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Baltar42

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Hello Everyone,

I'm a completely new beginner to soap making & I was wondering if you could please help me with a Melt & Pour problem that I have.
My son and other half have extra sensitive skin so I've decided to venture into soap making to avoid the horrible reactions they get to commercial soap. But so far, it's been a complete nightmare.

I'm using an SLS & SLES free MP base. I've tried different varieties: e.g. Clear, Shea & White MP bases (all of them are SLS/SLES free as those are the only ones my family can use) and they have very very VERY little lather and come out almost rock hard! :rolleyes: Can you please tell me what I'm doing wrong???

I've now got a total of 3lbs of different MP bases on my hands and I don't want to throw it all out, so I'm trying to figure out a way of rescuing it and adding something to these bases that would increase lather.

I've tried adding 1 Tbsp Sweet Almond Oil to 2lbs MP base, but this hasn't improved lather. I've now bought Coconut Oil to try as I've read that this might increase lather in small amounts. I've also read here that I can add sugar, clay, glycerine, liquid soap, shaving soap, etc. But before I venture into experimenting and buying loads more expensive ingredients, I was wondering if I may please ask you to share your knowledge, wisdom and experience :)

My questions are: (1) what, in your experience, is the best way to add lather to a poor-lather MP base? and (2) Have you ever tried adding liquid soap (like Liquid Castille soap) to MP base to help increase lather? How did that work out?

Any thoughts, suggestions or help would be much appreciated! :)
 
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Babyshoes

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How is the lather from the base if you simply cut a piece off and use that to wash your hands?

Melt and pour is pre-made soap base. There is little you can add to it to change it's lathering qualities. Adding oils of any sort will impede lather, as will things like clay.

Many of the additives you've mentioned like coconut oil, sugar etc will improve lather in cold process or hot process soap, but not in melt and pour.

The concept of melt and pour is that the hard work of making soap with lye and oils is already done. You then get to do the creative part of adding colours and fragrances.
 

Baltar42

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Hello Babyshoes and thank you for your reply. I didn’t realise that sugar, clay etc. only applied to CP method, so thanks for the info it’s very helpful.
To answer your question, the first time I tried using the MP base on its own but it didn’t lather much. The second time, I tried adding sweet almond oil. That didn’t work either, so I tried a different SLS/SLES free base, but same company. In total, I’ve tried 3 bases. All to no avail! These bases have great reviews online so I figured out I must be doing something wrong!! I’m careful not to overheat the MP bases. Any idea of what I can do / not do to help increase lather?
thank you!
 

Babyshoes

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Honestly, there isn't much you can do to increase lather in melt and pour, at least as far as I know.

Perhaps you're expecting more lather than its designed to produce? After all, it does not contain SLS/SLES, which if I recall correctly are added to commercial soaps to boost lather.

If you really think you have a bad batch (ie there is literally no lather *at all* and it doesn't get you any cleaner than just using water) then it would be best to contact the company which made it. If it's just a low lather, then I'd say the issue might be with your expectations, and I'd ask why you think it needs a lot of lather.

Lather does not equal cleaning, that is a common misconception. I recall dishwashing liquid adverts from my childhood showing sinks full of bright white bubbles, piled high above the water, implying that the bubbles are what cleans. That's not exactly true - ingredients which increase the grease removing ability of soaps happen to be ones which increase lather. Great for dishes, not so good for skin.

I make a particularly mild cold process recipe with very little lather and a very low "cleansing" value on the lye calculator, but it still gets me clean...
What it doesn't do, is produce that squeaky-clean sensation that some commercial soaps can give. You might think that squeak means you're clean, but what it actually means is that not only has the dirt & sweat been removed, but also all the natural oils which protect your skin. I find my hands are a bit less dry and my nails are noticeably stronger since I stopped using commercial handwash and soap at home.

For folks with sensitive skin, it's best not to remove that thin protective layer, because dry skin is more vulnerable to environmental triggers and cracking. Yes you can put creams or lotions on your skin, but they're not as good as your own natural oils. In fact, many of them are designed as a barrier to hold in the natural oils, rather than trying to replace them after they've been stripped away.
 

Baltar42

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Honestly, there isn't much you can do to increase lather in melt and pour, at least as far as I know.

Perhaps you're expecting more lather than its designed to produce? After all, it does not contain SLS/SLES, which if I recall correctly are added to commercial soaps to boost lather.

