Prepping for 1st soap--some questions!!

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mandy318

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I have done a few melt and pour soaps recently and I feel myself falling in love with soaping. :grin: So I'm excited to try my first cp batch this weekend. I've been reading like a fiend and I think I understand the basic process, but I have a couple of questions:

* I'm a fan of exfoliating and I already use oatmeal in other simple, homemade body products--I want to add ground oatmeal to my soap--how do I know how much and do I need to account for that in my recipe at all?

* My recipe is simple and it seems a little more conditioning than cleansing according to soapcalc.net (that's good, I would rather have it a bit more conditioning) but it is maybe low on the creamy and lather (score is 20 for bubbly and 21 for creamy). I've read about adding sugar to increase the lather--is this hard? How do you calculate how much to add? (Or should I save this fanciness for after I make a few basic recipes?)

* When you were a beginner, how did you make sure everything happened in the order it needed to? It seems after reading a lot about it, that cp is fairly simple, but that the steps need to happen in the correct order and within a pretty short time frame. How did you keep yourself organized? I have thought about writing myself a check off list to keep beside me as I work.

* I'm pretty nervous about working with lye (not nervous enough to not do it, though). I keep hearing some tips over and over: "never add water to lye, always add lye to water". I have safety goggles, arm-length gloves and a surgical mask. I'm not making this until my husband is home too, so I can barricade the kids out of the kitchen and he can also make sure they don't sneak in. I have a window fan that fits in my kitchen window to help with venelation. What other safety precautions should I follow? When pouring the lye water into the oils how can I avoid splashing beyond pouring slowly? What about when I pour into the mold--what do you set your mold on to catch any possible drips/splashes?

I think that's it! I've also attached my recipe if that helps answer any questions.

I haven't even made my first batch and I'm really glad I found this forum!!

TIA!!

HoneyAlmondOat.jpg
 

Susie

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Hey, and welcome to the forum! OK, I am going to try to answer what I can(in no particular order).

First off, I would drop the coconut oil to no more than 20%, and up the lard by that extra 10%. You may want to add 5% castor oil to stabilize your lather. I would either use sunflower OR grapeseed oils on this batch, then use the other on the next so you can compare them. Save using sugar-1 tablespoon PPO(per pound of oil) for a later batch as it can cause overheating.

I would wait to add oatmeal to a later batch, if I were you. But in case you are extra brave, you can use 1 tablespoon PPO. Grind the oats to a fine powder in a blender before adding. I would add them to the oils before the lye.

I print my recipes and weigh out all ingredients before starting mixing anything, check them off the list as they are weighed. Then I highlight them off the list when they get mixed. I mix my oils first(with EO/FO, additives). Then I mix my lye and water. Then mix the two together.

I don't put anything under the mold any longer, because I keep damp paper towels handy to wipe up drops. I used to keep an old plastic shower curtain on the floor to catch drips there. You can do that, if you are nervous. Keeping a stick blender from flinging droplets was a bit of a learning curve for me. I would probably up the batch size to 32 oz just to prevent that issue.

You didn't talk about your mold, you OK there?

Save that printed recipe! Write notes on it as you make the soap about trace, scent, etc. Then as your soap cures, write what you think about it at each stage. This information will prove invaluable in the long term! You can either start a binder for soaping, or keep the info on the computer, but either way, start now so you don't have to kick yourself in a year for not doing it!
 
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Dorymae

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First thing you are going to want to do is prepare your lye water, so it has time to cool down. If you are nervous,put your pitcher of water in the sink and add your lye. This way if there is any mishap, the spill will be contained and can be rinsed away.

As for pouring, it really is not too scary. Before you start, practice pouring water out of the pitcher you will be using. You'll be able to see if there is any excess splashing, it will help you to be more confident as well.

I don't put anything under my mold. Soap batter, although it is caustic, is not as dangerous as the lye water itself. It has been diluted by the oils quite a bit. The big guests thing is do not panic if soap batter gets on your skin. Just calmly put down what you are doing and go wash it off. I've had soap batter on me, it will itch before it burns and you will have a minute or more before it itches.

Personally I would hold off with the sugar until you have a few batches under your belt. Because adding too much can cause overheating issues, wait until you know how your soap behaves without it.

