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Kiri Kiri

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Hay everyone!

I am super new to cp soap making and definitely not under the illusion that even a lifetime of soap videos watched will make me instantly proficient, but every time I think I have found what´s wrong, the next batch has another problem.
I am sure there is still a lot to learn, so here I am, already very much looking forward to your expertise 🥰

My issues so far have been:
1. Soap thickens up way too fast
2. Colour is always pastel (not intentional)
3. Probably soaping too hot, so soap rips in mold

1. I know this is a common issue for new soap makers, but at this point I am barely stick blending anymore. I usually mix for roughly 5 sec and then switch to mixing by hand until no oils are visible on top of the batter, which means it is still super thin. Then I put in the mica, mix again by hand until finally putting in my fragrance oil which I also just quickly mix by hand. At this point everything still appears to be fine but once I start actually pouring into the mold it suddenly starts coming out in big blobs (very noticeable when I attempted multiple colours). Unfortunately no delicate drops or swirls on top (too thick at this point to do more than sculpting it with a spoon, sometimes not even that) are possible anymore. It´s quiet frustrating 😥. I did find one clue in actually warming up the fragrance oil to roughly the same temperature as the batter to reduce the possibility that it drops the batter temperature after putting it in (it was always quiet cold before). It got better but is still too fast.

2. I still haven´t figured how much mica I can put into my soap. 1-2g in roughly 333g of batter results in pastel colours or strange browns. When I used ~4g in 333g batter it suddenly turned into a brick, almost impossible to use. Is it maybe the mica I use? In videos soap makers usually go for an American teaspoon (~4g) no matter how small the batch, so I have no idea why mine turned rock solid instantly.

3. I started mixing my lye and oils between 25 and 28°C. As I am soaping in a cold room (maybe 15°C) and as mentioned in 1. my soap always got thick way too fast I figured to maybe soap a little hotter. As I have heard that the recipe I use shouldn´t be made above 33°C I started soaping around 30-31°C. I don´t feel like it helped much with the soap getting thick fast, but I did see that my soap starts cracking on top after putting it into the mold. I read that this was because it got too hot too fast and due to fast evaporation on the water the surface tension was too much. Fair enough, but putting it into the fridge right after pouring didn´t help unfortunately. So I guess I am mixing it too hot, but then, what would actually be the best temperature to do it at?

The recipe I use (I didn´t come up with it and this is actually successfully being sold, so it´s not the recipes fault):
Olive Oil - 40%
Coconut Oil - 30%
Palm Oil - 20%
Sweet Almond Oil- 5%
Castor Oil - 5%
Super fat - 5%
Lye Concentration 35%

Preferably I´d like to make it work without changing this recipe as I have seen videos with someone using it, so it should definitely be possible :D
Thank you so much in advance for your feedback! 🐞
 
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It sounds like you are on top of all the major issues - I think it might be your fragrance oil? Florals and spices ( cinnamon, clove etc) are known for accelerating trace, and can heat up your mixture which would make it crack in the mold. You are also using quite a lot of CO which can also cause overheating. Have you tried reducing that to 20%? Add the difference to your Sweet almond oil maybe?
 
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Those are excellent notes.
- Mica. What vendor do you use? Is the company a soap supply company? I'm just asking because there's all kinds of nonsense for sale online (I also have friends that give me "micas" that aren't for soap).
- Pastels. Gelling soap can create more intense colors. After pouring, I wrap the mold in several towels and sometimes use a heating pad for 2 hours.
- Temperature. I soap at room temperature or when my lye solution and melted oils are just warm to the touch.
Good luck!
 

TheGecko

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Your recipe is fine overall. Coconut Oil at 30% might be a bit drying for some folks, but if you like it and it works for you, then that is all that counts. But if you do finding it drying...drop it to 20% and increase your SAO to 15%.

You're also doing a great job on your problem solving.

Regarding your issues:

1. Soap thickens up way too fast

There are a lot of different things that can contribute to this...over stick blending being the biggest. Other factors can be the amount of Hard Oils, temperature of Oils and Lye Solution, Lye Concentration, scent and colorants. You have pretty much eliminated the first four as direct causes, so that leave scent and colorants. As ask my @Zing and noted by @KiwiMoose...where are you getting your colorants and scents from and what kind of scents are you using?

