Lye Solutions, Concentrations, Dilutions, and Ratios

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Kimimarie84

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Maybe some of y’all saw that I posted a couple of my soaps this morning, mentioning some issues I had with the soap volcano-ing on me.

I ended up also posting the soap within a Facebook group for the fragrance oil company from where I bought the oils. I used a fragrance oil called Cocoa Butter Cashmere, and I was hoping for some feedback from others who had specifically used that fragrance oil. I asked if anyone else had an experience the same as mine, and after several people commented, I determined my problem was that fragrance tends to discolor and accelerate the soap, and given that it’s goat milk soap and I was slow to move the soap into the fridge to keep the soap cool, this is what led to my soap bubbling up and turning a darker shade than I’d anticipated. So, it was just 100% user error on my part. I thanked everyone for their advice and encouragement.

And then someone in the comment thread asked about my liquid to lye ratio, and I told her I used the default settings from SoapCalc for lye, and because I’m not super comfortable with water discounts and that type of thing yet, I don’t mess with those calculations.
She suggested that I change my ratio to 2:1 or 1.8:1 in order to stop my soap from volcano-ing, and she said the reason was because more liquid creates the possibility for “more chemical reaction,” that more liquid increases the potential for volcano effects, and that adding more water doesn’t dilute the solution. So I was intrigued by that, and I’m not saying that ratio is bad, but
she said some contradictory things within the thread, like how she always forces gel phase, but also that when she used the same fragrance oil I used that she didn’t notice any heat in the batter. How could she not notice heat in the soap if she forces gel?
She wasn’t making much sense to me, so I didn’t want to trust her blindly without double checking her advice. I wanted clarification.

So I went to do a quick search on lye and water, and I found an article stating the exact opposite of what she had said. I told her what I’d read, essentially asking her to explain further what she meant, and instead she got belligerent and started mocking me, saying, “Good luck with that” and told me to “go talk to the professionals on soap making forums and not her, because ‘clearly’ she isn’t one.”

Based on my research, it would seem that adding more liquid to my lye would dilute the lye solution, helping to slow the oils, which could be helpful when using a fragrance oil that accelerates, in the event I want to do more designs and colors. But I could be wrong. I really do want to understand all the chemistry behind soap making, so any words of wisdom would be helpful.

I never got a clear answer about that, because after she was rude, she blocked me, and I couldn’t reply anymore.

So, all that to say, I’m looking for some clarification on lye solutions, liquid to lye ratio, and ways to prevent acceleration with certain oils known for it. Also, was she right? I mean, maybe she was right about her being able to use a 1.8:1 liquid to lye ratio, but she didn’t explain it well, and she said that adding more water isn’t a dilution, and that just didn’t sound right to me.

If someone may be able to shed some light on this and answer my questions within this long, convoluted story, I’d really appreciate it. Just trying to make heads or tails of her advice.
 
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I found this blog article very helpful at explaining water discount and concentration. It is lengthy but thorough.
As far as your soap, was your goat milk frozen? Did you keep your soap batter relatively cool? (Inside a bucket with ice) I don’t remember the exact temperature now but I have read (at soap queen’s blog) that if goat milk soap goes above a certain temperature, it will turn darker.
Anytime I make goat milk soap my batter accelerates, but it is probably a combination of the honey and oatmeal powder as well.
As far as the higher water amount causing it to trace slower, in theory it makes sense, it is even explained so in the article link above. I myself however, have experienced differently and so have other people in practice, but it has to be somewhat specific concentration percentages (40% lye concentration for me). This is discussed here, among other threads. I believe the theoretical explanation is that there is a smaller amount of water interacting with the oils, so it takes longer for the lye in that water to reach all of the oil molecules.
 

Kimimarie84

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I found this blog article very helpful at explaining water discount and concentration. It is lengthy but thorough.
As far as your soap, was your goat milk frozen? Did you keep your soap batter relatively cool? (Inside a bucket with ice) I don’t remember the exact temperature now but I have read (at soap queen’s blog) that if goat milk soap goes above a certain temperature, it will turn darker.
Anytime I make goat milk soap my batter accelerates, but it is probably a combination of the honey and oatmeal powder as well.
As far as the higher water amount causing it to trace slower, in theory it makes sense, it is even explained so in the article link above. I myself however, have experienced differently and so have other people in practice, but it has to be somewhat specific concentration percentages (40% lye concentration for me). This is discussed here, among other threads. I believe the theoretical explanation is that there is a smaller amount of water interacting with the oils, so it takes longer for the lye in that water to reach all of the oil molecules.
Thank you for your response! I appreciate it. I will definitely read the article you linked.

