Oh despair! Am I ever going to get the hang of this?

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jennyannlowe

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I'm getting a little frustrated, my soaps aren't turning out the way I hoped.

My first batch had no fragrance, no color. You can see the recipe/picture attached. It hit the 4 week mark earlier this week. I put a bar of soap in the shower to use. I like the lather, I like the way it feels, but I noticed after a couple days that the bottom of my tub near the drain had lots of pieces of soap, sort of coating the area and I could see the bar was melting away much faster than should.

Now so far I haven't used any salt for hardness in any of my batches and I just now received my first order sodium lactate in the mail today.

My 2nd batch was a slow moving recipe and its not ready to use either. Still pretty soft.

However my 3rd batch was my first attempt at goats milk soap, I was really looking forward to using that one. But it's very soft and so crumbly! See the recipe attached... goats milk, coconut milk..it smells so nice. Why is it so crumbly? Is it because I didn't use anything for hardness?

Another issue that I've been having with a couple of my other batches is is that my mica powders have not dissolved completely enough and when I cut it, I can see specs of color.

So far I've made 8 small batches. What do I need to do to salvage some of this soap? Like the 1st batch, other than melting away too fast, it worked just fine. Should I just let it cure another few weeks?

And the goats milk soap that is crumbly, let that one cure a lot longer to? Or do you think it being crumbly is a sign that is not really going to be usable no matter how long I cure it? Should I rebatch with sodium lactate if the bar doesn't harden after a certain amount of time?

And for the bars that have the specs of pigment that is not dissolved, do I need to rebatch those?

Once I get my recipes nailed down, I'll worry about making them look more professional. So excuse the irregular shapes.

I would really appreciate someone looking at my recipes and giving me any pointers.

I also like to hear some ideas on how to dress up soap that turned out okay but isn't very attractive.

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snappyllama

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I don't see anything off in your recipes.

For the melting soap, is it in standing water by the tub? Homemade soap really needs to be allowed to drain and dry between uses or it can melt away. Giving another couple of weeks also helps this. I try to give my bars 6 weeks - though sometimes a scent is just too good, and I snag it early.

On SoapCalc, you migth consider switching the water amount to Lye Concentration instead of "Water as % of oil". A standard one would be 30% - increasing as you get more comfortable with soaping and your FOs. This will reduce the water in your recipe and it will harden up a bit faster. It still needs a good cure though. This is a good explanation: http://rivercitysoaps.com/dwcp/dwcp.pdf
 

lenarenee

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No you don't need to rebatch the soap with mica spots.

I agree that your recipes look fine.

The bits of soap you're finding around the drain - are they broken bits of soap, or soap scum? Do you have hard or soft water? If hard water - citric acid or sodium citrate will help with that.

It is important to let the soap dry as much as possible between uses.

The goat's milk soap was put in the freezer to prevent gel - how many days later did you cut it? I'm wondering if the crumbling you describe is soap that wasn't for cutting. Freezer slows down saponification so soap takes longer before it's hard enough to cut.
 

CaraBou

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JAL, your recipes look fine to me too. I can't see why you'd need salt or LA for those formulations even with the water amount you have. But I do agree with snappy to consider reducing water by going with a better metric such as 30% lye soln. But even with that water amount, I can't see why your recipes would lead to problems.

What are you using for lye, and what kind of scale are you using? I'm also wondering about your fragrance. You stated above that you did not use fragrance in your first batch, yet your soapcalc sheet says "added mulberry FO too late". If you did use FO, what brand was it and did you weigh it?

Sorry for the zillion questions but I want to get you back on to track to the best hobby you might ever have.
 

penelopejane

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In your third batch I don't thin you need almond and avocado oils. I use one or the other.

A really hard long lasting bar is 30 % CO, 30% OO, 30% palm oil and 10% castor. It is great by the kitchen sink and lasts well regardless mistreatment. But it is a bit drying on the skin.

You could probably use either tallow or up the OO. I am one for keeping it simple so I can really workout the qualities of the different oils and I don't want to use sodium lactate. So I would make a tallow soap then an OO soap. And test the difference.

Time makes a lot of difference to any soap. Try in 3 months and then a year and the soap will be different and much longer lasting and kinder on the skin, that's what I find anyway.
 
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newbie

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I see nothing wrong with your recipes, either. A longer cure might be part of the answer.

