My first CP project, I think I totally messed it up, what to expect?

Soapmaking Forum

Help Support Soapmaking Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

akseattle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2023
Messages
130
Reaction score
196
Location
Seattle, Washington
I’m was very excited to have made my first batch of cold process soap on Saturday 1/6!
But, now I’m super bummed and feel like I’m waiting to hear the repair cost for a fender bender. I wanted a hard and moisturizing bar- so I found one online by OffTheGrid. I halved her recipe but didn’t put it through the lye calculator cuz she said “Don’t be tempted to fiddle with the recipe because it won’t work.” So, I didn’t. Until this morning. She didn’t say what superfat it had, so I randomly put in 3%. The first thing I noticed was that I had remarkably less liquid than the lye calculator showed.

I adjusted the superfat as high as 10% (where the calculator ends) and I am still nowhere in the ballpark.
I went back to OffTheGrid and I have zero idea where I got my numbers! The first column is what I used, then what her recipe called for, and the third, what I wrote down as her recipe.

180 g. olive oil (OffTG wrote- 450 g) - ( I wrote down 50% of 360 g )
112.5 g. coconut oil (OffTG wrote- 180 g) (I wrote down 50% of 225 g)
112.5 g. shea butter (OffTG wrote- 180 g) (I wrote down 50% of 225g)
45 g. castor oil (OffTG wrote- 90 g) (I got the 90 g of castor oil right ….)
80 g. water (OffTG wrote 315 g) ( I wrote down 50% of 160 g)
62 g. lye (OffTG wrote 122 g) (I got the 122 g of lye right .. )

Off the Grid didn’t use colorants and made no recommendation on essential oil- just said, put in a little if you want it mild, put in more if you want it stronger. I used coconut E.O. which is pretty mild. To be safe, I didn’t put in too much. I was going for a white, beige & bronze bar (had one of my sons in mind for this soap- he has really dry skin & I thought the high level of shea butter would be perfect.) Even doubling the Diamond White mica, it was only lightening the yellow batter, so accepted that. The Olive green which has always made beige in my white M&P, was actually closer to the grey green that it is supposed to produce (not my intent for this soap.) But, I accepted that, too. I was really going with the flow! My only real deviation was that I added espresso grinds as an exfoliant to the grey batter ( and sprinkled it on top of one) in addition to adding micas.

Everything I read said that you can unmold soap made in single cavity molds sooner than a loaf. But, literally, I unmolded this 5 hours after pouring. Even though the colors weren’t what I had in mind, I was actually pretty excited and already thinking of my next CP project. I showed it to my son. He liked it and was bummed when I said it had to cure for another 6+ weeks (he leaves for India in a month.) But, I told him he can take it and let it cure on the road.

I couldn't help myself and peeked at my soap a couple times yesterday-- partially marveling that I had finally gotten up my courage to try CP soap, but really wondering about when the parade of horribles could start to happen – soda ash, glycerin rivers, cracking…

My soap still looks fine. I remember being surprised by how little water I was measuring out but decided to trust the recipe. I don't know if I’m using the lye calculator correctly, but my recipe - having been completely bungled-- has a serious shortage of liquid.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but What can I expect? And when can I expect these things to happen?
 

Attachments

  • 1-Jan-6-2024-1-IMG_0501.jpeg
    1-Jan-6-2024-1-IMG_0501.jpeg
    562.8 KB · Views: 0
You have learned a valuable lesson to always use a soapcalc. Especially if halving or multiplying recipes, since that's where things can get dangerous. 😅 Thankfully, things worked out alright.

The superfat number adjusts the lye amount (5% would be 62g like you used, 10% would be 58g) while the following fields change the amount of liquid. The lye concentration you have is roughly 43.5%. I tend to use 33%, which is fairly standard, but I've used as high as 40%. Afaik, that high of a lye concentration isn't really an issue but it does speed up trace.
1704738387612.png


I think you're being a little overly harsh on yourself. With how little water you used, glycerin rivers are EXTREMELY unlikely and even soda ash is pretty unlikely as well (both of these are just visual 'flaws'). Cracking happens while soap is setting up due to heat, so if it hasn't cracked already, it won't. Unless your soap is zapping (read up on The Zap Test if you're unfamiliar with that term), it's likely totally fine.

