A question for the Oracles

SoapMakingForum

Help Support SoapMakingForum:

KerryPB

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Location
Hitchin, England
Hi folks,

I'm after your advice and opinion on the following matter, please. I make HP tallow based shaving soap which has been very well received by that fraternity.

The ingredients I use are as follows:
  • Rendered beef tallow
  • Stearic acid
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Unrefined shea butter
  • Lanolin
  • Castor oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Allantoin
  • Tocopherol acetate (vitamin e)
  • Tussah silk
  • Distilled water
  • Coconut milk
  • Potassium hydroxide

I hot fill my jars with approximately 4oz (115g) of just made soap and allow them to cure with their lids off for a minimum of two weeks. Of the +1000 soaps I have made I have had a very small number of reports (1%) where the customer has identified an ammonia type scent. A tiny anomalous number but one that is massively frustrating nonetheless and one that I want to permanently reduce to 0%.

I have my own assessment as to the cause but would like to put it to the floor and to those who have far greater soaping wisdom than myself.

I would be indebted for your thoughts, questions* and comments.

Kindest regards,

Kerry.
*I'll answer where possible but naturally am unwilling to detail my exact recipe and method :thumbup:
 

IrishLass

Staff member
Admin
Moderator
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
17,287
Reaction score
11,090
Location
Right here, silly!
Noses are very interesting things.... With only 1% of your customers noticing the ammonia smell, I'm inclined to think that it could just be the scent receptors in their individual noses.

Since I've been soaping, I've come to learn a few interesting things about noses and scents. Depending on which of our receptors are saturated or which ones are active at any given time, soap or perfumes can seem to smell one way to one person, but a totally different way to another person.

Take jasmine for example- to me it has a beautifully sweet flowery smell, but to my hubby (and several others that I know of), it smells like cat pee. The reason being is because of indole, a scent component present in both jasmine and cat pee. For some reason, the receptors in my hubby's nose are not able to pick up the other components in jasmine that make it smell pretty- he's only able to detect the indole.

How does your soap smell to you, or to the 99% of your other customers? It would be interesting to take a survey of them.


IrishLass :)
 

KerryPB

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Location
Hitchin, England
Noses are very interesting things.... With only 1% of your customers noticing the ammonia smell, I'm inclined to think that it could just be the scent receptors in their individual noses.

Since I've been soaping, I've come to learn a few interesting things about noses and scents. Depending on which of our receptors are saturated or which ones are active at any given time, soap or perfumes can seem to smell one way to one person, but a totally different way to another person.

Take jasmine for example- to me it has a beautifully sweet flowery smell, but to my hubby (and several others that I know of), it smells like cat pee. The reason being is because of indole, a scent component present in both jasmine and cat pee. For some reason, the receptors in my hubby's nose are not able to pick up the other components in jasmine that make it smell pretty- he's only able to detect the indole.

How does your soap smell to you, or to the 99% of your other customers? It would be interesting to take a survey of them.


IrishLass :)
Hi IrishLass, lovely to meet you on here; I've read a many of your excellent and educational posts. Thanks so much for responding so quickly! :thumbup: To me and the approximate 99% it smells (depending on you olfactory "taste") very nice with no hint of anything pungent. I made my soap available to the public in February of this year and, having only ever made it for myself (and in tiny batches) hadn't factored a sufficiently long curing period in to my method.

Consequently the 2-day "cure" I used back then (pre-April) was I'm sure responsible for a few more customers remarking on the then soaps initial (on un-lidding) pungent smell and one that was generally remedied by allowing the early soap to breath without its lid (and effectively carry on with its cure). The newer and longer cure of 2-weeks+ has seemingly ironed that out and I'm satisfied that that is not the cause. Do you have any thoughts on this, please?

