Help! My batch is going weird!

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New Member
Jan 8, 2008
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West Coast, BC, Canada

I am just learning about soap-making, and have been designing recipes and making soap since July 2007. So far I have been doing well, but recently my batches have started doing... unexpected things.
For example: I made a batch using pomace olive oil (55%)), coconut oil (10%), sunflower oil (5%), and canola oil (30%) - a simple recipe I've used with successful results in the past. I superfatted the recipe to 8%, which I have not done before.
When the batch traces, I add my essential oil and colour (like turmeric or something), pour it into the moulds, and cover it with blankets to cure.

Now, twice this has happened to me: When I go to check on the batch after 24 hours of curing, there is a dark unhardened spot in the middle of my batch. The inner edges of the mould has beautiful, perfectly curing soap while the middle has this dark gelly mass.
The first time this happened, the dark area hardened eventually but was permanently darkened (not like the white soap around it).
The second time I put plastic over the top of my mould to stop its contact with air, and that time the dark spot was even bigger and darker and more gelly-like than before - my batch is so ugly its ruined.

Has any of this ever happened to anyone before? I can't figure out what has gone wrong. I haven't changed my soap making practices really at all, and this problem is very new.

I'd really appreciate any insights or advice!

~ Miss M
Don't despair; your soap gelled. If you do a search you'll find about a zillion threads about the gell phase- to gell or not to gell. Chemically speaking, the saponified oils reached a glass transition phase. They went from an opaque form to a glass-like gell form due to heat. The saponification reaction is exothermic- it will create heat. If enough heat is created and contained the temperature of the new soap will rise to about 190F or so, and gell. This is why you got more of a gell when you covered with plastic wrap. You contained more of the heat. There are lots of tips out there regarding the pros and cons of gell, color changes, etc. The first time my soap gelled it surprised the heck out of me, too!
Miss M, your soap gelled but only partially. How warm are you soaping?
olive oil (55%))
coconut oil (10%)
sunflower oil (5%)
canola oil (30%)

From what I see in your recipe is that you have all soft oils, meaning the coconut oil, sunflower oil, and the canola oil. It won't get very hard because of that.

Also you only have 10% coconut oil and that number should be closer to 20%

BRB with a good link to help you out on how to get the right amounts of the different oils and how they classify.
Here take a look at this link and it might help you learn a little more about how to make your own recipe.

It breaks the oils down into 4 main catagories
Base Oils
Secondary Oils
Lathering Oils
Emollients (skin softening) Oils

And the recommended amounts for each different catagory.
But it will help you out a little bit.

I would suggest learning from the above link and then going to this link to help you figure out the % of each oil you want to use. And then you can pick the amount of oils you want and it will tell you how much of each oil you need to meet that total oil amount with each % of each that you want.

Hope that helps.
Thank you soapgardener - that makes a lot of sense! I completely forgot about the heat factor. I'll make a point to have more air circulation during my curing period... but is it still important to keep the soap warm during this time? With blankets and such?

And thank you, too, faithy! The soapcrafter's site is great - I didn't really know about base oils and soft oils... are there any other vegetable base oils out there besides Palm and Crisco?
I did know about the soapcalc site... it is awesome! I use it a lot!

I always love learning new things, especially about fun things like making soap! :D

~ Miss M

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