Gel problems

SoapMakingForum

Help Support SoapMakingForum:

penelopejane

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2015
Messages
5,459
Reaction score
4,247
Location
Sth Coast, NSW, Australia
Hi,

I have got a gel centre to just about all of my soaps. I would really appreciate some help because I don't like the look of the circle in the centre. I have been reading past posts but can't work out what to do to solve it as it there seems to be conflicting advice.

They are all castile soap. I soap at about 110 deg F. I've wrapped the moulds, left them unwrapped, put them in the fridge and they are still all the same.

I might have put the one in the fridge too late. Should I pour it and then put it straight in the fridge for a few days?

Why do some people wrap their soap? Why would anyone want to encourage the centre to set differently to the outside of the soap?
 

navigator9

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2014
Messages
2,713
Reaction score
3,092
Location
New England
People usually like their soaps to gel all the way to the edges, or not at all. It's only about appearance, since partial gel doesn't affect the soap in any other way. Yes, you could certainly put your soap in the fridge immediately after making it.

As to why some people wrap their soap in a towel or blanket, it's to encourage it to gel all the way to the edges. I do CPOP for the same reason. As far as I know, no one tries to encourage partial gel. There is a subtle difference between gelled and ungelled soaps, you may want to try both to see which you like better. One reason I like gelled soap, is that you can unmold it the day after making it. Gelling forces it to go through the saponification process faster. Good luck to you!
 

gigisiguenza

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2015
Messages
1,391
Reaction score
916
I prefer non gelled soaps and the advice i was given was to soap cooler (this helps slow down the heater factor), to avoid using molds that insulate really well so the heat has less chance to build up (wood is a good insulator and holds in heat so I don't use wood), and to refrigerate as soon as I'm done with whatever design I'm doing. I leave mine in there for an hour or two, remove it and let it sit at room temperature for the rest of the process. I also check frequently in the first few hours, and if it feels warmer than my hand , I pop it back in the fridge for another 20-30 mins, then remove and let sit again.

So far, their tips have proven reliable and I haven't had any batches partial gel again.

Hope that helps.
 

shunt2011

Staff member
Admin
Moderator
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Messages
15,445
Reaction score
9,725
Location
Michigan
I prefer to gel all my soaps and it can depend on several things. What kind of mold are you using? If it's just a lone silicone mold you may need to put it in a box and then cover it to get it to gel. I use silicone lined wooden molds and I just put a lid on it (cardboard for those that don't have a lid). and then put 1 or 2 towels over it. I don't ever get partial gel. Can't speak to not gelling as I never have enough room in my fridge or freezer to put my molds in there.

You could also try CPOP as Navigator does. I've never had any luck personally but lots of folks do. Mine generally overheat or get bumps. :grin:
 

osso

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2013
Messages
557
Reaction score
257
Location
Michigan
I like to gel my soaps. I use a heating pad under my wood mold with silicone liner to help things along and then cover to insulate. I don't get partial gel this way.

If you would like to avoid gel you can soap cool and put your soap into the refrigerator/freezer right away. Also if you use full water it may be hard to keep your soap from gelling, so decreasing the amount of water may help you avoid gel.
 

dixiedragon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
4,903
Location
Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Is your soap gelling all the way through?

Possibly a dumb question:
"I've wrapped the moulds, left them unwrapped, put them in the fridge and they are still all the same."

Is this one batch, or 3 (or more) different batches? Could you walk us through your whole process?
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
8,980
Reaction score
9,076
Location
Austria
Aye, if you are using heating ingredients (anything sugary) and have a good mould, just popping it in the fridge might not be enough. Likewise, just wrapping it a little might not be enough to fully gel.

Sometimes the questions come "How exactly can I ensure full gel and no gel?" but there is no easy answer as it depends on so many factors. There are some great guidelines, but no exact "50 minutes at this oven temp will work for every recipe in every instance"
 

DeeAnna

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2013
Messages
13,450
Reaction score
19,281
Location
USA
If you don't want your soap to gel, then Gigi has good advice. I wasn't sure what direction you are wanting to go -- gel or no gel -- so I'm contributing "no gel" advice.

I would add to her suggestions to start soaping with a slightly more concentrated lye solution. Most newer soapers are stuck on soaping with "full water" (about 28% lye concentration). Soap will gel very easily with that much water in the recipe. If you want to avoid gel, you really don't want to use a high-water recipe or you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep your soap cool enough to keep it below its gel temperature.

