Miller's Homemade Soap Pages
You are an unbelievable fount of knowledge!! Thanks!
One more question to bother you!
How about adding a small amount of paraffin wax to the melted oil, with the hopes of getting a firmer bar of soap; I have seen references to adding beeswax or stearic acid. Paraffin (although refined from petroleum) is basically a natural wax from decomposed plantlife a billion years ago. The reason I ask is that we also make candles as a hobby and have quite a lot of different temp waxes.
Thoughts?? Sorry to be such a nuisance!!
Are you still updating your webpage and FAQ's? It seems that you haven't in a while, or am I just imagining that??
v/r Jack Frost
I don't know why you couldn't use a little bit of paraffin to harden up the soap... it's not going to saponify and I don't know that it's harmful to the skin... so I'd go ahead to experiment with a little bit. I don't think it would take much... probably even less than using beeswax. If you try this, how about letting me know how it worked out for you and maybe I'll post that for others to consider (eventually... takes me awhile to have the time for updating!).
No... you haven't imaged that. I do actually have a life outside of doing the webpage and it's been kind of busy. ;-) We just welcomed our first grandchild this past week. That has been exciting. :-) [If you want to see her.. you can go to the Miller Family Page... I'll try to put up a better picture when I get one.] I started updating the links pages before the baby came and do have some other revisions and emails to post... just not had as much time to sit down and do it. The fall and holiday time is the busiest for the soap business also. Soapmaking really cranks up in late September through October.
Updating will come less often now because much of the time I'm getting the same questions. It gets so big that people don't want to read that far to see what was said to someone before.
Happy soaping! :-)
WELL ... HERE IT IS! YIPPEEE! My shoulder is hurting (mouse clicking)... but I'm glad to have finally gotten the long awaited updating taken care of. I hope you all enjoy the new posts. :-) I don't know when I'll get to updating again as things get busier... I'll be helping to watch the new granddaughter in the near future and the garden needs a LOT of work! I'll try to add information that seems new and will be helpful. :-)
I was reading the comments on your "where to find ingredients" page about getting tincture of benzoin from your local pharmacy. I live in a small town and can never seem to find the "common" ingredients that are listed for soapmaking, perfumes, lotions, etc. I always see the comments on various web sites and in books about getting these items at your local grocery store, drug store, etc. (I'm talking about coconut oil, cocoa butter, almond oil... not around here!) So, as far as fixative agents go, when I found out that I could order a benzoin tincture from my pharmacy I was pretty excited. I hope you can tell me what it's really supposed to look/feel/act like. I can't use it because it leaves a very sticky residue on the skin. When I tried to use it in a bottle as a fixative with other ingredients, it ends up gumming up the sprayer. Now I know that you are a soap person, not a perfumer (I think that's what you've said), but I thought you still might know if I have what I'm supposed to have. The pharmacists here know nothing about how they make the tincture or any ingredients that may have been added. I know that benzoin tincture made for pharmacies is supposed to be for applying to sores and stuff inside your mouth to aid healing, and it is used by dentists. So, do you know if the sticky is natural or added for that purpose and I really should shop the Internet for pure?
Thank you for any help.
Hi! Nice to hear from you. My experience with this is that the "sticky" is normal. You've basically taken a resin and dissolved it into something that makes it fluid, but it wants to return to being a resin. I don't think I'd use it in lotions and such, but for soapmaking it's okay. If you use benzoin powder, it's rather gritty even though it's finely powdered. I don't really use this in my soaps, but the few times I did... that was my experience.
Hello. How are you today? I have a quick question from a first time soaper. I have seen many recipes amongst your site containing the ingredient "beef shortening" (a blend of tallow and soybean oil), and am wondering exactly what the ratio of tallow to soybean oil is and what are the preparation procedures for something like this. Thank you so much for you time. By the way, you have a wonderful site (I know you hear it all of the time, but it's the truth). Have a wonderful day.
hello, i'm new to the soap making business but i love it already. i made my first batch a few days ago and i need to ask ...what is beef shortening and beef tallow...is that like regular shortening in the grocery store that contains meat products? or what can be substituted for this? thanks, crystal
BEEF SHORTENING is something I bought at a cheap grocery outlet and it gave me no idea of the ratio of tallow to soybean. In view of the fact that it was a tallow mixed with a vegetable oil, I decided to use the SAP value for lard (which was in between the numbers for tallow and soybean oil) when calculating the recipe. It's not worth your effort to try to recreate this "beef shortening". If you want beef tallow in your soap, you can render some of that using instructions on the site, and make the recipe on the Animal Fats page that calls for beef tallow, coconut oil and olive oil ("Tallow Blend Soap"). If you want to make the recipes calling for "beef shortening" and can't find it, you can substitute LARD in place of it, since that is the SAP number I used. There is another substance I used for this that was purchased at the local restaurant supply in a 50 pound block. It was called "Fri-al" and contained beef tallow and cottonseed oil. I used it in a similar way. I guess this stuff is good for frying foods.
...I learned yesterday that lye and oil combined when too hot and poured into a large well insulated mold (I had been working with several small molds) containing some sugar (I added baby food apricots, aiming for an apricot oatmeal exfoliating with slippery elm-- it was one of those nights) overheats, then separates into extremely lye heavy soap and oil. Good thing it was a cheap recipe. I also made a soap soufflé in the oven attempting HP. All of this is a great avoidance technique for writing my thesis. One of my friends came over and I introduced her to soap making, lotion making, and lip balm making. What a mess in the kitchen! But fun.