For the oatmeal you will add that at trace, when the batter gets to be like pancake batter. It is personal preference but I would add about a 1/8 cup for a scrubby soap. Be sure if you add them at trace that you mix them well. Likewise if you add them to the oils be sure they get combined and don't sit at the bottom of your pot.

I'm sure you'll do fine.
 

TheDragonGirl

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I also do my lye water before I weigh and mix my oils.

Most additives are a tbsp ppo as a rule of thumb, but like the others have said you'll want to wait on using the sugar, because it gets really hot really fast in the mold and you dont want that your first time out.

What I haven't seen mentioned is that you actually will probably want to use a full length apron, I cant count the number of times I've gotten soap batter on my front. Or my colourants for that matter.
 

mandy318

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Hey, and welcome to the forum! OK, I am going to try to answer what I can(in no particular order).

First off, I would drop the coconut oil to no more than 20%, and up the lard by that extra 10%. You may want to add 5% castor oil to stabilize your lather. I would either use sunflower OR grapeseed oils on this batch, then use the other on the next so you can compare them. Save using sugar-1 tablespoon PPO(per pound of oil) for a later batch as it can cause overheating.

I would wait to add oatmeal to a later batch, if I were you. But in case you are extra brave, you can use 1 tablespoon PPO. Grind the oats to a fine powder in a blender before adding. I would add them to the oils before the lye.

I print my recipes and weigh out all ingredients before starting mixing anything, check them off the list as they are weighed. Then I highlight them off the list when they get mixed. I mix my oils first(with EO/FO, additives). Then I mix my lye and water. Then mix the two together.

I don't put anything under the mold any longer, because I keep damp paper towels handy to wipe up drops. I used to keep an old plastic shower curtain on the floor to catch drips there. You can do that, if you are nervous. Keeping a stick blender from flinging droplets was a bit of a learning curve for me. I would probably up the batch size to 32 oz just to prevent that issue.

You didn't talk about your mold, you OK there?

Save that printed recipe! Write notes on it as you make the soap about trace, scent, etc. Then as your soap cures, write what you think about it at each stage. This information will prove invaluable in the long term! You can either start a binder for soaping, or keep the info on the computer, but either way, start now so you don't have to kick yourself in a year for not doing it!
Thank you so much! I just happened on another post that suggested larger batches for beginners--I'll go recalculate for 32 oz. I love the suggestion about the grapeseed vs sunflower--that makes sense if I want to know how they behave and what my preference is. I'll add the castor oil too.

And that is exactly what I was looking for as far as keeping organized--I didn't want to get halfway through the process and have to stop to measure anything. When gathering supplies I grabbed a few stacks of plastic and stainless steel measuring cups.

I do have a mold--its actually a pre-made, unfinished rectangle wood box with a lid and closure that I found at hobby lobby, and I just removed the lid. Its 13.5" long, 4.1" wide and 3.7" deep. I calculated the volume and I think it will be fine for 32oz....I attached a pic. I'll line it with parchment paper.

First thing you are going to want to do is prepare your lye water, so it has time to cool down. If you are nervous,put your pitcher of water in the sink and add your lye. This way if there is any mishap, the spill will be contained and can be rinsed away.

As for pouring, it really is not too scary. Before you start, practice pouring water out of the pitcher you will be using. You'll be able to see if there is any excess splashing, it will help you to be more confident as well.

I don't put anything under my mold. Soap batter, although it is caustic, is not as dangerous as the lye water itself. It has been diluted by the oils quite a bit. The big guests thing is do not panic if soap batter gets on your skin. Just calmly put down what you are doing and go wash it off. I've had soap batter on me, it will itch before it burns and you will have a minute or more before it itches.

Personally I would hold off with the sugar until you have a few batches under your belt. Because adding too much can cause overheating issues, wait until you know how your soap behaves without it.

For the oatmeal you will add that at trace, when the batter gets to be like pancake batter. It is personal preference but I would add about a 1/8 cup for a scrubby soap. Be sure if you add them at trace that you mix them well. Likewise if you add them to the oils be sure they get combined and don't sit at the bottom of your pot.