If you really think you have a bad batch (ie there is literally no lather *at all* and it doesn't get you any cleaner than just using water) then it would be best to contact the company which made it. If it's just a low lather, then I'd say the issue might be with your expectations, and I'd ask why you think it needs a lot of lather.

Lather does not equal cleaning, that is a common misconception. I recall dishwashing liquid adverts from my childhood showing sinks full of bright white bubbles, piled high above the water, implying that the bubbles are what cleans. That's not exactly true - ingredients which increase the grease removing ability of soaps happen to be ones which increase lather. Great for dishes, not so good for skin.

I make a particularly mild cold process recipe with very little lather and a very low "cleansing" value on the lye calculator, but it still gets me clean...
What it doesn't do, is produce that squeaky-clean sensation that some commercial soaps can give. You might think that squeak means you're clean, but what it actually means is that not only has the dirt & sweat been removed, but also all the natural oils which protect your skin. I find my hands are a bit less dry and my nails are noticeably stronger since I stopped using commercial handwash and soap at home.

For folks with sensitive skin, it's best not to remove that thin protective layer, because dry skin is more vulnerable to environmental triggers and cracking. Yes you can put creams or lotions on your skin, but they're not as good as your own natural oils. In fact, many of them are designed as a barrier to hold in the natural oils, rather than trying to replace them after they've been stripped away.

thank you Babyshoes — very helpful info here. Yes, lack of lather doesn’t mean it’s not cleaning, but my little one complains it’s not cleaning! So I guess a little lather would encourage him to use it.
the soap bar takes ages of rubbing (after adding water) to show ANY signs of lather, let alone any bubbles. Frankly, it’s almost bubble-free — so much so that seeing the odd bubble after a good couple of minutes of wetting and rubbing the soap gets me all excited. Lol. I’m not sure if it’s a bad batch as I’ve never made soap before, and given that’s it’s the only company / MP bases I’ve tried, I have nothing to compare it with. So I was hoping to hear if anyone’s had any experience with SLS/SLES free soap bases to see if this is a common issue, and to also see if there’s a way of fixing this by adding something to it so my soap can show some — any! — lather at all!
 
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thank you Babyshoes — very helpful info here. Yes, lack of lather doesn’t mean it’s not cleaning, but my little one complains it’s not cleaning! So I guess a little lather would encourage him to use it.
the soap bar takes ages of rubbing (after adding water) to show ANY signs of lather, let alone any bubbles. Frankly, it’s almost bubble-free — so much so that seeing the odd bubble after a good couple of minutes of wetting and rubbing the soap gets me all excited. Lol. I’m not sure if it’s a bad batch as I’ve never made soap before, and given that’s it’s the only company / MP bases I’ve tried, I have nothing to compare it with. So I was hoping to hear if anyone’s had any experience with SLS/SLES free soap bases to see if this is a common issue, and to also see if there’s a way of fixing this by adding something to it so my soap can show some — any! — lather at all!
I have to concur with @Babyshoes. Before I started making soap from scratch, I made MP. In my experience there is nothing you can add to MP to help the lather. I still make some MP.

The beauty of Cold Process and Hot Process soaps are that you can control the ingredients. Using a soap calculator helps you know the lather, conditioning, cleansing, etc. numbers for the ingredient combination that you choose. So I highly recommend that if you want to control your soap's properties, that you venture into CP or HP. You mention that you have purchased coconut oil and almond oil. Both of these can be used in CP or HP.

As far as the MP soap that you have, if it was me and I didn't like it, I would grate it up and use as laundry soap - maybe use half of the MP and half regular laundry soap per load. It may be expensive laundry soap, but at least it doesn't go completely to waste.
 

Baltar42

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Thanks @Nona'sFarm & @artemis. CP & HP definitely sound better because it will give me control over the ingredients and characteristics of the soap. And given that my two boys have very sensitive skin, I think that that would be the best option. And thanks for the suggestion about the imbeds using the MP bases and using the oils I have already bought. That's a relief as it costs quite a bit buying all the ingredients and equipment from scratch. I always assumed, based on advice given on blogs, that I need to start with MP before moving on to CP. but by the sound of it, I have no way of rescuing this MP base now, so I guess I have no option but to pluck the courage and try my hand out at CP.
 