I do soap with frozen goat milk, and I put the oils on top of ice/in the fridge to bring temperatures down. I try to soap with the oils and lye solution as close to each other as I possibly can without allowing the oils to go back to a solid state. But even if I have had hotter oils, I’ve never run into the bubbling over problem except with this Cashmere fragrance oil. And I always use goat milk, and I often add honey and beeswax to the recipes as well.
The soap didn’t even accelerate in the bowl. It actually behaved quite well for me the whole time I was working with it, and it was only at a thin to medium trace when I poured it into the mold. I thought it was going really well.

I’ve finally gotten to a point where I can add the lye to the frozen milk and keep the lye a creamy off-white to white color. I’ve made other soaps with the exact same recipe and oil temps, lye solution temp, etc… and all have worked out great. The only variation to anything I’ve done has been that FO and that I was slower to get the soap into the fridge than I usually am. I’ve been using this recipe for over a year now, so I’m not convinced it’s the recipe, the milk, the lye solution, or the liquid:NaOH ratio.

I’m chalking up the bubbling, at this point, to my own error - mainly of not getting the soap cold enough, quickly enough.

I have found in my own soap-making that often times there’s the “rule,” and then there’s the practical application thereof, so I’m not trying to discredit what that person said. If she has been making soap for as long as she said, then she certainly has more experience than I do; what was offputting to me was her rudeness, mostly, but also the fact that she couldn’t/wouldn’t back up anything she was saying with a practical lesson/example, or science, and she was contradicting herself every time she replied to me. When I questioned her for clarification, she got snarky and said the whole, “Yeah, good luck with that” thing. It was just unnecessarily rude, so why did she even feel the need to comment if she wasn’t going to be helpful?
She stood behind her experience without actually being helpful or trying to teach anything. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel that if she were correct, she’d have had more fact-based evidence and could have spoken more eloquently about why she soaps the way she does, and even without scientific theories or proof, she could have been kind and tried to be helpful, rather than just being rude and blocking me. Her entire reason for commenting on my thread seemed to be with the intent to talk down to me and elevate herself. And that caused me to wonder if she even knew what she was talking about at all.

So I figured I would consult the people I know to be experts, who always so willingly explain the science, their experiences, include links, and if nothing else, are willing to chalk up a bad experience to an environmental factor or a badly behaving additive, rather than assuming the soap maker is an idiot.

Heat and humidity in the environment could have easily played a part, as I live in Alabama, where the humidity has been outrageous this summer. Given that the area where I left my soap without putting it into the fridge was around 90°, I’m going to assume that was my major mistake in “helping” the soap bubble up. I think it just got too hot in the loaf. I could be wrong, but that’s my theory.

All other aspects of my recipe being the same as in the past, the only differences were the FO and the fact that I forgot about the soap and left it in the garage at 90° before putting it into the fridge to cool down.

Anyway, thank you for responding. I’m about to read the article you linked. Thanks again!
 

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"...She suggested that I change my ratio to 2:1 or 1.8:1 in order to stop my soap from volcano-ing, and she said the reason was because more liquid creates the possibility for “more chemical reaction,” that more liquid increases the potential for volcano effects, and that adding more water doesn’t dilute the solution...."

A good teacher should be able to explain the science behind their advice, although sometimes the student gets more than they bargained for when they ask for the detailed background. :)

Anyways, I agree with the other person's implied suggestion to get away from the default of "water as % of oils" and start using lye concentration or water:lye ratio. You'll get more consistency in your soap making if you do that.

A water:lye ratio of 2 (or 2:1) is a 33% lye concentration and a water:lye ratio of 1.8 is a lye concentration of 36%. Either one is a safe, middle of the road choice and there's no reason to fear using lye concentrations in this range just because you're a beginner.

I know there's a lot of advice out there that "water discounts" are for experienced soap makers, but that's a bunch of hooey. I explain more here: Lye conc vs water:lye ratio | Soapy Stuff and here: Water in soap | Soapy Stuff

A water:lye ratio of 2 or 1.8 will generally cause the recipe to contain LESS water than the default setting of 38% water as % of oils. Since the two ways of defining water aren't mathematically the same, however, I'm not 100% certain this is the case with your particular recipe, but this trend is generally true.

A soap volcano (batter rapidly expanding and possibly overflowing the mold) is the result of a rapid temperature rise that causes the water in the batter to turn into steam. The steam cannot escape freely due to the batter being thick and viscous, so the steam instead causes the batter to expand in volume, much like how a cake rises in the oven. Sometimes the soap merely expands slightly, which can cause cracks in the top of the loaf. Other times the soap expands a lot, leading to a volcano.

I can't say I've ever seen anyone else advocate using less water as a sure thing to prevent volcanoes. It's not advice I'd offer, because, regardless of the lye concentration, there's always going to be plenty of water in soap batter. That means there's always the potential for that water to turn into steam and cause a volcano given the right circumstances.

Soap batter doesn't volcano unless there are factors that trigger this rapid over heating and expansion. Some variables to manage to prevent overheating -- controlling the sugar content, keeping the starting temperature of the batter sufficiently cool, and being cautious when using accelerants. I don't know what your soap batter temp was, but the use of honey, milk, and an accelerating fragrance certainly contributed to your problem with this batch.

