How to formulate great soap

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Ancel

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Lots and lots of trial and error, meticulous note taking, being a soapcalc fiend, and reading everything on the forum. Plus taking a long time in the shower :) plus enjoying getting it right and wanting to improve.

I found the single oil experiments, like the ones Zen and Alchemy and Ashes did to be very useful, and really doing small batches and testing and tweaking to refine what I liked. Sorry this isn't more concrete help. My personal favorite bars have lard and olive with coconut oil with a low % of castor or cacao butter. I am limited to which oils I can get, and this is my favorite from those I have access to, so others will be different. I also have soft water and live in a very humid, hot climate, so again that impacts what works for my soaps and my skin.

Good luck!


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lsg

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It takes a lot of research and trial and error to come up with a good soap recipe, even then, what might be a great soap recipe for you might not fit someone else.
 

neeners

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like everyone's said, trial and error, and sometimes the most simple of recipes are the best - hard part is giving the soap enough time to cure so it can get nice and hard.

also remember that soap is a very personal thing - what one would like would not be the same as what someone else would like. so start with a basic recipe, keep super detailed notes (even note how you feel when you're using the soap), and tweak as you go along. :)
 

MikeInPdx

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like everyone's said, trial and error, and sometimes the most simple of recipes are the best - hard part is giving the soap enough time to cure so it can get nice and hard.

also remember that soap is a very personal thing - what one would like would not be the same as what someone else would like. so start with a basic recipe, keep super detailed notes (even note how you feel when you're using the soap), and tweak as you go along. :)
This...in astronomical units...especially the simplicity and curing time. :)
 

judymoody

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It depends what you want. For example, I use different recipes for me and for my husband. He likes a high cleansing bar, I prefer a more conditioning bar with higher superfat.

In general, I try to get decent lather (mid to high 20s for bubbly and creamy on soapcalc) and conditioning numbers above 50 and then my skin is happy. There are many ways to achieve these numbers and, of course, there is a kind of synergy among the oils that lye calculators can't really predict.

So the bottom line is experiment, experiment, experiment. I will add that in my experience, you don't need to use a lot of luxury oils to make great soap. Lard, tallow, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, etc. are relatively low cost and easily obtainable and perform really well.
 

maloga3

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yep, that's a great point...the soapcalc doesn't tell you how fast soap will seize or how the recipe works in reality...so use small batches and see what ingredients/methods work best...
 

Obsidian

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I've made 30+ batches in the last 4 months and my best recipe was kind of a accident. I wanted a decent recipe to use with a color experiment, not planning on ever using the recipe again. I used what I had on hand, the soapcalc numbers aren't what I normally like but I went with it.

Had some testers try out a few of my soaps and my little "experiment" batch got the best ratings. Nothing fancy in it at all, no exotic oils or additives. I can get everything for it from the grocery store except palm kernel oil.

I've been using it for the last couple days and I'm surprised that I really like it. I though a cleansing number if 15 would be too high for me. Its a great base recipe for the local water supply and I can always add goodies to it if I want something special.
 

Paintguru

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I'm going to differ slightly from everyone here. In my opinion, there are tons of "good" soap recipes out there. I think anything is better than store bought detergent bars, so just doing a real soap recipe gets you 95% to that good/great bar of soap. To me, the changes you get from modifications to a recipe are pretty minor, assuming you have a reasonable balance of oils. I've made a number of versions of soap and I can't say I've noticed significant differences between one set vs. the other (palm vs. lard, 10% Castor vs. 5%, higher coconut % vs. lower). I just don't think 5% changes in oil concentration really make much difference. The biggest difference I've seen is with salt bars vs. standard soap bars. Beyond that, I would stop sweating the small stuff and just do a recipe with reasonable levels of CO, PO/Lard, OO, and maybe one, fun exotic oil if you really want to go crazy.
 

savonierre

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If you seriously want to make a great bar of soap, it will take time, money and trial and error. It doesn't have to have luxury oils or butters, it took me nearly 2 years to find "my perfect soap recipe', that doesn't mean that it is everyone else's idea of perfection, it works for me and my customer base.
 

Ruthie

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And keep an open mind. I worked and tweaked and had a recipe I've pretty much been sticking with for nearly a year. Now I'm changing it up a bit. Plan on sticking to my "new" recipe for a long time, but we'll see!!
 

Moody Glenn

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Hello! All great advice. The problem I encountered after making my several "great, outstanding recipes" was deciding which one really was greatest of them all. For me, determining which soap recipe was better I concentrated upon lather or bubble production. Which recipe had better bubbly lather. I eventually decided to subject each sample of a recipe to the worst possible conditions to make lather. I decided to wash my hands using very cold, hard water. I tried about 10 or so recipes after several weeks cure time. Some would not lather too much or not at all so I immediately eliminated them. One recipe proved superior over the rest. It provided lots of lather so I figured if it lathers well in cold, hard water it should do so even more in very warm, soft water - and it does so with superior results. I knew then it was my 'keeper' recipe. So my advise is to be brave and subject your different recipes to bad washing conditions. If one does better than the rest - use it and later tweak it to see if you can improve it.
 

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