prone to going through gel. If you've never used one, be sure to carefully read the instructions on the Modern Procedures page. You don't keep it going the full time. ...This is where the response ended... hope I didn't send it before it was finished! =-o

Subject: The rebatch is good!
Date: 08/30 11:43 AM
From: Shivani

In a message dated 8/26/00 11:12:07 PM, writes:

<< I'm guessing from your description that this is all from the use of the frankincense powder. It is a resin and would add a hardness to the soap. My guess at this point is that you should rebatch this but add a bit of water to the rebatch so it will be softer when it remelts and can be worked with longer before getting too stiff. >>

Yep, adding water did it. I was surprised how much it took. 2 tbsp. added water per 4 or 5 oz. of soap. Looks good.

<<Maybe it just started to harden before the saponification was complete enough. >>

I think you are right about this. And this brings up another question. Just what is the gel phase doing to the soap? I've seen several discussions on soap boards about whether soap is good if it does not go through gel phase, and many people say their soap does not gel and is fine. ????

In the case of this rebatch (of soap that got hard before it could gel), does the rebatchlng process somehow replace the gel phase? If so, should I keep the rebatching soap at a certain temperature for a certain time in the pot?

Someone said that rebatched soap should be treated like new soap and kept insulated for 24 hrs. I tried that, but no gel phase ensued.

Boy, the more I learn about soap, the more questions I seem to have!

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge about soap, my friend in time of need!

Love & blessings,


> I've seen several discussions
>on soap boards about whether soap is good if it does not go through gel
>phase, and many people say their soap does not gel and is fine. ????

It is still soap! Most of my early batches never saw gel stage. Gel is generally the result of a good saponification reaction... the heat is a byproduct. In that way... it's a good sign (unless it grossly overheats from a FO or additive and causes a separation... like some milk and honey soaps that get TOO hot!). What I notice is that soap that gels has a smoother texture and is not prone to being brittle or crumbly when cut. Soap that does not gel seems to shatter more easily when you are cutting it. Still makes good soap if the recipe is balanced... but I'd rather have the smooth gelled stuff.

> In the case of this rebatch (of soap that got hard before it could gel),
>does the rebatchlng process somehow replace the gel phase? If so, should I
>keep the rebatching soap at a certain temperature for a certain time in the
>pot? Someone said that rebatched soap should be treated like new soap and kept
>insulated for 24 hrs. I tried that, but no gel phase ensued.

Rebatched melted soap is probably about the same temperature as gelled soap and looks just the same... you just had to apply the heat to get it that way, rather than the heat being provided by the chemical reaction within the soap. No need to insulate rebatched soap...just let it cool down and cut when it's cold and firm. By the time it's all melted and mixed... it's been gelled long enough, in my book!

Hope this helps! With luck... you won't have to rebatch the next one.

Happy soaping!

Subject: brittle when cut and gelatinous and harsh on skin when used.
Date: 08/19 10:08 PM
From: Genevieve

First of all, Thank you for providing such a helpful site. Well, I will makes this short to the point. I made my first batch of soap with the following recipe 40 oz. of Canola Oil; 36 oz. of olive oil, 8 oz. of coconut oil; 4 oz. of grape-seed oil; 24 oz. cold water and 12 oz. of lye. All seemed well until I cut tried to cut the soap up later (after 30 hrs.) and it was brittle, dry and would crumble to my disappointment. Too bad because I divided the original recipe to make an array of wonderful smelling soaps, not to mention the swirls! When I tried to test one of the scraps, giving my 2 year-old a bath, the soap became gelatinous in some areas (pockets of orange slim) and harsh to the skin. It must be the lye! I measured the crystals in a Pyrex jar to the line 12 oz., is this not an accurate way of measuring the ingredients? Do I need a scale? Secondly, what can I do with all this soap? And thirdly, what does tracing look like.....?

Sincerely, Genevieve.

Eek! A couple of things that concern me... did you use some of this on your little one after the soap was only a couple of days old? That's way too soon... should wait at least 4 weeks, and in some cases, six is better. The saponification takes awhile to complete itself and in the meantime, you can have free lye in the soap. Next time you are curious and want to test out a batch early... just wash your own hands with it first. You'll feel 'lye heavy' right away... it will feel kind of slimy and slippery on your skin and be irritating and hard to wash that slick feeling off.

Secondly... you need a good scale on which to weigh the lye... you will not get an accurate measurement of it in a measuring cup or jar that has fluid ounces on it. You could be lye heavy right there. If you can do this again with a scale and figure out how many actual ounces of lye you used when you filled the cup to that line, you would know how much was really in the soap and how much more oils/fats it would take to make it balanced when you remelt it (if that is needed). Your original recipe was not very superfatted in the first place, so there was not much room for error.

If this is lye heavy you should be able to save it. I use a relatively inexpensive digital postal scale to weigh my lye... got it at Costco for about $25. You might want to do a bit more reading about soapmaking also as you proceed. It's easier to absorb more information after you get your feet wet with making it the first time.

Good luck!

Subject: clear soap follies
Date: 06/19 6:29 AM
From: Ed Hall,

This should make you laugh. This weekend I became ambitious and decided to turn some white soap I had into clear soap. I had a couple of sets of instructions that agreed on all major points. Anyway, I ground the stuff up and put it in a crock pot to melt with some everclear (95% alcohol). Five hours later the soap had not melted; however, the alcohol had evaporated (or was absorbed). I added a little more alcohol and turned the heat up to high (before it had been on medium). Two hours later the soap became soft. By the looks I thought it had mostly melted. I added more alcohol, sugar, and glycerin. All of this time I had been working on a paper to present on Sunday, so I really wasn't watching the time that close. I go back to check on it what I thought was a few minutes later (in reality about 50 minutes) and the pot is boiling over. I had left it on high. I unplug the pot and start cleanup. The material on the counter was amazingly clear, until of course I put it back in the pot. I could now clearly see that over half of the base soap had not melted.

Sunday afternoon I plugged the pot back in hoping to recover something. Two more hours, the white soap did not melt. I ended up with a semi-translucent jell like substance, with big white chunks, that I poured (scooped) into two loaf pans. It is trying to harden. What a mess.

I realize my first clue should have been that the soap did not melt. Do you have any reason why it wouldn't. It was made from a mix of lard, coconut, and mixed shortening. The bars were extremely hard.

Anyway, I thought you might like to laugh at another's folly.


Thanks for sharing! What a mess, huh? I've not been enthralled enough with clear soaps to want to mess with them... only a few experiments.

If the bars you started with were really hard... then they were too old to be the best candidates for remelting/clear soap. You are better served by using fairly fresh cold process soap. If all you have is the older stuff, you could try shaving it, mixing in a few drops of moisture and covering this overnight before you do the remelt thing... it should soften it up enough to hasten the process. This is still a compromise, but should work better if you don't have access to green cold process soap (or just cured).

