Feeling discouraged- soap making is hard!

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hello. i’m actually a crocheter and just stepped into the world of soap making thinking it was going to be easy! i bit off way more than i can chew! i’ve made 4 batches and every single one has been a fail with a capital F! i’m so disappointed and discouraged…. please tell me it gets easier! i really want to be successful at this but am having such a rough start i’m getting ready to throw in the towel! any tips, words or encouragement, instructions are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

batch 1:
coconut oil 30%
grape seed oil 15%
avocado oil 55%
+
goats milk (raw & natural)
lye

ok i jacked this up by putting towels around it and not refrigerating it for the first 24 hours plus i think i used way too much avocado oil…. basically my ratios are totally jacked!

batch 2:
coconut oil 30%
grapeseed oil 20%
lard
+
goats milk
lye

refrigerated x24 hours. looks much better but i think i over mixed when pouring… it was like a yogurt consistency so the bottoms look smushed and the tops look like whipped cream (wasnt going for that look).

batch 3:
coconut oil 30%
grape seed oil 15%
avocado oil 55%
+
goats milk (raw & natural)
lye

i really tried to control my mixing this time & poured at what i think was thin trace. still i think my ratios are off. i popped them out of the molds and they look good but are extremely soft. like i could touch them & they feel like they will melt in my hands.

batch 4:
coconut 30%
peach kernel 20%
lard 25%
shea butter 25%
+
goats milk
lye

this is the first pic i included that completely crumbled apart. i used a load mold put it in the fridge x2 days and cannot cut it bc it breaks a part! so sad and disappointing. this one…. i didn’t temper the shea butter which i read after the fact that i should “temper” it. i only microwaved it to melt it. and i think i used too many “hard oils” idk!

i’m wasting so much time and effort and materials and money and goats milk!!!! i’m so sad!!!!! i just need a good base! help! none of these batches are good enough to market. ugggh what can i do?
 

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Babyshoes

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Hi and welcome!

Firstly, let's celebrate your success - you made soap, from scratch! Despite the aesthetic complaints you have, they all look like they'll be useable after a good cure.

Could you have made a pair of gloves or a wooly hat the first or second time you tried crochet? I bet not!

To address your concerns, it would be good to know where you got the proportions you used. Did you use a lye calculator? Do you understand what all the numbers mean yet? It's a steep learning curve, but worth trying to figure out so you have some idea what to expect from your soap before it's made.

I'd suggest trying again with a simpler recipe, like the so called "holy trinity" of oils - roughly equal quantities of olive oil, lard or palm, and coconut. Use 33% lye concentration and 5% superfat.
For this batch, leave out the goat milk (which can be tricky and adds a variable you might not be ready for) and use plain distilled water. If you're in the UK, deionised water is easier to find and quite cheap, look in the car maintenance section at the supermarket. It works just as well.

Once that recipe has cured for about a month, you can assess what you like and dislike about it. I would personally find 33% coconut oil drying, so I'd start by reducing that to 20% and either just adding more of the other 2 oils, or adding in another oil/fat or butter, after researching what properties the new oil will bring to your soap. There are so many threads on here, just use the search function to find them and the bookmark symbol in the top right of each post to help you find them again. You can also use the recipe feedback section to get (sometimes brutally honest) opinions about your recipe before you try it.

A note about selling soap - you need to firstly find a recipe you like. Then you need to get friends and family to test it. Then you need to see how it ages over the course of at least a year - you don't want customers coming back to you after 3 months with stinky rancid soap...

Then, when you think your soap is good enough to sell, you need to see what the regulations are for selling handmade soap in your area. Here in the UK, the rules are pretty daunting and the assessments aren't cheap, which has made me decide that this is just a hobby for me.
 

Hermit

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It does get easier.

You've been trying to swallow a sandwich whole instead of taking manageable bites.

I would start with small batches of 100g or 200g (depending on how accurate your scale is) so you can test your recipes to find out what you like.

Holding off on expensive additives like the goats milk until you get your recipes sorted is a very good idea. The trinity recipes are also a good place to start from. The other really helpful thing to learn when you're tinkering with different ratios of fats are the fatty acid profiles in the soap since they are what gives your soap it's characteristics. Two good websites that talk about this are:

What Fatty Acid Profiles in Soapmaking Are the Most Popular?

And


The lye calculator with tell you the fatty acid profile of the soap recipe that you put in.

