# New to soap making

Discussion in 'Beginners Soap Making Forum' started by Sam, Dec 4, 2018.

1. Dec 4, 2018

### Sam

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Hello Everyone! I am new to soap making and I would like to know more about a recipe that I've seen done, but I don't understand why is was done that way.

The recipe is the following:

Lye / Water were mixed before and cooled. The Lye was 25L and the water is 19L

8L of oils
- Olive pomace oil 33.33%
- Coconut oil 33.33%
- Palm oil 33.33%
- Lye / Water 1500ml

What is the benefit of having more or less Lye / Water in soap making? Also why 1500ml of Lye / Water? What is super fat and is it required? If I need to change the recipe to 1L instead of 8L what would be the Lye / Water amount?

Your help would be much appropriated.

Thanks,
Sam

2. Dec 4, 2018

### amd

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Lye has to be dissolved in equal amount of liquid. So if 25L lye and 19L water is correct, there isn't enough water to dissolve the lye. There will be undissolved lye in the soap. The other concern is that recipes should be measured by weight not volume - I'm interpreting L as Liter. Measuring by volume leaves room for error.

The best thing to do would be to enter this recipe into a soap calculator (soapcalc.net is a good one). You can enter the oils by percents to get the weight amount in your recipe.

3. Dec 4, 2018

### Sam

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The thing that I still don't understand is the water as % of oils and super fat %? What % should I be using for both?

4. Dec 4, 2018

### shunt2011

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Hi Sam & Welcome

You may want to do some more reading to find out the why's and how's to soapmaking. Basic answer is you need at least the same amount of water/liquid: lye to get it to dissolve. Always measure by weight. Get familiar with using a soap calculator. Every recipe should be run through regardless of where you find it. Errors can be made. And, as for the recipe you listed, I would adjust it a bit as it's got a lot of coconut which is very stripping of the skin.

Here's some good reading for you:

https://classicbells.com/soap/soapyStuff.html

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5. Dec 4, 2018

### amd

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This is the default for soapcalc.net

Most experienced soapmakers will not use 'water as % of oils' - it isn't a good way to calculate lye/water amounts - and honestly I never understood it. I have always used water:lye ratio, because that makes sense to me. I know that my ratio can never be less than 1:1 - and makes it easier for math if I need to adjust my water amount on the fly if needed (e.g. 2:1 ratio = lye amount x 2 = water amount, if I want to use 2.5:1 I would just take lye amount x 2.5 = water amount). Most soapers will use lye concentration. You can play with these numbers by running different numbers through the calculator.

Guidelines for lye concentration: 28-33% (I'm a renegade that soaps at 25% because I have time tested my recipes and this works well for my recipe. I don't recommend it for a newbie, but I mention it because I talk about it occasionally in other posts.)
Guidelines for superfat will vary depending on your recipe, but a typical recipe with low-moderate coconut oil 5% SF is a good starting point. Most SF will vary between 3-7%. The best thing to do is to make small batches (16oz) and determine what you like.

6. Dec 4, 2018

### Megan

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Like amd, I always use water:lye ratio, and I switched early on. Using water as % of oils in soapcalc, you may have vastly different results with different recipes, and I noticed problems right away when I used it. I tend to use a 5-7% superfat, but I use low coconut oil. Even at 33%, I would say that a superfat in this range would be ok, but I would go around 7-8% personally. Also, using soapcalc, you can just put in your percentages and the amount of oils you would like to use. It will calculate the proper lye concentration. I highly recommend getting used to a calculator, and do not use recipes myself, but only a calculator to check what amount of lye I need for my desired oils.

7. Dec 5, 2018

### Dawni

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Hallo Sam!

I won't add to the above because I can't explain it as well as they have already but I do have one tip, newbie to newbie...

Please don't start making anything in liters!

It's just too much that goes to waste in care you botch things up royally. Trust me, I know. My first soap was about 800 grams total and it went bad lol so that's about 600+ grams of oils wasted.

Most will say start with a pound, which is slightly less than half a liter, but even slightly more than that is fine IMO. As long as you can weigh it all properly and mix well in whichever container you choose to make your soap in.

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8. Dec 5, 2018

### geniash

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Sam - welcome! As a new soapmaker, learn about the lye calculator and use it for every recipe, especially if you need to resize it. Truth be told, none of us could make the soap without those calculators. They make it easy for everyone. The calculator will also give you water amount and lye amount for the amount of oils you specify. It really is easy. There are a bunch of them, find the one you like and use it every single time. Above posters are right, do not use Liters or cups as a measurements, stick to ounces or grams, whichever you prefer and be consistent with your measurements in a single recipe.
With that said, saponification is a chemical reaction between oils and lye. Since lye is very dangerous substance and is very corrosive/caustic, it is not good idea to have excess lye in the soap since it will burn the skin. This is where superfatting comes in - it is a calculated excess of fats in a recipe that assures lye will completely react with the oils. Excess oils left in the soap will act as a nourishing skin moisturizers. Hope this helps - good luck on your soap making journey!