Now that I have rambled on and on, thanks again for the great website! I down loaded the spreadsheet and have it on my laptop in the kitchen so I can continually check the recipes while I'm making them. What a great tool!
Thanks so much.
P.S.- I too prefer not to wear gloves when working with the lye. That way I know when I have it on my hands and don't end up inadvertently spreading it around the kitchen. Always have a bottle of vinegar open and ready to go, just in case-- a tip I garnered from your website.
Well I finally did it, I got all the right ingredients and tried my first batch of soap. I tried the all vegetable, no coconut or palm since I am in Canada and it is really hard to get those oils.
I thought you'd like the feedback. First off, the soap turned out to be really nice and firm and holds up really well in the shower. Since it doesn't have coconut oil, it doesn't suds up hardly at all, but it still does the job. I have some hard water too so that doesn't help. It took 3 months to cure though. I put it on an open shelf in my husbands workroom. I guess the ventilation wasn't what I thought it should be. I've also been on other websites where they have an enclosed shelf with a fan and a food dehydrator on the bottom circulating over the shelves. I may do the fan part next time (tomorrow).
Think I may have found a source for coconut oil so will try the castile with a little bit of coconut next for the holidays. My grandfather (the tool master) is working on a soap mold for me in his workshop.
Would really like to try my hand at a shampoo bar but want to work on a good basic soap recipe for our family first. Want to work mainly with essential oils since my little one had eczema. Lavender with rosewood?
Thanks for your wonderful website! Hope you have wonderful holidays, and hey, we still don't have snow here yet, what's happening to our Canadian winters?
Michelle Desjardins, very amateur soaper.
Just a thought on full cans of Lye: You used to use the full 12 ounce cans, did you ever weigh the lye in one?
I have my recipes adjusted for the 18 ounce cans now, and they all seem to be good, except that one batch that had the transparent spots. It must be about 6 weeks old now, and still shows those spots! With a "tongue test" it doesn't exactly tingle, but it's a little strong, and had a taste that the most of the other soaps don't have. So I won't give it to anyone else to use. It is very hard and lots of suds.
Well, back to the lye: for the last two batches, I weighed it in the can before I emptied it, and again after, and one had 12.2 ounces and the other had 12.3 ounces! So I checked it again in the MMS Calculator and added 2 more ounces of the Olive oil to the last batch, to compensate & keep it at 5% superfat.
Just was wondering if anyone ever thought to check the weight of a full can out??
I know the weight did vary a little bit from one can to another. For the size batch I was making, it usually didn't make or break it... but you're right that it's not always exactly the same. I don't know if it came from the manufacturer that way or if some older cans had absorbed some moisture (which it does in a heartbeat) over time... despite the lid.
>except that one batch that had the transparent spots.
Are you sure that is a lye problem or did you use some kind of fragrance oil that didn't disperse evenly? I've had fragrances that made the soap set up too quickly and sometimes they had spots that looked slightly darker and more transparent than the rest of the soap (fragrance "pockets"). Just a thought.
I am a "new" soaper! I've been making candles for some time now and have always noticed that on a lot of web pages, candles and soap go hand in hand. SO, I packed up all my MANY candle making supplies from the kitchen, (VERY TINY KITCHEN) and make way for my new soap factory. First, after consulting your web page and some severely lacking supposedly informative books, I complied all the necessary hardware and supplies. I even rendered fat after getting 50 lbs. kidney fat from a butcher, who surprisingly was not even phased by the request. My first batch, timid as I was, was from a book I got from the local library and was a tallow and olive oil mix, very small batch, it produced about 12 4 oz bars, was scented and colored with cinn. The smell of tallow is still there. I have been told that the tallow smell will always be there, is that true? I rendered the fat immediately, it was still frozen as I chopped away hunks from the box the same day I picked it up from the butcher, so I can only assume it is not related to the fat being old. Anyway, after that one batch, I have quite a large amount of tallow, which I am not eagerly waiting to use. After the tallow, I moved onto a no palm batch, for I had not yet found palm oil, and the coconut was purchased for $ 5.00 per 14 oz from a local health food market (ouch). I have since moved onto your favorite castile II, with FO from sweet cakes. Anyway, as I am referring to your instructions, (I will admit that I have printed every single page of your site for quick reference) my only question is how long does it have to age?? I now have cardboard boxes all over my tiny apartment, I have the original cinn/tallow batch, a grapefruit, apple jack, peach, lilac, a funny looking attempted swirled choc. chip cookie, and now, this evening, a mint. My oldest batch after the tallow, is the grapefruit, it is the olive and coconut recipe from your site. I tried using it about a week ago and ended up with very dry hands, also there was a yellowish glaze after it dried, on the surface. This soap was made on 10/17, I have not touched it yet. What is the recommended curing time? Also, is there a different curing time for different types of oils? If you do have this pointed out on your site, I do apologize for the oversight and I appreciate all the help, and confidence you have given me!
Glad to hear you are enjoying the process of soapmaking so much! ;-) Thanks for your nice email. In answer to the curing question... I consider four weeks to be a minimum and for some soaps, 6 is better. If the soap has a lot of mild oil in it like olive and went through a fairly hot gel stage in the mold... you might get away with using it sooner, but Iike to play it safe. I don't know if the curing time differs for oils as much as depending on how much heat was generated in the initial mixing and molding process. My tallow soap seemed to take longer to cure, but it also heated up less in the mold.