If you increase your lye concentration (do NOT use "water as % of oils" -- use lye concentration instead) to 30% to 33%, and you should see a reduced tendency to gel. You will also see faster trace (can be good or bad) and harder soap at unmolding (good).

I can't tell you exactly what lye concentration to use -- it depends on your recipe. With my recipes, the soap has more tendency to gel at 30% to 31% and less tendency to gel at 33%.
 

Dharlee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2015
Messages
163
Reaction score
53
If you don't want your soap to gel, then Gigi has good advice. I wasn't sure what direction you are wanting to go -- gel or no gel -- so I'm contributing "no gel" advice.

I would add to her suggestions to start soaping with a slightly more concentrated lye solution. Most newer soapers are stuck on soaping with "full water" (about 28% lye concentration). Soap will gel very easily with that much water in the recipe. If you want to avoid gel, you really don't want to use a high-water recipe or you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep your soap cool enough to keep it below its gel temperature.

If you increase your lye concentration (do NOT use "water as % of oils" -- use lye concentration instead) to 30% to 33%, and you should see a reduced tendency to gel. You will also see faster trace (can be good or bad) and harder soap at unmolding (good).

I can't tell you exactly what lye concentration to use -- it depends on your recipe. With my recipes, the soap has more tendency to gel at 30% to 31% and less tendency to gel at 33%.
If I am understanding this correctly, you are not adding more lye to the recipe recommended in the calc, rather reducing a bit of the water? If so, this is a light bulb moment for me...
 

snappyllama

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2014
Messages
3,910
Reaction score
3,040
Location
Near Charlotte NC
That's right. Water discounts *only* refer to the amount of water in your lye solution. The lye portion of the solution is fixed since it's determined by how much lye is needed to saponify the oils in your recipe.

You can see this in action on SoapCalc. Enter your recipe leaving the Water As Percent of Oils at the default 38%. Take note of the lye and water amounts it tells you that are needed. Now just change the Water As Percent of Oils amount and recalculate it. The lye amount stays the same, but the water changes.

ETA: I just mentioned using the Water As Percent of Oils as a demonstration. As Deanna said, it's better to use the lye concentration option to figure out water
 
Last edited:

DeeAnna

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2013
Messages
13,450
Reaction score
19,281
Location
USA
Absolutely 100% correct, Dharlee. By increasing my lye concentration for a given recipe, I will be using a bit less water in the batch. The amount of lye in the recipe will remain exactly the same, regardless.

The lye is based on the specific weights and types of oils in the recipe, so that won't change at all regardless of what I set the lye concentration to -- only the water weight will change.

I hope I'm making this clearer for you, not muddier! :)
 

penelopejane

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2015
Messages
5,459
Reaction score
4,247
Location
Sth Coast, NSW, Australia
I have been using water as a % of oils at 30% which is 300 g water. Which happens to be the same as lye concentrate of 30%. If I bring the lye concentrate down to 33% water comes down to 260 g water.

So I have been reducing water and wrapping which is confusing the poor soap. Or reducing water and putting it in the fridge too late which is again confusing the poor soap.

I will try yet again. Thank you.
 

penelopejane

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2015
Messages
5,459
Reaction score
4,247
Location
Sth Coast, NSW, Australia
I have been using a plastic mold and soaping at 110 deg F. 30% water discount and invariably end up with a circle of dark gel just about to the very edge.

I don't really understand the benefits of allowing it to gel. Some research says it gets a harder bar. I know that is straight away so quicker to unmold but is it harder eventually or over time are they the same? Gelling makes the soap darker, which I don't really want.

Dixie, I have tried each different method on different batches.

Gigi, I am with you on wanting to avoid gel. : )

DeeAnna, my DH is a science and he's always throws expressions like "long chains" at me your explanations make things much clearer. What is the difference between using oil to water % and lye concentration? The post below yours (and I have read that before hence my 30% water to oil) says to use water to oil %?

Thanks everyone.
 
Last edited:

DeeAnna

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2013
Messages
13,450
Reaction score
19,281
Location
USA
"...water as a % of oils at 30% which ... happens to be the same as lye concentrate of 30%..."

Just want to clarify that this relationship is likely to be true only for this one particular recipe. If you change your recipe, the correlation between "water as % of oils" and "lye concentration" may well be different.

***

"...confusing the poor soap..."