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@Baltar42,
Before I first tried CP, I watched lots of beginner YouTube videos, as well as read beginner books. Then I made myself a detailed step-by-step list. Then I took a deep breath and went for it.
A few tips I have based on my experiences and what I've learned here:
*Keep batches small until you're happy with your soap. I use a 4x4 mold, 12 oz oil, plus needed liquid and lye for new recipes.
*Start simple with a few ingredients, see how you like the soap, then tweak from there. I started with 40% olive oil, 30% sustainably harvested palm oil, and 30% coconut oil and tweaked from there until I got something I liked. I don't know what oils are available to you, so definitely work in your local parameters.
*I also recommend to new soapers to go with 40% soft oils (liquid at room temperature) and 60%hard oils (solid at room temperature). This is definitely not a hard and fast rule, but a good starting point. Your soap will be ready to unmold faster than if you use a higher % of soft oils.
* Since your boys have sensitive skin, I would try to keep the coconut oil below 20%. Also, probably stay away from all fragrances and essential oils. I never put scent in the children's soaps I make, unless I know the recipient is not sensitive to fragrances.
*I've not made any lard soaps yet, but I've heard here that they feel really good on the skin.
*ALWAYS use a soap calculator, even for recipes you get from others, particularly online. They not only tell you the lye/water amounts, they also tell you the properties of your soap - like conditioning, lather, etc.
*I also recommend starting with a 33% lye concentration and 5% superfat. Again, all can be tweaked if you're not happy with the results.
*Save your fancy expensive oils for salves. Soap is a wash off product, so doesn't really stay on the skin.
*For decent lather try 5% castor oil.
*Use Oven Processing to finish your soap, also known as CPOP. For me it is so much easier than wrapping it, etc.
* And lastly, give soap as gifts to friends and family. You'll have a little extra, especially at first while you're trying different recipes.

Know this is more than you asked for, but is offered in the spirit of helpfulness.
 

Babyshoes

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Thanks @Nona'sFarm & @artemis.
I always assumed, based on advice given on blogs, that I need to start with MP before moving on to CP. but by the sound of it, I have no way of rescuing this MP base now, so I guess I have no option but to pluck the courage and try my hand out at CP.

It's common for folks to start with melt and pour, especially if they're most interested in having pretty, nice smelling soap, but you definitely don't need to.

Lye can seem scary at first, but the biggest piece of advice I can give to beginners is "respect the lye, don't fear it." By that, I mean you should definitely wear the safety gear, and you need to handle and store it correctly, but as long as you do that, the risks are pretty small. If your kids are young, keep them out of the kitchen while you're soaping.

Since your reason for making soap is to help your sons' skin, I suggest that you mainly make unscented, uncoloured soap, especially at first. Later you can try small batches with natural colourants, like clays, carrots etc and see if they can tolerate those. Only then would I consider fragrances.

Some folks enjoy olive oil soap for fussy skin. It doesn't lather much though, and can even feel slimy to some. Look for Zanys no slime Castile on this forum - it is very easy to make, cures in a normal amount of time and isn't slimy, though it still doesn't have a lot of lather.

If you are ok with using animal fats, lard and tallow are great in soap.

If you let us know what country you're in, someone might know where to get suitable soaping fats and oils to get you started.

(While most oils and fats can be used to make soap, not all of them make decent soap, so check on here before you buy anything. I used to think that I would make soap with cheap sunflower oil since it's readily available to me, but unfortunately without special precautions, the soap tends to go rancid, which is nasty...)
 

Zany_in_CO

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I am so sad to hear about your frustration with making M&P soap. If it were me, I would check with the supplier to get answers to your questions.
CP & HP definitely sound better because it will give me control over the ingredients and characteristics of the soap. And given that my two boys have very sensitive skin, I think that that would be the best option.
Lovin' Soap Studio is one of the best places to learn how to make soap online. They even have a FREE 26-page Guide to Making Cold Process Soap that you can download.
*I've not made any lard soaps yet, but I've heard here that they feel really good on the skin.
IMO, 85% lard + 10% coconut oil 76° + 5% castor oil makes the BEST soap for sensitive skin. It's also a good "starter soap" for beginners because the ingredients are readily available and inexpensive. :thumbup: 😉
 
