CPLS Clarity Blues

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Notorious Lyear
Jan 14, 2021
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In recent times, I seem to have bad luck with clear cold-process LS.
First off, I don't mind if my LS is clear or turbid, especially for domestic use. But I am under the impression that I'm overlooking something important. I've run out of ideas what else to consider.

From the about one dozen of single-oil CPLS minibatches I've made over the last months, only two came out clear: coconut and castor. All others had some kind of residual turbidity, that wasn't (only) due to undissolved potassium stearate etc., but indeed some unreacted oily stuff that would float to the top when diluted to water-thin consistency.
With palm oil, mango butter, and maybe cottonseed and sesame oil, I was kind of expecting less than perfect clarity. But sunflower (both HO and HL)? Babaçu? Are you kidding? Most recently, the macadamia nut oil has stayed murky as well.

My procedure: Weigh 10 g of oils, and the appropriate amount of 25% KOH solution (weight rounded up to ensure 0% SF or less). Combine by vigorous shaking; for hard oils keep warm/molten. At thick trace, dilute with distilled water to 23% oil content, shake well, let react out over at least a week.

LS in the awkward quadrant “non-zappy” but “fails clarity test”.

Common culprits to exclude:
  • Lye purity. Just titrated yesterday, and found even slightly higher (85.7%) than specified on the package (85%), so I've rather overestimated SF.
  • (Accidental) superfat. Precision limitations due to the small batch size aside, I'm aiming for 0% SF, and errors should be within few % SF. But the objection of excessive superfat still holds. That's why with the babaçu, I had overdone things, and increased lye to a whopping -18% SF (strong zap), but still some unsaponifiable lipid remains floating around.
  • (Missing) heat. Test wise, I've heated the macadamia CPLS to 70°C over a few hours (“force gel” in bar soap speak) – soap stayed unimpressed.
  • Air bubbles. Yes, I do have a few air bubbles in the paste. But the turbidity remains when I dilute the paste to water-thin.
  • The PP plastic test tubes I've used were thoroughly cleaned. No other tools were in contact with the soap batter.
My desperate remaining ideas, in order of increasing absurdity:
  • Can I trust my regular (0.1 g) scale? It is high-quality, but old (older than me, lol). Maybe I'm be too confident into its precision and stability? I do have a 1 mg scale at reach, and will test with it how reliable the normal scale really is.
  • Does CPLS scale worse than HPLS or CP bar soap? Is there something about the saponification that needs some magic minimum amount of soap batter inertia to be present for a successful and complete reaction?
  • Am I in bad luck and/or victim of a world conspiracy to deliver to me only oils with an above-average content of unsaponifiables and/or contaminations?
Haven't seen a clear CPLS in a long time. 😕
The final LS is perfectly fine, does its job, is not zappy, and cleans & bubbles well (when blended into a balanced recipe). It's a purely cosmetic issue, but I want to understand it.

Anyone else having a hard time making clear CPLS?
Anyone else having a hard time making clear CPLS?
Not me! :D Maybe this will help you figure it out:
What to Expect from Various Oils in LS

In addition to the above, since I'm OCD about clarity:
KOH in LS.png

Thank you. I'll keep trying. I'll keep my 3:1 water:lye ratio. I'll keep sticking with simple soft oils:
OILS FOR CLEAR LS: Almond, Apricot Kernel, Canola, Castor, Coconut, Flax seed (linseed), Olive, Palm Kernel, Rosin, Soybean, Sunflower. (This list is by no means complete, only what I have gleaned so far.)
CO & castor aside, flaxseed worked “best” (semi-translucent). Sunflower didn't. It's not long until I'll make a larger amount of utilitarian LS, probably canola. Let's see how long the spell persists.
CANadian OiL Low Acid was developed from 14 varieties of rapeseed oil grown in Canada for healthy cooking. As such, it is genetically modified. To my mind at least, the only advantage to using it is that it is a cheap alternative to olive oil and readily available on the grocers' shelves.

