Help please! Frustrated, Discouraged, but refusing to give up!

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Apr 26, 2018
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I just about gave up last night after I made my third batch of soap ever. However, this morning what I'm really hoping is that this is my beginner soaping story that I will be able to tell years from now about how when I started making soap it was a colossal failure, but I went right back to the soap kitchen and started again, and again, and again until it was exactly what I wanted!
SO... rewinding to today, I have attached everything I used and my math in hopes that someone will be able to tell me where I went wrong.
I was using a 50/50 lye/water solution and added the correct amount of extra water using the math that amd confirmed for me in another thread (learned it on soaping 101), and I measured my ingredients to the drop.
I added my lye water to my oils and stick blended in short bursts for less than a minute all together. I separated the batch into three containers, added my color and used a wisk to blend them in by hand, then used the same wisk to add and blend in my FO, and within minutes it turned into a brick- I couldn't do anything with it. SO DISCOURAGED!!!!! I refuse to give up though. Can someone weigh in on my problem? I thought that maybe my stick blender is too powerful for small batches? its over 800 watts- could that be it? My mold is small.
Any thoughts or feedback or anything that anyone can offer will be so very appreciated- I will keep coming back until I get it right, but it would be helpful if I knew where I went wrong.

Two thoughts, looking at your soap and your extra text (with your answers to questions people have asked you in your original thread).

Your water might be a bit too low (of a lye concentration) for a soap made predominantly with olive pomace (40%) and coconut oil (30%). Both of these oils are known to saponify fairly quickly (chemically extracted olive pomace is reputed to saponify a lot faster than cold-processed olive oil, and coconut oil is always quick), so you would be better off with a little more water in your recipe (30%-33% lye concentration is sweet for just about all recipes - for this one I would suggest the lower end of the scale, as has already been suggested to you, to counteract the speed - 35.2% might be a bit too strong a lye concentration for this recipe and for you as a beginner soaper).

The main thought that occurred to me, in reading what you have written, is that you had that effect almost immediately following the addition of your fragrance oil, so it is possible that your FO has accelerated your recipe even further. I think that, as Lin has mentioned, this was covered in your first thread.

While you are learning, smaller batches, a little more water, and a fragrance oil that doesn't accelerate might go a long way to helping you get to the point where you have a successful soap. Once you have that, you can expand to the other ideas you are keen to incorporate.

Anyway, here is the original thread:

Good luck.
I looked at the NG fragrance oil that the OP used and it's listed as a non accelerator by the company and by reviewers, so the chance of it accelerating this batch is on the lower side. Not saying it won't accelerate, but just that it seems not as likely.

What really catches my eye in this particular thread is this --

"I added my lye water to my oils and stick blended in short bursts for less than a minute all together...."

I read this sentence that you stick blended the batter for a total of 1 minute, roughly. Am I reading this correctly? And then you went on to portion out the batter, add color, and whisk?

If so, that is waaaaaaay too much stick blending time up front.

Try a total of 10 seconds of stick blending spread out over several minutes. No more than a total of 15 seconds. If you're going to split the batter and add color, you want your main batter to be at emulsion at the time you split the batter, not at trace. If the batter has reached the stage of visible trace, it's pretty likely the soap won't allow you nearly enough time to get your colors mixed and do a swirl.

After you get your portions split out and colored and you think the batter is too thin, then you can stick blend the bejezus out of it to rev things up. ;)
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What Salted Fig says above. I soap with 30-33% Lye Concentration depending on my recipe, but only go higher with 100% single oils soaps such as OO, Canola, Sunflower.
What works for one soapmaker will many times not work for the average, especially a new soapmaker. I would also almost guarantee it was your FO which you did not list on your printout.

Word of advice use the note section of Soap Calc to write down your procedure, you can always find the inci which is only needed if you are non-US and selling. Do make smaller batches, 5-6 lbs of seized soap is a lot of soap. By taking good notes on your printout, which I save all of mine, you can look back and know what the FO did, how your Lye Solution percentage worked out, it you added in additives, milks, etc. Good notes are very critical for assessing problems

ETA: Since DeeAnna types faster than me :D I will add that my vegan recipe can only take one short burst of the SB a couple of stirs and separate for colors, and it will still hit a thick trace immediately with an accelerating fo and at best give me a very few minutes to color and pour. It is one I only mix in one swirl color. Another hint with coloring, if you do not know how your batch is going to act it is better to work with one swirl color incase you have to re-batch, this way you will most like not end up with poopy looking colored soap :nodding:
I agree with DeeAnne - I think you are probably stickblending too much. I also don't see a temperature anywhere - try soaping cooler. Palm oil has a melting point of 95 degrees. Try having your oils at 100-105 and your lye at room temp.

Pre mix your colors with a bit of oil, water or glycerin (I prefer glycerin). If you use oil, just dip a spoonful or so of melted oil out of your soap pot (before you add lye water), put it in a Dixie cup, and scramble it with a chopstick or a bamboo skewer. Get it all mixed and all of the lumps out.