I think rebatching because of specks is an awful lot of trouble to go through for that. The specks won't hurt anything and other people probably would think it's pretty. Are you putting your mica into something before you add it to the batter or are you adding it dry? SOme mica will go into water, all will go into oil and into glycerine. Try mixing your mica into a touch of oil and stirring really well- it should not be pasty but smooth and don't use a ton of oil. Even just an eight of a tsp might be enough. Then add the mica in oil to your batter and you won't have specks.

I say this many times and follow my own advice, actually (amazing!), but until you are settled into your recipe and into soaping, I would decrease the size of your batches. Personally, I would shoot for 16-18 ounces of oils batches but wouldn't go higher than about 28 ounces. You will have more soap than you will know what to do with in no time so making smaller batches allows for more batches, more fine tuning and more experimentation without being up to your eyeballs in soap.

Keep at it! the learning curve never seems to stop.
 

jennyannlowe

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the bar from the first batch was in water! the little dish on the side of the wall of the shower fills up sometimes. Hmmm...relief! Maybe that was it! I'll make sure it can drain well.

The 1st batch I had intended to put an 1 oz of Mulberry (Candlewic? I dont remember, it was a small bottle) fragrance oil at light trace then pour. But I forgot! So I poured it in the mold and it got very thick very fast. I tried to to mix it in, but it didnt work out well. I made such a mess! I was using a shoebox with a Glad peel n stick liner and the liquid didnt really mix in and really just seeped into the folds of the liner. When I unmolded, I never actually smelled the scent. I figured I added it too late.

I didnt weigh it. I have a cheapo Walmart scale. I need another one. There is a woman who lives near me. She bought $1000 worth of soap making supplies from Brambleberry and never used them. I've been slowly buying off her stuff. I've got my eye on a soap making scale she has.

So on average, 30% lye concentration is a good number? I'll try that. Almost all of my soaps are still too soft.

I live in Houston, I have hard water Im told. I use a handful of shampoo to wash my hair. When I visit other places that have soft water, I pour the same handful of shampoo and the tub fills up with suds!

ABout the stuff around my drain....well...it sorta had an unusual appearance...looked like....pieces of soft fuzzy cardboard.

I had asked about citric acid and sodium citrate before, there is another thread...I'll have to read it again. I had a little trouble understanding the first time I went over it. Im trying to understand which is best to use to add to my soap for hardness.

someone said they dont like to use sodium lactate. Why? Is the added expense you are trying to avoid? Or is there a negative side to using it for hardness?

yeah i was putting mica into almond oil and TD in water. I think I need to spend more time prepping my colors and additives before I start mixing my lye water and oils. I think I am trying to hurry too much because I dont want my lye water to cool too much or the batter to get too thick to pour.

And you are right, Im gonna make smaller batches so I can try more experiments.

I feel like I spend all my time 'soaping' but I dont actually make a lot of soap....part of my time I am washing the soap dishes, then I am cleaning up my craft/art studio, or making curing racks. I didnt want to spend money on trays/racks to dry them. I have a big craft room,but its packed full, so I wanted something to stack to save room. I happened to have some wooden shims from home depot, I used mesh, hot glue, tape and old mousepads and make stacking curing trays. Course this pic only shows 3. I've made about 10. It dont look pretty but it serves its purpose. I tried finding a cart of some kind but even the used ones are expensive.

thanks to all for your feed back. So happy its friday! Whoo hooo soaping time! cant wait to get home to my studio.

Might have to take a soap break and do some painting this weekend.

rack.jpg
 

lenarenee

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That may have been me who said they don't like sodium lactate.

But lots of people do.

Initially I used it to increase bubbles, and because I thought the bar would be harder=longer lasting.
I didn't notice much difference in bubbles, it seemed to increase trace (when using a palm/olive oil recipe)
and didn't seem to make the soap last longer.

When I switched to palm-less recipes and used high lard instead....the sodium lactate actually increased unmolding time! And left the soap with a weird rubbery texture for a long time - it was still bendable at 2 weeks.
 

IrishLass

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I, too, see nothing wrong with your recipes. The only thing I would do differently would be to use less water/liquid.

The best way to adjust your water amount up or down is to cease using the "water as % of oils" box, and instead use the 'Lye Concentration" box to figure out your water amount. You'll get much more predictive/consistent results that way. Anywhere from a 30% to a 33% lye concentration would be a good place to start.

