Is It the Soap? Or the Soap User?

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MellonFriend

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I have a very large family for whom I make soap. Our outdoor and farming lifestyle makes for lots of handwashing, and I have striven to make a bar of soap that can stand up to the demands of nearly constant use. At the beginning I struggled to make a bar that would not turn into a gross mushy mess when frequently used, but yet isn't too drying on our hands. I think I've hit on a winner that balances both worlds nicely, but I still experience some telltale mushiness at certain high traffic sinks or at the sinks of those who have the following habits. I've noticed something. Some of my family members when washing their hands, turn on the sink, pick up the soap, and then proceed to run the whole bar underwater in order to suds up their hands. I quite frankly find that this is the culprit of soap mushiness. I, on the other hand, turn the sink on, wet my hands, pick up the bar of soap, rub some off my hands, and then set the soap back down, lather up with what I have on my hands, and rinse. I don't see why we have to run the whole bar under the water, and I think it has to waste a considerable amount soap since the water must be washing unnecessary amounts of it down the drain, never having a chance to clean anything. Not only that, but the bar of soap is now mercilessly soaked and has by no means any time to dry out before being treated to a similar fate when the next user requires clean hands.

All of the soap lives the high and dry lifestyle on appropriate soap dishes, but that does not seem to be enough to avert mushiness. Am I wrong for requesting my family not subject my soap to such treatment? Am I a minority in how I go about using bar soap? Should my soap recipe be such that it should be able to handle such relentless wetness?
 
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Zany_in_CO

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All of the soap lives the high and dry lifestyle on appropriate soap dishes,
:thumbs:
that does not seem to be enough to avert mushiness.
🤔 Hmm. Are you curing a good long time? Care to share your recipe for input?
Am I wrong for requesting my family not subject my soap to such treatment?
No. But I know for sure I can't tell my family how to wash their hands. :rolleyes:
Am I a minority in how I go about using bar soap?
We can take a poll... I thought about it. I do it the way you do. But, of course, I'm OCD about saving water.

Should my soap recipe be such that it should be able to handle such relentless wetness?
This is just me. My bars don't get mushy. But neither do they undergo the treatment you describe. So, unfortunately, you may need to rethink your formula to respond to your family's method. OR...
Some of my family members when washing their hands, turn on the sink, pick up the soap, and then proceed to run the whole bar underwater in order to suds up their hands. I quite frankly find that this is the culprit of soap mushiness.
... Liquid Soap in a commercial type wall-mount dispenser comes to mind.
 

Marsi

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I recently made a soap that was very high in saturated fat (60%).
This soap can withstand the treatment you are talking about (I test in terrible places, this one can stand up to sitting on a soggy cloth between washes!).

The downside to modifying the soap to suit the washer in this way is that once the soap is this hard, it gets brittle and will break instead of bending when it gets small and thin. I used sugars (honey) to modify the brittleness, so it is slightly less brittle than a similar bar without sugars.

Asking people to wash to suit the soap doesn't usually work, in my experience.
 

MellonFriend

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🤔 Hmm. Are you curing a good long time? Care to share your recipe for input?
Bars are generally cured for at least six weeks, but often longer. My longer cured bars have less of a problem with this, but not so much that that would solve everything.

My recipe:
Lard 50%
Shea Butter 16%
Coconut Oil 11%
Sweet Almond 10%
Castor Oil 7%
Olive Oil 6%

33% lye concentration
3% superfat

... Liquid Soap in a commercial type wall-mount dispenser comes to mind.
I'm pretty sure that would suck all the fun for me out of creating soap. 😅 I like pretty designs and textures and glitter and such.
 
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MellonFriend

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I recently made a soap that was very high in saturated fat (60%).
This soap can withstand the treatment you are talking about (I test in terrible places, this one can stand up to sitting on a soggy cloth between washes!).

The downside to modifying the soap to suit the washer in this way is that once the soap is this hard, it gets brittle and will break instead of bending when it gets small and thin. I used sugars (honey) to modify the brittleness, so it is slightly less brittle than a similar bar without sugars.

Asking people to wash to suit the soap doesn't usually work, in my experience.
So, upping my saturated fats. How would one go about that per say? 🤔
 

Marsi

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Replace some of the higher oleic acid containing fats and oils with more hard fats (unfortunately, this reformulation would mean more testing until you are satisfied with the result).

I used pure hydrogenated soy wax (it's Kiwi's fault ;)) ... but tallow (the hard kidney fat part) and cocoa butter would work in the same way.
Stearic acid would also work, but it's trickier to use.

Swap the hard fats for the olive oil (entirely) and I would suggest reducing the shea butter and almond to swap out some more (although almond oil is lovely in soap, it does cause the soap to go soft if it sits in water).
If you decide to use tallow, tallow and lard work very well together (lard itself is also high in oleic acid, which is the one that gets goopy in water, so some of the lard can be swapped out for tallow).
Lowering the castor oil to 3-5% will slightly harden the soap also.