Regarding unmolding... don't worry about how fast you were able to unmold. There's no hard rule that says you must wait X hours before unmolding. I often unmold my normal recipe in a 10 bar loaf mold at the 8-12 hour mark, sometimes as early as 6 hours. I unmolded a ZNSC soap in like... 3-4 hours last month - completely set up, room temperature, no sticking to the sides of the mold, slipped out easily, cut like a dream. Blew my mind lol. There's a million and one factors that go into it. Trust your gut.
 
For most of us, it is way easier to write our recipes in percentages. This makes it easier to customize your recipe to fit any size mold with consistent results.

What you made:
40% olive
25% coconut
25% shea butter
10% castor

What your OffTG recipe states:
50% olive
20% coconut
20% shea butter
10% castor

Both should be fine, though.

Also, if you look up Elly's Soapmaking on YouTube, she has some excellent video tutorials on formulating and calculating recipes, resizing recipes to fit any mold, and understanding the meaning/use of lye concentration.

Soapcalc boggled my mind when I first saw it. I prefer the simplicity of Soapee.com
 
Last edited:
You have learned a valuable lesson to always use a soapcalc. Especially if halving or multiplying recipes, since that's where things can get dangerous. 😅 Thankfully, things worked out alright.

The superfat number adjusts the lye amount (5% would be 62g like you used, 10% would be 58g) while the following fields change the amount of liquid. The lye concentration you have is roughly 43.5%. I tend to use 33%, which is fairly standard, but I've used as high as 40%. Afaik, that high of a lye concentration isn't really an issue but it does speed up trace.
View attachment 75943

I think you're being a little overly harsh on yourself. With how little water you used, glycerin rivers are EXTREMELY unlikely and even soda ash is pretty unlikely as well (both of these are just visual 'flaws'). Cracking happens while soap is setting up due to heat, so if it hasn't cracked already, it won't. Unless your soap is zapping (read up on The Zap Test if you're unfamiliar with that term), it's likely totally fine.

Regarding unmolding... don't worry about how fast you were able to unmold. There's no hard rule that says you must wait X hours before unmolding. I often unmold my normal recipe in a 10 bar loaf mold at the 8-12 hour mark, sometimes as early as 6 hours. I unmolded a ZNSC soap in like... 3-4 hours last month - completely set up, room temperature, no sticking to the sides of the mold, slipped out easily, cut like a dream. Blew my mind lol. There's a million and one factors that go into it. Trust your gut.
@basti, thanks so much for your information and explanation! Lesson learned! I'm relieved to find out that most bad things that might have happened to my soap, probably should have happened by now. According to Brambleberry, I can do the Zap test after 2 days cuz most of the saponification process will have taken place, but, a zap test after 5 days is a more reliable result. Since I'm not eager to lick this soap, I'll wait for day 5!
I'm curious. Do you ALWAYS do the Zap test OR do you only do it if you think something might be amiss?
I'm understanding the lye calculator a little better now (I used Brambleberry's). In the future, if the lye calculator shows the recipe I'm considering has a lye% or water% or something outside the norm, I'm moving on to a different recipe! Although I'd prefer to have used a more usual lye/water combo, so far, the only harm is that the high lye % sped up trace ( but not like M&P.) The silver lining is that the meager water I used will also reduce curing time. I was pretty bummed this morning. Although the jury isn't out yet, I'm feeling much better !! thanks again!

For most of us, it is way easier to write our recipes in percentages. This makes it easier to customize your recipe to fit any size mold with consistent results.

What you made:
40% olive
25% coconut
25% shea butter
10% castor

What your OffTG recipe states:
50% olive
20% coconut
20% shea butter
10% castor

Both should be fine, though.

Also, if you look up Elly's Soapmaking on YouTube, she has some excellent video tutorials on formulating and calculating recipes, resizing recipes to fit any mold, and understanding the meaning/use of lye concentration.

Soapcalc boggled my mind when I first saw it. I prefer the simplicity of Soapee.com better.
@Servant4Christ, when you put it in percentages like that, it's kind of a small deviation. But really, it was the lye and water issue that had me totally freaked out. Besides crushing my excitement over my first batch, the worst that can happen is that I throw out 5 bars of soap. Geesh! I really need to learn how to chill!

For most of us, it is way easier to write our recipes in percentages. This makes it easier to customize your recipe to fit any size mold with consistent results.