There is nothing wrong with making a soap with a more concentrated lye solution AND doing what it takes to make it to go into gel. I do it all the time and the soap doesn't get confused at all. :) But what you personally want from your soaps might be different than what I want as a soaper.

I like soaping with less water because the soap is harder at the time of unmolding, there is less chance of emulsion failure (separation in the mold), and more complete saponification in a shorter time. I also like gel because a gelled soap looks more translucent (although, yes, darker), it absorbs less water in the soap dish and seems to last longer, and tends to be harder at the time of unmolding and firm up nicely during the first weeks of cure.

I also don't mind gel because it's easier to encourage soap to gel than it is to reliably keep soap from gelling. Some people say ungelled soap is lighter and creamier looking, and there's some truth to that, but the different appearance is just not that big of a deal for me.

***

"...What is the difference between using oil to water % and lye concentration?..."

This thread might shed some light on this question -- http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=53642
 

penelopejane

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2015
Messages
5,459
Reaction score
4,247
Location
Sth Coast, NSW, Australia
DeeAnna,
Ok, I think I understand the importance of using lye concentrate rather than water as % of oils and will do that in future. Thank you.

About gel:
Thank you for clearly explaining the difference between gel and non-gel soaps.

I have tried to make my soaps gel (I mostly make pure Castile soap) but end up with a ring around the edge. I kept it wrapped until it was ready to cut but it still had a ring. If I leave it longer it's too hard to cut and it breaks when I cut it. How can i tell when my soap has gelled all the way through?
 
Last edited:

The Efficacious Gentleman

Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
8,980
Reaction score
9,076
Location
Austria
The best way is practice! If you usually soap at such a temperature and wrap with this towel and store it in this room and so on, and that usually gives you a partial gel- you need to warm it more.

If your moulds are oven safe, you can preheat the oven to the lowest setting and then pop the soap in and turn the oven off - that is often enough for most people. But again, you need to try out some new things until you find that "Goldilocks" point between partial gel and overheating. It might take a few more goes of trial and error to get there, though.
 

penelopejane

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2015
Messages
5,459
Reaction score
4,247
Location
Sth Coast, NSW, Australia
The best way is practice! If you usually soap at such a temperature and wrap with this towel and store it in this room and so on, and that usually gives you a partial gel- you need to warm it more.

If your moulds are oven safe, you can preheat the oven to the lowest setting and then pop the soap in and turn the oven off - that is often enough for most people. But again, you need to try out some new things until you find that "Goldilocks" point between partial gel and overheating. It might take a few more goes of trial and error to get there, though.
EG,
So are you saying that each recipe has it's own gel point? But is it consistent for that recipe time and time again? (If I use the same mold and do the same things?)

Is there a rough guide to how long to leave it in the oven to ensure it gels totally, all the way through? Is there a way to tell if it has gelled and is ready to cut? My last soap looked great felt like it was ready, cut beautifully but was only partially gelled in the middle.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Messages
8,980
Reaction score
9,076
Location
Austria
It can vary to some degree (pun most fully intended) on the temperature of your house, ingredients and so on, but I think it is usually similar for a recipe each time, but can be different for different recipes. A soap with more CO and sugar than another one will gel more easily, all other things being equal, as these two ingredients help to produce heat during saponification.

Gelling is easier to see than non-gelling, as you can just look at the top of the soap. If it looks ungelled, it is ungelled! Do the pre-heat and turn off method, but when you have time to watch over your soap - keep an eye on it and see when it is finished, then take it out before it can over heat.

I am no expert on this, as I don't generally try to gel or not as I don't mind a partial gel. You might even say I am partial to it.............

PUNTASTIC today.
 

Susie

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
9,694
Reaction score
9,179
Location
Texas
I use 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon of sugar PPO normally in my soap for bubbles, this generally ensures that my soap gets really hot. I also use my lye water when it is still VERY hot to melt my solid oils, and proceed to stickblending. So, between these two things and insulating the soap, I not only ensure gel, I have to watch it closely for several hours to prevent overheating.

If you want to prevent gel, you may want to soap at room temperature (oils and lye water), freeze your mold for a couple of hours before pouring, and return the mold to the freezer immediately after pouring. Leave the mold in the freezer for 12-24 hours. Be prepared to pop the soap back into the freezer or refrigerator if it begins to heat once you pull it out.

Take really good notes on what happens to each soap as you try each technique, so you can figure out what works for each of your recipes.
 
Top