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Bizarre Pour.... any ideas?

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Vickyn

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Hey everyone. So I've had a couple of wierd issues with mixing recently.

I have a basic recipe that I've done over and over with no issues, but every so often when I add the lye water to the oils, I get these wierd clumpy bits forming.

The lye water looks fine on it's own and the oils look fine on their own, then I mix them and get these jelly like clumps.

I let the soap cure this time so everyone could see the end result. The chalky white bits in the image are the pale, jelly like bits at mixing. It's not the whole batch, just random clumps sitting in the liquid oils. You can see in the cross section that the rest of the soap around them look fine.

It's definitely not the recipe so I'd appreciate any thoughts....
16032536476024987162589546014370.jpg16032536900626197437253241246234.jpg
 

lenarenee

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There's a couple of possibilities; ricing - is your fragrance already mixed into the oils when you add the lye? Some fragrances cause ricing (and further extreme is seizing). Ricing can be a few small bits, or a lot, and also big chunks. Stick blending can often help enough to pour and not affect the soap.

Stearic spots. The stearic or palmitic fatty acid have a higher melting point and if soaping too cool, they can "un-melt" and create little chunks. If you mix with your ingredients at too low of temperatures, the stearic/palmitic acid will start solidifying just a bit. Not only can you get the stearic spots, but you can get false trace. False trace is when the mixture starts to solidify, looking like trace; but it is actually the high melt point oils starting to solidify. So your oils and lye solution may have been too cool.
 

Vickyn

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hmmm puzzling? did you do a zap test' to see if its lye heavy?
I didn't but it's my go too recipe and I've never had problems before.

There's a couple of possibilities; ricing - is your fragrance already mixed into the oils when you add the lye? Some fragrances cause ricing (and further extreme is seizing). Ricing can be a few small bits, or a lot, and also big chunks. Stick blending can often help enough to pour and not affect the soap.

Stearic spots. The stearic or palmitic fatty acid have a higher melting point and if soaping too cool, they can "un-melt" and create little chunks. If you mix with your ingredients at too low of temperatures, the stearic/palmitic acid will start solidifying just a bit. Not only can you get the stearic spots, but you can get false trace. False trace is when the mixture starts to solidify, looking like trace; but it is actually the high melt point oils starting to solidify. So your oils and lye solution may have been too cool.
No I usually mix and then add EOs, so there wasn't any in there. But even if I'd added them, I've made this soap before with no problems and I've had this jelly thing happen only 1 other time and it's been a different combo. A FO from nurture soap. Which I've used before many times with no issues.

Ohhhh that's interesting. I usually soap at room temp with all my recipes and never had an issue. Actually I find it better than the 110 F. But I do have what looks like stearic spots in the soap.... hmmmm ok, maybe there's something in the temp. But then why wouldn't it happen with my other ones?

How cold is your working area?
I like in Hong Kong so I'm in aircon when I soap. Usually around 21 C ish. Something around that. Lye is room temp.
 

DeeAnna

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Another possibility is a fat that has an unusually high % of free fatty acids. The FFAs will almost immediately react with lye -- far more quickly than regular fats do. This problem normally causes very fast trace when a person stick blends the soap batter, but it might create the clumps you're describing if the fat and lye solution are more gently mixed.

If this is the reason for your problem, these clumps of soap would remain white because the clumps were formed before you added colorant to the batter. It's like marshmallows floating in hot chocolate -- the marshmallows stay white inside, even though the hot chocolate is brown.
 

TheGecko

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Ohhhh that's interesting. I usually soap at room temp with all my recipes and never had an issue. Actually I find it better than the 110 F. But I do have what looks like stearic spots in the soap.... hmmmm ok, maybe there's something in the temp. But then why wouldn't it happen with my other ones?
All it takes is for it to be a few degrees cooler than you think for stearic to start to solidify...just the faintest of cloudiness to your oils.
 

Vickyn

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I had an FO crystallize in a soap one time and it looked just like your spots. If you scrape out a little bit of the white spot and it has an overwhelming scent, it could be the fragrance.
I didn't check that, but if it happens again I'll definitely investigate the fragrance. I don't remember it being overwhelming, but it was a while ago now.

Another possibility is a fat that has an unusually high % of free fatty acids. The FFAs will almost immediately react with lye -- far more quickly than regular fats do. This problem normally causes very fast trace when a person stick blends the soap batter, but it might create the clumps you're describing if the fat and lye solution are more gently mixed.

If this is the reason for your problem, these clumps of soap would remain white because the clumps were formed before you added colorant to the batter. It's like marshmallows floating in hot chocolate -- the marshmallows stay white inside, even though the hot chocolate is brown.
Hmmm ok, so maybe it could be an odd batch from my supplier..... I use them regularly and the other soaps haven't done that, so maybe something in that one went wrong.

All it takes is for it to be a few degrees cooler than you think for stearic to start to solidify...just the faintest of cloudiness to your oils.
Maybe, but I'm usually quite picky with the temperatures. Lye is room temp and I usually get the oils and lye within 1 degree F of each other. Think the max I've ever done is 4 D F...