What you made:
40% olive
25% coconut
25% shea butter
10% castor

What your OffTG recipe states:
50% olive
20% coconut
20% shea butter
10% castor

Both should be fine, though.

Also, if you look up Elly's Soapmaking on YouTube, she has some excellent video tutorials on formulating and calculating recipes, resizing recipes to fit any mold, and understanding the meaning/use of lye concentration.

Soapcalc boggled my mind when I first saw it. I prefer the simplicity of Soapee.com better.
I'll have to check out Elly's Soapmaking videos. Thanks!

I think the soap seems fine - nothing bad should happen now that it is curing. You'll use a soap calculator next time though right? ;)
@KiwiMoose, Lesson learned! I will definitely be using a soap calculator next time!
 
OP, I don't know what "Off the Grid" is, but from what you've said I would never rely on that site for good soaping information. For one thing, telling readers that they shouldn't be "tempted to fiddle with the recipe because it won’t work” - to the extent that means not using a lye calculator - is wrong and dangerous. You will see people here advise again and again NOT to trust anyone else's recipe, even their own, without running it through a calculator. I could give you a recipe in the best of faith, that I had used a hundred times, and inadvertently juxtapose the lye and water numbers.

Secondly, regarding EO's, what does "put in a little if you want it mild, put in more if you want it stronger" even mean? That really is a disgrace, unless there is something else in the post that clarifies that (into actual, correct and safe IFRA percentages). There are lots of sites with great recipes and tutorials, Brambleberry is just one. I would not use that OTG site for recipes (or anything else soaping related) again.

ETA: None of this is your fault, how are you supposed to know on your first batch? I just wish there wasn't so much heedless/irresponsible/potentially dangerous misinformation out there.
 
Last edited:
If you are using essential or fragrance oils, run it through eocalc or another fragrance calculator. Eocalc is my preference as I usually use more than one EO and they make it really easy. Some EO’s, spearmint for example, have a really low safe usage rate. I have seen quite a few posts where way too much spearmint was used.
If you are still looking for recipes, why not look here? Many folks have shared their recipes.
One last bit of advice, you may want to eliminate EO/FO, additives and color for now until you have the basic process down. I know, that’s the fun part, but figuring out what you like in a CP recipe then adding the fun stuff will be a lot less stressful.
The good news is that you made your first batch of CP soap! You will learn more with each batch, make sure to keep the batch size small for now and take good notes.
 
I agree with @Tammyfarms. I don't add fragrance or color to any recipe until I've tested the performance of the soap itself enough to know the recipe is a keeper. Fragrances are just too expensive for me to waste on soap I don't love. It also helps me troubleshoot which ingredients are to blame when problems occur.
 
I think your questions have been answered. As far as zap testing every batch - I don't any more unless something seems off. When I started out, though, I did and usually within 24 hours of cutting. Early on, while learning to recognize emulsion, I poured too soon. The resulting soap was quite soft when unmolded and I thought it would zap - and it did! There is no mistaking it. Recently I made a batch and left out one of my fats (28% of the recipe). I know that will zap, and I don't need to test it for many, many months - if it stays out of the trash bin that long. The bars are currently in the naughty corner even though it isn't the poor little guys' fault 😆

Congratulations on making your first batch!
 
OP, I don't know what "Off the Grid" is, but from what you've said I would never rely on that site for good soaping information. For one thing, telling readers that they shouldn't be "tempted to fiddle with the recipe because it won’t work” - to the extent that means not using a lye calculator - is wrong and dangerous. You will see people here advise again and again NOT to trust anyone else's recipe, even their own, without running it through a calculator. I could give you a recipe in the best of faith, that I had used a hundred times, and inadvertently juxtapose the lye and water numbers.

Secondly, regarding EO's, what does "put in a little if you want it mild, put in more if you want it stronger" even mean? That really is a disgrace, unless there is something else in the post that clarifies that (into actual, correct and safe IFRA percentages). There are lots of sites with great recipes and tutorials, Brambleberry is just one. I would not use that OTG site for recipes (or anything else soaping related) again.