Having read everything I can get my hands on (inc this site) my assessment of the affected (current) soap is that the coconut milk I use in the formula (I replace a quantity of the water with the milk) has been affected by a high ambient temperature introduced at some point whilst in transit, e.g. the back of a hot Royal Mail lorry / van. That, or as one customer reported doing, floating the jar in hot water as part of their pre-shave routine highlights the formula isn't overly fond of high ambient temperature.

On the last point the customers soap (my mentholated version) actually split and had an extremely soft consistency, almost croap like.

Your thoughts and comments, please :)
 

KerryPB

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Location
Hitchin, England
Good afternoon everyone,

Did anyone else have any questions, comments or thoughts on this, please? :thumbup:

Many thanks in advance,

Kerry.
 

lsg

Staff member
Admin
Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
Messages
14,580
Reaction score
5,968
I am not a big fan of tallow, I use lard instead. I seem to catch a whiff of tallow in any soap that I make.
 

dixiedragon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
4,905
Location
Birmingham, Alabama, USA
What are your jars made of? Can you post a link?

Googling tells me that "croap" is a soap that can be molded easily and is thicker than cream. So your soap has this consistency and you don't want it too?

I think that your problem lies in the fact that you are pouring your soap into jars. Maybe try pouring some into a flexible mold of some type, unmolding it and then see if that helps? By pouring into a jar, less than 50% of the surface of the soap is exposed, so I assume it would be harder for moisture to escape.


If I had to guess, I'd say the allantoin is responsible for the ammonia smell:

Wikipedia tells me:
"Allantoin is present in botanical extracts of the comfrey plant and in the urine of most mammals."

My theory is that the moisture is not able to evaporate from the bar because of your short cure time (2 weeks is really too short) and the fact that the soap is in a jar. So when the soap is heated, that moisture is heated, makes the soap soft and releases the ammonia smell.
 

Susie

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
9,713
Reaction score
9,214
Location
Texas
My theory is that the moisture is not able to evaporate from the bar because of your short cure time (2 weeks is really too short) and the fact that the soap is in a jar. So when the soap is heated, that moisture is heated, makes the soap soft and releases the ammonia smell.
^^^^This!

If you left those jars open to air at least a month, you would probably eliminate all of the odor. I get that odor up to about a month on most of my soaps. I would also think it would help to use a mold so that when you unmold it, it has more surface area for off-gassing of anything unpleasantly scented.
 

KerryPB

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Location
Hitchin, England
What are your jars made of? Can you post a link?

Googling tells me that "croap" is a soap that can be molded easily and is thicker than cream. So your soap has this consistency and you don't want it too?

I think that your problem lies in the fact that you are pouring your soap into jars. Maybe try pouring some into a flexible mold of some type, unmolding it and then see if that helps? By pouring into a jar, less than 50% of the surface of the soap is exposed, so I assume it would be harder for moisture to escape.


If I had to guess, I'd say the allantoin is responsible for the ammonia smell:

Wikipedia tells me:
"Allantoin is present in botanical extracts of the comfrey plant and in the urine of most mammals."

My theory is that the moisture is not able to evaporate from the bar because of your short cure time (2 weeks is really too short) and the fact that the soap is in a jar. So when the soap is heated, that moisture is heated, makes the soap soft and releases the ammonia smell.
Hi @dixiedragon thank you very much for the response :). I am very happy with the softer texture of my soap which is something I liken to a very firm putty. This isn't my anomaly.

Our jars are polypropylene plastic.

What makes me think that a high temperature is a factor for this tiny number of soaps to exhibit an ammonia type aroma is that it has only come to light since we (the UK) have enjoyed increased seasonal temperatures. That and two soaps have have respectively travelled half way across North America (ending up in a hot Florida) and to a very hot Cyprus.

I replace a percentage of the lye water with coconut milk. Does anyone have any experience of doing this and it causing any unwanted scent or instability?

The allantoin we use is odourless and a widely used product in cosmetics, shouldn't have thought it would be that.