I'm using palm (controversial I know, but its sustainably sourced), x virgin olive oil, coconut, castor and shea butter. So quite simple. Would any of these cause a problem do you think?
 

TheGecko

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I'm using palm (controversial I know, but its sustainably sourced), x virgin olive oil, coconut, castor and shea butter. So quite simple. Would any of these cause a problem do you think?
I use Palm Oil and Palm Oil would be your biggest source of Stearic. I used to get my PO is bags from BrambleBerry and it was just so annoying at times to have to heat it in the microwave to a clear liquid every time I made soap. So I thought it would be a bright idea to just melt it to a slurry like I did my Coconut Oil and then squeeze out of the bag. Stearic is heavy...it settles to the bottom of the container. So while I was okay with the PO that came out of the top half of the bag, I started having problem with my soap once I got to the bottom half. Lesson learned.

And I see that you use EVOO...any particular reason why?
 

Vickyn

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Sorry guys. I didn't get any notifications on replies... apologies for the late replies

I use Palm Oil and Palm Oil would be your biggest source of Stearic. I used to get my PO is bags from BrambleBerry and it was just so annoying at times to have to heat it in the microwave to a clear liquid every time I made soap. So I thought it would be a bright idea to just melt it to a slurry like I did my Coconut Oil and then squeeze out of the bag. Stearic is heavy...it settles to the bottom of the container. So while I was okay with the PO that came out of the top half of the bag, I started having problem with my soap once I got to the bottom half. Lesson learned.

And I see that you use EVOO...any particular reason why?
I tend to just heat the butter and allow it to warm through everything. Works pretty well in general, but maybe that's the problem. Like ai mentioned, it's my regular recipe and it only happens very very occasionally, so that could be it.
I started with Pomace OO as my research said it was the best option, but on a few occasions, it traced too quickly depending on the EOs, so I switched to EV as It was considered the 2nd best option and a slower trace. Haven't had any trace issues since I swapped. You think this is wrong or there are better options? I'm still new to soap making, so any advice is always appreciated 😊

"...Palm Oil would be your biggest source of Stearic ..."

Don't ignore the shea. A high-stearic fat doesn't need to be the biggest percentage to contribute to problems like this.
Is there anything to watch with shea? Just wondering if there is anything to look for like the palm oil?
 

Vickyn

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Just that it is high in palmitic and stearic acids like palm is.
Ah ok, so nothing I can do or watch out for, just that it might be better to use something else like cocoa for example. Ok, that definitely helps. I might try a few with other butters. I seem to remember starting with cocoa butter, but it was a while ago now. I can't remember why I swapped now. Time to check the notes.
Thanks @DeeAnna
 

DeeAnna

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All butters contain higher amounts of stearic and palmitic, so you aren't going to get away from this by simply changing which butter you use. I recommend you spend some time looking at the fatty acid profiles of various fats in your favorite soap recipe calculator. Then you'll know for yourself what I'm talking about and can make more informed choices.
 

Vickyn

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All butters contain higher amounts of stearic and palmitic, so you aren't going to get away from this by simply changing which butter you use. I recommend you spend some time looking at the fatty acid profiles of various fats in your favorite soap recipe calculator. Then you'll know for yourself what I'm talking about and can make more informed choices.
Thanks @DeeAnna
 

earlene

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Regarding your olive oil, I only suggest using the least expensive olive oil available to you, unless that is pomace because it speeds trace and you didn't like the faster trace. Using EVOO in the US is more expensive, but it is less expensive in some other countries, so not knowing the costs in Hong Kong, I'd say just choose it based on price. The quality of OO as a dietary source means very little once the lye interacts with it and turns it into soap.
 

Vickyn

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Regarding your olive oil, I only suggest using the least expensive olive oil available to you, unless that is pomace because it speeds trace and you didn't like the faster trace. Using EVOO in the US is more expensive, but it is less expensive in some other countries, so not knowing the costs in Hong Kong, I'd say just choose it based on price. The quality of OO as a dietary source means very little once the lye interacts with it and turns it into soap.
I agree. Cost is always an issue. In HK, all oils are pretty expensive if they aren't peanut or sunflower based. HK is a very small country so we don't grow anything and it all has to be imported. The cost is pretty much the same for everything else.... high. 1 litre of OO is HK$170 which is around US$15. It's why I cant afford to waste the soap or have bad pours. 😕
 

earlene

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Yikes, that about triple what it costs here in my area. No, you sure can't waste it! You could cut costs by using High Oleic Sunflower Oil in place of OO if it is available to you at a lower cost. Several soapmakers here have been revising their formulas to decrease olive oil and are pretty happy with the results.
 

Vickyn

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Yikes, that about triple what it costs here in my area. No, you sure can't waste it! You could cut costs by using High Oleic Sunflower Oil in place of OO if it is available to you at a lower cost. Several soapmakers here have been revising their formulas to decrease olive oil and are pretty happy with the results.
Ooooh. Yes it is cheaper. I have some for a couple of recipes at only 10%, but maybe I can up it and move things around..... I like this @earlene . Thank you
 

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