The answer to the caustic soda question is 'in most hardware and DIY stores, or in Boots the Chemist with the cleaning products'
I wonder if it would be worthwhile having a little FAQ for UK enquirers on your Web site? If you're interested, let me have a list of the most common queries and I'll see if I can provide the answers.
Feel free to give people my alternative email address which I use for most List business, cranmere2002NO@SPAMexcite.com. It actually forwards to this address but I use an Excite address so that if it starts getting overloaded with spam I can just dump it and set up a new one while keeping my 'real' address relatively clear.
One of these years I really should do something with my own domain and set up some UK information on there.
Pat is a very smart soapmaking person from the U.K. and when I get stuck on questions from there... she's the one I ask! :-) Thanks, Pat!
I've been eyeing your site now for a few weeks and absolutely love it. I have only made one batch of basic soap and when it was time to remelt it I just about wanted to hurt someone out of frustration. Since reading some of your recipes I can now understand it can be pretty easy and much less stressful doing everything at one time rather than remelting and then adding scents of other things. My kids and husband thank you for this. I do, however, just have one question. On most of the recipes I've seen they have the temperatures of the oils and the lye, but often don't say which is which. Is it more common for the oils to be the lesser and the lye the higher? I want to try another batch, but don't want to screw it up by having the oils at a lower temp. when it should have been the lye that was supposed to be lower.
Thanks for the wonderful site,
:-) You're welcome! I understand exactly after trying this myself a few times before abandoning the whole notion. :-/ I really like the texture of cold process the best before it's remelted.
You know, I used to think the temperatures were super critical when I got started with those old lye company instructions (they always had the lye solution cooler), but since then I realize there is an acceptable range where temps are concerned and some folks prefer higher or lower. It also depends on what works best with the oils you are using. Oils with higher melting temperatures will usually be blended at a higher temperature than oils that are liquid at room temp. I generally work in a 90 to 110 degree range for both fats and lye solution and don't worry if one is slightly different than the other, as long as they are in the ballpark.
I hope this helps. Glad you are enjoying the site so much... thanks for your nice email!
I thought Id give you an update on my situation. The weather here is still very humid, but I think I have solved the problem. I have created a "dry cupboard", about 3 ft x 4ft x 6 ft high, and in there I have put all my soap on wire racks, wrapped in thick toweling, with a thermostatically controlled heater, (on the very lowest setting): I keep it closed at all times so the moist air cant get in. The heat is just enough to dry out the air inside the cupboard. So far its working well and the fragrances have not been affected by the heat.
I have also taken your advice about the recipe, and have made a trial batch using much less castor oil and much more palm oil, it looks really great, I can tell already that it will be a much harder bar, I will let you know how it turns out.
Thanks so much,
Glad you've hit on something for your weeping soaps. :-) Thanks for sharing that.
Hope this is the right email address, love your site, I've printed most of it and it's my "soap bible"! I've been only making soap for a couple of months so have only tested my first couple of batches, the problem is my soap feels good to the skin for the first couple of days but then it starts to itch (my measurements are correct, I have access to laboratory equipment). I think it might have to do with the coconut content (first two batches were 25 and 30% coconut). Now I'm making your recipes with less amount (~20%) but they are not ready to try yet, I hope this solves the problem. It might be compounded by the fact winter is coming. BTW, love the Canolive II and the Castile II recipes, can't wait to try the final product ;-)
Anyway, do you have a particular recipe you would recommend for dry skin? Would superfatting with something like cocoa butter after tracing help? Will letting the soap cure for more than 6 weeks help? On soaps I have bought from other people I find I have the same problem unless they are goat's milk base (I haven't mastered this technique however...). Thanks a lot for all your advice.
Kind regards from Wisconsin,
The high coconut content could be it if the recipe is accurate and fully cured. Not only does it make the soap really suds a lot which can lift more natural oils from the skin, but some folks are sensitive to coconut anyway. I find recipes that have a fair amount of olive in them are much milder on the skin, but I like some coconut, palm, or other hard fat in there also so the soap doesn't turn into a sponge or a slimy mess when in use. :-P The Castile II should be pretty good on the skin, but in really dry weather... nothing works miracles.
You probably hit on it... adding some goat's milk would probably make the difference you're looking for. Cocoa butter makes a nice lather and to me leaves a sort of protective film on the skin, but I don't prefer it when it comes to having soap that is soothing. The olive seems to be the key for me. You can try using some evaporated goat's milk in your soap and see how that is. Reduce the water by about four ounces and use about 6 oz. of evap. goat at thin trace. You should start with your temps lower... drop by about 10 degrees or shoot for something around 90 degrees. Milk soap heats up a lot more. Also... go easy or not at all on insulation once the soap hits the gel stage. One last thing if you do goat's milk... be prepared that there will be an ammonia smell when you add the milk to the soap and for a few days into cure... that's normal and will disappear.
With sensitive skin... aging soap about 6 weeks probably does improve its feel on the skin.
I am a new Internet user,and was delighted to discover your pages. Thank you for the info I have picked up.
I have been a soaper for almost 2 years and would like to share some discoveries (through trial and error!) over the past months.
Moulds and greasing moulds...