I hope this helps! Good luck with the next batch. I'll bet you have a really CLEAN stove now, don't you? ;-)

I hope your Sunday paper presentation went better than the soap experiment. :-)

Subject: mottled soap
Date: 06/10 12:10 PM
From: Betsy Dunham,

Kathy, several of us online soapmakers have gotten together to try to solve our problem of mottled soap. After lots of communication, we have decided that we are facing several different problems. (Can't remember whom of us wrote you, Jackie or Carol, but Jackie's problem is like mine, Carol's isn't) My 'mottled soap' has streaks of clearish looking gel stuff, not caustic, throughout the soap. Here are 2 photos of the same bar of peach soap that has a bad case of mottling, one shows the top better, one shows the side better: [I don't know if these are still posted anymore...]

This soap is fine to use, it's just really ugly. In looking at these photos, do you get any feeling of "ah-ha!" as if you know just what the problem is? I've been making soap since February, I've made almost 90 batches so far, all 1-3 lbs each, my first mottle batch was in mid April. I had several like that, then had less, and this is the first mottled batch I've had in over a week. I am operating under the theory (currently, anyway) that I did not mix the FO/carrier oil into the traced soap well enough, but I really thought I had mixed this peach batch well.

If you look at these photos and don't have any idea what the problem is, that's OK too, I will keep working on it, but I was hoping that, on seeing the photos, you'd see what's going on.

Thanks so much, I know you must get lots of troubled soapers inquiries.

Betsy Dunham
Blue River Soaps

I've had soap do something like this, but not so obvious on the outside. Thought it was a heat and thickness issue... or the soap getting warm enough to move around in the mold after pour and when it was already in gel.. something. I asked Rachael to look and give her feedback and here's what she said [sorry I don't have the picture anymore]:

>my theory now, i welcome comments and critics:
>here is a pic of one of mine. hope you can see that it is the same as your
>bar. the matrix began to set, and heat, and it was stirred some more. so
>the matrix cracked, shifted and resettled and it made noticeable lines in
>the soap where it was pushed around some more. most superheaters and fully
>traced soaps have noticeable lines running thru them if they are
>overworked. it's where the spoon drew in a line or more. if you add a
>colourant and try to cut in into a very fully traced soap and you can't
>see the lines because of the colourant. if you cut in soap that was
>unscented, and uncoloured into a very fully traced and already setting up
>soap in a mold, you will see lines in it, and sometimes separation with
>clear soap. the clear soap, which adds to the situation, is the result of
>the chemical reaction between the fo and the soap and it don't know why
>it works so well in the isolated lines, except that it might be a heat
>retention thing. eo's don't have this effect, but you can still make
>swirls in the matrix, it just won't be so pronounced and look cracked and
>orange peel like, as they do when an fo produces a small amount of clear
>soap that isn't joined with the rest of the soap matrix. you know who's
>fo's do this very readily? soapcrafters. i like some of her scents
>alot(alot lot), some i hate, but they are all rapid tracers, and heavy on
>odd additives that do this to your soap if you mess with it past a normal
>trace. this bar of orange that i just took the picture of, was eo's and
>soapcrafters vanilla(which is outstanding), and i was going to swirl the
>vanilla side into the orange one, but the vanilla set up too fast, and the
>orange side didn't want to trace at all, so i hurriedly put them
>together, and stirred the daylights out of them... and got this overworked
>soap, with lines and patterns and cracks, and the clear soap running
>through it because of the dilutants in the fo.... which i think is an
>alcoholic ester of some sort. no biggy, just stop stirring the bejebbies
>out of it, trace is good, thick like pudding is not, and try some eo's or
>another fo company. most of linda jines don't do that. although,,, the
>tuberose deluxe, jasmine, and a couple of others can.

I hope this helps to shed some light on the problem.

Good luck! :-)

Subject: soap drying
Date: 6/8/2000 12:39 AM
From: Kingdu,

Hi! I recently made a large batch of olive oil Castile soap from a recipe that I could in a book. Everything seemed to be going fine until after I hand milled the basic batch and remelted it. I put the soap into molds that are for mini bread loaves with the non stick surface and they looked okay but when they dried they became very warped. By the time that they dried there was hardly any soap left and it all dissolved in one bath!!. Please help.

Sounds like normal rebatched soap to me! If you want better texture - scent and color the first time around and let cure in open air for about four weeks before using (after you cut the bars). You can turn the bars every so often for even exposure to air. Whenever you remelt and add excess water, there will be more shrinkage and the warping happens during that process. Cold process has less water on the first go around and has a much nicer texture... rarely any warping. Also... they hold up longer in use, especially if the recipe has appreciable amounts of coconut, palm or tallow... oils with hardening qualities in soap.

Good luck and happy soaping! :-)

Subject: Stinky soap
Date: 06/07 3:31 PM

I have become a big fan of yours in the past couple of weeks...your page is fantastic! Thank you for helping all us newbies to the great world of soapmaking! Your soaps look beautiful by the way...sure I'll be trying some of them in the future. For now, I'm determined to make some great soap...or else! : )

First batch: lye scorched the goat's milk...won't make that mistake twice. Taught me not to trust any old recipe. Ugly and stinky to boot!

Second batch: still waiting for it to get hard enough to unmold. Not sure what went wrong but it's been five days and it's still like thick pudding or something. Seems to be gaining hardness every day though. Is there still hope?

Third batch: used the Oatmeal, milk and honey recipe from your page. All went well, looks good, etc. but I didn't have any essential oil that didn't smell esp. girly (batch for the hubby and his buds) so I left it naked and it smells like, well, like grease basically. Will this cure out or should I try to do the dreaded rebatch? It just came out of the mold today(Wednesday) so if I have to rebatch, what's the best method? Or should I just let the hubby stink? Second thought, I don't want to sleep with that smell.

I did look for the answers before I sent this but I couldn't find them (obviously, huh, if I had I wouldn't be bugging you about it, right? Well, we'd hope so anyway.)

Lastly: my restaurant supply doesn't have coconut oil, any ideas where else I might get it without selling a kidney? Wild Oats (natural food mkt.) should pay ME to shop there at this point and that was before the soaper in me was unleashed! Also, my scale is kinda lame and I haven't had much luck finding a better one...know any good sources? Walmart was not the place to buy this piece of equipment apparently. Ah, but it was good for that marvelous invention: stick blender. I don't think I'd like soapmaking half as much without Mr. Braun.

Oh, one last (really this time) thing, is soapmaking like an illness? A fever of some sort? I'm obsessed with it already! Can't wait for my essential oils to get here so I can make some more soap! The whole day is wasted now and I could have spent it making soap if only I had all my supplies. Ah well, tomorrow....

Thank you again! Your site has been a huge help and I really appreciate you doing it!



I love your enthusiasm! Thanks for such a nice email... I'm glad the site has been so helpful to you.