As far as using more or less water to manage the rate of reaction, I think there might be some truth to that within the typical range of lye concentrations -- 28% to 40% -- that most soap makers use. Soap high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids tend to do better if the soap maker uses a higher lye concentration (less water), all other things being equal. Soap high in lauric and myristic acids, often does better with a lower lye concentration (more water), again all other things being equal. But I also know, like Glendam does, that lye concentrations above 40% can paradoxically slow the rate of reaction, so this rule of thumb isn't a universal truth.
 

Kimimarie84

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I found this blog article very helpful at explaining water discount and concentration. It is lengthy but thorough.
As far as your soap, was your goat milk frozen? Did you keep your soap batter relatively cool? (Inside a bucket with ice) I don’t remember the exact temperature now but I have read (at soap queen’s blog) that if goat milk soap goes above a certain temperature, it will turn darker.
Anytime I make goat milk soap my batter accelerates, but it is probably a combination of the honey and oatmeal powder as well.
As far as the higher water amount causing it to trace slower, in theory it makes sense, it is even explained so in the article link above. I myself however, have experienced differently and so have other people in practice, but it has to be somewhat specific concentration percentages (40% lye concentration for me). This is discussed here, among other threads. I believe the theoretical explanation is that there is a smaller amount of water interacting with the oils, so it takes longer for the lye in that water to reach all of the oil molecules.

In the part of the article where it discusses olive oil vs coconut oil, and the article is comparing the way they trace with the same percentage of water based off weight of oils: wouldn’t a 100% OO soap trace differently than a 100% CO soap, regardless of water being a percentage of oil, just based off the fact that they’re two different oils with different saturated and unsaturated fat compositions? I feel like to really compare trace, lye concentration, and water as a percentage of oils, the article would need to compare apples to apples, rather than apples to oranges. Has anyone tried the exact same recipe on the same day and soaped with different lye concentrations to see if they behave any differently? I don’t quite understand the science behind comparing two different oils in soaps and say they’re behaving differently because of the lye concentrations when that’s not the only factor at play here that could contribute to them tracing and curing differently. Isn’t OO a slow moving oil anyway? I feel the example listed after that of a 15% lye solution is extreme. Is anyone choosing to use less water than lye when that would render the lye ineffective in soap to begin with? I don’t know that the example of that was really helpful in trying to teach a beginning about the usefulness of lye concentration vs water as a percentage of oils. It seems a bit problematic to me, but maybe I’m not understanding fully.
Really trying to wrap my head around this.

With all of these lye concentrations vs percentage of oil, if I’m understanding everything correctly, water affects how fast a soap traces and cures, because more water needs to evaporate, which takes longer, and it would seem that more water creates a more dilute solution, giving more time to work with soap before it goes through all the phases of trace and becomes unworkable.
So all that being said, if I want to slow acceleration in my goat milk soap, especially in the case of this particular additive, wouldn’t I want to increase my water content, rather than reducing the amount of water? (which was the advice given to me on the other forum). Her blanket advice of reducing water content didn’t seem to fit, in my opinion, since she knew nothing else about my recipe, and the fact that she didn’t really explain why that was her answer in the first place. One size doesn’t fit all with every recipe.

With my current recipe, assuming I don’t change any oils or lye amount, what would be your suggestion for lye concentration? I’ve been pretty happy with the results, even with the default water amount.

Also, and this is related, but it hadn’t been mentioned yet… if the lye has to be dispensed in liquid to activate it so that the lye can do its job in soap, and it must be mixed at no greater than a 50% lye concentration (1:1), then the water amount “shouldn’t,” matter as far as the lye’s ability to saponify the soap, because saponification is the process by which molecules of lye are able to turn molecules of fat into soap. The water is merely a vessel for activating the lye so the lye can do its job, right? I know the water amount affects trace and cure time, but as long as the soap isn’t lye heavy or too soft due to a lack of lye, then isn’t the water merely a means to an end? More water can always be added to make the solution for dilute, and this will have only an effect on trace speed and cure time? So why do we get so hung up on water concentration vs water as a percentage of oils? Really trying to understand - not trying to be rude.
 
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Kimimarie84

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"...She suggested that I change my ratio to 2:1 or 1.8:1 in order to stop my soap from volcano-ing, and she said the reason was because more liquid creates the possibility for “more chemical reaction,” that more liquid increases the potential for volcano effects, and that adding more water doesn’t dilute the solution...."

A good teacher should be able to explain the science behind their advice, although sometimes the student gets more than they bargained for when they ask for the detailed background. :)

Anyways, I agree with the other person's implied suggestion to get away from the default of "water as % of oils" and start using lye concentration or water:lye ratio. You'll get more consistency in your soap making if you do that.