I'm sure you'll do fine.
I hadn't thought of mixing the lye in the sink--great idea! And thank you for explaining the level of burn risk with the combined, unhardened soap. That really helps knock my fear down a few notches--still cautious, but below the hysteria level. :)

I also do my lye water before I weigh and mix my oils.

Most additives are a tbsp ppo as a rule of thumb, but like the others have said you'll want to wait on using the sugar, because it gets really hot really fast in the mold and you dont want that your first time out.

What I haven't seen mentioned is that you actually will probably want to use a full length apron, I cant count the number of times I've gotten soap batter on my front. Or my colourants for that matter.
Yeah--it sounds like the consensus is that sugar adding is not for newbies. :) I'll wait to try that. I will find an apron today! I had thought of that then didn't pick one up when I was supply shopping.

I was thinking though, that the less time the lye water has to sit around before being added to the oils, the safer. I was planning on preparing oils first, then adding the lye to ice water to reduce the time I have to wait for it to cool. Is there any reason I wouldn't want to use ice water?

20150711_093253_resized.jpg
 

Obsidian

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Another thing to keep in mind is oils with short shelf life can cause your soap to go rancid faster. Some of these are grapeseed, canola, corn and soy. I would totally drop the grape seed and replace it with olive. This is my favorite recipe, I superfat at 8%

lard 50%
Olive oil 25%
coconut 20%
castor 5%

You can add your lye to ice water but it will still heat up quite a bit. The only time I've not had my lye solution heat up was when I added the lye 1 tsp at a time over a 15 minute period. Its easier to just mix it up and let it cool in the fridge.
 
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not_ally

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It really helps when you attach the recipe, good for you! The only thing I would add to your notes is your colorants, if you are going to use them. They may end up being a particularly nice combo, and you won't remember what you used unless you do. Like you, I use evernote, and before I start to make the soap, I print off two copies, set one aside so that I can keep it with the batch as it cures/gets stored, and one with me when I am soaping.

Like Susie I prepare everything in advance, and check items off as I prepare/add them. This is really helpful when you are absent minded like me and can't remember if you added that first oil or not! If there is stuff that I think might be an issue while I am soaping, I make a note of it (eg: "first use of beer, potential overheater. Freeze mold prior to use. If acceleration too rapid forget plans to color/separate portion for foam top, just pour into the mold. No gel, freezer/fridge.")

Also, I keep adding to the note, after pour, on cutting, and as the cure progresses.
 

mandy318

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Another thing to keep in mind is oils with short shelf life can cause your soap to go rancid faster. Some of these are grapeseed, canola, corn and soy. I would totally drop the grape seed and replace it with olive. This is my favorite recipe, I superfat at 8%

lard 50%
Olive oil 25%
coconut 20%
castor 5%

You can add your lye to ice water but it will still heat up quite a bit. The only time I've not had my lye solution heat up was when I added the lye 1 tsp at a time over a 15 minute period. Its easier to just mix it up and let it cool in the fridge.
What do you think I can expect in the way of shelf life? I'll let this cure and I'll try it first, then I'll likely give most of this away to family members to try and get their opinions. So it won't set around unused for long!

Updated recipe with Susie's suggestions...

It really helps when you attach the recipe, good for you! The only thing I would add to your notes is your colorants, if you are going to use them. They may end up being a particularly nice combo, and you won't remember what you used unless you do. Like you, I use evernote, and before I start to make the soap, I print off two copies, set one aside so that I can keep it with the batch as it cures/gets stored, and one with me when I am soaping.

Like Susie I prepare everything in advance, and check items off as I prepare/add them. This is really helpful when you are absent minded like me and can't remember if you added that first oil or not! If there is stuff that I think might be an issue while I am soaping, I make a note of it (eg: "first use of beer, potential overheater. Freeze mold prior to use. If acceleration too rapid forget plans to color/separate portion for foam top, just pour into the mold. No gel, freezer/fridge.")

Also, I keep adding to the note, after pour, on cutting, and as the cure progresses.
I hadn't planned on using any colorants--I think I'm more worried with a solid recipe first, and honestly, I like the look of a bar without any colorants. I think I'll save that for after I have a few batches under my belt. I also really have not read up on colorants at all, so I don't even know where to start! I used turmeric to color a m&p soap I did, but idk if that works for cp.