Second batch: What was the recipe you used? With both your batches being described as soft or greasy, I'm wondering if your scale is the problem? They sound like the have too much fat for the lye. If you are weighing your lye on a scale that doesn't go to tenths or hundreds, that might be it... not sure. I just use a $25 postal scale from Costco to weigh my lye. The kitchen scale I bought years ago (mechanical... goes to 25 pounds) is what I weigh the fats on... put the pot on it first and put fats in while watching the needle. If you end up having to rebatch the above soap, you will want to put a bit of lye in at that time... maybe half an ounce dissolved in a bit of cold water?

Third batch: Well... I would wait a few days before deciding. There are probably some off odors because the soap is still raw and has organic material in it (meaning the oatmeal). Often there can even be a bit of ammonia smell for a few days when that is the case... especially with milk soaps when you do those. It may cure out. If it stays greasy after a week, you might have a measuring issue like I mentioned above. Either way... I don't think the smell will stick to your husband's skin! ;-) If you put patchouli in a batch, that sure will though.

It's hard to find coconut in small containers without paying about $3.50 or so for a mere 14 ounces. If you think this soap fever is going to be with you for awhile, you might want to bite the bullet and get a big bucket of coconut oil. If you can't find a restaurant supply, you can order from a place like Columbus Foods (Chicago) or Shay & Company in Portland, OR. For smaller quantities, there are lots of places listed on the Internet (look at my links page).

Soaping must be an illness... and by all accounts, it seems to be communicable! ;-) I understand what you mean about that... it's just so amazing to make soap... like a mini-miracle every time (well... almost every time).

Good luck with those batches! If you think your scale is the problem, you might want to address that before you do the next batch.

Subject: rose soap
Date: 05/29 9:38 PM
From: bobbie,

hi - am enjoying the "botched batches" very much. the problem is , i can relate to many of the stories that i have read so far! i have had some funky batches, but seem to have conquered milk soap, got rid of ash (bees wax is now in every batch), and found my perfect base recipe - all with your help (thank you). however, i am having trouble with soap made from roses. i have many beautiful bushes of red and pink roses. i made a rosewater that looks like a fine wine. however, it turns brown/orange when i try to use it for soap making! i tried using the rosewater instead of clear water when adding the lye. i did this as i would with milk, very cold and while the pot was floated in ice water bath - no luck. i tried using the rosewater to re-batch my base soap - even worse colouring! i tried adding the dried, pulverized rose petals to a re-batch with my base soap - another brown mess.

my base soap is:

9 3/4 oz lye
32 oz water
1 lb 12 oz olive oil
8 3/4 oz canola oil
8 3/4 oz safflower oil
5 1/4 oz white beeswax

most soaps i have tried with this turn out wonderfully. but not that rose...

any suggestions?


bobbie eastman

Hi! I enjoyed reading your email (and love your email handle). Glad the web page has been such a great help to you.

I didn't check your recipe for balance... assume you have already done that. For hardness you might try some coconut and or palm oil in your soap. The beeswax makes it firm, but doesn't do much for lathering capabilities. Only 2 ounces of that in a batch will change the texture and reduce ash... you can do it how you like, but thought I'd mention that.

I don't think you can get around the fact that rose petals turn brown in cold process. They probably do contribute to the scent if you use enough... but they will turn brown. You can try using something else to give your base a pink shade and when that is mixed in it might be an antique pink color. Another possibility is to not fight it and put some milk in the recipe (no color) ... "rose milk" soap. The milk will turn the soap brown anyway so adding rose petals won't make it much worse looking. ;-) I'll bet it would be quite luxurious... brown color and all.

Sorry I don't have the solution you were hoping for. You're not the first to be frustrated by this aspect of using roses.

Good luck on that next batch and HAPPY soaping! :-)

Subject: What do you think is causing this?
Date: 04/28 6:06 PM
From: Joan Puma,

My last couple of batches of soap have developed a problem which I need to solve. The bottom of the bars are developing "holes" The edges of the holes are translucent in color while the rest of the bar looks normal.

I make 12 lb batches and use a gram scale to weigh out my ingredients. The scale has been recently calibrated by the factory, and I use a calibration weight before I measure out my ingredients for each batch. I use a Plexiglas mold that gives me nice smooth bars and until now has given me no trouble.

I have also checked my formula using the Majestic Mountain Lye Calculator and the formula checks out. I use less water than is normally recommended since I live in Florida. The air is normally so humid here that I find a reduction in water necessary to produce acceptably hard bars.

I do not stir by hand. I uses a paint stirrer attached to a drill, which up until now I have found quite a good choice. I have recently increased the amount of lye. I was taking an 8-9% discount but I have reduced this to 5% to increase shelf life.

Sometimes I can reach a trace in about 15 minutes and sometimes it takes a lot longer, using the same basic soap formula. Once a light trace is achieved I add my essential oils, as well as citric acid and grapefruit seed extract. I then pour it into the mold and cover it with muslin, which I can stretch across the top, making for uniform bars that need little trimming once the soap is unmolded. I cover and leave the soap insulated under blankets for 24 hours than I uncover and cut the bars.

This last batch was made when the air temperature was 80 degrees and the humidity was 50%. I should mention my soapmaking is done on the back porch. Over the last few years I have found that he air temperature and humidity has done very little to the outcome, other than needing a slight reduction in the amount of water I use for the lye solution.

This last batch was scented with grapefruit and opopanax essential oils. The amount of EO is equal to 2% of the overall formula.

The holes are only appearing on the very bottom of the bars. They don't appear to go all the way through and can be trimmed out later. I still would like to know what is causing this and I solve this problem. I can touch the bars with my hands without getting burned, but there is a liquid present.

Thanks for any information you can give me!

Best regards,

Joan Puma

I was a bit stumped by this so forwarded your question to Rachael L. and here is what she had to offer. I've never used GSE so didn't pick up on that. I hope this helps! :--) See if you think this might have any bearing on what happened...

Kathy Miller


From Rachael:

>stop using the citric acid first. not horrible, just not needed.
>next might ask her if the gse is a new thing. i've had a whole host of
>problems with gse, and i think that's her problem now. it's not necessary,
>speeds trace and causes mini-micro-and full seizures. if she's always used
>it, then ask if it's a new batch of gse. i doubt it's the eo's, or the paint
>stirring method. my guess over all, is this: gse reacts with lye, and with a
>newly increased level of lye and the resultant increase in pH, she's
>experiencing some seizures in the soap matrix. ones that don't allow full
>mixing of the lye water and oils/fats, yet you wouldn't know this, because
>it becomes solid looking and fully traced. so, you get unmixed bubbles,
>and worm holes of water. because the contents of the mold shifts and travels
>as it heats up and gravity is a defining force in how things settle out,
>you get your bubbles and holes on the bottom; because oil floats and water
>sinks, and when it has all reached a nice hot gel stage, the bubbles of
>water sink to the bottom because of water's density.
>in short, i think, if she stops using that dreaded gse, she won't see this
>problem again. and 5% superfatting is great for long shelf life, so let her
>know she's not going to need the gse. or the citric acid.