Here are some of our many threads that discuss the difference between calculating water via lye concentration or via "water as % of oils", and why calculating the water via "lye concentration is the better way to go by far:

http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=56834

http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=56745

http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=53642

Water amount plays a very important role in soap. Too much, and it can take forever to unmold and cut and/or become hard, especially if it didn't gel; too little, and everything goes very quickly, etc....

The water amount that you actually used in your soap via SoapCalc's 38% water as per oil default is very high......even higher than what I consider to be a 'full water' amount, which helps to explain why your soap is still so soft. No worries, though- time is a soap's best friend :) - it will just need more time to cure to its best.

The trick for you will be to find the lye concentration that works best for your formula and/or your additives. For me personally, a 33% lye concentration is my 'Goldilocks' concentration for about 98% of my batches. I go a little higher when making 100% OO Castiles and I go a little lower when working with very ornery FOs.

Re: the mica not dissolving. Mica actually does not dissolve in the same sense that sugar dissolves in water. If you stir some mica in some glycerin or oil or water, things will look great for a certain amount of time, but the mica will eventually sink to the bottom sooner or later. That's because mica disperses rather than dissolves. TD and other colorants are the same way. The trick is to mix them real well into your batter so that they stay evenly dispersed. I use my stick-blender for this task instead of just hand-stirring.

The 'pieces of 'soap' around your drain sound like soap scum, which is caused by lye-based soap reacting with the minerals in hard water. What you need is a chelator. I myself have very hard water and I add the chelator Tetrasodium EDTA to all my batches to help combat it. As mentioned by others, two other chelators that help to combat scum are 1) citric acid and 2) sodium citrate (the 2 are different from each other) Although chelators don't make scum completely go away 100%, they do help to cut scum down to such an extent that things are less scummy, and whatever scum is left behind is easier to clean off. They also help your soap to lather much better in hard water. Also- if you choose EDTA as your chelator, it doubles as a DOS-deterrent.

RE: dressing up your soap: In order to 'dress up' soap that might not be the most attractive, giving it a good beveling all around the edges really works wonders. You can also give your soap a pretty shine by spritzing it with a fine mist of alcohol and letting it air dry.


Edited to add a word about sodium lactate: I use it in practically all of my batches. It does not increase lather, but enhances it, much in the same way that adding milks enhances lather by giving it a creamy feel. It also helps to harden soap and make it easier to unmold, but the trick, I've found, is using the right amount for your particular formula and/or water amount (it is very recipe and water amount- driven). Too much and things can get crumbly, and with too little there's no point to adding it at all. For me adding it at 2% ppo in my formulas is my sweet spot. I should mention that I use the liquid form in a 60% solution, and I use 2% of that ppo.


IrishLass :)
 

jennyannlowe

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if I am using the recipe attached... and I have citric acid in powder form and sodium lactate in liquid, can you suggest how much of each and at what stage I can add it? I have hard water, I'd like to try these.

test.jpg
 

traderbren

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I add citric acid to my soap since my water is on the harder side. I stole this from another thread:
Typical dosage: 10 g citric acid for every 1,000 g oils (1% ppo). Range 0.1% to 3%.

Citric acid and Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) make Sodium citrate in soap
10 g citric acid neutralizes 6.24 g NaOH

Citric acid and Potassium hydroxide (KOH) make Potassium citrate in soap
10 g citric acid neutralizes 8.42 g KOH

Stir the citric acid into the water you will use to make your lye solution. Add the lye to the water and proceed with your recipe as usual.
To make it easier, if you just added 10g citric acid, you would have about 1.3% which is fine. Be sure to add the citric acid to your water and dissolve it before adding the lye. You need to add an additional 6.24g NaOH when you measure your lye.

I haven't used SL, so I can't help you there.
 
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penelopejane

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Jennylowe
You have to have an accurate scale to make good soap consistently. Rush over to that lady and buy her scale next. It will make a huge difference to your soap.

It was me who said I don't use sodium lactate. I handmake soap to avoid chemicals. I add salt for hardness. I don't mind citric acid ( because it is sort of natural) and will see if I can tell the difference.

You soap rack looks great. However, If "mesh" means metal mesh put a cotton cloth between the soap and the mesh. Soap and metal don't mix.
If you put another piece of timber along the edge under each tray you will be able to put your soaps on edge and stack more in per layer. If you screw them on they will be stable. what you have now looks very stylish.
 