I have used just about every shape and size of container as a mould. But the most successful to date has been the PVC downpipe (round) approx. 75mm in diameter, this is cut into lengths of 400mm. The bottom of the tube is placed into a plastic lid, which I seal lightly with Pratley Putty. Prior to this I grease the lid and pipe with mineral oil (the bakeries here use mineral oil to grease their pans). The finished soap comes out beautifully (like a very large sausage). If it sticks slightly at the top or bottom I loosen it gently with a knife. The soap is then cut into 30mm rounds, I have found that they all weigh approx. the same when cured. I use a cheese cutter for the cutting, but have found that the ones for home use need the wire replaced after a few cuts, so I now am looking at the type the supermarkets use which I am sure, would serve the purpose far better. In this method there is hardly any trimming to do and very little off cuts. I have greased moulds with cooking spray, petroleum jelly and sunflower oil (the latter having made my soap smell rancid after a while.) and find that mineral oil really works for me, in other moulds as well.
I do have many questions that I would like to ask, and also have more ideas to share on colour and superfatting.
Kathy, if you would not mind, I have some questions about the wax colors you use.....it's a fairly controversial topic on some of the boards I frequent! I am unable to use the oxides.....I have extremely sensitive skin and get a horrible rash everytime I try to use them! Have you heard or experienced a difference between oxides and wax color on the skin? Also, do you have a reputable source for buying the wax colors that you would feel comfortable sharing? Lots of questions, I know, but I hope you can help me!
Well... I know they are not endorsed for cosmetics and lots of folks are giving them a thumbs down for soap, but I've used them for years and have never had any problems or complaints. It doesn't take very much usually to color a batch.
I've not noticed any skin problems from oxides, but my skin is not ultra sensitive. How much are you using? I hope none of my customers have experienced any problems with that... I do use some ultramarines and oxides in some of my bars.
There are probably a number of sources for candle wax colorants, but Pourette is the first that comes to mind for me since I ordered from them years ago. They are located in Seattle and have a website. I've bought candle colors at Michael's craft chain and use those with pretty good luck. The last piece of lavender I got doesn't seem to be lavender but more of a blue/gray. I wonder what happened there? =:o I will usually use no more than about one section of those blocks... they are scored. For some colors that I want just a pastel... even half a section is quite a bit. It depends on the color and how strong it already is, which color, etc.
Another option you might consider is getting a sample pack of the FD&C approved colors from the Pigment Lady on AOL (I have her link under colorants and pigments in the supplies section of my links page). That might be what she calls her "Unnatural Pak". I don't have experience with those and it takes some guesswork to mix your colors, but lots of soapers are playing with them with good results. They are also approved for cosmetics like lotions, lip balms, etc.
Good luck! I hope this helps. :-)
That's the case. Since an ounce is an indication of weight to my knowledge, and not volume... I didn't think clarification was necessary, although it gets confusing when people assume that a fluid ounce is always an ounce for everything liquid (fluid measuring cups are based on the weight of water).
Under general industry labeling standards (via FDA guidelines), a fluid ounce is the standard of measure for any item sold as a liquid, not just water--e.g. look at a bottle of molasses. Oils are also sold by the liquid ounce; it was, in fact, exactly that which prompted my question.
Interestingly, the US gallon is based upon an old British measure, the wine gallon (aka, Queen Anne gallon), which is 231 cubic inches (defined as the volume of a cylinder 6" long x 7" in diameter, or 230.9070 cubic inches). This was divided into eight to make a pint, and a pint was divided by 16 to make ounces. The weight of water did not actually figure into the calculation. As a result, one fluid ounce of water weighs a bit more than one ounce avoirdupois (i.e., one ounce by weight), so even with water it is an approximation. Almost makes you wish for the metric system. :)
Another interesting side note: in England, there were *three* different gallons (ale, wine, and corn) up until 1824 when the gallon was standardized, but to a standard different from the US's: 10 pounds Avoirdupois of distilled water under certain delineated conditions, subdivided into 8 pints of 20 fluid ounces each. Of course, use of the Imperial gallon has since been outlawed in Britain, except in regards to beer and milk.
So.... if I were to buy 16 ounces of oil in the store, I'd not actually get 16 ounces by weight when I used it? That would complicate things for people using the liquid measures page if they trust the weight on the label when they dump the oils into the soap pot! The difference might be minimal and with water measures in soapmaking, it's not critical anyway... the oil measurements are more important. (The most critical weight is that of the lye... a little off there can make all the difference in success or a major BOTCH!)
Some people are just too smart for their own good! ;-) Is that a "European or African" gallon? Just kidding... for a minute I had a Monty Python moment! :-) This was actually quite interesting. Where did you pick up all this information? Most people don't read about weights and measures for pleasure. Maybe it goes with your occupation. [I deviated from the subject of weights and measures here to suggest that he was a similar personality type to my own, based on the content of his email. ;-)]
Sorry to digress... but I thought I'd mention it. I do appreciate your feedback and it was quite fascinating! Thanks! :-)
Water is less dense, ergo, lighter, than water; therefore, it will weigh less per ounce. The weight of vegetable oils will vary; I found one source that indicated that the density of coconut oil is 0.92, compared to water, which is 1.0
I poked around my cabinet, and all of the vegetable oils there (canola, olive, et al) were indeed labeled in fluid ounces. A pint (16 ounces) of coconut oil, therefore, would weigh 14.72 ounces. Similarly, a pound of coconut oil would consist of 17.39 fluid ounces. Now, I was always rather casual with my chemistry (and I've done NO soapmaking as of yet), but I would be concerned that even if the lye measurements are correct, the variance in the fat content would effect the resultant soap by varying residual (nonsaponified) fat.
