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Horrible smells from lye water infusions...sometimes!

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Cereal

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Hello,

I’ve been making liquid and solid soaps for a few months and really appreciate this very helpful forum!

So far lots of fun and no big problems, but I’d appreciate any insight to my current issue.

The last two times I tried to infuse the lye water (green jasmine tea, and today chamomile), I got such horrendously bad smells that I chucked the lye water and abandoned the infusion. But...I’ve done it before with no problems at all! I’m not sure what is going on.

I previously successfully infused the lye water with dried calendula flower (twice) and chamomile: no problem. I’ve used cooled chamomile tea, no problem. I made lye solution with frozen cubes of goats milk: no problem.

A week ago I tried to use cooled green jasmine tea for lye solution, and it instantly tuned black and had a horrible burnt smell, like someone put out a fire by peeing on it (camp memories, I guess...but not nice). Tried again with ice cubes of steeped tea: same result. Tried just chucking the tea in the hot lye water, which was 80• C, the exact right temp for making Chinese tea...same result! Abandoned it.

Today I used steeped, fully frozen chamomile tea...it didn’t turn black, but medium brown, and stank to high heaven. Last time I did it (about three weeks ago) with just cooled chamomile tea, no bad smell!

I have read that some ingredients, like beer, can create an ammonia smell that goes away during cure. I doubt the bunt tea smell will go away (plus...it would make horrible colored soap). Maybe the chamomile smell would?

I’m using the same lye in each case (which is from a chemical supply firm, and not clumpy), and always distilled water.

Any ideas what might be happening and how I can avoid the nasty smells (or, reassurance they will go away during cure?). I like to use my own oil and water infusions for herbs, and not rely only on essential pils for fragrance (also this way gets the benefits of the herbs themselves, not just smell).

Thanks for any tips or ideas!
 

lsg

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I usually infuse my oils and not the water.
 

Dawni

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I like to use my own oil and water infusions for herbs, and not rely only on essential pils for fragrance (also this way gets the benefits of the herbs themselves, not just smell).

Thanks for any tips or ideas!
No one's entirely sure how much benefits of those herbs actually are retained in an oil infusion after the high temps of soap making.

I expect how much after a lye infusion would also be questionable since it tends to get very, very hot. I would expect the same for scent..

Do your fully cured soaps retain the scent of your infusions?
 
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shunt2011

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I to generally infuse my oils. Many things like tea's will turn brown when in contact with lye. Also, no botanical added to the soap is going to leave any scent. You have to use either EO or FO for scenting.
 

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Have you tried using the split water method? Use just over half of the water to make the lye solution and then measure out the remaining water as cooled tea. Add the tea to the oils and SB well and then add the lye water to the oils and proceed from there. There are compounds in tea that are very fragile and they very likely won’t survive saponification, but research suggests that some compounds in plants (e.g. phenolics) do make it through saponification. An example is ROE, Rosemary oleoresin, which is used as an antioxidant in soap. Some teas are high in phenolics as well, so they might make it through. The natural color pigments and fragrances in tea are very finicky. If you’re going for color you will want to read more about that on the forum (search hibiscus, matcha tea, spirulina, etc.), which may also give you some leads to threads on how soap making affects (mostly destroys) the aroma of plant materials.
 

Cereal

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Hi Dawni,

yes, both the chamomile and calendula soaps I have made smell basically the same as before mixing and curing...but I infuse the oils also, and It might very well be due to the infused oils.

Thanks very much for all the responses!

I do also infuse my oils. I was trying to do both, on the theory that some elements of the scent etc would be water soluble rather than fat soluble (tea, for example). But I’m fine just doing the oils! Easier for sure.

Thanks, Mobjack Bay, I will check out posts!

I’m actually not that concerned with color-whatever color the soap ends up naturally is fine with me as long as it’s not offputting. That may change later!
 
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Dawni

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Hi Dawni,

yes, both the chamomile and calendula soaps I have made smell basically the same as before mixing and curing...but I infuse the oils also, and It might very well be due to the infused oils.
Or maybe it's a combined effort? Haha.. I've soaped with both oil infusions and I get no smell off them whatsoever. Have not tried lye infusions though..

I do also infuse my oils. I was trying to do both, on the theory that some elements of the scent etc would be water soluble rather than fat soluble (tea, for example).
That sounds like a good experiment hehehe
 

Cereal

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What seems to work is a combination of heated infusion (the infusing jar or bottle a couple hours on low heat in a water bath) and then letting it sit for a couple weeks. The chamomile infusion is really nice, a much softer, warmer smell than chamomile essential oil, still quite present in the soap four weeks later. (How long it will last after that, we will see!).

I’ll try tea next, since it seems the water infusion isn’t really worth it. Dual method would mean such a small amount also.

Thanks again for the input!
 

Nona'sFarm

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What seems to work is a combination of heated infusion (the infusing jar or bottle a couple hours on low heat in a water bath) and then letting it sit for a couple weeks. The chamomile infusion is really nice, a much softer, warmer smell than chamomile essential oil, still quite present in the soap four weeks later. (How long it will last after that, we will see!).

I’ll try tea next, since it seems the water infusion isn’t really worth it. Dual method would mean such a small amount also.

Thanks again for the input!
I have used green tea for my liquid and used an ice bath to keep the lye mixture less than 100 F. It takes a long time to dissolve the lye this way, can only add a little at a time, but it didn't burn.
 

Cereal

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Thanks, Susan! I will try it. I’ve done ice baths (like for goat’s milk and other things) but the lye solution itself was almost surely above 100F when I added my delicate ingredients. I foolishly thought, with the tea, that 80C would be fine since that’s the right temp for making actual tea...though of course that’s plain water.

I will be more patient next time!

(Also, I have Gwathmeys in my family. Possibly a random distant relation soap coincidence!)
 

KiwiMoose

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Hi Cereal, I've made soap using brewed chamomile tea as the water for my lye solution, beer, ginger beer, champagne, apple cider, brewed coffee and oat milk. The stinkiest by far was the beer, followed a close second by the champagne. Both odors lasted about 5-6 weeks into the cure and then went away. However, I do use fragrance oils in my soap, and over time, the stinky smell goes away and the FO shines though.
 

Cereal

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thanks for the info...I now want to try oat milk soap. There is this chocolate oat milk that my kids love...might make a nice soap!

two days ago I made goats’ milk soap again, using the exact same method as the first time (first dissolving the lye, mostly, in 230g water, then cooling it off, then adding 250g frozen goats’ milk, mixing in ice bath). The first time I did that the mixture turned light brown, but did not smell bad at all (and the soap, several weeks into cure, smells fine). This time the mixture stayed a light creamy color...but smelled of ammonia! It’s still in the mold but now smells only like the essential oils I added. Ammonia smell is either gone or totally masked.

it seems like there are hidden variables at work! Mysteries of life...
 
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