Polishing soap bars

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After brainstorming on a way to smooth soap made using the Ciaglia technique, but without having to plane the bars, I have a new-to-me way to polish the flat faces of soap. The planer I used in the past to take off razor thin slices has warped a bit and no longer works well. My other planers take off a fair amount of soap unless I use a cardstock shim under the soap. That gets fiddly. Plus, any planing creates trimmings which is exactly what I’m trying to get rid of when I make soap with trimmings.

I’m pretty happy with the result. This soap is not as smooth as glass, but it’s smooth enough for me. I was so enthusiastic about the process that I smoothed out all of the bars without taking a before photo.

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It’s this simple: 1) spritz some 70% isopropyl alcohol on a perfectly smooth surface; I used a plastic cutting sheet and 2) rub the flat face of the soap around and around and back and forth in the alcohol until it‘s smooth enough. My next step was to gently wipe the little bit of soapy residue off the face and from around the edges using a paper towel and then I put the soap aside to dry. The dry soap was polished a bit more with a microfiber cloth. I used a palette knife to remove the soapy alcohol residue from the cutting sheet. The best time to use this technique is probably going to be recipe dependent. The firmer the soap gets, the longer it will take to dissolve and more elbow grease will be needed. Trying to polish too early will likely make a mess. The bar above was made with week old trimmings and the base was a few days old when I polished it. I use 40% lye concentration which means my soap is relatively firm at 18 hours.

This technique is also going to work well for non-Ciaglia batches. Soap I made on Friday using clay and AC as colorants, below, went a bit ashy despite using 40% lye concentration. After removing the bars from the slab mold this morning, it was easy to polish the ash off a test bar. My best estimate is that I removed a mm or two from the face of the bar. I’m going to wait a bit to do the others because the recipe for this batch is high in liquid oils and the soap is still just a tad soft.

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Was that one covered by ash? If so, nice job! I don't have the patience to dry rub a Ciaglia soap until it's smooth.
No it was just dull looking
I did rub some ash off once - a different soap. But I have best results if I run the soap under water, let it dry and then polish
 
...I have best results if I run the soap under water, let it dry and then polish...
Thanks, I rinsed one bar, once, that had fallen on the floor and was thus blessed with cat hair, but was worried I was doing something horrible to the soap. It's reassuring to hear that this is an 'okay' thing to try. Can you tell I'm still in the earliest stages of learning about soap making? I'm always like this with a new craft. It usually takes me a year before I start relaxing.
 
I have lots of microfiber cloths with different textures, running from a heavy duty tericloth style to those used for cleaning glasses. What type of microfiber cloths are you using to polish soap?

I bought these microfiber cloths last month. They work fine, except for one thing. I washed them and discovered there was no way to get the very fine dog hair off of the cloths prior to polishing the bars of soap. Dog hair, permeates everything in our house, no matter how careful we are. Laundering items gets them clean, and even cleans the dog hair, but I don’t want clean dog hair showing up in my soap. 😜 I will try using the sticky tape remover to see if that helps for the next batch.

I have used 91% alcohol for years to help when polishing soap. I’ve used it in a cloth, but have not tried using it on a plastic cutting board type surface yet. That’s next on my list.
 
OMG, Cathy, I just came from trying to scrape dog hairs from my cutting board before chopping vegetables. I love my little monsters more than anything on earth, but their hairs just seem to float in the air and get on and into everything. I don't sell, but warn my giftees that there is likely to be some doggie DNA in their soaps somehow, someway.

I try to think of it like silk. Silk, yeah, that's the ticket! (Am I the only person old enough to remember that from ancient SNL?)
 
Norwex microfibre cleaning cloths - I think the ones meant for polishing windows and mirrors are best but the others work well too
Thank you, @janesathome. They are similar to what I purchased. I used microfiber on some of my bars earlier this evening, and they came out nice and shiny. There was a slight difference in soaps and how they polished up that I could correlate with how long they had cured. Has anyone else observed this?
 
I love my little monsters more than anything on earth, but their hairs just seem to float in the air and get on and into everything. I don't sell, but warn my giftees that there is likely to be some doggie DNA in their soaps somehow, someway.
Yes, @not_ally, same here. I notice when the sun comes in at an angle I can see dog hair floating on the air with the dust. It’s everywhere. I could run the air filter, which would trap some of it, but the rest of it would be blown around up into the air. There must be a way to create and market a special soap with the beneficial benefits of dog hair protein in it, sort of like tussah silk? Or maybe incorporating high quantities of dog hair would make good scrubby soap?
 
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