First liquid soap adventures

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mishmish

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I've been making bar soap for many years, and with time on my hands with the covid-19 quarantine I decided to try liquid soap for the first time. After doing a lot of reading here and on the internet, I bought Jackie Thompson's book Liquid Soapmaking. I decided to start with a simple soap paste w/o palm oil so chose her recipe #7: 60% coconut oil, 30% olive (pomace), and 10% castor oil. Checked the recipe against SoapmakingFriend calculator and see that the 255 gr KOH = 1.5% superfat. Her recipe uses less water than the lye calculator suggests.

I did it in a crockpot on low heat, and knew to expect a long amount of time to get it to come to the required pasty thickness before the cook. But my play time ran into dinnertime and so after I got it stickblended somewhere between a thin to medium trace with a covering of bubbles, I covered it up and went to eat, intending to come back and stickblend it some more every few minutes. Oops. Hours later, after watching a movie with DH I suddenly remembered the soap. It looked kind of the same, so I grabbed a whisk and started stirring it, then went to work with the stickblender...suddenly the entire mass started rising in the crockpot...do I have my very first volcano? Unplugged the crockpot, quickly moved everything on the table out of the way of the imminent flood of whatever this was, grabbed handfuls of dishtowels to form a dike around the pot...but it stopped just short of overflowing.

I gingerly poked at the foam with my whisk...and it all collapsed into itself and suddenly there was my pasty mass. Weird. I had read that separation could be an issue if you didn't stickblend it to this stage so I smashed and stirred and chopped it up as best I could, shrugged, covered it again and left it to cook for an hour or more. Did the test thing with phenol, stirred some escaped liquid back into the mass, cooked it some more, test repeat, got bored, turned it off and went to bed.

In the morning, it was translucent, amber, with maybe a teaspoon of honey-like liquid in the bottom of the pot that didn't zap. I'm doing some small dilution tests now with a couple of ounces of paste in each jar. 1 p paste :1.5 p distilled water (in a hot water bath to encourage it to dissolve), 1 p paste: 1 p distilled water (dissolved pretty easily), 1 p paste: 2 p water (dissolved really easily). Phenol test was barely pink, so when I figure out the ideal dilution I'll have to use a citric acid solution to adjust, correct?

It's kind of weird that there doesn't seem to be a table anywhere with more precise indications about how much water to use to dilute the paste. Is it always trial and error until you find what works with a particular recipe? If a 100% oil LS always had the same dilution rate, and tests were done for each different oil, couldn't there be a spreadsheet that would allow you to calculate the additional water needed for your batch by the percentage of each oil in your formula? Is the info out there and I just haven't found it yet?

Anyway, I assume that once the test jars are all dissolved, I set them aside and see if a jelly-like film forms on any which means that it can take a little more water? Is there any advantage to subbing some of the water for glycerin? I'm afraid this is going to be a little drying with so much coconut oil (the book said, "A nice balance of lather and emollience") so I'd appreciate any advice. There's a recipe with mango butter, avocado and castor oil that looks nice but again 60% coconut oil. And another with 80% olive oil, and maybe 15% coconut and 5% castor (haven't run it through the calculator yet but guessing) that should be gentle but I want bubbles too.

I want to thicken it a little, and remember reading something about adding some salt solution...is that also trial-and-error or is there a rule of thumb to use? What additives have been most successful or useful (aloe vera, glycerin, tocopherol, ???)

Thanks for any feedback!
 

Susie

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I've been making bar soap for many years, and with time on my hands with the covid-19 quarantine I decided to try liquid soap for the first time. After doing a lot of reading here and on the internet, I bought Jackie Thompson's book Liquid Soapmaking. I decided to start with a simple soap paste w/o palm oil so chose her recipe #7: 60% coconut oil, 30% olive (pomace), and 10% castor oil. Checked the recipe against SoapmakingFriend calculator and see that the 255 gr KOH = 1.5% superfat. Her recipe uses less water than the lye calculator suggests.
Every lye calculator allows you to set the lye concentration. I prefer 25%. YMMV.

I did it in a crockpot on low heat, and knew to expect a long amount of time to get it to come to the required pasty thickness before the cook. But my play time ran into dinnertime and so after I got it stickblended somewhere between a thin to medium trace with a covering of bubbles, I covered it up and went to eat, intending to come back and stickblend it some more every few minutes. Oops. Hours later, after watching a movie with DH I suddenly remembered the soap. It looked kind of the same, so I grabbed a whisk and started stirring it, then went to work with the stickblender...suddenly the entire mass started rising in the crockpot...do I have my very first volcano? Unplugged the crockpot, quickly moved everything on the table out of the way of the imminent flood of whatever this was, grabbed handfuls of dishtowels to form a dike around the pot...but it stopped just short of overflowing.
It sounds like you saved it just in time. Yes, that was trying to volcano. It just over-heated.

I gingerly poked at the foam with my whisk...and it all collapsed into itself and suddenly there was my pasty mass. Weird. I had read that separation could be an issue if you didn't stickblend it to this stage so I smashed and stirred and chopped it up as best I could, shrugged, covered it again and left it to cook for an hour or more. Did the test thing with phenol, stirred some escaped liquid back into the mass, cooked it some more, test repeat, got bored, turned it off and went to bed.
You already had paste. It was cooked.