A water:lye ratio of 2 (or 2:1) is a 33% lye concentration and a water:lye ratio of 1.8 is a lye concentration of 36%. Either one is a safe, middle of the road choice and there's no reason to fear using lye concentrations in this range just because you're a beginner.

I know there's a lot of advice out there that "water discounts" are for experienced soap makers, but that's a bunch of hooey. I explain more here: Lye conc vs water:lye ratio | Soapy Stuff and here: Water in soap | Soapy Stuff

A water:lye ratio of 2 or 1.8 will generally cause the recipe to contain LESS water than the default setting of 38% water as % of oils. Since the two ways of defining water aren't mathematically the same, however, I'm not 100% certain this is the case with your particular recipe, but this trend is generally true.

A soap volcano (batter rapidly expanding and possibly overflowing the mold) is the result of a rapid temperature rise that causes the water in the batter to turn into steam. The steam cannot escape freely due to the batter being thick and viscous, so the steam instead causes the batter to expand in volume, much like how a cake rises in the oven. Sometimes the soap merely expands slightly, which can cause cracks in the top of the loaf. Other times the soap expands a lot, leading to a volcano.

I can't say I've ever seen anyone else advocate using less water as a sure thing to prevent volcanoes. It's not advice I'd offer, because, regardless of the lye concentration, there's always going to be plenty of water in soap batter. That means there's always the potential for that water to turn into steam and cause a volcano given the right circumstances.

Soap batter doesn't volcano unless there are factors that trigger this rapid over heating and expansion. Some variables to manage to prevent overheating -- controlling the sugar content, keeping the starting temperature of the batter sufficiently cool, and being cautious when using accelerants. I don't know what your soap batter temp was, but the use of honey, milk, and an accelerating fragrance certainly contributed to your problem with this batch.

As far as using more or less water to manage the rate of reaction, I think there might be some truth to that within the typical range of lye concentrations -- 28% to 40% -- that most soap makers use. Soap high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids tend to do better if the soap maker uses a higher lye concentration (less water), all other things being equal. Soap high in lauric and myristic acids, often does better with a lower lye concentration (more water), again all other things being equal. But I also know, like Glendam does, that lye concentrations above 40% can paradoxically slow the rate of reaction, so this rule of thumb isn't a universal truth.
Thank you for responding and explaining things so well. I really appreciate it.

I’m all for going down the rabbit hole on the science of soap. It really fascinates me, and I want to understand as much as I can. Reading all of the more experienced soapers in this forum has been really good for me. Y’all have helped me learn so much, even if I haven’t been super active in thread discussions. (Sorry if the “y’all” is bothersome to anyone; I’m from Alabama, and I can’t help myself).

My recipe does have the default setting of water as a percent of oil weight, which is 38%, with a SF of 5%. According to the chart, the lye concentration is 26.549%, and the water:lye is 2.766:1.
The Sat: Unsat is 49:51.

My lye solution was sitting at around 60° when I added it to the oils. The oils were around the same temperature, so the soap batter wasn’t really hot at all. I was actually really pleased with the way the fragrance behaved in the soap while I was bringing it to trace, and even when I poured it into the mold, it gave me enough time to use two different colors, add a swirl on the top, and even top the middle with dried flowers. I was really excited about the soap and how I hoped it would turn out.
I think my blunder was that I took the soap out to the garage where my extra fridge is, and instead of putting the soap in the cold to keep the temperature low, I left it beside the fridge on a shelf and got distracted with the next batch of soap. By the time I got back to the garage and realized I’d not put the soap into the fridge, the soap had already gone into gel phase and started to bubble up, which is something I almost never allow for goat milk soap. I usually do keep things very cool and will even put the soap in the freezer at times if I think it’s going to get too hot. The garage temp was about 90°, plus the added humidity of the South… I think I found my reason for why it bubbled up. 😭

But I still want to now dive down this rabbit hole of lye concentrations and water content. I’m fascinated.

"...She suggested that I change my ratio to 2:1 or 1.8:1 in order to stop my soap from volcano-ing, and she said the reason was because more liquid creates the possibility for “more chemical reaction,” that more liquid increases the potential for volcano effects, and that adding more water doesn’t dilute the solution...."

A good teacher should be able to explain the science behind their advice, although sometimes the student gets more than they bargained for when they ask for the detailed background. :)

Anyways, I agree with the other person's implied suggestion to get away from the default of "water as % of oils" and start using lye concentration or water:lye ratio. You'll get more consistency in your soap making if you do that.

A water:lye ratio of 2 (or 2:1) is a 33% lye concentration and a water:lye ratio of 1.8 is a lye concentration of 36%. Either one is a safe, middle of the road choice and there's no reason to fear using lye concentrations in this range just because you're a beginner.