Subject: Help with irritated hands...
Date: 04/12 10:04 AM
From: kim cogle,

... I own my own small cleaning business, so my hands are used to chemicals. I have found that after handling too much "new" soap, that a real soothing lotion is the new Gold Bond Lotion. Seems to heal up the rough spots quick...just thought i would pass this along.

Thanks again, i appreciate your help. Kim Cogle

Subject: RE: Dire Straits/Soap coloring.
Date: 04/06 7:19 PM
From: honey smacks,

I am new to soap making and I have been making a Christmas soap recipe I came across on the Internet:

16 oz coconut oil
18 oz peanut oil
16 oz lard
19 oz water
7 oz sodium hydroxide
Mixing the oils and lye/liquid at 95oF

The problem I am having is when I try to color it (as I attempt to do this after I get the first evidence of a light trace), I put into my soap mix around 7.5mls of fragrance and the coloring, my soap appears to be setting like hard rubber and the color doesn't work and it appears to have the ylang ylang fragrance in pockets through out the soap batch, I tried to color this here first batch in question that I made a week ago with some red food dye liquid coloring and it just seemed to turn from a white color to an off white color. Depressed after that I spent the best part of the next two days looking for another alternative here in Australia. (There is no demand over here, soap making went out years ago and never came back).I eventually came across candle color in the wax type disc's. I made my second batch of the same recipe of soap last night and this time I grated about a half a cup (125ml), full of green candle color, then put it in the microwave with about a tablespoon of peanut oil to melt it down as I was stirring the soap pot, not quite continuously in between. When I added the color at my first trace sign, it didn't turn green. It looks disgusting, it is brown, sort of like milk-coffee browny, tany color with little lumpies in it, I believe the lumpies to be flakey bits of candle wax that went cool too quick.

I am about to pull my hair out, as I am wanting this to work, but it appears to be going all wrong and leaving me to feel very frustrated. Can you please shed some light on what I am doing wrong. Any thoughts or ideas on this disastrous problem of mine would be very much appreciated. Thank you,

Kind Regards,


"Gooday" to you! (Maybe sounds hokey coming from an American... but I couldn't resist! I have an Australian email pal and she usually opens her letters this way.)

Sorry you've had so much trouble. I'm surprised at the candle coloring results. The ones I've used here have been well behaved... I guess they are not all the same. Food colorings tend to be quite unreliable in soap... they will change to gray or some odd thing that you didn't want. There are a few exceptions, but hardly worth the gamble.

I would not wait until trace to color if you can do it sooner. If the whole batch is going to be the same color, I would put a wax colorant (and I doubt you should need nearly as much as you'd used) in with the base oils when you are melting them. Some spices work nicely for coloring and you can probably get those in Australia if you can't find all the other things you've read about for here. Paprika gives a nice color and you can either put some into the soap even before it hits light trace, or for a clear color, infuse some with oil that you use for the soap later... pour it off and leave the dregs of spice in the bottom of the container in which you did the infusion. This would be done much the way I did the alkanet root powder one that I show on the modern methods page. To see some soap colored with a fair amount of paprika (for peach or light orange)... you can look at my page with the soaps for sale. The two peach batches were done with paprika. There is a list of some spice possibilities for coloring on the "Design Your Own Recipe" page as well.

Some coloring crayons here will work, but others not. I don't know about the ones you can purchase there... but the Crayola brand in our country (NON-TOXIC) can be interesting. If you do this, be sure to read the information on the "Design Your Own Recipe" page about coloring with crayons... which work and which tend not to stay the same color. I don't know if the crayons are the same there (wax coloring sticks for children to use with coloring books... probably the same there, but thought maybe I should define it in case)... but you might check. The green crayon does work and gives a nice soft sage green color.

Again... if the whole batch is the same color and not swirled, I'd always put wax colorants into the base oils at melting time. Saves grief later on with the bits wanting to cake in the soap, etc.

I hope this helps a bit! If you hit on something that works there, be sure to drop me an email and remind me of who you are. There would be other Aussie soapers that would appreciate your information, I'm sure.

Best wishes and happy soaping! :-)

Subject: more about the cave-effect
Date: 04/06 12:49 PM
From: Alisa Lowden,

Recently I had a batch come out that reminded me of your weird cavernous-effect oatmeal, milk, and honey soap... I was thinking, "Where have I seen this effect before? Oh yeah, on that botched-batches page!" Anyway, I'm not sure if the honey is really the factor at fault here, since my batch had no honey in it... It did have cinnamon powder, soymilk, and vanilla and allspice FOs, and it did turn to mashed-potatoes as I "poured" it. I was swirling it (or attempting to, anyway) into a plain unscented mixture of the same oils/soymilk which had no such problems. After the whole thing sat under insulation for a couple of hours and got very hot, I opened it up and saw that oil had pooled on top of the mushy swirled areas only, apparently the FOs. I let it sit till the next day, hoping the oil would get reabsorbed, and in fact most of it did. When I cut it, I saw the creepy cavern effect in the mushy parts, which everyone really liked but which was quite upsetting to me... but as it has aired out it seems to be improving, sort of tightening up and drying out nicely. It still smells good. Maybe the fact that half the batch didn't have the culprit FOs made it easier for it to balance itself out... or something?? I made this batch on April Fool's Day, by the way, which seemed very appropriate!

I think the bottom line is probably overheating. Many spice oils, honey and milk will tend to cause overheating in the soap. Next time you do a batch like that... don't bother to insulate it until it's cooling off after gel. Sometimes helps to keep it from developing weirdness! :-)

Thanks for your email... it's interesting. When I get around to updating next... I'll be sure to post it on the botched batches page. [Wow! It's taken me over 4 months!]

Happy soaping!

Subject: the giddy highs and crushing lows of soaping
Date: 03/21 3:00 PM
From: Spellbound Botanicals,

First let me say you are the Goddess of Soap Incarnate :) These webpages of yours have been a goldmine of info, and a source of comfort when things go awry with my own botched batches (misery sure loves company).