One last note: your metal drying racks... They can cause soaps to go rancid and develop Dreaded Orange Spots (aka DOS) so most soapers put parchment paper down first if they're using metal racking.
 

DeeAnna

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If you use shea butter to make products like lip balm or lotion bars, shea definitely needs to be tempered. But shea only needs to be fully melted if you're using it in soap -- tempering isn't required.

The lard-shea soap that crumbled may simply have needed to warm up to room temperature before you cut it. Or it might have needed a bit of extra warming to make the soap more pliable and less brittle. It looks less to me like the soap is a fail and more like a misjudgement due to inexperience.

Until you are familiar with a particular recipe, you have to test the texture of the soap to determine when to cut -- you can't just go by time. When ready to cut, soap will yield slightly to a gentle finger press -- something like refrigerator-cold mild cheddar cheese -- but it won't permanently dent. If the soap is soft like cream cheese or brie and dents easily with a finger press, it's too soft to cut. If it feels hard as a rock, like Parmesan or aged cheddar, it's too hard to cut cleanly.

As others are gently pointing out, you've set your jumps fairly high. You might be expecting more from yourself than is realistic based on your current level of ability. Many of us has also done the same thing to ourselives and survived, so you aren't alone. But asking too much of yourself right away can create a mindset of failure and discouragement rather than a feeling of confidence and success. I think you have a lot of good energy -- just need to channel it more wisely!
 

LynetteO

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I recommend trying this tried, true & fabulous recipe:
 
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I recommend trying this tried, true & fabulous recipe:
I am sorry but I hate to disagree, but I would not recommend this recipe. Sorry Zany you know nothing against you. Of course, I hate castile soap and so do many other folks.

First I would stop with the goat's milk and use a simple recipe with lard, palm, or tallow. My very first few bars of soap when I was learning and had no forum like this one to depend on I made 100% lard soap to get the feel of making soap. After that, I gradually started adding other oils such as palm, tallow Avo, HO Canola, Coconut Oil, etc.

This is one of my favorite go-to recipes that I sold for years.
The Tallow can be replaced with palm or palm shortening. AVO can be replaced with any liquid oil just run through lye calc when substituting oils.
2-3% superfat 33% Lye Concentration not (liquid as percent of oil)
adjust oz to fit your mold but I would recommend a small mold using approx 14 oz oils. WSP sells a really nice 22 oz silicone mold that makes 4 bars when cut. This mold will take approx 14 oz oils for a batch and I love this mold for testing. It is a stand-alone mold with no reinforced sides needed. Crafter

I will also note you need to not think about selling for at least a year. Well maybe think about it, but not act on it. Also, with gas prices so high sales at markets are going to slide, with the disposable money affected. I kept a long-time record and always noted during times even with just gas price changes market sales would change.

Oil%OuncesGrams
Tallow Beef3911.7331.69
Lard, Pig Tallow (Manteca)257.5212.62
Coconut Oil, 76 deg206170.1
Avocado Oil164.8136.08
Total10030850.49
 

LynetteO

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I am sorry but I hate to disagree, but I would not recommend this recipe. Sorry Zany you know nothing against you. Of course, I hate castile soap and so do many other folks.
I’ve never gifted a bar of ZNSC that wasn’t loved. However, I was referring to fact that if the recipe is followed as written, the result will be a successful soap making session & batch.
 

Zany_in_CO

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i’m actually a crocheter and just stepped into the world of soap making thinking it was going to be easy!

TIP: Members who do the research and make a few batches before joining the forum tend to have successful batches from the get go. :nodding: For example, I made my first batch of lard/tallow soap in 2003 at age 60. It was good soap that only got better after cure.

But before making that first batch, I spent 6 months or so researching how to make soap. I borrowed every book from the library on soap making and using essential oils -- a couple dozen books! There were very few sources online at that time but one that stands out is "Walton Feed - How Soap Was Made in the Olden Days" (now defunct) where I picked up detailed info.

I made basic lard/tallow soaps and transparent soap from a recipe in a book I found in the Bargain Bin at Barnes & Noble. The mild soap for sensitive skin I was using at the time was a transparent soap from DHC a catalog order company ("Made in Japan - Loved Worldwide") Imagine my delight when I made my first transparent soap similar to the DHC one that had become increasingly expensive over time.