First of all...ALWAYS purchase your scents and colorants from reputable soap suppliers. ALWAYS check that your scent and colorant is appropriate for use IN soap (doesn't matter if it is CP or HP soap). My sister bought me a gorgeous set of Micas from a well known company and listed as 'body safe', but they aren't meant to be used in bath and body products much less used in soap making. And twice now I've purchased colorants that worked for bath and body, but NOT in soap.

Second...check the descriptions/reviews of your scent for 'acceleration'. Florals and spices are noted for this, but other scents can also cause acceleration.

2. Colour is always pastel (not intentional)

Yep...that's fairly normal. Sodium Hydroxide seems to act as a natural lightener...so does saponification. Your options are 1) add more colorant, 2) go with a darker shade, 3) add a little black to deepen the shade, 4) gel your soap.

And the "brown" color may not be caused by your colorants, but by the vanilla content of your scent.

3. Probably soaping too hot, so soap rips in mold

Or you could be soaping too cold. The 'recommended' soap temperature, IMHO, is really geared to the safety of new soap makers...which is something that we focus on because of the caustic nature of working with Sodium Hydroxide and Sodium Potassium. It's why we stress wearing eye protection, gloves, long sleeves and pants, and shoes. In addition to a potential chemical burn, freshly made Lye Solution is HOT...220F-225F HOT. If I spill my room temp Lye Solution on myself, odds are good that I won't suffer any ill effects if I wash it off right away. But if I spill a freshly made Lye Solution on myself, I could be looking at a trip to the ER.

With that said, part of soap making is find out what temperature works best with YOUR recipe.

Also, you can soap at real low temperatures and still have issues with your soap overheating. I make GMS and so I soap at really low temperatures as not to scorch/burn the milk. First time I made GMS my soap overheated...separated, turned an awful color and SMELLED. It was gross.
 
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You’ve gotten great advice here. The only thought I will add is that if you are adding titanium dioxide (TD) to lighten your base batter before adding micas, that will cause pastel colors AND faster thickening of the batter.

Good luck with getting it all sorted, and let us know how it goes. We are cheering you on!
 
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I would not be able to soap so cold with my recipe...but for your recipe it does look like room temperature is okay (you don't have a lot of high melting point ingredients).
It sounds like your FOs are accelerating. This can cause the clumping, thickening of the batter, and the splitting of the soap.

Have you tried any unscented batches? I would say, if you want to practice swirls, this is the best way to start.
For the colors, if you are using 1g -3 g of mica and you are still getting pastels, (and you aren't adding TD), these colors might not be soap safe.
I pretty much always measure by tsp for my micas, but 1 tsp for me is about 1g... maybe 2 g (remember 4g in a tsp is for WATER, not mica) and I get very vibrant colors when using this amount per pound of oil. (I also gel<- if your soap is overheating like you say, you are probably gelling as well).
 
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ResolvableOwl

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All palm oil is not created equal. Quality varies wildly. Buying from soap suppliers helps, but still isn't a guarantee for a smooth and well-behaved soaping experience. Same with olive oil. OO has the reputation of being very lazy, yet a few soapers know how to use some OO qualities to speed things up. Unfavourable/unknown storage conditions make things worse.
 
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If you are using 35% Lye Concentration, not Water/liquid as % of Oil I would lower the Lye concentration to 33%. Soaping at 25-28ºC is fine which is my normal soaping when I am soaping my high palm recipe which includes shea or cocoa butter. Higher temps up acceleration so in my lard recipe I actually soap a few degrees warmer. It will immediately false trace but I wait it out until the batter starts to warm up and thins out. If you pour off batter for additional colors stir them periodically to keep the batter from thickening up, just a light stir. If I were you I would try this recipe with no fragrance and see how it acts then you will know if it is fragrance. I personally have never had mica other than TD accelerate trace noticeably. If you add TD to your batches along with your mica it will cause pastel colors.