I know there's a lot of advice out there that "water discounts" are for experienced soap makers, but that's a bunch of hooey. I explain more here: Lye conc vs water:lye ratio | Soapy Stuff and here: Water in soap | Soapy Stuff

A water:lye ratio of 2 or 1.8 will generally cause the recipe to contain LESS water than the default setting of 38% water as % of oils. Since the two ways of defining water aren't mathematically the same, however, I'm not 100% certain this is the case with your particular recipe, but this trend is generally true.

A soap volcano (batter rapidly expanding and possibly overflowing the mold) is the result of a rapid temperature rise that causes the water in the batter to turn into steam. The steam cannot escape freely due to the batter being thick and viscous, so the steam instead causes the batter to expand in volume, much like how a cake rises in the oven. Sometimes the soap merely expands slightly, which can cause cracks in the top of the loaf. Other times the soap expands a lot, leading to a volcano.

I can't say I've ever seen anyone else advocate using less water as a sure thing to prevent volcanoes. It's not advice I'd offer, because, regardless of the lye concentration, there's always going to be plenty of water in soap batter. That means there's always the potential for that water to turn into steam and cause a volcano given the right circumstances.

Soap batter doesn't volcano unless there are factors that trigger this rapid over heating and expansion. Some variables to manage to prevent overheating -- controlling the sugar content, keeping the starting temperature of the batter sufficiently cool, and being cautious when using accelerants. I don't know what your soap batter temp was, but the use of honey, milk, and an accelerating fragrance certainly contributed to your problem with this batch.

As far as using more or less water to manage the rate of reaction, I think there might be some truth to that within the typical range of lye concentrations -- 28% to 40% -- that most soap makers use. Soap high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids tend to do better if the soap maker uses a higher lye concentration (less water), all other things being equal. Soap high in lauric and myristic acids, often does better with a lower lye concentration (more water), again all other things being equal. But I also know, like Glendam does, that lye concentrations above 40% can paradoxically slow the rate of reaction, so this rule of thumb isn't a universal truth.
I finally read the links you referenced, and I appreciate you sending them. They answered my questions posed in a different reply within this thread, specifically about the water being more important for the alkali, rather than the oils. This finally makes sense for why using lye concentration instead of water as a percent of oils is a good practice.

I went back to my recipe and changed only the lye concentration to 33% to see what would happen. The water did reduce, so it would seem that the woman on Facebook was accurate in saying to decrease liquid in order to bring the ratio closer to a 2:1. I think I’m understanding what she meant now about dilution, but I think she’s a classic case of having the ability to do but not the ability to teach, and that added with her rudeness didn’t help me learn or understand anything.

So, all that said, given that I use all goat milk and no water in my recipes, and wanting to stay within a safe range of lye concentration, but also not wanting to increase trace with less water, do you think I should soap between 30 and 33% lye concentration, or leave the recipe as it stands? It has behaved pretty well for me thus far (aside from the Cashmere soap debacle), so should I just keep doing what I’ve been doing?
 

WhittanyWho

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More water will make for a more prolonged gel phase. By lowering the water, you can control how long and hot the soap gets during gel phase. I recommend Auntie Clara’s blog on what’s hot and what’s not. It’s a pretty great explanation of how water effects the temperature and gel phase. What's Hot and What's Not - A Study In Overheating
 

Kimimarie84

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DeeAnna

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"...not wanting to increase trace with less water..."

I don't think it's necessarily true that a higher lye concentration like 33% invariably results in a shorter time-to-trace.

I think there are other factors that influence time-to-trace more than water content. Some things I can think of quickly include the amount of stick blending, the initial soap batter temperature, the use of accelerants (typically fragrances), the use of colorants that thicken batter (ex: titanium dioxide), using fats higher in free acid or using fatty acids (ex: stearic acid), and the kinds of fats in the recipe (ex: lard vs coconut oil).

I almost never design recipes using 30% lye concentration or lower anymore. But that's what works nicely for me and my way of making soap. If you're seeing good results with what you're doing, there's no reason to mess with success.
 
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@Kimimarie84 I believe she used two different oils (coconut and olive oil) to illustrate that the saponification value of each is different, (2.06 vs 2.79) and therefore one requires less lye than the other, and applying the same water percentage of 38% from the oils weight, will result on a lye solution of different strength/dilution. I think she was making a case to use lye concentration % instead of water percentage based on the oils for more uniformity.

Also, as a side note, I think I have read that the water percentage of 38% based on the oil weight by most lye calculators, was used mostly for hot process soap, to account for the amount of water loss to evaporation during the cooking process.

I have used the same recipe, at the same time of the day, with different water amounts. It was to make a ghost swirl soap for the soap challenge club and that was one of the requirements. One half had 25% lye concentration and the other 40%. I remember we also had to do something tricky about gel phase for that soap, so we had to control temperatures. Essentially, a soap made with less water does not gel on its own as easily, as a soap made with more water. And perhaps that was what the person in the group may have had in mind, who knows. Too bad her delivery was so rude, I try to stay away from fb discussions because of that, too much unnecessary drama at times.