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newbie

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Buying that good scale should be absolutely #1 on your list. If your scale is not good, ie does not measure to a minimum of 0.1 ounces, it shouldn't be used for soaping. You don't have to spend a fortune, but you do have to have an accurate, reliable scale. When you say you are using your cheap scale, I don't know if it means you simply didn't pay much for it, or if it is the kind of bad cheap- doesn't weigh the same every time or does not go down to small increments.

Your lye water doesn't have to be hot. In fact, you can use it at room temperature so don't rush because you worry it will be too cool. The only time that may not apply is if you are using a very high percentage of hard oils, like an 85% lard recipe and you can't risk false trace. Many people soap with their oils and their lye water at room temp, if their oils stay liquid at that temp. The room temp generally makes your soap come to trace more slowly so you have more time (barring FO problems or thickening due to certain colors) but you can also put your oils and lye water together when they feel slightly warm to the touch through the container.
 

jennyannlowe

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My scale is cheap...but it does weigh .01 oz .... I don't like it cause I have to slap at it to make it turn on. Cheapo. Yep gonna buy the good scale.

The mesh is not metal. Just leftover craft stuff....mesh from some bag or something. The kind you can stretch right. For feet I used old mouse pads cut up. My husband had a stack with his old company name on them. I've got him trained to save scrap materials for me. Like mesh and mouse pads.

Heading home!! Whoop hoooo happy friday!
 

cmzaha

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I make very hard bars of soap with low coconut oil, tallow, lard and palm. Trust me it is like a rock and last a long time. For vegan soaps I use 30% palm oil to add the longevity to the vegan soaps. Vegan soaps are not my favorite soaps. You do not need to depend on salt or lactic acid for long lasting hard soaps. I use citric at a rate of 2% of my batch weight since I have quite hard water. I do not add the citric acid to my lye water, tried that once and will never again do that. I mix my citric acid in a portion water taken from the total liquids. It will dissolve 50/50 citric:water. In fact I actually make mine up by the gallon into a 50/50 citric acid solution.

Also keep in mind that while coconut oil makes a hard bar of soap it is also a very soluble bar of soap, which is why it will lather in salt water. They will not last anywhere near as long as a tallow, lard, palm or combination soap
 

penelopejane

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Also keep in mind that while coconut oil makes a hard bar of soap it is also a very soluble bar of soap, which is why it will lather in salt water. They will not last anywhere near as long as a tallow, lard, palm or combination soap

That's interesting. I didn't know that about CO. So it's the palm that makes my 30/30/30 soap hard.

So annoying as I don't want to use lard or palm but I still want a hard bar. : )
 

newbie

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THe coconut also makes it very hard. What Carolyn means is that Coconut oil soap will dissolve a lot faster than other type of oils in soap. If you made 100% CO soap and a 100% Palm soap, you would go through the coconut oil soap in far fewer uses than the palm oils soap. More soap comes off the bar when exposed to water so it doesn't last as long.

One way you can get a feel for how long your bar would last is to subtract the cleansing number of your recipe from the hardness number of your recipe. THe higher the number, the longer the bar will last. I shoot for mid to high 20's for my recipes.

100% CO soap would be 79-67= 12
100% Palm oil soap would be 50-1= 49

The Palm bar will WAY outlast the CO bar.

You can do this for any recipe to get the gist of it.
 

jennyannlowe

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So add citric acid to water and dissolve before adding lye. Use 2% of total batch weight (not PPO) and for every 10g of citric acid ...I have to add an additional 6.24 g Lye

And adding sodium lactate at about 1 - 3%....do you also have to compensate the lye? Or not because it's liquid? Could one add them both one after another To the water before lye? I'm gonna do a test. Making tiny batch of decreased water concentration. Then one with citric acid. Then one with sodium lactate. Then one with both.
 

dibbles

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I add the SL to the cooled lye water. I've never added it before the lye went in. I've also added it to the oils before adding the lye water. You don't need to make any lye compensation for SL.
 

marlajune

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That may have been me who said they don't like sodium lactate.

But lots of people do.

Initially I used it to increase bubbles, and because I thought the bar would be harder=longer lasting.
I didn't notice much difference in bubbles, it seemed to increase trace (when using a palm/olive oil recipe)
and didn't seem to make the soap last longer.

When I switched to palm-less recipes and used high lard instead....the sodium lactate actually increased unmolding time! And left the soap with a weird rubbery texture for a long time - it was still bendable at 2 weeks.
Hey I've been looking for a way to get a rubbery soap! I need it to do rims!:) I think I'll try this idea on my next rim soap!
 
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