ETA: None of this is your fault, how are you supposed to know on your first batch? I just wish there wasn't so much heedless/irresponsible/potentially


@not_ally , I appreciate your concern over incomplete information being provided in videos, tutorials, etc and whether all sites can be trusted. It had been my intent since last March to make Soap Queen's “Lots of Lather.” It’s a “tried and true” recipe she says she teaches it in all her beginner classes. Since then, I got it in my head that for a really moisturizing bar, I need shea butter.

I popped out of bed on Saturday morning and had the urge to finally make the leap to CP. But, when I looked at the Lots of Lather recipe, it had no Shea Butter! I thought of searching this forum, but I was so hell bent on making the soap NOW, THIS INSTANT, I got impulsive and googled until I found a recipe with LOTS of shea butter. I can’t say I know what OffTG meant by “don’t fiddle.” But in her defense, even if she’d said “run this recipe through a lye calculator,” I wouldn’t have done it! She said it was EASY! And it was! until it wasn’t :( So, now I know I need to protect myself from my own mistakes, if nothing else, by running a recipe through the lye calculator.

I was, actually, concerned about the E.O. and how much to use. I wanted to use coconut EO. Brambleberry only had coconut fragrances on its calculator- so not helpful. I just looked at www.EOCALC.com It doesn’t have coconut essential oil either. So, where can I go to find a really comprehensive list of E.O.'s?
 
Also, zap testing does not involve “licking the soap.” 🤮
@AliOop , really, no one licks the soap? When I looked up "zap test" I saw 3 ways to do it. One, touch the soap to your tongue 🤮 , two, moisten a little corner of the soap, swirl your finger tip around on the moist soap, then touch your soapy finger to your tongue 🤮 again! Three, buy a Ph soap test kit. So, did you mean you don't "lick the soap" like it's a lollipop -- you only "lightly touch the soap to your tongue." Or did you actually buy a Ph soap test kit? As disgusting as soap tastes, don't most people do the tongue test anyway? I'm just wondering. Show of hands?
 
If you are using essential or fragrance oils, run it through eocalc or another fragrance calculator. Eocalc is my preference as I usually use more than one EO and they make it really easy. Some EO’s, spearmint for example, have a really low safe usage rate. I have seen quite a few posts where way too much spearmint was used.
If you are still looking for recipes, why not look here? Many folks have shared their recipes.
One last bit of advice, you may want to eliminate EO/FO, additives and color for now until you have the basic process down. I know, that’s the fun part, but figuring out what you like in a CP recipe then adding the fun stuff will be a lot less stressful.
The good news is that you made your first batch of CP soap! You will learn more with each batch, make sure to keep the batch size small for now and take good notes.

@Tammyfarms , I did try to find an EO calculator for coconut essential oil- which is what I used. But, it must not be very popular, it wasn't on either Brambleberry's calculator or www.EOCalc.com Do you know of a site with a really comprehensive list of E.O.'s?
I'll never again make CP without running my recipe through a lye calculator - learned that lesson. But, I probably won't be able to keep myself from using E.O.'s - even in my next rookie batch - so I would want to always use an EO Calculator.

I agree with you on the "small batch" approach. I got the courage to finally try CP because someone on this forum said they make 1 lb CP batches all the time. I'm used to making 1 or 2 M&P bars at a time. Even 1 lb seemed like alot of soap to me! But, I can hardly wait to make more. I only wish I knew if this batch will have a nice moisturing feel!
I did take notes. But, there is SO-O-O much to learn!! I will probably post a couple questions on a separate thread. Hopefully, the questions won't seem too dumb! I also hope to find a good recipe to try on this forum.

Thank you for your post!
 
I agree with @Tammyfarms. I don't add fragrance or color to any recipe until I've tested the performance of the soap itself enough to know the recipe is a keeper. Fragrances are just too expensive for me to waste on soap I don't love. It also helps me troubleshoot which ingredients are to blame when problems occur.

@Servant4Christ, as I told Tammyfarms, I probably won't be able to stop myself from using EO's since that is part of the fun of it. I probably need to trash a batch big time to learn my lesson. Before I realized that EO's have a shelf-life, I went on a spree and bought a ton of different EO's. Since I only do this for fun, and I'll never make more than a pound at a time, I'm actually afraid my EO's will get rancid before I can use them all ! You make a good point about trouble shooting. ... hmm...
thank you for your post.
 