I normally make soap with 40% lye concentration, so I usually need to encourage gel phase to happen with a heating pad. But if I make soap with 33% lye concentration, it tends to happen on its own even if I don’t insulate (I live in a warmer climate too).
I would try 30 or 33% lye concentration as an experiment, if you wanted to use that same fragrance again; as an added bonus your soap bars will shrink less. But again if you are quick to put in the fridge perhaps it won’t be needed.
 

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I agree that her later huffiness was ill-advised, but perhaps your understanding of what she was saying was slightly not what she was actually trying to tell you, at least in a couple of places. That can happen when people are not face-to-face and don't have the chance to immediately clarify statements than seem to need clarification. Well, even then it can happen, right? ;)


Specifically, the two things that in my mind are not contradictory are these:

not seeing heat in batter
forcing gel

These are actually two different things. When a soapmaker creates the soap batter, that is just the mixing of the ingredients. How much heat occurs while mixing or creating the batter can depend on a lot of things, and it can be a completely different experience from one soapmaker to the next even if they use the exact same ingredients (like the same FO, for example). Each of us may be in different environments such as: cold home versus warm home; cool oils versus warmer oils; cooler lye solution versus warmer lye solution; working slowly or working faster while making the soap; and so on. The differing factors such as I listed can alter how much a batter heats up during that stage of mixing up the batter before it even goes into the mold.

Forcing gel is a term, sometimes called 'encouraging gel' by other soapmakers, which describes what we do to assist a molded soap go into gel when it's not necessarily likely to do it on its own (like when it is made with very cool or cold ingredients such as using ice to create our lye solution). Forcing/encouraging gel is often done by methods like CPOP (Cold Process/Oven Process) or by placing on a heating pad or by covering with towels or other insulating methods that holds heat (added heat or naturally occurring heat) so that the molded soap gels.

That's what I read as her meaning when she said she did not see heat in the batter from the FO in question. Just to be clear, even with the same FO, not all soapers have the same experience and I do believe the reason is based on the variables of each soapmakers personal differences in how we make soap, but sometimes even the same soapmaker can experience a particular FO differently at different times. Everything does not always go the same every single time anyway, not even for the same soapmaker using the exact same formula each time they make soap.
 

Kimimarie84

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"...not wanting to increase trace with less water..."

I don't think it's necessarily true that a higher lye concentration like 33% invariably results in a shorter time-to-trace.

I think there are other factors that influence time-to-trace more than water content. Some things I can think of quickly include the amount of stick blending, the initial soap batter temperature, the use of accelerants (typically fragrances), the use of colorants that thicken batter (ex: titanium dioxide), using fats higher in free acid or using fatty acids (ex: stearic acid), and the kinds of fats in the recipe (ex: lard vs coconut oil).

I almost never design recipes using 30% lye concentration or lower anymore. But that's what works nicely for me and my way of making soap. If you're seeing good results with what you're doing, there's no reason to mess with success.
Thank you for responding to my many questions. I appreciate you taking the time. I think I’ve learned a lot! The next time I make soap I’m going to try a 33% lye concentration and see what happens. ♥️
 

Kimimarie84

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@Kimimarie84 I believe she used two different oils (coconut and olive oil) to illustrate that the saponification value of each is different, (2.06 vs 2.79) and therefore one requires less lye than the other, and applying the same water percentage of 38% from the oils weight, will result on a lye solution of different strength/dilution. I think she was making a case to use lye concentration % instead of water percentage based on the oils for more uniformity.

Also, as a side note, I think I have read that the water percentage of 38% based on the oil weight by most lye calculators, was used mostly for hot process soap, to account for the amount of water loss to evaporation during the cooking process.

I have used the same recipe, at the same time of the day, with different water amounts. It was to make a ghost swirl soap for the soap challenge club and that was one of the requirements. One half had 25% lye concentration and the other 40%. I remember we also had to do something tricky about gel phase for that soap, so we had to control temperatures. Essentially, a soap made with less water does not gel on its own as easily, as a soap made with more water. And perhaps that was what the person in the group may have had in mind, who knows. Too bad her delivery was so rude, I try to stay away from fb discussions because of that, too much unnecessary drama at times.

I normally make soap with 40% lye concentration, so I usually need to encourage gel phase to happen with a heating pad. But if I make soap with 33% lye concentration, it tends to happen on its own even if I don’t insulate (I live in a warmer climate too).
I would try 30 or 33% lye concentration as an experiment, if you wanted to use that same fragrance again; as an added bonus your soap bars will shrink less. But again if you are quick to put in the fridge perhaps it won’t be needed.
Thank you for answering my questions about the lye concentrations - I figured someone had to have tried that out before and knew the answer.

That does make sense about the recipes being formulated for HP, since all my recipes have had much lower lye concentrations, and based off the chart that was linked above, 25% lye concentration tends to be better for HP. That makes a lot more sense to me now.

