Is mixing micas for cold process soap disfavored?

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Well-Known Member
Apr 10, 2023
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Seattle, Washington
New question: Is mixing micas for cold process soap disfavored?

For the first year of my soapmaking life, I only did Melt & Pour (I know... that's not really soapmaking... ). In M&P, it's pretty standard to mix your micas in alcohol. I understand that the alcohol just evaporates off in melt & pour.
All the videos I watch mix micas for cold process soap in oil. They say, "use your favorite carrier oil" or "take a bit of oil from your recipe to premix the mica." I haven't done this because I've been uncertain how this will effect the recipe if I add additional oil for my mica mix, or, because sometimes, if it looks like the soap is a dark of a color as I want, I just throw away the rest of what I mixed. But, I wouldn't want to throw away the oil that is part of my recipe.
So, my question is: Is it okay to use alcohol (91%) to mix my micas? Is there some amount of alcohol that would have a bad effect on my recipe. So, for example, I mix my Titanium Dioxide in water. I try to use as little water as possible since I know that more water can make a difference (i.e. longer time to unmold or cure, etc.) I read something that said that if your soap got a crack in the top, you may have sprayed too much alcohol on top. Purportedly, if the top is dry and the middle is still going through changes, it will cause the dry top to crack. I also read that alcohol will cause acceleration so if you are trying to do swirls, using alcohol is not optimal.
I'd like to keep using alcohol unless that's just not the best practice. But since I hope to make a soap for the challenge, I want TIME to do my hanger swirl!
So, if I should switch to mixing my micas in oil, what oil should I use and how should I calculate this in my recipe? is there a "carrier oil" that is the best to use?
Thanks in advance for comments or suggestions!
@AliOop, thanks. I just watched that video. She didn't really say HOW MUCH oil to use to mix up the mica. She just dumped a bunch of oil into a bowl over the micas to demonstrate how to mix the mica and oils. I do have TWO little milk frothers I bought. I have only used ONE to mix the T.D. with water. But, sounds like that a good tool for mixing oils and mica and other oxides.
It sounds like if you use oil, that contributes to the superfat, unless you use the oil from your recipe?
If you were to use 1/4 teaspoon of mica, how much oil would you use for mixing?
Do you take that from your recipe, or do you just use your "favorite carrier oil?"

Even though I've used alcohol to mix my micas with all CP soap I've made, I've only had my soap accelerate (like what I think of as "seizing" twice that I can think of.
One was my first batch of soap I made. I'm pretty sure it's because it had almost no water. It had 19% of water as % of oil weight (I learned this after the fact from this soap forum...) The second time was using a Redwood fragrance by Crafter's Choice.
I don't think it was the alcohol I used either time. But, I always feel like I am working super, super fast so that I can finish pouring the different colors before trace gets to thick. I thought maybe it had to do with the small batches I make. But, maybe its been the alcohol in the micas that is moving things along so fast. Well, I'll try oil this weekend.
Not @AliOop , but thought I'd chime in. I mix 1 teaspoon of mica or pigment to 1 tablespoon of oil. I use refined olive oil, but some folks use sweet almond oil. I mix this thoroughly. When adding to soap batter, I just add a little at a time until I get the color I want.
I keep pre-mixed colorant in the fridge in small bottles. When I'm getting ready to soap, I pull them out, microwave them for a second or two to liquify the oil completely and stir well. I've started using SF %s of 2-3%, so I don't worry too much about the added oil.
^^ What @Nona'sFarm said. If you use a low SF, you really don't need to worry about another Tbsp of oil in a standard loaf recipe (about 900 grams). Any light oil will do. I don't usually measure it. Sometimes I take it from my oils, in which case, I just put the oil and mica in the bottom of the container I intend to use for that color, and mix it in that. That way, I can pour my soap right into it, and know that there is no waste and no loss of batch oils.

I have used glycerin at times rather than oil, but it's quite expensive now, as well. I haven't tried Nona's idea of pre-mixing and then storing in the fridge. Sounds brilliant!
Some people just add dry mica powder and stick blend it into the soap batter. I have done this occasionally, but I prefer to disperse my mica in oil (usually HO sunflower). I don't take this from my batch oil, but I use a low superfat and don't worry about it. I use the disposable condiment cups to do this, which come with a cover, for times I don't use all the mica, and can be washed to be reused. You will get a 'feel' for how much mica you need to use after awhile - I find that I need far less than is often recommended and don't measure my amounts. I use a craft stick (acrylic, also for the ability to clean and reuse) to get the mica into the cup I will use to disperse it and add just enough oil to make a fairly fluid mixture. If I had to guess, it's a little more oil than mica - maybe 1.5 parts oil to 1 part mica.
I am one of those who just add dry mica to soap batter and stick blend. The key is to make sure the mica isn't added to too much liquid soap batter. If there is too much liquid it will make it much more difficult to fully dissolve the mica which can result in spots/streaks of color. If I want color only in a swirl, I just pour off the batter for the swirl in a small measuring cup and SB (or whisk) the dry mica. If I want to add color to a large pot I also pour off a small amount in a measuring cup, color, and then add back to the pot.
Thank you to everyone for your responses.
I didn't look at the forum again after my last email to AliOop. It seems alot of members are on the east coast and I figured everyone would go to bed. I wanted to get started so thought I'd just buck up and take a chance on how much oil. I would say what I did was closest to what @dibbles does. I only used 1/8 tsp of mica for each color in my swirl. I added only enough oil (from the batter I set aside for that color of the swirl) to cover the mica. I was amazed at how easily and quickly the mica dissolved in the oil. Since it sat there awhile, the oil seemed to really absorb the oil and get thicker, I just added a little more oil (from it's portion of the batter). But, it wasn't drying up like alcohol does. @lucycat , I have enough problems just trying to stay ahead of my batter getting to thick, so I use the stick blender pretty sparingly. I just used a chopstick to mix it around a little at a time. The mica went into the batter and dispersed really evenly- it was a very exciting discovery! @Nona'sFarm , I like your practice of mixing some in small bottles and just taking it out when needed. I may try that. I seem to always spill some closing or opening the lids on the jars, or worse if it comes in a bag. So, working with pre-mixed oil sounds pretty appealing!
Thanks again!