60% (60/40 saturated to unsaturated ratio) is probably way too high - aim for around 50/50 (or 55/45 if you are feeling adventurous - this might get you close). Your current recipe is 41/59, which makes a nice soap but has issues of softness when left to soak in water, as you noticed.

Adding salt can also work, but would require a longer cure and a different type of reformulation.
Adding waxes can also work (by decreasing solubility), but too much and the bar will not feel very nice or lather very well.
 
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@MellonFriend , your family is so fortunate to have you! I'll weigh in on the soap users. Friend, I will say this gently and with affection and totally understanding the concern for the soaps you've worked so hard on: Let. It. Go. Focus on what you can and cannot control. Tweak your recipe, but advising others on how they wash their hands would just not go over well (at least in my family). I, too, put the whole bar under running water.

And I'll plug @earlene 's blacksmith soap. As a dirty, dirty gardener, I love it! I use my own basic recipe but with her instructions on borax. Before using my gardener's soap, I'd have to scrub my hands raw with a brush for them to get clean. Now my hands get clean much quicker and with lots less brushing.

Good luck!
 
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I have a very large family for whom I make soap. Our outdoor and farming lifestyle makes for lots of handwashing, and I have striven to make a bar of soap that can stand up to the demands of nearly constant use. At the beginning I struggled to make a bar that would not turn into a gross mushy mess when frequently used, but yet isn't too drying on our hands. I think I've hit on a winner that balances both worlds nicely, but I still experience some telltale mushiness at certain high traffic sinks or at the sinks of those who have the following habits. I've noticed something. Some of my family members when washing their hands, turn on the sink, pick up the soap, and then proceed to run the whole bar underwater in order to suds up their hands. I quite frankly find that this is the culprit of soap mushiness. I, on the other hand, turn the sink on, wet my hands, pick up the bar of soap, rub some off my hands, and then set the soap back down, lather up with what I have on my hands, and rinse. I don't see why we have to run the whole bar under the water, and I think it has to waste a considerable amount soap since the water must be washing unnecessary amounts of it down the drain, never having a chance to clean anything. Not only that, but the bar of soap is now mercilessly soaked and has by no means any time to dry out before being treated to a similar fate when the next user requires clean hands.

All of the soap lives the high and dry lifestyle on appropriate soap dishes, but that does not seem to be enough to avert mushiness. Am I wrong for requesting my family not subject my soap to such treatment? Am I a minority in how I go about using bar soap? Should my soap recipe be such that it should be able to handle such relentless wetness?
I have to say that when my hands get really dirty (like helping my hubby with mud, cement, under son’s cabin) i do what your family does…run soap under water until my hands are no longer giving off the black dirt. Then i do what you do. But unlike your family my dirt is few and far between.
 

MellonFriend

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Replace some of the higher oleic acid containing fats and oils with more hard fats (unfortunately, this reformulation would mean more testing until you are satisfied with the result).

I used pure hydrogenated soy wax (it's Kiwi's fault ;)) ... but tallow (the hard kidney fat part) and cocoa butter would work in the same way.
Stearic acid would also work, but it's trickier to use.

Swap the hard fats for the olive oil (entirely) and I would suggest reducing the shea butter and almond to swap out some more (although almond oil is lovely in soap, it does cause the soap to go soft if it sits in water).
If you decide to use tallow, tallow and lard work very well together (lard itself is also high in oleic acid, which is the one that gets goopy in water, so some of the lard can be swapped out for tallow).
Lowering the castor oil to 3-5% will slightly harden the soap also.

60% (60/40 saturated to unsaturated ratio) is probably way too high - aim for around 50/50 (or 55/45 if you are feeling adventurous - this might get you close). Your current recipe is 41/59, which makes a nice soap but has issues of softness when left to soak in water, as you noticed.

Adding salt can also work, but would require a longer cure and a different type of reformulation.
Adding waxes can also work (by decreasing solubility), but too much and the bar will not feel very nice or lather very well.
Thanks, @Marsi for the suggestions! I'm okay with reformulating and testing more recipes. I enjoy that part of my "job". I'll try some of the thing you pointed out and see what works and what we like. I have long considered removing the olive oil and sweet almond, but I never would have thought to reduce the shea.

@MellonFriend , your family is so fortunate to have you! I'll weigh in on the soap users. Friend, I will say this gently and with affection and totally understanding the concern for the soaps you've worked so hard on: Let. It. Go. Focus on what you can and cannot control. Tweak your recipe, but advising others on how they wash their hands would just not go over well (at least in my family). I, too, put the whole bar under running water.

And I'll plug @earlene 's blacksmith soap. As a dirty, dirty gardener, I love it! I use my own basic recipe but with her instructions on borax. Before using my gardener's soap, I'd have to scrub my hands raw with a brush for them to get clean. Now my hands get clean much quicker and with lots less brushing.

Good luck!
Thank you, @Zing. 😊 Another reason for asking this question is that I am considering selling, so I certainly couldn't tell my buyers how to wash their hands. 😅

I'm not sure at this stage I really need to try the blacksmith soap. It's not like we experience extreme dirt, but it's just the need to frequently wash our hands.
 

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