I try to stay away from FB because it can be such a hot bed of drama; my hope for posting in that one group was that the people there are all makers of various sorts (candles, soaps, wax melts), but all use the same fragrance company for their products, so I thought I’d have the most luck in finding some advice for that particular fragrance oil formulation. Most people were helpful and positive. One bad apple… Maybe she just had on her cranky pants that day and needed a cookie.

I am hopeful about the higher lye concentration helping to keep the soap from going into gel phase. That’s one of my biggest battles with my soap. I worked really hard on my recipe for a long time, and I’ve gotten wonderful feedback on it, so I am loathe to change anything about it, so I’m glad the only thing changing will be the lye concentration.

Again, thank you for your help, knowledge, and encouragement. I appreciate it!
 

Kimimarie84

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I agree that her later huffiness was ill-advised, but perhaps your understanding of what she was saying was slightly not what she was actually trying to tell you, at least in a couple of places. That can happen when people are not face-to-face and don't have the chance to immediately clarify statements than seem to need clarification. Well, even then it can happen, right? ;)


Specifically, the two things that in my mind are not contradictory are these:

not seeing heat in batter
forcing gel

These are actually two different things. When a soapmaker creates the soap batter, that is just the mixing of the ingredients. How much heat occurs while mixing or creating the batter can depend on a lot of things, and it can be a completely different experience from one soapmaker to the next even if they use the exact same ingredients (like the same FO, for example). Each of us may be in different environments such as: cold home versus warm home; cool oils versus warmer oils; cooler lye solution versus warmer lye solution; working slowly or working faster while making the soap; and so on. The differing factors such as I listed can alter how much a batter heats up during that stage of mixing up the batter before it even goes into the mold.

Forcing gel is a term, sometimes called 'encouraging gel' by other soapmakers, which describes what we do to assist a molded soap go into gel when it's not necessarily likely to do it on its own (like when it is made with very cool or cold ingredients such as using ice to create our lye solution). Forcing/encouraging gel is often done by methods like CPOP (Cold Process/Oven Process) or by placing on a heating pad or by covering with towels or other insulating methods that holds heat (added heat or naturally occurring heat) so that the molded soap gels.

That's what I read as her meaning when she said she did not see heat in the batter from the FO in question. Just to be clear, even with the same FO, not all soapers have the same experience and I do believe the reason is based on the variables of each soapmakers personal differences in how we make soap, but sometimes even the same soapmaker can experience a particular FO differently at different times. Everything does not always go the same every single time anyway, not even for the same soapmaker using the exact same formula each time they make soap.
Thank you for your perspective on this; I appreciate you taking the time and having patience with me. What you’re saying makes sense. And it clarifies what the other woman was trying to say; I wish I could have finished that conversation with her, getting clarification from her, and coming to an understanding. It would have been a great opportunity for me to learn something from her, but some people choose anger and hate instead. I hope I didn’t upset her too much with my ignorance.

I’m happy to learn that a higher lye concentration won’t necessarily speed trace and that it won’t necessarily help with gel phase either. This is promising information for me.

I’m going to try a 33% lye concentration with my next batch and see how it goes.

Thanks again for your help!
 

earlene

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Thank you for your perspective on this; I appreciate you taking the time and having patience with me. What you’re saying makes sense. And it clarifies what the other woman was trying to say; I wish I could have finished that conversation with her, getting clarification from her, and coming to an understanding. It would have been a great opportunity for me to learn something from her, but some people choose anger and hate instead. I hope I didn’t upset her too much with my ignorance.

I’m happy to learn that a higher lye concentration won’t necessarily speed trace and that it won’t necessarily help with gel phase either. This is promising information for me.

I’m going to try a 33% lye concentration with my next batch and see how it goes.

Thanks again for your help!
When folks block others on FB sometimes it's because they are not willing to interact with anyone who doesn't view things in the same perspective that they have. Sometimes they block because they have got tired of 'arguing' with someone who they cannot convince that their perspective is the correct perspective. IMO that is very close-minded. Sometimes they block someone because they have come to believe that the other person holds those very close-minded qualities I just described, and that they may feel they have done their best and are just too worn out (or fear they will get worn out) by it all and don't want to deal with it anymore. That's more of a defense mechanism and not what I would call close-minded.

But when a person starts making passive-aggressive statements like you described and then blocks you, well, there's more than just close-mindedness at play. IMO that person is a bully and bullies should not be rewarded by receiving more attention.

I think you are giving her too much power over your feelings. Let it go and move on. You can't make it up to her and she certainly has no desire to make it up to you.
 

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"....I think I have read that the water percentage of 38% based on the oil weight by most lye calculators, was used mostly for hot process soap, to account for the amount of water loss to evaporation during the cooking process...."

This "water as % of oils" method seemed to hit the soap making world about the time that the early soap recipe [email protected] came onto the internet -- the early 2000s.