I am guessing it is your fragrance because you do not have too much palm, I soap over 40% palm, to cause issues and your OO will slow tracing or it should. As mentioned by ResolvableOwl not all OO is the same and even old oils will trace faster than fresh oils. Pomace will also trace faster than Light OO. So maybe try a different light OO. As for putting molds in the refrigerator or freezer to stop overheating what will usually work better is to put your mold on a cookie cooling rack and aim a fan towards it allowing airflow around the mold, just do not aim the air on the top of the mold if you ever pour at trace.
 

earlene

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Most everything I would say has already been covered, but I thought I'd ask if you're sure your colorants are lye stable and if you are using enough colorant for the amount of soap batter? Not all colorants are lye stable. And even neon colorants will produce pastel shades if used in moderation. I know because I used to use less color than suggested and got pastels with the brightest neons that when used as suggested can make your eyes pop.

As mentioned TD (titanium dioxide) does thicken soap batter faster than some of the other colorants, but so does Activated Charcoal as well as some other colorants. Much to my surprise as a new soaper, I discovered some mica colors are created by mixing TD in with other colors to get the desired shade, and those micas would always thicken up much faster than some other mica colors did. So that can also play a part in how fast batter thickens, which is really interesting when doing multiple colored swirls.

Here is a good video on using colorants in soap that may help:

But learning about the fragrances that accelerate trace (or cause other problems in soap) is a whole other adventure in soapmaking. So my advise is usually this: learn to make successful scent-free soap first, and once you have made a couple of batches successfully, then try making soap with fragrance.
 

Kiri Kiri

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Hallo everyone 😊

Thank you so much for all your supportive words and great suggestions/recommendations!! Reading through everything truly made my day <3

@KiwiMoose , @TheGecko Thanks for the suggestion, I´ll try with a bit more SAO and a bit less Coconut Oil and see how that works for me! I also wasn´t aware that it might be too drying for some people. As I have sensitive, dry skin myself this might be actually the best option.

@Ford That´s actually a good point, I´ll try to give it a quick stir before pouring it in next time! I always felt like it looked as if there were different consistencies in my buckets. Sometimes it is the most obvious thing you don´t think of haha

@Zing , @TheGecko ,@AliOop , @earlene The micas I use are from amazon and the brand I believe is called Mennyo. It does say that they are useable for soap, but after my soap brick disaster I kind of doubt it too. This did happen when I put in between 3 - 4g of the mica colour in roughly 333g batter, so I don´t think I can use any more colour then I already do, when I want a soap batter that I can actually work with (the brick had a lovely intense colour to be fair haha). Maybe I should really try gelling! Or at least gelling on purpose ;D also the only time I have used TD so far was to make my batter white. I didn´t put in enough to make it actually white (I am a little scared now to put in too much colour), but it worked fine for me :D I will continue to work with it carefully though!

@KiwiMoose , @Megan , @cmzaha Fortunately I read all the comments on the fragrance oils I use, so I am roughly aware of which ones speed up trace and which ones don´t. For every batch I have made so far (maybe 6) I have used a different fragrance oil, but I will keep being on the lookout and super careful once I mix them with my batter! Thanks again for the reminder :D

@ResolvableOwl All of my ingredients except OO are from a soap supplier and only a month old so I think they should be fine. I will keep experimenting with different OOs though! They are stored relatively cold and dark, I hope that is fine.

@MellonFriend It is indeed haha!

@Megan An unscented batch in the next thing on my list. I will definitely compare it with the scented batches I made before and practice some more!

Overall again thank you so much for everyones´ replies! I now splurged a bit and bought some actual soap mica from TKB trading. I made double sure that all colours I bought are useable in CP Soap, so I hope I will have some nice colourful soaps soon! Also I will be playing around with the temperature to see which one works best for me and my soap 💪 I will come back with either more questions or the first batch of soap I am truly proud of 🤗 until then, have a great time everyone!!
 

TheGecko

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@Zing , @TheGecko ,@AliOop , @earlene The micas I use are from amazon and the brand I believe is called Mennyo. It does say that they are useable for soap, but after my soap brick disaster I kind of doubt it too. This did happen when I put in between 3 - 4g of the mica colour in roughly 333g batter, so I don´t think I can use any more colour then I already do, when I want a soap batter that I can actually work with (the brick had a lovely intense colour to be fair haha). Maybe I should really try gelling! Or at least gelling on purpose ;D also the only time I have used TD so far was to make my batter white. I didn´t put in enough to make it actually white (I am a little scared now to put in too much colour), but it worked fine for me :D I will continue to work with it carefully though!