I think your questions have been answered. As far as zap testing every batch - I don't any more unless something seems off. When I started out, though, I did and usually within 24 hours of cutting. Early on, while learning to recognize emulsion, I poured too soon. The resulting soap was quite soft when unmolded and I thought it would zap - and it did! There is no mistaking it. Recently I made a batch and left out one of my fats (28% of the recipe). I know that will zap, and I don't need to test it for many, many months - if it stays out of the trash bin that long. The bars are currently in the naughty corner even though it isn't the poor little guys' fault 😆

Congratulations on making your first batch!

Wow, I didn't even know you could pour too soon! I guess my recipe had so-o-o little water, it traced pretty quickly. I was afraid I would leave out one of the oils - instead i either free associated or transposed numbers or did something else to end up where I got. Well thanks to everyone, my most immediate questions were answered, but , soaping is actually kind of nuanced. It's simple in a way but complicated in another way. Even though I have read ALOT of articles, and watched ALOT of videos, I still have questions! I'm going to post some really basic questions in a separate thread. Thanks for your support and good luck to your little guy that just went to the naughty corner! I'll be rooting for 'im!
 
@akseattle, the only thing I’ll add about unmolding is for me, my loaves are always ready to unmold and cut quicker than my individual cavity mold are ready to pop out cleanly. I made soap on Sunday, cut my loaves Monday - but I have to keep walking away from my cavity molds and will pop them out tonight (unless I can’t control myself and do it before work this am 😂😉). Happy CP soaping - you got this! 🌸
 
@Tammyfarms , I did try to find an EO calculator for coconut essential oil- which is what I used. But, it must not be very popular, it wasn't on either Brambleberry's calculator or www.EOCalc.com Do you know of a site with a really comprehensive list of E.O.'s?
I'll never again make CP without running my recipe through a lye calculator - learned that lesson. But, I probably won't be able to keep myself from using E.O.'s - even in my next rookie batch - so I would want to always use an EO Calculator.

I agree with you on the "small batch" approach. I got the courage to finally try CP because someone on this forum said they make 1 lb CP batches all the time. I'm used to making 1 or 2 M&P bars at a time. Even 1 lb seemed like alot of soap to me! But, I can hardly wait to make more. I only wish I knew if this batch will have a nice moisturing feel!
I did take notes. But, there is SO-O-O much to learn!! I will probably post a couple questions on a separate thread. Hopefully, the questions won't seem too dumb! I also hope to find a good recipe to try on this forum.

Thank you for your post!
Where did you find coconut EO? I have never heard of coconut EO, only fragrance. I am very interested in knowing your supplier for coconut EO.
You are on the right track, keep researching and asking questions. As you said, there is SO-O-O much to learn. You mentioned you are wanting a really moisturizing bar, some on here will say that soap doesn’t moisturize and what you really want is something that doesn’t over cleanse. For me, that’s a bar high in lard or tallow. If you are opposed to animal products, that’s fine. If you are open to using lard, I highly recommend it. I was using Shea in my soap and decided that it really doesn’t add much to a high lard bar.
The zap test is just touching the tip of your tongue to the bar. PH strips don’t work. There are many posts from folks more scientific minded that explain why.
Hang in there, soap is very simple and yet very complicated. As I learn more I realize I will always have more to learn.
 
Yeah, I think you have a Coconut FO. Coconut EO doesn't exist to my knowledge. Some sketchier websites or suppliers declare all of their products to be EOs. I've seen 'Birthday Cake Essential Oil'. Wonder how they extract that one 🤔😆

really, no one licks the soap? When I looked up "zap test" I saw 3 ways to do it. One, touch the soap to your tongue 🤮 , two, moisten a little corner of the soap, swirl your finger tip around on the moist soap, then touch your soapy finger to your tongue 🤮 again! Three, buy a Ph soap test kit. So, did you mean you don't "lick the soap" like it's a lollipop -- you only "lightly touch the soap to your tongue." Or did you actually buy a Ph soap test kit? As disgusting as soap tastes, don't most people do the tongue test anyway? I'm just wondering. Show of hands?


I zap test by wetting my finger (usually with my tongue, idc), gently rub my finger on the soap and then touch it to my tongue. If it doesn't zap, you'll have the tiniest taste of soap for a second and then its gone.

PH kits are notoriously unhelpful for soap.

You can read more about the Zap Test here. This site is from DeeAnna and has a lot of important information and details about a number of soapy situations.
 
Back
Top