There were a few forums like this one and Yahoo Groups you could join to learn more. Basically "self-taught", I made soap for a year before joining a forum where I not only honed my skills but also was able to share what knowledge I had at the time.

I'm sure the members who have given you such good advice have similar stories, although with the plethora of information available on the internet today certainly makes the journey much easier. You would be wise to take time to learn as much as you can on your own before going any further. :thumbs:;)


ADVICE TO BEGINNERS

HAPPY SOAPING! :hippo::hippo::hippo:
 
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Hi and welcome!

Firstly, let's celebrate your success - you made soap, from scratch! Despite the aesthetic complaints you have, they all look like they'll be useable after a good cure.

Could you have made a pair of gloves or a wooly hat the first or second time you tried crochet? I bet not!

To address your concerns, it would be good to know where you got the proportions you used. Did you use a lye calculator? Do you understand what all the numbers mean yet? It's a steep learning curve, but worth trying to figure out so you have some idea what to expect from your soap before it's made.

I'd suggest trying again with a simpler recipe, like the so called "holy trinity" of oils - roughly equal quantities of olive oil, lard or palm, and coconut. Use 33% lye concentration and 5% superfat.
For this batch, leave out the goat milk (which can be tricky and adds a variable you might not be ready for) and use plain distilled water. If you're in the UK, deionised water is easier to find and quite cheap, look in the car maintenance section at the supermarket. It works just as well.

Once that recipe has cured for about a month, you can assess what you like and dislike about it. I would personally find 33% coconut oil drying, so I'd start by reducing that to 20% and either just adding more of the other 2 oils, or adding in another oil/fat or butter, after researching what properties the new oil will bring to your soap. There are so many threads on here, just use the search function to find them and the bookmark symbol in the top right of each post to help you find them again. You can also use the recipe feedback section to get (sometimes brutally honest) opinions about your recipe before you try it.

A note about selling soap - you need to firstly find a recipe you like. Then you need to get friends and family to test it. Then you need to see how it ages over the course of at least a year - you don't want customers coming back to you after 3 months with stinky rancid soap...

Then, when you think your soap is good enough to sell, you need to see what the regulations are for selling handmade soap in your area. Here in the UK, the rules are pretty daunting and the assessments aren't cheap, which has made me decide that this is just a hobby for me.
thabk you for your encouraging words… so i need to scale it way down and try to be brilliant at the basics first…. yea i agree i think i bit off way more than i can chew i’ve got so much going on in these recipes idk what’s working and what’s not! thank you! i will keep trying and i appreciate the positive feedback!

It does get easier.

You've been trying to swallow a sandwich whole instead of taking manageable bites.

I would start with small batches of 100g or 200g (depending on how accurate your scale is) so you can test your recipes to find out what you like.

Holding off on expensive additives like the goats milk until you get your recipes sorted is a very good idea. The trinity recipes are also a good place to start from. The other really helpful thing to learn when you're tinkering with different ratios of fats are the fatty acid profiles in the soap since they are what gives your soap it's characteristics. Two good websites that talk about this are:

What Fatty Acid Profiles in Soapmaking Are the Most Popular?

And


The lye calculator with tell you the fatty acid profile of the soap recipe that you put in.

One last note: your metal drying racks... They can cause soaps to go rancid and develop Dreaded Orange Spots (aka DOS) so most soapers put parchment paper down first if they're using metal racking.
oh! thank you so much for the advice and i did not know that about the metal racks! thank you for telling me! wow! everyone has been very encouraging and helpful! thanks so much!

If you use shea butter to make products like lip balm or lotion bars, shea definitely needs to be tempered. But shea only needs to be fully melted if you're using it in soap -- tempering isn't required.

The lard-shea soap that crumbled may simply have needed to warm up to room temperature before you cut it. Or it might have needed a bit of extra warming to make the soap more pliable and less brittle. It looks less to me like the soap is a fail and more like a misjudgement due to inexperience.

Until you are familiar with a particular recipe, you have to test the texture of the soap to determine when to cut -- you can't just go by time. When ready to cut, soap will yield slightly to a gentle finger press -- something like refrigerator-cold mild cheddar cheese -- but it won't permanently dent. If the soap is soft like cream cheese or brie and dents easily with a finger press, it's too soft to cut. If it feels hard as a rock, like Parmesan or aged cheddar, it's too hard to cut cleanly.