Your concerns could be quite valid... particularly if you are making a really small batch. There is a wider margin for error on larger ones. You usually have a cushion of extra fat to ensure the mildness of the soap anyway (I like about 5%) so having a bit of extra fat would not be too much of a problem... more of a worry if you were lye heavy, but with a 5% cushion in the recipe to start... that is not likely. I weigh the oils on my kitchen scale so haven't given much thought to the fluid ounces issue for bottles of oil. ...I just looked in the other room at my large bottle (close to a gallon) of olive oil and it's in net ounces... not fluid. I'm assuming that means I really do have the number of ounces on my scale as it says on the bottle?
Well, I made soap today. Canolive II, to be exact. I had a couple of thoughts and other things to tell.
First, is there a particular requirement why we would need the lye/water solution to get very hot? That is, over about 130 degrees or so (aside from full dissolution of the lye powder)? My thought was, why not use ice water? For example, if you need 28 ounces of water, use 20 ounces cold water, 8 ounces ice. That should cut down on the cooling requirement. The ratio might have to be fiddled with in order to get the lye to dissolve--my concern is more having enough liquid to begin with rather than too cool a temperature.
Well, have you ever realized that something was perfectly obvious after the fact? I'd looked for an old enamelware pot for the process, and found one in a thrift store. While I looked, I can across some other items: one, a stick blender (I have one, but didn't want to risk burning it out, and the 2nd one was $5), and a big old wooden spoon. Well, I measured out the lye, put it into the water, and stirred. Dried, hardened gunk comes off of the spoon and into the lye/water. I certainly couldn't use that floating junk in my soap, so down the drain it went. I sped out of the house for another can of lye, and found the very last one on the store shelf.
I was going to do the swirly-color thing, but chickened out and just added the color to the whole batch. Don't think I added enough scent, though. Trace took longer than I thought it would with the stick blender--didn't really keep track of the minutes, though.
Mold: found a big, flat tupperware container, about 1-bar height. The entire batch just fit into it. I covered it with plastic wrap to reduce "ash", put the plastic top on it, then put the whole thing in a cooler.
Well, I'll peek tomorrow.
I chuckled at your spoon fiasco! I could see myself doing something like that... live and learn.
Be sure to let me know how the soap turns out for you... I hope the first batch is a success. As far as trace, it can vary from batch to batch, particularly depending on the composition of the base oils. I've noticed that soybean oil or tallow in a recipe seems to make it stay thinner at trace than soap with a lot of olive or shortening.
I have a feeling that if this goes well ... you are going to be hopelessly hooked on soapmaking! You have my congratulations and condolences. ;-)
What is the gel stage and how do you prevent your soap from over heating and separating into pockets of Lye?
Gel stage is when the soap gets hot enough (from the chemical reaction during saponification) that is starts to melt itself enough to become somewhat translucent. In the mold it will appear clearer and darker until it cools back down. This usually starts in the center and radiates out toward the edges. I was alarmed the first time I saw my soap do this... I thought something terrible had happened to it! :-)
I don't usually have problems with overheating... except sometimes with milk soaps. I talk about this on the site.
I'm new to the computer and started soaping about 1 yr. ago. Love it so much. This site has been a favorite of mine since I found it on a computer at the library. Thank you all so much. Just found an old soap book, it's dated in the early 60's and this woman would mix her lye the night before, she put it in an old apple juice glass bottle and punched two small holes in the top with a ice pick, the bottle is tapered not too narrow at the top with a small lid, about 3 inches across, the bottle can be put in a pan of hot water while the fats are heating and with the two holes, it pours so nicely into the fats, the holes are across from each other and lets it out in a steady small stream. It's been great as my lye seems always too hot and waiting for a cool down my fats get solid, sort of. Thought this might work for some of you, it's like the old Motts apple juice bottles. Thanks again,
I'm the one who wrote to you so much a couple of months ago and got so much wonderful soaping wisdom from you. Thanks so much! My soaping is getting a little more consistent in quality. I haven't ruined a batch in a long time. I love your pound soap. I made it the other day with soy oil, and also put some silk (1 gram silk fibers) in the lye water. It is a wonderful bar of soap. All my soap goes to gel stage now that I use the stick blender all the time, and also I've stopped taking anything's temperature. I just wait until I can feel the outside of the container and it seems about right. I am probably doing it a little warmer than I'm supposed to, but it works fine. Here are my observations and questions. Since it goes to gel stage, I seem to have to cut it only about 8 hours after I put it in the mold or it gets almost too hard. Within a day, I can use it as soap in my sink to wash my hands or whatever and it works fine and doesn't cause the lye/dry-hand symptoms that I noticed long ago with under-saponified soap. Have you also noticed this?
It depends on the batch of soap... but you can certainly use well balanced gelled soap faster than soap that doesn't go through gel. The added heat means the saponification progresses more quickly. I'd not sell soap like this to others before the usual cure period, even if you can use it sooner. Some folks have sensitive skin and you don't want their first homemade soap experience to be bad... it could easily be their last time to give it a try! :-)
I've had two batches that started out with a natural nice color to them, one from herbs and such which when first poured looked like a beautiful orangy-lemon color and then after it gelled and cooled down was a darkened translucent color that wasn't as pretty. The other batch was a carrot soap which I think I told you about. It had a lovely bright orange color before gel and then after, was duller and translucent. Is that color change a product of saponification or is it caused by going to gel? I can imagine that if I wait longer until it is cooler and then mix it by hand slowly it might not go to gel, but then it might also separate which is a drag. Do you know what's going on?