In the morning, it was translucent, amber, with maybe a teaspoon of honey-like liquid in the bottom of the pot that didn't zap. I'm doing some small dilution tests now with a couple of ounces of paste in each jar. 1 p paste :1.5 p distilled water (in a hot water bath to encourage it to dissolve), 1 p paste: 1 p distilled water (dissolved pretty easily), 1 p paste: 2 p water (dissolved really easily). Phenol test was barely pink, so when I figure out the ideal dilution I'll have to use a citric acid solution to adjust, correct?
Zap test is much more effective than phenol. You know it will be an alkaline product. You just need to know if there is excess alkali. Zap tests checks exactly that for free.

It's kind of weird that there doesn't seem to be a table anywhere with more precise indications about how much water to use to dilute the paste. Is it always trial and error until you find what works with a particular recipe? If a 100% oil LS always had the same dilution rate, and tests were done for each different oil, couldn't there be a spreadsheet that would allow you to calculate the additional water needed for your batch by the percentage of each oil in your formula? Is the info out there and I just haven't found it yet?
Each oil you buy (even the same oil from the same supplier) will be a tiny bit different. Test your soap, figure out how much water it needs to dilute it, write it down. You will have to tweak it occasionally, but that is a great place to start.

Anyway, I assume that once the test jars are all dissolved, I set them aside and see if a jelly-like film forms on any which means that it can take a little more water? Is there any advantage to subbing some of the water for glycerin? I'm afraid this is going to be a little drying with so much coconut oil (the book said, "A nice balance of lather and emollience") so I'd appreciate any advice. There's a recipe with mango butter, avocado and castor oil that looks nice but again 60% coconut oil. And another with 80% olive oil, and maybe 15% coconut and 5% castor (haven't run it through the calculator yet but guessing) that should be gentle but I want bubbles too.
Yes, jelly films need a tiny bit more water. I sub glycerin on the front end while making paste. It gets your soap to trace (paste) much faster. Liquid soap made with coconut oil is not quite as bad as bar soap is. It can still be drying, but not so horribly.

I want to thicken it a little, and remember reading something about adding some salt solution...is that also trial-and-error or is there a rule of thumb to use? What additives have been most successful or useful (aloe vera, glycerin, tocopherol, ???)

Thanks for any feedback!
I would strongly suggest you read this thread, I know it is a beast, but there is invaluable information in there. Especially the recipe in post #8 and thereafter: Soaping 101 liquid soapmaking video?
 

mishmish

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Every lye calculator allows you to set the lye concentration. I prefer 25%. YMMV.

I know, I usually use a 33% concentration for cold process. Since it was my first time using this formula I was just going by the book.


It sounds like you saved it just in time. Yes, that was trying to volcano. It just over-heated.

It was pretty dramatic. I've never had an actual volcano before.

You already had paste. It was cooked.

Yep. I'll know next time. :) the book really made it sound like you had to cook cook cook it. I see there's also a cold process method that looks a lot less fussy.


Zap test is much more effective than phenol. You know it will be an alkaline product. You just need to know if there is excess alkali. Zap tests checks exactly that for free.

I zap tested it too. There was no immediate zap, but after a few second time delay I felt it a little. I'd never had the phenol drops before and just wanted to try it out.

Each oil you buy (even the same oil from the same supplier) will be a tiny bit different. Test your soap, figure out how much water it needs to dilute it, write it down. You will have to tweak it occasionally, but that is a great place to start.

Will do, thanks. Looks like equal parts water and paste are about right for this formula.

Yes, jelly films need a tiny bit more water. I sub glycerin on the front end while making paste. It gets your soap to trace (paste) much faster. Liquid soap made with coconut oil is not quite as bad as bar soap is. It can still be drying, but not so horribly.

I'll have to try that next. The amount of time it was taking to trace was more than I'm used to. In your opinion, is there an ideal percentage range of glycerin that is beneficial? For lather, skin comfort, etc?

I would strongly suggest you read this thread, I know it is a beast, but there is invaluable information in there. Especially the recipe in post #8 and thereafter: Soaping 101 liquid soapmaking video?
I have printed it out and think it will make more sense now that I've actually made a batch. Thanks!
 

Susie

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In no particular order:

1. Zap test is immediate. If it took a few seconds, it wasn't zap.
2. There is actually no need to cook it whatsoever. I get it to emulification, put a lid on it, and walk away. It is discussed at length in that thread.
3. I use anywhere from 25% of liquid needed to 50%. It really depends more on how much I have on hand. The results are much the same: Faster trace, thicker dilution from paste. I use IrishLass' recipe in post #8 with modifications discussed in that thread. I use 16 oz of paste and 12 oz of water for the first dilution.
4. You will develop your recipe and your dilution amounts. Keep good records and refer to them when formulating a new recipe.
 

Bladesmith

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I used Jackie's book as well for my first liquid soap. There is a table in there that tells you how much water to add for a certain dilution amount if I recall correctly.
 

mishmish

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I saw that, but I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't understand it. It looks to me like it assumes you know what your "desired concentration of soap" is starting at various %'s of soap but not based on the different types of oil the soap was made of. On page 32 she mentioned that coconut oil soaps could be diluted at 41% and castor oil at 48% but soft oils were usually diluted at 25 - 30%. But (and please be patient with me here) I didn't know if that meant water to soap paste or soap paste to water. I figured it would be obvious once I experimented. Reading lots of posts in different threads, it seemed like water amounts were widely variable.
 

Bladesmith

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Gotcha. Don't feel embarrassed! I was really confused by it for a while too. I can't find the book right now otherwise I'd take a look. I just can't remember how it all worked.
 
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