As others are gently pointing out, you've set your jumps fairly high. You might be expecting more from yourself than is realistic based on your current level of ability. Many of us has also done the same thing to ourselives and survived, so you aren't alone. But asking too much of yourself right away can create a mindset of failure and discouragement rather than a feeling of confidence and success. I think you have a lot of good energy -- just need to channel it more wisely!
you’re cheese analogies are very helpful. that makes sense. yes i basically have no idea what’s going on lol but i think i can do this. you’re words of encouragement are very much appreciated and exactly what i needed to press on! thank you for being so nice!
 

TheGecko

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Welcome.

I'm sure that when your first started crocheting you weren't making heirloom pieces. Probably started with a G or H Hook and some acrylic worsted weight yarn and make a pot holder. Took me a good year to graduate to my Grandmother's steel hooks and thread and basic Doilies and another year before I could whip up some pretty nice stuff. It was the same way when I got into Loom Knitting and Needle Knitting.

Soap making was different. Unlike crocheting and knitting, you can't just frog and start over...once you combine ingredients you're committed. At best you might be able to salvage the soap through rebatching, but as often you may just have to toss it in the bin. That's why I spent almost a good six months researching soap making...reading articles, watching YouTube. When it came time to actually make soap, I then bought the Beginner's Cold Process Soap Kit from BrambleBerry (which happens to be on sale right now at 25% off and free shipping).

Goat Milk Soap is really not the best soap to make when you are first starting out. Despite all my research and having a dozen of batches of soap under my best, my first batch was...unpleasant to say the least; it was downright gross and disgusting.

Here is my recipe for GMS:

21.2% Coconut Oil
21.2% Palm Oil
12.1% Shea Butter
40.9% Olive Oil
4.5% Castor Oil

33% Lye Concentration
5% Super Fat

1 Tea Kaolin Clay PPO
1 Tea Sodium Lactate PPO

I also use 100% Fresh Goat Milk. I freeze it into cubes and then prepare an ice water bath (ice, water, salt) and then let the container and Goat Milk sit in the batch for 5 to 10 minutes. I then add small amount of Sodium Hydroxide making sure the temperature never gets above 70F as I don't want to scorch (burn) the milk. If it starts getting over 70F, I just let it sit and work on preparing my oils. Once all the Lye is mixed in, I'll let it sit and cool down to about 65F. The Lye Solution will have the consistency of pancake batter, that is because of the saponification process...the Lye is binding with the fats in the milk...it's okay. Some people will run it through a fine mesh strainer...I just dump it in.

I do heat my oils to about 120F because once I add the GM Lye Solution, it will cool my batter down to around 90F and ensure I don't end up with False Trace. And since I don't add colorants to my GMS, I don't need additional working time. I just combine the Oils, Lye Solution and FO and whiz it to a light to medium-light trace and pour.

Depending on the ambient temperature, I may still my GMS in the frig or I may put it in the garage. Because of the sugars in the Goat Milk, the saponification process is going to heat up your batter a little more than non-milk soaps and you do NOT want to burn your milk...it's gross.

Now if I put my GMS in the frig or if the garage is below 50F...I will let it sit there for a couple of days. You will know it's ready when you press on it and it feels like a medium cheddar cheese. I will allow the soap to sit in the kitchen for several hours before I unmold it to give it time to come up to room temperature. Once it is unmolded, I then let it sit for a day, lightly covered with a very thin towel before I cut it. I have found if I attempt to cut any cold soap, it crumbles...and it's sticky.

Once cut, I allow all my soaps to cure a good eight weeks. My GMS is almost always a beautiful cream color.

Note: I developed my GMS recipe a little on the weird side hence the odd percentages. If you would prefer not to use Palm Oil, feel free to substitute, but make sure you run it through a Soap Calculator. In fact, you should run EVERY recipe through a Calculator regardless to make sure the total percentages of oil is 100% and to get the correct amount of Sodium Hydroxide and Liquid.

ETA - Always start with a small batch of soap. I have a couple of 4" Square Silicone Molds that I use for Test Batches. 14 oz of Oils makes approximately 4-5oz bars. And yes, it does get easier with time...just like crocheting or knitting or whatever else...practice makes perfect (or close enough).
 