9. Dec 5, 2018

### cmzaha

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...Truth be told, none of us could make the soap without those calculators. Actually several of us here can make soap without using calculators, we just tend to use them for convenience. It is good to take the time to learn how to manually figure out lye requirements. Also measure correctly and you do not have to superfat high. High to me is 5%...

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10. Dec 5, 2018

### Sam

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Thank you everyone for all your help. For the fragrance and colors how do I know what amount to use? From what I was reading some fragrance and colors will speed up the trace.

11. Dec 5, 2018

### geniash

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Sam, I would start with 1 oz per pound of oils and go from there. Some fragrances/essential oils are too strong and require less than that but its a good guideline to start with. Please do a research on fragrance/essential oil to make sure they wont speed up trace. If that happens, watch hot process/rebatch video on youtube to be prepared to salvage your batch. I suggest starting with essential oils as these tend to be less problematic with the exception of clove and cinnamon EO, these 2 speed up trace. Good luck!

12. Dec 5, 2018

### IrishLass

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Hi Sam! The recipe you posted is classically known as the 'Holy Trinity' recipe that's been around for ages.....well, at least the oil amounts anyway, that is. The lye water amounts, however, are a different story.......hopefully, that was a switcheroo kind of typo because they are cockeyed and should at the very least be switched around the other way...... and as the others above have said, they definitely need to be based on weight , not volume. I don't know where you came in contact with the recipe as written, but I'm glad you posted it here to double check before making it.

Generally, the more lye in the recipe, the more cleansing/harsh/potentially dangerous the soap will be to ones skin, and also the more hard and brittle..... depending on high you go. The less lye in a recipe, the more mild in comparison, and also the more soft and less cleansing and more prone to rancidity.... depending on how low you go.

Generally, the higher the water amount, the longer it will take to reach trace, the longer it will take to be able to unmold, the softer the soap will be at the outset, which will tack on a further few weeks of cure beyond the norm, but the easier it will be to go fully through the gel stage. The less water, the quicker it will reach trace, the quicker you will be to be able to unmold it, the harder the soap will be at the outset, which means you won't have to tack on any extra time for cure beyond the norm, but the harder it is to fully go through the gel stage without a bit of help in the form of applying outside heat and/or extra insulation.

My personal favorite lye concentration that I use for 98% of my batches is 33%. I call it my 'Goldilocks' concentration. It's not so much water that will cause things to take forever, and it's not too little water that things move too fast. I still have plenty of time to do colorful swirls with it, and I can unmold my soap within 12- 18 hours after pour and get by with a 4-week cure (as opposed to a 6 to 8 week cure if I use a lesser % concentration, such as 28% or below

Superfat/lye discount is basically the extra cushion of oil that one builds into a soap recipe in order to prevent the chance of lye-heaviness in ones soap, and also to make the soap less cleansing, which your skin senses as being less harsh/drying . The standard/default superfat that you often see on lye calculators is 5% in order to prevent any possibility of lye heaviness ever occurring, but you can go higher or lower, depending. For example, in my 100% coconut oil recipe, which can be very drying, I go as high as 20%, and in my milk soaps which contain extra fat from the milk, I go as low as 3%. For what it's worth, I personally wouldn't go much lower than 3% on the superfat/lye discount for my bathing soaps unless I was absolutely confident of my lye purity and the SAP #'s of my oils, but it's perfectly fine to do 0% or lower if making a laundry soap.

Don't even try to understand it. It has no business being on a lye calculator if you ask me. I completely ignore it and go right to the lye concentration box instead. Calculating your water based on oil amount leads to inconsistencies in one's batches from recipe to recipe. Calculating water based on lye (aka lye concentration) is the superior way to go and will lead to consistency in your batches from recipe to recipe. Here is a great thread that will give you a good understanding of the difference between the two:
IrishLass

13. Dec 6, 2018

### Sam

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Thank you! What amount to use for the colors? Any recommendation on which colors to use natural vs synthetic?

Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2018
14. Dec 6, 2018

### dixiedragon

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Colors: Nurture Soap ships free in the contiguous 48 states if you order \$30 of colors (or maybe \$35). I really recommend you start with them or another reputable SOAP supplier. I like them because they have a picture of how the color performs in CP (cold process) soap. A lot of people are selling colors for M&P (melt and pour) and those colors don't always work for CP. I also like Brambleberry. Wholesale Supplies Plus is good too, but they don't have pictures, so be sure to read to make sure it is suitable for CP.

Here is a bunch of good info for a beginner.

Brambleberry has a good kit for beginners:
https://www.brambleberry.com/natural-soap-kit-for-beginners-p6607.aspx

15. Dec 8, 2018

### geniash

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I use natural mica colorants the most. These are very powerful, start with about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp per pound of oils. Your call really until you reach desired color of your soap. With other natural colorants, such as turmeric, madder root, indigo, clays, etc - I use about 1 tsp per pound of oils. These are very general guidelines, but a good starting point.

16. Dec 8, 2018

### SaltedFig

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Sam, just to add to Irish Lass's information on the recipe being the "holy trinity" recipe (1/3 of each olive, palm and coconut) ... the litre/liter measurements probably dates prior to accurate scales being commonly/cheaply available.