As mentioned, I cure for a minimum of 2 weeks. Is this sufficient for a 4oz (115g) jar of soap? What are peoples experiences, please? Should it be longer? What would you recommend @dixiedragon?

Thank you again everyone :grin:

Yours gratefully,

Kerry.
 
Last edited:

dixiedragon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
4,905
Location
Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Is it a small percentage of the SOAPS that have this scent, or a small percentage of your CUSTOMERS detect the scent?

Coconut milk - lots of us use coconut milk. I've never experienced an ammonia scent from it.

Our general rule for cure time is at least 6 weeks.

Possibly the increased heat is increasing the "off gassing" of the unpleasant scent? So maybe it is happening with all of the bars but in such small amounts that most people don't notice.

Maybe you could put one of your jars in some water and heat it on the stove or crockpot to see if you can detect the ammonia smell?

Honestly, though, I think making soap circles, allowing them to cure for 6-8 weeks and then put the pucks in the jar will solve your problem.
 

cmzaha

Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2011
Messages
11,924
Reaction score
11,511
Location
Southern California
I package my shave soap in low profile wide mouth jars but age them for at least 3 months usually 6 months. I do preserve them since they are in a jar and water will be introduced. I use coconut in many of my soaps with no off odor. Are these scented? If not maybe they are picking up a hint of the tallow

I would heat up some of the allantoin and see if you pick up an odor. My allantoin is always dissolved in ice cold water and added to my lotions at cool down. So not sure if it would pick up an odor if heated as high as hp.

To my nose, cured Eucalyptus Soap smells like cat pee, but no one else including my hubby thinks it does.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
8,998
Reaction score
9,103
Location
Austria
I agree that the cure time needs to be much longer. I also think, and you won't like this, that you shouldn't be selling any in the mean time - if you're not currently 100% happy with the product, how can you sell it?
 

KerryPB

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Location
Hitchin, England
Is it a small percentage of the SOAPS that have this scent, or a small percentage of your CUSTOMERS detect the scent?

Coconut milk - lots of us use coconut milk. I've never experienced an ammonia scent from it.

Our general rule for cure time is at least 6 weeks.

Possibly the increased heat is increasing the "off gassing" of the unpleasant scent? So maybe it is happening with all of the bars but in such small amounts that most people don't notice.

Maybe you could put one of your jars in some water and heat it on the stove or crockpot to see if you can detect the ammonia smell?

Honestly, though, I think making soap circles, allowing them to cure for 6-8 weeks and then put the pucks in the jar will solve your problem.
Great question. It is both. I have received only a few returns and in each of them I could only faintly detect ammonia. The remainder have been detected by customers who have voiced their query either via emailing me or via asking the question on a wet shaving forum they're a member of.

In these very few instances the majority of the affected soaps have been recovered by leaving the lid off which does point towards a curing issue, but with that said if it was a curing issue wouldn't all of my soap be affected?

@cmzaha - thank you for sharing and also for your thoughts. Like you we also use wide neck (100mm in our case) jars. We have one unscented soap (no reported issues) and five scented. May I ask what preservative (if any) you use in your soap?

@TheEfficaciousGentleman - thanks Craig, I'm inclined to agree but the sticking point for me is the absolutely tiny number of affected soaps and hence why I'm reaching out to you good folk. We have a lot of happy customers and seven stockists, five of which are international and so to pause sales for what equates to 1% of produced soap seems like a very bold step. I do however see your logic and it's something I will think on more.

A temporary halt to availability whilst we allow the current batches to cure to a 4-5 week won't hurt. The subsequent "re-tooling" of our method will just mean we factor our timings differently.

Can I put it to the floor as to what folk consider a minimum curing period for HP soap that contains our ingredients (you can find these at the top of Page 1)? 4 to 6 weeks seem to be the consensus at the moment.

Thank you again for your generosity of thought and comment.

Kindest regards,

Kerry.
 

