Thursday, April 4, 2013

How the Soap Turned Out

Gumbo Lily (that's Jody) asked about how the latest soap batch turned out, so I thought I'd show you.
The lavender soap turned out nicely. The wooden box mold holds heat well, and the soap I pour into it always gels fully and cures well. The soap is hard and firm. If you want to see what the box mold looks like and how it works to cut soap, here's a post with pictures of it. I just slide the soap down and cut it with a bench knife. Aren't the swirly colors pretty?
Here's the vanilla, made with some cocoa powder and molded in OJ cans. They're good too. You can see though how the soap has a dotted look around the edges, and the end piece (the soap in the top of the OJ can) has a good bit of "soap ash" on the outside. Soap ash is harmless, but just a little ugly. It forms only where the soap contacts the air, and you can simply cut it off. Here's a page that tells about soap ash and what you can do to eliminate it.
Here are a few bars of lilac scent -- yummmm! What an aroma! Again, you can see how one bar, the exposed bar, has soap ash on it. I did wipe down each bar of soap with a clean damp rag, simply to take off any crumbly bits, and minimize the ash look.
And the tiny shell soaps. Only four of them came out of the mold acceptably. They are so very tiny, I don't know whether I'll sell them. Maybe I'll keep them? Give them as a gift? They're cute.
I made six heart-shaped soaps in magnolia scent, another fabulous smell. I'm tempted to cut off the tops of all these to get rid of the soap ash and to make their tops flat and smooth. By the way, I did cover these hearts with plastic wrap, but they formed ash anyway.
Heart with the swirly top and ash. Hmm. I must admit my heart soaps don't sell that well. They're rather big, and if I fill the molds full they cost $3 each. So this time I filled some of them less, so I have an assortment of sizes and prices.
And the tea tree oil. No color added, a simple, clean facial soap. With soap ash. Sigh.
Why did I get so much ash in this batch? I'm not sure. I melted my oils slowly on the stove top at the same time I was making and cooling my lye mixture. But I think I should make my lye first; it gets hotter and takes longer to cool. I do believe the soap "behaves" better (the chemistry works better) when both the oils and the lye mixture are about 110ยบ. Was my lye too hot? Maybe. The ash washes off with the first use, so it's no big deal.

Jody asked about cutting the OJ can soaps. I wait until the soap is totally cool. (Okay, that's a lie. I'm over-eager about fiddling with my soap. I do wait, but probably not long enough.) I peel the sides of the OJ cans off, as you would the sides of a can of raw biscuits from the store, in a spiral. They pop out pretty easily. Then I place the cylinder of soap into my box mold (with paper around it to protect it) and cut it in there with the bench knife, as I did the box-molded soap.

Which brings up a good issue:  when to unmold your soap. Some people tell you to wait weeks. I prefer to wait until the soap is firm, but perhaps not hard as a rock. I want to be able to cut it when it still has some "give" to it. So, I cut it when it still feels a little damp to the fingers. That's probably about 24 hours after I made the soap. Then I lay the bars out and let them dry for a week. I feel that if I let good air get to them (say, with an overhead fan running), they dry quickly, and I can sell them. They're perfectly safe to sell; they're just not as dry as they will be later. But most people take specialty soaps like this home and put them out as decoration anyway, and use them later. If I feel that a bar of soap is still a bit soft to sell, but people want it, I'll tell them, "Set it aside for a week before you use it. It'll last longer that way." That works, and they understand.


  1. I enjoyed reading this post and learning about soap! One of these days this is something I want to learn to do. I really like the swirl bar. Very pretty!

  2. I admire your craftiness and art - I've probably told you that many, many times. But you are gifted, and use the gifts and the skills you've learned tirelessly, it seems, to create everything from soap to paintings.

  3. Thank you, GJ. You're very kind to say that. I don't FEEL that productive, but I'm glad it looks that way on my blog :) What I like about soap is that, after the initial work, it kind of "makes itself" as it cures.


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