I think you're right... the gelled soap develops a darker color than soap that stays cooler and doesn't gel. The tradeoff seems to be that the soap that doesn't gel is more brittle and not as smooth at cutting time. It also takes a bit longer to complete saponification. I prefer the soap to gel. If you want to add a bit more opaqueness to your soap... you could buy some titanium dioxide with your colorant to "whiten" and brighten it up. It would be like adding white paint to a color when blending, I think. The "Pigment Lady" at AOL (on my links page) sells this stuff along with other natural and FD & C approved colorants.
You can also purposely keep your temps down enough to avoid the soap going into gel stage... then it will have that lighter look. If it's well traced when poured... it shouldn't separate... but the texture will be different than the gelled stuff.
Thanks for your wonderful website and for all your personal help. I really appreciate it.
Good luck! Thanks for your kind comments... I appreciated them. :-) (It's been really busy and answering mail has been a challenge this week!)
Subject: making soap and loving it.... thanks to you
Good evening Kathy.
To give you a little history. About a year ago my fiancé and I were walking through a rather upscale story in they're bath department and I came across some cute fragrant soaps that caught my eye.. I looked hat the ingredients and again at the soap... the price I thought was outrageous.. the more I looked at the soap the more I thought "I bet I could do this" so (I came home and logged on and did a search through " ask jeeves"... " how to make soap".. and your sight came up first... I read some of your basic recipes and I was off like a shot.... my first recipe was a simple lavender... the color was a bit off (I put the color in before the lye...oops... ) but it smelled wonderful and the texture was smooth as silk.. (I bought the stick mixer first thing.. great tip) from there I started experimenting with different combination recipes both animal and vegetable fats... I love this.. I never buy soap in a store anymore.. especially after reading some of they're labels now that I know what I'm looking at.. I wash the dogs with my soaps. the cars, (ends and left overs)... shampoo bars, facial bars, bodies head to toe....you name it I can find a soap for it... they make great gifts and have so many friends asking when I'm going to start selling... like i have the time.
anyway I just wanted to thank you so much for helping with your awesome site..
Well... thank YOU for taking the time to send me such a nice email. :-) It made my day.
Glad you're having so much fun with this... I suspect where you live, the prices for homemade soaps are even more inflated than they are here, but in any event... you can save a lot of money making your own. (And why should someone else have all the fun?)
Best wishes and happy soaping! :-)
Hello! I want to thank you for taking the time to put together such an informative site on soapmaking. I had always wanted to try making soap but was afraid of the lye and never could get alot of GOOD information. Your website is AWESOME! After going through it I decided to take the plunge and I am hooked! I've made 4 batches and they have all turned out good. I did try a remelt though and it turned out like "soap jigglers" - ha!
That's cute... I hope no one tried to taste one. :-P
Now for my question. I have read about people pouring out small portions at light trace and mixing different fragrances or colors. How is this possible? Don't you have to stir continuously? Or can you pour some out work on the small batch and then go back to your original batch? That is something I would be interested in trying but I wouldn't want to lose part of my batch.
Thank you again for your website!
I'm glad the page gave you courage to take the plunge and that you're having fun with soapmaking! That's always music to my ears and makes me feel that I did a good job of explaining things and being encouraging to people.
I have something posted about dividing soap into smaller portions on the Soapy Success pages... probably a ways back and Pat Prenty had sent it in. You can do it, but I think I'd take out a portion at a time and be sure to stir the base soap as you go along (periodically) so it doesn't set up. You should work fast to conserve heat and keep it from getting too thick on you. Starting at thinner trace is probably good and certain base oils make a thinner traced soap than others. Tallow soaps probably would be easy to do this with and maybe a recipe that has some soybean oil... I've noticed it tends to be thinner at trace and pour stage. You can try it with any recipe... just that some might give you more latitude than others.
I was playing around in my cupboard today and hit on a great trick for making milk soap. I am interested in nutrition, and keep "Non-instant powdered milk" around to add to my smoothies. About 3/4 c makes a whole quart's worth of milk. I added .7 ounces to the premeasured water and blended well with the stick blender. Then I added the lye and stirred by hand for a few minutes. I made my usual batch of soap, and it worked great! No overheating, bad smell, or anything! You can get non-instant powdered milk at any health food store. The soap itself was very light in color, the same shade it usually is (scented with lemongrass and sandalwood FO).
Thanks for running such a great site!
What kind of milk is best to use when making milk or milk/honey soap? Whole milk Okay? Since milk has solids in it, does it take more than the amount of water you would have used to combine with the lye? I had a botched batch the other day . . .
You can use whatever kind of milk is easiest for you. I buy the evaporated goat's milk at the grocery store and use about 6 oz. of that in a batch (and reduce the water by about 4 oz. when I mix up the lye solution). Milk soaps tend to overheat, so you should start with lower temps (maybe around 90 degrees) and don't overinsulate once it hits the gel stage... let it cool back down as quickly as you can. I keep moving my mold around at that point so the table continues to pull heat from the bottom of the mold and I don't cover it after gel.
Good luck! :-)
You can use fresh milk if you like and use a bit more than you would of water. I have some good instructions for the use of fresh milk posted on the Soapy Success page... on one of the first few pages. [Better make that a couple more since I just added two more!]
Hope I find you well and busy soaping :-)
I just love your web site so much, I've spent the last hour browsing !
May I ask you please if I can add shea butter to the castile recipes without making them too soft, I thought 3tbs as you suggest in the Cucumber & Shea Butter recipe. Also can you tell me please, what is Crisco and what is Canola ??
Thank you very much in advance for any advice
Kindest regards from Wales
p.s. I noticed also that you use pureed carrots to colour one soap, does this material rot or "go off" in the soap. I wanted to use pureed fruits, would they need to be preserved ?