Susie

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
9,713
Reaction score
9,214
Location
Texas
Not everyone has as sensitive a nose as others. Some people have very sensitive noses (me), while others can't smell an angry skunk 10 feet away.

On the cure question, if you are making a croap, your cure time should be at least 3-6 months. If you are making a liquid paste, no cure time, if you are making a bar soap, 4-6 weeks is minimum cure.
 

dixiedragon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
4,905
Location
Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Since you said specifically that the returns came from hot areas, I'd pick a few random jars from one batch and gently heat them to see if I could smell the ammonia.

Also, maybe wipe out the jars with alcohol before your pour so they are sterile.
 

IrishLass

Staff member
Admin
Moderator
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
17,287
Reaction score
11,090
Location
Right here, silly!
In these very few instances the majority of the affected soaps have been recovered by leaving the lid off which does point towards a curing issue, but with that said if it was a curing issue wouldn't all of my soap be affected?
It might/could be that they are affected, but the sense of smell being what it is (unique from person to person), the ammonia smell may not be as detectable to the other of your recipients.


Can I put it to the floor as to what folk consider a minimum curing period for HP soap that contains our ingredients (you can find these at the top of Page 1)? 4 to 6 weeks seem to be the consensus at the moment.
I don't sell, but I make HP shave croap for my hubby and son, as well as for gift-giving, and I like to cure them for a minimum of 4 weeks naked/out in the open before they are allowed to leave my cure racks to be used or stored in my storage boxes for later use, or for 6 weeks if I'm going to package them up for a gift. Curing for longer is always better, of course, but those are my absolute minimum cure times, i.e., when my soap has shown itself to have reached its earliest best............Letting them cure naked/out in the open helps the excess HP water to be able to evaporate more quickly and more uniformly, and also helps with the curing process as more of the croap's surface is able to react with the CO2 in the air...........When packaging up for gift-giving, I use low profile, wide mouth jars/covers, but hubby and son just like to use coffee mugs................For what it's worth, I use many of the same or similar ingredients in mine as you do in yours: stearic acid, tallow, glycerin, castor oil, coconut cream, butters, a few oils, tussah silk, etc....

For my lye, I use a mixture of 80% KOH and 20% NaOH, but I've also made my formula with 100% KOH and it was actually amenable to being sliced into pucks (albeit very soft pucks) and cured on my racks lined with a layer of freezer paper, shiny side up.

When done curing, my 100% KOH croaps, as well as my 80/20 croaps are still quite soft/pliable enough to be easily smooshed into whatever container I choose, and when done smooshing, I'm able to easily smooth them out to make it look as though they were poured into the container instead of smooshed into it. I mention that in case there's any concern about croaps maybe not being sturdy enough to be cured naked or able to be packaged nicely later. If my experience is anything to go by, no worries- they are able to do both quite well. :)


IrishLass :)
 

KerryPB

Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Location
Hitchin, England
Thank you so much, everyone :grin:. I will be extending our cure time for all future batches to a minimum of 4-6 weeks and am confident it'll resolve things 100%.

@IrishLass that's great to read and thank you for sharing :thumbup:. As you have done yourself I use 100% KoH and it makes for a soft and malleable soap. I have also tried the slicing in to pucks and whilst it adds time to the overall process it does clearly allow the soap to cure more openly. I shall think on this more.

Thanks again all, I've found your posts extremely helpful and reassuring. Any other thoughts or comments are very welcome.

Kindest regards,

Kerry.
 

Soapmaker145

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2015
Messages
537
Reaction score
450
Location
Midwest
The ammonia smell may be a by-product of the degradation of protein and amino acids. You have a number of sources in your recipe including the silk, the coconut milk, and the allantoin. You may need to rework your recipe to reduce the amount of ammonia generated. You can try removing or reducing the amounts of the various additives until you no longer get ammonia. Alternatively, you can try your base recipe without additives to make sure there is no off smell and then add your additives one at a time until you figure out where the smell is coming from.
 

Latest posts

Top