HoneyAlmondOat.jpg
 

TheDragonGirl

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Yeah--it sounds like the consensus is that sugar adding is not for newbies. :) I'll wait to try that. I will find an apron today! I had thought of that then didn't pick one up when I was supply shopping.

I was thinking though, that the less time the lye water has to sit around before being added to the oils, the safer. I was planning on preparing oils first, then adding the lye to ice water to reduce the time I have to wait for it to cool. Is there any reason I wouldn't want to use ice water?

for me personally, if its just water I wouldn't use ice, there's more splashing, its harder to mix, it takes a lot longer, and just doesn't dissolve as readily at all.
 

Susie

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Turmeric works, cocoa also works, I often use coffee to substitute for the water for a colorant. Paprika works also, either in powder form, or infused into my liquid oils. But wait until you have a batch or two under your belt, OK?
 

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That recipe will make a really nice soap, and your soap mold is fabu. You ok lining it?

Honestly - just mix the lye first and put it in the sink or under the stove vent fan to cool. I have added ice cubes to the dissolved lye to cool faster, but it can make more splashing and you need to know how much the ice weighs (I weighed each cube before adding it...)

I dont have a lot of room in my kitchen, so I put two big plastic serving trays on my stove. Mold and fragrance prep goes on one, oils and color prep on the other, scale to the right on a plastic cutting board. Recipe on a clipboard in back with a pen clipped to it. That way all my drips are contained and I have my battle plan in front of me :)

Turmeric makes a nice toasty reddish biscuit brown in soap, but make the first one colorless. White soaps are pretty.
 

skayc1

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If you are using finely ground oatmeal instead of colloidal oatmeal, run it through a fine sieve to remove some of the oatmeal that might not have been finely ground as much. I learned to do this after my first few batches of making soap.
 

Dorymae

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If you are going to mix your lye in the sink, you could fill it with about two to four inches of water first. Then after you mix the lye, add some ice cubes around the container to cool it faster.
 

navigator9

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If you are going to mix your lye in the sink, you could fill it with about two to four inches of water first. Then after you mix the lye, add some ice cubes around the container to cool it faster.
I think this is what Mandy was referring to, to cool the lye solution faster, not adding ice cubes to the lye. I mix my lye in a stainless steel saucepan. Usually, I try to do this the day before, but if not, and I need to cool it faster, I do just as Dorymae mentioned, and place it in a few inches of water in the sink, and add a tray of ice cubes to the water.

As far as protection for your counter, I lay down several layers of newspaper, because even if you don't drip, you may need to lay down a spatula or chopstick quickly, and if it's all covered, no problems. I do CPOP, so my mold is warming in the oven as I soap, and just before I'm ready to pour, I grab it out of the oven, and place it on the counter next to my soap pot, ready to be filled. And if I do have an "oops", my counter is covered and protected.

Also, something that has worked well for me, tape your instructions and ingredients to the cabinet doors right in front of where you're working, at eye level. This way, you can't spill something on them, or lay something on top of them, and "lose" them.

That first batch of soap is so exciting, isn't it? Be sure to take a pic, so that some day, you can look back fondly at your first. I think you're smart to go simple in the beginning. I think there are many would be soapers who are too ambitious at first, get discouraged, and never go on to be the great soapers they might have been. Good luck to you!
 

Susie

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If you aren't getting fancy with swirls and such, you don't even have to cool your lye water. Just be prepared for it to get to trace faster(not that you have anything to compare it to), but be sure your mold is lined before doing anything else.
 

mandy318

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I did it!! Can't wait to do it again already--is that weird?

Everything went very smoothly--I stumbled on a few more questions, but I think I'll wait till tomorrow when I slice the bars and I'll post pics and questions. Here's how it looks in the mold:

20150712_154608-01_resized.jpg
 

Susie

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Congratulations!!! And yes, wanting to make more already is totally normal. That is why we are all addicts! Welcome to the addiction!
 

Seawolfe

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That is a FINE looking loaf of soap!
Can't wait to see cut pics :)

I think every soaper starts planning their next soap as soon as one is finished ....
 

commoncenz

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Congratulations!! That is a very good looking loaf of soap. Can't wait to see the cut pictures. And, it's perfectly normal to want to make another batch. As it will be perfectly normal to want to make a third batch after you are done with the second.
 
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