2nd Bad batch. What am I doing wrong?

Soapmaking Forum

Help Support Soapmaking Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Aug 15, 2007
Reaction score
Ottawa, Canada
:( i made a batch of soap yesterday (I haven't soaped in weeks) and it turned out pale and crumbly and looks very dry. This is the second time this has happened to me. Any ideas on what I did wrong. My recipe is
16 oz coconut oil
16 oz olive oil
4 oz palm kernel oil
32 oz shortnening

9.73 oz lye
23.86 oz water

super fat 5%

add some orange eo at trace and 1/2 tsp annatto seed powder to make a swirl effect.

It smells great, but looks horrible. I appreciate any help you all may have.

Please describe why it looks horrible. Also, presuming it's a result of your using annatto seed powder, how did you add the powder?

Before offering my suggestion, let me warn you that I'm a beginner, so don't put much faith in what I say until an expert has looked it over... But...

Did you remove some of the soap batter, mix the annatto in that, and then use that to swirl your batch? Or add the powder directly?

I think you should split your batch and thoroughly mix your colorant with one part, pour the uncolored batch into your mold, then mix in the colored part right in the mold. Anyway that's how I would try it the first time.

Again, I'm just a beginner. I haven't colored anything yet. No experience, just book and Internet knowledge. But learning. :)

BTW that annatto looks like it might make a pretty good colorant, particularly for those who want to stick to natural ingredients. I've got some annatto in my spice cabinet that I'm intending to try soon. Annatto has very little taste so presumably it shouldn't affect skin, eyes, etc. much. I'm also interested in trying tumeric and maybe paprika for the same reasons (worried that paprika might be too strong though). All the other spice colorants look a little too active to make me feel comfortable about using them in soap. You know, like cayenne? Very hot spicy. I'm not so sure about using cayenne in soap although I've read that others are using cayenne.

My first attempt will use annatto.
Thanks for the suggestion. Actually I did add the annatto seed to half the soap, mixed it, then added to the rest of the uncoloured soap. My concern is the soap is very opaque and crumbly. Almost like wet chalk. If that makes any sense. I'm wondering if my recipe is off. I may have to recalculate it.
I didn't check your recipe but is it possible you added the wrong amount of something without realizing it. That happened to me once.

pink-north said:
Thanks for the suggestion. Actually I did add the annatto seed to half the soap, mixed it, then added to the rest of the uncoloured soap. My concern is the soap is very opaque and crumbly. Almost like wet chalk. If that makes any sense. I'm wondering if my recipe is off. I may have to recalculate it.
Okay, that's a bit clearer. The explanation, not the soap. ;)

Initially I tried to run your numbers through SoapCalc but discovered that shortening wasn't listed. This time I found another oil with the same SAP as shortening (linseed oil, 0.136) and substituted that, and come up with almost exactly the same numbers you used. I get 9.63 oz lye, but that couldn't amount to much since if my number is correct it just means you'll superfat slightly more. Have you used this recipe before? Without additives?

I can't imagine that little 1/2 tsp of annatto powder would affect a 4 lb batch of soap that much. As I said, I'm a newbie, so I haven't developed any soapmaking judgement yet, but I'm also a veteran cook, and that seems to me like a very small amount. I was thinking of using 2-3 tsp in a 3 lb batch, and maybe even more if necessary for effect. Maybe a lot more.
Is it possible your lye isn't pure or your scale is possessed ? :twisted:
not sure what it could be as I am no expert, but make sure all stereo an cell phone equipment are off when you use your scale, the waves will cause a false read! :)

maybe your water was too hard or something?
What is your shortening made of? Crisco is made of soybean oil, hydrogenated cottonseed and hydrogenated soybean oil. Other shortenings can be made of different oils though I think soybean is the most common. Make sure you use the correct oils in the lye calculator.

Did the soap cool down very quickly? I find if I don't insulate the soap very well that the corners will be a crumbly chaulk like substance. I wrap mine in blankets so it will cool very slowly. This also insures my soap gels evenly. It seems to reduce the soda ash as well....that is if I don't peek too many times!

Climate plays a big part in whether or not you insulate. Even microclimates. In my last house (old, old house) I tried to insulate the soaps on a table beside an outer wall and the soap had chaulky corners. Tried a different spot without drafts and it was great. Trial and error.

Don't give up. :D
It is important to decide whether your problem is due to the recipe or the colorant. You need to make your recipe without colorants and see if it is moist/chalky. If not, then you need to decide if the colorant is the cause. Make a couple batches and then you decide.
Possibly it is a gel issue - argh, I had this issue this past week. Now I am trying the "no gel" by placing the mold into the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. So far I see no ash on the top and it is curing really well (its a beer soap). I think I am liking the ease of this method. Maybe try that for your next batch and see how it goes.

Good luck.
pink-north, tell us about your mold. Perhaps your soap batter isn't saponifying correctly. What shape and configuration is that mold? Did you insulate it with a blanket or something? Did you cover it? I'm pretty sure that your soap should go mildly exothermic while it completes the saponification reaction. My Castile soap was noticeably warmer than room temperature even several hours after pour.

Also, as mentioned above, what water are you using? Distilled?
Whenever that happened to me it was either cuz I forgot an oil, I mis-measured my lye (usually cuz I was looking at two recipes at the same time) or my scale was misbehaving. Can you check your scale with a something-pounds of (bag of flour, pound of butter etc.)

Your soap is usually wonderful.
The description sounds exactly like the first batch i made. I didn't have distilled water, plus I love learning things the hard way, so I used tap water instead. It didn't get hard rigt away, just kinda mushy. After a week, it hardened a bit, but crumbled if you put some pressure on it.

Latest posts