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thank you so much for giving me & breaking down your method! so generous of you to help me in that way! you’re exactly right i didn’t become a great crocheter after a couple of attempts so i’ll just have to keep trying. but you’re right about the process! frogging is so much easier than having to throw out a whole batch of wasted materials and time- it’s quite heartbreaking lol thank you so much for your encouragement i really appreciate it! i will try try again! 😄
 
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I’ve never gifted a bar of ZNSC that wasn’t loved. However, I was referring to fact that if the recipe is followed as written, the result will be a successful soap making session & batch.
I did follow it as written and not everyone loves castile soap. Sorry. In all my years of selling, I had very few customers that purchased castille soap. just saying' we do not all like the same thing. Regardless she needs to make much smaller batches and not waste so many ingredients.
 

Zany_in_CO

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not everyone loves castile soap.
That is true. Thank you for mentioning it. ❤

Even though I have collected 75+ testimonials since I first posted
ZNSC in 2018, there are those that cannot use it. Truth be told, over the 12 years it took to develop it, I did NOT like castiles either. But I made them for babies, cancer patients undergoing chemo and for those with sensitive skin.

Like @LynetteO whom I consider MY #1 FAN 🥰, I'm always surprised when someone like you who "follows it as written" and doesn't have the same reaction as I did when I first tried it. I just love it's creamy dense lather that feels like washing with cold cream. I love how it holds it shape to the very last sliver that I then attach to a new bar, easy peasy. It is now my favorite soap for washing my face AM & PM.

But then I do have many "favorites". 😂
 

JeanmarieT

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I'm also a new soap maker and have made batches, both HP and CP and also rewatched one. The best advice I've read (and I've read just about everything out there) is to not even think about selling soap until you are very good at soapmaking. You shouldn't expect to just make 3 batches and you're ready to start selling. Don't put that kind of pressure on yourself.

You don't HAVE to sell soap. If you enjoy making it, make it, use it, give it as gifts. After you've mastered your craft you can look into all the things you have to learn about labeling, marketing, taxes, bookkeeping, etc etc.

I made a batch (#7) that was way too soft, if felt like. I put it in the freezer to keep it form going through gel. I left it in the mold for 2 days before it felt hard enough to unmold. After 2-3 more days of drying on a wire rack, it has hardened up considerably. All soaps, whether HP or CP, need to be cured to harden them and make them milder. Some soaps like 100% coconut oil etc will harden really fast, but most balanced soaps or those with lots of soft oils vs hard fats will take longer.

And making mistakes is OK. You learn more from your failures than you successes. If you made 3 perfect batches, you were lucky and probably wouldn't learn as much as making mistakes and then figuring out what you did wrong and fixing it. Try one tried and true recipe that someone else developed and practice on that first. Plain, then later add scents and colors and learn to swirl etc. Don't think you can learn it all at once. It's ok!

Just keep reading, studying, watching tutorials, fill in the gaps in your knowledge, and keep practicing. Small batches, though. Practice on small batches, use it, give it away, get feedback from your friends on what they do or don't like about it. Keep records of each batch, change only 1 thing at a time so you see what difference it makes.
And remember, this is supposed to be fun! If it's not fun, you don't have to do it.
Best wishes!

hello. i’m actually a crocheter and just stepped into the world of soap making thinking it was going to be easy! i bit off way more than i can chew! i’ve made 4 batches and every single one has been a fail with a capital F! i’m so disappointed and discouraged…. please tell me it gets easier! i really want to be successful at this but am having such a rough start i’m getting ready to throw in the towel! any tips, words or encouragement, instructions are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

batch 1:
coconut oil 30%
grape seed oil 15%
avocado oil 55%
+
goats milk (raw & natural)
lye

ok i jacked this up by putting towels around it and not refrigerating it for the first 24 hours plus i think i used way too much avocado oil…. basically my ratios are totally jacked!

batch 2:
coconut oil 30%
grapeseed oil 20%
lard
+
goats milk
lye

refrigerated x24 hours. looks much better but i think i over mixed when pouring… it was like a yogurt consistency so the bottoms look smushed and the tops look like whipped cream (wasnt going for that look).

batch 3:
coconut oil 30%
grape seed oil 15%
avocado oil 55%
+
goats milk (raw & natural)
lye

i really tried to control my mixing this time & poured at what i think was thin trace. still i think my ratios are off. i popped them out of the molds and they look good but are extremely soft. like i could touch them & they feel like they will melt in my hands.

batch 4:
coconut 30%
peach kernel 20%
lard 25%
shea butter 25%
+
goats milk
lye

this is the first pic i included that completely crumbled apart. i used a load mold put it in the fridge x2 days and cannot cut it bc it breaks a part! so sad and disappointing. this one…. i didn’t temper the shea butter which i read after the fact that i should “temper” it. i only microwaved it to melt it. and i think i used too many “hard oils” idk!

i’m wasting so much time and effort and materials and money and goats milk!!!! i’m so sad!!!!! i just need a good base! help! none of these batches are good enough to market. ugggh what can i do?
 