Hi! Nice to hear from you. It's fun to receive mail from soapers from all over the globe. :-)
There's no reason you cannot do this. I think shea can make the soap a little bit "sticky" if there's too much in there... a little bit goes a long way. If your base recipe has a goodly amount of other oils that make a hard bar (like palm, coconut, tallow, cocoa butter, etc.) you should be just fine.
>Also can you tell me please, what is Crisco and what is Canola ??
Crisco is just a popular brand of all vegetable shortening (like vegetable "lard" so to speak) available in the U.S. Some folks like to use it because it's relatively cheap, but it's not my favorite. Canola oil is a low cholesterol type oil readily available here and in Canada, but it's not a superior soapmaking oil... just a nice filler and one that will lower cost or provide options for folks who have trouble finding some of the other oils. Olive is better in what it gives to the soap and you should be able to find that where you live. Soap made with a blend of coconut, palm and olive oil is a classic base. You can also use animal fats if you like... depends on what you can get and prefer to use.
I don't use a lot of vegetable material in the soap... but pureed carrots will lend a nice soft orange color to a batch (the beta carotene is what provides the color... if you can find capsules of beta carotene in a health food store or with vitamin supplements, you can break open a couple of those and color the soap that way). Most fruits will turn brown in the soap... carrots do hold their color after being exposed to the lye. People who use many fruits and veggies in soap often want to add some benzoin as a preservative, but I think it makes the soap kind of scratchy in feel and it can only do so much if the chunks of organic material in the soap are too large or too plentiful. That leaves you open for spoilage problems during storage. Personally, I like to use certain dry herbs and an occasional fruit or vegetable if I know the end result will be good.
Happy soaping! :-)
Hi, I wrote to you before about a soap problem. I have another question. Has anyone ever tried using Rit dye for coloring, is there some reason not to, would it dye people's skin? Hope this isn't too dumb of a question, but I'm always trying to find ways to do things less expensively with soap making. It seems like it wouldn't take alot of it to dye the soap. I had a funny experience. A health food store in our area was going out of business. They had all of these different ground herbs for low prices. There was some ground rhubarb root that had a golden color. So I thought I could dye some soap gold with it. Well, I added one tsp of it to my batch at trace and it turned my soap plum colored. I was so shocked. It isn't such a bad color, in fact people like it. It's a little brownish, I wish it wasn't. I don't think I'll be quite so adventurous in the future. I would love more information about interesting ways to color soap! Do you know of any websites, or have you done anything interesting color wise?
Also, I have had two batches that didn't gel, so I put them in the oven at 175 degrees, until they reached 130 degrees. Then I insulated them and they came to gel quite quickly. The first time I did it the soap was in a wooden box, which didn't seem harmed by the oven heat. The batch I did today was in those Rubbermaid drawer organizers. They seem to be okay as well. I find that if I check the temperature before I put it in the molds and make sure it is about 130 degrees, that I don't have trouble with it not gelling. If I just turn the heat on under it while stirring and keep the temperature up it works great. I forgot to check the temperature today! Well, thanks for your help. I donated some of my soap to a town bazaar, and got a few people interested in it. One lady wants to buy 15 bars! Thanks again!
Hi! The RIT dye question has come up before, but it's not recommended because it's rather strong and would be inclined to stain things, as I recall. I do use candle colors, which a lot of folks shy away from, but I've enjoyed the latitude they give me and very little is needed. I think they are the same kind of dye as what is used in hair coloring. The other possibilities are some herbs (calendula, paprika, alkanet root, etc.), FD & C approved colors and ultramarines and oxides. If you visit the "Pigment Lady" at AOL online, you can order a starter pak of those kinds of colorants. That ought to get you started! :-)
Thanks for the tip on heating up your soap. :-) I'm usually trying to keep mine from getting too hot, but there are times when giving it a boost can be helpful.
I haven't made this combination and don't know the exact recipe or proportions of the oils she used... but as a place to start, you could try something like this (this has a 5% lye discount):
I'd use more water if using a fragrance oil and less if scenting with essential oils. You didn't say what the soap smelled like, so I have no clue as to which essential oils you might want to use... or which herbs and flowers. I'd need more info to make a suggestion on that... but you can scent your soap with whatever pleases you. Do some more reading about soapmaking and you'll get some ideas... the pages listed below are good places to start.
[Responding to me about a batch I had that started to morph and get weird] ...Another use for your Windfall soap (very clever name!) -- you might point out to folks that soap is wonderful for cleaning in the kitchen. I clean my stove, refrigerator and microwave with soap. It sure beats all those smelly chemical-laden kitchen cleansers! I just lightly soap a cloth, wash my appliances, rinse them with a clean wet cloth and give them a quick swipe with a dry towel. I've never used any cleaner that worked better!
Have been so busy haven't had time to visit my favorite soap page, but returning to it is like a reunion with an old friend! Just a little something to share with you regarding milk soaps...I find that I don't seem to get the discoloration associated with milk soaps with this method and so far it has worked every time. I'm referring to that orange-red discoloration that happens, not the antique color that is usually associated with milk soaps.
This may be an easier technique for novice soapers. You can increase the milk concentration in the recipe this way, also, and I find that it's more economical for me to use the evaporated forms of milk, because that way it is always available and I can just mix what I need instead of trying to figure out what I'm going to do with the leftover fresh or canned milk.
I continue to enjoy your soap page!