Not trying to beat you up since you are new to soap making (I took a soap 'class' and used scent from Hobby Lobby), but never use anything that is advertised as "Mica Powder Epoxy Resin Dye" or who also sells dog brushes. :eek:

If you are using Micas from a soap supplier, about the worst thing that will happen if you add "too much" is that your lather will be colored and it could stain your wash cloth. When it comes to clays, pigments, oxides...these can thicken your batter which is another good reason to make sure to disperse them in water first. TD, even well dispersed, can still thicken your batter because of the need of additional stick blending. I followed Lisa's (I Dream in Soap) suggestion of dispersing my TD in oil and it has been working well.

As for achieving a 'white' soap...it starts with the color of oils and butters. The whiter (in the case of animal fats) and lighter the color of your oils and butters, the whiter and lighter your soap will be. As I noted previously, Lye tends to lighten everything. Then there are your scents. Ones that discolor because of vanilla content aside, some can add a yellow tint to your batter.

I use Olive, Coconut, Palm and Castor Oils and Cocoa and Shea Butters in my recipe; the Olive is just regular OO from Costco, the Butters are natural. Without adding my usual 1 tea PPO Kaolin Clay, my recipe produces a light cream bar of soap. If I used Butters that had been deodorized and bleached, I could get a lighter bar, but it will still have a 'creamy' color to it. The only soap that I have made that came out 'white'...was using Obsidian's Lard Recipe.

It has taken me to learn that WYSINAWYG (what you see is NOT always what you get). I have several colorants that I bought because "Oh, that would look so pretty in soap", only to have it come out a bit differently once the Lye came into play. But on the whole, it turns out pretty good.
 

Kiri Kiri

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Not trying to beat you up since you are new to soap making (I took a soap 'class' and used scent from Hobby Lobby), but never use anything that is advertised as "Mica Powder Epoxy Resin Dye" or who also sells dog brushes. :eek:

Haha no worries! Yeah, I kind of knew in the back of my head, but micas appear to be quiet expensive so I went for the cheapest option, which is obviously not the best option in this case 😆 You always learn from mistakes 💪

Also thank you for the tips! I tried a small shea butter batch before and it naturally turned all white, which was pretty cool, but overall I also like the natural cream colour of the recipe I mentioned above. I hope everything will be even better with my new colours that are actually soap safe!
 

earlene

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Then I noticed several water drops and small puddles on my counter top. What the h---? My plastic measuring cup for my lye solution had bit the dust and was leaking. Lye is caustic, my friends!
The micas I use are from amazon and the brand I believe is called Mennyo. It does say that they are useable for soap, but after my soap brick disaster I kind of doubt it too.
Just because it is 'usable for soap' does not mean it is lye stable and will remain true to color. Some micas can be used in MP & look vibrant, but in the presence of lye they may be muted in color or, in some cases, just plain disappear altogether as if no color was added at all.

It is best to buy micas from a reputable soap supplier and make sure that the vendor states either 'lye stable' or 'for use in CP soap. If it says soap, that's not a good indicator, as that may only mean MP soap.

I don't know what soap suppliers are in Germany for micas and other colorants, but there are international members here at SMF who may be able to help you find a reliable source in Germany. The Shopping Recommendations sub-forum may be a place to post to request help finding a good supplier for colorants. Here is a link to a discussion about suppliers in the EU: Suppliers in Europe

Here is an example example of what to look for in the vendor descriptions appears on this page at micamoma (in the UK): Mica powder in Cold Process Soap I found this page using "cold process" as my search words on the site.

And here is another page at mineralmakeupingredients (also in the UK) website that lists micas that are stable in cold process soap, by using the words "cold process: in the search box: Mineral Makeup Ingredients

Here is a video by Lisa of I Dream in Soap who talks about colorants in the EU (She is in the UK):
 

TheGecko

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Haha no worries! Yeah, I kind of knew in the back of my head, but micas appear to be quiet expensive so I went for the cheapest option, which is obviously not the best option in this case 😆 You always learn from mistakes 💪

Also thank you for the tips! I tried a small shea butter batch before and it naturally turned all white, which was pretty cool, but overall I also like the natural cream colour of the recipe I mentioned above. I hope everything will be even better with my new colours that are actually soap safe!