The absolutely WORST soap batch I made started off all-right because I made your Canolive II recipe (a nice firm basic veggie soap)- but then it went wrong with my additives. I was trying to make Rosemary and Lemon soap, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

To my 4 pound batch I added 1oz of rosemary eo, and 1 oz lemon eo, 15 drops lemongrass eo, 2t pulverized dried rosemary, and 2t pulverized dried lemon peel. I was expecting a tan colour from the rosemary eo, with darker tan flecks and gold lemon peel flecks. I couldn't believe my eyes the next day when I went to cut it, or my nose, for that matter. It was a jaundiced mix of mustard/light brown with LURID red-orange tie-died streaks, the consistency of play-doh, and had a scent not unlike citronella smell. The streaks were the most astonishing thing, I've CP'd for a year and never had that happen. It looked like you took a red/orange fine tipped magic marker and made half-inch streaks in wildly askew concentric circles. Looking at the interior was scarcely any better, I did the world a favour and tossed it. I know it was usable despite the hideousness, but I just don't think people need to see their soap sitting there and go "eeyw" as they reach for it. That was the ugliest batch ever. I still needed soap, so I went off and made a batch of all-veggie based oatmeal and honey, with a sprinkle of cinnamon- they are fine, appealing little bars. I guess I had a botched batch overdue, all my first ones, even pure Castile, worked out great.

Thanks for all the amazing info, and hard work you put into handcrafting soap, it really shows that your heart is in it, because you excel.


AAAgggghhhhhhhh! I hate to see people waste stuff! Who knows... someone out there may have thought that was the most awesome batch they'd ever laid eyes on.... and the scent might have evened out and softened up to something you liked later on. I've learned that you should withhold judgment on a batch for a few weeks to get used to the fact that it didn't turn out as you'd wanted and that the scents have time to settle down. If people judged the end result in the first couple of days, almost everyone who makes cinnamon soap would toss it out. I've heard it's downright repulsive for the first couple of weeks!

I'm done lecturing now... it's gone (may it rest in pieces)... but I hope you'll wait longer next time before tossing anything out. ;-)

Thank you for such a nice email! You're very kind. I'm glad you've enjoyed the page.

Happy soaping! :-)

Subject: what a mess
Date: 03/17 1:21 PM
From: Blair Stokes,

OK, I had a soapmaking session today that looked like an episode of "I Love Lucy."

Had it seize up on me right after adding the color, superfats and FO/EO

My oils:
15 oz. veg, shortening
45 oz. olive
30 oz coconut
30 oz. palm

my lye:

18.5 oz
My liquids:
18.5 oz h2o (about 3 of it was a lavender-tea water)

Did you really mean this much water? It's the same as the lye and doesn't look like nearly enough for a batch this size. I would expect you should have used something closer to 44 oz. considering you were using a possibly problematic FO.

My Scents:
2T lavender EO
2T SweetCakes Gardenia FO

I think the Gardenia is part of the problem... it is a trace accelerator! Higher water addition helps and lower temps so you have a little time before it heats up (like yours did). Sounds like you had some overheating and since you started out so hot... there was nowhere to go but to instant gel stage! I've had a couple do that... very frustrating!

My colorant:
candle color- purple
My superfats:
2 t. shea butter
2 T castor oil
2T ground lavender flowers

I think there are two possibilities this seized but want to hear what you say: Thinking that I would have an easier time pouring my soaps if I mixed at a higher temp. I mixed fats and lye at 140 degrees. This didn't seem to be much of a problem at first. The mix looked OK, a little grainy. Then I added the superfats, color, and scent/ EO and it became like concrete. I tried pouring into my mold, but it just sat on top of the plastic grid. Then, about two minutes after trying to pour it, this globby mound began pulsating and expanding, As it expanded, steam came out. It got so hot I thought it was going to melt my mold's plastic dividers. I'm so upset. = ( This was an expensive batch and I was excited to use my new mold! Do you think I could grate it down tonight and add it to a new, plain recipe? I never have good luck with the grate/melt/reshape method...

Any advice would be helpful!

Blair Stokes

I got backlogged on emails and you might have done something already. You could probably add to another batch or remelt... whichever you'd like. It's a pretty big batch. Some of it might even lend itself to being cut into bars... as long as there are not big air pockets all through it. Then you can use the scraps for another batch to stir in at trace.

Good luck! How does that gardenia smell? I used the one from Brambleberry, but have heard folks say the Sweet Cakes was the best.... but you do have to move quickly! =:o

Subject: problem
Date: 03/17 12:10 PM
From: The Ohmits,

Hey, bet you will be sorry you ever responded to me!! haha! I have been trying to make a batch of rosemary/lavender blend for someone and I keep having problems with it. Everything else I try (using the same basic recipe) seems to come out fine. Have you ever tried this combination? Do you think it is something in the combination of these oils that is throwing it out of whack? I can't figure it out. I'm using the same amount of oils and lye and everything. If I hated the smell I wouldn't care, but I really love the two of these together! Maybe I should try just plain rosemary or just plain lavender? I am using rosemary essential oil and lavender 40/42. I have had batches of this come out fine, but have had more bad batches with this combination than with any other. This time it looks like a beautiful swirling pattern, but I believe the swirling part is lye heavy or something. It seems to be a bit crumbly.

Thanks for your time and insight!

Heather Ohmit

I don't think you should be having any particular problems with that oil combination. The swirl thing you describe sounds like a temperature problem (loss of) possibly and maybe some air being stirred down in when you do the swirl? It will sometimes develop little "ash" trails. Be sure your soap is warm enough to sustain the whole process of separating and swirling and that it goes through a gel stage. Deeper molds are more likely to gel than shallow ones and stick blended soap seems more likely to gel than hand stirred. If you are losing too much temp, you could raise your temperatures about 10 degrees or so... especially if the room is on the cool side. During summer, it might be a whole different ball game.

Good luck!

Subject: Help with hard brittle soap
Date: 03/17 12:21 AM
From: April,

I have been looking for an answer to my soaping question and this looks like the perfect place to find out. I made my first batch of soap three nights ago. I decided to use a basic recipe. Tallow, olive oil, water, and lye and at trace added an eo, color and grapefruit seed extract to preserve. The recipe mentioned that using GSE would speed up trace, and boy did it. I poured into a glass loaf pan greased with petroleum jelly (should I have used something else?)after only 20 minuets of stirring by hand. I enjoyed the process from the beginning to end and was anxious to see my soap. The recipe stated after 24 hours to unmold, cut into bars and let cure for 2-3 weeks. I tried to unmold but it would not. After much pain I decided to wait till the next day and try again. I set the pan in a HOT sink of water and tried again. Success! My hopes were dashed when I tried to cut it into bars. The soap was brittle and HARD and crumbled at every cut. My though is that the ratio between the lye and fat was not correct. Too much lye? So what do I need to do now to save my soap. The amounts were 3c tallow, 1 1/2c olive oil, 1/2c lye 12oz water. Please help.


April Currie

This is why I don't like recipes like this that are based on volume and not weight. Especially for small batches, they are too unreliable... a little bit off on the lye messes up your soap. Yes... sounds lye heavy. I'm not sure by how much, but you could try remelting the soap and adding a couple of ounces of olive oil (2 to 4?) to it in the remelting process. Next time you make soap, try for a recipe that uses weights and maybe you can get yourself a fairly inexpensive postal scale for weighing out the lye. For the oils, you can figure out how to use the liquid measure if you refer to Rachael's information on "Recipes Using Fluid Measures" on the website. The lye is not so easy!