I don't know for sure why, but I've wondered if the original calc designers latched onto this as an easy way to figure out the water amount -- this calculation could have been perceived as being simpler than calculating the water content based on the alkali weight. Not sure though -- just a guess.

What I do know is the well-known soap maker authors of that era that I've checked didn't advise calculating water based on oil weight; they used the water-based-on-alkali method (aka lye concentration or water:lye ratio).

The weird thing about that is 38% water as % of oils results in lye concentrations that vary widely -- from a low of about 26% (about right for HP) to 32% or even a bit higher (do-able for HP but on the dry side in my experience.) So perhaps people did use it as a way to design recipes for HP, but IMO it doesn't really produce a soap batter that's as consistent for HP that I would prever.
 

Kimimarie84

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When folks block others on FB sometimes it's because they are not willing to interact with anyone who doesn't view things in the same perspective that they have. Sometimes they block because they have got tired of 'arguing' with someone who they cannot convince that their perspective is the correct perspective. IMO that is very close-minded. Sometimes they block someone because they have come to believe that the other person holds those very close-minded qualities I just described, and that they may feel they have done their best and are just too worn out (or fear they will get worn out) by it all and don't want to deal with it anymore. That's more of a defense mechanism and not what I would call close-minded.

But when a person starts making passive-aggressive statements like you described and then blocks you, well, there's more than just close-mindedness at play. IMO that person is a bully and bullies should not be rewarded by receiving more attention.

I think you are giving her too much power over your feelings. Let it go and move on. You can't make it up to her and she certainly has no desire to make it up to you.
Well, that’s true. I agree with you! Sometimes people are just mean, and you can’t do anything about that.
 

Kimimarie84

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"....I think I have read that the water percentage of 38% based on the oil weight by most lye calculators, was used mostly for hot process soap, to account for the amount of water loss to evaporation during the cooking process...."

This "water as % of oils" method seemed to hit the soap making world about the time that the early soap recipe [email protected] came onto the internet -- the early 2000s.

I don't know for sure why, but I've wondered if the original calc designers latched onto this as an easy way to figure out the water amount -- this calculation could have been perceived as being simpler than calculating the water content based on the alkali weight. Not sure though -- just a guess.

What I do know is the well-known soap maker authors of that era that I've checked didn't advise calculating water based on oil weight; they used the water-based-on-alkali method (aka lye concentration or water:lye ratio).

The weird thing about that is 38% water as % of oils results in lye concentrations that vary widely -- from a low of about 26% (about right for HP) to 32% or even a bit higher (do-able for HP but on the dry side in my experience.) So perhaps people did use it as a way to design recipes for HP, but IMO it doesn't really produce a soap batter that's as consistent for HP that I would prever.
That’s good information, as well. Thank you! Maybe there’s some happy medium for both reasons stated above in the thread. Sometimes good for HP (depending on the recipe), ease of calculation, or maybe something else entirely. Either way, I’m happy to have a better grasp on lye concentrations, and I really appreciate everyone who took the time to reply to my questions.
 

earlene

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"....I think I have read that the water percentage of 38% based on the oil weight by most lye calculators, was used mostly for hot process soap, to account for the amount of water loss to evaporation during the cooking process...."

This "water as % of oils" method seemed to hit the soap making world about the time that the early soap recipe [email protected] came onto the internet -- the early 2000s.

I don't know for sure why, but I've wondered if the original calc designers latched onto this as an easy way to figure out the water amount -- this calculation could have been perceived as being simpler than calculating the water content based on the alkali weight. Not sure though -- just a guess.

What I do know is the well-known soap maker authors of that era that I've checked didn't advise calculating water based on oil weight; they used the water-based-on-alkali method (aka lye concentration or water:lye ratio).

The weird thing about that is 38% water as % of oils results in lye concentrations that vary widely -- from a low of about 26% (about right for HP) to 32% or even a bit higher (do-able for HP but on the dry side in my experience.) So perhaps people did use it as a way to design recipes for HP, but IMO it doesn't really produce a soap batter that's as consistent for HP that I would prever.
Dear DeeAnna, I so much enjoy when you include the historical perspective into soapmaking discussions! To add to your informative take on how 'water as % of oils' became normalized, I think it may have been a developer's lack of soapmaking knoweldge that got this started in the online calculators and here is why:

I recall a period in my life where creating a software application based on an interactive database was part of my job for an organization for which I volunteered. During that time (late 1990's/early 2000), I learned that such software (as we were using at the time) had built-in default settings even during the design process which if not altered, the default was then embedded into the future of that particular application, at least until enough people were loud enough to say, 'change this; it is not good enough; you can make this better by doing xyz'. That's what happened with soapmakingfriend - we were vocal enough to get some things changed to better fit our needs than previous applications were doing.

I tend to think that might be how it came to be the default in Soapcalc and others. I have no proof of course; it simply a theory based on my limited experience.
 

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