TheGecko

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thank you so much for giving me & breaking down your method! so generous of you to help me in that way! you’re exactly right i didn’t become a great crocheter after a couple of attempts so i’ll just have to keep trying. but you’re right about the process! frogging is so much easier than having to throw out a whole batch of wasted materials and time- it’s quite heartbreaking lol thank you so much for your encouragement i really appreciate it! i will try try again! 😄

I believe that knowledge should be shared.

I didn't start out with the 4" Square Silicone Mold (which you can get from most soap suppliers and Amazon)...it was the result of several 50 oz failed batches; all those ingredients dumped in the bin.

My failed GMS is how I found this place and without question, the folks here have made be a better soap maker.

I greatly encourage you to get a couple of 4" Mold and even a 6" Silicone Slab Mold. I use my 4" Molds every time I try a new colorant, a new scent or a new technique. It's a great way to try out new things without wasting a lot of ingredients if things don't work out...like a colorant you don't like or an accelerating scent.

Just remember, there is really no such thing as failure, just opportunities to learn more.
 

DMack

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hello. i’m actually a crocheter and just stepped into the world of soap making thinking it was going to be easy! i bit off way more than i can chew! i’ve made 4 batches and every single one has been a fail with a capital F! i’m so disappointed and discouraged…. please tell me it gets easier! i really want to be successful at this but am having such a rough start i’m getting ready to throw in the towel! any tips, words or encouragement, instructions are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

batch 1:
coconut oil 30%
grape seed oil 15%
avocado oil 55%
+
goats milk (raw & natural)
lye

ok i jacked this up by putting towels around it and not refrigerating it for the first 24 hours plus i think i used way too much avocado oil…. basically my ratios are totally jacked!

batch 2:
coconut oil 30%
grapeseed oil 20%
lard
+
goats milk
lye

refrigerated x24 hours. looks much better but i think i over mixed when pouring… it was like a yogurt consistency so the bottoms look smushed and the tops look like whipped cream (wasnt going for that look).

batch 3:
coconut oil 30%
grape seed oil 15%
avocado oil 55%
+
goats milk (raw & natural)
lye

i really tried to control my mixing this time & poured at what i think was thin trace. still i think my ratios are off. i popped them out of the molds and they look good but are extremely soft. like i could touch them & they feel like they will melt in my hands.

batch 4:
coconut 30%
peach kernel 20%
lard 25%
shea butter 25%
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goats milk
lye

this is the first pic i included that completely crumbled apart. i used a load mold put it in the fridge x2 days and cannot cut it bc it breaks a part! so sad and disappointing. this one…. i didn’t temper the shea butter which i read after the fact that i should “temper” it. i only microwaved it to melt it. and i think i used too many “hard oils” idk!

i’m wasting so much time and effort and materials and money and goats milk!!!! i’m so sad!!!!! i just need a good base! help! none of these batches are good enough to market. ugggh what can i do?
I proper messed up at first too. Got all excited and carried away, spent a fortune on EO (sandalwood!!!!!!!!) and made a bar that was too cleansing 30% coconut oil and couldnt use it. 🙇‍♀️
I’m a year in now and making lots of success batches my family and close friends enjoy, that don’t irritate my snowflake skin, last well,lather nicely and smell wonderful. But I’ve thrown out at least 6 batches. Don’t give up, don’t be disheartened it happens. Keep going it’s worth it. I regard all my failures as learning tools. I’ve had so much support and advice from forum members, this is a great place to ask questions

good luck 🍀
 
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If you use shea butter to make products like lip balm or lotion bars, shea definitely needs to be tempered. But shea only needs to be fully melted if you're using it in soap -- tempering isn't required.

The lard-shea soap that crumbled may simply have needed to warm up to room temperature before you cut it. Or it might have needed a bit of extra warming to make the soap more pliable and less brittle. It looks less to me like the soap is a fail and more like a misjudgement due to inexperience.