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One more piece of advice. When choosing oils to use for your soap, keep in mind that the benefits of these oils in their “raw” form, (not sure if that is the correct word), is not the same once they become saponified. I see many new soapers boast about these wonderful benefits of argan, rosehip, etc….as if that’s what you’re getting in your finished soap. Once they become soap, they are the salts of fatty acids, and no longer those skin loving oils. A perfect example is coconut oil, which many say is great for skin, but in soap, it is the most cleansing, natural oil stripping, drying oil that can be used. Hope that makes sense😁
Don’t be scared to ask questions here. We all started where you are😉
 
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@Nona'sFarm
Thank you for all the helpful tips -- they are invaluable. I shall definitely try my hand out at CP soon after I've read up about it and then take your tips into account.
Being a member here is one of the best things you can do to learn/improve your soapmaking skills - bar none.
 

Zany_in_CO

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I've now got a total of 3lbs of different MP bases on my hands and I don't want to throw it all out, so I'm trying to figure out a way of rescuing it and adding something to these bases that would increase lather.
I came across this while looking for something else. I sure hope it helps! :tub:
How to Increase Lather in Melt & Pour Soap
 

Baltar42

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Hello everyone & many apologies for the delay in responding. It's been a crazy hectic week, so, unfortunately I didn't have any time for soap-making.

@Babyshoes -- a big thank you for your detailed advice & kind words of encouragement. I really needed that! :) I'm in the South of England, UK.

@Zany_in_CO -- Thank you for the links and the guide. That's really helpful as I was browsing Amazon for soap-making books & was overwhelmed by the choice. I was meaning to ask here if anyone can recommend a good book for CP, so I'm very grateful for the guide and the link. Also, thanks for the recipe for sensitive skin; I've now made a note of it & will be sure to try it out as soon as I've read up on the safety guidelines for CP & ordered my gadgets & materials. I'm also going to experiment with some of the tips on the link you sent me about additive in MP to increase lather. I can see they suggest adding “Stephenson’s Melt and Pour Shaving Soap Base”. I've looked for this on the Stephenson's website, but can't see it. Maybe it's a product they only sell in the US? (I'm in the UK). I can't find any other shaving MP base here, which is really frustrating. However, I've just ordered some Pink French Clay. I heard it's good for sensitive skin. Is that true? I'll try that & let you know how it goes.

@lsg -- Thank you! This is such a wonderful forum and supportive community. So glad I found it :)

@Rsapienza -- Wow! Thanks. Didn't know that at all about the oils changing -- especially grateful for info on coconut oil. It's so true, one just assumes that what goes in will come out the same.

I also contacted the MP base manufacturer (Stephenson's) to check if I'd got a bad batch. They were really helpful & pointed me to a MP base Product Matrix on their website, which details the lather factor (from 1 to 10) for each of their soap bases. I could immediately see where the problem was coming from as the particular SLS & SLES Shea base I'd ordered was pretty low in lather. So, I'll give it one last go by trying to add clay & if nothing comes of it, I'll just save all the MP bases I've bought for imbeds in my CP once I've learnt how to make it.

Thank you all once again for the amazing support & really helpful tips & advice. Hope you all have a great week :)
 
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How hard is your water? Water hardness can make a huge difference, for soap proper (sodium stearate/oleate/laurate) even more than syndet (SLS/SLES). You might try a bar in a small bowl of distilled water, to see if water hardness is the culprit.

Stephenson is top dog of M&P base, they can't afford bad or inconsistent performance.
 

Baltar42

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How hard is your water? Water hardness can make a huge difference, for soap proper (sodium stearate/oleate/laurate) even more than syndet (SLS/SLES). You might try a bar in a small bowl of distilled water, to see if water hardness is the culprit.

Stephenson is top dog of M&P base, they can't afford bad or inconsistent performance.

Hi ResolvableOwl,
My water is hard (112 Ca mg/l). Maybe that’s what’s causing the problem? I’ll try distilled water to see if it makes a difference. Thank you.
 

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Hello @Baltar42 ,

I've just joined this forum and also been making MP for under a year. I've had similar experiences like you and just recently switched to Stephensons organic range to try and see if that's any better.

In terms of skin sensitivities, avoiding Sulfates like SLS and SLES can help. And what many people don't know (at least the average consumer) is to avoid PG (Propylene Glycol) – these are skin allergens and comes in many other names.

I hope this helps.

Adz
 
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