Good luck with this batch... you should be able to save and use it.

Subject: Soap ?'s
Date: 03/14 3:30 PM
From: Pat Woodard,

I am new to soap making. I have been trying various recipes from your web site. I have some questions regarding making soap. On page 2 in the Vegetable Soaps and recipes, the second bar you show has an off white lump in the center. This past weekend I made your Blended Soap Using Beef Shortening (No Lard)No Coconut recipe. I scented it with Rose FO. It took forever to trace (by hand, stick blender burnt out), but everything went fine, until I cut the bars. There were about 3-4 off white lumps in the whole recipe. Just like the one pictured on page 2.

I scraped them to see the consistency, and it was kind of grainy. Is this Lye? And why in just these few areas? Are these bars going to be auk after they have cured, or should I rebatch, or throw away? I have read somewhere that these bars will never be good soap, so they should be tossed?

The same weekend, I had my first batch seize up on me. I hurried and poured in the mold and insulated them well, I was hoping the heat would melt some of the lighter lumps and the batch would then blend. Well I cut the bars and so far they appear to be auk. Again, I have read that these bars would not make good soap either, and that they should be tossed. So far they look very good!

I also have gotten a recipe off the web that is very good for beginners. It always turns out every time, but tends to be a little drying on the skin. I was wondering if you had any suggestions regarding amount or type of ingredient to add so as to have more moisturizing qualities, at the same time keeping recipe simple, and cost minimal? (need to start recouping some money I have already spent)

Was thinking about superfatting with some olive oil?

My last question. My sister has eczema and I have learned that Chamomile and Evening Primrose oils are very beneficial for this skin condition. I was wondering if you have any ideas regarding making soap for her? I was thinking of an olive oil soap for remilling, and then adding the Chamomile and Evening Primrose in the Remilling stage. Kind of hate to go this route, as I hate pittly stuff, but it is the only way I feel may be the most beneficial for her. Also, where do you find Evening Primrose?

Well this should be enough questions for today. I'm sure you will be hearing from me again in the future. Thanks for your Web Site, I have copied the whole sight and put in in a three ring binder for quick and easy access. I have read it over and over again.


Pat Woodard

Not sure why you have those patches. That lightest spot you refer to is actually a chunk of another kind of soap that was stirred into the rose batch at trace. The rose batch itself did come out kind of two-toned and I'm not sure why. Think it's a temperature thing. The soap that was around larger chunks of the added soap chips lost some temperature and probably did not get as hot in gel... the color seemed to be lighter than the hotter places that did not have soap chunks drawing off some of the heat.

Your soap will probably cure out okay. I doubt that you are looking at lye. The stick blender should be turned off quite frequently so as not to get too hot... and one more thing about tallow soaps. They do not get nearly as thick as all-vegetable ones when they are traced enough to pour. Makes them a bit easier to use for swirling or rebatching, actually. If you were waiting for that soap to be like the vegetable ones, that's probably why the stick blender got overworked.

The seized batch will be fine. I've had plenty do this and it's a nightmare, but the soap usually evens out... might be some slight differences in color... not totally uniform, but no huge deal. Which book were you reading? I'm amazed at how often they tell you to toss out soap... I can hardly think of too many occasions when you can't reclaim soap enough to use it for at least the laundry!

Your beginner's recipe sounds like Tony's No Fail... not a very good recipe actually and lye heavy. Why not try "Rachael's Tried and True" if you want a better shortening recipe? It uses some olive if you like and a bit of coconut for sudsing. You should be able to find that locally.

A good basic soap that uses a fair amount of olive would be nice for your sister. I'm wondering if she'd be better off with some unscented and just use some of the Evening Primrose right on her skin afterward... like in a lotion or something. That way you will retain more of its goodness without exposing it to the hostile environment of the cold process. If you want to try it in a rebatch, that would probably be better for retaining the qualities of the oils than doing it during the initial soapmaking process. I have not bought evening Primrose, but lately lots of drugstores are carrying natural products. Check there... even at Costco and if that fails... a health food store.

>Well this should be enough questions for today. I'm sure you will be
>hearing from me again in the future. Thanks for your Web Site, I have
>copied the whole site and put in in a three ring binder for quick and
>easy access. I have read it over and over again.

Next time I can't remember where I wrote something, I'll have to ask you! Sometimes I take awhile to find stuff since I have not read it all over and over for a long time.

Good luck and happy soaping!

Subject: is wrong!
Date: 02/28 10:01 AM
From: Jinnine Nitschke,

Hi, I have made two batches of soap, the first batch separated and seemed to smell rancid. Perhaps on the first try, the soap was improper mixed and added lye too quickly? Second batch I do not have a clue as to what is wrong. I am making a basic white soap and this batch turned out extremely hard and almost brittle (?), and crumbly even to cut. Also, after I cut the soap into bars, I saw only one pocket which contained a liquid I think is lye. I had planned to mill much down to make specialty soaps but I also planned on keeping bars of plain soap for bathing use, but because of the one pocket I found I hesitate to do this. You may want to know that I made the soap on Saturday, 2/26/00. However, not only does it appear my soap is crumbly, it has an almost offensive odor. What should newly made soap smell like? If you add fragrance before trace how can you tell if soap is rancid? The books I have for soap making says to make a basic soap before adding fragrance, color etc. The recipe I am using is as follows:

32 oz Olive Oil
74 oz. Tallow (I rendered from beef suet obtained from the butcher)
3 oz cocoa butter
14 oz lye
41 oz cold water

Is it possible to "overcook" the tallow? Will that make my soap go bad? Thanks for any help you can give me, because at this point, I really don't know what I am doing wrong so don't know where to make corrections. :-(


How big a pocket of lye did you find? Was it just a little bubble or a big patch? Sounds like the soap is not well mixed and the saponification was not as complete as it should be. It is possible to "burn" your tallow if you rendered it yourself, or it can have some impurities present that can give it an "off" smell, but I suspect the bad smell is because the saponfication was not completed enough. It might cure out and harden with time, but you could also remelt the whole thing using one of the rebatching methods. The recipe is in the ballpark as far as the amount of lye called for, but with all that tallow and the addition of cocoa butter, it's going to make a really HARD soap!

I'll bet you're using the Coney book that tells you to rebatch everything. That is such a PAIN! I personally dislike rebatching and think the texture and hardness of soaps the first time around cannot be beat. If you rebatch this, you may want to scent it during that process and then be done with it. That will give you a taste of rebatching. Next time around, you might want to color and scent before pouring and skip on the remelting step, but you'll know better after your first experience with remelting whether or not it's for you.

The next time you do a recipe from scratch, I would strongly recommend you try using a stick blender for mixing. It will give you a much better end texture and really accelerate the saponification process. It's wonderful! If you do this, read carefully the suggestions for using one (so you don't burn out the motor). They can be purchased at a relatively low cost... about $14 or so. The page to check out for this procedure is: Modern Procedures.

