Can bad lye make soft soap?

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Guspuppy

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I am at my wits end. I thought it was the GV shortening making my soap super soft even after days in the mold but.....

Yesterday I made an OO soap with 35% CO. I stick blended it to a good thick trace since all I was doing was adding confetti chunks of failed rainbow soap. I went to turn it out of the mold 20 hours later, so positive it would be hard that I didn't even poke it, and it is just as soft and mushy as the last three batches! The big mold must have overheated a bit too, because it has cracks on top, yet it still feels mushy. How does that work?!

I got a 6-pack of lye from the Lye Guy in the spring (or possibly last fall?) and I think I recently opened the second or third bottle. There were no problems at all with the first bottle but it's the only common denominator among all the soaps I have made in the last 4 batches now.

This is making me crazy because I don't know how the soaps are going to turn out now and I hate to keep throwing money after ingredients just to have mushy soap. Not to mention this was meant to be Christmas!!
 
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Yes! I usually buy lye from ED, the Lye Guy or Duda Diesel, ordering whatever is the best deal at the time. Earlier this fall I ran out of the “good” lye and picked some up at the local hardware store. Even though the container was sealed, some of the lye pellets were ever so slightly stuck together, not really clumped, but not free flowing either. A few batches of soft soap later, I concluded the lye was degraded. I’m back to using DD lye and all is good. The soft soap took over a month to hardened up. The texture is really weird, and nothing like any soap I’ve made before.
 

Guspuppy

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Ugh!!! Thanks for that @Mobjack Bay! Not what I wanted to hear but definitely going to turn the rest of this bottle of lye into drain cleaner. At least its not a total waste but not excited about any of this soap now. Sadly!
 
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That’s so frustrating. FWIW @DeeAnna has generously come up with pH testing directions for lye. I bought the phenolphthalein but haven’t done it yet. Rather than scrap your lye you could figure out what its concentration is and adjust your recipe accordingly. NaOH or KOH purity check | Soapy Stuff
Although… if it’s only one bottle I realize it’s not worth the effort.
 
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NaOH impure with water (reduced effective purity) should not be a problem, as long as one has a good conception how much it is, and this is (relatively) easily found out by titration (like @DeeAnna instructs on her website).

However, I'm not aware of conclusive insight what harm soda ash does to soapmaking with NaOH. It is the other major airborne contamination of lye (both solid and solutions/masterbatches). Titration of carbonate-containing lye is ambiguous even with strong acids (besides phenolphthalein, you'd need methyl orange as a second pH indicator), and to complicate things, it isn't entirely clear (to me at least) what happens to carbonate/bicarbonate in soap. Does it count as (more or less active) lye? Will it zap or not? Does a zap mean that superfat is negative? And what about the success of deliberately added soda ash?

Titration won't tell you what type(s) of contamination you have. The worth of titration is to ensure that some batch of lye is pure enough to be not an issue for sopamaking.
 
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glendam

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Are you using any water discount at all? What is lye/water concentration? Or percentage of water in relation to the oils?

Also, what is the average temperature in your home? If your recipe was mostly olive oil with the 35% coconut oil, I would not unmold in 20 hours but maybe in 3 days. Coconut oil melts at 78F (a summer indoor temperature where I live) so it may not provide as much hardness as tallow, or cocoa butter. I have had issues with old lye when I started. But I have not had any issues with the lye I bought in February of 2020. (I bought 32 lb and I am just using the last of it). I keep the bottles inside sealed bags though (large ziplock bags) since humidity is high here.
 

Guspuppy

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@glendam my standard lye concentration is 33%. I soap in my basement and its cold down there, average 60°F this time of year. I don't soap in summer due to the humidity. I have used lye that was 2+ years old and clumpy from absorbing water in the past with no trouble so this is surprising me. But perhaps it has absorbed more water than I think!


Thanks everyone for the replies! I cannot be bothered to do a bunch of testing on my lye. I would be willing to temperature check it as DeeAnna has on her website, but sadly I do not even own a thermometer. My current financial situation does not allow for much so I will have to give up soapmaking for a time, until I can afford fresh supplies. I think this soft soap is still soap. It will just take awhile to cure. So I'm good. Christmas will just have to be lotion bars this year!
 
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