" ... why 1500ml of Lye / Water?"
The recipe looks like what we now call a "masterbatch" solution of lye is being made, and a portion of that masterbatch is used to make the individual (very large) recipe.

This part of the recipe is the masterbatch: "Lye / Water were mixed before and cooled. The Lye was 25L and the water is 19L"
This part of the recipe is the portion to be used for the 8L of oils in the recipe: "Lye / Water 1500ml"

When masterbatching lye solutions by weight, a minimum amount of 1 part water to 1 part hydroxide is required. This masterbatch recipe is given in volume, so the numbers look wrong to someone used to measuring accurately (by weight). This happens because the same volume of water and sodium hydroxide weight different amounts (the water is heavier).

The phrase "Lye / Water" means lye solution. Lye is commonly used to describe both the dry hydroxide and the lye solution, so a clear distinction for use in a recipe is always a good idea - back then "Lye / Water" would be as clear to the original intended reader of that recipe as "lye solution" is to us today

"If I need to change the recipe to 1L instead of 8L what would be the Lye / Water amount?"

You can't resize a volumetric recipe down with any accuracy - these sorts of volumetric recipes tend only to function well in large volumes - going smaller (even if the recipe is a good one to begin with) requires increasing the accuracy of measurement. Precise weights gives far greater accuracy when measuring ingredients, which is why we convert the recipe to precise weights.

So, the recipe you have (to plug into a calculator by percentages) is:
33.3% palm oil
33.3% coconut oil 76C
33.4% olive oil
38% lye concentration (roughly) - I would a little more water, at 30% to 33% lye concentration for your first batch
5% superfat (roughly - don't got below about 3% for safety, or above about 7-8% to avoid rancidity in your soap later on <- this is general advice only, some other, quite valid, recipes vary wildly from this, but this rule is a good one to start with).

Saponification tables are still available for fats. These tables pre-date modern day computers. Basic maths is required to calculate a soap recipe, but it is not as difficult as it may first appear.

For example, olive oil in most calculators is set to about 0.135 for the NaSAP value (the amount of sodium hydroxide required for each 1 part of the oil).

What this means is that for every 1000 grams of olive oil, 135 grams of sodium hydroxide is needed to make a zero superfat soap. Or, another way to think about it ... whatever the weight of the oil is ... multiply that by 0.135 and you have the weight of sodium hydroxide you need to saponify that particular oil completely.

For safety, a minimum "superfat" of about 3% is used to make a homemade soap, with 5% being the common recommendation (as always, there are variations on this). Once you have decided on your lye discount (which is how a lot of the calculators give you your "superfat"), reduce the sodium hydroxide value accordingly. So if you want a "superfat" of 5%, take your total sodium hydroxide weight and multiply it by 0.95 (which is 100%, less 5%, in decimal form). That gives you your final sodium hydroxide weight (eg. 135grams x 0.95 = 128grams for our olive oil soap example)

By understanding that a minimum of 1 part water to 1 part hydroxide is needed, you also know that you will need AT LEAST 128 grams of water for this. To get a 2:1 water:lye ratio (which is very close to a 33% lye concentration), you will need twice the amount of water as hydroxide, so that would be 256grams of water.

So ... for a one fat (oil) recipe, that's how it's done.

For a multi-oil recipe, you have to reproduce the lye calculation for every oil (each oil has a different saponification value - that's the part that you need to know).
But at the end, all you do is add up the total weight of the hydroxides and do the same as for your single oil soap ... apply your lye discount (in our example we multiply by 0.95 to get 5% lye discount) and work out how much water you need (multiply the hydroxide amount by two is a simple way to remember it).

For Sam's trinity soap, to make a 500 gram batch, the math would be:
Palm oil, 500grams x 1/3 = 166.7 grams
Coconut oil, 500grams x 1/3 = 166.7 grams
Olive Oil, 500grams x 1/3 = 166.6 grams

Sodium hydroxide
Palm oil, 166.7 grams x 0.142 = 23.67 grams
Coconut oil, 166.7 grams x 0.183 = 30.51 grams
Olive oil, 166.6 grams x 0.135 =22.49 grams

Total sodium hydroxide to make a zero percent superfat = 23.67 + 30.51 + 22.49 => 76.67 grams
Lye discount ("superfat") of 5% = 76.67 grams x 0.95 = 72.8 grams NaOH
Water = 2 x NaOH = 2 x 72.8 grams = 145.6 grams Water

So the 5% superfat, 2:1 lye ratio, trinity soap recipe, for 500 grams of oils, becomes:
166.7 grams Coconut Oil
166.6 grams Olive Oil
166.7 grams Palm Oil
72.8 grams Sodium Hydroxide
145.6 grams Water

geniash ... you can do this

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17. Dec 8, 2018

### Susie

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The holy trinity is an awful soap! Please let someone steer you elsewhere for a better recipe! If you are willing to change recipes, many of us can give you alternatives.

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18. Dec 8, 2018

### cmzaha

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Yes it is ^^^

19. Dec 8, 2018

### geniash

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Wow, SaltedFig, you made it super easy, thank you! You are right, its not that complicated!

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