Micas in themselves are fairly inexpensive (at least they are in the US). I can make a LOT of soap with a singe ounce (28g) of Mica. Where the 'quite expensive' comes in is...I want more than just one color (I have around 50=$300USD). Where the true expense come in is with your scents, especially if you use Essential Oils. A plain bar of soap costs me about a buck-ten ($1.10USD). Add in an FO, it's two bucks ($2.00USD)...add in an EO, it's two and a quarter ($2.25USD) or more.

Of course, another expense is equipment...specifically molds, but they are a depreciable asset as opposed to a consumable. I've been making soap for two and half years and am still using the same molds I bought in the beginning. But then again...I have quite a few molds. LOL

I love the color of my "Bare Naked" soap and I make a lot of single color soaps.
 

Becky1024

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I’ll also add that temperatures of 31-33 degrees C is not too hot. For example I normally soap at 40-50 C. I’ve found that is where my recipe works best. If you soap too cold, you can get false trace which is a sudden thickening caused by your hard oils like palm resolidifying. So when you make your uncolored uncolored soap you may make 2 test batches, one at your normal temperature and one at higher temperature and see which works best.
 
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...aaaaand one more thing: 3 - 4g in circa 350g of soap? Mica is incredibly lightweight so I'm guessing thats about 5 times the amount that I would use. I used to buy my mica in little 10g bags that would last me for about 6 months (admittedly I had quite a few different colours, but you get the idea).
 

Kiri Kiri

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Just because it is 'usable for soap' does not mean it is lye stable and will remain true to color. Some micas can be used in MP & look vibrant, but in the presence of lye they may be muted in color or, in some cases, just plain disappear altogether as if no color was added at all.

You are absolutely right! I can see that I certainly was quiet naïve haha. I think I will continue using them for MP embeds and such but not for CP. As my proper soap micas should arrive today, I don´t even have to wait any longer :D

Micas in themselves are fairly inexpensive (at least they are in the US). I can make a LOT of soap with a singe ounce (28g) of Mica. Where the 'quite expensive' comes in is...I want more than just one color (I have around 50=$300USD). Where the true expense come in is with your scents, especially if you use Essential Oils. A plain bar of soap costs me about a buck-ten ($1.10USD). Add in an FO, it's two bucks ($2.00USD)...add in an EO, it's two and a quarter ($2.25USD) or more.

I think what makes Micas expensive for me is probably the added shipping costs and German taxes and customs, but I absolutely agree with the FO! I researched some prices and it´s crazy how much European vendors want for even 30ml. Unfortunately importing from the US is also not an option, as I am not planning to pay 100€ in shipping with additionally taxes coming on top

I’ll also add that temperatures of 31-33 degrees C is not too hot. For example I normally soap at 40-50 C. I’ve found that is where my recipe works best. If you soap too cold, you can get false trace which is a sudden thickening caused by your hard oils like palm resolidifying. So when you make your uncolored uncolored soap you may make 2 test batches, one at your normal temperature and one at higher temperature and see which works best.

That´s super interesting! How do you prevent it from cracking on top after putting it in the mold?

...aaaaand one more thing: 3 - 4g in circa 350g of soap? Mica is incredibly lightweight so I'm guessing thats about 5 times the amount that I would use. I used to buy my mica in little 10g bags that would last me for about 6 months (admittedly I had quite a few different colours, but you get the idea).

You have a really good point. I think I need to do some math or get one of this spoon measuring things and figure out how much I can actually put in to get the colour I want. I will also try making these colour swatches that @earlene send a video of, they are probably super handy for this too!

Again, thank you so much for all your help!!
 

earlene

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@Kiri Kiri, to prevent cracking on the top of overheating soap, place it on a cooling rack, or anything that will hold the bottom of the mold up above the work surface, like a trivet or cans (canning jars, for example). The added air flow underneath the mold will add enough cooling surface to stop the overheating, which is what causes the cracking.

Regarding measure spoons, the ones I use for micas are plastic baby-food spoons, rather than regular cooking measuring spoons. I just had to get used to how much mica to use to get the color intensity that I desire. Whatever you use, you will get used to how much you need after some practice. The test swatches is a definitely a good idea, but not everyone goes to that trouble. If you do, it can be helpful to take a photo of your results to have on hand as a reference. Also others here would love to see your results in photos here as well.

We do love seeing soapy photos here at SMF!

Good luck with your new mica colorants that are coming your way. I hope to see some beautiful soaps coming out of your soaping room.
 

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