Stick blend the oils + lye water JUST ENOUGH so that it is evenly mixed. Then pour them into your separate containers. Have a container of warm water near by. Add color and give each container a blast with the stick blender. Blast the stick blender in your container of warm water to avoid color transfer. Move between containers until the soap is slightly thinner than you think you want. Pour!
"...scramble it with a chopstick or a bamboo skewer..."

Love your choice of words, @dixiedragon ! I'll have to remember that one.
I don't understand as a beginner, why don't you just use other peoples recipes, there are literally hundreds of them online. Once you have made quite a few successful soaps and understand the process better then go onto trying your own recipes.
Just a thought, as it seems like diving in the deep end will end up with you giving up eventually
Just because a person follows someone else's recipe doesn't mean the soap making process will go smoothly or the soap will be good. Of all those online recipes, a large percentage are mediocre to awful. In the case of the OP's situation, the OP has adapted a recipe from a respected soap maker, so the OP isn't trying to make it up utterly from scratch. I don't think the recipe isn't causing the OP's difficulties, regardless of where the recipe comes from -- the trouble is more of a technique issue.
I agree with Sonya, I would also cut back on the FO and colors until you know what you are doing (dont mean to be mean, we all didnt know what we were doing our first batches!) and that you can get a grasp of how a normal process from emulsion to thick trace looks like and from there you can determine when to pour your FO and how much to mix your colors. I just think that you are making this more difficult for yourself, and harder and it really is not that hard, I promise, but you need to walk before you run!
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I'm still new at this but I have had no problems like this at all. I think you lye to water ratio is too strong. You said you're using 1 part lye to 1 part water?
Brambleberry calculator uses 1 part lye to 2.4 parts water for a 5% superfat recipe.
I could be wrong but my gut is saying you need more water ?
Re: lye concentration
I use a 33% now but I’ve used up to 40% with little issue - as long as I don’t over blend it. You can totally get away with a 50% solution, but the extra water will help thin the batter and give extra working time.
...I think you lye to water ratio is too strong. You said you're using 1 part lye to 1 part water?....

The OP is using a 35% lye concentration to make their soap. That's a reasonable lye concentration for this recipe. Even a 50% lye concentration would work, but I agree that the soap batch might be more tricky to make that way. But not impossible.

What I think is throwing you, Sonya, is the OP is using a different method than usual to make the lye solution. The OP first made a 50% NaOH solution and then added extra liquid to dilute the solution to a 35% concentration.

Many of us make masterbatched 50% NaOH solution ahead of time, enough to make multiple batches of soap. To use it to make a batch, you measure it out and add enough extra liquid to dilute the 50% concentration down to the concentration you want for the recipe. You can use any water-based liquid (beer, aloe, milk, etc.) as the extra liquid.

Read up on masterbatching lye -- there are many threads on SMF about this topic.
I have a theory. I am thinking that if her oils were 95 and this was a small batch, and palm has a melt temp of 95, I think her oils started to thicken up (false trace or the beginning of it), so she had to stick blend even more to blend in the colors. I do think next time you try, use just 1 color so maybe a white soap with a swirl of another color. I really struggle to get a smooth pour with 4 colors and I've been doing this a long time!

Is there a reason you used pomace vs grade a olive oil? I get mine from Costco and it's cheaper than any source of pomace in my area. Get the jug that says Olive Oil, not the one that says Virgin Olive Oil.
I still say go back to basics, make the Lye (no masterbatch as you might have made a mistake) and do a full water. Know what your recipe does First before you start to discount water.
Palm at RT WILL thicken faster, I can not do RT with my recipe because of that. But that may NOT be the full reason for your issues. You don't 'Know' your recipe in the basic form, how will you figure out what went wrong when you did 6 different things to it.

I am not trying to be mean here..... but you need to walk before you run.
After reading all of your thoughts and suggestions I am coming away with some mixed emotions.
Thank you to those of you who have been supportive and understanding of the excitement that sometimes can take over and make a person want to do it all right out of the gate. Clearly that was me. I appreciate you're patience and care in responding. I have new valuable information that I can learn from.
Being that this is a "beginner" forum, I hope that no one else goes away feeling dumb, especially from another "newbie's" response.
I realize now that I posted in two threads, by mistake- I thought I deleted it from the other one. Apparently I did not. Honest mistake. No need for caps.
All of this said, I get it. Go back to basics, observe, learn, take good notes and repeat. But for God sake, don't ask stupid questions!
@McLasz Ditto what amd said. I totally understand wanting to try it all right away. You should feel that you can ask any question here. That is so much better than making a mistake. I've been making soap for a little over three years, and the learning never stops. There is always something new to explore. And since you learned from 'trying it all' there is value in that as well, both to you and another ambitious newbie that may read this thread in the future. Plain soap is beautiful. If you really can't bring yourself to make an uncolored, unscented batch, the first thing I would add in is a fragrance - as long as you are certain you have one that behaves. There is a fragrance review board here, and many suppliers have soaping notes or reviews to read. Or you can start a thread in the fragrance section of the forum asking for recommendations, or listing what you have on hand. Your soapy journey is just beginning. I am sure you will be making great soap before long, but this will not be the only bump in the road. I had a major fail this week - it happens to everyone sometimes.

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