Good luck with this. Let me know how it all turns out for you. :-)

Date: 02/03 12:10 PM
From: Sharlene M Powell,

Help Me! I'm very new to soap making. I've made 4 batches of soap, all different types. My problem however, is that after pouring the batches into their molds, I put the molds out in the garage. If I lived in Mexico that would probably be OK. I live in Idaho and it gets pretty cold at night and I've finally realized that putting the molds out there is not a good idea. When I first put the molds out, after making a batch, the color is beautiful. When I go out to look at them the next day, they're no longer pretty, they're an ugly white instead of golden yellow. I'm sure that the soap did not go through the saponification process. Instead, the soap froze. So, please tell me what I can do. I was thinking about remelting the soap and repouring it into the molds and keeping the molds inside of the house where it is warmer. What do you think?

Please help me.

Thank you, Sharlene Powell

That will work... the rebatch will have a little different texture, but will saponify well for you. Only add as much water as necessary and if the batch is fairly new, don't add any water at first and see how it goes.

In the future, you should keep your soap in a nice warm place (normal room temp is fine) for at least the first couple of weeks or so... certainly freezing is not the most desirable thing for a new batch! :-)

Good luck with the next one and on the rebatching.... and have fun with the soaping! Isn't it an interesting process?

Subject: Re: Stubborn Olive Oil Soap
Date: 01/19 8:59 AM
From: Lori Salars,

Hello again. I have yet another question and unfortunately I have no soap guru to ask here. On Monday I made pure olive oil soap (olive oil, water, lye) and it said that I would need to mix it every 12 hours until the oil is incorporated. I have been doing that and the oil on the top is getting less and less. My question is, how long is this going to take before the soap is dry enough to take out of the primary mold? My book says for regular soap about 48 hours and my first batch took about that long. But this seems like it will take quite a bit more time to get hard enough to take out. Do you have any words of wisdom for me on how long this might take? I do appreciate all your help. And also thanks again for your input on the last soap I made with the lard and olive oil. I made it like you said and it came out perfect.

Lori Salars

Glad to hear your last one worked out well.

On this olive oil soap... I've never made it that way so don't have any personal experience. One thing is for sure... a stick blender would solve the whole issue of separation. If you mix your olive oil soap with one of those, trace WILL happen in fairly short order and you can pour the soap and get on with life!

Anyway... you should keep stirring this every so often until it no longer has oil coming to the top and finally saponifies enough to start hardening. Soap that is ready to take out will usually be firm when pressed with a finger (won't come off in soft little bits) and will begin to shrink away at the sides ever so slightly. When that pulling away at the sides starts happening, it generally is safe to unmold and cut. For the average batch, this will happen in 24 hours, but for soap that takes a couple of days in the mold just to fully blend and saponify, you'll have to just keep checking until it looks like it's ready. I would guess that in a couple of days after your soap has finally blended and "set" it will be ready to cut.

Let me know how this goes! If this never develops a proper texture after you do all you can, you can always rebatch it... but for straight olive oil soap I would not do that too soon.

Subject: Cutting Soap
Date: 01/18 3:43 PM
From: P Janzen,

When I try to slice my soap, it crumbles. How can I avoid this? Also how do you make soap in a bread pan (this seems to be a new trend)?


Hi! That could just be poor texture because of inadequate mixing (poured too early), temperature loss, or maybe a batch being lye heavy. A stick blender will do wonders for the former problems... accurate measuring for the latter. In any case... soap that is hard to cut like that is more easily cut with a thin piece of fishing line or waxed dental floss... it can be tidied up later after it hardens a bit. Soaps that will not tolerate a knife can often be cut with a piece of floss. If it even breaks with the floss or nylon line... it is probably lye heavy and maybe a good candidate for use in the laundry.

You would not want to mold soap in any pan that is aluminum, but you could use a glass Pyrex dish or stainless steel if you liked. I would line it with a piece of freezer paper... at least from one side to the other (the wide sides) and let it overhang. Put the shiny side up. Also a very thin coating of Vaseline on the exposed short ends may be a good idea. This will help you lift the soap out when it's ready (has pulled away slightly at the sides). One could easily make a loaf shaped mold at home with some scrap lumber if that would work better. It would insulate the soap better than glass or stainless steel.

Good luck with cutting that batch!

Subject: Pine Infusion Turning Brown?
Date: 01/18 12:46 PM

Just wanted to tell you that the first time I thought about making soap I was in Lebanon. There people come to your house, bring the equipment, make it there with one's own olive oil. Then they cut it and stamp each one with a logo. A year's supply might be made.

Now I want to say that I made soap with water in which I had steeped pine needles. It is fine but the lye turned dark brown when I added the water. I used a small piece of green crayon and it dried to a lovely light green but the brown lye scared me at first. Was this because of the pine needles.

Thanks. Charlotte

Your soaping in Lebanon story reminds me of old quilting bees in our country, or cider pressing. What a great community effort! Probably turned into a social event. :-) Thanks for sharing that.

Most herbal and plant materials will turn brown when exposed to lye. The green crayon was a good idea... it actually makes a really nice soft color. Not to be alarmed about the brown though... it's par for the course. Did you get any of that pine scent to come through after curing? Maybe it's too early for you to tell yet.

Subject: Bad Soap...
Date: 01/16 1:59 PM

Hi again. I love you webpage and have been showing it to everybody down here. I have a quick question for you. I tried to make the White Chocolate All Vegetable soap today...from the recipe on your webpage...did everything right, methought...then the darn stuff after four hours was still not at trace and there appeared a layer of oil above the rest of the mixture.

Do you know what happened and can i save this?

Thanks Again,


Sounds like it lost too much heat during blending and was beginning to separate. You might be able to warm this up on the stove (gentle heat) until it heats enough to be blended again (probably around 120 degrees or so). Were you hand stirring? Sounds like it... if you have a hand held blender ("stick" type) it will make tracing a breeze. Otherwise, mix vigorously as it melts back down, or use a hand held mixer (beaters type) for a minute or two to break it up. Be sure you completely immerse the beater heads and use a low setting so you don't whip air into the mix. Anyway... try reheating until you can blend it to a homogenous state. If it's too far gone for that on the stove, do a rebatch in the oven (take a look at the rebatch page) but I wouldn't add any extra water at this early stage.

If you remelt, the end product might have a slightly different texture, but it will be SOAP and you can use it! :-)

Let me know what happens and good luck!

