Perfect numbers?

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Carly B

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Today I made my first soap in three weeks. HUZZAH!!!!

But something has been puzzling me. I know the hardness, cleansing, bubbly, conditioning, etc. numbers in soap calc are comparative guidelines; some have said they are relatively meaningless. I've found them confusing at best---sometimes soaps with high conditioning numbers leave my skin feeling dryer than soaps with low conditioning numbers, for example.

When you create recipes, how much do you rely on those numbers, and what do you aim for. Where do your favorite soaps fall on the hardness, cleansing, and conditioning scale?
 

Saponificarian

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I only pay attention to the cleansing. My happy place is about 13-14. I also watch the Linolenic and Linoleic. I know it’s said to not be more than 15% combined but I stay at not more than 20% . Everything else is irrelevant to me.

ETA: I love my Tallow and Shea though so I love hard soaps that lathers great. I don’t use more than 30% liquid oil in a recipe. Happy place is 20% except an Avocado recipe with Cocoa/Shea that I use 50%.
 

DeeAnna

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Here's my perspective on "the numbers" -- https://classicbells.com/soap/soapCalcNumbers.asp

Some excerpts that might be helpful --

...I [mostly] focus on the Cleansing number (myristic + lauric acids) and the Longevity number (palmitic + stearic acids)....

People with sensitive or troubled skin may have to use soap with no lauric and myristic acid, regardless of the amount of superfat or other additives included in the recipe. Never fear -- a soap with a zero "cleansing" score will still clean the skin just fine.

People with normal skin often do well with soap that has 10% to 20% combined lauric and myristic acids. Some people, men in particular, may prefer a stronger cleansing soap with combined lauric and myristic acids ranging from 20% to 35%....

...Palmitic and stearic acids -- the fatty acids in lard, tallow, palm, and butters -- create a soap that is hard and fairly insoluble in water.

A moderate percentage of these fatty acids will create a soap will last a decent time in the bath, be mild to the skin, and have a dense, long-lasting lather. Too low and the soap may not last long as you might prefer. Too high and the soap may not lather very well. To give you a rough idea of what works for me, many of my soap recipes have a combined palmitic and stearic content of 30% to 35%....

...if I do three things -- set the Cleansing number, set the Longlasting number, and decide whether or not to use castor oil -- then those three decisions automatically set the Conditioning number. So why worry about it?...

....My goal as a soap maker is to create soap that cleans sufficiently well while also being mild, refreshing, long-lived, and nicely lathery. I focus on getting the cleansing (myristic and lauric) and longevity (stearic and palmitic) numbers in the ranges that work best for me. Once those values are set, then I look at the individual percentages of the oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids....

...it is important to remember these numbers are only a general guide. They cannot tell you all there is to know about a particular soap recipe. For example, they do not account for the effect of superfat nor for the influence of additives (sugar, milk, honey, sodium lactate, etc.). The numbers also do not tell you anything about the changes that can result from how the soap is made and cured....
 
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Obsidian

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I only look at the cleansing number, maybe the bubbly, at least a little.
I use a lot of lard so I know my soaps have good longevity.

I've never looked at the fatty acid profiles except when making shaving soap as it needs a high amount of stearic.
 

atiz

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I pay attention to the cleansing and the bubbly number. I like bubbles :) Also, I have realized I don't really like soaps that have more than about 45% oleic (and I try to keep it under 40). Since most of the time I use tallow and a bit of beeswax, hardness is not really an issue.
I usually have my cleansing around 15-16, except for the face bar which is more gentle (somewhere like 2). But my dad for instance likes the bars that are more cleansing (17-18), so that also seems to be a personal choice.
 
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As you may have noticed we tend to find what we each like and settle into a neighborhood with "the numbers".
I find that a recipe high in oleic FA tends to dry my skin. They make a soluable bar and that doe not rinse off as easily or completely - FOR ME - as my high lard and low cleansing recipes. I do watch the numbers when I am playing with a recipe to keep cleansing low ( around 8) and hardness and longevity high. I use soy wax in nearly all my recipes now as well now.
 
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I found this a long time ago, and used it as a bit of a guide: https://www.modernsoapmaking.com/the-most-popular-fatty-acid-profiles-in-soapmaking/. It helped me a bit to tweak my numbers. My current recipe ( the one I use the most is as follows:

Lauric 10
Myristic 4
Palmitic 13
Stearic 23
Ricinoleic 5
Oleic 31
Linoleic 11
Linolenic 1

This yields these soap calc numbers:
Bubbly: 18
Cleansing: 14
Condition: 47
Hardness: 50
Longevity: 36
Creamy: 41

I however created my own longevity numbers - based on Deeanna's Classic Bells guidance. I use this to compare my recipes when I make new ones.
 

Carly B

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Thank you, everyone. I'm having so much fun experimenting. It's as much fun as cooking only less
calories. :nodding: Just wish I didn't need to wait so long to test the results. :)
 

SoapMee

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I've actually printed, read, and highlighted those two different articles mentioned above that discuss fatty acid and various soap properties this weekend; and I feel I'm learning a lot. I really appreciate the energy everyone puts into their posts. By the way, what does it mean when someone says "I use high lard", or whatever the ingredient is? Is there a somewhat standard range for what is considered high? I'm trying to figure out context.

DeeAnna & KiwiMoose: Thank you for posting such detailed posts above because it gives me something to think about as I compare and analyze the soaps I've made over the last couple of years and the direction I want to go.
 

DeeAnna

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Well, the classic "trinity" recipe is about 1/3 coconut oil, 1/3 palm or lard, and 1/3 olive oil or similar fat. So if someone says they have a recipe that's high in lard, my guess would be they're using quite a bit more than 33% of the recipe as lard. But you'd really need to ask the person what that a "high lard" recipe is to them. What seems high to one person might be normal to another.

It's like the comment I just read in another thread where the person says they used a "steep water discount". Unless that person defines what a zero water discount means to them, it's impossible to know for sure what they mean by a "water discount."
 
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My "Perfect Numbers" will certainly not someone else's numbers. To me high in lard means 27% but high in palm means 40-47% and the same with Tallow. So there are just no perfect numbers for everyone. As for OO high is 0 😁 since I really hate OO.
 

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