SIDE BY SIDE COMPARISON - Left Column, Canola; Right Column, Olive

Olive vs Canola.png

flaxseed worked “best” (semi-translucent). Sunflower didn't.
For some mysterious reason, sunflower has not done well for me in LS. I do use it in leave-on products like lip balm and salves. Flaxseed, on the other hand, is wonderful for clarity and viscosity combined with Coconut Oil and Rosin as in
Zany's Flaxseed & Rosin Shampoo. Crystal clear, lovely color and has the same consistency as high end commercial shampoo.
As far as I have understood the advent of Canola® brand rapeseed oil, it is ironic that the Canadian “Canola” branding became the one that is internationally most widespread. The aim of their GMO engineering was not to alter the fatty acid profile, but to add herbicide resistance. The Canadians just took cultivars from conventional breeding, that had already a favourable FA profile, made them “Roundup ready”, and marketed their oil cleverly.

No way I could even buy GMO “canola” oil, here in good ol' Germany (where much of the original work to develop the “00-Raps” was done, entirely by conventional breeding), and I don't regret this at all. I'm just calling it “canola” rather than the cumbersome “00-Raps”, to be understood easier internationally. The FA profiles are the same.
here in good ol' Germany (where much of the original work to develop the “00-Raps” was done, entirely by conventional breeding), and I don't regret this at all. I'm just calling it “canola” rather than the cumbersome “00-Raps”, to be understood easier
Fascinating! I had no idea! I learned something today! 🤣 Is “00-Raps” the generic or the brand name?

No way I could even buy GMO “canola” oil
Good to know. I feel the same way. 👎👎 Just wanted to give you a head's up.
My miniscule contribution-do you have a calibration weight RO? That'd clear up any worries about accuracy.

Also, from what I gather you're making some tiny batches, a .01 gram scale might be helpful. I've got a cheap accurate scale on Amazon (also found on eBay). Link: Amazon.com: Horizon SF-400D 500g x 0.01g Digital Precision Scale - Large Base - Counting Function: Digital Kitchen Scales: Home & Kitchen if you can find it in Europe. Price has dropped recently and it's scary cheap now, but it's specifically recommended in the vape community for it's speed accuracy-very useful in preventing over shoot. I can't vouch for lack of drift, but it does read a perfect 200.00 grams with my calibration weight.
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Is “00-Raps” the generic or the brand name?
Not sure if there is trademark protection on it. “Raps” is “rape (brassica napus)”, and the two zeroes stand for the two breeding aims: “very low erucic acid” (oil suitable for human consumption), and “very low glucosinolates” (press cake suitable as animal feed). Since next to 100% of the rapeseed cultivars grown in Germany are 00-Raps varieties, there really isn't much need to distinguish it from anything else, and for example you won't find a notice of it on the oil bottles you buy in a store. Really only relevant to the farmers buying seeds.

Thanks. I'll have to have a look if I have a proper calibration weight. But even if not, some random objects will do the trick just as well, since I have my more reliable/precise (0.001 g) scale to check them with.
I've already my scale under suspicion, maybe it's just about time for it to go for good, and be replaced. On the other hand, I have reasons to believe it is not a hidden superfat issue. Take the babaçu: I had made satisfying clear CPLS from/with it in February, but in July it would stay milky even at double-digit negative SF. Same scale. Same supplies (oils, KOH, water). The only differences: absolute batch size, and oil blend vs. single-oil. Can't make sense of either of these, but there must be some reason somewhere. 🤷‍♀️
It's a Rookie mistake of rushing to dilute before the batch is "done", i.e., fully saponified. For HP, it's best to wait a day or 2 to dilute.


macadamia_light.jpg (light shining through) macadamia_dark.jpg (dark background)

These two batches have identical composition (23% macadamia oil, 0% SF, both non-zappy); the only difference between the left and the right was that the left was room-temperature CPLS & I diluted it at thick trace, while the right is proper LS paste (somewhere between CP and HP: with some hot water bath help, yet no full cook), diluted to final concentration not earlier than after letting it sit for 2 days.

That one thing that puzzles me is that the cold&early paste is noticeably stiff (a beautiful 🍮 jelly) and must be further diluted to be usable. The hot&clear one, however, is at thick 🍯 consistency and wouldn't need much extra water to reach the “perfect” viscosity.
That might mean that cold-CPLS makes soaps that are more viscous per unit of oil (or, conversely, you get more LS out of the same amount of oils than in HP), but you buy this by a turbid appearance – and worse: it partially settles at the top once diluted – a notorious syndrome of a not fully controlled LS process.

Aaaaaand, it questions the worth of all the effort I've put into my dilution test survey. 😣

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