Until you are familiar with a particular recipe, you have to test the texture of the soap to determine when to cut -- you can't just go by time. When ready to cut, soap will yield slightly to a gentle finger press -- something like refrigerator-cold mild cheddar cheese -- but it won't permanently dent. If the soap is soft like cream cheese or brie and dents easily with a finger press, it's too soft to cut. If it feels hard as a rock, like Parmesan or aged cheddar, it's too hard to cut cleanly.

As others are gently pointing out, you've set your jumps fairly high. You might be expecting more from yourself than is realistic based on your current level of ability. Many of us has also done the same thing to ourselives and survived, so you aren't alone. But asking too much of yourself right away can create a mindset of failure and discouragement rather than a feeling of confidence and success. I think you have a lot of good energy -- just need to channel it more wisely!
Hi DeeAnna. so i waited and tried again to recut the one that looked all crumbly (the lard & shea)… and it worked! at room temperature it cut much more smoothly! i think i was trying to cut when it was too cold. thank you - your cheese analogies really hit home for me! thank you for your explanations! 🙏
 
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I started out with recipes from a friend who gave me a bar of her soap. I was totally paranoid about using lye, had no place to store the soap while it cure and had my 2 year old grandson in the house. I found the hot process method on line and made some sort of successful soap. Sort of because I didn't realize that I needed to put the recipe through a calculator, or allow the soap to cure or not store them on metal racks. I was lucky for a long time and when I had my first "sort of" melt down I came to this site and have never looked back.

My meltdown was forgetting to put in one of the oils. The advice I found led me to a calculator, a better understanding of the process and in the meantime a treasure of advice via the different forums. I found that my superfat was enough to still keep the soap safe, but I spent the next 3 months reading...and in the process my bad soap and all the other bars in my house had at least a 3 month cure. I occasionally do CP but really prefer HP for the cleanup and the fact that my soaping space is my kitchen.

I can only add that the advice given here is spot on. Keep trying and learn as you try. Your skin will reap the rewards. One of mine was that after several years of soaping I noticed my skin itching again...just like it did with commercial soaps. Back to the forum and I discovered that it was olive oil in the soaps. I no longer use it. I am sure that I would have never discovered this on my own. As my skin ages, I am now experimenting again with recipes and know How to experiment. It is amazing what a few years will do to your skin and how it reacts to your usual soaps. Even if you never end up selling, your skin will still reap the benefits.
 

LisaBoBisa

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You sound like a kinesthetic learner: you have to dive in and try something to get the understanding necessary to digest more reading---that's a valid way to learn. Starting out by making tried and true recipes really helps (I didn't learn how to bake cookies by inventing recipes--that can come later).

For me, the best way to get started and have success early on was by using a great soapmaker's recipe, instead of starting out by formulating my own, so it might help build your confidence, too. Soapmaking is chemistry (fatty acid profiles are important), and it took practice making experienced soapmakers' recipes and hundreds of hours of research before I had any idea how to put together a good recipe.

I started out with the Simple Herbal Soap recipe on this page (really helpful beginner soaping page), since I didn't own castor oil and could make it without spending $ on new oils. I just had to make one substitution, after reading up on recommended percentages of soapmaking oils, and the qualities each adds to soap, including the Common Oils Used in Soapmaking section on this page--grapeseed and sunflower oil were similar--so I substituted the grapeseed I already owned for the sunflower in the recipe and ran it through BrambleBerry's calculator (BrambleBerry's is way simpler than SoapCalc, good for a complete beginner). I had no idea the 1-lb batch was too small to fill a recycled milk carton mold, so my loaf ended up being very flat and the “bars” were shaped like sticks of butter when I cut them, but it was so exciting to use my first homemade soap.

For a castor-free recipe, this recipe lathers well without being overly drying. It contains too many soft oils to unmold the next day, so I had to wait two days to unmold.

Milk base is more advanced; why don't you wait until you have more successes under your belt before you tackle milk? It might not be a bad idea to expect to make soap for at least a year before you sell your soap at market.

For what it's worth, using solid oils/butters as 40-60% of your recipe is a good rule of thumb to get a hard, but not too hard bar (there are plenty of exceptions, but it's a good starting point), but keep the coconut oil (one of your solid oils) at 20-30% of your recipe like you're doing now—it helps with fluffy lather, but more than 25% and coconut starts to get drying. Learning is expensive with oils like avocado—why not use something cheaper while you build experience?
 
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