Thanks for your info on making milk soaps. This sounds pretty much like what I do... with the addition of making sure to drop down my temperature by about ten degrees from what I'd normally use. I still get a tan colored soap (some folks strive for cream)... but that's okay with me. :-)
My wife and I are considering getting back into the soap making biz after an almost two year break. I've noticed that a lot of folks are having problems finding the basic oils, lye, etc. We found that a Bakery Supply house had all the oils in bulk and it was very inexpensive. We purchased a 50 lb box of vegetable shortening, 5 gallon bucket of coconut oil, a case (5 gallons) of olive oil and a few other smaller sized oils and I think we got out of there for about $50. It might have been a little over that with tax, but we were amazed at how inexpensive everything was. Also, for making the transparent soaps, we found that a chemical supply house sells large quantities of denatured alcohol at very inexpensive prices. Denatured alcohol cannot be taken internally as it is quite toxic, but it works well and will not effect the soap in any way. We also found that the chemical supply houses sell Sodium Hydroxide (lye) in forty pound bags that is so much cheaper than buying Red Devil lye. At the time, we were making three to four batches of soap daily, however, we still have more than half a bag of lye left just begging to be mixed with oil. I hope these little insights will help future soapers. You might have to drive all the way across town to get to a bakery supply house or chemical supply house, but the savings are worth it. Now,..if we can just find a cheap bulk supplier of essential oils, we'll have it whooped.
Till next time,
Heath & Jessie
Thank you so much for your input... I'll put it in my "pending" folder and post it next time I update (probably after school starts). [Yeah... like about FIVE MONTHS after! =:o ]
I don't know if anyone sells CHEAP essential oils, but have you checked out Liberty Naturals in Oregon? I have them on my links page and I've heard good things about their oils. Might want to take a look.
Hi, I enjoyed your website on soapmaking. It is one of the best all-around informative sites that I've seen. I have a question that perplexes me and I'm wondering if it has something do with different methods for making soap around the world or through the ages ... or if it's just a matter of additives.
I travel a lot. One thing I discovered many years ago, through a bar of Palmolive soap bought in Australia, is that corporations design their products for local markets. That particular bar of Palmolive soap was wonderful. I had at last found the perfect soap that did not dry my skin, that left my skin smooth and supple. When I got back to the States, I bought another bar of Palmolive soap ... only to discover that it was harsh, abrasive and astringent, like all the other American soaps: definitely a cultural bias toward that idiot-idea of "squeeky-clean" hygiene.
As I continue to travel, I have found that, in most third world countries, Dove beauty bar is a safe bet. The "same" product here in the States is smelly, astringent, and dries my skin. But I do quite well abroad.
I'm not sure if this has to do with basics or with additives. Obviously, the corporations marketing their products in the third world are in competition with locally made, traditional products that the local population is used to and comfortable using ... and the corporations have to "bend" their formulas to be able to sell the product.
I would be happy enough to find local products that are less rigorously "hygienic" in this western biased sense, and more conducive to healthy skin, but that seems to be a lost cause. Many of the natural, "health" skin care products in this country are also designed to emulate the cultural preference for squeaky clean skin (like it's upholstery or something).
I started wondering if I need to do some historical research on the composition of soaps ... in different cultures ... in order to find out just what the differences are.
Making my own is a course of last resort. But, if that's the only recourse, then I'm game.
Since you are better informed, overall, on the subject, I wonder if you have any insights on the cultural differences of soaps. Or you might take the tack that most Americans seem to follow: that American/European cultural traditions and methods in everything are superior and we have nothing to learn from "primitive cultures." It's an attitude I run into frequently.
European products are not quite as bad as puritan American products, but still not as skin-friendly as found in the third world. For all I know (and I have many other similar observations on this particular phenomenon), it could be a cultural bias of Christendom!
If everyone, world over and throughout history, uses lye to saponify the tallow (or whatever), then what is it that these other countries/cultures are doing with additives?
Or am I looking at the wrong thing? My suspicion is that the PURPOSE of soap is, perhaps, culturally influenced. So that, if we expect soap to leave our skin feeling "squeaky clean," then a soap that doesn't do this would be viewed, culturally, as a "failed" soap. I have a preference for these "failed" soaps (if they are really "soap" at all), that cleanse gently and leave my skin soft and moist. Thank you for taking the time to consider the question.
Hi! I enjoyed your email and observations. I'm not a world traveler, so have not had soaps to compare against ours in a cultural sense. It's probably true that they have different expectations or standards of manufacture. What I am led to believe from what you say, is that they don't strip out all the natural glycerin during manufacture like they do in the U.S. The soaps we get here have had the glycerin removed... it has value as a byproduct, and soaps without it probably have a longer shelf life. Also, many of the "soaps" sold here are not true soap, but synthetic detergent bars. Real soap will have ingredients such as... "sodium palmate, sodium cocoate, sodium tallowate", etc. listed on the label.
Homemade, or "natural" soap is approximately 25% glycerin. That's a lot and is why soap you make yourself leaves you clean without the "squeak". It's great stuff! :-) In commercial soap, they make a big deal about it when they add glycerin to it... but I'm pretty certain they don't put back in as much as was removed in the first place. I compare it to "enriched flour". What a joke that is!
This is only a guess on my part... but my best one.
Thank you for your informative response. I apologize for the cynical tone of my first letter. I often get flack when I suggest to Americans that we might have some things to learn from the third world ... I guess from those experiences I tend to go on the "offensive" to begin with. Very feisty of me, but not very friendly :-)
Looks like I'll be making my own soap! Another adventure in living in America!