Subject: Soap making troubles!
Date: 01/15 12:16 PM

After many successful batches (using your recipes) I thought I was on the road to independence. I have made your all sudsy recipe with canola & soybean oil & favorite castile II many times successfully. Now though I have had two and one undecided disasters in a row. The only difference between the success' & failures is the oil. I started using refined A olive oil from Columbus and had failures each time. The first was all sudsy which looked curdled and turned into an oily mush. The second was all sudsy with cool water which seized instantly in the pot. And now I'm hoping you can tell me if my latest fiasco will survive. I made the peachy with almond oil (no fragrance). It slightly thickened after a long time mixing (I thought my blender was going to overheat). I poured it into the mold and it heated a bit and darkened but now it looks like it's turning into an oily mush (leaking some oil out of the mold). You have been so generous to help me and I really appreciate it. It is very discouraging to have so many batches ruined (and costly). Perhaps I'm paying my soap making dues. I hope you will have some insight to what could be going wrong. Thank you so much.

L. Rausch

Your first batches could have been weird from the FO you used. That can often happen. I've read more than one post on Latherings about Cool Water FO from Brambleberry causing seizing in people's soap. Where did you get yours?

When using FOs that you are not sure of (behavior), use a higher water addition rate than the lower one I usually post... maybe around 28-32 oz. for a batch. This will help a little with the tendency of the soap to get really weird when you put the FO in. I talk a little about FOs on the modern procedures page... you might want to read that.

The last batch maybe has a partial separation going on. You can rebatch that. In the future if it's a bit slow to trace, try applying a gentle bottom heat for a couple of minutes during the stirring process. Turn your stick blender off every minute or so and rest it... stirring off and stirring on... that way you won't wear it out. If the soap is not tracing well and looks kind of grainy, it usually responds well to being warmed up a little. Then turn the heat back off. It should smooth out and get a honey-like translucence... and be smooth, not grainy looking.

I'm more inclined to suspect the FOs you used or heat loss during blending before I suspect the Columbus oil. Does it seem fine and no off smells? It should be okay. Fragrance oils are different in how they react and after you use them for awhile, you find which ones never cause problems, which ones need watching and which ones are impossible and to be avoided for cold process soap!

Don't toss your peach... if the separation is very mild (just a bit of oil on the outside) but the texture when cut is smooth and well blended... just let it cure out. If it's kind of grainy and poor textured, rebatch it. The end texture will be different but you can use it and it will be SOAP!

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

Subject: Botched batch
Date: 01/13 5:06 AM
From: Jeri Burdett,

I made a soap that turned out almost identical to your pictures of your "Most Fascinating Botched Batch To Date"! Mine, too, was an oatmeal, milk, and honey recipe. I was experimenting and tried adding more honey than usual. I believe that was the culprit.....that too much honey caused it to overheat and separate. It had the tunnels, and honey-scented oil oozing out, and the little crystal things growing in the tunnels. The pieces that were intact looked more like banana bread than soap! LOL

Anyway, just wanted to let you know!

Jeri Burdett
Terra Vita, Fine Botanical Soaps & Sundries

Thanks! I've had a few other people respond to this and they've all been milk and honey soaps.

To future unbotched batches! :-)

Subject: I'm desperate
Date: 01/12 6:24 PM
From: obriens4,

Kathy - I love your web site. I got interested in making soap about 4 months ago. I've tried about 20 batches and not one of them has turned out. I bought 2 books, have consulted many web sites, asked questions in the soap making forum and still no luck. The best advise I've gotten is looking at your website. I love the way you've written your recipes with your successes, failures and humor.

I like the all vegetable soaps. So far I have had curdling, major shrinkage and deformities, no tracing, and discoloration. Last night I tried Canolive II (the sequel). I measured everything carefully, poured the lye into the oil when they reached just under 100 degrees each. I don't have a stick blender so after stirring for about 10 minutes I got out the big kitchen aid mixer. Had it going on high for about 10 minutes, still no tracing. I went ahead and poured it anyway.

My husband got me a great soap box for Christmas. I used it for this batch. I put the box in a large Coleman cooler, closed the lid and left it alone for 24 hours. It looked great when I got home today but when I tried to cut it, it crumbled like chalk. In your recipe you called for 24 oz of water. I used about 26oz. I have spent so much money on oils, scents, molds etc and I just can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. I want so much to make beautiful bars of soap but I hesitate to spend anymore money until I get this figured out. I have tried hand milled soaps and have had slightly more success with that even though I've been told you can't do hand milled soap from all veg. soap. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

Thanx, Tamara

>Last night I tried Canolive II (the sequel) I measured everything carefully, poured the lye into the oil when they reached just under 100
>degrees each. I don't have a stick blender so after stirring for about 10 minutes I got out the big kitchen aid mixer. Had it going on high
> for about 10 minutes, still no tracing. I went ahead and poured it anyway.

Without a stick blender, that is not nearly long enough normally for a good trace... it would be more like 20 minutes or half an hour. Another problem with a standard mixer is that it tends to cool the soap off faster. In the future you may want to put your soap in a stainless bowl that you can warm up on the stove (only slightly) as you first stir until it gets a translucent quality to it... honey like. Then turn off and keep stirring.

My best advice to you in this regard is to spring for a stick blender! It will only cost you around $10 - $15 and will save you many times that in ingredients. You will be amazed at how fast and well your soap will trace and the texture will improve vastly.

>My husband got me a great soap box for Christmas. I used it for this batch. I put the box in a large Coleman cooler, closed the lid and left
>it alone for 24 hours. It looked great when I got home today but when I tried to cut it, it crumbled like chalk.

This fits the description of very lye heavy soap. Is there any chance you are using the 18 oz. sized containers of lye thinking they are 12 oz.? They changed their packaging during this past year and more than one person has missed that detail and used the 18 oz. container for a batch size that calls for 12 oz. That is the first thing I would check. If not... how are you measuring your lye? You ought to have a good digital scale... even a postal scale you can get at Costco for reasonable price will weigh the lye okay...I have one I got for $25 and it has tenths displayed on it... weighs up to 4#. Handy for mailing small packages and such as well!

If it's not lye heavy, it could just be because of inadequate mixing/trace before pour. That would make poor texture. I really can't stress the stick blender enough to solve this problem, but that's up to you.

If you think this batch was measured accurately, I'd rebatch the whole thing all at once and repour. Take a look at instructions on the rebatching page of soapy success. You will not need to add more water or maybe only 1/2 a cup or so. Not as nice as cold process the first time around, but just as good as recrafted! :-)

Good luck! Let me know if you figure this out.


I want to read more... click here for Botched Batches, page 3 ...

This page last updated September 25, 2000.
If you still have questions, please read through the information on the Troubleshooting Help page, MOST Frequently Asked Questions and Modern Procedures. More can also be learned through the Botched Batches and Soapy Success pages. Many common problems have already been addressed on the site and it's difficult for me to keep up with emails these days and get anything else done. If your question involves my looking up information that you can also research, or going over numbers and recipe calculations, I might not respond if in the middle of a project around our home and garden. I apologize for this, since I've enjoyed my correspondence with people and don't like to ignore emails of any kind. Thanks! :-)